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The Graduate Program in Criminology

Penn State's Criminology graduate program is one of the nation's top programs in criminology and criminal justice. During the last four academic years alone, our students have won five national paper competitions, three nationally competitive dissertation fellowships, and two competitive pre-doctoral fellowships from the National Consortium on Violence Research. These accomplishments demonstrate the high-quality advanced education that we offer to students interested in careers involving research, teaching, and scholarship.

The graduate program provides training in theory, methods, statistics, and substantive issues related to crime and its control. For students with strong interests in methodology and statistics, we also offer a graduate certificate in quantitative criminology. Related departments (such as political science, psychology, economics, history, and statistics) provide a wide range of graduate courses of interest to Criminology students.

Our program is unique. Like the best graduate programs in the country, we possess a large faculty with specialized expertise in criminology and criminal justice. Unlike those departments, however, we possess a strong theoretical and methodological foundation due to our close relationship with an outstanding sociology program. Indeed, because we are part of Penn State's prestigious Department of Sociology and Criminology, our students can receive Ph.D.s in sociology and pursue careers as sociologists. Moreover, because we are also an interdisciplinary program incorporating a broad range of perspectives on criminology and crime and justice, our students can receive Ph.D.'s in criminology while obtaining a top-quality education from a major research university.


Faculty members are conducting research on a wide range of topics in criminology, including: justice system decision making (such as sentencing); relations of gender, race, and age to crime; violence and victimization; violence and mental disorder, criminal careers; organized crime; deterrence; communities and crime; juvenile delinquency; and evaluation of programs and policies in the justice system.

Faculty research has been or is supported by funding from the National Institute of Justice, the National Institute of Mental Health, The Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

John Kramer, Professor of Sociology and Crime, Law and Justice.


Faculty members have authored or edited many books, including: Social and Psychological Consequences of Violent Victimization, Violence and Gender Reexamined, Rethinking Risk Assessment: The MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence, Social Worlds of Sentencing, The American Prison, The Cycle of Juvenile Justice, The Fence, Poisoning for Profit: The Mafia and Toxic Waste Disposal in America, Motivation and Delinquency, Interpersonal Violent Behaviors: Social and Cultural Aspects, After the Crime: Victim Decision Making, and Personality and Peer Influence in Juvenile Corrections.

Faculty have published articles in the leading journals in the field, including American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Criminology, the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Criminology and Public Policy, Justice Quarterly, Law and Society Review, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Violence and Victims, Social Forces, Criminal Justice and Behavior, and Law and Human Behavior.

Program Requirements

The Criminology program is limited to full-time students who intend to pursue the Ph.D. and who are interested in graduate training that emphasizes research, teaching and scholarship. Admission is highly selective. Six to eight new students enter the program each year, ensuring that students have close interaction with the faculty. All students receive financial aid.

Master's Degree

The M.A. program is intended for students who plan to go on to pursue a Ph.D. Over 30 credits of course work and a master’s thesis are required for the master’s degree. This course work includes four 500-level methods courses: two in statistical methods, one in general research methods, and one in research methods for criminology; a crime theory course; a course on the criminal justice system; a seminar covering a range of sociological topics; and at least two 500-level substantive criminology courses. Finally, the Graduate School requires that M.A. candidates complete 6 thesis credits. These are earned while the student writes his or her M.A. thesis.

Doctoral Degree

Doctoral students must complete all courses required for the M.A. degree or their equivalents. In addition, they must take at least four 500-level courses in criminology and a 1-credit lab in teaching.

Doctoral students must also select, in consultation with their advisory committees, 12 credits of course work outside the Criminology program. This concentration must consist of 500-level courses that provide a solid grounding in a social science discipline that can be applied to the study of criminology. Examples would include urban sociology, social psychology, human development, and American government institutions, among many other possibilities.

All Ph.D. candidates must pass a comprehensive exam and complete a high quality scholarly dissertation.

The Criminology program has no formal foreign language or communication requirement.





Jeremy Staff

  • Professor of Criminology and Sociology
  • Director, Graduate Program in Criminology

(814) 865-4560

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