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 using cutting edge social science methods. The program provides 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. 

For a related program, see Criminology, Law and Society, MA


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 information specific to the PhD degree in Criminology, Law and Society, see Application Requirements and Deadlines on the departmental website. 


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 as a component of the doctoral degree. The requirements for the MA degree are included in the requirements for the PhD. 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.

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 Courses

CRIM 700Values, Ethics, and Criminal Justice Policy3
CRIM 710Criminological Theory3
CRIM 720Law and Social Science3
CRIM 740Justice Organizations3
CRIM 760Evidence-Based Crime Policy3
Total Credits15

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
Qualitative Methods in Educational Research
Introduction to GIS Algorithms and Programming
Earth Science Data and Advanced Data Analysis
Evaluative Research in Psychology
Techniques in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Longitudinal Data Analysis
Quantitative Methods II: Analysis of Variance
Special Topics in Psychology
Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Analysis for Public Policy
Survey Research
Evaluation Research for Social Programs
Qualitative Research Methods
Feminist Research Methods
Total Credits12


Select 21-30 credits of electives from criminology, law and society courses offered by the department. 121-30

Students who take fewer than 30 elective credits will have accordingly more dissertation credits. Students may substitute 3-6 credits of non-CRIM courses with prior written approval of the director of the graduate program.

One Professionalization Course

CRIM 797Professionalization Seminar0
Total Credits0

Major Area Paper

Students must write and have approved a major area paper.

Students are not eligible to submit a major area paper until they have successfully completed 36 credits.

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students must complete all coursework required on their approved program of study. Students must also successfully write and have approved a major area paper. In addition, students must have a dissertation committee appointed by the Dean’s Office and have defended their dissertation proposal.


Dissertation Committee

Criminology, Law and Society (CLS) doctoral dissertation committees must have one Chair and three other members (Member #1, Member #2, Member #3). The Chair and Members #1 and #2 must be full-time, graduate faculty in the CLS department. Member #3 must be graduate faculty in another program at Mason or from outside the university. Committee members are approved by the CLS chair or director of the academic unit or program, or designee, after consultation with the student's adviser and the student.

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. 

Program Outcomes

  • Students will demonstrate the ability to plan, execute, and communicate research in the field of criminology, law and society.
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to understand and apply advanced methods and analysis in the field of criminology, law and society.
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of criminological theory, criminal justice policy, justice organizations, and the interplay between law and social science.
  • Students will produce a dissertation of original research representing a significant contribution to the field, which should be publishable in a referred journal or a quality press.
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to communicate scientific ideas and findings effectively in both oral presentations and writing to a wide range of audiences.