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Handbook for Master of Criminal Justice

In addition to advancing the mission of Texas A&M University-Central Texas and the College of Arts and Sciences, the mission of the Master of Criminal Justice program is to prepare students for advancement in criminal justice career fields, for further graduate study, and for teaching criminal justice at the college level.  Program objectives are based on the assumption that criminal justice decision making and policy making in society require broad academic experience, innovative thinking, understanding of the theoretical foundations of the field, knowledge of appropriate research methods, and principles of administration.

Graduates are expected to be:

1. conversant with the theoretical and legal principles implicit in criminal justice administration;

2. knowledgeable about essential research contributions in the field;

3. capable of research analysis appropriate to the field; and

4. competent to assume administrative responsibilities involving decision-making in criminal justice administration

ADMISSION tO Graduate Studies

Admission to Graduate Studies is administered by the Director of Graduate Studies in conjunction with the Graduate Council. Applicants seeking admission must present the following credentials and materials indicating they possess the ability to pursue graduate work successfully:

  1. A formal application for admission. Application forms are submitted online at For U.S. citizens, applications must be received by the deadlines indicated in the current university calendar. Exceptions to the published deadlines are processed on a case-by-case basis. A $30 application-processing fee must accompany applications of students who will be enrolled in a Graduate Studies Program for the first time or who have not been enrolled at A&M-Central Texas for one year.
  2. Official transcript(s) showing degree conferral must be in a sealed envelope. The transcript must bear the date of bachelor’s degree conferral or master’s degree or higher if applicable, and indicate that the applicant was in good standing at the last institution attended.
  3. Scores on the Aptitude Test of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).  If required, these scores should be sent directly to the Office of Graduate Studies by the Educational Testing Service. Business students may take the GMAT exam.
  4. A 500-word essay addressing career and academic goals.

Beyond general requirements for admission to Graduate Studies, departments may set additional standards for admission to degree programs, subject to administrative approval. Please contact the specific Graduate Coordinator for additional graduate admission requirements. Contact information is available from the Office of Graduate Studies.

Conditional Admission

Students are conditionally admitted to Graduate Studies at A&M-Central Texas.  Full admission occurs at the graduate program level. Conditional admission is awarded to applicants who meet the following requirements:

  1. a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or the equivalent from a foreign institution;
  2. a minimum 2.5 GPA on the last 60 hours of coursework completed;
  3. submission of GRE or GMAT scores prior to starting coursework if the GPA is less than 3.0.  If required, official scores must be sent directly to the graduate office by ETS;
  4. submission of a 500-word essay addressing professional and career goals; and
  5. proof of bacterial meningitis vaccine for students aged 21 and under.

Admission will not be granted to a student with a GPA less than 2.5 on the last 60 hours of coursework completed. Students who know they have a GPA less than 2.5 on the last 60 hours of coursework are encouraged to improve their GPA through the Post-Baccalaureate option.

When a student entering on conditional admission has satisfied all conditions, he or she may be granted full admission after being recommended by the academic department. The Graduate Program Coordinator will inform the student that they have obtained Full Admission.

Applicants who, for reasons beyond their control, cannot provide official documents required for admission to Graduate Studies by the time of initial enrollment may be admitted as a Conditional Admission/Requirements Not Met for one semester pending receipt of the required documents. If a graduate student does not submit all official documents within the first semester, the sudent will not be allowed to continue until the documents are on file.

Conditional admission allows a student to proceed at full load or lower each semester. All graduate students are encouraged to maintain a full load or lower to support full retention of learned skills.


University admission to graduate studies does not guarantee admittance to the Master of Science in Criminal Justice program. To be admitted into the MCJ program, you must have:

  1. A bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice or a closely related field;
  2. A 3.0 GPA on the last 60 upper-division undergraduate credit-hours*; and
  3. A 500-word essay which states why you want to pursue a MCJ at A&M-Central Texas.

*Applicants with a GPA less than 3.0 and applicants who earned their B.A. more than five years ago must submit a GRE score.


Students entering the MCJ program must initially meet with the Criminal Justice Graduate Program Coordinator, Dr. Floyd Berry. Once students begin taking courses they should meet with an advisor of their choosing at least once per semester. Advisors should be chosen according to the student’s research interests. Advisors for the MCJF program are (in alphabetical order):

  • Dr. Floyd Berry
  • Dr. Tammy Bracewell
  • Dr. Lynn Greenwood
  • Dr. Michele Quiñones
  • Dr. Liana Taylor

Included in the tabs above are the core requirements for the MCJ and the courses from which you must choose for each track/emphasis: professional, homeland, and thesis.


Students may choose one of three tracks offered by the Criminal Justice Department. Each track was developed with students' particular needs in mind. With these tracks we hope to accommodate the needs of traditional students, working professionals, and our military community.

  • Track 1: Professional Emphasis. Our professional track is designed for working professionals returning to college to advance their careers. The professional track focuses on leadership, management, and program evaluation. Professional track courses are offered primarily online; however, students may elect to take courses face to face. Students on the professional track must complete and pass comprehensive exams to graduate. Students who are pursuing the MCJ online should choose the professional track concentration. This track does not prepare one for college teaching or doctoral work.
  • Track 2: Homeland Security Emphasis. The Homeland security track is designed for students and professionals who want to specialize in this growing area of criminal justice. Homeland security courses focus on global and information security, terrorism, and emergency management. Homeland security courses are offered primarily online; however, students may elect to take some courses face to face. Students on this track must complete comprehensive exams.
  • Track 3: Thesis Emphasis. Our academic track is designed for students who intend to pursue a research degree. Academic track courses focus on the study of research methodologies, advanced statistics, theory, legal philosophy, and ethics. Academic track courses are offered primarily face to face; however, students may take courses offered online. Students on the academic track must complete a thesis to graduate. Review your graduate degree plan for thesis course substitutions. Students who wish to pursue a career in teaching or research, or who wish to pursue a doctoral degree, should choose the thesis track concentration. The thesis track is not open to students who are pursuing an online MCJ degree.

Students pursuing a specific track must complete the core requirements for the program, plus any additional emphasis requirements. Several of the courses assume upper-level undergraduate competency in applied statistics, criminology, research methods, and ethics.  Lack of competency in any of these areas may require completing undergraduate coursework to satisfy competency.


CRIJ 5090. Criminal Justice Comprehensive Examination. 0 Semester Credit Hours.

Study and integrate criminal justice knowledge in order to take the criminal justice comprehensive exam for non-thesis students. Non-thesis students should register for the comprehensive examination during their final semester of graduate coursework, or upon permission of advisor. All comprehensive examinations will be written, but an oral component may also be required. A maximum of three attempts will be allowed. Thesis students do not take this examination.

CRIJ 5198. Criminal Justice Thesis. 1-3 Semester Credit Hours.

Prepare and write a graduate thesis in the field of criminal justice. This course represents a student's initial and continuing thesis enrollment. At least six total hours is required to complete the thesis requirement. The student continues to enroll in this course until the thesis is submitted and the thesis is successfully defended.

CRIJ 5300. Linear Regression. 3 Semester Credit Hours.

Introduces students to statistical concepts and techniques that can assist them in evaluating research and in engaging in research on the graduate level. Both bivariate and multiple regression techniques will provide the main content of the course. Prerequisite(s): 3 hours in undergraduate or graduate statistics, or consent of instructor.

CRIJ 5301. Advanced Criminology. 3 Semester Credit Hours.

Examine major theoretical perspectives of crime and deviance. Analyze theories for their logical and empirical adequacy in light of what is known about the distribution of crime and deviant behavior. Prerequisite(s): Undergraduate or graduate coursework in Criminology or permission of instructor.

CRIJ 5303. Race and Ethnicity. 3 Semester Credit Hours.

Examine issues related to racial and ethnic minorities and crime in America, including perceptions of race, class, offending, and victimization. Emphasis on disparities in offending, victimization, law enforcement practices, trial process, and sentencing.

CRIJ 5304. Advanced Methods in Criminal Justice. 3 Semester Credit Hours.

Study social scientific research methods applied to criminal justice research, and critically examine research designs and published findings. Includes an advanced review of procedures and techniques for research in criminology, law enforcement, courts, and corrections. Prerequisite(s): Undergraduate or Graduate course in Research Methods or permission of instructor.

CRIJ 5306. Criminal Justice Program Evaluation. 3 Semester Credit Hours.

Learn to define program evaluation, the need for program evaluations, and the methods used to conduct evaluations.

CRIJ 5307. Homeland Security. 3 Semester Credit Hours.

Study strategic, legal, policy, operational, and organizational issues associated with the defense of the U.S. homeland from foreign and domestic terrorist threats. Topics include legal issues in Homeland Security, effective interfacing between local, state, and federal agencies, emergency management operations, and planned response strategies. Maybe crosslisted with HLS 5307. Only one may be taken for credit.

CRIJ 5309. Terrorism. 3 Semester Credit Hours.

Examine the definitions, history, beliefs, practices, organizational structure, and conflicts involved in terrorist activities. Address funding and criminal connections with terrorist organizations, efforts at counterterrorism as well as the psychological aspects of suicide terrorism.

CRIJ 5311. Logistic Regression. 3 Semester Credit Hours.

Introduces students to logistic regression models for estimating discrete or categorical variables.Prerequisite: 3 hours in CRIJ 5300, or consent of instructor.

CRIJ 5315. Graduate Proseminar. 3 Semester Credit Hours.

Introduces students to the department and faculty. Emphasis placed on effective study habits and writing skills associated with research, as well as other activities/parameters that will assist the student in being successful in the program,. This course is cross-listed with HLS 5315; only one may be taken for credit.

CRIJ 5321. Leadership and Supervision. 3 Semester Credit Hours.

Examine leadership and organizational theories focused on identifying problems and solutions in criminal justice management. The case study method and current literature provide experiences on how leadership styles, human resources, and the organizational environment impact management decisions. Maybe crosslisted with HLS 5321. Only one may be taken for credit.

CRIJ 5322. Advanced Criminal Justice Ethics. 3 Semester Credit Hours.

Study the practical implications of moral philosophy and ethics in a free society during the day-to-day administration of a criminal justice agency.

CRIJ 5388. Criminal Justice Problems. 1-3 Semester Credit Hours.

Engage in independent reading, research, and discussion on selected criminal justice topics. Entry into this course will be arranged with the School Director. Students may repeat this course for a total of 6 hours credit when topics vary.

Graduate Course Rotation 2017-2019

Course Number Course Title Fall Spring Summer
CRIJ 5198 Thesis X X X
CRIJ 5300 Linear Regression X
CRIJ 5301 Advanced Criminology X
CRIJ 5303 Race and Ethnicity in Criminal Justice X
CRIJ 5304 Advanced Research Methods X
CRIJ 5306 Program Evaluation X
CRIJ 5307 Homeland Security X
CRIJ 5308 Victimology X (2017) X (2018)
CRIJ 5309 Terrorism X
CRIJ 5311 Regression Analysis X
CRIJ 5315 Graduate Proseminar X (2018)
CRIJ 5321 Leadership and Supervision X
CRIJ 5322 Advanced Ethics X

Courses offered through other departments. Check program for offerings. 

ANTH 5351Forensic Anthropology3
HLS 5307Homeland Security3
HLS 5309Terrorism3
HLS 5320Religious Terrorism3
HLS 5321Leadership and Supervision3
HLS 5370Foundations of Information Security3
SOCI 5305Theoretical Sociology3

Comprehensive Exams

Comprehensive exams are offered three times a year (November, March, and July) to non-thesis track students. Students who enrolled in the MCJ program prior to fall of 2013 must pass two exams: (1) Methods/Statistics, and (2) Theory. Students who enrolled during or after the fall of 2013 must pass three exams: (1) Methods/Statistics, (2) Theory, and (3) Ethics. Thesis track students do not take comprehensive exams, but rather defend a thesis. Comprehensive exams are administered at the Testing Center located on the 2nd floor of Warrior Hall. Each exam is 2.5 hours in duration. Students must have completed 24 semester hours, including CRIJ 5300 Linear Regression, CRIJ 5301 (Theory), CRIJ 5304 or 5306, and CRIJ 5322 Ethics, in order to take comprehensive exams. The student may take any number of comprehensive exams during a term.

Students who wish to take comprehensive exams must notify Dr. Floyd Berry ( by early October, February, or June of their intentions to take a comprehensive exam the following month.

Preparing for Comprehensive Exams

Faculty conduct reviews of comprehensive exams every semester that exams are administered. Students are expected to attend if able. If unable, review materials are available upon request. Students are allowed (and advised) to bring a bibliography to the testing environment. Students are expected to bring a minimum of two citations per exam (except for statistics, which requires no citations). Students are expected to cite original sources. Citations must also contribute significantly to the material being discussed. Students who are unclear about any of these requirements should discuss them with the Criminal Justice professors.

To help students prepare for comprehensive exams and other areas of study, professors may require students to produce an annotated bibliography as part of the course curriculum. If a professor does not, students are still encouraged to maintain annotated bibliographies in all classes. Annotated bibliographies are the gold standard in graduate studies across the nation. After reading an article or book chapter, you note the proper citation (APA style), type a summary of the material, and save it. As you read articles, you add them to your annotated bibliography. This practice allows one to use the source again for term papers and also to study for comprehensive exams. Annotated bibliographies, however, are not allowed to be used during the comprehensive exam.

Graduate students are strongly advised to create and retain annotated bibliographies for all articles, chapters, and books that are required reading for graduate courses. These notes are invaluable as study aids for comprehensive exams.

Student may view past comprehensive exam questions online on the Criminal Justice graduate program website.


The thesis option is an exercise in independent research. Students are expected to develop a research proposal, defend it, and then execute their research plan. The thesis itself is a document explaining (1) the purpose of the study, (2) what the current literature says about the topic of the thesis, (3) any gaps in research and what the student proposes to contribute, (4) how the study was conducted, (5) the findings, and (6) conclusion and limitations.

Because this is an exercise in independent research, students are guided through the research process; students do not receive any form of assistance with the actual research or data analysis. If a student is unable to complete the work successfully, on their own, the student may be encouraged to opt out of thesis.

No concessions will be made for students who intend to graduate by a specific semester but are unable to successfully complete and defend their thesis in time to do so. Students should discuss graduation dates with their committee prior to and during the thesis process.

Thesis Process

During the thesis process, students work closely with the thesis committee. The thesis committee is comprised of three members, two from the Criminal Justice Department and one outside member; this should be a faculty member from any other discipline relevant to the student's research. 

Students must select two members from the criminal justice department and one member from outside the department. Students must contact all three members and ask that they serve on their thesis committee. Criminal Justice faculty members eligible for thesis committee membership are:

  • Dr. Floyd Berry
  • Dr. Tammy Bracewell
  • Dr. Christine Jones
  • Dr. Michele Quiñones
  • Dr. Liana Taylor

Students are encouraged to meet individually with all committee members throughout this process. Students should schedule meetings with instructors individually and try not to favor one instructor over the others; each instructor’s input is valuable.

Successful Completion of a Thesis

Students must enroll in a minimum of two semesters of thesis. During the first semester, students develop their research proposal. During the second thesis course, students execute and complete their research projects, complete writing the thesis, and defend the thesis. Thesis defenses are open to the public.

In order to pass the first thesis course, the student must successfully defend the thesis proposal. At the end of the first course, committee members will meet to determine if the student has passed or failed and whether he or she should advance to the second thesis course.

In order to pass the second thesis course, the student must successfully defend their thesis before the committee and anyone else who would like to attend; however only the committee determines if the student passes.

After successfully defending the thesis, the student must then submit the completed thesis to the graduate college, where they review the thesis for proper formatting. It is important that all guidelines outlined in the thesis manual (see important documents) are followed. Neither the graduate college nor the committee members will help with formatting. Only after the graduate college reviews and approves the thesis will it be considered a successfully completed thesis.

Thesis Deadlines (change yearly)

There are important due dates thesis candidates must meet. These due dates are set by the graduate college and are not flexible.

  • Spring 
    • April 1: Deadline for thesis defense and submission of final committee-edited theses with committee approval signatures to the Office of Graduate Studies and Research.
    • May 6: Deadline for bindery-ready copies of theses to the Office of Graduate Studies and Research for Spring graduation.
  • Summer          
    • July 5: Deadline for thesis defense and submission of final committee-edited theses with committee approval signatures to the Office of Graduate Studies and Research.
    • July 31: Deadline for bindery-ready copies of theses to the Office of Graduate Studies and Research for Summer graduation.
  • Fall     
    • November 13: Deadline for thesis defense and submission of final committee‐edited theses with committee approval signatures to the Office of Graduate Studies and Research.
    • December 2: Deadline for bindery‐ready copies of theses to the Office of Graduate Studies and Research for Fall graduation.

These deadlines change yearly. It is up to the student to keep track of due dates for the thesis proposal, thesis defense, and related forms.

Thesis Forms

Thesis candidates must work closely with their advisers to submit the important documents and meet the deadlines stated in the academic calendar. Students are responsible for submitting thesis paperwork to the Office of Graduate Studies on time. Please consult the Thesis Manual found at