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PhD in Criminal Justice Programs in California

When you think about the complex issues of crime, justice, and safety in California, it's clear that there are very few easy answers. California is made up of hundreds of cities, towns, and small communities, each of which must be served by the criminal justice experts of this state. If you are a current criminal justice professional who's ready to take the next step in your career or you're interested in transitioning to criminal justice from a different industry, a PhD may provide the insight you need.

What Can I Do With My PhD in Criminal Justice in California?

Like many states, California has at times suffered unsustainable rates of prison growth. California has reversed that slightly in recent years, with a 1% decrease in incarceration rates in 2016 (Patch, 2018).

While crime rates are decreasing across the country, some of California's cities aren't following this trend. San Francisco is ranked number one in the country for property crime (SF Chronicle, 2018).

With a criminal justice PhD, you may have the qualifications you need for new justice careers. A judicial law clerk position may allow you to work with high profile cases. California judicial law clerks bring in an average salary of $58,160 per year (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). With an anticipated 6% increase in job openings across the country through 2026, the job outlook is favorable (CareerOneStop, 2017).

You may also consider academic positions. Between 2016 and 2026, CareerOneStop anticipates a 10% increase in demand for criminal justice professors (2017). The median income for this career is $92,120 per year (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017).

Take a look at our list of PhD criminal justice programs below to find schools near you.

What Will It Take to Earn My Criminal Justice Graduate Degree in California?

Before selecting a PhD program, you must look at your educational background. If you have a bachelor's degree, you need to enroll in a program that combines master's degree courses and PhD courses. This generally involves completing over 70 credits. If you have a master's degree already, you may consider PhD programs that require 40 to 50 credits.

Most criminal justice degrees in California cost between $8600 per semester and $16,000 per semester. Your tuition rate is based on the school you choose and your residency status. PhD programs differ from other degrees because they often provide funding to students, with the hope that the students they accept and fund will produce research that brings attention to the university.

In exchange for lower or waived tuition, you may have to work as a teaching assistant or research assistant for up to 20 hours per week. If you concentrate on research throughout your education, you may also qualify for research grants from local and federal organizations.

Roughly the first half of your PhD program should focus on classroom courses, theory, and seminars. At this point in your education, you may enroll in courses like:

  • Law and Society
  • Street Ethnography
  • Qualitative Criminological Analysis
  • Consequences of Imprisonment
  • Law and Morality
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Eyewitness Testimony

Once your classroom requirements are behind you, you move on to your dissertation and your comprehensive exam. The exam covers a range of criminal justice theories, issues, and laws. Your dissertation should relate to your area of concentration or your future career plans. You earn your PhD in criminal justice in California after successfully defending your thesis to a panel of PhDs.

If you long for a career that empowers you to improve the criminal justice system and make a difference in people's lives, a criminal justice PhD may be the first step. Use our list of programs below to contact top criminal justice schools in California for more information.

Featured Schools Accepting Students from Across the US:

Online programs may not be available in all areas


In addition to the campus based programs, there are numerous online programs available for many of the common Criminal Justice degree types (Associate, Bachelors, Masters, PhD) and specialties. Please feel free to use the links on the left-hand side of this page to explore some of the online degree programs available. Thanks for visiting!

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