Earning a degree in criminal justice can open a multitude of doors. While many criminal justice majors find rewarding careers in law enforcement and corrections, others pursue opportunities working with people who have previously been incarcerated, or pursuing careers in politics and advocacy. Police and sheriff patrol officers earn an average of $63,000 a year, while probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earn $54,000 per year. Those passionate about criminal justice reform may find a career in policy advocacy or the nonprofit sector rewarding. Below is our ranked list of the best schools offering online bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice. Continue reading for more information about popular degrees and accreditation in criminal justice.
2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Degrees
The 25 best value online bachelor's degrees in criminal justice degrees can be found at these colleges and universities. Missouri State University is the #1 school, with an average alumni salary of $126,200 and charging only $8,850 for their Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice. At #15, University of Alaska Fairbanks has the least expensive tuition on the list, charging only $8,070 per year for its Bachelor of Arts in Justice.
Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.
Missouri State Online, the virtual learning platform for Missouri State University, offers entirely online undergraduate degrees taught by the same faculty as the on-campus versions. Those interested in the criminal justice field may apply for the Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Students will follow a curriculum that teaches the examination of criminal behavior and the motivation behind crimes. Additionally, students will learn about current issues within the criminal justice system and research possible solutions. The degree requirements include 120 credits of lower-level general education coursework and 12 major-related, upper-division courses. To successfully graduate, students will complete the Public Affairs Capstone Experience, which encompasses a department exit exam and a senior paper.
Distance education students have access to various resources, including career counseling and degree exploration, financial aid, tutoring, library access, virtual research assistance, and the writing center.
Students may apply for the fall, spring, or summer terms. Applicants must submit an application and official transcripts. No fee is required. Any previous college credit must have at least a 2.0 GPA.
#2 DeSales University
Annual Tuition: $15,240
Median Salary: $100,800
Locations: Center Valley (PA)
DeSales University offers an accelerated, online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. Students in the program can select a concentration in intelligence or rehabilitation. The intelligence track focuses on national security analysis, while the rehabilitation track covers the treatment of offenders in the criminal justice system. Students must earn 120 credit hours to graduate.
Online courses may be synchronous or asynchronous and are delivered through the Blackboard learning management platform. Coursework typically requires between six-to-ten hours per week of study. Once accepted, students are encouraged to attend an online orientation. Distance learners have access to the help desk for technical issues and the DeSales Career Development Center for professional planning. The Trexler Library is available for research and e-resources.
Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications: they have been out of high school for at least five years, are a veteran or active in military service, have a full-time career, or already hold a completed bachelor's degree. Transfer credit may be awarded for past academic experience, work experience, military training, or professional experience. There is no fee to apply. Students must submit official transcripts, standardized test scores, and two letters of recommendation.
#3 Washington State University
Annual Tuition: $11,550
Median Salary: $95,000
Locations: Pullman (WA)
Washington State University's (WSU) Global Campus is the school's platform for fully online, flexible undergraduate and graduate degrees. Individuals interested in an online criminal justice degree have two options: a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Criminology or a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences with a concentration in Criminal Justice. Both programs are offered through the College of Arts and Sciences. Students pursuing the BA in Criminal Justice and Criminology will study criminal behavior patterns and how the law interacts with the criminal justice system. The interdisciplinary curriculum covers topics in psychology, sociology, and political science, and students must complete core classes, electives, a capstone project, and a criminal justice internship. Students enrolled in the BA in Social Science program must select either two or three concentrations within the major. In addition to criminal justice, nine other concentrations are available, including Anthropology, Comparative Ethnic Studies, Economic Sciences, History, Human Development, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, and Women's Studies.
WSU's online classes are designed to work around a student's schedule. Distance learners have access to career counseling services, e-tutoring, academic advisors, library resources, 24/7 tech support, virtual mentorship, and support for military and veteran students.
Adult applicants (over 25 with no previous college credits) must complete an application, submit their high school transcript, a resume, and a brief essay. Traditional first-year students also must provide ACT or SAT scores. Transfer students must provide official transcripts from previously attended colleges or universities.
#4 Chaminade University of Honolulu
Annual Tuition: $16,500
Median Salary: $96,000
Locations: Honolulu (HI)
Chaminade University of Honolulu offers students interested in public safety and law enforcement an online Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice through the School of Education and Behavioral Sciences. Students enrolled in this program will learn crime scene investigation skills and be required to re-enact a crime scene to demonstrate the basic techniques in crime scene analysis. Other topics covered in the curriculum are the criminal justice legal system and research methods. Successful graduates must complete a minimum of 120 credit hours, including all prerequisites and major coursework.
Online classes are available asynchronously, with lectures, course discussions, and assignments available at any time. Online classes are taught in ten-week sessions; Academic terms have four start dates: January, April, July, and October. Distance learners have access to academic advising, admissions counseling, tutoring services, and career development.
Admission is available in the spring, summer, or fall semesters. Interested candidates must submit a completed application and provide official transcripts. Chaminade University encourages students with a military background to apply and provide coaching and resources to assist in the process.
#5 Kean University
Annual Tuition: $9,935
Median Salary: $91,800
Locations: Union (NJ)
Kean University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice through a partnership between the College of Business and Public Management and the School of Criminal Justice and Public Administration. Three concentration options are available in corrections, policing, and law. Students may choose to pursue a minor in cybersecurity. The 120-credit degree program emphasizes real-world experience and interdisciplinary coursework; Students can complete internships at law enforcement agencies, participate in immersive training, and engage in discussions with guest speakers from the FBI and Secret Service. Students may also pursue a research elective.
Online classes share the same faculty as traditional courses. Students can complete coursework asynchronously through the Blackboard learning management system. Distance learners are eligible for e-tutoring, internship placement, academic advising, career services, and 24/7 technical support.
Interested candidates must submit a completed application, applicable transcripts, and standardized test scores. A personal essay, two letters of recommendation, and a resume are also recommended. First-year students with 16 or more college preparatory credits and a GPA of 3.0 or greater are not required to submit SAT scores. Transfer credits are accepted.
#6 Pfeiffer University
Annual Tuition: $29,800
Median Salary: $97,100
Locations: Misenheimer (NC)
Accreditation: SACS COC
Pfeiffer University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice through the Division of Arts & Sciences. Students in the program take 30 semester hours of criminal justice courses, electives, and no more than six semester hours of an internship. Students have the opportunity to intern at various criminal justice agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. The curriculum focuses on law enforcement, the courts and corrections, and how they interconnect.
All courses are available online in an asynchronous format through Blackboard. The Student Success Center provides academic advising, career planning and support, writing and tutoring centers, and an online library. Pfeiffer University's mentor-based approach provides students with continuous support throughout their education.
To apply to this online criminal justice degree completion program, prospective students must complete the free online application and include official transcripts from any post-secondary schools they have attended. Credits can be awarded for prior work experience.
#7 Union Institute & University
Annual Tuition: $16,350
Median Salary: $90,900
Locations: Cincinnati (OH)
Union Institute and University offers two options to earn an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice: The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Management and the Bachelor of Science and Emergency Services Management with a Criminal Justice Management concentration. The BS in Criminal Justice Management program was created for police officers and requires 120 credits to graduate. The curriculum focuses on the foundations of supervision and administration within a criminal justice agency. Students also can complete a certificate in Homeland Security or Forensic Science Management. The BS in emergency services management is ideal for those who wish to explore careers in leadership during crisis situations. This 120-credit program allows full-time and part-time enrollment, and classes begin every eight weeks.
Both programs are offered in an asynchronous online format, so working adults can balance their coursework around other responsibilities. Resources available to online students include academic support, disability services, and career development.
To apply, students must submit an online application with their transcripts. Students with relevant work or military experience may earn credit for their training. Students can transfer up to 90 credits from another school.
#8 Thomas Edison State University
Annual Tuition: $9,856
Median Salary: $88,000
Locations: Trenton (NJ)
The Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice degree at Thomas Edison State University is designed for adult learners. The online program teaches students the analytical skills needed to pursue careers or graduate studies in law enforcement. The curriculum focuses on applying research, theories, policies, and practices in an ethical manner in the criminal justice system.
Online coursework is delivered asynchronously. Distance learners have access to several campus resources through the Center for Student Success, including academic and career advising. The university offers a generous transfer credit policy for those who have completed post-secondary coursework.
The programs at Thomas Edison State University are expressly for adult learners over the age of 20; younger students must be enrolled in the military or apply for an age waiver. To apply, students must submit an application and high school transcript or proof of GED; applicants younger than age 24 must take the Accuplacer, Next Generation exam.
#9 Mercy College
Annual Tuition: $18,934
Median Salary: $90,400
Locations: Dobbs Ferry (NY)
Mercy College’s Bachelor of Science in Corporate and Homeland Security Management is a multidisciplinary online criminal justice degree incorporating business and security concepts. In addition to general liberal arts and science requirements, the 120-credit curriculum covers leadership, homeland defense, and investigative reporting. The major coursework focuses on the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which many government and private organizations use to create policies and manage incidents.
Online coursework is delivered asynchronously through the Blackboard learning management system. The program, offered through the School of Business, provides students with access to a supportive faculty system, internships, cooperative education, and career opportunities.
Prospective students can apply online through the school or via the Common Application. An admission fee and high school or college transcripts are required. Up to 90 credits may be transferred from previously attended two- or four-year institutions. Test scores, letters of recommendation, and personal writing statements are optional.
#10 Southern Illinois University - Carbondale
Annual Tuition: $9,637
Median Salary: $84,000
Locations: Carbondale (IL)
Southern Illinois University Carbondale offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice. The 120-credit program offers part-and full-time enrollment options. The curriculum focuses on topics in criminological theory, law and social control, and counterterrorism. Students can enroll in the Carbondale Criminal Justice Internship program, which places them at criminal justice agencies at the local, state, or federal levels. Graduates can choose to enter the workforce or continue their studies in a master's or doctoral program.
Coursework is delivered asynchronously through the Brightspace online learning system and includes reading materials, recorded lectures, and assessment activities. Faculty advisors are available to offer academic advising to students and assist with the application process and course selection.
Prospective students can apply online or through the mail (transcripts and a nonrefundable fee are required) for fall, spring, or summer sessions. First-year students with a high school GPA of 2.75 or higher do not need to submit ACT or SAT scores.
#11 Excelsior College
Annual Tuition: $15,300
Median Salary: $84,300
Locations: Albany (NY)
The fully online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at Excelsior College teaches students the skills needed to enter careers in law enforcement, probation, parole, investigation, security analysis, victim advocacy, and crime scene investigation. The program focuses on practical procedures and theories in psychology, sociology, and criminology related to criminal procedural laws. Students can choose a concentration in Homeland Security that covers topics in domestic terrorism, emergency management, international terrorism, counterterrorism, and infrastructure security and policy.
Online coursework is delivered in an asynchronous format. Distance learners have access to various online resources, including the library, writing and reading lab, tech support, and accessibility services. Students can transfer up to 113 credits and receive credit for military experience.
To apply to this online criminal justice degree program, students must complete their application online and submit transcripts and evidence of training and certification (if applicable). Active-duty military students and veterans must apply through the Center for Military and Veteran Education.
#12 Norwich University
Annual Tuition: $11,250
Median Salary: $80,700
Locations: Northfield (VT)
The online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at Norwich University offers two concentrations in General Study and Intelligence and Security Management. The curriculum is divided into general education, foundational courses, electives, field experiences, and a capstone project. The degree requires a total of 120 credits and can be completed in 18 months. For students wanting a broader liberal arts education, an online Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies is also available with a concentration in Justice Studies.
Online coursework is delivered in an asynchronous format. Distance learners have access to student services like academic and career advising. Students with military or law enforcement training may be awarded additional credit.
There are multiple start dates so that students may begin their program at a convenient time. To apply, prospective students should fill out the online application and submit their transcripts. Students can transfer in up to 90 credits toward this online criminal justice degree program.
#13 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Annual Tuition: $10,800
Median Salary: $78,500
Locations: Oshkosh (WI)
Students interested in earning an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice have three options at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh: a Bachelor of Applied Science, Bachelor of Arts, or Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Students in the programs improve their skills in writing, critical thinking, and data analysis, as well as their understanding of criminological theories and policies. Students can complete an internship, independent study, or honors thesis to graduate. For the BA and the BS, two years of relevant work experience are required to enroll. The BAS is designed for students who already have an associate degree and wish to complete their college education.
All programs are offered in an online asynchronous format. Students have the opportunity to be inducted into Alpha Phi Sigma, the criminal justice student honor association. Distance learners at the University of Wisconsin have access to various campus services and resources, including academic and career advising, counseling, and IT support.
Most applicants are transfer students with about 60 college credits. To apply, prospective students must submit an online application and transcripts.
#14 California State University-Sacramento
Annual Tuition: $12,750
Median Salary: $78,100
Locations: Sacramento (CA)
Sacramento State offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree completion program. Offered jointly through the College of Continuing Education and the College of Health and Human Services, the program requires 60 units, which can be completed in two years if students are enrolled full time. Students must complete twelve credits of lower-division courses before being admitted into the program. The remaining coursework includes 24 units of upper-division classes and 24 units of electives. Students choose their electives from two of the following subject areas: Investigation, Law, Corrections, Criminal Justice Administration, Offenses and Offenders, Additional Courses, and Supporting Courses.
Online courses are facilitated in an asynchronous format through the Canvas learning management platform and span approximately eight weeks. Online students can access academic and career advising, as well as other student services.
To qualify for the program, prospective students must meet residency restrictions, have 45 or more transferable units, an overall minimum GPA of 2.6, and fulfill prerequisite requirements. Applications can be faxed, emailed, or mailed along with college transcripts and a resume to the program coordinator. Upon acceptance, students must complete a California State University Application and pay the required application fee.
#15 University of Alaska Fairbanks
Annual Tuition: $8,070
Median Salary: $75,800
Locations: Fairbanks (AK)(and 1 other)
The University of Alaska Fairbanks' (UAF's) eCampus offers a 120-credit Bachelor of Arts in Justice, designed for those interested in federal, state, rural, and Native American issues and conflicts. The curriculum includes major-related course requirements that establish a foundation in criminal justice and six elective courses. To graduate, students will also complete an internship, a seminar in critical issues, or a research capstone course.
Online coursework is delivered asynchronously through the Blackboard learning platform. Distance learners have access to library materials, tutoring and eCoaching, and disability services.
Those interested in applying for this program must submit a UAF application, pay the application fee, and submit official transcripts and test scores. Applicants must have a high school diploma and a minimum GPA of 2.5 to be considered. Transfer students with more than 30 university credits need to provide college transcripts with a minimum 2.0 GPA.
#16 Southeast Missouri State University
Annual Tuition: $9,000
Median Salary: $76,000
Locations: Cape Girardeau (MO)
Southeast Missouri State University (SMSU) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Students may select a general study focus or a concentration in the Academic University Track or the Law Enforcement Academy Track. The Academic University Track is ideal for those seeking the traditional bachelor's degree experience in preparation for entry to the workforce or graduate study programs. The curriculum for this program explores issues in crime and criminal justice. The Law Enforcement Academy Track is designed for those interested in receiving specialized training. Students in this track complete 760 training hours, which counts for 24 credits toward the degree. SMSU also offers an online Bachelor of Social Science with a concentration in Criminal Justice that provides students with a liberal arts education focused on criminal justice issues. Graduates of either program may pursue careers in law enforcement, corrections, criminology, and more.
Students can choose from an accelerated format with 4- to 8-week classes or a traditional 16-week class. Classes are offered year-round and are conducted asynchronously through the Moodle learning management platform. Distance learners have access to faculty advising, academic assistance, and library resources.
To apply to any of the programs, prospective students must complete an online application and submit transcripts.
#17 SUNY Empire State College
Annual Tuition: $10,943
Median Salary: $76,500
Locations: Saratoga Springs (NY)
Students interested in entering or advancing in criminal justice have several online undergraduate degree options at SUNY Empire State College: a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, or Bachelor of Professional Studies in Community and Health Services with a concentration in Criminal Justice Services. Additionally, a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Criminal Justice is available to students interested in an interdisciplinary program. This curriculum combines a broad liberal arts education focusing on community and human services and social science. Coursework topics include community policing, criminal investigation, history of law enforcement, corrections, terrorism, psychology and the law, organized crime, and more.
These online criminal justice degree programs are offered in an asynchronous format to allow for flexible studies. Online students at SUNY Empire State College can take advantage of learning support, career advisement, accessibility services, veteran support, and library resources.
To apply, students must fill out an online application, write an essay, and submit their high school or college transcripts. Students can begin in the fall, spring, or summer.
#18 Utica College
Annual Tuition: $14,250
Median Salary: $77,800
Locations: Utica (NY)
The online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at Utica College is a 120-credit online program with five specializations: Cyber Criminology and Policy, Homeland Security, Legal Issues in Criminal Justice, Public Policy and Leadership, and White Collar Crime. The curriculum covers criminological concepts, procedures, and issues and trains students to think critically and analyze data. Graduates of the online program may explore career opportunities in law enforcement, policing, probation, juvenile services, private security, and other areas of the criminal justice system. They may also pursue graduate studies in public administration, criminal justice, management, and law.
Online Coursework is delivered asynchronously. Students can enroll part-time or full-time, and the degree can be completed in four to six years. Distance learners have access to technical support, academic advising, and electronic library resources.
First-year and transfer students are welcome to apply to the program. Admission requires an online application, official transcripts, a letter of recommendation, and a personal statement. Submitting SAT or ACT scores is optional for first-year college students.
#19 Arizona State University
Annual Tuition: $15,900
Median Salary: $77,600
Locations: Tempe (AZ)(and 4 others)
Arizona State University offers students several options to pursue an online bachelor's degree in the criminal justice field. The Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice focuses on the theories and practices of crime prevention at the local, state, and federal levels. The 120-credit program incorporates classes that span 7.5 weeks. The curriculum focuses on law enforcement, corrections, and the court system. The online Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies degree focuses on five areas: citizenship, migration, and human rights; globalization, sustainability, and economic justice; law, policy, and social change; media technology and culture; and social identities and communities. The online Bachelor of Science in Public Service & Public Policy with a specialization in Emergency Management and Homeland Security helps students prepare for leadership roles on disaster response teams.
Online coursework follows an asynchronous format. Distance learners at ASU complete an online orientation to become acquainted with the virtual classroom. Tech support is available 24/7, as are other campus services like academic advising and career resources.
Prospective students must submit an online application with their transcript and test scores. First-year applicants must be in the top 25% of their graduating high school class, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, or meet a minimum ACT/SAT requirement. Those who do not meet the criteria may gain admission through the Earned Admission Track.
#20 University of Maryland Global Campus
Annual Tuition: $14,970
Median Salary: $77,200
Locations: Adelphi (MD)
The online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program through the University of Maryland Global Campus teaches criminological theory applicable to the private and public sectors. The program includes 41 credits of general education coursework, 33 credits of major coursework, and 46 credits of electives. The program provides an accelerated path for a master’s degree in criminal management.
Online coursework is asynchronous and hosted on the LEO (Learning Experience Online) platform and accessed via smartphone, computer, or tablet. Each class is eight weeks long, and most offer no-cost digital resources as source material. Those enrolled in the program have access to career services, tutoring and mentoring programs, an office of accessibility services, specialized services for military and veterans, online student clubs, and a writing center.
Students interested in applying should complete the online application (fee required) and provide a transcript and/or military service information.
#21 University of Nebraska at Kearney
Annual Tuition: $11,880
Median Salary: $75,300
Locations: Kearney (NE)
The online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Kearney focuses on current trends and practices in the justice system at all levels of society. The 120-credit program is offered with two study options: Criminal Justice Comprehensive or Criminal Justice Major. Students enrolled in the major option must declare a double major or a minor. A senior seminar class and a five-credit, community-based internship are required for both tracks. Graduates are prepared for careers as police officers, special agents, probation and parole officers, private investigators, legal assistance, border patrol agents, and more.
Online coursework is delivered in an asynchronous format through the Canvas learning management platform. An online student orientation connects students to all available campus resources, including academic advising and library services.
To apply, prospective students must submit an online application with their transcripts.
#22 CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Annual Tuition: $18,600
Median Salary: $77,900
Locations: New York (NY)
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice offers an onlineBachelor of Science in Security Management. Students in this cohort-based criminal justice degree program will learn different theories and concepts of criminology. The program focuses on applying security analysis to private and public businesses and organizations to limit theft and loss. The curriculum includes core classes, electives, an internship, and a senior seminar in security problems.
Asynchronous online courses cover topics in crime prevention, including information protection, security technology, and legal justice. Students must complete a minimum of 30 credits at the college; 15 credits must be in the major. Online students have access to many resources, such as academic advising, career services, library resources, and an extensive alumni network.
Prospective applicants must have an associate degree from an accredited college or university and apply as a transfer student.
#23 The University of Texas at Arlington
Annual Tuition: $23,703
Median Salary: $78,800
Locations: Arlington (TX)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The University of Texas at Arlington's (UTA's) Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice through the UT TeleCampus. The 66-credit degree completion program is designed for students with an associate degree or the equivalent of two years of college credit. Classes include topics in corrections, law enforcement, and the criminal justice system in America. Students must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA in their courses to remain in the program. Seniors can take an internship practicum course.
While the format may vary, most online classes are synchronous with set meeting times for students to participate in a virtual classroom. In asynchronous online courses, students will have access to the course content at any time and participate in discussion boards. Online coursework is hosted on the Canvas learning management platform. Students have access to academic advising, tutoring, and career development center.
UTA accepts applications through the Common Application and ApplyTexas (fee required). Transfer students must use ApplyTexas and have a minimum 2.25 GPA. Official transcripts and test scores (minimum scores: 1100 SAT; 22 ACT) must be submitted with the application.
#24 University of Colorado Denver
Annual Tuition: $15,270
Median Salary: $75,000
Locations: Denver (CO)
The online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice degree at the University of Colorado Denver offers online students the same education as their on-campus counterparts. Hosted by the School of Public Affairs, this online criminal justice degree program offers two concentrations in Law Enforcement or Victims and Victim Services to allow students to tailor their education to meet their career goals. The degree requires 120 credit hours, and at least three credit hours must be obtained through an internship. Topics covered in the curriculum include homeland security, victimology, and crime theory and causes.
Online courses are asynchronous and run for 16-week terms. Classes are accessible through the Canvas learning management system. Online students have access to various resources like career services, academic advising, and library databases.
Applicants are paired with an Enrollment Navigator to take them through the admissions process. Prospective students are required to submit an online application (with fee) and official transcripts. ACT/SAT scores are required only for incoming first-year students or those with less than 24 transfer credits. Non-resident students who study online qualify for a special tuition rate.
#25 Loyola University Chicago
Annual Tuition: $20,790
Median Salary: $76,100
Locations: Chicago (IL)
The online Bachelor of Arts in Applied Criminal Justice Leadership at Loyola University Chicago provides students with leadership skills and an understanding of criminal justice practices and theories. The 120-credit program includes 30 credits of upper-division courses covering general theory and advanced topics in conflict management, crime analysis, and procedures. Students must also complete nine credits through the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (including a capstone course), core courses, mission-specific (philosophy or theology related) courses, and general electives to graduate.
Online coursework is asynchronous, and classes run in eight-week sessions. Distance learners have access to academic and career advising services.
Prospective students must submit an application, official transcripts, and a minimum 2.0 GPA to apply.
Online Criminal Justice Degree Overview & Career Information
Undergraduate students enrolled in an online criminal justice degree are introduced to the three arms of criminal justice in the United States: the courts, the correctional system, and law enforcement. Students in criminal justice certificate, associate, and bachelor's degree programs also commonly learn about police procedures and the techniques for collecting evidence at a crime scene. Classes in criminology and human behavior provide a background in the psychology of crime. Students in the online bachelor's degree typically take a greater number of general education topics in areas like communication, humanities, English, and math.
Criminal justice graduate certificates and master's degrees can provide a brief overview of general justice topics or a survey of a specialized justice area. Some possible specializations include law enforcement, administration, and corrections. These programs can be useful for current criminal justice professionals who would like to enter administrative or supervisory roles. Some master's programs require a thesis or a capstone project in the student's criminal justice area.
Online doctoral degrees in criminal justice require an in-depth research project into a particular aspect of criminal justice and the completion of a dissertation. Students take a core of classes in quantitative and qualitative analysis, research skills, and criminal justice topics. These intense programs are suited to individuals that are interested in teaching criminal justice at the postsecondary level, doing advanced research, or holding high-level criminal justice positions in settings such as federal agencies.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Criminal Justice
Criminal justice degrees often lead people toward careers in law and order. Applicants to a bachelor's degree program in criminal justice must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent and meet other college entrance requirements. Students typically take four years to complete the 128-180 credits required to earn a bachelor's degree.
The bachelor's-level criminal justice curriculum will feature both broad and focused topics in the field. Students may take various specific course paths depending on the career they are pursuing. Specializations include white collar crime, family law, crime scene investigation, and more. Students typically take general courses in ethics, research methods, legal studies, crime and diversity, administration of justice, sociology, and government and politics. More focused courses may also be available, such as psychology of policing, comparative criminal justice systems, terrorism, criminal profiling, philosophy of law, intercultural communications, gender and nation, and history of law and economics.
There are many types of jobs available in the field of criminal justice. Graduates often become probation officers or correctional treatment specialists for detention facilities. Some become police officers, but these jobs require special criminal justice schooling in addition to a college degree. Others continue their education and earn master's degrees in criminal justice to become qualified to work as detectives or seek employment with the FBI or CIA.
Accreditation for Online Criminal Justice Degrees
Accreditation is an important characteristic of any online criminal justice degree program. It is granted to schools and degree programs that meet high academic standards, and it can help ensure that students are provided a valuable education. Because schools must renew their accreditation every few years, the schools and programs are periodically re-evaluated, ensuring that schools stay on top of all curricular and service requirements.
Institutional accreditation is bestowed by national and regional accrediting bodies and applies to all the academic programs within a school. Programmatic accreditation is granted by trade-oriented accrediting agencies and applies to a specific degree program within a larger institution. Both types of accrediting agencies should be recognized by the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Legitimate institutional accreditation is important for students that want to apply federal financial aid funds to their tuition or transfer their earned credits to other accredited schools; it is also desirable to most employers.
While there is not currently a USDE- or CHEA-recognized programmatic accrediting agency for criminal justice programs, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences does provide what it considers 'certification' for degree programs that it considers worthy. The ACJS bases its certification standards on several of the same standards as recognized accrediting agencies, such as curricula, faculty, student services, and program quality.
Online Criminal Justice Classes
The courses required during your criminal justice degree program will depend on your educational path, career goals, and the school you choose to attend. However, there are some foundational topics that are typically part of every program. Here are some examples of the general criminal justice courses you may encounter:
Alternatives to Incarceration: Not every crime is punished through time in jail. Some crimes require probation, civil service, therapy or many other forms of punishment. Many people believe that incarcerating people isn't the most effective way to ensure they don't commit their crime again, but rather, they need to be educated or helped psychologically. This class will give an overview of these types of methods and give you an idea of how the justice system works outside of correctional facilities.
Correctional Facilities: You can expect to take a class in correctional facilities that will explore the ways in which jails and prisons work and what to expect when you're in them. You'll learn how prisoners are brought in, what the rules are, what options are available to prisoners, the differences between security levels, and much more. These classes are also aimed at teaching you the inner workings of these facilities, including staff schedules and the risks involved in working here.
Criminal Justice Systems: Be prepared to take a number of courses in criminal justice systems. Depending on where you plan on working, you'll likely take a course that describes your state's justice system as well as one that describes the US federal system. You'll learn about mandatory steps, trials, rights, and much more.
Juvenile Corrections: Because all criminal justice systems treat juvenile-age children (under 18 years old) differently than they do adults in the way of crimes and punishment, you will learn about these differences as well as ways in which these criminals must be treated. You'll also learn about juvenile correction facilities and the rights, rules, and regulations involved.
Legal Rights: As a criminal justice professional, you'll need to understand the rights that each offender has when they are being accused of committing a crime. This will be one of the most important courses you are required to take, and it should be one you use on a daily basis once you are in the workforce.
Psychology: To be successful in a criminal justice profession, you need to be able to examine why people do the things they do. Of course, these psychology courses can't prepare you for all of the crimes you will run into, but it will give you some insight into why people break rules and how to deal with them in the most effective way possible. Psychology courses will also help you to work better with colleagues and hopefully give you a sense of understanding of people in this field as well.
Safety: Almost every job in the criminal justice field involves an element of danger. These courses will teach you the best and most effective ways to protect yourself and your coworkers, as well as teach you how to respond to emergency situations. Depending on the job you take, you'll get training specific to your role in the way of safety.
Technology: Technology plays a large role in the criminal justice field, as suspects are often found through computer software and other technological means. There are also computer crimes which are emerging every day that must be treated and punished appropriately. In these courses, you'll learn about the ways in which technology is used in the criminal justice system as well as ways in which you'll use technology on the job.
Types of Crime: Although these will likely be divided into more specific categories such as white-collar crime, computer crime, terrorism, etc., you can be sure that you'll learn about the types of crime that are out there. This course can also help you decide which area of criminal justice you are most interested in pursuing as a career. These courses will help you to understand what constitutes each crime and how common or rare they are in different areas of the nation.
Popular Degrees in Criminal Justice
There are a variety of degree topics within the criminal justice category. Popular degrees include cyber security and forensic science. Other possible degrees include the following:
Online emergency/security management degrees educate students on communication strategies, security breach management, mitigation tactics and allocation of resources in case of natural or man-made disasters. The curriculum in an emergency/security management program typically involves organizational theory, emergency planning, psychology of disaster, bioterrorism, hazard risk assessment, and crisis communication.
Online homeland security programs prepare students to safeguard communities and fill positions in corporate, military and national environments throughout the country. To become a professional involved in border security, students must hold a degree in law, criminal justice or public administration, and the curriculum involves classes in national law, immigration law, statutory authority, criminal law, police training and Spanish language.
Online computer or digital forensic degrees train students to search computer data for legal evidence to help ongoing investigations. They recover encrypted and deleted data, emails and passwords. The information is then analyzed and presented in court as necessary. Presently, licensure is not mandated by any state but a certification of completion is highly regarded during the hiring process. The topics include current issues in cyber law, network security, mobile forensic security, computer ethics, database design, information systems and computer forensics.
Online corrections degrees prepare students to work in retaining institutions enforcing the rules and regulations for people who have been arrested and are awaiting a trial or people who have been sentenced to prison. Correction officer duties also include preventing assaults, escapes, and disturbances as well as regular jail cell inspections for drugs or weapons. Correctional officers are required to have a high school diploma, as well as complete the training academy and on-the-job practice. For careers in county jails or state prisons, some college credits are required. The curriculum usually includes English and math, investigative report writing, emergency planning, personal and physical security, and psychology.
Crime Scene Investigation
Individuals with a crime scene investigations degree are prepared to pursue justice and safety in their communities and are involved in numerous crime scenarios that require evidence collection and the use of spectrometry, genetics, and chemistry. The most frequent path to become a crime scene investigator is to obtain a two-year associate degree or four-year bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. The studies should be centered on crime scene investigations. A large part of the education curriculum is focused on the practice and hands-on training. Curriculum also includes upper-level math (statistics and calculus), chemistry, biology, anatomy, legal instruction and crime lab practice.
Online criminology degrees teach students about compiling data, analyzing all aspects of crime and finding methods of prevention. A criminologist works with law enforcement agencies, and their work is research driven with a focus on statistics and crime pattern identification. Typical curriculum is composed of classes on culture and crime, theories of social order, victimology, drugs and crime, psychology of criminal behavior, crime analysis, constitutional law, police and society and economics of crime, among others. In order to become a criminologist, either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree is required along with proper licensing in some states. All programs require completing hands-on training under the supervision of an experienced criminologist and a submission of a research thesis.
An online degree in law enforcement opens many doors for graduates who are considering a career as a police officer, a sheriff, a park ranger or a correction officer. Upon completion of a law enforcement degree, students are prepared to enter the police academy or a boot camp as mandated by the rules and regulations specific to each state. Although possible to obtain a position in the law enforcement specialty with a high school diploma in some states, individuals with a bachelor’s degree are given preference and higher paying positions. Some states, such as New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois, require as many as 60 college credits before attending a police academy. A minimum of an associate degree is mandated, in addition to age and minimum fitness specifications. The curriculum encompasses courses in the introduction to criminal justice, corrections and psychology, sociology, investigative principles, criminology, modern policing, victimology, and criminal law.
Online safety studies degrees cover the entire system of criminal justice, legal policies, public contexts and administration of justice. The typical curriculum includes public safety administration, public safety training and leadership, multicultural diversity, fiscal management, and organizational behavior.
Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Justice Degrees
What is the difference between criminal justice and law enforcement?
Criminal justice refers to the broad field of crime prevention, detection, punishment, and reparations for crimes. It includes law enforcement, the court system, and jails and prisons. Law enforcement is a specific branch within the field of criminal justice and refers to officials and agencies who enforce laws, solve crimes, and detect and arrest people who violate laws and policies.
Which is better—a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice?
Both degrees provide a well-rounded education and prepare students for a career in the field. Most programs offer a Bachelor of Science (BS), but some offer a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and some offer both. A BS provides extensive study in criminal justice, and may focus on topics such as criminal procedure and evidence, family law, and forensic pathology. Graduation requirements may be more heavily focused on math and science. A Bachelor of Arts includes a broader look at the topic, with classes on juvenile justice, policing communities, and victims of crimes.
What kind of jobs do criminal justice majors get?
Criminal justice majors often find employment as correctional officers, police or sheriff’s patrol officers, probation officers, and security guards, among others. They may pursue a career in a specialized area, such as crime or crime scene investigation, or may look into a position as a paralegal or legal assistant, although these may require additional training. Careers in the nonprofit sector may be appealing for those who want to advocate for people who have committed crimes and for criminal justice reform. With additional education and training, criminal justice majors can also go on to become lawyers, detectives,and federal agents.
ACJS Certification Standards. Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Accessed March 1, 2018. http://www.acjs.org.
This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.