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MS Justice, Law & Criminology (On-Campus)

Dakota Engel, SPA/MS '23
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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.

Degree Requirements
Financial Info

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. This means that applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis until programs reach capacity for either Spring or Fall entry. While previous academic or professional work in the career field is not required, your application file should demonstrate a serious commitment to a career in this field. Please consult the following web resources to learn more about building an application file for the program:

Application Requirements
International Student Application and Admission

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

Please consult SPA’s Tuition and Funding page to gain an understanding of the cost of tuition, student fees, and associated discretionary costs.

All admitted students—domestic and international--who meet the priority deadlines for Spring and Fall entry (November 1 and February 15, respectively) are considered for merit aid as part of a separate review process. An admitted student’s application file is the basis of review. There is no separate application required for consideration. Merit aid options consist of partial tuition remission, graduate assistantships, and a limited number of named scholarships. All inquiries about SPA merit aid should be directed to

All domestic students are encouraged to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if they wish to apply for Federal student Loans. American University's FAFSA code is 001434. The Office of Financial Aid (OFA) at American University will review this information and will notify you of your eligibility. Questions may be directed to

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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