Graduate Handbook

What is a Graduate Student?

It is important for graduate students to understand that a graduate program is very different from an undergraduate program. To earn your undergraduate degree you completed a specified number of course hours. A comprehensive exit exam ensures that the graduate programs offer no such guarantee! Graduate degrees are conferred by the criminal justice graduate facility, only to those students who demonstrate an advanced understanding and deep knowledge of criminal justice issues and the criminal justice process. Graduate students occupy a unique rung of the education ladder, you are no longer an undergraduate, and graduate faculty will expect more from you. As a graduate student in criminal justice, you, like the faculty, represent the department and the university. What you accomplish, or fail to accomplish reflects back on faculty, current students, and successful graduates. The graduate faculty therefore, will be keenly aware of your progress, and behavior. Our reputation rests on you! The graduate faculty wants you to succeed; and will do everything within their ability to help you; however, this is ultimately your degree, your accomplishment, and you will only get out of it -- what you put into it! The degree plan and courses are only one part of the process: you will be expected to read more, write more, and think more (professional conferences are highly recommended): you must go beyond the scope of basic course requirements.


Full Admission
  • A 2.5 average, on a 4.0 scale, for the last 60 hours of your bachelor's degree.
  • All transcripts and requested Test Scores on file at the time of Admission.
  • Students are not required to take the GRE for the Criminal Justice Masters program

OR You may have either one of the next two criteria:

  • The successful completion of 12 semester hours of non-degree or probationary graduate work with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Hold a master's degree from an accredited college or university

While holding an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice is not required for admission, background familiarity with the field and additional basic skills are required. Students will be required to take 12 sch in Criminal Justice with a 3.0 grade point average or higher in all courses; or CJ 4309, Senior Seminar; or students may choose to CLEP the Graduate Leveling Exam. Students opting to CLEP the exam must score a minimum of 60%). Students pursuing a second Master's degree must present the same background as undergraduates, and might be able to have a maximum of 12 sch of graduate work from the completed degree program credited toward this degree. This will occur only after full admission to this program has been granted by the Director of Admissions and the Graduate Coordinator of the Criminal Justice Department.

Probational Admission

If you do not have the qualifications required for full admission, Sul Ross offers a probational admission. In order to qualify you must have at least one of the following requirements:

  • A 2.5 average, on a 4.0 scale, for the last 60 hours of your bachelor's degree
  • A GRE score of 850 or better

You may fill out the graduate school application online.


Comprehensive Exams

All graduate students must pass a comprehensive exam at the end of their graduate studies.  Comprehensive exams are designed to demonstrate how well the student has integrated the knowledge gathered throughout their studies in the master's program. While the questions come from specific areas, they generally reflect broader issues than what a student will find in a single class.

Students may attempt the comprehensive exams only if they have been admitted to candidacy and only during the last semester of their graduate studies.  The student will be permitted access to the practice exams throughout the last semester of study and will take the actual exam at some point during the last 3 weeks of the semester – to be scheduled through the Graduate Coordinator.

Exams will consist of 300 multiple choice questions divided into the 3 core subject areas represented by the required core courses on the degree plan (100 questions per area). Students must score a minimum of 75% on each of the 3 sections to pass. This score is not cumulative.

For the CJ or CJ/PA degrees, the comprehensive exams will cover Theory, Research Methods and Courts/Legal subjects.  For the HS or HS/PA degrees, the comprehensive exams will cover Homeland Security, Research Methods and Policy subjects.

If a student does not pass all the sections of the Comprehensive Exam the first time, they must retake the failed section(s) of the exam a second time, at a time to be scheduled through the Graduate Coordinator. A student who fails their second attempt on any section of the comprehensive exam may petition (must show significant cause) the Graduate Coordinator for a third attempt. The student can expect one of 3 outcomes from their petition:

  1. Student will be required to take remedial course work – to be determined in consultation with the CJ faculty – before taking the exam again.
  2. Student will be allowed to take the exam a third time with no other requirements.
  3. Student will not be allowed to take the exam again and will be removed from the program.

Students who do not take the comprehensive exams during their last semester of study will not be permitted to graduate until this exam is taken and passed.  Any student sitting out a semester (not enrolling in courses for their program of study) will be required to apply to the university for readmission to the program.  Readmission will require taking at least one graduate level course, to be chosen in consultation with the Graduate Coordinator, during the semester for which the student is readmitted.  The student must complete this course with a grade of B or better and complete the comprehensive exams during this semester in order to graduate.

Note - Students in one of the dual degree programs with Public Administration must also take the comprehensive exams in that area - Public Administration Comps

Graduate Student Academic Performance

Graduate students must maintain a minimum 3.0 (B) in all courses attempted for graduate credit. Students with assistantships may lose their funding following any grade below (B). Students receiving any grade of (F) or two grades below (B) will be removed from the program. Graduate students who take undergraduate courses must have prior written permission from both the instructor and the Graduate Coordinator, and that course instructor must be a member of the graduate faculty. Only six credit hours can be taken via undergraduate course. Graduate students will be expected to do additional work in undergraduate classes taken for graduate credit.


Assistantships are based solely on academic merit. Individuals who receive assistantships are required to work at least 20 hours a week for the department. Assignments to specific faculty members will be made by the Graduate Coordinator at the start of each semester.


Courses are offered on a rotating schedule. Generally if a course is offered in the spring, it will not be offered again until the following spring semester. This will be an important thing to consider in scheduling required courses when nearing graduation. Graduate courses are offered in a Web Based format only using Blackboard as a platform. This is done to allow individuals with full time positions to pursue a degree.

Degree Plans

Sample degree plans are available online for both the Criminal Justice Master's degree and the Homeland Security Master's degree as well as the  dual degree programs with Public Administration.