Learn about emerging criminal justice issues, while gaining the degree you need to advance in the field.

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UMass Lowell's flexible master of arts in criminal justice program allows for full- or part-time study in a range of specialized fields, and is available on campus, online or as a combination of the two. Many students successfully complete the program while working full time, and the online program is ranked 3rd in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

Students can dive into the current topics shaping today’s approaches to public safety through UMass Lowell’s Quinn-Bill-certified program, ensuring graduates who are police officers qualify for incentive pay.

The School of Criminology and Justice Studies faculty are experts in areas ranging from transnational crime and weapons of mass destruction, to offender re-entry, victim’s concerns, and mental health and the justice system, to name a few. The master of arts in criminal justice program is evidence-based and data driven, so graduates emerge with skills to evaluate policies and model best practices, as well as crisis and emergency management administrative skills. Graduates of the program not only deepen their understanding of key concepts, they also learn how to apply this knowledge to related social problems and changing situations. The M.A. in Criminal Justice program has a long history of producing dedicated, well-rounded students who are in top demand by federal, state and local agencies.

  • In the early stage of this 33-credit program, students will focus on five core courses (15 credits): 

    1. Criminological Theory: Foundations
    2. Administration of Justice System
    3. Descriptive & Inferential Statistics
    4. Research Design
    5. Law and Public Policy or Managing Criminal Justice Organizations
    All students must decide whether to undertake a six-credit thesis option or to complete two courses in addition to the required core courses and electives. Once the majority of the required core courses are completed, students are free to choose the remaining courses in their program of study.
    The highly individualized program allows students some latitude in selecting from a wide range of courses within the School of Criminology and Justice Studies, as well as in other programs at the university. Students are encouraged to work closely with an academic advisor to ensure their interests are matched with degree requirements, when choosing courses.
    Master’s Thesis
    If the thesis option is chosen, it will be completed under the direction of a mutually acceptable thesis advisor. The thesis will represent the student’s ability to formulate, carry out and present a significant research project.
    Certificate Program Coursework
    The Criminal Justice and Criminology Department also offers five 12-credit graduate certificate programs. Courses taken in a certificate program can be counted toward the master’s degree requirements.
    For more information on the curriculum including course listings and degree pathways, visit the Graduate Catalog.
    • Submitted online application
    • No specific undergraduate major or pre-requisite is required
    • Minimum GPA of 2.800*
    • Official transcript from previously earned degrees
    • Statement of Purpose
    • No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) required
    • Letters of recommendation are optional 
    • $50 application fee

    *Those with a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited program who earned a GPA between 2.500 and 2.800 may, with the permission of the graduate coordinator, take limited courses as non-degree students. With a grade of B or better in those courses, they may then re-apply for admission to the MA program and count the credits toward the degree. Also, earning a UMass Lowell criminal justice graduate certificate can improve an applicant’s chances for admission to the master’s program.

    International Applicants

    • Applicants who earned their degree outside of the US: transcript must be evaluated by a credentialing service such as WES or CED
    • English proficiency testing
      • TOEFL minimum 79
      • IELTS minimum 6.5

    UMass Lowell Criminal Justice BS to MA Applicants

    Juniors and seniors at UMass Lowell who have a 3.000 GPA or better and have earned a B or better in the course Criminal Justice Statistics, are eligible to apply for an accelerated B.S to M.A. program. This program allows for the completion of both degrees within five years, saving time and expense by taking some graduate courses in the final year of the undergraduate program. Enrollees in this program do not need to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

    See the Graduate Catalog for additional requirements of the program.

    Learn more about the application process

  • Online

    Cost Per Credit: $575*
    Total Tuition (based on 33 credits): $18,975*

    On Campus (In-state)

    Cost Per Credit: $844.99*
    Total Tuition (based on 33 credits): $27,885*

    On Campus (Out-of-state/International Students)

    Cost Per Credit: $1,499.44* 
    Total Tuition (based on 33 credits): $49,481*

    *These estimated graduate charges are for the 2021-2022 academic year. These prices are subject to change by vote of the UMass Board of Trustees.


    For more information on tuition and financing, visit Costs & Aid for Graduate Programs.

  • Those who have earned the MA in Criminal justice have advanced their career ladders as police officers and at various local, state and federal law enforcement or judicial agencies. They have taken jobs ranging from payroll clerk in the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office to assistant chief investigator at the Federal Defenders of San Diego. Thesis track students often take positions in academia.

Why Study Criminal Justice at UMass Lowell?

Sean Perry at University Crossing

“I realized, yes, I could do that,”

says recent graduate of the MA in Criminal Justice program Sean Perry. What he realized was that he was capable of handling data analysis and statistics, and now he hopes to earn a doctoral degree, rather than become a police officer.

U.S. News & World Report badge for best online graduate criminal justice program

Top Ranked Program

U.S. News and World Report has ranked UMass Lowell as the #2 Best Online Graduate Criminal Justice Program in the nation.

Sheldon Zhang

Faculty Spotlight

Sheldon Zhang, Ph.D., brings a national and global perspective to the program. He has secured five National Institute of Justice research grants in the past decade and has consulted with the White House and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

UMass Lowell police officers talk with a city of Lowell police officer during the “Coffee with a Cop” event at University Crossing.

Police Career Incentive Pay Program

UML's M.A. in Criminal Justice is Quinn Bill certified by the Mass. Department of Higher Education. Providing educational incentives through salary increases for regular full-time officers in participating cities and towns throughout the state of Massachusetts, the Quinn Bill ensures that police officers who graduate from eligible institutions and programs qualify for incentive pay.

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