Master of Science in Criminology


Few problems of public policy are as important as crime and how to deal with it. Yet much crime prevention work today is guided more by anecdote than by systematic evidence, despite the fact that an enormous amount has been learned in recent years about what works, what doesn’t, and what’s promising. Penn’s unique Master of Science in Criminology Program has a three-fold purpose. It is designed:

  • for those who want to spend their careers as "change agents" applying criminological research in public and nonprofit organizations, from law enforcement, prison, and probation agencies to think tanks and consultancies
  • for research-oriented students preparing for a doctoral program
  • for those who are interested in exploring both career tracks in just one year



Penn is the only one of the nation’s top research universities (and the only institution in the Ivy League) to offer a Master of Science program in Criminology. We offer students a solid, interdisciplinary academic grounding in criminology and provide the skills to analyze crime data, map crime patterns, and use research to make evidence-based decisions on how to address crime. This scientific grounding and the rich intellectual atmosphere at Penn also serves as a foundation for research-oriented students who wish to continue their education in Ph.D. programs in criminology and related social sciences. By blending theory and application, the program enhances career advancement for those who want to contribute to the public interest in government, criminal justice agencies, legal settings, and non-profit organizations and increases opportunities for those choosing to go to research universities.


Our criminology program has an interdisciplinary focus, drawing on exceptional faculty from across Penn’s departments and schools including those with appointments in business, law, medicine, nursing, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, and statistics. We also offer joint degrees—for example, with Penn’s Law School and with the Fels Institute of Government.


The Criminology Masters Program begins with an orientation. Because this is a small and highly select program which concentrates on personal attention and guidance, this orientation period provides an opportunity for students to get to know each other, faculty and administrators, as well as the Penn community. During the course of the program, members of the cohort constantly interact in classes, in the department lounge and study area and at social events. Finally, we invite all graduates back to campus every April for an Annual Criminology Program Reunion.

Penn’s unique interdisciplinary program combines solid academic learning at one of the nation’s top research universities with practical knowledge that can enhance careers in research and in criminal justice-related policy and practice settings. Students also gain knowledge of the criminal justice system through ride-alongs with police officers and field trips to courts and prisons. Students work under a faculty member on a semester-long crime analysis project, using analysis and research skills--along with tools such as crime mapping—to address a specific crime problem. As their masters’ thesis, an oral and written project presentation is made at the conclusion of the semester to a small committee of the faculty.

The M.S. program also offers a capstone course, Academic and Applied Criminology, in which speakers from the University of Pennsylvania faculty and other academic institutions and from non-profit research organizations discuss their research, while speakers from government and criminal justice policy and practice settings—the consumers of research—share their insights.


Penn Criminology M.S. graduates emerge from this program equipped with the knowledge and skills that are highly sought after by employers in government and the private sector and by leading university doctoral programs. How do we know? We have been tracking the careers of our graduates since the program’s inception in 2005. Increasing numbers have been continuing their academic studies at prominent universities in the United States and abroad. For those seeking positions in criminal justice related areas, our employment record is excellent. They are working in criminology-related jobs, ranging from federal, state, and local law enforcement, Washington, D.C. think tanks and consultancies, state and local corrections, and investigative firms, to non-profit research institutes and federally-funded crime prevention initiatives.