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Criminal Justice Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice

School of Public Service Leadership

Get set to lead with an online PhD in criminal justice

You can take your career as a criminal justice professional to the highest level. The Capella online PhD in Criminal Justice program can help you move into key positions as a criminal justice professional. You’ll develop the expertise to evaluate criminal justice theories and apply what you know to criminal justice research, giving you the skills to make a positive impact on the justice system and society in general.

Upon completion of this doctoral program, you can consider such career paths as training other criminal justice leaders, performing scholarly research, or serving in a private capacity. 

At a Glance

  • Online & in-person
  • 14 Core courses
  • 4 Elective courses
  • 3 Dissertation research seminars
  • Comprehensive exam
  • Dissertation
  • 96 Total quarter credits
  • 20 Max transfer credits

Reduce your tuition by $5,000

Enroll in a qualified program, apply for a $5K scholarship, and meet the eligibility requirements.

Apply now »

Classes Start January 13th

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 Fall19)

PhD in Criminal Justice program highlights

Real-world skills

This criminal justice program is designed around industry standards, with curriculum crafted to help you meet the needs of today. 

No wasted time

Apply new knowledge and theories to create efficient and forward-thinking ideas to support criminal justice.

Become a scholar-practitioner

Evaluate theories and their application to the field, while assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of a criminal justice organization.

81% of doctoral alumni found that their Capella education was designed around working professionals.

Source: Alumni Outcome Survey, 2018.

Work alongside expert faculty

Generate valuable criminal justice research guided by experts in the field.

Meet the faculty »

91% of alumni agree Capella gave them the flexibility to graduate on schedule.

Source: Gallup Research Study, 2016.

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.

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. 

A more structured learning format with an active peer community and faculty guidance. 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.


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

Ways to save

Affording your education shouldn’t be an obstacle to reaching your goals. We can help you find ways you can save

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.

$5K toward your doctorate

Apply for a $5K Capella Progress Reward, a scholarship to help fund your doctoral degree.

PhD in Criminal Justice 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

What you’ll learn

The right education can change everything. Discover your path to making a difference with a PhD in Criminal Justice.

  • Evaluate criminal justice theories and see how they apply to industry research.
  • Assess the effectiveness and efficiency of criminal justice organizations.
  • Use valid, reliable, and ethical research to make policies and solid decisions.
  • Critically analyze democratic principles as they apply to criminal justice.
  • Understand the application of legal, ethical, and diversity accountability.
  • Master scholarly, professional, and consistent communication practices.


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.

Criminal justice insights

The Growing Use of Technology in Criminal Justice

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

Up Close and Personal with Public Service Leadership Dean Charlyn Hilliman

See why Dean Charlyn Hilliman’s broad educational background makes her a perfect fit to guide Capella’s School of Public Service Leadership.

PhD in Criminal Justice Paves the Way to Dream Job

Before pursuing a doctorate, Donna Bradley already had an educational and professional background that was both broad and deep.

I almost quit during the first semester. I thought, "I’m a special agent for the FBI. Why am I doing this?" But I’m so grateful I never gave up.

Jerry Clark
PhD in Criminal Justice
Read full interview »

Actual Capella student who agreed to appear in promotional materials for Capella.

Criminal justice professional paths

Your education can help you reach your goals, professionally and personally. Here are some of the jobs and employment settings to consider with a PhD in Criminal Justice.

Related job titles to explore*

  • Probation officer
  • Full-time criminal justice faculty
  • Adjunct or part-time criminal justice faculty

Employment settings to explore

  • Land-based or online college or university
  • Federal court

*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.