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Masters of Science Degree

The Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice is designed to prepare students for positions in criminal justice and related agencies as well as prepare students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice or related fields.  Students can choose from two options for completing the master's program: (1) a fully online program, or (2) a traditional class-room based program. Students are provided with a broad educational foundation in criminal justice grounded in law and the social sciences.  Study begins with an analysis of crime and the entire justice system.  Advanced study inquires into the political, organizational, social, and behavioral aspects of various components of the system of criminal justice.  Research courses give students the tools with which to independently analyze issues of crime and justice as well as the requisite skills for career development.  Courses are offered in the following core areas:  contemporary criminal justice, causes of crime, research methodology and statistics, and a specialization of the student's choice.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Science degree is awarded upon successful completion of thirty-two (32) credits in selected course work, including required core courses (see below) and electives, as described in the student’s Plan of Work, and the satisfactory completion of either a master’s thesis, a master’s essay or a capstone seminar.  All course work must be completed in accordance with the academic procedures of the College and the Graduate School governing graduate scholarship and degrees; see Graduate Bulletin.  The degree is offered to traditional students as a Thesis Option (Plan A), Essay Option (Plan B), or Capstone Seminar Option (Plan C). Full online students are not eligible for the Thesis Option (Plan A), but may chose between the Essay Option (Plan B) or Capstone Seminar Option (Plan C).

Thesis Option (Plan A): thirty-two (32) credits in course work including a  four to six-credit thesis.

This plan is designed for traditional students who intend to pursue doctoral work in the social sciences and who demonstrate ability in research methods.  Consult the Graduate Coordinator for further details.

Essay Option (Plan B): thirty-two (32) credits in course work, including a three-credit essay demonstrating substantial research and mastery of a selected topic.

Capstone Option (Plan C): thirty-two (32) credits in course work, including a three-credit capstone course requiring students to demonstrate their knowledge and analytic skills through a series of written essays on criminological and criminal justice theory, research methods, and public policy issues.

Law Course:  Graduate students in criminal justice are expected to be familiar with legal reasoning and the content of American criminal and/or constitutional law.  Graduate students who have had no previous acceptable course in law fulfill this requirement by completing CRJ 5710-Constitutional Criminal Procedure or CRJ 5720-Criminal Law.

Acceptable previous courses that fulfill this prerequisite include: constitutional law, constitutional criminal procedure, substantive criminal law, corrections law, juvenile justice law, or criminal evidence and procedure.

Not Acceptable: business law courses, legal writing, research courses about the law (e.g., sociology of law, law & society, jurisprudence) or courses about the legal process (e.g., courts, judicial process, wrongful convictions).



Core Courses: (13 credit hours)                                                                Credit Hours

_____           Contemporary Criminal Justice (CRJ 7010)                                 3

_____           Statistics (PS 5630 or SOC 6280)                                                   4

_____           The Nature of Crime (CRJ 7020)                                                     3

_____           Research Methods (CRJ 7860)                                                       3


 AREA A: Take no less than 2 of the following courses (6 credit hours)


_____           Public Policy and Criminal Justice (CRJ 7200)                            3

_____           Delinquency and Justice (CRJ 7220)                                              3

_____           Policing and Society (CRJ 7230)                                                      3

_____           Corrections (CRJ 7240)                                                                    3                    


AREA B:  At least 3 elective credit hours must be from CRJ courses (5-9 credit hours)

Students electing a Master’s thesis take 2 elective courses.                    7-9            


 Students electing the Capstone Course or a Master’s essay take 3 elective courses.    10    


AREA C:  (3-6 credit hours)


_____           Master’s Capstone Seminar in Criminal Justice (CRJ 7870)                    3  


_____           Master’s Essay Direction (CRJ 7999)                                                             3  



_____           Master’s Thesis Research and Direction (CRJ 8999)                                      4-6      


Master’s Thesis

 A master’s thesis is a demonstration of the student’s understanding of a topic and competence in research methodology.  The purpose of a master’s thesis is to demonstrate a student’s ability to undertake original research on a topic in the field of Criminology and Criminal Justice.  Thesis research is guided by a committee of graduate faculty.  Students planning on pursuing a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) or a career in research should consider the master’s thesis option (see master’s thesis guidelines for complete details). 

Requirements of the Master’s Thesis:

  • Four to six thesis credit hours
  • Committee of three faculty
  • Oral defense of the thesis


Students are required to submit an electronic copy of their thesis to the Graduate Director for a plagiarism check.  The thesis will be checked using Safe Assign in Blackboard, per Graduate School requirements.  The Graduate Director will certify the thesis and, using either the Defense Final Report form or a memo, transmit the certification to the Graduate School.

Master’s Essay

A master’s essay is a scholarly paper demonstrating a student’s understanding of the issues and research surrounding a particular topic in Criminology and Criminal Justice.  The essay is guided by a faculty advisor.  The finished product is an extensive paper that displays a thorough understanding and mastery of the research topic (see master’s essay guidelines for complete details).


Requirements of the Master’s Essay:

  • Three credit hours
  • Essay advisor must be a full time faculty member (the essay advisor has final responsibility for grading the essay)
  • A reader may be assigned at the discretion of the essay advisor
  • Oral defense of the essay is optional but may be required by the essay advisor


Master’s Capstone Seminar in Criminal Justice

 This course serves as the capstone course for the master's degree. Students write essays demonstrating their knowledge and critical analysis of criminological and criminal justice theory, research methods, and public policy issues.  Students must obtain a grade of B- or higher in the capstone course.  Students are only allowed two attempts (withdraws included) of the capstone course. The capstone class may be taken only in the last semester of the program. Students may take another class or classes along with the capstone class in their final semester.

 Elective Courses

 Elective courses (Area B) in the student's program are to be chosen after an advising session to determine a plan best fitting the student's educational and career goals.  These courses will be specified in the student's Plan of Work (a sample Plan of Work form is attached to this Handbook).

 Any graduate level course in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences may be taken for elective credit, with the consent of the Graduate Coordinator.  In addition, courses in the School of Business Administration, the College of Education, or the College of Fine, Performing and Communications Arts may be of value.  At least three elective credits must be from criminal justice (CRJ) courses.

Graduate level courses at Wayne State are at the 5000 level or above.  Courses at the 5000 and 6000 levels are both graduate and senior undergraduate level.  Courses at the 7000 level are solely master’s level courses and undergraduates are restricted from taking these courses.  Courses at the 8000 level are both master’s and doctoral level, while 9000 level courses are designed for doctoral study; master’s students may enroll in these courses with an advisor's approval.  No graduate credit is earned in courses taken at the 4000 level and below.

 NOTE: criminal justice graduate students are only allowed to take one 5000 level course for credit toward their master’s degree.  To obtain graduate credit in a 5000 level course, CJ graduate students must complete additional work beyond the standard requirements listed in the syllabus.  Graduate students enrolling in a 5000 level course must contact the instructor and identify additional work necessary to ensure the course meets graduate level expectations.  The additional assignment or project must be documented with the 5000 level coursework contract form.  The course contract form must be submitted to the CJ department for approval.  Students completing a 5000 level course without a signed copy of the form may not be granted graduate level credit for the course.

Criminal Justice
3291 Faculty/Administration Bldg. 656 W. Kirby
Detroit, MI 48202
Phone: (313) 577-2705
Fax: (313) 577-9977
Website: clasweb.clas.wayne.edu/CRJ
Email: ab1493@wayne.edu