Curriculum and Degree Information

A minimum of 60 credits of approved graduate work is required. Some of these credits are required (core) courses, and the remainder are elective. Elective courses are chosen by the student, under the guidance of a faculty mentor, from a wide range of criminal justice graduate courses or approved courses taught in other doctoral programs of the City University of New York.

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The learning outcomes that students in our program are expected to attain through their studies include:

  • Knowledge of key theories and core areas of scholarship for understanding crime and justice.
  • An understanding of different research designs, including their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Comprehension of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods of data analysis.
  • Familiarity with ethics of research and professional conduct.
  • The ability to professionally discuss, present and generally assess scholarship within their area of specialization, both orally and in writing.
  • Skills to recognize and apply concepts of diversity and inclusion in professional, and community endeavors.
  • The capability to evaluate the roles of diverse social groups regarding their interaction in the criminal justice system.
  • A capacity to conduct original research, including the dissertation proposal, publishable papers, and the dissertation, and
  • Experience in teaching undergraduate courses.

There are 8 core courses:

  • Criminological Theory I and II (70300, 70400)
  • Research Methods I and II (70100, 70300)
  • Statistics I and II (70000, 70200)
  • Proseminar (76100)
  • Criminal Justice Process and Policy (70500)
  • Dissemination of Knowledge (76200)
  • One advanced stats or methods course
  • A tools course (Publishing, Data Management, Grant Writing, etc.)

Students who do not receive a grade of B or better in these core courses will be reviewed by the Executive Committee and may be dropped from the program or required to complete additional coursework in those areas. Qualifying exams (the “first exam”) are generally completed at the end of the first academic year and are based on the core courses.

In addition to the core requirements, students must complete 34 credits of elective courses. One of these courses must be an advanced methodological course or an advanced statistical course. Students can transfer up to 15 credits from a higher degree (e.g., M.A., MPhil, J.D.), upon approval from the program.

The qualifying examination consists of three exams: one in Criminology, one in Research Methods, and one Statistics. The first examination is generally taken at the beginning of the second year.

The examination is intended to test students’ (1) understanding of enduring issues of the field of criminal justice, and (2) familiarity with current debates and developments. Students should have read a number of classics closely enough so that they understand why they are significant and can articulate their implications for subsequent literature and for the general growth of ideas, techniques, and policies in theory, research and practice. Additionally, students should be acquainted with leading books, journal articles, and literature reviews that address the problems within the examination sub-fields.  Students are expected to synthesize what they have learned in the core courses, their own readings, and information they have obtained from their intellectual interaction with colleagues, CUNY professors, and other scholars at conferences or meetings.

For exam 2, students are required to complete a manuscript that would be suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed academic journal. This requirement makes no stipulation regarding the topic/content of the manuscript or the potential outlet. The primary intent of the requirement is to submit a manuscript of original work and is not intended to be a review other’s work, such as a book review or encyclopedia entry (although a scoping literature review, or meta-analysis may be appropriate). Qualitative or quantitative methods may be used and/or the student may choose to conceive of a novel conceptual or theoretical work.

The revised second exam assures that students have a baseline knowledge and experience with the process of developing a research idea to the point of potential publication. The primary goal of exam 2 is to facilitate the development of papers in a substantive area as well as the student’s dissertation. In addition, exam two has several secondary goals. Requiring students to produce a publishable paper is likely to result in a greater number of student-written peer-reviewed publications, ultimately making them more competitive for the job market (both academic and applied research). The process of developing a sole-authored publication (with a faculty member’s guidance) may help to establish mentoring relationships between second year PhD students and members of the faculty.

The program will support students’ work on this exam by introducing exam 2 fundamentals in the Pro-Seminar and Dissemination of Knowledge courses. This paper must be completed independently by the student and cannot have significant faculty input (anything that would warrant co-authorship). Specifically, work towards the completion of exam 2 may occur during the Dissemination of Knowledge course, but the majority of the manuscript must be self-directed, original work, completed solely by the student. While there is no requirement that the manuscript be accepted for publication in a scholarly outlet, once the paper has been approved by the committee, the student is strongly encouraged to move their manuscript towards publication.

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation process is initiated by developing a proposal describing the topic to be studied for the dissertation which include the research questions being asked, the theoretical orientation guiding the study, and the method of inquiry. The dissertation proposal must be orally presented to the student’s dissertation committee for critical review and approval. 

  • A introduction
  • A literature review
  • A section that discusses the conceptual approach of the study
  • A substantial methodology section
  • Proposed data analysis techniques, precise analysis plan
  • A discussion of potential findings that explains which results would support your hypotheses and which results would undermine your hypotheses
  • A concluding section that discusses how the study will make a contribution to the literature, including potential policy implications
  • Appendices, if applicable


In addition to passing a comprehensive exam, students are required to successful conduct original research for their dissertation.  Prior to moving to level 3, students must prepare and defend a dissertation proposal. This involves writing a research proposal in consultation with their dissertation adviser and committee members, presenting the proposal, and obtaining approval from the committee.  At this point, students are advanced to candidacy and moved to level 3 to begin their dissertation research.  Under the supervision of the committee, students conduct their study and write up their dissertation.  The written dissertation is submitted to the dissertation committee and the committee meets with the student for an oral defense of the dissertation.
Before they conduct dissertation research, students must submit an application and obtain approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to conduct research with human subjects.

All fully-funded students are assigned to work as a research assistant during their first or second year of studies.  In addition to this experience, students may work with faculty on a variety of research projects often leading to conference presentations or publications.  Students may also be hired to work on research grants with faculty or via one of the research centers at John Jay, including the Research and Evaluation Center, the Center on Race, Crime, and Justice, the Center on Terrorism, to name a few.  Finally, students are encouraged to work independently, or in collaboration with other students, on research-related to their primary interests.

Funded students are expected to serve as a teaching assistant for one year and to teach one class a semester for at least 2 years during their doctoral studies. Most students are assigned to teach undergraduate classes in the Criminal Justice or Law and Police Science departments at John Jay College. Students may also receive specialized training to prepare them to teach statistics at the undergraduate level.