PhD in Criminal Justice

The primary goal of the Ph.D. program is to develop scholars in the field of criminology and criminal justice. Graduates will be prepared to assume the role of professors at universities or as researchers in criminal justice agencies and other institutions. Scholarship requires a commitment to understanding research methodologies and statistical applications relative to exploring and understanding criminal justice-related issues. The program focuses on developing high-quality research and teaching skills, while fostering independent thinkers and professionals who have a strong commitment to service at all levels of the Academy.

Program Requirements

The doctoral program requires extensive work in theory development, conceptualization, qualitative and quantitative methods, statistical analysis, and research design. Students are trained to be prolific writers, skilled researchers, excellent teachers, and assets to their communities through service. Through coursework and faculty mentoring, students are provided with all aspects of professional development, including teaching and pedagogy, service to the discipline, and program administration. However, the overall focus of the programs is to create skilled and balanced scholars in the field of criminal justice.

The curriculum consists of 63 graduate semester hours beyond the Master’s degree. These hours are divided into nine areas:

  • Doctoral proseminar – 3 hours
  • Research design – 9 hours
  • Criminological theory – 6 hours
  • Statistical analysis – 9 hours
  • Content electives – 12 hours
  • Comprehensive exam – 3 hours
  • Research practicum – 6 hours
  • Teaching practicum – 3 hours
  • Dissertation – 12 hours

Comprehensive Examination 

All Ph.D. students are required to take a comprehensive examination, which is designed to test the ability of the student to undertake independent research in a particular area and then publish the results. The comprehensive examination will be reviewed by the Examining Committee after the student has completed his/her fourth semester of course-work. To facilitate timely completion of the program, students are encouraged to submit their comprehensive examination immediately following their fourth semester of coursework, with the goal of completing or passing the examination by the conclusion of their fifth semester of coursework. To successfully complete the comprehensive examination, students must write one publishable quality paper and submit it in written format to the examining committee. This paper must be completed independently and cannot have significant faculty input. Specifically, some of the work may be started as part of coursework, but the majority of the comprehensive exam must be original work, self-directed by the student, and completed solely by the student.

Once the paper has been passed by the committee, the student is then strongly encouraged to work with a faculty member to get the work published. Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination, students will be advanced to candidacy which allows them to begin the dissertation process. Each student will complete a dissertation of sufficient scholarly nature to contribute to the field of criminology/criminal justice. The dissertation will be guided by the student’s dissertation committee.


Upon reaching candidacy status, students may enroll in dissertation hours and begin work on their dissertation. The dissertation will be guided by the student’s dissertation committee. The dissertation committee will be composed of a chair, two members of the Criminal Justice faculty, and an outside reader. The outside reader may be a faculty member with graduate faculty status from UALR, or a faculty member from another institution. The outside reader will serve in an advisory capacity only and will not vote on the prospectus or final defense of the dissertation. Successful completion of the dissertation will require an oral proposal defense, where the student will defend his or her topic and methods, and a final defense, where the student will defend his or her findings and conclusions. Policies and procedures for passing, failing, and repeating the dissertation defense will be in compliance with the UALR Graduate School.

Program Admission Requirements

Applicants must meet all admission standards of the UALR Graduate School.  Students are only admitted in the fall semester each year. Applicants are required to score at least 300 on the combined verbal and quantitative portions of the new Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or 1000 on the old test, and at least 4 on the written portion of the GRE.  Applicants must have a cumulative GPA in their master’s program of at least 3.5.

International students must take the TOEFL exam and score at least 550 on the paper-based test, 213 on the computer-based version, or 79 on the Internet-based version.

Admission to the doctoral program requires a master’s degree in criminology/criminal justice or a closely related field. Applicants from other disciplines may be admitted after taking one or more courses in the MACJ program to establish knowledge on criminal justice issues. Applicants must submit all required documents to the UALR Graduate School. In addition to GRE scores and transcripts, applicants must also submit a statement of purpose and a career development plan. The statement of purpose should consist of two parts: a statement of what the applicant sees as the role of a Ph.D. in criminal justice, and a statement of the applicant understanding of the role of research in criminal justice. The career development plan should describe in detail what the applicant plans to do following completion of the Ph.D. This statement must be more than “I want to work as a teacher at a university,” and should include a potential research and publication agenda. Applicants will also be required to submit a writing sample to be considered by the admissions committee. Finally, two professional letters of recommendation (one of which must come from a graduate-level teacher) will be required.

Admission decisions will be made by a faculty committee.  The admissions committee will also take the “fit” between the applicant and the doctoral program into account when making admission decisions, and may decline to admit an otherwise qualified applicant based on lack of fit with the program. The doctoral admissions committee may conditionally admit a student for one semester who has less than the requirements for admission. Such students will be evaluated by the graduate admissions committee after one semester and a decision made to: 1) continue conditional status, 2) grant full admission to the doctoral program, or 3) dismiss the student from the doctoral program.

Financial Assistance

We strive to provide all full-time doctoral students with some form of financial assistance.Each assistantship that is awarded will consist of a 9-month stipend and tuition for 9 hours in both the fall and spring semesters (total of $22,312). Part-time assistantships may be available (please consult the Graduate Coordinator). Summer funding may be available but is not guaranteed. It is expected that first-year doctoral students will primarily conduct research. In the second year (and subsequent years), doctoral students may be research or teaching assistants with one or two of their own classes. Students may also be assigned to work on grants/contracts or work with agencies on various research projects All efforts will be made to provide financial support to assist doctoral students with travel to national conferences to present research.