Master in CJ, Public Administration, or other?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by JH50, Mar 3, 2010.

  1. JH50

    JH50 Member

    I could really use some advice. I'm a law enforcement officer with 12 years experience, the last 4 as a supervisor (first line). I have the option to retire in 8 years and I have been giving serious thought as to how open the most doors if I decide to retire and move to a second career.

    One of my professional goals is to obtain a Masters degree but I have been struggling for a few years now to determine what type would be the best one. It would have to be online, as my work and family commitments prevent me from attending school during morning or evening hours.

    I already have my bachelor's in CJ, but my department will pay the full price for a Masters in CJ. I still find criminal justice interesting, but wonder what a Masters will help me do other than the possibility of adjunct teaching.

    I was thinking that an MPA would compliment my supervisor experience, but I don't know if I want to be in a supervisory position if I begin a second career. I thought, however, that an MPA might look good I were to look for work in the non-profit sector.

    Are there other degrees I should look at such as Masters in Management or Leadership? Other than CJ, the department will pay half the cost of a Masters if it deemed to be work related.

    As you can imagine, I've been suffering a bit of paralysis by analysis. I appreciate any input.
  2. TonyM

    TonyM Member

    So many options...but two main routes

    I've been a cop for 20 years and have my master's in criminal justice from Tiffin. There are two major types of master's CJ programs: social-science or administration. If you want to teach at a regular school when you retire then go for the criminology/criminal justice route, where you study social theory. You will be more qualified for the survey courses that everyone has to take. If you want to be a big boss or anything involving running a department then take on the justice administration type programs. You might be surprised that it's not too hard to get fulltime teaching gigs if you've been a cop for any length of time. The 2-year tech schools and other applied-science type programs need the former cops, especially if they offer police certifications. In this area you can move past the scholars. The selection of CJ choices is overwhelming. The real key is to study whatever you find most interesting. When I did my master's in 03 there weren't so many choices and I went the administration route, but now I wish I'd have studied social theory. For cost, New Mexico State is among the cheapest. For big names, Michigan State and Florida State have nice programs. Generally, in my opinion, since you're a cop your degree should be in criminal justice instead of simply management or MPA. The fact is that a CJ degree will often have a higher status if you're a veteran police officer.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 3, 2010
  3. major56

    major56 Active Member

    If upon retiring with teaching as a viable option, I agree with Tony regarding the MCJ route. However, the MPA or even the MBA are also options if non-profits or public sector management are of interest.

    Tiffin is an excellent school choice. Also Sam Houston State University is highly regarded in the CJ arena. They offer a new online Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management … “a financially competitive program for the working professional from the highly reputable, prestigious College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University.”
  4. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    I agree with Tony M. I'd do the non-managerial route in CJ. I certainly wouldn't advise an MPA or MBA without having a clear direction in mind. I was a cop for 7 years and wanted a career change, so I did an MBA and *poof* I got my career change. But I had a plan and a direction and even though an MBA or even MPA would help you in a role like Chief of Police or something, I wouldn't recommend putting yourself through that type of program without having that role in mind, being a contender for that role or already being in that role.

    You could always do your CJ now and the MPA/MBA or whatever later. Then there are niche degrees that may help you move from line police work to federal work or even taking an analyst position in Counter Terror, Intelligence Studies, Forensic Computing, Homeland Security, etc. I know at least a couple of guys who work in a forensic lab after putting their 20+ years on a police force, though they have a particular hard to find skill, even still it's doable. I also know of many more who went into Homeland Security (like TSA administrative staff) or even private security (don't laugh, the average head of private security can make more than your average chief of police).
  5. cumpa

    cumpa New Member

    All depends on what you want to do. I have a very similar background to yours in law enforcement for 15 years last 4 as a sergeant. I went the MPA route and have found it very beneficial. With our retirement plan I'll be working for another 18 years until I retire, but could also make the switch to a city management career track, which I've pondered. The CJ route is definitely better if you want to teach when you retire. Alot of the people in my MPA program worked in the Non Profit sector and were using it to help move into higher positions. It's a very viable degree if that is your plan. If you can do the MCJ for free that would be tough to turn down. In the end I really don't think the degree matters a ton unless you are going after something very specific such as city manager where the MPA would be the required degree in most cases.
  6. major56

    major56 Active Member

  7. TonyM

    TonyM Member

    City Manager is a good former-cop job

    Good point about becoming a city manager. It makes sense that a former cop would be ideal to manage a town, considering that the police department is usually the biggest section. Moreover, someone has to supervise the chief...the dilemma is that a good chief has to be strong willed and therefore hard to supervise. I worked for a town that had a strong chief and a weak city manager...the officers liked it at first, but it was not the natural order of things and it all fell apart.
  8. makana793

    makana793 New Member

    I'll chime in. I'm a Sgt. with the BOP and I have about 12 years of LE in addition to military experience. I went the MPA route with the Justice Administration specialization from Wayland Baptist University because it had some administrative aspects to the program as well as criminology courses. I guess it depends on your short and long term goals. Fortunately, in my opinion this is a "good" problem to have because you have many options to choose from. It's just a matter of finding the right program for the right price.
  9. TonyM

    TonyM Member


    The options are both in education and employment. There really are a lot of jobs for former police officers with a master's degree. There is always someone hiring trainers, and the pay is often pretty good. If you're interested in training and education, a good extra step is to get your state's police instructor certifications and start training here and there. A lot of departments will loan you out to the local academies. You get to practice teaching and make connections; everyone wins. The academy gets a trainer, and the department can call on training favors from the academy. In many states the police academy is part of a community college that also has academic courses. If you can teach things like firearms and ASP Baton along with CJ101and 102, you probably will find work quickly. I landed a job shortly after finishing my degree, but realized I wasn't ready to quit policing until I started to put in my notice.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 3, 2010
  10. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    I'm also a police officer with 20+ years on the job, and my advice is to take whatever tuition reimbursement is available; if your employer is going to pick up the tab for your Master's in CJ, then do it!

    You can always go back and earn a second Master's degree in another field on your own dime, but why pass-up a free graduate degree?
  11. JH50

    JH50 Member

    I want to thank everyone for their input. I didn't realize there were so many law enforcement officers on the board. I was leaning towards a Masters in CJ and that seems to be the consensus here. The MPA doesn't seems as exciting to me as the CJ curriculum. I was looking at either Michigan State or U of Cincinnati. I know both are rated highly and have name recognition but has anyone heard anything about either online program. The MSU program is 30 credit hours and has regular semesters. It either takes 2 or 3 years to complete depending if you double up classes. Cincinnati is 48 credit hours and takes 2 years to complete on an accelerated cohort program. Both require the GRE which I just started to prepare for. I will also look into the other programs mentioned here. Thanks again for helping me clarify my path.
  12. TonyM

    TonyM Member

    I'd go with Michigan State. They have two CJ master's. One is a general degree and the other is in crime analysis. A nice feature is that you can start the program before admission to the master's program. Once you've completed 3 classes you can have a grad certificate and continue onto the full master's or quit. The initial enrollment is automatic. You just fill out the continuing studies application and you're automatically a student.

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