Criminology is the scientific study of crime and criminals, and graduate training in the field is becoming an increasingly common requirement for career advancement. Students pursing degrees in criminology explore the causes of crime, prevention methods, the criminal justice system and criminal behavior, and they go on to careers in law enforcement, social services and crime research. The top graduate programs in the country place a strong emphasis on the fundamentals of criminology, while providing students opportunities for professional research and access to highly qualified professors.

University of Maryland--College Park

According to "U.S. News and World Report," the University of Maryland--College Park is home to the best graduate criminology program in the country. The school offers traditional master's degrees in criminology, as well as a doctorate program, and in 2009 criminology was the most popular major on campus. As a leading school in the field, students are exposed to top-notch research opportunities and highly respected faculty.

University of Albany

The University of Albany's master's program in criminology was named the second best option in 2009 by "U.S. News and World Report." At the school, master's students explore the justice system and successful crime deterrent strategies. Most students pursue a degree in criminal justice information technology, which prepares students for collecting, storing and analyzing crime stats, and there's also the option to pursue a degree in public administration.

University of Cincinnati

Ranked No. 3 by "U.S. News and World Report," the University of Cincinnati's School of Criminal Justice is home to several research facilities, including the Center for Criminal Justice Research and the Policing Institute. These centers offer graduate students opportunities for professional practice. The master's program is a one-year, comprehensive degree; students explore the criminal justice system and analyze crime and deterrent methods. In addition to the face-to-face option, the university also offers online master's degrees in the field.

University of Missouri--St. Louis

UMSL's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers a 33-credit-hour master's degree in criminology. The program -- which was ranked the fourth best graduate school for criminology by "U.S. News and World Report" in 2009 -- exposes students to the latest theory, cutting-edge research and the criminal justice system as a whole. UMSL offers a thesis and non-thesis master's degree, and the school also hosts a highly ranked doctorate program.