gavel and scale of justice on desk

Criminal Justice

Bachelor of Arts

Mercyhurst University’s Criminal Justice program affords students the ability to take a broad spectrum of courses that are designed to provide a basic understanding of the criminal justice system, to theorize why people commit crime, to review judicial processes and constitutional safeguards, to examine the effectiveness of correctional systems, and to evaluate criminal justice policies. Thus, our program encompasses all aspects of the criminal justice system. Our curriculum prepares students for careers in public and private sectors, in public safety and protective services, in legal and victim service arenas, and in correctional facilities and reentry agencies.

Our award-winning and nationally recognized faculty members personally advise our students with their schedules and with their career paths. Our student-centered approach allows us to assist students with deciding on obtaining internships, participating in study abroad opportunities, and networking in the field of their concentration—this hands-on learning in real world settings complements their classroom instruction! 

Fast Facts

  • Since 2002, our graduating seniors have consistently scored higher than the national average on the  Major Field Test in Criminal Justice in the areas of Law Enforcement, Law, Court System, Corrections, Theories of Behavior, Research Methodology and Statistics, and Critical Thinking.
  • We offer criminal justice-focused study abroad opportunities through which students can visit other countries to learn about and compare systems of justice.
  • Our department won the 2017 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, National Program of the Year Award for its activities during March’s National Criminal Justice Month.
  • We have a 4+1 program with our Criminal Justice Administration online graduate program, which allows students to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s in as little as five years.
  • Students can also take advantage of a 3+3 program partnership with Duquesne University School of Law and Cleveland Marshall School of Law.

    The Psychology and Criminal Justice programs have developed a sequence of study to provide students with an interdisciplinary focus in the psychology of crime and justice. The minor is designed to complement undergraduate degrees in psychology, criminal justice, and other social and behavioral sciences. This unique course of study gives students a competitive advantage and broadens their knowledge and skills in the intersection of psychology and criminal justice. In addition to the course requirements for a Criminal Justice degree, Criminal Justice majors who seek to qualify for the Interdisciplinary Minor in the Psychology of Crime and Justice must complete these additional courses and maintain a 2.5 GPA:

    Four required classes (12 credits)*

    • Intro to Psychology (PSYC 100)
    • Justice in America (CRJS 101)
    • Psychology and the Law (PSYC 240)
    • Criminology (CRJS 230)

    Three electives from the following list (9 credits)*

    • Antecedents of Aggression (PSYC 350)
    • Personality Psychology (PSYC 201)
    • Abnormal Psychology (PSYC 211)
    • Drugs and Human Behavior (PSYC 253)
    • Drugs, Crime, and Criminal Justice (CRJS 220)
    • Social Psychology (PSYC 231)
    • Introduction to Corrections (CRJS 104)
    • Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure (CRJS 310)
    • Victimology (CRJS 240)
    • Race, Crime, and Justice (CRJS 290)
    • Criminal Justice Ethics (CRJS 343)

    *If you are a Criminal Justice or Psychology major and your required major courses are listed above, you will need to select courses from this listing from the other discipline to reach your 21 credits and at least four unique courses. Please work closely with your advisor to monitor your progress toward the minor. 

    The Criminal Justice program offers students a minor in criminal justice that is designed to enhance one’s understanding of crime and the criminal justice system. This minor offers a thorough exploration of the criminal justice system, including policing, judicial processing, and the criminological theories.  In addition, you can choose two elective criminal justice courses that complement your interests in the field. An understanding of crime and the criminal justice system provides an advantage in many careers, especially those dealing with social services, politics, law and legal systems, and social work. This minor is a great complement to your studies if you are majoring in psychology, sociology, political science, intelligence studies, applied forensic sciences, and/or related majors. Criminal Justice Minors must maintain a 2.5 in the criminal justice courses.

    Four required classes (12 credits)

    • Justice in America (CRJS 101)
    • Police Functions (CRJS 207)
    • Criminology (CRJS 230)
    • Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure (CRJS 310)

    Two Criminal Justice electives (6 credits)

4+1 Accelerated Program

    The Social Justice & Community Health Department's Criminal Justice program offers a five-year Bachelor’s Degree + Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration (CJA) program. This 4+1 option is open to all majors. The 4+1 program allows students to complete their undergraduate degree in 4 years and in their fifth year of full time study, he/she will complete his/her final 18 credits of graduate study for degree completion. Thus, the student can earn the Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice (or any other related major) in 4 years and then complete the Master’s Degree in the Criminal Justice Administration in just one (1) year.  This program is designed to enhance career credentials and opportunities with a more affordable cost for an advanced degree. The Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration is a completely online program; all courses are online, even the courses that the students take while in the 4+1 program.  

    Students must have completed 60 credits and a cumulative 3.25 GPA to apply for the program. They must apply to the 4+1 program by March 1 of sophomore year.

    • If accepted, students will be enrolled as a Graduate Non-Degree student and will begin fall semester of junior year taking one CJA graduate course per semester. Students will have two transcripts: undergraduate and graduate non-degree.
    • Students will need to maintain 3.25 GPA in the 4 designated graduate courses; only one C is permitted. Students will also need to maintain a 3.25 GPA in undergraduate major courses and GPA overall. 
    • Students, in consultation with the CJA director, will select the graduate courses they will take as part of the 4+1 program. 
    • Students will still be required to meet the 121-undergraduate credit minimum to earn the BA Degree. This provides students the opportunity to take additional criminal justice electives or apply coursework to a minor.
    • Students will register for a MINIMUM of 15 undergraduate credits each semester during their junior and senior year in addition to the graduate course registration. This will insure that flat rate billing will stay in place and graduate courses will be included in the bill. Thus, students in this program are typically taking 18 credits their junior and senior years.
    • By March 1 of the senior year, students will apply to the Graduate School for admission to the CJA graduate program. If admitted, the 12 graduate non-degree credits will be applied as graduate credits toward the Master’s Degree.
    • At the end of the senior year, students will graduate with their undergraduate degree and will have earned 12 graduate non-degree credits. In the fifth year, students will complete 18 graduate credits at the graduate tuition rate and graduate with the Master of Science in the Criminal Justice Administration.
    • Thesis is an option with the Master’s Degree and begins in the fifth year. Graduate Internships are also an option.

    Click here for more information on the 4+1 program.  

3+3 Programs

    Duquesne University School of Law/Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

    Students who participate in this program can obtain a Juris Doctorate and a Bachelor’s Degree in a total of 6 years. Students interested in this program must see their academic advisor as early as possible to ensure proper advising and planning for courses needed in the first three years of study. Students may apply for admission to the Duquesne University School of Law or the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law through a pre-arranged 3/3 Early Admissions Agreement between the two schools. Students will complete all required major courses by the end of their third year at Mercyhurst, and upon successful completion of their first year of law school, will obtain their Bachelor’s Degree.

    Eligibility for the early admission program generally require a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.5 over three years (minimum 96 credits); completion of all undergraduate curricular requirements (no transfer credits are allowed); a minimum LSAT score in at least the 60th percentile (students interested in applying should take the LSAT in the fall of their junior year); a letter of recommendation from the pre-law advisor to the Law School’s Office of Admissions; and a personal interview with the Admissions Committee. Detailed questions and requirements for each 3/3 Agreement should be directed to the Law School's Office of Admissions.

Police Academy

    With careful planning and proper advisement, students who are in their final year of their bachelor’s degree program may opt to apply for the Municipal Police Training Academy at Mercyhurst Northeast for Act 120 Certification. Upon completion of the bachelor’s degree major and REACH requirements, students may enroll in the Police Academy and transfer the credits earned from the Academy back to the bachelor’s degree program as general elective credits for degree completion. Students who are interested in this option should contact their faculty academic advisor early in the process to ensure all major and REACH course requirements would be met prior to entering the academy.  

    The Police Academy is a full-time, 940 plus hour intensive course satisfies the Pennsylvania Municipal Police Officer’s Education and Training Commission (MPOETC) minimum training requirements for Pennsylvania entry-level law enforcement officers. The course typically meets Monday - Friday, 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m, is approximately five months in duration and is designed for aspiring peace officer recruits who can dedicate their full attention and efforts towards completing the program. The full-time intensive Academy requires a strong commitment by the recruits and their families. Upon completion the student can typically apply to police agencies.

    The Basic Police Academy course includes fundamental principles, procedures and techniques of law enforcement, including: Criminal Law, Patrol Procedures, Cultural Diversity, Investigative Procedures, Report Writing, Defensive Tactics, Firearms, Leadership, Ethics, Community Policing, Police Vehicle Operations, Traffic Enforcement, Accident Investigation, Handling Emotional Situations and First Aid/CPR.

    The course also includes a challenging physical conditioning requirement that will prepare academy students for police service.

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  • Study Abroad

    Criminal Justice students are offered the opportunity to take their coursework abroad and interact with international lawyers, drug and alcohol counselors, correctional and police officers, inmates, police historians, and even Ripperologists. Recently, students have traveled to London, Paris, Dublin, Galway, and Belfast.

    group of students studying abroad
  • Course Highlight

    In CRJS 335: Issues in Criminal Justice, ten university and ten incarcerated students take a course together at SCI Albion and discuss contemporary issues in criminal justice. This transformative learning experience breaks down barriers between future criminal justice practitioners and system-impacted persons.

    group of students taking a course at SCI Albion
  • Internship Experiences

    Almost all Criminal Justice students participate in internships throughout their time at MU. This allows them to gain valuable behind-the-scenes experience, network with professionals the field, and provide work experiences for their resume, which proves essential for future career opportunities.

    Erie Courthouse

    Alpha Phi Sigma (APS) is the only national criminal justice honor society for Criminal Justice majors. APS is also the only criminal justice honor society that is a certified member of the Association of College Honor Societies and affiliated with the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). Membership in Alpha Phi Sigma meets one of the requirements for entrance at the GS-7 level in numerous professional and technical occupations in the United States government.

    APS holds a national conference in conjunction with the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences meeting (every March), to which the university provides partial funding. This is an excellent opportunity to meet with other members of APS and also network with professionals in the criminal justice field. Our chapter has received three national awards for most outstanding chapter.

    Criminal Justice honor society students have been active participants in community projects, campus presentations, and national meetings of Alpha Phi Sigma. Examples of some of their activities include:  

    • Participation in ACJS conferences in New Orleans, Orlando, New York City, Dallas 
    • Service projects for domestic violence centers, after-school programs, juvenile justice agencies
    • Induction Ceremony 
    • Wear honor cords at graduation ceremony

    For more information contact Dr. Adam Saeler at

    The purposes of the Criminal Justice Association (CJA) is to recognize and promote learning within field experiences; to assist students in preparing for a career in the criminal justice field; and to recognize and appreciate the necessity of education along with practical experience and training in becoming professional criminal justice practitioners.

    Examples of some of their activities include:

    • Hosting speakers on campus, such as juvenile probation officers, forensic pathologist, district attorney, PSP recruiter
    • Shoot, Don’t Shoot simulations. Students travel to Mercyhurst’s police academy for simulations, on which they interact with various scenarios on a computer screen and have to decide to shoot the perpetrator or not given the situation. This is a computer simulation used by officers in their trainings.  
    • Firearm familiarization. Students who have never fired a weapon before can attend a firearms familiarization workshop. A certified firearm instructor walks students through firearm usage and allows the students to use firearms in a controlled and supervised range.
    • Field trips. Students have coordinated field trip to prisons and police academies.

    For more information on the CJA, contact club advisor Dr. Michael Sliker at

    Our alumni hold various positions in federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, law firms, probation and parole agencies, victim advocacy centers, and residential and community-based correction and detention facilities. We also boast a healthy placement rate for students who pursue advanced degrees in graduate school and/or law school.

    Many of our grads are pursuing graduate degrees at colleges and universities including:

    • Mercyhurst University
    • John Jay College of Criminal Justice
    • SUNY Albany
    • SUNY Stony Brook
    • Arizona State University
    • University of Pennsylvania
    • PennWest Edinboro
    • University of Cincinnati
    • Indiana University of Pennsylvania
    • Florida State University 

    Our grads have also been accepted into regional and national law schools such as

    • Suffolk University Law School
    • University of Pittsburgh
    • Duquesne University
    • University of Dayton
    • University of Buffalo
    • University of Maine
    • Pennsylvania State University
    • University of Akron

    The Criminal Justice program highly recommends that students complete an internship (or two) prior to graduation. Students will work with their academic advisor and also with the Career Development Center for assistance with setting up an internship placement.  Students who complete internships are able to gain valuable experience, to network with professionals in the field, and to showcase their skills and abilities on their resume.  

    Interns have been placed in a variety of settings and with various federal, state, local agencies. Some of our internship placements include:

    City of Erie Police Department  Los Angeles Police Department Lackawanna Police Department (Buffalo, NY)
    U.S. Marshal’s Office (Western District of NY) Allegheny County Police Department Dover Police Department (Dover, NH)
    New York State Police St. Mary’s Police Department Shaker Heights, Police Department (Ohio)
    Boston Police Department Warren County Sheriff’s Office Geauga County, Sheriff’s Department
    Ocean City Police Department (Maryland) Erie County (NY) Sheriff's Department District Attorney’s Office, Nassau County
    Buffalo Police Department Avalon Police Department (Pittsburgh, PA) Amberley Village Police Department
    Presque Isle State Park Police Nicholas Perot & Smith Kohler Wall Gateway Rehabilitation 
    Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department Clearfield Co Magisterial District Judges Sarah Reed Children’s Center
    St. Mary’s Police Department Erie County District Magistrates Hermitage House Youth Services
    Erie County, Edmund L. Thomas Detention Center Ford City Magistrate Allegheny Co. Juvenile Probation
    Erie County PA Adult Probation/Parole Venango County Court of Common Pleas Butler County Adult Probation
    Erie County PA Juvenile Probation Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) Auberle (Juvenile Residential Treatment)
    Erie County PA Public Defender’s Office Monroe County Public Defender's Office (New York) Community Corrections Center
    Erie International Airport Police Chautauqua County District Attorney (New York) SafeNet, (Domestic Violence Services)
    Pennsylvania Board Probation/Parole (Western District, Erie office) Perseus House (Juvenile Treatment facilities) Bayfront Maritime Center
    Clearfield County Probation Department Achievement Center George Junior Republic
    SCI Cambridge Springs (Prison) SCI, Albion (Prison) Waldameer Amusement Park (Security)
    Swan and Dolphin Hotel (Walt Disney World) Presque Isle Downs and Casino  


    In the past five years, a number of our students have won state and regional recognition for their research and scholarship at the Pennsylvania Criminal Justice Educators (PACJE) annual conference and the Northeastern Association of Criminal Justice Sciences (NEACJS) annual conference in Rhode Island. Additionally, a number of our students have had papers and posters accepted for presentation at national conferences (Atlanta, New Orleans, Edinboro, Philadelphia, Dallas).  

    In 2016, the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, now the Social Justice & Community Health Department, established a Mercyhurst University Criminal Justice Advisory Board. Board members are volunteers who were selected based on their reputation and experience in criminal justice at the local, state and federal level, as well as their connection to Mercyhurst. Our board members provide feedback on our continuum of programs, including the associate’s degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, and police academy certification. Additionally, they are a good sounding board to ensure that our curriculum is relevant, our students are learning valuable skills and competencies for a variety of entry- and mid-level positions, and our students are entering fields with positive job outcomes.  Overall, this relationship with the board allows us to be on the cutting edge of trends and hiring practices in the field.