A masters degree is required for criminologists to work in the field. Keep in mind that some schools call their criminology programs by a different name, such as criminal justice, law and society or crime and justice. You should look into the classes that these programs offer to see if they will prepare you for a job in criminology.
An online criminology masters degree may be a good choice for you, but it depends on your academic and career goals. Some online criminology masters degrees do not require students to complete an internship, so you should consider whether an internship is important to you. Generally, professionals who are already working in a field related to criminology, like law enforcement or social work, do not need an internship to show them what real criminology work is like. If you are a professional in the field, earning your criminology masters degree online will help you to advance your career while you continue to work, so this route has few drawbacks.
However, if your goal is to attend graduate school so that you can pursue academic research or teach, an online criminology masters degree may not be a good choice. In general, an online degree is not recognized in the field of academia as a matriculated earned degree. However, this practice may vary from college to college. You should not enroll in a criminology masters program that does not require you to complete an internship. Degrees that are earned entirely online do not provide the same amount of applied research or professional experience that an offline program does, which will hurt your application to a doctorate program.
Therefore, if want to pursue a career in academia, be sure that your research of prospective colleges includes questions that pertain to the creation of professional opportunities in your chosen field.
You do not need a bachelors degree in criminology to get a masters in criminology, but you should have a degree in a related field. Many students who study criminology at the masters level hold bachelors degrees in subjects like sociology, psychology or criminal justice.
A masters degree in criminology will prepare you for most jobs in the field, including working as a criminologist or an FBI special agent, although the FBI requires additional specialized training. You will also be qualified for jobs in related fields like social work and law enforcement.
In a masters in criminology program, you will take classes that are designed to make you an expert in the social sciences, the criminal justice system and academic research methods. The exact courses that you will take vary by school, but you are likely to take classes in criminal psychology, criminal law, ethics and statistical analysis. You should also take electives like computer science, logic and writing to improve your analytical skills because many programs will also require you to complete a thesis.
A masters degree in criminal justice usually requires students to complete 30 to 45 credits, or 2 to 3 years of study. In addition to your classroom work requirements, you may be required to complete a thesis project or you can opt to take a comprehensive examination.