Best Online Associate in Criminal Justice

by TBS Staff

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Criminal justice degrees prepare students for diverse careers in areas like social work, security, and law enforcement.

Earning an associate in criminal justice provides the experience and academic credentials needed for entry-level roles in a variety of fields. Although many graduates pursue careers in law enforcement, a criminal justice associate degree also prepares students for careers in other areas, like paralegal work, security, and management.

Graduates enjoy strong job prospects. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average job growth for private detectives and investigators, paralegals and legal assistants, and police and detectives between 2018 and 2028.

Recent events regarding police reform may impact this degree and career paths associated with it. The movement of some municipalities and states to divert funding away from police departments and invest in other public service areas may contribute to some uncertainty for the field of policing. However, it may also contribute to more job openings in adjacent public service areas, such as social work and mental health counseling, as professionals in these areas begin to work more closely with police departments.

This guide ranks the best online associate in criminal justice programs. It also covers other important information for prospective students, including common courses and potential careers and salaries for graduates.

Featured Online Schools

The Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Programs

  1. Copiah-Lincoln Community College

    Wesson, MS



    Founded in 1915, Co-Lin offers 33 fully online associate degree programs across a variety of disciplines.

    Co-Lin offers an online associate of science in criminal justice degree for students interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement. In addition to general education requirements in core areas, students take classes such as introduction to criminal justice, police administration, and juvenile justice.

    To receive their degree, students must complete 63 credits according to the course plan. Students may transfer the entirety of their associate degree to one of Mississippi's public universities to complete their bachelor's degree.

  2. North Central Missouri College

    Trenton, MO



    Founded in 1925, NCMC now offers classes across four physical campuses and online.

    NCMC offers an associate of applied science degree in criminal justice to help students launch their careers in law enforcement. Students take 15 credits in general education followed by 46-58 credits in criminal justice.

    Major courses include criminology, procedural law, and deviant behavior. Students also complete a three-credit practicum before graduation. All coursework takes place entirely online.

  3. Trinity Valley Community College

    Athens, TX



    Founded in 1946, TVCC offers flexible educational and workforce opportunities to students of all backgrounds.

    TVCC's associate of applied science in criminal justice takes place in a fully online format. Courses include court systems and practices, fundamentals of criminal law, and the juvenile justice system. Students may receive 13 credits for completion of an approved law enforcement training program and passing the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement exam.

    To begin the program, students must receive a satisfactory score on the Texas Success Initiative exam.

  4. Dawson Community College

    Glendive, MT



    With origins stretching back to 1940, DCC offers 19 career and technical programs across several disciplines.

    DCC's associate of applied science in criminal justice prepares students to work in law enforcement, corrections, or other criminal justice settings immediately upon graduation. Students choose electives based on their specific interests or follow a plan of study to work as a peace officer or in private security.

    Courses take place fully online and cover topics such as police patrol procedures, criminal investigation, and ethics and leadership in criminal justice.

  5. Pensacola State College

    Pensacola, FL



    The largest and oldest college in the Florida Panhandle, PSC enrolls roughly 26,000 students each year.

    PSC offers a fully online associate of science in criminal justice technology degree program that prepares students for careers as police officers and detectives, criminal investigators, and other occupations.

    Courses include criminal investigation, introduction to criminalistics, and probation and parole. Students may receive up to 15 credits for prior training at an approved program, equivalent to a full semester of the two year program.

  6. Highland Community College

    Highland, KS



    Founded in 1858 as the first college in Kansas, today HCC offers over 60 areas of study to its students.

    HCC's associate in applied science in criminal justice can be completed entirely online. Students take general education courses and criminal justice core courses including corrections, criminal procedures, and first aid and safety.

    To graduate, students must complete 60 credits as well as a practicum in the administration of justice.

    Applicants must submit official high school or GED transcripts and ACT or SAT scores.

  7. Northeast Community College

    Norfolk, NE



    Northeast offers over 130 degree programs to just over 13,000 credit and non-credit seeking students.

    Northeast offers both an associate of applied science (AAS) and an associate of arts (AA) in criminal justice in an online format. Students planning to transfer to a bachelor's degree program should choose the AA degree option, with tracks in corrections and law enforcement. AAS students will be prepared to enter the criminal justice workforce right after graduation.

    Courses include police and society, community-based corrections, and security and loss prevention. Students with the Nebraska Jail Management Certification may receive three elective credits for prior training.

    Current law enforcement officers may be eligible for tuition waivers.

  8. Daytona State College

    Daytona Beach, FL



    DSC boasts a range of bachelor, associate, and certificate programs available fully or partially online.

    The associate of science in criminal justice technology provides law enforcement and correctional officer training graduates who have passed the Florida State Officer Certification program. Ideal students include those who are currently working in law enforcement but don't wish to obtain a bachelor's degree.

    Classes take place in seven-week formats and may be taken online or in-person, although one required course is only available on-campus. Up to 24 vocational credits may be awarded for previous training.

  9. Spartanburg Methodist College

    Spartanburg, SC

    Founded in 1911, SMC now enrolls just over 1,000 students from across South Carolina.

    SMC offers a fully online associate degree in criminal justice. Courses include police ethics, criminal evidence and procedures, and community-based corrections. Classes begin every eight weeks.

    Students may transfer up to 30 credits of qualifying post-secondary coursework. The completed associate degree may be transferred to a bachelor degree program at SMC for continued education in criminal justice.

  10. Ulster County Community College

    Stone Ridge, NY



    Founded in 1963, SUNY Ulster boasts a proud tradition of preparing students for career success and further educational opportunities.

    SUNY Ulster offers a fully online associate of science in criminal justice degree for current employees in the criminal justice sector or those looking to enter the field for the first time. The two-year curriculum covers topics like the criminal justice system, constitutional criminal procedure, and corrections and community supervision.

    Students may optionally complete a criminal justice internship, or satisfy the credit requirement through electives.

Best Online Programs

Online Associate's in Criminal Justice Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

What Is an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Degree?

Online associate in criminal justice programs typically comprise around 60 credits and take two years of full-time study to complete. General education requirements often constitute the majority of courses in an associate degree program. In addition to general education courses in areas like writing, mathematics, and the humanities, criminal justice students may take major courses in areas like criminal law, government, and psychology.

Students interested in pursuing entry-level careers in law enforcement or a related four-year degree benefit from earning a criminal justice associate degree online.

Featured Criminal Justice Programs

Choosing an Online Program

When choosing an online associate in criminal justice program, learners should consider factors like their goals, their current lifestyle and personal obligations, and their budget. Learn more about how to choose an online degree through the link below.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate in Criminal Justice Program?

Online criminal justice associate programs often include courses in the fundamentals of law and ethics, the criminal justice system, and government. Some programs also include courses in psychology and public speaking.

Associate in Criminal Justice Curriculum


This course outlines the definitions for various criminal acts and examines the psychological, social, and moral influences on criminal behavior. Learners study various responses to criminal behavior, including public policy, law, and criminal justice scholarship.

Criminal Justice Ethics

This course provides an overview of the various codes of ethics used within the criminal justice system. Students explore ethics in law enforcement, policing, corrections, and court systems. They gain skills in ethical mediation and learn how to navigate ethical dilemmas in the criminal justice system.

Police Studies

Courses in police studies provide foundational knowledge of the policing system in the U.S., covering topics like police history, crime patterns and response, and the development of police procedure. Students may take more than one course in police studies, especially if they plan to work in the field.

Where Can an Associate in Criminal Justice Degree Take Me?

A criminal justice associate degree prepares graduates for a variety of careers in diverse areas. The following list outlines several common career paths for graduates.

Criminal Justice Careers

An associate in criminal justice provides a strong foundation for a variety of jobs, both within and outside of law enforcement. Courses in criminal justice programs emphasize skills like critical thinking, leadership, ethics, and communication, preparing students for success in diverse roles. This section outlines several common careers for graduates.


Paralegals work alongside lawyers, providing assistance and support for law firms. They perform administrative tasks, manage files, and conduct legal research. An associate degree serves as the minimum education requirement for this position, and although optional, some paralegals may choose to earn certification.

Paralegals excel in organization and time management. They possess a working knowledge of the law, and apply that knowledge to their research and case work. Paralegal training prepares students to enter the field and pursue further education.

Median Annual Salary


Projected Growth Rate


Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants work in a variety of environments, including individual and family services, nursing care facilities, hospitals, and rehabilitation clinics. An associate degree provides the necessary basic education for these positions; however, some employers may require a bachelor's degree.

Social and human service assistants need strong communication, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. They may work for nonprofit organizations or serve in roles within government services. Generally, no formal licensure is required.

Median Annual Salary


Projected Growth Rate


Police and Detectives

Police officers and detectives serve local communities by protecting citizens and upholding local, state, and federal laws. Police officers work in emergency services, responding to emergency calls and providing assistance when crimes occur or when citizens are in distress. Detectives investigate crimes, following up on leads and tips from the community, and seek justice for victims of crimes under the law.

Recent shifts in attitudes toward policing may contribute to a change in roles for police officers, with some job duties shifting toward human service professionals, like mental health and social workers.

Median Annual Salary


Projected Growth Rate


Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to complete an associate in criminal justice program?

Associate degree programs typically take two years of full-time study to complete, though some schools offer accelerated programs.

What can I do with an associate in criminal justice?

Many graduates pursue jobs in policing and corrections. However, they can also pursue careers as firefighters, private detectives and investigators, and social and community service workers.

Is criminal justice an AA or AS degree?

Typically, criminal justice associate degrees are AA degrees, but some schools offer AS in criminal justice programs.

Is an associate in criminal justice difficult?

Pursuing a postsecondary degree requires hard work, focus, organization, and drive. Online criminal justice programs also require students to possess strong time management skills and self-discipline.

Is it hard to find a job with a criminal justice degree?

Many potential jobs for associate in criminal justice graduates are projected to grow between 2018 and 2028, so students enjoy strong job prospects.

What is the difference between law enforcement and policing?

Law enforcement encompasses a wider range of roles and careers than policing. Policing refers directly to the work of police officers; law enforcement includes all different areas of the criminal justice system.

How can I help society with a criminal justice degree?

A criminal justice degree prepares students to pursue roles in a variety of human and community service fields. Many graduates pursue roles in helping industries, like social work and public health.

How do social workers and law enforcement work together?

Social workers often work to foster a more positive relationship between law enforcement and civilians. Today's shifting ideas about police work may also lead to social workers stepping in to assist law enforcement more often.

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