The oldest Mercyhurst University graduate program, the Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration (CJA) program was created in 1978 under the assumption that criminal justice is a true profession dedicated to serving society and preserving the basic rights and freedoms of all people. The M.S. in CJA provides both current and prospective practitioners with the administrative and management preparation to further their careers and to move into leadership positions within criminal justice and social service organizations. This graduate program is offered completely online, making it available to anyone around the world and ensuring you'll have access to Mercyhurst’s experienced faculty, cutting-edge coursework and other dynamic learning experiences no matter where you are. Additionally, scheduling flexibility and full- and part-time options allow you to earn your master’s without disrupting your career.

The master’s degree program begins with core management courses designed to develop a broad overview of governmental management, organizational dynamics, professional ethics and research competency. Students will then use elective course work in line with their interests to complete the degree requirements and prepare them for advanced work in the field of their choice. Current undergraduate students at Mercyhurst University may be able to begin working on their master's degree early. Learn more about CJA's 4+1 Program, which allows MU undergrads earn two degrees in five years, saving both time and money!

Those looking for a quicker path to a graduate credential should consider the Graduate Certificate in Criminal Justice Administration, a 4-course, 12-credit program.

Operating on a semester calendar, students may begin in either the fall or spring semester, and have the option of attending either full- or part-time.

Why Study Criminal Justice Administration?

Criminal justice is a rapidly expanding field of academic study. Many government agencies are requiring advanced academic preparation for those in supervisory positions at criminal justice and social service agencies. The CJA program is designed to broaden the perspective of criminal justice practitioners, to equip practitioners with the administrative skills, and to prepare students for further graduate work and scholarship. The program is designed for:

  • Students who wish to obtain a terminal master’s degree as a credential required for entry into some criminal justice professions
  • Those employed in the criminal justice system who wish to expand job-related knowledge
  • Those who seek to teach at the community college level
  • Students who wish to obtain a master’s degree before entering a doctoral program

Course Requirements 

The Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration is a 30 credit program. Students may write a thesis or they may complete two additional elective courses in lieu of the thesis. 

Core Courses (18 credits)

CJA 501 Research Methods in Criminal Justice
CJA 502 Organizational and Human Behavior
CJA 506 Professional Ethics
CJA 604 Criminal Justice Planning and Evaluation
CJA 622 Advanced Research and Analysis or CJA 605 Government Management
CJA 621 Advanced Criminology or AOJ 511 Historical and Comparative Criminal Justice

Elective Courses (12 credits—choose 4 from the following)

CJA 503 Issues in Correctional Administration
CJA 511 Historical and Comparative Criminal Justice
CJA 515 Organized and White Collar Crime
CJA 519 Victimology
CJA 520 Issues in Criminal Justice
CJA 532 Public Law and Public Administration
CJA 550 Politics of Crime
CJA 595 Women and Crime
CJA 610 Law and Society
CJA 616 Issues in Juvenile Justice
CJA 620 Forensic Science
CJA 621 Advanced Criminology
CJA 625 Theories in Corrections and Criminal Justice
CJA 628 Seminar: Crime Analysis
CJA 630 Policy, Politics, Community Coalitions in Criminal Justice Administration
CJA 631 Political Crime and Terrorism
CJA 634 Seminar: Criminology and Crime Policy
CJA 637 Seminar: Special Topics in Juvenile and Criminal Justice
CJA 650 Supervised Justice Administration Readings
CJA 675 Justice Administration Thesis

** Students who elect a six-credit thesis take only two criminal justice electives. The thesis substitutes for the third and fourth elective courses.

Graduation Requirements 

To earn a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration, a student must:

  • Complete 30 graduate hours of study including six core courses and four electives. A master's thesis may substitute for two elective courses.
  • Earn an overall QPA of 3.0 for all graduate courses (including those in which the student did not achieve a passing grade or receive credit).
  • File an Application for Degree form in the Registrar's Office by February 1 of the year of degree completion.

Career Outcomes

Our alumni have administrative positions in various criminal justice and social service agencies.  A sampling of positions held by our alumni includes: 

  • Correctional institution administrators
  • County jail administrators
  • Directors of corrections treatment
  • Directors of adult and juvenile probation departments (county, state)
  • Supervisors of juvenile justice and child care agencies
  • Adult and juvenile probation officers (county, state, and federal)
  • Case managers and supervisors for criminal justice and social service agencies
  • Directors of juvenile justice community and residential treatment agencies
  • Federal law enforcement officers
  • Correctional counselors
  • Research policy analysts
  • Intelligence analysts
  • Attorneys
  • University professors
  • State police officers
  • Substance abuse counselors
  • County detectives

Student Profile

The CJA graduate program is comprised of a diverse group of adult students.  Our program is comprised of students who are continuing their education directly from their undergraduate programs as well as students who are professionals working in the field working toward their graduate degree.  We have students who earned undergraduate degrees in criminal justice and others who have undergraduate degrees in related fields (e.g., social work, intelligence studies, psychology, sociology).  Our students bring with them diverse experiences from all aspects of the criminal justice system (e.g., policing, courts, corrections, drug/alcohol counselors, juvenile treatment specialists, victim advocates).  Some of our students are from the Erie area while other students moved to Erie to pursue their degree.

Admissions Criteria

Prospective applicants for the Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration must fulfill the following admission requirements. At the discretion of the director of the criminal justice administration graduate program, acceptance may be granted to applicants who have not fulfilled all the admission requirements provided they agree to the conditions of the acceptance prescribed by the director.

  • A completed application for admission
    • Complete your online application for FREE at
    • Should you experience technical difficulties, please contact the graduate admissions office at (814) 824-3351 or for other application options
  • Application Deadline
    • The Criminal Justice Administration graduate program has a preferred admission deadline of August 1st. After August 1st, applications will be considered until the class is full. International students should submit their applications by July 1st.
  • A bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an accredited college or university with a min. overall GPA of 3.0
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions you’ve attended
    • Send directly to: Mercyhurst University c/o Graduate Admissions, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546
  • Three letters of recommendation from persons with whom you have a professional or academic relationship (ex. employer, professor, or volunteer coordinator) who can attest to your ability to succeed in a graduate level program. Preferably, two letters will be from faculty at your undergraduate institution.  
    • Submitted through request generated from your online application
    • OR Send directly to: Mercyhurst University c/o Graduate Admissions, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546
    • OR Email directly to
  • A current résumé or curriculum vitae
    • Send directly to: Mercyhurst University c/o Graduate Admissions, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546
    • OR Email directly to
  • A 500-750 word personal statement discussing:
    • Your reason for choosing this program
    • Your short- and long-term professional goals
    • The strengths you bring as an applicant to this program
    • The skills you hope to develop while in this program
    • Send directly to: Mercyhurst University c/o Graduate Admissions, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546
    • OR Email directly to
  • PLEASE NOTE, a professional or academic writing sample may be requested after initial review of your application and required supplemental materials.
  • An Interview
    • A personal interview (either on-campus or via Skype) is not required, but may be requested after initial review of your application and required supplemental materials.
  • International applicants whose primary language is not English must attain a TOEFL Score of 550 on the paper-based exam, 213 on the computer–based exam, or 79-80 on the Internet-based exam or a score of at least 6.5 on the IELTS
  • International applicants must provide their transcripts through World Education Services (WES) for authentication and a WES evaluation report. International applicants can do this by ordering the WES ICAP service.

Completed application packets are reviewed and the admissions decision is based on the “whole student profile.” Strong emphasis is placed on the applicant’s reading, writing and research skills.

Contact Us

Maria L. Garase, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Chair, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Phone: 814-824-3675

Kseniya Kampova
Graduate Enrollment Coordinator
Phone: 814-824-3384

Meet the Faculty

Criminal Justice