Doctorate in Criminal Justice

Doctorate in Criminal Justice Online Doctorate (DCJ)

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 PennWest California.

The first regionally accredited DCJ degree program in the United States, PennWest California'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.

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 PennWest California. The center consults with working practitioners and offers credentials such as a "Criminal Justice Instructor Development" certificate.

Membership: PennWest California 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, PennWest California'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 PennWest California 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. 
    • GPA between 3.00 and 3.49 with demonstrated patterns of significant professional accomplishment in the field of criminal justice.
  • Current resume, including academic and professional achievements.
  • Two letters of professional recommendation.
  • Submission of a Personal Statement
  • Submission of a Writing Sample
    • International Global Online Applicants must meet the minimum graduate English proficiency requirements
      • A satisfactory viva voce interview with a member of the graduate faculty of the Department of Criminal Justice may be considered in lieu of the minimum score.

How to Apply:
  • Complete the Graduate School Application
  • Submit the nonrefundable $50 Application Fee
  • Submit required documentation by mail or email:
    • Mail:

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

Deadlines: Summer 2022

Application deadline:             February 14, 2022
PennWest California Decision deadline:         April 4, 2022

For additional 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
Professor, Program Advisor of Forensics Investigation and Cyber Forensics

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Dr. Michael Hummel

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Dr. Beverly Ross
Assistant Professor and Director of the Serene Leadership Institute at PennWest California

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Dr. Mathilda Spencer
Associate Professor
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Julie Warnick
Assistant Professor

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