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MS Justice, Law & Criminology (On-Campus)

Mitchell Kuhlman SPA/MS '18
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At the Intersection of Justice and Society

The Master of Science in Justice, Law & Criminology at AU’s School of Public Affairs encourages you to examine the theories behind foundational institutions of justice and the rule of law. You will focus on the practical, academic, and strategic areas of law, criminology, criminal justice, and security.


This degree blends the work of scholars from many disciplines, including the social sciences, law, and the humanities, which allows our students to gain a holistic understanding of issues and institutions. You will join a cohort of exceptional students from various academic backgrounds and build relationships with other passionate individuals to facilitate a collaborative and interdisciplinary educational experience.

Customize Your Program

Our core curriculum will help you build solid skills in research design, qualitative and quantitative methods, and evaluation techniques. The three concentrations allow you to focus your studies in your area of interest. Concentrations are an ideal way for students to build upon areas of expertise.

Gain Breadth & Depth

Our students have many advantages in the job market—the breadth and depth of courses in the program; the opportunity to learn from some of the country's leading scholars in criminology, criminal justice, terrorism and homeland security, and law and society; extensive research opportunities; and challenging and rewarding internship and job opportunities in our nation's capital and beyond.

Next Generation Expert

If you want to be part of the next generation of policymakers and experts in the field, the MS in Justice, Law & Criminology at AU’s School of Public Affairs is for you.


This concentration considers theories of cause and prevention of crime and delinquency, giving our students both a theoretical and an applied grounding in criminology and criminal justice issues. It prepares you for a variety of positions—whether in research or practice—in criminal justice or for advanced graduate work in the field.

This concentration focuses on the relationship between the law and other social institutions. It covers the theoretical foundations of law, the relationship between law and the social sciences, and broad issues of social justice. It equips you for positions in legal organizations and provides a foundation for continued studies in law and society.

This concentration explores the intersection between global law and sociology relative to human rights, punishment theory, ethics and morality, race, religion, and gender. It emphasizes philosophical and comparative perspectives on law, providing you with an appreciation of the nature and structural foundations of law, grounded in analytical thought. This focus serves students who have a background in the liberal arts or law and who are interested in combining the two.

The MS in Justice, Law & Criminology requires 33 credit hours of approved graduate work for students entering the program with a bachelor's degree. At least 18 of these credit hours must be in 600-level courses. A minimum grade point average of 3.0 in all coursework is required to remain in good standing and to earn the degree. Full-time status is considered to be nine credit hours per semester. Students are expected to complete the degree within two years.

The program requires one three-hour written comprehensive examination in your selected concentration area. You must complete foundational seminars, two research courses, and four concentration courses prior to taking the examination.

Concentration Research Requirements

All courses require grades of B or better.

More information about course requirements can be found here.

For more information, please contact the SPA Graduate Admissions Office at 202-885-6230 or

The School of Public Affairs operates on a rolling admissions basis for our graduate programs. Applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis until programs reach capacity.

While previous academic or professional work in justice, law, or criminology is not required, you’ll need to demonstrate a serious commitment to a career in this field. Your personal statement on your reasons for pursuing graduate study in the program will be essential, along with the other required application materials.

For more information, please contact the SPA Graduate Admissions Office at 202-885-6230 or

The MS in Justice, Law & Criminology is a 33-credit-hour program. To estimate the cost of tuition, please see the current cost per credit hour for graduate students.

The School of Public Affairs offers graduate students both merit-based and need-based financial aid. Merit awards and named scholarships are administered by the SPA Graduate Admissions Office, while need-based awards are administered by the American University Office of Financial Aid. Additional financial support is available for veterans.

All merit awards are based on your academic merit and professional experience, specifically your undergraduate grades and leadership activities as well as career-related accomplishments. Merit awards are valid for one year-they vary in amount, are typically divided evenly between the fall and spring semesters, and are not typically renewable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Criminology is the study of the causes of crime. Criminal justice is the study of the mechanisms that are designed to control and prevent crime. In our courses, terms criminology and criminal justice are used in interchangeable ways. All courses that examine criminology also examine criminal justice. All courses that examine the operation of the system include criminological theory and criminal justice theory.

JLC-605 Comparative Criminology and Criminal Justice
JLC-607 Concept of Justice
JLC-608 The Constitution and Criminal Procedure
JLC-609 Criminological Theory
JLC-610 Justice and Public Policy: Controversial Issues
JLC-617 Victimology
JLC-626 Domestic Violence
JLC-638 Race and Justice in America
JLC-643 Advanced Seminar in Policing
JLC-651 Drugs, Crime, and Public Policy
JLC-672 Terrorism, Crime, and Public Policy
JLC-676 Theories of Punishment
JLC-686 Advanced Seminar in Corrections 

Students that examine criminology and criminal justice are prepared for work in the justice system as well as further study of crime and punishment in doctoral programs or law schools. Career fields include criminology and law enforcement for positions within investigative and security services, and federal, state, and local government.

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We Know Success

% of Graduates are now Working, Grad School, or Both

96 percent of SPA graduates are employed or in graduate school, or both