The Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Programs

by Melissa Sartore
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An online bachelor's degree in criminal justice explores law enforcement, legal studies, and social services. Finding an affordable online criminal justice degree can set you up for success in the field.

Earning an online degree in criminal justice from the top criminology colleges in the country can provide the knowledge and skills to thrive in entry-level law enforcement, corrections, social services, and public safety positions.

As essential workers, criminal justice professionals remain in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects strong employment growth from 2020-2030 for police officers, detectives, and crime investigators. Criminal justice positions, like probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, received similar job projections.

Criminal justice professionals provide overall safety to individuals and communities. In criminology colleges, students may explore law and investigation fundamentals, along with core psychology and sociology concepts.

To find out more about the most affordable online bachelor's in criminal justice degrees, common coursework, and available career pathways, check out the rankings below.

The Most Affordable Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Programs

  1. California State University-Stanislaus
    Location

    Turlock, CA

    With a commitment to access and inclusion, California State University, Stanislaus — founded in 1957 on the local county fairgrounds — features a diverse population of roughly 10,000 students. Students at Stanislaus State can choose from 43 undergraduate majors, 41 undergraduate minors, 16 master's degrees, and one doctoral degree.

    The college offers on-site classes at its 228-acre main campus in Turlock and its auxiliary campus in Stockton. Stanislaus State also offers online classes. To meet growing demand, Stanislaus State has increased online class offerings from 59 courses in the fall of 2014 to more than 100 classes offered in the fall of 2018.

    The accelerated pace of the university's hybrid bachelor's degree in criminal justice lets students graduate in 18 months. This cohort-based program runs on blended learning, combining one in-person evening class held every week with asynchronous online coursework. Courses last five weeks each. Students begin the program by taking courses such as methods of criminal justice inquiry, causes of crime, criminal procedures, and juvenile justice. Depending on a student's career interests, they can pursue a concentration in law enforcement or corrections.

    Applicants must enter the program with at least 60 transferable credits, including 12 lower-division criminal justice credits and 30 general education credits. They must also have at least a 2.0 GPA. Before applying, prospective students meet with the program director.

  2. California State University-San Bernardino
    Location

    San Bernardino, CA

    California State University, San Bernardino opened its main campus in 1965 and now enrolls over 20,000 students from diverse backgrounds. 81% of CSUSB graduates self-report as the first in their families to earn a college degree. Most students hail from San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

    Students at CSUSB can pick from 70 certificates, bachelor's degrees, and master's degrees. For students who need a more flexible schedule, CSUSB also offers five entirely online programs and five hybrid degrees that combine in-person and online classes.

    One of CSUSB's distance learning offerings is an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice. This degree completion program's flexible, asynchronous format may appeal to working professionals who can study from home when it suits their schedule. However, students may need to attend occasional on-campus presentations. After students complete the program's general education requirements, they can take major coursework, including introduction to the criminal justice system, criminal law, and theories of crime and delinquency. CSUSB also offers an online master's degree in criminal justice.

    Applicants must complete the admissions process through Cal State Apply. Students submit their unofficial transcripts, citizenship status, and annual income. The criminal justice program only admits students for the fall quarter. The program suits transfer students who have earned a two-year degree from an accredited community college.

  3. CSU Global
    Location

    Greenwood Village, CO

    Colorado State University's online campus provides career-specific degrees and certificate programs designed for working professionals. In 2007, CSU-Global began offering online classes to 200 students. Today, the campus serves about 18,000 students. CSU-Global's courses do not include in-person requirements, although the larger CSU system offers on-site classes at its physical campuses in Fort Collins and Pueblo.

    CSU-Global offers more than 40 online degrees, including an entirely online criminal justice bachelor's degree. Customized learning paths at CSU-Global let students choose certifications and specializations to tailor their bachelor's degree. Criminal justice students can pursue a cyber threat emergency management path, a data investigation path, or a department leadership path. Specialized training prepares graduates for careers as police officers, probation officers, or emergency management directors.

    Students do not attend classes at set times. Instead, they complete asynchronous coursework and make their own schedule during the school year, which consists of eight-week terms. Online students can access the support of tutors, instructors, and their peers through email and chat discussions.

    At CSU-Global, classes begin every month. Students enjoy set tuition rates that do not increase while they are enrolled. The college accepts up to 64 transfer credits from accredited community colleges. Students may also receive up to 90 credits at CSU-Global based on previous four-year college credits, work experience, and/or military experience. Applicants with less than 13 transferable credits must apply as first-year students.

  4. California State University-Sacramento
    Location

    Sacramento, CA

    Founded in 1947, California State University, Sacramento — dubbed "Tree Campus USA" by the Arbor Day Foundation — features a scenic 300-acre campus that houses more than 3,500 trees. Sacramento State offers an expansive catalog of approximately 60 undergraduate programs, 40 graduate programs, and two doctoral degrees.

    Students can also take online courses through Sacramento State. The school's bachelor's degree in criminal justice suits working professionals who have already completed criminal justice prerequisites and general education requirements at a two-year program. Applicants typically enter the program with at least 45 transferable credits and a minimum 2.6 GPA.

    Classes follow set start and end dates, but otherwise students can complete assignments and log in at their convenience. Every class lasts eight weeks. To graduate, students must complete 60 criminal justice credits. Required classes include law of crimes, the community and the justice system, and crime and punishment.

    Most students bring transfer credits with them and graduate within two years. Graduates pursue careers in corrections, law enforcement, and parole and probation systems. The degree also prepares students to enroll in master's programs. The university's career center can help students with career counseling and job/internship placement.

  5. University of Houston-Downtown
    Location

    Houston, TX

    University of Houston - Downtown, established in 1974, operates a main campus in downtown Houston and three satellite locations throughout Texas. Students can choose between 44 bachelor's degrees and eight master's degrees at UHD. One of four colleges in the University of Houston System, UHD also offers 15 online undergraduate degrees and three online master's degrees.

    The online criminal justice bachelor's degree at UHD teaches students how to critically analyze the criminal justice system. The program focuses on preventative crime measures and the root causes of crime. Students must complete 120 credits, including 24 upper-level criminal justice classes. To graduate, students must take at least 25% of their classes at UHD and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA.

    During their junior year, students can carry out internships at criminal justice agencies. After graduation, many individuals go on to work in law enforcement, corrections, computer forensics, and human resources.

    The criminal justice department offers scholarships specifically for criminal justice students, including the 100 Club Scholarship Fund, the Clarence Kendall Endowment Scholarship Fund, the International Comparative Criminal Justice Scholarship, and multiple graduate assistantships. First-time applicants must submit their transcripts, pay the application fee, and submit SAT or ACT scores. UHD also offers a fully online master's degree in criminal justice to students interested in an advanced degree.

  6. Texas Woman's University
    Location

    Denton, TX

    Texas Woman's University — a public institution founded in 1957 — has grown from a small, all-women's college to a coeducational institution with 15,000 students and three campuses. Students can attend classes at the main campus in Denton or at additional locations in Dallas and Houston. Despite the university's expansion over the years, TWU's classes maintain a personalized atmosphere with a student-to-faculty ratio of 18-to-1.

    In addition to face-to-face classes, TWU offers online programming. Its online criminal justice bachelor's degree incorporates a social sciences curriculum. Classes in the program include racial and ethics groups in the United States, social inequality, law and society, and correctional systems and practices. TWU's political science and sociology departments combine to oversee the criminal justice program. Students must complete 120 credits to graduate, including 57 criminal justice major credits. The degree takes four years to earn.

    The admissions process includes submitting a complete online application through ApplyTexas with an application fee, official transcripts, and — in some cases — SAT or ACT scores. Applicants should submit all materials at least six weeks before the start of a term.

  7. University of South Florida
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Established in 1956, the University of South Florida features a main campus in Tampa and operates additional locations in St. Petersburg and Sarasota. Students can also enroll in 180 entirely online undergraduate, master's, and doctoral programs offered through 14 academic colleges.

    USF's online bachelor's degree in criminal justice provides a degree completion pathway to students who hold an associate of science degree. Eligible students enter the program with 60 community college credits. Once admitted, students work with an academic advisor to plan their customized degree.

    Students in the program must complete 18 general education credits, 24 criminal justice credits, three writing credits, and 15 elective credits. To graduate, students need to complete a total of 120 credits. The required curriculum includes a senior capstone course, which gives students an opportunity to apply their practical skills in a workplace setting. Undergraduates can also complete a mentored research experience through USF.

    The program caters to students who hold an associate of science degree earned at a two-year college in Florida. Graduates with an associate of arts degree cannot apply. Eligible applicants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA.

  8. University of Nebraska at Omaha
    Location

    Omaha, NE

    Since opening in 1908, the University of Nebraska Omaha — a metropolitan university and a Carnegie Doctoral Research institution — has remained committed to fostering community engagement. Today, the university maintains over 500 partnerships with nonprofits, businesses, and agencies. Additionally, more than 700 classes feature internship or service-learning opportunities.

    The University of Nebraska System offers more than 200 undergraduate programs and 70 graduate degrees and certificates. Students can earn an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice at UNO. The program trains students to work as drug agents, police officers, and correctional counselors.

    Maintaining the university's commitment to service learning, 120 of the program's students complete internships at the U.S. Marshals Service, the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, and the Nebraska State Patrol every year. Students in the program have the option to complete up to six credits through internships.

    The program breaks down into two sections: pre-criminology/criminal justice courses and upper-level criminology courses. Criminology major requirements include classes such as research methods, the criminal court system, police and society, and a survey of criminal justice. Before their junior year, students must declare a minor or concentration. To graduate with an online criminal justice bachelor's degree, students must complete a total of 120 credits.

    UNO's admissions department reviews applications in the spring, summer, and fall. Students can apply up to 64 transfer credits toward an undergraduate degree at UNO.

  9. Bellevue University
    Location

    Bellevue, NE

    Established in 1966, Bellevue University enrolls over 9,000 students. Centered around a 46-acre campus in Bellevue, Nebraska, the university also operates eight satellite locations throughout Nebraska, Washington, Idaho, and Iowa.

    Students can choose from over 80 on-campus degrees and certificates at BU. The university also offers more than 70 online bachelor's and master's degrees, including a fully online bachelor's degree in criminal justice. This program is delivered through an accelerated cohort format. The curriculum consists of 127 credits, including 40 major credits, 51 elective credits, and 36 general education credits. The program prepares students for careers as social workers, detectives, legal secretaries, and police officers.

    While studying online, distance learners can access college resources such as free tutoring, online interactive writing assistance, and internship opportunities. All students also take three classes in the Kirkpatrick Signature Series: American vision and values, tradition and change, and freedom and responsibility.

    Applicants must have an associate degree or 60 credits from an accredited college to qualify for admission.

  10. Indiana University-East
    Location

    Richmond, IN

    When it opened in 1971, Indiana University East primarily served students in eastern Indiana and western Ohio. Today, the university welcomes students from 44 different states. The average classroom at IU East consists of 17 students, providing an intimate learning experience. However, students can also reap the benefits available through the larger Indiana University System.

    IU East provides more than 60 certificate, bachelor's, and master's programs. Students can also pick from 14 online undergraduate and graduate degrees and three graduate certificates. The online criminal justice bachelor's degree covers topics such as crime scene investigation, criminology, and management. Students in this degree completion program learn the practical and analytical skills necessary to become bailiffs, probation officers, lawyers, and correctional officers.

    The program caters to students who have already earned either an associate degree or 60 transferable credits. Qualified applicants must have earned a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 during their associate program. Students must complete at least 30 credits at IU East, including 15 credits in the major.

Affordable Online Bachelor's

Affordable Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Programs Ranking Guidelines

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

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

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Featured Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Programs

Choosing an Online Criminal Justice Program

Finding the right online criminal justice program requires students to research many factors, including cost, resident tuition eligibility, and potential degree length.

Program length and structure, course delivery format, specializations, and accreditation status all weigh heavily into the choice of the criminal justice program that meets your personal and professional goals. You can find out more about each of these considerations at the links below.

How Much Does Online College Cost?

The cost of earning a degree online varies by institution, discipline, and program type. When exploring the best fit for an online bachelor's degree, students should research whether a school charges non-resident tuition for online learners. Many institutions offer the same tuition rates to all online students, regardless of location.

Students researching online degree costs should consider the savings that accompany online learning. Distance learning allows degree-seekers to avoid room and board costs, commuting expenses, and additional fees charged to on-campus learners.

Funding a Degree in Criminal Justice

Students have numerous options to fund their online criminal justice. Each online or on-campus learner can start their financial aid journey by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Submitting the FAFSA form provides applicants with student loan information and can lead to additional funding opportunities through scholarships and work-study options.

Members of specific communities may have additional financial aid options. Military service personnel and veterans can apply for additional aid, along with members of specific communities. Women, individuals in minority groups, and learners in certain disciplines can pursue private scholarships to help pay for college degrees.

The WIFLE Scholarship supports students majoring in criminal justice or other related fields. Each applicant must enroll full time, demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA, and submit an essay and letter of support for consideration. Scholarship recipients receive $1,500 annually. NOBLE provides several scholarships. Through the NOBLE Awards program, students may qualify for nine scholarships. Candidates can pursue additional funding opportunities through the National Scholarship program and the Rafaela A. Valdez Memorial Scholarship. Awards vary among these scholarships. Brian Terry Scholars receive funding based on their positive impact upon their communities, commitment to criminal justice, and prior academic success. Each candidate must provide two letters of recommendation, an essay, and transcripts for consideration. The Brian Terry Foundation delivers awards to learners in criminal justice and other related majors based on individual need. My Alarm Center, a leader in home security and safety monitoring, provides annual funding to students entering degrees in public safety, law enforcement, criminal justice, and other related fields. Applicants submit essays describing their community involvement, goals, and futures in the public safety profession. Honoring the memory of its namesake, the Melissa Linville Criminal Justice Scholarship supports students pursuing careers in criminal justice. Each candidate must submit an essay, transcripts, and contact information to be considered for this $500 award

What to Expect From a Criminal Justice Major

Criminal justice programs vary among institutions and departments, but core coursework across the discipline includes fundamentals of law enforcement, public safety, and criminal investigations. Learners study law, psychology, and sociology while fostering critical thinking, analytical, and research skills. Additionally, some online criminal justice bachelor's degrees provide opportunities to take specialized coursework in subsets of the field.

Criminal Justice Concentrations

  • Criminal Forensics: A concentration in criminal forensics emphasizes crime, criminal behavior, and forensics investigations. Forensics concentrations often incorporate coursework in chemistry, information technology, and biology. It is ideal for students who want to pursue careers as laboratory technicians, digital forensics investigators, and crime scene specialists.
  • Juvenile Justice: Juvenile justice coursework focuses on prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation for youth and adolescent offenders. Enrollees explore laws and policies that apply to juveniles, along with the psychology and sociology of juvenile behavior. This concentration benefits individuals who want to work as social workers, juvenile corrections officers, or mentors.
  • Homeland Security Concentration: A homeland security concentration emphasizes theories and practices of preventing, detecting, and managing possible threats to national security. Coursework includes border and transportation security, infrastructure protection, and emergency preparedness and response. Graduates can pursue career opportunities in federal and state law enforcement, along with the private security sector.
  • Administration: Criminal justice administration coursework emphasizes function and leadership in the criminal justice field. Degree-seekers study interagency communication, court systems and processes, and politics and government to gain a holistic understanding of the criminal justice system.

Criminal Justice Careers

The versatility of a criminal justice degree opens many career opportunities. Individuals can pursue entry-level roles as police officers, corrections specialists, and criminal investigators. Some positions for criminal justice students may require additional certification, training, or licensure. A bachelor's degree in criminal justice can also lead to continued study at the master's and doctoral levels.

How Much Can You Earn in Criminal Justice?

Salaries for individuals working in criminal justice vary by position, location, and experience. Common roles for criminal justice students include probation and police officers — which both received strong employment projections for 2020-2030. Emergency management directors, who must possess advanced degrees, rank among the top-paying positions for criminal justice professionals.

Criminal Justice Salary Info
Career Median Annual Wage (2020) Projected Job Growth (2020-2030)
Emergency Management Directors $76,250 6%
Fish and Game Wardens $58,040 0%
Detectives and Criminal Investigators $86,940 2%
Police or Sheriff's Patrol Officers $65,540 7%
Private Detectives and Investigators $53,320 13%
Probation Officers $55,690 4%
Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics

Frequently Asked Questions About Criminology Colleges

Is an Online Criminal Justice Degree More Affordable?

An online criminal justice degree compares in cost to many other college degrees. This includes online and on-campus options.

Is a Criminal Justice Degree Worth It?

An online criminal justice degree is worth it for individuals who want to help others, serve the public, and explore the criminal justice system. It also opens up many employment opportunities.

What's the Highest-Paying Job in Criminal Justice?

Detectives and criminal investigators earn one of the highest median salaries in criminal justice at $86,940 as of May 2020.

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