For more than 40 years, Mercyhurst has offered the Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration (CJA) program, producing graduates dedicated to serving society and preserving the basic rights and freedoms of all people.     

This 30-credit graduate program is offered 100 percent online, making it available to anyone around the world and ensuring you'll have access to Mercyhurst’s experienced faculty, coursework relevant to today’s justice issues, and other dynamic learning experiences, no matter where you live. Scheduling flexibility and full- and part-time options allow you to earn your master’s without disrupting your career. Our extensive curriculum covers many significant criminal justice issues, including victimology, women and crime, crime prevention, and crime policy. The core content of the program emphasizes developing research and critical thinking skills through courses on quantitative and qualitative analysis, research methods, and professional ethics. Additionally, students are also introduced to management courses in administration; organizational and interpersonal dynamics; and planning and program evaluation.

Program Overview

  • Options: Master of Science, graduate certificate, 4+1 (MU Undergrads Only)
  • Location(s): Online
  • Credits: 30
  • Duration: Minimum 21 months
  • Cost: $894 per credit; $28,000 total
  • Deadline: Rolling admissions
  • Start term(s): Fall or Spring semester
  • Career: Director-level law enforcement, courts, corrections, social services, policy analysts, researchers

Criminal justice is a rapidly expanding field of academic study. Many government agencies are requiring advanced academic preparation for those in supervisory positions at criminal justice and social service agencies. The CJA program is designed to broaden the perspectives of criminal justice practitioners, to equip practitioners with administrative skills, and to prepare students for further graduate work and scholarship. 

Program Highlights

  1. 100 percent online. All courses are asynchronous, allowing for student flexibility.   
  2. 30-credit, thesis-optional program. Students complete 10 courses—six required core courses and four elective courses (or two elective courses and six credit thesis option) in this semester-based program. 
  3. Solid curriculum. The program emphasizes core courses that provide an overview of government management, organizational dynamics, professional ethics, and research competency within the field of criminal justice. 
  4. Student-centered faculty. Students learn from full-time, terminally degreed faculty members, who provide engaged learning opportunities within the online setting. 
  5. Faculty advising. All students have a dedicated faculty advisor as well as a graduate academic counselor to support students throughout the program.  
  6. Small class sizes.  Our classes typically average 15 or fewer students. The student population includes those who are continuing directly from an undergraduate program and individuals who are currently working in the field and are seeking professional advancement with a master’s degree. 
  7. Graduate student internships. Students can take advantage of credit-bearing, criminal justice internship opportunities.   
  8. Criminal Justice Advisory Board. Students have access to networking opportunities with faculty, students, alumni, and criminal justice professionals. 
  9. Job placement. Graduates are prepared for entry level and/or supervisory positions in law enforcement agencies, juvenile justice agencies, victim service agencies, correctional agencies, and other social service agencies.     
  10. Graduate assistantships and employment. Graduate Assistantships (GA) and Graduate Employment (GE) are two forms of financial aid for graduate students. A limited number of GA positions are available for students who can accept on-campus employment.

Learning Outcomes

Mercyhurst graduate programs are designed to give our students a competitive edge in the marketplace. Beginning with your first course, you will gain knowledge applicable to problem-solving in your field. Upon completion of the program, you will be able to:

  • Understand the history and current state of affairs in criminology and criminal justice
  • Analyze research, evaluate methodologies, and examine criminological theories in the discipline
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between theory, research, and practice in the field and the interrelations between each of these concepts
  • Demonstrate proficiency in oral, written, and electronic communication skills
  • Demonstrate ethical leadership in the criminal justice and social services professions

The M.S. in Criminal Justice Administration is a 30-credit program offered 100 percent online. Taken full time, students can complete the program in as little as 21 months. The program begins with core management courses designed to develop a broad overview of governmental management, organizational dynamics, professional ethics, and research competency. Students will then use elective course work in line with their interests to complete the degree requirements.

Course Requirements 

The Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration is a 30 credit program. Students may write a thesis or they may complete two additional elective courses in lieu of the thesis. 

Core Courses (18 credits)

  • CJA 501: Research Methods in Criminal Justice
  • CJA 502: Organizational and Human Behavior
  • CJA 506: Professional Ethics
  • CJA 604: Criminal Justice Planning and Evaluation
  • CJA 622: Advanced Research and Analysis or CJA 605 Government Management
  • CJA 621: Advanced Criminology or AOJ 511 Historical and Comparative Criminal Justice

Elective Courses (12 credits—choose 4 from the following*)

  • CJA 503: Issues in Correctional Administration
  • CJA 511: Historical and Comparative Criminal Justice
  • CJA 515: Organized and White Collar Crime
  • CJA 519: Victimology
  • CJA 520: Issues in Criminal Justice
  • CJA 532: Public Law and Public Administration
  • CJA 550: Politics of Crime
  • CJA 595: Women and Crime
  • CJA 610: Law and Society
  • CJA 616: Issues in Juvenile Justice
  • CJA 620: Forensic Science
  • CJA 621: Advanced Criminology
  • CJA 625: Theories in Corrections and Criminal Justice
  • CJA 628: Seminar: Crime Analysis
  • CJA 630: Policy, Politics, Community Coalitions in Criminal Justice Administration
  • CJA 631: Political Crime and Terrorism
  • CJA 634: Seminar: Criminology and Crime Policy
  • CJA 637: Seminar: Special Topics in Juvenile and Criminal Justice
  • CJA 650: Supervised Justice Administration Readings
  • CJA 674: Criminal Justice Administration Internship
  • CJA 675: Justice Administration Thesis

*Students who elect a six-credit thesis take only two criminal justice electives. The thesis substitutes for the third and fourth elective courses.

Prospective students looking to earn a quick credential or ease into graduate school can opt for the four-course, 12-credit Graduate Certificate in Criminal Justice Administration. The 100 percent online program can be completed in as little as nine months. Learn More.

Course Requirements (3 required core courses plus 1 elective course)

CJA 501: Research Methods in Criminal Justice
CJA 604: Criminal Justice Planning and Evaluation
CJA 605: Government Management or CJA 622 Advanced Research and Analysis
CJA XXX: Elective: choose from more than 20 electives (some courses not offered each year)

Available to qualified Mercyhurst undergraduate students, the M.S. in CJA allows students to begin earning graduate credits during their junior year at no additional cost.* Students starting the 4+1 in the fall of their junior years can earn up to 12 credits, shortening their time to master’s completion and saving more than $10,000. Learn More.

Career Paths

Many prospective students choose our program to enter into or advance in the fields of criminal justice and social services. Some choose careers as instructors or college educators. Our alumni have administrative positions in a variety of criminal justice and social service agencies including:

  • Correctional institution administrators
  • County jail administrators
  • Directors of adult and juvenile probation departments (county, state)
  • Supervisors of juvenile justice and child welfare agencies
  • Adult and juvenile probation officers (county, state, and federal)
  • Case managers and supervisors for criminal justice and social service agencies
  • Federal and state law enforcement officers
  • Research policy and intelligence analysts
  • Attorneys
  • University professors

Course Spotlight

CJA 519: Seminar: Victimology

This course focuses upon a recent and rapidly developing branch of criminology which is designed to study the crime victim. Included will be victim vulnerability – the susceptibility of certain groups of people to victimization – and culpability – the actions on the part of individuals which, under certain circumstances, suggest victims may be partly responsible  for their own victimization. Recently enacted laws pertaining to the rights of victims will be examined, as well as programs that aid victims in their plight.

CJA 621: Seminar: Advanced Criminology

The purpose of this seminar is to provide access to most of the significant current research and literature in the field of criminology. Through the examination and critique of contemporary works, the nexus of theory and method is addressed. Major consideration is given to typologies such as criminal behavior systems.

CJA 604: Criminal Justice Planning and Evaluation

The objective of this course is to focus on developing new projects from inception to completion. It deals with establishing priorities, securing funding, administering programs, and designing and implementing evaluative criteria. It incorporates empirical data evaluation, including parametric and nonparametric techniques, and the use of computers in evaluation.

Convenient Online Delivery

Our program offers flexible scheduling for both recent graduates and working professionals for either full time or part time study. All courses are housed in the university’s course management system and are designed and taught by full time faculty members using best practices in online learning.

For example, criminal justice courses typically have discussion boards, assignments, and individual or group presentations. These allow students to interact and engage with each other as well as the professor about the course content. Additionally, courses may incorporate project-based learning assignments which promotes collaborative learning on specific topic areas.

Although students are engaged in a fully online learning environment, they still have all of the benefits of being a Mercyhurst student, including access to the university’s amenities. 

criminal justice faculty


Students are taught by full-time faculty who are accessible to students throughout their learning experiences both in and outside of the classroom.

students at prison


Our Criminal Justice Advisory Board provides students with local, state, and federal networking opportunities, info on field trends, and skillsets for success in the job market.  

erie county courthouse


Our extensive curriculum covers many significant criminal justice issues, including victimology, criminology, crime prevention, and crime policy.

Admissions Requirements

Prospective applicants for the Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration must fulfill the following admissions requirements. At the discretion of the director of the criminal justice administration graduate program, acceptance may be granted to applicants who have not fulfilled all the admissions requirements provided they agree to the conditions of the acceptance prescribed by the director.

Admissions decisions are made by the program director on a rolling basis after a holistic review.

Applicants can choose to start in either the Fall (preferred) or Spring semester.

  • Completed (free) online application
  • A bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an accredited school with a preferred overall minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions you’ve attended 
  • A current resume with 3 references
  • A 500- to 750-word personal statement outlining your reasons for enrolling and personal and professional goals
  • A letter of recommendation (1) from a professional or academic source (ex. employer or professor)
  • International applicants whose records are written in a language other than English must have their documents translated into English and a notarized statement attesting to the accuracy of the translations
  • International applicants whose primary language is not English must attain a TOEFL score of at least 79 on the internet-based exam OR an IELTS score of at least 6.5 OR a Duolingo English Test score of no less than 100.

Explore Financial Aid

Earn an affordable master’s degree in criminal justice administration with competitive per-credit costs. Visit our Graduate Cost and Financial Aid webpage or contact us at or 814-824-3351.

Contact Us

Maria Garase, Ph.D.
Program Director, Criminal Justice Administration
Phone: 814-824-3675

Colleen Hordych
Assistant Director, Graduate Admissions 
Phone: 814-824-2297