2020 Best Online Criminology Degrees

By OnlineU Staff | Updated March 31, 2020

Online criminology degrees are available at a variety of degree levels. Students can pursue online associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, or certificate degrees in criminology. We provide a list of the best online colleges for criminology degrees based on affordability and alumni salaries provided by PayScale.

Accreditation is an important factor to take into account when selecting an online criminology degree. There is no predominant accrediting agency for criminology programs. Therefore, students should prioritize regional accreditation when pursuing online degrees. This will help to ensure the quality of the education as well as the students' eligibility for federal financial aid.

2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Criminology Degrees

2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Criminology Badge

The following 22 schools offer the best online bachelor's in criminology degrees, based on their low tuition rates and high mid-career salary potentials. Missouri State University is ranked #1, offering a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice for $8,850 per year. Graduates of the school reported a median salary of $126,200. Washington State University, ranked #2, offers an annual tuition of only $11,550 and has a reported alumni salary of $95,000.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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2020 Online Colleges Offering Criminology Degrees - Ranking Details

Online Criminology Degree Overview & Career Information

Online criminology degrees are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. Earning an online associate degree will take students approximately two years to complete, after which they can then apply for some entry-level positions or move on to further their education by seeking a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree is usually the minimum amount of education required by most employers. This level of degree can be completed in four years of study. Graduate degrees are also available in the field of criminology. Individuals can graduate with their master's degree in just two years. Upon graduation they will be prepared to hold senior positions. Seeking a doctorate degree is the best route for professionals who wish to teach criminology at the college level, and will typically take students five to seven years to complete. Lastly, there are also certificate programs for those who don't want or need to commit to earning a full degree. This will open the doors for entry-level positions in criminology. It is also a way for already working professionals to seek further knowledge in the industry. Certificate degrees can be earned in a year or less.

Online Associate Degrees in Criminology

Students can earn their online associate degrees in criminology in two years at a community college or university. The program usually consists of 60 credit hours of study. This level of program will equip students with the knowledge and skills that will allow them to pursue some jobs within the criminal justice field, such as a police or correctional officer, or other entry-level work. An online associate degree typically consists of general education courses and major-specific courses, such as criminology, classical social theory, introduction to crime analysis, introduction to constitutional law, social problems, and fundamentals of psychological profiling. Admission requirements for first time students include a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Applicants who have received prior education at the post-secondary level will need to submit their college transcripts.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Criminology

Individuals who seek an online bachelor's degree in criminology may find work in a variety of careers, including as a detective, police officer, caseworker, crime intelligence analyst, and corrections officer. An online bachelor's degree can be completed in four years and typically consists of 120 credit hours. Courses that students will take include criminal law, abnormal psychology, introduction to corrections, sociology of crime and violence, research methods for criminal justice, legal traditions, and data analysis in criminal justice. Some programs also offer internship opportunities for interested students. Applicants who are applying for a bachelor's program as a first time student will need to present their high school transcripts or GED certificates. Individuals interested in pursuing their bachelor's degrees online can find programs at various universities and colleges around the country.

Online Master's Degrees in Criminology

Students enrolled in online master's degree programs in criminology will further develop their industry skills and understanding that will allow them to move into higher positions within the field. Depending on the student's academic schedule a master's degree program can be completed in two years or less and consists of 30 to 36 credit hours of coursework. The criminology curriculum is made up of classes like quantitative research methods, advanced social statistics, evidence-based crime prevention, family violence, criminology in practice, crime and popular culture, and adult corrections. Some programs will also require that participating students complete a thesis prior to graduation. Upon graduation, individuals may find work in a variety of settings, such as with law enforcement at all levels of government, consulting agencies, research organizations, investigation groups, and more. They will also be prepared for doctoral studies. In order to be admitted to an online master's program, an applicant will need to have a bachelor's degree, letters of reference, and GRE test scores.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Criminology

An online doctoral degree in criminology allows students to take part in independent research, and prepares them to enter senior positions within the field, teach at the university level, or enter a research-based career upon graduating. The number of credit hours needed to graduate will differ depending on the program and the applicant's educational background but typically, a doctoral program will take five to seven years to complete. Students will participate in courses such as research methods in criminology, survey of criminological theories, data analysis in criminology, prospectus development, and professional development in criminology. All students must also complete a dissertation and successfully defend it. This is usually the last step students will take before graduation. PhD admission requirements include a bachelor's degree, a letter of intent, and three letters of recommendation. To remain competitive among other applicants individuals should also have high GRE scores. Online PhD programs can be found at the university level.

Online Certificates in Criminology

Online certificate degrees are available for individuals who wish to seek an education in criminology but don't want to commit to a full degree program. This level of online degree may prepare graduates for entry-level positions in criminal justice, and may help current professionals find more job opportunities. Students can graduate with their certificates often in just a year or less. Admission to an online undergraduate certificate program usually only requires a high school diploma or GED. There are also online graduate certificates available for students who have completed a bachelor's or master's degree in a different area and want to enter the criminology field, or who have a degree in a related field but need to add to their education. Throughout their year of study, students will participate in coursework including introduction to criminal justice, the victim and the justice system, the American legal tradition, forensic psychology, and sociology of crime and violence. Online certificate programs in criminology are available at colleges and universities.

The Importance of an Accredited Online Criminology Degree

Accreditation is an important aspect of postsecondary education, and students should take the accreditation status of the school they wish to attend into consideration. If a school is regionally accredited, it means that an independent, outside organization has evaluated the school and determined that it meets certain quality standards in the areas of academics, teacher quality, and more. Attending an accredited institution gives students the confidence that they are receiving an education that is going to adequately prepare them for their future career upon graduation. Accreditation also plays a role in the hiring process, as many employers prefer to hire candidates who have accredited educational backgrounds. Also, most colleges and universities will only accept transfer credits from other accredited schools. Thus, students who may transfer their credits or attend graduate school in the future will need to consider this. Lastly, students who are in need of federal financial assistance will not have the option of attending a non-accredited program because only accredited institutions have access to federal aid.

Careers in Criminology

There are several different career options within the field of criminology. One career choice for individuals with online criminology degrees is to work as a criminologist. Criminologists research crimes, study criminals, and try to figure out reasons why people commit crimes and how to prevent them in the future. They also work on trying to come up with ways to rehabilitate criminals back into society. On a daily basis a criminologist will conduct research and draw up reports that will aid in analyzing research. Individuals who are interested in this career path should pursue a bachelor's degree in order to adequately prepare themselves for the position. A master's degree can help them advance in their career.

There are other career options available to those with an online degree in criminology as well. They may also find jobs in social work, as correctional officers, in teaching, or in research. Individuals who wish to teach at the university level or conduct independent research may need to earn a master's or doctoral degree. Jobs can also be found as a police officer, medical examiner, FBI agent, or other law enforcement official. Another area prospective criminologists might find interesting is forensic criminology, which involves using scientific methods and principles and applying them to the study of crimes, criminals, and the criminal justice system as a whole. 


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