Best Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 2/22/2021
Quick Facts
Accreditation: Institutional
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Certificate
Average Tuition: $22,051
Average Salary: $69,472

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.

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Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice with the Highest Return on Investment

2021 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's Degrees in Criminal Justice Badge

We ranked the top schools with online bachelor's degrees in criminal justice based on return on investment (ROI). Our ROI shows a graduate's earnings in 10 years according to salary and debt data reported by the US Department of Education (and accounting for salary growth and loan interest). We hope our rankings will help prospective students understand whether the cost of a program may be worth the benefit in future earnings. All of the online programs on this list have higher-than-average ROIs compared to all bachelor's degrees in criminal justice (online or not) in the United States, which average $337,500. The ROI for the top-ranked school, Union Institute & University, is three times the national average.

ROI amounts are based on data reported by the U.S. Department of Education. Tuitions are manually researched in order to determine tuition amounts specific to online degrees. Read our methodology for more details.

RankSchool Annual Tuition Median Starting Salary Median Debt 10-year ROI
# 1 #1 $16,350 $112,028 $17,750 $1,131,200
# 2 #2 $14,400 $60,161 $26,000 $587,000
# 3 #3 $10,950 $56,641 $20,477 $557,600
# 4 #4 $9,150 $56,415 $24,145 $550,700
# 5 #5 $17,940 $55,693 $20,358 $548,000
# 6 #6 $9,000 $53,358 $15,250 $530,300
# 7 #7 $12,750 $54,053 $25,000 $525,300
# 8 #8 $7,050 $53,647 $22,192 $524,700
# 9 #9 $8,550 $53,436 $25,746 $518,100
# 10 #10 $16,650 $52,464 $25,000 $509,000
# 11 #11 $15,300 $50,231 $13,710 $500,100
# 12 #12 $13,950 $50,856 $27,800 $488,900
# 13 #13 $11,850 $47,729 $17,482 $469,600
# 14 #14 $13,206 $46,087 $15,625 $455,000
# 15 #15 $14,970 $46,726 $22,000 $453,600
# 16 #16 $12,600 $46,478 $22,515 $450,500
# 17 #17 $10,500 $46,673 $25,000 $449,400
# 18 #18 $11,936 $47,260 $30,917 $448,000
# 19 #19 $12,000 $46,478 $27,000 $444,900
# 20 #20 $16,092 $45,037 $18,250 $440,900
# 21 #21 $21,369 $45,383 $25,000 $436,100
# 22 #22 $15,940 $46,087 $32,525 $434,000
# 23 #23 $25,440 $44,933 $24,193 $432,500
# 24 #24 $10,800 $44,276 $23,000 $427,200
# 25 #25 $10,950 $43,674 $22,372 $421,800

Best Bachelor's Degrees in Criminal Justice Rankings Details

#1

Union Institute & University

Cincinnati (OH)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,131,200
  • Median Salary: $112,028
  • Annual Tuition: $16,350
  • Median Debt: $17,750

Union Institute & University offers two options to undergraduates interested in criminal justice: The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Management and the Bachelor of Science in Emergency Services Management with a criminal justice management concentration. The criminal justice management program was created for law enforcement and corrections officers. The curriculum focuses... on supervision and administration in a criminal justice agency. The emergency services management degree is ideal for those who want to lead crisis-management organizations. Both 120-credit programs allow full-time and part-time enrollment.

Both programs are also offered in an asynchronous online format, so working adults can balance their coursework around other responsibilities. Students with relevant work or military experience may earn credit for their training, shortening their time to complete the degree. Students can also transfer up to 90 credits from another school.

Classes begin every eight weeks. To apply, prospective students must submit an online application and their transcripts. Available resources include academic support, disability assistance, and career development guidance.

Cost per Credit: $545
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 11%
Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 538

#2

Fisher College

Boston (MA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $587,000
  • Median Salary: $60,161
  • Annual Tuition: $14,400
  • Median Debt: $26,000

Fisher College offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice to prepare students for careers in law enforcement, courts, corrections, or government policy. This 120-credit program includes courses such as Corrections in America, Principles of Investigations, Criminal Justice Statistics, and Deviance and Social Control. Fisher reports an average length of 40 months to... complete this degree for students taking two eight-week courses per term.

Students learn via the Blackboard system, where they can read and submit assignments, watch recorded lectures, and collaborate with classmates. Fisher provides need-based scholarships and grants to help students fund their education, along with a few merit-based options. The Career Services office offers virtual counseling sessions for online students to pursue job and internship opportunities.

Prospective students fill out an online application and submit high school (or equivalent) transcripts. Transfer students also submit transcripts for any accredited postsecondary schools they’ve attended — Fisher allows up to 90 transfer credits. Enrollees can take advantage of the Writing and Academic Support Center, virtual library access, and accessibility accommodations.

Cost per Credit: $400
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 144
Graduation Rate: 23%
Acceptance Rate: 66%
Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
Accreditation: NECHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 923

#3

Oakland City University

Oakland City (IN)
  • 10-Year ROI: $557,600
  • Median Salary: $56,641
  • Annual Tuition: $10,950
  • Median Debt: $20,477

Students can pursue Oakland City University’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice as a general degree or with a concentration in investigative forensics. This 120-credit program includes 45 credits of core classes such as Statistics in Criminal Justice, Basics of Crime Scene Investigation, and Conflict Management in Criminal Justice, and Offender Assessment System. Both... programs culminate in either a field internship or research practicum course. Oakland City has crime-scene replica and evidence-processing studios to add a flavor of real-world experience to these programs.

Online classes in this program last are five weeks long and run year-round, so full-time students can potentially finish their degrees in under four years. Oakland City only provides institutional scholarships for students at its main campus, so online students will need to explore their federal financial aid options. However, online students can access the Career Services office for help with creating a job search plan and preparing resumes.

Prospective students can submit their applications online or in paper form. They must also submit a high school or GED transcript, plus transcripts for any postsecondary institutions they’ve attended.

Cost per Credit: $365
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 55%
Acceptance Rate: 71%
Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
Average SAT Scores: 912 - 1110
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 83

#4

Waldorf University

Forest City (IA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $550,700
  • Median Salary: $56,415
  • Annual Tuition: $9,150
  • Median Debt: $24,145

Waldorf University offers a number of online bachelor’s degrees for students who want to work in law enforcement, courts, or corrections. The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice features four possible concentrations. Waldorf’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice Administration and Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration are both for future criminal... justice managers and feature most of the same course requirements, but the B.A.S. ends with a liberal arts capstone in which students analyze their potential careers. The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a criminal justice concentration teaches students to apply psychology theories and practices to the criminal justice field. Finally, two Bachelor of Arts degrees help prepare students for careers in large-scale security management and disaster response: The B.A. in Homeland Security (with two available concentrations) and the B.A. in Emergency Management (also with two concentrations). All 120-credit programs average four years to complete.

Students abide by the Term Enrollment System, logging in at the beginning of each week to view assignments and then working on their own schedules. Waldorf provides scholarships for online students, including several sponsored by first-responder organizations.

Prospective students must apply online and submit transcripts for high school or a GED, plus any postsecondary schools they’ve attended. Enrollees can access student services that include advising and virtual library resources.

Cost per Credit: $305
School Type: For-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 28%
Acceptance Rate: 72%
Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
Average SAT Scores: 920 - 1110
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,001

#5

Herzing University

Multiple Locations
  • 10-Year ROI: $548,000
  • Median Salary: $55,693
  • Annual Tuition: $17,940
  • Median Debt: $20,358

Herzing University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, with an optional concentration in either Homeland Security and Counterterrorism or Management and Leadership. This 120-credit degree includes a common core of classes such as Criminal Law, Juvenile Justice, and Civil Liability in Public Safety. Each concentration contains six required courses, and each... track culminates in either a capstone project or internship. Another option is Herzing’s online Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Criminal Justice (plus one other required concentration in Business, IT Network Security, or Healthcare Administration). Students have the freedom to design a course of study as long as they take six required criminal justice courses.

Herzing’s online classes are asynchronous and accessible 24/7. Students can pursue a variety of scholarships and grants to help fund their degrees, and can transfer up to 90 credits toward this program. This includes approved nonacademic credits for law enforcement experience.

Applicants must first schedule a virtual meeting with an admissions advisor, who reviews a prospective student’s education and experience for any potential sources of transfer credit. Then applicants submit their online application, transcripts, and exam results. Herzing students can receive personalized student services that include help with time management, stress and anxiety counseling, and academic advising.

Cost per Credit: $390
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 184
Graduation Rate: 27%
Acceptance Rate: 75%
Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,374

#6

Lynn University

Boca Raton (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $530,300
  • Median Salary: $53,358
  • Annual Tuition: $9,000
  • Median Debt: $15,250

Lynn University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. Students in this 120-credit program learn the organization of the U.S. justice system alongside theories of criminal behavior and social problems. The program’s 48-credit core includes courses such as Abnormal Psychology, Issues in Corrections, Global Human Rights, and Introduction to Forensic Science. Interested full-time... students can register for an in-person internship in Washington, D.C.

Lynn’s online curriculum is designed to be mobile-friendly so students can learn on university-issued iPads. Professors deliver course textbooks through these iPads at a reduced cost. Students can apply for scholarships and grants, including the Undergraduate Criminal Justice grant that provides 5% off tuition. The office of Career and Alumni Connections offers a full range of assistance with a job or internship search, including an alumni-shadowing program.

All prospective students complete an online application and submit a personal statement and relevant transcripts. Lynn provides academic support for all students and will work to accommodate those with learning differences.

Cost per Credit: $300
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 55%
Acceptance Rate: 85%
Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
Average SAT Scores: 990 - 1170
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 211

#7

Central Christian College of Kansas

McPherson (KS)
  • 10-Year ROI: $525,300
  • Median Salary: $54,053
  • Annual Tuition: $12,750
  • Median Debt: $25,000

Central Christian College of Kansas (CCCK) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice for students interested in a law enforcement, court, or corrections career. This degree requires courses such as Criminology, Comparative Justice, and Terrorism and Counterterrorism, many of which are taught by real-world practitioners. Another option is CCCK’s Bachelor of Science in Health and Human Services... with a correctional/justice concentration. This degree helps prepare students to serve and treat incarcerated and at-risk populations through courses that include Victimology and Juvenile Justice.

Students in both programs take one fully online course at a time for six weeks before moving to the next. The university allows up to 90 transfer credits toward a bachelor’s degree, which can save students money by allowing them to complete their programs faster. This includes credit for qualifying military training.

CCCK provides a simple online application form and covers the cost of requesting and submitting transcripts. Online students pair up with a Student Success Advisor who helps them for the entirety of their degree program, providing academic and career resources when needed.

Cost per Credit: $425
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 43%
Acceptance Rate: 54%
Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 376

#8

Columbia Southern University

Orange Beach (AL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $524,700
  • Median Salary: $53,647
  • Annual Tuition: $7,050
  • Median Debt: $22,192

Columbia Southern University (CSU) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration, with optional concentrations in arson investigation and forensics. This 120-credit program includes 36 credits in core class requirements, such as Police and Community Relations, Criminal Justice Organization and Administration, and Victimology. Each of the concentrations... also requires 12 credits of specialized courses. All students choose from electives that describe the balance among law enforcement, courts, and corrections in the U.S. justice system.

CSU provides working adults with several asynchronous learning options. Students can start classes anytime with work at their own pace with LifePace Learning, which has no set due dates for assignments. Term enrollment features 11 start dates a year and weekly assignments for students who want more structure, and Veterans Flexible Enrollment (for students using VA benefits) has structured nine-week courses but self-paced assignments. Students can pursue four scholarships specific to online criminal justice students, and employees at CSU’s partner organizations can receive 10% tuition discounts.

All applicants fill out an online form and submit transcripts. A prospective student’s start date will depend on which flexible learning option they choose. Online students can contact the Academic Advising & Student Support Center for help with coursework and to ask questions about their degree path.

Cost per Credit: $235
School Type: For-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 27%
Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
Accreditation: DEAC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 15,245

#9

American Public University System

Charles Town (WV)
  • 10-Year ROI: $518,100
  • Median Salary: $53,436
  • Annual Tuition: $8,550
  • Median Debt: $25,746

The American Public University System offers both a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. The B.S. emphasizes a hard-science approach to the subject, including an optional 27-credit concentration in digital forensics and a required Criminal Justice Capstone - Digital Forensics (which even non-concentration students take). The B.A. degree focuses on social... science research, including the psychology and sociology behind incarceration, juvenile justice, and race and policing. B.A. students can choose a general course of study or a concentration in entrepreneurship, maritime law enforcement, or organizational law enforcement leadership, each of which culminates in the Senior Seminar in Criminal Justice. Both degrees are 120 credits.

Online classes are asynchronous, and students can use the APUS app to learn on their mobile devices. The university’s Freedom Grant caps the tuition rate for military students and spouses and waives several fees for these students. Students can contact the Career Services office for resources to help them secure and successfully pass job interviews.

Prospective students apply online and submit high school or GED transcripts. Transfer students also submit transcripts from any college-level institutions, including official military transcripts if applicable. APUS’s academic advisors help with questions or concerns about their degree.

Cost per Credit: $285
School Type: For-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 42%
Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 37,746

#10

National University

La Jolla (CA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $509,000
  • Median Salary: $52,464
  • Annual Tuition: $16,650
  • Median Debt: $25,000

National University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration. This degree requires 180 quarter units to complete and includes eight core classes and a capstone with a senior project. Students also choose seven upper-level electives such as Criminal Intelligence, Organized & White Collar Crime, and Survey of Forensic Sciences. Students who want to pursue... a higher degree after their B.S. can choose one of four transition paths leading to a master’s degree in Criminal Justice, Forensic Science, Public Administration, or Juvenile Justice.

National classes are fully online and asynchronous. Students take one four-week class at a time, which they can access any time of day or night. The university provides both need- and merit-based scholarships, and its status as a military-friendly Yellow Ribbon school means that active-duty and retired service members receive generous tuition assistance.

To apply, prospective students fill out an online form and submit any relevant transcripts. Classes start every month, so National admits students year-round. Enrolled students can access a host of services using the NUton chatbot, which answers questions about course offerings, financial aid, tutoring, and more.

Cost per Credit: $370
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 180
Graduation Rate: 36%
Accreditation: WSCUC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,130

#11

Excelsior College

Albany (NY)
  • 10-Year ROI: $500,100
  • Median Salary: $50,231
  • Annual Tuition: $15,300
  • Median Debt: $13,710

The fully online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at Excelsior College teaches students the skills 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 an optional concentration in homeland security covering topics in domestic terrorism, emergency management, international terrorism, counterterrorism, and infrastructure security and policy.

Online coursework is delivered in an asynchronous format. Students can transfer up to 113 credits and receive credit for military training, potentially shortening the time needed to complete the degree.

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. Distance learners have access to various online resources, including the library, writing and reading lab, tech support, and accessibility services.

Cost per Credit: $510
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Accreditation: MSCHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 27,207

#12

Reinhardt University

Waleska (GA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $488,900
  • Median Salary: $50,856
  • Annual Tuition: $13,950
  • Median Debt: $27,800

Reinhardt University offers an online Bachelor of Criminal Justice degree. This program requires 120 credit hours and includes courses such as Managing Criminal Justice Organizations, Fraud Investigation, Incident Command Paradigms, and Survey of Correctional Thought and Practices. Reinhardt has a long-standing relationship with the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council,... giving students access to a network of law enforcement professionals in Georgia. Full-time students take two eight-week courses at a time, which makes for four each semester.

This program uses the Canvas learning management system, where students can complete assignments and interact with classmates on their own schedules. Reinhardt doesn’t provide institutional scholarships for online students but may grant tuition discounts to law enforcement officers — students need to call to inquire. Textbooks are included in the cost of tuition, but not any necessary software.

Online classes have multiple start dates throughout the year, so students are accepted on a rolling basis. As a courtesy to criminal justice applicants, Reinhardt will request and pay for their transcripts after they apply online. Enrolled students can access technical support, virtual library resources, and tutoring.

Cost per Credit: $465
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 29%
Acceptance Rate: 89%
Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
Average SAT Scores: 1000 - 1190
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 261

#13

Columbia College - SC

Columbia (SC)
  • 10-Year ROI: $469,600
  • Median Salary: $47,729
  • Annual Tuition: $11,850
  • Median Debt: $17,482

Columbia College in South Carolina offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with either a general or forensic concentration. Students take a core of classes to satisfy major requirements, including Corrections, Criminal Procedure, Research Methods in Criminal Justice, and the Leadership Seminar capstone. The general track requires 12 credits of criminal justice electives,... and the forensic track includes four required courses in forensic science and crime scene investigation. Full-time students can earn their degree faster than the traditional four years, because there are three online terms within each 15-week campus semester.

Classes are fully online in the Canvas learning management system. Students can pursue a range of scholarships and grants based on merit, need, and residency. Textbooks are free for online students.

Online classes start every five weeks and students are admitted on a rolling basis. Applicants submit their application and transcripts online, along with a personal statement for applicants without prior college credits to transfer. Once enrolled, students can access virtual tutoring, library resources, and disability accommodation information.

Cost per Credit: $395
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 53%
Acceptance Rate: 87%
Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 341

#14

Wayland Baptist University

Plainview (TX)
  • 10-Year ROI: $455,000
  • Median Salary: $46,087
  • Annual Tuition: $13,206
  • Median Debt: $15,625

Wayland Baptist University (WBU) offers three options for prospective students in criminal justice: a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration and a Bachelor of Applied Science in Justice Administration. The B.S. and B.A. are 124-credit programs with most of the same core requirements, including a final practicum and courses titled Administration... of Justice, Criminal Procedures, and Criminal Law. The B.A.S. is a degree-completion program for current practitioners that features a mix of online and on-campus courses.

WBU uses the Blackboard learning management system, where students can easily access course schedules and syllabuses, complete assignments, and watch recorded lectures. Most students take two courses per eight-week term. Qualifying law enforcement or corrections officers can apply for scholarships based on their work experience, and the awards also cover their spouses and dependent children.

Applicants must fill out an online form, submit high school or GED transcripts and SAT or ACT scores, and (if applicable) send proof of work experience or postsecondary transcripts. Current students can access academic advising, personal counseling, career services, and tutoring.

Cost per Credit: $426
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 124
Graduation Rate: 24%
Acceptance Rate: 99%
Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
Average SAT Scores: 890 - 1090
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 769

#15

University of Maryland Global Campus

Adelphi (MD)
  • 10-Year ROI: $453,600
  • Median Salary: $46,726
  • Annual Tuition: $14,970
  • Median Debt: $22,000

The online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program through the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) 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 Learning Experience Online platform, which students can access via smartphone, computer, or tablet. Each class lasts eight weeks, and most contain digital course materials at no cost. UMGC provides scholarship opportunities for online students, including the Completion Scholarship for Maryland community college graduates. Enrollees in this program can access the Office of Career Services, where they can schedule appointments with counselors, take self-guided assessments, and browse upcoming career fairs.

Students interested in applying should complete the online application (fee required) and provide a transcript and/or military service information. Enrollees can use services that include tutoring and mentoring programs, specialized services for military and veterans, online student clubs, and a writing center.

Cost per Credit: $499
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 15%
Financial Aid Recipients: 53%
Accreditation: MSCHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 36,550

#16

Concordia University - Saint Paul

Saint Paul (MN)
  • 10-Year ROI: $450,500
  • Median Salary: $46,478
  • Annual Tuition: $12,600
  • Median Debt: $22,515

Concordia University - St. Paul (CSP) offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice degree aimed at working practitioners in the field. This 120-credit program features 44 credits in the criminal justice major, including required courses such as Cultural Considerations in Criminal Justice Systems, Delinquent and Criminal Behaviors Across the Life Course, Research Methods... in Criminology and Criminal Justice, and Constitutional and Criminal Law and Justice. Students can choose an optional track that leads to licensure under the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, the board that certifies law enforcement officers in Minnesota.

Online courses at CSP are asynchronous for maximum student flexibility. Online students aren’t eligible for the university’s institutional scholarships because they pay less tuition than on-campus students. However, military service members and veterans may qualify for further tuition assistance.

Prospective students apply and submit their relevant transcripts online. Applications are free and CSP pays any transcript-procurement fees. Once enrolled, students will take an orientation to online learning and will meet with their faculty mentor, who will guide them throughout the duration of the degree program.

Cost per Credit: $420
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 59%
Acceptance Rate: 55%
Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,469

#17

Colorado State University Global

Greenwood Village (CO)
  • 10-Year ROI: $449,400
  • Median Salary: $46,673
  • Annual Tuition: $10,500
  • Median Debt: $25,000

Colorado State University Global (CSUG) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Each student in this 120-credit program takes 30 credits of core classes, including Criminology, Ethics for the Criminal Justice Professional, and the capstone Application of Criminal Justice Knowledge and Skills. Students can also chart a unique degree path by putting 15 credits toward... one of 21 available specializations, including emergency management, organizational leadership, and public relations. Students already working in a criminal justice environment can take the optional Criminal Justice Practicum, which may not be available in all states.

CSUG delivers courses through the Canvas learning system, where students read and watch lectures, submit assignments, and collaborate with classmates. Eligible students can apply for need- and merit-based CSUG scholarships. Students who received an associate degree at a CSUG affiliate school can also receive a tuition discount, and students with law enforcement or other justice experience may qualify for nonacademic transfer credit.

Prospective students fill out an online application and provide high school or GED transcripts showing a GPA or 2.8 or higher, along with an ACT score of 18 or above or SAT score of 980 or above. Enrolled students can access services that include a writing center, library resources, and technical support.

Cost per Credit: $350
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 64%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 8,054

#18

Bethel University - TN

McKenzie (TN)
  • 10-Year ROI: $448,000
  • Median Salary: $47,260
  • Annual Tuition: $11,936
  • Median Debt: $30,917

Bethel University’s College of Professional Studies offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice for working practitioners in law enforcement. This program features a required major core of 45 credits, including classes such as Criminal Procedure: Adjudication, Statistics in Criminal Justice, Community Based Corrections, and Review of Forensic Science. Applicants must have 30... or more prior college credits.

Bethel delivers courses through Virtual Campus (V-Camp), where students sign in to complete assignments, review lectures, and post to discussion boards. Only on-campus students can apply for scholarships, but Bethel does provide military tuition discounts to eligible service members or veterans and their spouses. Bethel also covers the cost of prior-learning assessments for students seeking credit for previous military training. The College of Professional Studies has its own career center, where distance learners can make counseling appointments and review upcoming career fairs and online workshops.

Prospective students must fill out an online application, after which a recruiter will contact them about next steps. Once admitted, students have access to a range of services, including clinical counseling, academic advising, and tutoring.

Cost per Credit: $373
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 128
Graduation Rate: 29%
Acceptance Rate: 94%
Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
Average SAT Scores: 820 - 1072
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,734

#19

Franklin Pierce University

Rindge (NH)
  • 10-Year ROI: $444,900
  • Median Salary: $46,478
  • Annual Tuition: $12,000
  • Median Debt: $27,000

Franklin Pierce University (FPU) offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. This 120-credit program emphasizes the sociology behind crime and enforcement in order to make students into data-literate criminal justice practitioners. Coursework includes Courts and Criminal Procedure, Race and Ethnicity in Society, Victimology, and Social Science Research Methods.

FPU delivers... courses through Canvas, where students can view and submit assignments, watch recorded lectures, and participate in asynchronous discussions. To help online students fund their degrees, the Franklin Pierce Alumni Association offers two scholarships per year. Criminal justice students can earn up to 45 credits for prior work in law enforcement — a prior learning assessment can take into account their licenses, certifications, and relevant job training and experience. These credits can save students money by shortening the time needed to complete the degree.

Prospective students fill out an online application and request any necessary transcripts (high school, GED, or postsecondary). Applicants seeking credit for law enforcement experience must provide a resume and proof of any certifications, licenses, and completed training courses. Once enrolled, students can access the Center for Academic Excellence for tutoring and writing help.

Cost per Credit: $400
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 50%
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
Average SAT Scores: 970 - 1130
Accreditation: NECHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 212

#20

Utah Valley University

Orem (UT)
  • 10-Year ROI: $440,900
  • Median Salary: $45,037
  • Annual Tuition: $16,092
  • Median Debt: $18,250

Utah Valley University’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice aims to prepare students for careers in courts, corrections, or law enforcement. The program requires 120 credits, including 74 in core courses such as Laws of Evidence, Writing for Criminal Justice Professionals, Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice, and Corrections in the Community. To graduate, students must... take a capstone seminar and either an internship in the field or an upper-level elective (subject to approval).

Students access asynchronous courses in the Canvas system, and faculty encourage interaction among classmates in discussion forums. Students can pursue scholarships that are categorized for first-year, continuing, and transfer students. The Career Development Center helps students find jobs and internships by linking to job boards, holding career fairs for employers to recruit, and proving personalized counseling.

Prospective students apply with an online form and submit their official transcripts. They may need to send ACT or SAT scores for scholarship consideration, but these scores aren’t necessary for admission. Once enrolled, students can use online tutoring and advising resources and can receive accessibility accommodations.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 26%
Financial Aid Recipients: 75%
Accreditation: NWCCU
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,030

#21

University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus

Norman (OK)
  • 10-Year ROI: $436,100
  • Median Salary: $45,383
  • Annual Tuition: $21,369
  • Median Debt: $25,000

The University of Oklahoma Extended Campus offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with four available concentrations: homeland security, restorative justice, administrative leadership, and investigations and intelligence analysis. This is an accelerated program for students who are already working in the field — most students finish in two or three years. Of the... 120 required credits, students put 30 toward the major core, which includes courses on theories of criminal behavior, the U.S. correctional system, and a senior capstone. Students also take nine credits of courses in the chosen concentration. Students may be able to receive credit for military or law enforcement training, subject to an evaluation.

Students take courses in the Canvas system, where they can review and submit assignments, watch recorded lectures, and debate topics in discussion forums. Students can seek scholarships to help fund their degrees.

Applicants must complete the online admittance form and pay a nonrefundable $40 fee, then request transcripts to be sent to the university. Oklahoma requires applicants to have at least 24 hours of prior college credit with a minimum GPA of 2.0. Extended Campus students partner with an advisor who helps them find resources and chart their degree path from admission to graduation.

Cost per Credit: $712
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 67%
Acceptance Rate: 74%
Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
Average SAT Scores: 1140 - 1350
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 991

#22

Thomas University

Thomasville (GA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $434,000
  • Median Salary: $46,087
  • Annual Tuition: $15,940
  • Median Debt: $32,525

Thomas University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. This 120-credit program includes required courses such as Crime Prevention, Research and Analysis, Criminology, Community Policing, and Evidence. Students who want to lead justice organizations may opt for the online Bachelor of Arts in Justice Administration, which blends criminal justice requirements with... business courses such as Principles of Finance, Professional Communication, and Organizational Behavior. Students in either degree program can transfer up to 40 credits hours of eligible basic law enforcement training or up to 27 hours for eligible basic corrections officer training.

Thomas’s online classes are asynchronous and last eight weeks. Students can pursue a number of scholarship opportunities, and employees of select Georgia law enforcement agencies may be eligible for tuition discounts.

Prospective students apply to Thomas and submit transcripts online. Enrollees can access academic advisors, tutors, and library resources virtually. Thomas also provides an orientation for online students to get acquainted with distance learning.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 29%
Acceptance Rate: 23%
Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 152

#23

University of Alaska Anchorage

Anchorage (AK)
  • 10-Year ROI: $432,500
  • Median Salary: $44,933
  • Annual Tuition: $25,440
  • Median Debt: $24,193

The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Justice. This 120-credit program requires at least 42 upper-level credits in addition to core classes such as Introduction to Research Methods in Justice, Crime Prevention, and Crime Victimization and Justice. This program is affiliated with the UAA Justice Center, which publishes research on crime and... justice issues and helps place undergraduates in internships. To graduate, all students take the Justice Exit Examination to test their learning.

UAA delivers online classes through Blackboard. Students can review assignments, watch lectures, and post discussion boards at their convenience, but not all Blackboard features are compatible with mobile devices. To help fund their degrees, students can pursue a Justice Center UAA Administration Scholarship or the Anchorage Police Citizen Academy Alumni Association Scholarship.

Prospective students apply online and submit all relevant transcripts (first-year students must have earned a minimum 2.5 GPA in high school). Standardized test scores aren’t needed for admission but can help students test out of certain math and writing courses. Once enrolled, students in this program are assigned a faculty mentor to advise them on the degree path.

Cost per Credit: $848
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 28%
Acceptance Rate: 71%
Financial Aid Recipients: 82%
Accreditation: NWCCU
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,451

#24

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Oshkosh (WI)
  • 10-Year ROI: $427,200
  • Median Salary: $44,276
  • Annual Tuition: $10,800
  • Median Debt: $23,000

The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (UWO) offers a Bachelor of Applied Studies, Bachelor of Arts, or Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Faculty in these programs aim to improve students’ critical thinking and data analysis around criminological theories and policies. Students can complete an internship, independent study, or honors thesis to graduate. The B.A. and B.S. require... two years of relevant work experience to enroll. Students in both degrees take the same core classes but must satisfy different natural science and foreign language requirements. The B.A.S. is designed for students who already have an associate degree and wish to complete their bachelor’s degree.

All programs are offered in an online asynchronous format. Enrollees with high GPAs can apply for Alpha Phi Sigma, the criminal justice student honor association. UWO offers several scholarships and grants to help students fund their education.

Most applicants are transfer students with about 60 college credits. To apply, prospective students must submit an online application and transcripts. Distance learners at UWO can access various services and resources, including academic and career advising, counseling, and IT support.

Cost per Credit: $360
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 53%
Acceptance Rate: 63%
Financial Aid Recipients: 82%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 873

#25

Ashland University

Ashland (OH)
  • 10-Year ROI: $421,800
  • Median Salary: $43,674
  • Annual Tuition: $10,950
  • Median Debt: $22,372

Ashland University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, either as a general degree or with one of four concentrations: correctional administration, criminology and research, law enforcement administration, and legal studies. All tracks require 120 credits and share a common core of major classes, including Ethics in Criminal Justice, Victimology, and Restorative... Justice. Ashland allows qualifying law enforcement and corrections training to transfer as academic credit.

Courses are fully online and last seven weeks. Students can access their courses anytime in the Blackboard learning management system. Ashland is a Yellow Ribbon partner with the U.S. Veterans Administration, so qualifying veterans may be eligible to receive up to $5,500 in tuition assistance from the university. Students can access the Career Center for Life Calling for resources and counseling on pursuing internships, jobs, and or graduate studies.

Applicants first register a profile on Ashland’s application management system, then fill out the online forms and submit any necessary transcripts. Enrollees can contact an academic advisor for help understanding degree requirements and course registration, and they can also find virtual library resources and an IT help desk.

Cost per Credit: $365
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 61%
Acceptance Rate: 74%
Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
Average SAT Scores: 975 - 1230
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,282

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:

Emergency Management

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.

Homeland Security

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.

Computer Forensics

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.

Corrections

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.

Criminology

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.

Law Enforcement

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.

Safety Studies

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.

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