Calculating the Price
While examining the curriculum and degree focus of prospective schools, students should compile a list of costs to see if the program is unrestrictive and affordable. Many online degree programs operate on a year-round schedule and offer accelerated programs, which could slice time off completion, making a degree more affordable. Tuition – the single largest expense – can vary widely based on the type of institution and the way costs are calibrated. Colleges, universities and private schools may charge by the semester, the quarter or even by the number of credits per class. In general, most public colleges and universities charge lower tuition than private institutions, although residency can affect costs. Working students can do the math to determine whether their individual or household income can meet the bills.
Colleges and universities offering online degree programs may waive out-of-state tuition in favor of a flat fee for all students. The overall cost of a degree can also be made more palatable if the student can transfer previously completed credits in the major, which could allow them to complete the master’s faster. A quick look at tuition for online two-year criminal justice master’s programs shows a range from $8,500 all the way up to $24,000. Here are two examples of simple math to calculate tuition costs:
- Find the cost per semester or quarter and multiply it times the number of semesters/quarters it will take to graduate.
- Determine the price per credit and multiply it by the total number of credits needed to qualify for graduation.
Students should consider their current cost of living, income and expenses in addition to the tuition total to create a working budget. Now let’s look at the potential return on investment (ROI) for completing an online master’s in criminal justice.
The Master’s Payoff
Earning an online master’s in criminal justice does not automatically increase earnings, but it certainly bolsters professional credentials and can lead to advancement in rank, which ultimately may result in pay increases and bonuses. The system of ranks customary to public government-funded organizations is pegged to continuing education and practical experience. Completing a master’s degree can move grads up in a competitive hiring line for a new career or position them for an advancement associated with higher earnings and increased benefits. Here are some examples of the pay range for selected criminal justice professionals, revealing top-tier wages based on advanced training and experience:
|Criminal Justice Profession
|Emergency management specialists (FEMA)
||$51,000 - $117,000
||$56,993 - $84,098
||$50,000 - $102,000
||$35,171 - $82,385
|Federal law enforcement managers
||$45,740 - $79,790
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale, Glassdoor, Houston Chronicle
The leadership positions that open up to graduates of master’s degree programs in criminal justice greatly increase earnings potential, according to the Seattle PI Online. For example, the median salary of a police officer with only an undergraduate degree was $48,532. When the professional adds a master’s degree and advances to police lieutenant, the annual salary increases to $65,688. Similarly, a supervisor at the FBI with a master’s degree can take home $89,115.
Many states promote advanced CJ training. Massachusetts’ Quinn Bill legislation, for example, rewards law enforcement professionals who return to college with incentives and bonuses including faster tracks to advancement.