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Criminal Justice professionals tackle some of society's most difficult challenges. Working with courts, correctional facilities, and policing institutions, they step into different situations, evaluate what’s happening, and find solutions that will serve individuals. The work they do serves the general public in a way that is beneficial to all. A career in this field is grounded in the ability to understand and apply ethics, situational awareness and analysis, and decision-making based on evidence.

Capella’s online PhD in Criminal Justice gives you the opportunity to build on the skills you already have and prepares you to lead in your career. This program combines the rigor you need to learn with a strong theoretical focus and real-world, practical application.

  • Learning online doesn’t mean learning alone. In Capella’s PhD in Criminal Justice, you work with a team of experts seasoned in this field who will help you develop foundational skills you’ll need to be successful throughout the program—and in your career.
  • Discover, develop, and strengthen your unique leadership style. Capella offers you self-assessment and interactive, consistent contacts with faculty who can help you discover and develop your leadership skills.
  • Gain credible, concrete proof that you’re learning and developing market-ready skills. Complete personal assessments that will help you identify your strengths and your opportunities for improvement.
  • Engage in immersive simulations that incorporate your leadership and communication styles. Rich media and simulated real-world scenarios help you apply theory and practice critical thinking to solve problems.
  • Achieve your goals faster, saving you time and money. Your research experience will be grounded in credit-bearing dissertation research seminars, which allow you to start your dissertation from the beginning of your PhD program. This in turn can save you time and money by helping you complete your degree faster.
  • Apply what you learn directly to your career path. You will have the chance to apply an evidence-based understanding of the changing field in ways that inform the research you conduct. This in turn applies to the knowledge you gain, growing into your unique take on theory and implementation of the concepts associated with action, application, and management.

The criminal justice doctoral program is supported by faculty who are experienced criminal justice professionals—they’ve tackled criminal justice issues and have extensive experience in organizations such as the FBI-NAA, state and local agencies, the Secret Service, the U.S. armed forces, and others. Their dedication and support can help you achieve your career and personal goals as a leader or scholar in criminal justice.

Reach the top of your career in criminal justice

Capella’s unique, online approach to doctoral learning in criminal justice applies seven competencies to build your knowledge base and grow your expertise in this field:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Research literacy
  • Critical thinking
  • Ethics
  • Cultural awareness and diversity
  • Teamwork and collaboration 

These competencies, balanced with dynamic approaches to theory and real-world application, will prepare you to be successful academically and professionally, as you gain the skills employers want to see.

Starting with the work you do at the beginning of your program, you’ll grow your professional expertise in criminal justice, moving your career forward. You will work with a team of expert faculty to learn how to use research to find solutions to problems in your workplace and the wider community. You will also develop an understanding of the role of ethics in research, recognize when information is valid, and approach data use from an ethical point of view.

At the same time, you will focus on the issues faced by other criminal justice professionals. As you learn to create and conduct research that can have a direct impact on the work you do, you’ll prepare for your dissertation—all with the support of your faculty, writing coaches, and your community of fellow students.


The Building Blocks of Your PhD

Your PhD in Criminal Justice program includes 4 integrated components: online coursework, in-person experiences (called residencies), comprehensive exams, and dissertation. Each facet of your education builds on the others to take you through your program and to your goal of a PhD.

View a sample course sequence to understand program timing and see how your coursework, comprehensive exams, and dissertation all fit together.

To learn more about this program, request more information and we will match you with an enrollment counselor who specializes in your area of study.

Personalize Your Degree With a Concentration

A concentration gives you a unique learning path based on your personal and career goals. Concentrations are designed to integrate theory with real-world application for personalized learning without adding additional coursework to your program. Concentrations are available in:

  • Corrections—Learn the philosophy of punishment and the scope of corrections programs, such as probation, parole, incarceration, and treatment.
  • Criminology—Deepen your understanding of crime prevention, treatment programs, and criminal justice system interventions.
  • Higher Education—Prepare to teach in either traditional or online formats, and apply ethical decision-making, multicultural competence, and knowledge of diverse student populations to your personal philosophy of teaching.

Degree Outcomes

With your PhD in Criminal Justice from Capella, you'll employ informed social/political strategies in the field of criminal justice. You'll also learn to lead a criminal justice organization through the application of valid, reliable and ethical research. Discover specifically what you'll learn—and how you can apply it.


People with Doctoral degrees in Public Service Leadership from Capella earn an average of $19,000 more per year than people who only hold a Master's degree.

GE Salary Project Update

Career Outcomes

Common jobs* with an online PhD in Criminal Justice include adjunct, part- or full-time faculty, law enforcement officer, detective, investigator, or commander or chief, court officer, crime scene investigative unit manager, correctional administrator or commissioner, consultant to the justice system or law enforcement.

To learn more, call 866.933.5828, or email us. When you connect with Capella, we will immediately put you in touch with an enrollment counselor trained to assist you with specific questions and needs for your area of interest.

*These are examples intended to serve as a general guide. Because many factors determine what position an individual may attain, Capella cannot guarantee that a graduate will secure any specific job title.