Criminal Justice Graduate Programs


The Department of Criminal Justice at New Mexico State University provides two program options for earning the Master of Criminal Justice degree (MCJ):

1. the traditional campus-based program; and

2. the online program.

The online program is intended to serve students who are unable to relocate to Las Cruces or are in professions that prevent students from completing the traditional campus-based MCJ program. Please click the link for information about the Online MCJ Program.

There are three options for earning the MCJ degree:





Criminal Justice Graduate Program is ranked 18th in 2014 amongst all graduate programs in the country based solely on ratings and reviews from current or recent graduate students.





Admission into the MCJ Program


All applicants to the MCJ program must declare in writing to the Director of the MCJ program if the application is for the campus-based MCJ program or the online MCJ program.

This declaration of intent may be included in your written essay that is part of the application process, or you may send the Director of the MCJ program a separate letter indicating your intent.

Once a program is chosen you must remain in that program for one full academic year, a complete Fall and Spring semester cycle.

Students may apply to switch between the online and campus-based programs between academic years, with the switch taking effect at the start of the Fall semester. Applicants admitted into the online program may only enroll in online courses. Applicants admitted as campus-based students may only enroll in campus-based Criminal Justice courses unless the course is offered as part of the NMSU Weekend College. Students enrolled in the campus-based program may enroll in online courses during the two five-week summer sessions.

Admission into the MCJ program is competitive. Class cohorts are limited in size and there are frequently more applicants than there are openings into the program. Applicants are admitted for the Fall or Spring semester and admission is based upon the strength of a student’s application packet and the number of positions available for admission in any given semester.

Department of Criminal Justice ONLY reviews the applicants ONCE PER YEAR, IN SPRING FOR FALL ADMISSION.

For full admission consideration for the Fall semester, the Director of the MCJ needs to be in receipt of ALL application materials no later than March 1.

Although admission into the program is possible after this deadline, a decision to admit an applicant after the deadline has passed is made on a case-by-case basis and is a function of space availability in the MCJ program and the relative merit of individual application packets.

The minimum requirements for admission into the MCJ program are:

1. a minimum overall undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.000 or a minimum 3.500 cumulative GPA for your last 60 hours of earned credit;

2. three letters of recommendation from individuals who are able to comment upon your ability to complete graduate work; and

3. a three to five page essay that introduces you and discusses the following topic, “The most important change needed in the criminal justice system is …” Remember, this essay is your sample of written work and will be evaluated by the MCJ Admission Committee.

The enrollment process for the MCJ is:

1. You need to be admitted to the Graduate School at NMSU. You can apply to the Graduate School online. Once the Graduate School receives your application, transcripts from prior universities and/or colleges, and your application fee, they will make an admission decision and notify you directly of that decision. It is very important that you submit this application form to the Graduate School 30 days prior to the MCJ program admission deadlines listed above. Failure to comply with this stipulation may cause your application file in the Department of Criminal of Justice to be incomplete by the deadline and could result in an unfavorable admission decision.

2. Send three letters of recommendation directly to the Director of the MCJ program from professors, employers, etc. who can comment on your strengths and potential for success in the MCJ. These letters may be mailed directly by the individual writing the letter, or collected by you in sealed and signed envelopes and included in one package along with your written essay. Recommendation forms that can be used in conjunction with letters of recommendation are not required but are preferred. These Recommendation forms can be downloaded by clicking the above link.

3. Send the essay described in #3 above directly to the Director of the MCJ program.

The address for the three letters of recommendation and the essay is:

Dr. Dulcinea Lara, Graduate Program Director, Master of Criminal Justice Program
Department of Criminal Justice, MSC 3487
New Mexico State University
PO Box 30001
Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001

Dr. Lara may also be contacted via email –


– Graduate Program Academic Advisor: Dr. Carlos Posadas: or (575) 646-3951


If you are an international student, you must make application through the Office of the International Student.



Am I eligible for a Graduate Assistantship?

NMSU provides the Department of Criminal Justice with a small number of graduate assistantships each year. Each spring these graduate assistantships are awarded to students for the upcoming academic year on a competitive basis. If you wish to be considered for a graduate assistantship award you must indicate in writing your desire to be considered for a graduate assistantship. For full consideration, the Director of the MCJ must be in receipt of all materials for admission, including your written request to be considered for a graduate assistantship, by March 1. The formal allocation of graduate assistantships occurs after the Graduate School informs the Department of Criminal Justice of the number of graduate assistantship allocations. Only campus-based students are eligible for Graduate Assistantships in the Department of Criminal Justice.

Please download and fill out the application for GA no later than March 1: MCJ GA Application

How do I register for a course(s)?

Once the admission process is complete and you have been formally admitted into the program, you will be able to enroll/register for specific courses offered in a given semester. You may register online by following the instructions provided at that location. If you encounter difficulties in completing the course registration process you should contact the following places for assistance in order: the NMSU Graduate School at or (575) 646-2736 or the Director of the MCJ program, Dr. Dulcinea Lara at (575) 646-3649.


How much does it cost to be a MCJ student?

All students (in-state and out-of-state) registering for six credit hours or less per semester are charged the in-state tuition rate. Out-of-state students registering for seven or more credit hours per semester are charged the non-resident tuition rate with the following exceptions: Students in active military duty are charged the resident tuition rate.

The NMSU MCJ program is a member of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP). Students who are residents of one of the member states of the Western Region of the United States are eligible for a significant discount from NMSU’s non-resident tuition rate. For information on states that qualify and the process for receiving the tuition discount visit the WICHE WRGP website.

How do I pay for my courses?

Students have a variety of options for paying tuition. Students have the option of paying in person, phoning the automated credit card payment system at 646-1680 (from Las Cruces) or 1-888-PAY-NMSU (toll-free), accessing the World Wide Web by using the ‘PAY-NMSU online‘ option or mailing a payment to NMSU Accounts Receivable-MSC 4570, PO Box 30001, Las Cruces, NM 88003. Our phone credit card and on-line payment systems are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Note: All payments made after 5:00pm Mountain Time are processed on the next business day.

Is financial aid available?

Contact the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarship Services.

How do I get textbooks and other required material?

Textbooks can be ordered online through the NMSU bookstore.

There are a variety of online retailers specializing in textbooks making it possible to do comparison-shopping once you have determined the exact textbook(s) required for your courses.

Is the Thesis required?

No. There is the Focused Coursework Option.

Most students purse the Focused Coursework option because the level of complexity is more amenable to their work schedules.

If you are contemplating pursuing the Ph.D. after completing the MCJ it is highly advisable that you pursue the Thesis options.

For more information please consult the:

Focused Coursework option,

Myths and Misconceptions about the Thesis Option and

Thesis Option Tracking Guide

or contact the Director of the MCJ program, Dr. Dulcinea Lara at (575) 646-3649 or

– Graduate Program Academic Advisor: Dr. Carlos Posadas: or (575) 646-3951





Comprehensive Exams Fall 2015

Theory/Analysis Comprehensive Exam: October 2-4

Research Methods Comprehensive Exam: October 16-18

To sign up, email Dr. Dulcinea Lara at

In the subject line of your e-mail type: MCJ COMPS Fall 2015
In the body of the message, include your:


NMSU e-mail handle

Banner ID #

Which exam(s) you intend to take

The comprehensive exams will be conducted via CANVAS, so you will need to have an active NMSU username.

Complete instructions will be posted on CANVAS.

Please email Dr. Lara with any questions.

Note: You must have completed all 5 core classes by the time you take the exams. See MCJ Student Handbook.