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The PhD in criminology, law and society is designed to produce top academic scholars and leaders in policy and applied settings. Students coming to this program seek to make a difference in the development and evaluation of policy in these fields using cutting edge social science methods. The program seeks to provide a rigorous course of study that will prepare students to do research, teach, develop and test policies, and administer agencies and programs designed to administer law, deliver justice, reduce crime, and enhance domestic security. 


Applicants to all graduate programs at George Mason University must meet the admission standards and application requirements for graduate study as specified in Graduate Admissions. For specific information, see Application Requirements and Deadlines.


For policies governing all graduate degrees, see Graduate Policies.

Master's Degree

Students admitted to the doctoral program without a master's degree need to earn the MA in criminology, law and society with thesis. The requirements for the MA degree are included in the requirements for the PhD listed below. When beginning the doctoral program students should add the master's degree as a secondary program using the Secondary Program Application and then apply online to graduate the semester prior to meeting all requirements for the master's degree.

Reduction of Credit

Students entering the doctoral program with a master’s degree in a related discipline, including a law degree, may request that the required credits for the doctoral degree be reduced by a maximum of 30 credits with approval of the graduate director and dean and in accordance with university policy. Students who have prior graduate course work that has not been applied to another degree may request to have a maximum of 12 of these graduate credits transferred to their degree program, with approval of the graduate director and dean and in accordance with university policy.

Satisfactory Progress

Each new student is assigned an advisor who helps develop a program of study. On advancement to candidacy, the chair of the dissertation committee becomes the advisor. The advisor and faculty assess the progress of all students annually. Students who fail to make satisfactory progress may be terminated from the program. Satisfactory progress in the PhD in criminology, law and society is defined as maintaining a minimum GPA of 3.00 with the minimum grade of B- in all courses. Students who receive a grade below B- will receive an academic warning the first time and a letter of termination the second time.

Banner Code: LA-PHD-CLS

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 72

Students should be aware of the specific policies associated with this program, located on the Admissions & Policies tab.

Core Substantive Courses

CRIM 700Theories of Justice3
CRIM 720Behavior of Law3
CRIM 740Justice Organization and Administration3
CRIM 760Crime and Crime Policy3
Total Credits12

Analytical Methods Courses 

CRIM 780Research Methods3
CRIM 782Statistics I3
CRIM 783Statistics II3
Select one course from the following:3
Justice Program Evaluation
Experimental Criminology
Special Topics
Directed Reading
Survey Research
Evaluation Research for Social Programs
Qualitative Research Methods
Survey Sampling I
Time Series Analysis and Forecasting
Multivariate Statistical Methods
Categorical Data Analysis
Survey Sampling II
Statistical Methods for Longitudinal Data Analysis
Evaluative Research in Psychology
Techniques in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Introduction to Computational Social Science
Agent-based Modeling and Simulation
Total Credits12

Six Courses in Two Substantive Fields of Study

Students select two substantive fields and complete three courses within each. Students may take one non-CRIM elective course in each area or other courses in criminology, law and society with prior written approval of the director of the graduate program.

Select two substantive fields from the lists below and complete three courses within each18
Justice and Law
Justice Organizations, Administration, and Leadership
Crime and Crime Policy
Total Credits18

Justice and Law

Justice-related Electives
CRIM 795Special Topics3
CRIM 796Directed Reading1-3
GOVT 520Political Theory3
GOVT 725Democratic Theory3
GOVT 631Seminar in Comparative Politics and Institutions3
SOCI 619Conflict and Conflict Management: Perspectives from Sociology3
SOCI 711Classical Sociological Theory3
SOCI 712Contemporary Sociological Theory3
CONF 501Introduction to Conflict Analysis and Resolution3
CONF 720Ethnic and Cultural Factors in Conflict Resolution1-3
CONF 721Conflict and Race3
CONF 723Conflict and Gender3
CONF 726Moral and Philosophical Foundations of Conflict3
CONF 747Reconciliation3
CONF 802Theories of the Person3
CONF 803Structural Theories3
ECON 611Microeconomic Theory3
ECON 852Public Choice I3
ECON 854Public Choice II3
Law-related Electives
Any selected LAW courses 1
CRIM 721The Constitution, Criminal Procedure, and Security3
CRIM 723Law and Social Control3
CRIM 730Courts and Constitutional Law3
CRIM 795Special Topics3
CRIM 796Directed Reading1-3
CONF 733Law and Justice from a Conflict Perspective1-3
ECON 895Special Topics in Economics3

Prerequisite for enrollment in LAW courses: successful completion of CRIM 720 Behavior of Law and CRIM 721 The Constitution, Criminal Procedure, and Security. Enrollment requires preapproval from the graduate director, law school instructor, and associate dean for student academic affairs of the Law School.

Justice Organizations, Administration, and Leadership

CRIM 509Justice Organizations and Processes3
CRIM 510Policing in a Democratic Society3
CRIM 741Conduct of Justice Organizations at the Street Level3
CRIM 742Leadership in Justice and Security Organizations3
CRIM 743Changing Justice and Security Organizations3
CRIM 744Corrections3
CRIM 795Special Topics3
CRIM 796Directed Reading1-3
PUAD 502Administration in Public and Nonprofit Organizations3
PUAD 520Organization Theory and Management Behavior3
PUAD 621Principles and Practices in Government Organization and Management3
PUAD 622Program Planning and Implementation3
PUAD 661Public Budgeting Systems3
PUAD 671Public Employee Labor Relations3
PUAD 680Managing Information Resources3
PUAD 700Ethics and Public Administration3
PUAD 727Seminar in Risk Assessment and Decision Making3
PUAD 781Information Management: Technology and Policy3
CONF 731Conflict in Organizations3
CONF 741Negotiations3
CONF 743Dynamics of Conflict Termination3
PSYC 631Industrial and Personnel Testing and Evaluation3
PSYC 639Survey of Organizational Processes3
SOCI 605Gender and Social Structure3
SOCI 623Racial and Ethnic Relations: American and Selected Global Perspectives3

Crime and Crime Policy

CRIM 761Politics of Crime Policy3
CRIM 762Crime and Place3
CRIM 764Sentencing3
CRIM 795Special Topics3
CRIM 796Directed Reading1-3
SOCI 607Criminology3
GOVT 745International Security3
PUAD 540Public Policy Process3
PUAD 644Public Policy Models3
PUAD 645Policy Analysis3
PSYC 617Child Psychopathology3


Students complete the remaining 72 credits through additional elective courses relevant to criminology, law and society in consultation with their advisor.

Select 6-15 credits of electives 16-15
Total Credits6-15

Students may have more than 6 credits of electives, depending on the number of dissertation credits required by their program of study.

One Professionalization Course

CRIM 797Professionalization Seminar0
Total Credits0

Qualifying Exams

Students must pass written qualifying exams in two core substantive fields of the student’s choosing, selected from the three fields above. Students may take a single qualifying exam at each sitting.

Students are not eligible to take the qualifying exams until they have successfully completed the required course work, as well as course work in the substantive area in which they intend to sit for the qualifying exam. Students have one opportunity across both exam areas to retake a failed exam.

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students must complete all course work required on their approved program of study. Students must also successfully complete and pass two qualifying exams. In addition, students must have a dissertation committee appointed by the Dean’s Office and have defended their dissertation proposal.


Dissertation Committee

The student’s committee is composed of at least four faculty members. Three of the four must be members of the graduate faculty in criminology, law and society. The fourth must be from another program at Mason or from outside the university. The faculty member serving as the chair of the committee must be a member of the graduate faculty in criminology, law and society.

Dissertation Research

Once enrolled in CRIM 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal, students in this degree program must maintain continuous registration in CRIM 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal or CRIM 999 Doctoral Dissertation Research each semester (excluding summers) until the dissertation is submitted to and accepted by the University Libraries. Once enrolled in CRIM 999 Doctoral Dissertation Research, students must follow the university’s continuous registration policy as specified in AP.6.10.6 Dissertation Registration. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of CRIM 999 Doctoral Dissertation Research.

Students may apply to this degree a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 credits of CRIM 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 21 credits of CRIM 999 Doctoral Dissertation Research. They may apply a maximum of 24 dissertation credits (CRIM 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and CRIM 999 Doctoral Dissertation Research combined) to the degree. Because of the continuous registration policy, students may be required to register for additional credits of these courses. Students who take fewer than 24 dissertation credits will have accordingly more elective credits.

Select 15-24 credits from the following:15-24
Doctoral Dissertation Proposal
Doctoral Dissertation Research
Total Credits15-24

The final requirement is a dissertation of original research representing a significant contribution to the field, which should be publishable in a referred journal or a quality press.