Doctorate in Criminal Justice

Doctorate in Criminal Justice Online Doctorate (D.C.J.)

About the Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice

Apply your experience to current issues in criminal justice.

Enhance your career with a professional doctorate in criminal justice, an online degree program from California University of Pennsylvania.

The first regionally accredited D.C.J. degree program in the United States, Cal U's unique graduate program addresses the need for top criminal justice practitioners to respond to current issues and policy changes.

Take a leadership role in our changing society.

The Doctor of Criminal Justice program provides these career benefits:

  • Strengthens skills in in-depth analysis, policy implementation and evaluation for criminal justice professionals in Pennsylvania and across the United States.
  • Deepens understanding of real-world concerns such as federal consent decrees, police use-of-force, wrongful convictions and reducing recidivism.
  • Develops leadership and provides a foundation for promotion, consulting or a second career.
  • Enables you to finish your doctorate in two years of part-time online study, including a comprehensive exam and doctoral research portfolio. One five-day summer residency is your only on-campus program requirement.
Dr. John Cencich

Program at a Glance

 Doctorate in Criminal Justice

Total Credit Hours: 42
Time to Completion: 2 Years
Delivery: 100% Online
Program Contact: Dr. John R. Cencich

Cohort Sequences



Applied learning: The 42-credit doctorate program focuses on professional development and practical approaches to major criminal justice issues. After passing a comprehensive exam, candidates develop a doctoral research portfolio (professional dissertation) based on theory and applied research relevant to their careers.

Collaboration: The D.C.J. program collaborates with the Pennsylvania Center for Investigative and Forensic Sciences, based at Cal U. The center consults with working practitioners and offers credentials such as a "Criminal Justice Instructor Development" certificate.

Membership: Cal U is a member of the Association of Doctoral Programs in Criminology & Criminal Justice.

International Criminal Justice Practitioners and Academics Now Welcome to Apply! (Note: We are now authorized by U.S. government to issue visas for the program)


First in the Nation

A leader in comprehensive education in criminal justice and criminology, Cal U's D.C.J. is the first regionally accredited professional doctorate in criminal justice in the country and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education 

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Degree Benefits

The D.C.J. program provides advanced education for students with a master's degree in criminal justice, criminology or related fields such as law, anthropology, sociology, psychology or public administration; a J.D. degree-holder with experience in criminal justice may be considered.

  • Study topics that apply directly to your career.
  • Learn from expert, experienced Cal U faculty.
  • Complete your degree part-time, without stepping away from your job.
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Graduate Outcomes

The D.C.J. program prepares career-focused individuals for leadership and higher-level management positions in a variety of criminal justice professions. The program prepares you for leadership roles in:

  • Federal, state and local police agencies.
  • Sheriff's offices.
  • Corrections departments.
  • Juvenile justice agencies.
  • Investigative units of district attorneys' offices.

Curriculum and Admission Requirements

The online doctorate courses in this professional doctorate degree program are designed to address current issues of practical concern to the criminal justice profession and our society.

Curriculum Listing

Course Credits
CRJ 800  Leading Criminal Justice Agencies 3
CRJ 805  Using Theory to Improve CJ Practice 3
CRJ 810  Improving the Administration of Juvenile Justice 3
CRJ 820  21st Century Policing 3
CRJ 830  Corrections: Crisis and Management 3
CRJ 840  Advanced Criminal Law and Procedure for CJ Leaders 3
CRJ 850  Contemporary Forensic Science and Technology for Criminal Justice Leaders 3
CRJ 860  Criminal Justice Training: Needs, Problems, Solutions 3
CRJ 870  Civil Liability for Criminal Justice Professionals 3
CRJ 880  Achieving Justice More Often 3
CRJ 890  Applied Criminal Justice Research Methods for CJ Leaders 3
CRJ 895  Legal Research Methods for Criminal Justice Practitioners 3
CRJ 920  Doctoral Research Portfolio 6
Total 42



Admission Requirements

Regular Admission Requirements

  • Earned master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution (or foreign equivalent) in criminal justice, criminology or a cognate discipline such as law (criminal justice-related LL.M.), anthropology, sociology, psychology or public administration.  J.D. degree with demonstrated professional experience in criminal justice will also be considered.
  • Minimum grade-point average of 3.50 (on a 4.00 scale) or foreign equivalent, with required graduate-level coursework in academic research methods, and graduate or undergraduate coursework in criminal law, criminal procedure, criminal justice, corrections and the court systems. Note: The prior criminal justice-related courses may be waived based upon actual training and experience. 
  • Current resume, including academic and professional achievements.
  • Two letters of professional recommendation.
  • Submission of a Personal Statement
  • Submission of a Writing Sample


Conditional Admission Requirements
Conditional Admission may be granted with the following modifications of the Regular Admissions Requirements: 

  • GPA between 3.00 and 3.49 with demonstrated patterns of significant professional accomplishment in the field of criminal justice.

Provisional Admission:
Applicants who have provided unofficial documentation of test scores, prerequisite courses, transcripts or lack of letter(s) of recommendation may be admitted provisionally.

This policy also applies to undergraduate students who apply for graduate admission pending bachelor degree completion. Upon receipt of all official documents, a student will be changed from Provisional Admission to either Regular Admission or Conditional Admission. Provisional Admission students may take classes for one term but will not be eligible for Federal Financial Aid.

How to Apply:

                 School of Graduate Studies and Research
                 California University of Pennsylvania
                 Box 91
                 250 University Ave.
                 California, PA 15419

Deadlines: Summer 2022

Application deadline:             February 14, 2022

Cal U Decision deadline:         April 4, 2022

 More information
Phone: 1-866-595-6348


Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Faculty

Dr. Aref M. Al-Khattar

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Dr. Robert Ambrosini

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Carl Benoit

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Dr. Andrea Vargas Cencich
Assistant Professor

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Dr. John R. Cencich
Professor and Director of the Pennsylvania Center for Investigative and Forensic Sciences

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Dr. Robert Clark
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Dr. Raymond J. Hsieh
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Dr. Michael Hummel

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Dr. Beverly Ross
Assistant Professor and Director of the Serene Leadership Institute at Cal U

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Dr. Mathilda Spencer
Associate Professor
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Julie Warnick
Assistant Professor

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Dr. Christopher Wydra
Assistant Professor

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