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Criminal Justice Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice

School of Public Service Leadership

Work to Solve Tough Societal Problems

Prepare to tackle society’s most difficult challenges. Capella’s online PhD in Criminal Justice degree builds on your existing skills, opening doors for you to pursue a variety of careers in leadership roles—conduct policy and scholarly research, accept academic appointments, or consult to positively impact criminal justice systems and society. Combining a strong theoretical focus and practical application, our interprofessional curriculum focuses on understanding and applying ethics, situational awareness and analysis, and decision-making based on evidence. 

At a Glance

  • Online & In Person
  • 14 Core Courses
  • 4 Elective Courses
  • 3 Dissertation Research Seminars
  • Comprehensive Exam
  • Dissertation

Reduce Your Tuition by $10,000

Enroll in a qualified program, apply for a $10K scholarship, and meet the eligibility requirements.

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Classes Start July 8th

Ready to get started? We’re ready for you. Chat with an enrollment counselor or apply now to take the first step on the journey toward your future.

$50 application fee (waived w/promo SPRING)

What you’ll learn

Study Criminal Justice Theories

Evaluate criminal justice theories and see how they apply to criminal justice research.

Examine Democratic Principles

Critically analyze democratic principles as they apply to criminal justice.

Assess What’s Working

Learn to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of criminal justice organizations using valid and ethical research.

Assess Accountability

Analyze legal, ethical and diversity accountability in a criminal justice context.

Make Research-Informed Decisions

Use valid, reliable, and ethical research to make policies and solid decisions in criminal justice.

Communicate Professionally

Communicate in a manner that is scholarly, professional, and consistent with the expectations for your profession. 

Our unique doctoral structure

Our PhD in Criminal Justice program is designed to remove roadblocks for you and demystify the dissertation process. This unique approach centers on supporting you in three ways: through program structure, a dedicated faculty and support team, and online resources. To help generate momentum toward graduation, you’ll begin your dissertation early in the program. Our faculty, support team, and online resources will help guide you every step of the way.

Program features

Our program offers additional benefits you might be interested in.

Scholar-Practitioner Faculty

Learn the latest in theory and practice from a doctoral faculty who are actively engaged in the criminal justice field.

Relevant, Real-World Learning

Learn through our immersive media simulation, Riverbend City, to develop and practice your skills in a risk-free environment.

Convenient, Flexible Learning

Access our engaging, online learning environment anytime, anywhere, with any device—set your own schedule while meeting deadlines.

Learn to make practical, field-ready decisions based on research.

Because our curriculum is research-based and practically applied, you’ll gain the foundational knowledge you need to make effective, evidence-based decisions in the field that are based on research and not popular opinion

Cost & learning format

Online education isn’t one-size-fits-all. We know you’re busy—you need a learning experience tailored to your life, not the other way around. Capella has learning and tuition formats to suit you, however you learn. 

Our original learning format offers extra structure for those who want it. We'll set the schedule, you meet the deadlines. 

  • Based on the quarter system; 1-3 courses per 10-week quarter
  • 1 semester credit = 1.5 quarter credits
  • Weekly assignments and courseroom discussions
  • Pay for what you take, price varies by courseload or term
$710 per credit, 96 total quarter credits, 20 max transfer credits

Get the details

Speak with an enrollment counselor to get a personalized cost estimate for what you can expect to pay.

Ways to save

At Capella, we believe your education is an investment in your future. It’s also an investment within your grasp. Your goals are achievable—there are more ways to save than you might think. 

10% military discount

If you're an active-duty military service member, spouse, or veteran, discounts may be available.

Transfer credits

We can accept many transfer credits from regionally accredited schools.

Employer & association discounts

If your employer or organization is a partner with Capella, you may be eligible for a tuition discount.

Learning online doesn’t mean you’ll learn alone. 

From day one, you’ll interact in a multidisciplinary courseroom that mimics the real world. You’ll be paired with an expert instructor and writing coach who’ll help you develop the skills needed for success.

Accredited & recognized

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Accreditation and recognitions provide the assurance we meet standards for quality of faculty, curriculum, learner services, and fiscal stability. See all of our accreditations and recognitions

Sample courses

The online PhD in Criminal Justice curriculum gives you the critical and analytical skills to develop strategies and policies for criminal justice administration. You’ll conduct original research and evaluate current issues and systems. The program includes dissertation research seminars which allow you to get an early start on your dissertation.

Show course with description
CRJ7025 *
Justice, Security, and Democracy

This course introduces learners to the central functions of law enforcement agencies, the courts, and corrections in preserving and protecting the security, safety, rights, and liberties of their respective communities. Learners examine the principles of constitutional democracy, with particular focus on the roles and responsibilities of the criminal justice system. Learners analyze the complex reciprocal interactions and influences of politics, society, and the criminal justice system. Prerequisite(s): Completion of or concurrent registration in CRJ7015; PSL7030.

4 quarter credits
CRJ7035 *
Criminal Justice Policy and Administration

This course focuses on the organizational challenges that criminal justice leadership typically encounters in contemporary society. Learners critically examine the intended and unintended effects of political, social, and legal policies and pressures on how criminal justice organizations function. Learners assess organizational and administrative theories, strategic models, and best practices for leadership and administration in criminal justice. Learners analyze innovative policies and change initiatives to achieve specific ethical and functional objectives. Prerequisite(s): CRJ7015, PSL7030.

4 quarter credits
CRJ8015 *
Assessing Criminal Justice Theory

Learners in this course identify, define, and assess criminal justice theory. Learners apply criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of selected theories in explaining the structure and functioning of the formal components of the criminal justice system, law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. Learners use theories to account for the responses of officials assigned to process persons identified as criminal. Learners examine testable hypotheses and theses statements derived from these theories in relation to their implications for research, policy formation, and practice. In addition, learnersformulate their own research questions and policy proposals from the criminal justice theories that they find most compelling. Prerequisite(s): CRJ7015, CRJ7025. 

4 quarter credits
CRJ8025 *
Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice

This course introduces learners to contemporary issues faced by the criminal justice system, with particular focus on innovative, ethical, problem-oriented approaches to various criminal justice issues, problems, and crime types. Learners develop specialized scholarly interests by examining issues such as community relations, militarization of policing, use of deadly force, private security, national drug control policy, sentencing guidelines, correctional approaches, and alternative treatment modalities. Learners investigate how a chosen topic will impact policing, courts, and/or corrections. Learners also assess the implications and consequences public perceptions have on policy. Prerequisite(s): CRJ7035, CRJ8015. 

4 quarter credits
CRJ8045 *
Analysis of Crime Data

Learners in this course apply quantitative and qualitative tools to assess law enforcement performance, consequences of sentencing policies, effectiveness of correctional policies, and recidivism rates. Learners analyze the conceptual and technical foundations of crime databases and criminal justice secondary datasets; assess the development of criminal justice databases and examine their uses and limitations; and investigate secondary datasets, particularly those with vulnerable and protected populations, and their use in research. Prerequisite(s): CRJ8035, PSL7868, PSL-R8926. 

4 quarter credits


Concentrations let you hone in on your specific area of interest that can get you even closer to your exact career goals. The concentrations you earn will be included on your transcript.


Learn the philosophy of punishment and the scope of corrections programs, such as probation, parole, incarceration, and treatment.


Deepen your understanding of crime prevention, treatment programs, and criminal justice system interventions.

Higher Education

Prepare to teach using your personal teaching philosophy and applying ethical decision-making, multicultural competence, and more.

Continuity Management

Apply research and theory to inform policy and practice to design and manage resilient systems.

Relevant blog posts

The Growing Use of Technology in Criminal Justice

Technology has become a key factor in helping to solve crimes more efficiently and effectively.

Move forward in your career

Here are just some of the career options you could explore with our online criminal justice doctoral degree.

Related Job Titles to Explore*

  • Full-time, part-time, or adjunct faculty
  • Drug enforcement officer
  • Law enforcement officer, detective, investigator, or commander or chief
  • Case worker or probation and parole officer
  • Victim specialist
  • Sheriff
  • Crime scene investigative unit manager
  • Probation, parole, correctional administrator or commissioner
  • Correctional treatment specialist
  • Research personnel within law enforcement
  • Consultant to the justice system or law enforcement
  • Intelligence specialist

Related Employment Settings to Explore

  • Land-based or online college or university
  • Law enforcement organization–state, local, federal
  • Correctional facility or prison–state, local, federal
  • Municipal court system
  • Department of Corrections
  • Federal government agency
  • Drug enforcement administration
  • U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services
  • U.S. Department of the Interior
  • U.S. Secret Service
  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • U.S. Army

*These are examples intended to serve as a general guide. Some positions may prefer or even require previous experience, licensure, certifications, and/or other designations along with a degree. Because many factors determine what position an individual may attain, Capella cannot guarantee that a graduate will secure any specific job title, a promotion, salary increase, or other career outcome. We encourage you to research requirements for your job target and career goals.

Other programs to explore

Is this program close to what you need, but maybe not a perfect fit? The programs below might be interesting. Check them out to find one that suits your academic and professional goals.

Ready for the Next Step?

Learning online doesn't mean going it alone. Help is here. From faculty, coaches, advisors, and more. Plus a supportive community of students who are as passionate about their careers as you are about yours.