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Saint Leo Blog

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Criminal Justice Doctorate or PhD: What’s the Difference?

Posted by Saint Leo University Online on Apr 13, 2018 10:50:13 AM

A police hat, which is worn by many practitioners in the criminal justice fieldIt truly takes a special person to want to spend his or her lifetime working in some capacity within the criminal justice field and/or system. Why do we say that?

As Lt. Col. Dave Grossman explains in his bestselling book On Combat, individuals who dedicate their entire careers to criminal justice—people he refers to as sheepdogs as they are tasked with protecting everyone else (the sheep) against the wolves or predators of the land—are “able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98% of the population.” Yes, that makes people in this field pretty special.

However, one question that some criminal justice majors wind up asking themselves is whether they should expand on their master’s degree even more, taking their education one step further by pursuing a doctorate in criminal justice, referred to simply as a DCJ, or whether a Ph.D. is the better path to take.

Though a DCJ and a PhD in Criminal Justice are similar in that they both earn a graduate the distinction of being a “doctor,” they are actually two different degrees. So, what’s the difference?

DCJ versus PhD in Criminal Justice

Put simply, as DifferenceBetween.net succinctly explains, individuals earning a doctoral degree “are considered scholars and experts in their field of study.” Thus, if you choose to earn your doctorate in criminal justice, your DCJ degree can be considered either professional or academic (also referred to as research-based) in nature and denotes that you have advanced knowledge in this field.

This differs from a Doctor of Philosophy degree, or Ph.D., in that this particular higher-level designation is categorized as pretty much academic only with its recipients generally using the knowledge they’ve acquired largely to aid them in field-related research. For this reason, many of the classes required for a PhD in Criminal Justice provide the skills necessary to study, analyze, and critique areas in this specific field.

Another notable difference between the two degrees is that, while both DCJ and PhD in Criminal Justice programs involve requiring the student to write a dissertation, a doctorate-level dissertation is only reviewed and assessed whereas a Ph.D. dissertation must be published as well. This publication occurs in a peer-reviewed academic journal related to the field which, in this case, would be a journal that revolves around criminal justice theory or practice.

So, what kind of career options do you have if you obtain a doctorate or PhD in Criminal Justice? There are a couple to consider.

Criminal Justice Career Options for DCJs and PhDs 

The first option is any criminal justice career track that involves conducting your own research on topics related to creating and breaking the law. For example, this research could include historical trends related to crime and punishment. It may also involve looking more in depth at various rehabilitative programs and their impact on society.

A second reason to pursue a doctorate or PhD in Criminal Justice is that this level of degree is typically required for those wanting to become educators at the university or college level. Therefore, if your goal is to teach students earning their advanced criminal justice degrees, obtaining a DCJ or PhD in Criminal Justice yourself is likely necessary in order to achieve this educational-based objective.

Now that you know more about DCJs and Ph.D.s, if you’re interested in pursuing your Doctorate in Criminal Justice, then you’re in luck! Why? Because Saint Leo University now proudly offers this option.

Saint Leo’s New Doctor of Criminal Justice Program

Effective fall of 2018, Saint Leo students will have the opportunity to earn a Doctorate in Criminal Justice. Although the program is offered primarily via online classes, it is interspersed with three short residencies that are spread out over the course of this new 3.5-year program.

Only one of two schools to currently offer a DCJ degree at all, Saint Leo takes this distinction one step further by being the only educational institution to focus primarily on a practitioner-based learning model. This is because the only other DCJ program available is grounded mainly in research.

Additionally, Saint Leo students interested in pursuing a DCJ degree also have two tracks from which to choose. The first is Homeland Security, a track designed to help students interested in increasing their knowledge of topics related to corrections, policing, and societal trends. The second track is education-focused and created for students who are primarily interested in teaching criminal justice courses.

To learn more about Saint Leo’s new DCJ program, you can contact Dr. Robert Diemer, director of this doctoral program, at (352) 467-0722 or Robert.diemer@saintleo.edu. Or if you’re ready to get started, go ahead and apply to you secure your spot today!

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