The University of Colorado Denver’s Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) degree was founded in 1972. Now the same program is offered entirely online through CU Online. The program is designed for the best and brightest of the criminal justice world to better understand the justice system and, in turn, make a bigger contribution to society. The MCJ degree is designed to give you an interdisciplinary perspective on criminology and the criminal justice system. The program focuses primarily on law enforcement, the judiciary, correctional systems, juvenile justice, and the formulation of laws and codes.

Whether you currently hold a Bachelor’s of Criminal Justice degree, are working in criminal justice system, or are looking to change your career from something entirely different, the Master of Criminal Justice degree program will prepare you for a wide range of career opportunities. While a large number of MCJ graduates go on to work for law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and even federal level, the MCJ program can also prepare you for a career in the nonprofit arena focusing on issues such as domestic violence, criminal justice policy, youth justice, and hate crimes.

Program Details

The Master’s of Criminal Justice program is designed to ensure that students will:

  • have mastery of the concepts and theories associated with the various components of criminology and the criminal justice system;
  • have an in-depth knowledge of the theories of crime causation;
  • develop skills necessary to utilize research methods in conducting and evaluating criminology and criminal justice issues;
  • develop an understanding of criminology and the components of the criminal justice system including law enforcement, courts, and corrections;
  • demonstrate knowledge of key theoretical concepts and application to public policy questions and organizational management;make use of the broad base of knowledge and research in criminology and criminal justice programming and policy-making;
  • communicate knowledge effectively in written and oral formats;
  • and, utilize critical problem-solving skills and critical analysis in criminology and criminal justice agency settings.

Are you looking for a more customizable experience? Then one of our four concentrations in the MCJ program may be for you! Concentrations include: 

The crime analyst concentration emphasizes criminal justice and criminology-related subjects. The analytical skills learned in the concentration will help you succeed in a variety of career tracks. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn from the best in the industry. Courses will be taught by current and former analysts so you know you’ll be prepared for an actual career.
The Emergency Management and Homeland Security concentration will provide you with advanced education in the management of emergencies, hazards, disasters, and homeland security. By completing this concentration, you will have the knowledge and skills necessary to assess and manage a broad range of hazards and disasters, and to understand the policy environment in which emergency management occurs.
The gender-based violence concentration will give you an interdisciplinary perspective on crime, criminology, the criminal justice system, and laws and policies. This concentration is perfect for you if you’re interested in the criminal justice system’s response to domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking, and related policies and laws.
The Nonprofit Organization concentration was designed to prepare students to become innovative and critical thinkers who are ready to operate and manage in the nonprofit sector. Many nonprofits are have missions directly related to criminal justice issues.  This concentration will teach you to assess community needs, navigate the realm of public policy affecting the nonprofit sector, and strategically and effectively manage organizations designed to benefit society as a whole.

Tuition and Fees

Investing in your future is a big decision. However, becoming a fully online student at CU Denver is an affordable option with discounted tuition rates for non resident, fully online students. And of course, you will save money not having to drive to campus! 

Tuition and fees are based largely on the class that you enroll in. Tuition amount assessed is determined based on which school/college is offering your class, as well as if it is an undergrad or graduate level, and finally your resident status. For more information or to view exact rates, please visit the Bursar's website.

Financial aid and scholarships are available for those who qualify.

graduation cap with money


The Master in Criminal Justice requires a minimum of 36 graduate semester hours made up of the following: 

  • Core sequence of 5 core courses that will provide a foundation in theory, practice, and research methods
  • For those with no previous criminal justice experience: One 3 credit hour internship with local, state, or federal criminal justice
  • Either a 3-6 credit hour thesis, or a 3 credit hour applied research capstone project

The most common course load for MCJ students is six to nine graduate credit hours per semester. We encourage that you not carry more than six graduate semester hours in the MCJ program.

The MCJ program is definitely a commitment, but that doesn’t mean you must study full-time. One of the many benefits to an exclusively online degree program is the flexibility to complete the program on your own schedule. The average time to complete the MCJ program is about two and a half years, but you are able to take up to seven years to finish the program. 


Admission requirements and deadlines vary based on program. In addition, you will have different requirements depending on if you are a first time student, a transfer student, or an international student. 

Learn more about the admissions process by visiting the CU Denver admissions website and start your application today!

Career Outlook

Criminal justice professionals are in high demand. In fact, 31 percent of the federal workforce was eligible to retire starting in 2017. A career in criminal justice not only puts you on the front lines in the fight for justice, it also makes you an asset to your community and help make a difference in society. 

Due in part to the rapid growth and changing nature of the criminal justice industry, careers in the industry are constantly changing and evolving. Criminal justice management is a field with many different career options. Here are some of the top career opportunities that you could expect after graduation and median average salaries:

  • Criminologist, $43,106
  • Forensic Examiner, $60,521
  • Criminal Profiler, $62,888
  • Police and Detective Supervisor, $91,590


Courses at CU Denver are offered three times a year - fall, spring, and summer. Not all courses are available every semester. For most programs, courses last 15 weeks, plus one week for finals. This is a big commitment, but we believe the extra time you spend dedicated to your studies pays off! 

View the CU Denver academic calendar.

View the academic catalog for course information.

Faculty Spotlight

At the CU Denver, you’ll earn a degree from a top-ranked program recognized worldwide. All of our online program courses are taught by the same top-notch faculty as our in-person courses. Here are some of our premier professors: 

Callie Rennison

Callie Marie Rennison earned her Ph.D. in 1997 in political science from the University of Houston, University Park, where she also received a B.S. in psychology, M.A. in sociology, and M.A. in political science. In 2016, she was awarded the Bonnie S. Fisher Victimology Career Award from the Division of Victimology in the American Society of Criminology. She has also served on a National Academies Committee examining domestic sex trafficking of minors in the United States and was a Senior Researcher at the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Callie has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses including Research Methods, Statistics, Murder in America, Crime and the Media, and Introduction to Criminal Justice.


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