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Earning an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice prepares students for meaningful work helping communities. This versatile degree can propel graduates into rewarding careers in law enforcement and public safety, social services, and private industries. Graduates often work as police officers, detectives, correctional specialists, special guards, and federal agents. Graduates may also work as forensic analysts, fraud investigators, and mediators.

Many employers in protective services prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor's in criminal justice or a related field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an undergraduate degree is the minimum educational requirement for employment at a growing number of federal agencies. Additionally, many local and state police departments list a bachelor's degree as a requirement for promotion.

The BLS projects employment for police officers and detectives to increase by 7% through 2026, matching the national average for all occupations. The best-paying industries for these positions offer salaries between $60,000-$90,000, depending on employer and location.

The Most Affordable Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Affordable Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Degree Program Ranking Guidelines:
We selected these online criminal justice degrees based on their quality, criminal justice coursework, faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school's reputation for providing quality online degree programs.

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.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

The Most Affordable Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

California State University-Stanislaus View School Profile Turlock, CA California State University, Stanislaus is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

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.

California State University-San Bernardino View School Profile San Bernardino, CA California State University, San Bernardino is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

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.

CSU Global View School Profile Greenwood Village, CO Colorado State University Global Campus is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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.

California State University-Sacramento View School Profile Sacramento, CA California State University, Sacramento is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

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.

University of Houston-Downtown View School Profile Houston, TX University of Houston - Downtown is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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.

Texas Woman's University View School Profile Denton, TX Texas Woman's University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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.

University of South Florida View School Profile Tampa, FL The University of South Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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.

University of Nebraska at Omaha View School Profile Omaha, NE The University of Nebraska Omaha is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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.

Bellevue University View School Profile Bellevue, NE Bellevue University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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.

Indiana University-East View School Profile Richmond, IN Indiana University East is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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.

Central Methodist University View School Profile Fayette, MO Central Methodist University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Since 1854, Central Methodist University — a private, four-year college — has offered classes from its campus in Fayette, Missouri. Students can also take classes at satellite locations in Clinton, Columbia-Parkade, Lake of the Ozarks, and Sedalia. Approximately 1,000 students attend classes on the main campus, while over 4,000 CMU students take off-site and online courses.

CMU offers 24 online bachelor's tracks and three online master's programs. Classes may be delivered through eight-week or 16-week terms. Students can complete entire degrees through distance learning — such as the school's online criminal justice bachelor's degree — or combine on-campus and online classes. CMU offers a bachelor of arts in criminal justice, which requires more social science credits, as well as a bachelor of science in criminal justice.

These online criminal justice bachelor's degrees require students to complete 120 credits. They take 21-24 general education credits, 39 criminal justice credits, and nine elective credits. In addition to teaching students about theoretical processes in criminal justice, the program gives participants practical hands-on experience in prisons, crime scenes, and the courts through field trips. The program also integrates guest speakers who work in criminal justice or law enforcement.

CMU accepts both first-year and transfer students. Transfer students must submit transcripts with a minimum 2.0 GPA and at least 60 approved credits. First-time students must submit SAT or ACT scores and high school transcripts.

The University of Texas at El Paso View School Profile El Paso, TX The University of Texas at El Paso is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Located near the United States-Mexico border, the University of Texas at El Paso is committed to educating a diverse student population. UTEP, which opened its doors in 1914, maintains a student body composed of 80% Hispanic students. UTEP's 25,000 enrolled students also come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, with half self-reporting as the first in their families to attend college.

UTEP offers 75 bachelor's degrees, 74 master's degrees, and 22 doctoral programs through nine colleges and schools. Students can also earn degrees entirely online. For example, the school's online criminal justice bachelor's degree takes advantage of UTEP's unique location by focusing on crime along the United States-Mexico border. Students take classes such as criminal justice on the United States-Mexico border and immigration law and administration.

The program's asynchronous format lets students adjust their school schedule around their home and professional lives. Graduates can pursue jobs as border patrol agents, corrections officers, FBI agents, and immigrations and customs agents. Students in the program must earn 120 credits, including 36 criminal justice credits. Most online classes last seven weeks, although some last 14 weeks.

Applicants begin the admissions process by meeting with an enrollment counselor. Then they can submit required materials through ApplyTexas.

Dalton State College View School Profile Dalton, GA Dalton State College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Located in northwest Georgia, Dalton State College opened in 1967 with 524 students. As of the fall of 2018, Dalton State enrolled more than 5,000 students. Today, learners can choose from more than 20 bachelor's degrees, 19 associate degrees, 23 minors, and three certificates.

The school's online criminal justice bachelor's degree equips students with the research and analytical skills needed to work in law enforcement or corrections. Dalton State offers three online learning options: eLearning, eCore, or eMajor. Students who take eLearning classes study with Dalton State faculty. In eCore classes, students from any school in the University System of Georgia system can complete two years of coursework through online learning. Finally, the eMajor option allows students to earn an accelerated degree by receiving credit for prior learning.

Students pursuing an online criminal justice bachelor's degree can take advantage of the eMajor program to earn credit for life and career experiences. All distance learners enrolled in the University System of Georgia take the same general education classes. Undergraduate students must take courses that cover communication, quantitative skills, humanities, and math/science.

To transfer to Dalton State, students must submit official transcripts and an immunization certification. Students with less than 30 transferable credits must also submit SAT or ACT scores and their high school transcripts.

University of Louisiana at Monroe View School Profile Monroe, LA The University of Louisiana at Monroe is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Established in 1931 as a junior college, ULM has since expanded its presence beyond Monroe, Louisiana. The university enrolls over 8,800 undergraduate and graduate students, the majority of whom major in the arts, education, or sciences. Other top majors include psychology, business administration, construction management, and criminal justice.

ULM also offers 17 completely online degrees. Its online bachelor's degree in criminal justice qualifies graduates to work as police officers, correctional officers, probation officers, and fish and game wardens. Within six months of graduation, 88% of graduates find jobs in the criminal justice field. The program includes courses such as theories of crime and delinquency, constitutional law, and criminal justice. The curriculum also prepares students to transition into ULM master's program in criminal justice.

Online classes at ULM usually last eight weeks. Typically, students take two or three courses every session. To help online students stay organized and focused, ULM recommends that students use the My Homework Application to keep track of assignment deadlines and exams.

Distance students earning an online degree at ULM do not pay out-of-state tuition fees. Students can take advantage of prior learning assessment options, including testing out of certain courses.

Amridge University View School Profile Montgomery, AL Amridge University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Founded in 1967, Amridge University has served as a pioneer in distance learning since 1993. Located in Montgomery, Alabama, the university offers associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees through five schools.

Students can earn an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice at Amridge. The program requires students to complete 128 credits and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA. Students in the program take 40 general education credits, 40 criminal justice credits, and 48 elective credits. Classes teach students about criminal procedures, criminal justice theories, and how to gather investigative evidence. Keeping with the university's Churches of Christ affiliation, students can take a survey of the Bible course to satisfy part of their humanities and fine arts requirements.

Out of the 128 required credits, students must complete 30 upper-level credits and 30 criminal justice credits. Transfers students can bring up to 64 credits with them, but participants must complete at least 40 credits at Amridge. The program's curriculum readies students for careers as police officers and police chaplains. Graduates also go on to pursue master's degrees in leadership, management, or ministerial leadership.

University of Houston-Victoria View School Profile Victoria, TX The University of Houston - Victoria is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Established in 1973, UHV operates a main campus situated between four major cities in Victoria, Texas. Students can pursue 70 bachelor's and master's degrees and specializations at the school's main campus or at satellite locations in Katy and Houston. The university offers small class sizes and personalized attention with a total enrollment of around 4,300 students.

UHV also offers a completely online bachelor's degree in criminal justice that uses an asynchronous format. Students in the program need to earn a total of 120 credits, completing at least 30 credits at UHV. Program coursework includes classes in criminology, research methods and criminal justice, and the ethics of social control.

Applications must go through ApplyTexas. Transfer students must hold at least 12 transferable credits and submit transcripts that show a minimum 2.0 GPA. First-year applicants with less than 12 transferable credits must also submit proof of a minimum 2.0 GPA. They also need to be ranked in the top 50% of their class and have an SAT score of at least 940 or an ACT score of at least 18.

UHV maintains transfer agreements with South Texas community colleges, including Blinn College, Coastal Bend College, Houston Community College, and Lone Star College.

Excelsior College View School Profile Albany, NY Excelsior College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Excelsior College began operations in 1971 with the mission of providing distance learning opportunities to working professionals. Today, the college — which serves more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students — caters to underrepresented communities in particular.

Students at Excelsior can choose from more than 30 programs in the fields of business, health, public service, and nursing, among others. The public service department offers a completely online criminal justice bachelor's degree. The career-related skills students gain from this 120-credit program prepare them to work in areas related to victim advocacy, law enforcement, and probation and parole. Required classes include research methods in criminal justice, criminology, and a writing-intensive capstone course.

Students in the program can also complete a 15-credit homeland security concentration. To graduate, students must complete 120 credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA.

Classes begin every eight weeks. To help students maximize their prior learning credits, the college accepts an average of 70 transfer credits and a maximum of 117 transfer credits. Students can receive credit for military and police service. Other ways to earn prior learning credit include exams, industry certifications, and professional training.

Northern Kentucky University View School Profile Highland Heights, KY Northern Kentucky University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Located in Highland Heights, Northern Kentucky University maintains a central campus near Cincinnati. The university — which began operations in 1946 — originally provided basic skills courses to secretaries and World War II veterans. Nowadays, NKU serves more than 14,000 students.

Students at NKU can pick from two associate degrees, 90 bachelor's degrees, 24 graduate programs, and three doctoral degrees. The university also offers 24 completely online degrees. The school's 120-credit online criminal justice bachelor's degree introduces students to three components of criminal justice: law enforcement, courts, and corrections. Classes follow a seven-week schedule.

Graduates can find jobs as customs officers, police officers, and fish and game wardens. In addition to a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, the university also offers a criminal justice minor and a criminalistics minor.

The university offers two start dates every semester. Students can pick their start date when they submit their application materials. All students — including out-of-state distance learners — pay the same tuition. Transfer students should have 24 or more transferable credits and a minimum 2.0 GPA. Applicants who are 21 years or younger must submit ACT or SAT scores.

University of Colorado Denver View School Profile Denver, CO The University of Colorado Denver is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Established in 1912, the University of Colorado Denver — which operated as an extension of CU Boulder until 1973 — has continued to expand its programming since its inception. Today, CU Denver offers more than 140 degrees to its approximately 20,000 students. The university operates two campuses: a main campus in Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

The CU System offered its first distance learning course in 1996. Today, online learners can choose from more than 50 certificates and bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, as well as 450 individual online classes.

CU Denver offers a 120-credit online criminal justice bachelor's degree. The program delivers all of its coursework asynchronously. Students receive assistance from college navigators who answer admissions questions and provide career advice. Students can also access 24/7 librarian support and schedule consultations through the writing center.

CU Denver also offers an entirely online 36-credit master's degree in criminal justice. In five years, students can earn both a bachelor's and master's degree in criminal justice by enrolling in a joint program.

Admission requirements vary depending on a student's standing. Transfer students need a minimum 2.0 GPA, and accepted first-year applicants generally have a GPA between 3.2 and 3.9. Students must complete at least 30 credits at CU Denver to graduate.

Arizona State University-Skysong View School Profile Scottsdale, AZ Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Tracing its roots back to 1885, Arizona State University operates a central campus out of Tempe in addition to four satellite locations. As of the fall of 2016, all campuses reported a total enrollment of nearly 100,000 students.

ASU offers more than 200 online certificates, undergraduate degrees, and graduate degrees. The online criminal justice bachelor's degree requires students to take 40 classes and complete 120 credits. The curriculum focuses on three aspects of the criminal justice system: corrections, courts, and law enforcement. Students take classes such as criminology; research methods; and gender, crime, and criminal justice. In their fourth semester, students can complete an optional internship. The program also offers study abroad opportunities.

Classes last seven and a half weeks. Graduation timelines differ depending on a student's transferable credits. Academic advisors can help students create a schedule that allows them to earn their degree on an accelerated timeline. Students taking an accelerated path to graduation can earn their degrees in 2.5-3 years. All students must earn at least 30 credits at ASU and maintain a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA.

Polk State College View School Profile Winter Haven, FL Polk State College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Since its inception in 1964, Polk State College has steadily expanded its catalog of degrees and programs. Today, Polk State enrolls approximately 20,000 students. The college operates a central campus in Winter Haven, Florida, in addition to satellite locations in Lakeland, Lake Wales, and Bartow.

Polk State offers 25 associate degrees, six bachelor's degrees, and 30 certificates, including some online offerings. To earn the online criminal justice bachelor's degree at Polk State, students must complete 120 credits. This multidisciplinary degree incorporates elements of sociology, law, public policy, and criminology. Requirements for the program include 36 general education credits, 30 upper-division criminal justice credits, and 12 elective credits.

In their final term, students complete a capstone research project in which they analyze criminal justice policies. Students must take the capstone course and at least 30 credits at Polk State. Many students who work full time attend classes on a part-time basis.

To enroll in this program, students must have an associate degree and a minimum 2.0 GPA. The college uses an open enrollment policy. Prospective students should apply eights week prior to their chosen start date. Each applicant works with a personal counselor.

University of Alaska Fairbanks View School Profile Fairbanks, AK The University of Alaska Fairbanks is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks opened its doors in 1922 as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. UAF has grown considerably over the years and now features 10 colleges and schools that offer nearly 150 degrees and 32 certificates.

UAF operates several locations, including five rural campuses and six community centers throughout Alaska. The university enrolls more than 8,000 students. Learners from anywhere in the country can also complete online certificates and degrees at UAF.

Students who enroll in UAF's 120-credit bachelor's degree in criminal justice graduate with a strong understanding of the theoretical and structural concepts of the criminal justice system.

As part of their required coursework, students complete studies in criminology, rural justice in Alaska, introduction to addictive processes, and ethics and justice. As a capstone experience, students complete an internship, take a seminar in critical issues, or conduct a research project.

The degree's curriculum teaches students the knowledge and skills needed to become police officers, parole officers, correctional officers, and court personnel. This four-year degree best suits working professionals in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

UAF accepts applications for the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Students must submit an online application with their high school or college transcripts. Applicants with less than 30 college credits must also submit their ACT or SAT scores.

Peirce College View School Profile Philadelphia, PA Peirce College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Located in the heart of Philadelphia, Peirce College opened its doors in 1865 as the Union Business College, which educated soldiers returning from the Civil War. Today, the college enrolls about 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

Peirce College offers career-focused degrees for working adults, including both face-to-face and online courses. The college's online programs consist of six associate degrees, nine bachelor's degrees, two master's degrees, and two certificates.

Students can earn a 121-credit bachelor's degree in criminal justice degree at an accelerated pace at Peirce. Classes in this hybrid program last for seven or eight weeks. The curriculum teaches students both applied and theoretical criminal justice skills, which prepare them for careers in law enforcement or forensic psychology. Program requirements include classes in criminal law, the correctional system, the criminal court system, and victims and victimization. Students must complete a criminal justice capstone course during their final semester at Peirce.

The program's hybrid format requires distance learners to take some on-campus classes at Peirce's City Center location. New students can receive college credit for military and career experience. The program allows students to apply up to 90 transfer credits toward their degree. They can also earn up to 57 credits based on Philadelphia Police Academy training or up to 27 credits based on Philadelphia Division of Prisons work experience.

University of North Texas View School Profile Denton, TX The University of North Texas is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The University of North Texas — a public research school with a 125-year history — enrolls more than 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Located in Denton, UNT offers 105 bachelor's degrees, 88 master's degrees, and 37 doctoral degrees.

In addition to on-campus classes, UNT offers a slate of online programs that includes four bachelor's degrees, 20 graduate degrees, 16 graduate certificates, and two undergraduate certificates. The school's 120-credit online criminal justice bachelor's degree is delivered through an asynchronous format that lets students create their own class schedule.

Many students in the criminal justice program graduate within four years thanks to UNT's flexible transfer policy. UNT allows students to transfer technical and academic credits from an accredited two-year college. Students in the program set their own learning pace, taking 1-3 classes at a time. Online learners can receive studying tips and take learning workshops through UNT's learning center.

Distance learners in the program must complete 27 core criminal justice credits; 15 advanced elective credits; and 12 credits in psychology, sociology, and technical writing and communication. Courses provide students with on-the-job training in courtrooms, police stations, and jails. Students can also participate in an internship to gain work experience.

To enroll in online classes at UNT, prospective students must submit all required materials through ApplyTexas. UNT also provides specific scholarships for criminal justice majors.

Louisiana State University-Alexandria View School Profile Alexandria, LA LSU of Alexandria is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Founded in 1959 as a two-year commuter college, LSU of Alexandria now operates a 2,000-acre campus in central Louisiana and enrolls over 3,000 students. The university serves only undergraduates, offering 50 programs and concentrations. Classes provide a personalized education with a student-to-faculty ratio of 19-to-1 and an average class size of 23.

LSUA's online criminal justice bachelor's degree requires students to complete 120 credits. The program provides students with a strong foundation in criminal justice processes and practical skills. The curriculum includes classes such as professional writing in criminal justice, police process, judicial process, and corrections process.

LSUA offers multiple start dates throughout the year. First-year students must complete the TOPS University Diploma and have a minimum 2.0 GPA. In some circumstances, applicants may also need to submit ACT scores. Transfer students must hold a GPA of at least 2.0 and have at least 18 college-level credits, including English and math courses.

Prospective students who have completed the basic skills course at the Louisiana Council on Peace Officers Standards and Training may receive up to 15 credits toward their degree. Applicants who have completed the introduction to correctional techniques course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center can receive up to nine college credits.

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The Advantages of an Criminal Justice Education

While an associate degree qualifies graduates for many entry-level jobs in law enforcement, corrections, and security, these positions tend to offer compensation at the lower end of the industry payscale and limited opportunities for advancement. Individuals who earn a criminal justice bachelor's degree online position themselves to advance their careers.

A bachelor's degree is the preferred or required credential for positions like probation officers, forensic technicians, emergency management directors, and federal agents. Bachelor's degree-holders can further boost their career potential by pursuing a master's, which can lead to leadership positions and higher salaries.


Average Salary by Degree Level

Degree Level Average Salary
Associate Degree in Criminal Justice $46,000
Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice $51,000

Source: PayScale

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Criminal Justice Degree Salary Information

Careers in law enforcement, corrections, and security require assertiveness and physical strength to handle difficult working conditions. Salaries in most criminal justice fields start fairly high compared to other public service careers, and pay rates increase with higher levels of education and work experience. It is also common for law enforcement professionals to receive overtime pay.

Federal Agent
These law enforcement specialists enforce laws and investigate violations on a national level. They work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of State, and other government agencies, gathering evidence, conducting surveillance, and sometimes operating undercover. Applicants must meet rigorous entrance qualifications, including holding a bachelor's degree from an accredited school.
Security Manager
Most organizations prefer to employ security managers with a bachelor's degree and experience in security, management, law enforcement, or a related field. These managers safeguard a company's physical and financial assets, employees, and visitors. They supervise and train security staff, create security policies and procedures, and conduct audits to ensure compliance.
Private Detective/Investigator
Working independently or for private companies, these professionals gather research; conduct interviews; and analyze legal, financial, and personal information for clients. The may conduct surveillance on individuals suspected of criminal actions, investigate fraud for banks or insurance companies, or perform background checks for employers.
Police Officer
Most police departments hire high school graduates or associate degree-holders for entry-level positions, but some require a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field. Depending on individual assignmets, police officers may collect evidence for criminal investigations, participate in arrests and raids, and testify in court cases.
Probation Officer/Correctional Treatment Specialist
These professionals are charged with faciliting the rehabilitation of individuals released from prison on probation or parole. They must understand a client's history, maintain case files, and work with clients to enforce the court-imposed conditions of their release. Duties may include connecting clients with services like drug counseling and job training.

Salary by Experience Level for Criminal Justice Careers

Careers Entry Level
(0-12 Months)
Early Career
(1-4 Years)
Midcareer
(5-9 Years)
Experienced
(10-19 Years)
Federal Agent N/A $65,000 $76,000 $71,000
Security Manager $53,000 $54,000 $62,000 $71,000
Private Detective/Investigator $46,000 $48,000 $50,000 $61,000
Police Officer $44,000 $47,000 $52,000 $60,000
Probation Officer/Correctional Treatment Specialist N/A $40,000 $52,000 N/A

Source: PayScale

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Choosing an Online Criminal Justice Degree Program

Selecting an online criminal justice degree program requires careful research. Each program may feature its own curriculum, distance learning format, and tuition policies. In-state schools generally offer more affordable tuition than out-of-state schools, although some programs charge all online students the same rate. Some programs allow students to complete all coursework online, while others require hybrid classes or on-campus residencies. Consider some of the following factors before enrolling in any program.

  • Program Cost: Several factors can impact the cost of an online criminal justice bachelor's degree. Schools with seemingly low tuition rates may charge hefty technology fees for online credits. Some schools offer discounts for law enforcement or military personnel. Additionally, some online programs provide free readings and other instructional materials, reducing the cost of textbooks.
  • Transfer Policies: Many colleges and universities participate in transfer agreements, enabling the seamless transfer of credits from other schools. Students with prior college experience should research the transfer policies of schools to ensure their credits will transfer to their prospective program.
  • School Size and Type: A small school may offer more personalized attention than a larger school, while a large school may provide more diverse course offerings and concentrations. Earning a degree from a national university with a well-known reputation may appeal to some students, while a smaller school may offer more opportunities for mentoring and personal interactions.
  • Program Length: A typical bachelor's program takes four years to complete, requiring approximately 120 credits. Many online programs offer flexible formats to accommodate the needs of adult learners. Part-time options allow students to take one or two courses each term, increasing flexibility but lengthening the time to completion. Some schools offer an accelerated curriculum, enabling students to complete their degrees in significantly less time.
  • On-campus Requirements: Some online programs feature on-campus requirements. While self-paced learners may prefer the flexibility of an entirely online program, other students benefit from the direct supervision and support provided by a program with a residency component or a hybrid format that includes some face-to-face interaction.

Accreditation for Online Criminal Justice Degrees

Accreditation signifies that a school meets certain academic quality and financial integrity standards, as determined by one of several independent regulatory agencies. Accreditation affects eligibility for federal financial aid, acceptance of transfer credits, and how prospective employers and graduate schools view a degree.

At the institutional level, technical, vocational, and for-profit schools typically apply for national accreditation. Alternatively, nonprofit, degree-granting colleges and universities generally seek the more prestigious regional accreditation designation.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the accreditation process. The ED administers federal financial assistance programs and determines national educational policy. CHEA establishes standards of academic quality, improvement, and accountability to coordinate postsecondary accreditation. Students can find directories of all accredited schools on the websites of the ED and CHEA.

In addition to institutional accreditation, some schools seek programmatic accreditation for their criminal justice programs. For example, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences awards programmatic accreditation to bachelor's and master's programs in criminal justice.

Criminal Justice Concentrations

Many online bachelor's degrees in criminal justice allow students to tailor the program to their interests and goals by offering concentrations. Concentrations vary by program but usually reflect current trends in the field or areas of faculty expertise. The following table outlines common criminal justice concentrations.

  • Investigative Criminology :
    Courses in this concentration explore the methods used to gather and analyze data in law enforcement. Coursework includes laboratory components that provide hands-on training in procedures for conducting investigations; evaluating different types of evidence; and applying new technologies in the areas of surveillance, interviewing and interrogation, and analytics. Students also learn about the use of profiling and the ethical challenges it poses to the criminal justice system.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Police officers, criminal investigators and detectives, crime scene analysts
  • Cybersecurity and Cybercrime:
    This concentration deals with the prevention of computer- and internet-related crimes, detection of system vulnerabilities, and protection of data. Designed for students with some proficiency in computer and technological applications, course topics include digital forensics, information security, and network and mobile systems. Learners study cybercrime technology, including firewalls, data encryption, and other preventive tools.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Cybersecurity specialist, information security analyst, computer forensic examiner
  • Corrections:
    Students learn about the various methods of punishment, treatment, supervision, and rehabilitation of persons convicted of a criminal activity. Learners analyze the underlying rationale for these methods and evaluate best practices for offender interventions that reduce recidivism. Courses typically cover correctional and organizational theories, correctional administration and procedures, penology, and crisis management.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Correctional officers and supervisors, correctional treatment specialists, probation officers, juvenile corrections counselors, prison wardens
  • Criminal Justice Administration :
    This concentration covers administrative policies and practices in criminal justice, providing students with an understanding of management systems in law enforcement agencies and criminal justice organizations. The course also introduces students to contemporary challenges faced by criminal justice administrators. Coursework focuses on business finance, human resource management, ethics and accountability, and public policy and planning.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Police department managers, prison wardens, public policy analysts, social service administrators
  • Homeland Security:
    This concentration covers the major elements of national safety, disaster preparedness, and emergency management. Students gain an understanding of the international security environment as well as traditional and emerging transnational threats. They also examine the roles and functions of government agencies that affect homeland security policies and practices. Courses address domestic and international terrorism, risk assessment and management, and preparedness and response to threats.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Security and intelligence analysts, special agents, Secret Service officers, Immigration and Border Protection officers, Transportation Security Administration officer

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Criminal Justice?

Earning a criminal justice bachelor's degree online typically requires around 120 credits, with full-time students often graduating in four years. However, several factors can impact the length of a degree.

Many online programs allow students with an associate degree or prior college coursework to transfer a large number of credits into a bachelor's program. This could enable transfer students to complete their undergraduate degrees in 18-24 months of full-time enrollment. Some schools also award credit for work and life experiences, further expediting graduation and reducing the overall cost of a degree.

Accelerated formats may appeal to highly motivated students who can handle the quick pace of five- or eight-week terms, instead of more traditional 16-week sessions. These programs usually offer courses continuously throughout the year, allowing students to graduate in less than four years. Online students who choose to attend part time or take a semester or two off because of work or family commitments will take more time to complete their degree; this may lead to higher tuition costs for additional terms of study.

Courses in an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Program

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
    This course introduces students to the philosophy, history, and classical and contemporary theories of criminal justice. Learners study criminal law; constitutional law; and the contemporary criminal justice system, including the structure and functions of law enforcement agencies, courts, and the correctional system.
  • Cybercrime
    This course explores criminal activity committed through computer technology and the internet, emphasizing methods for prevention, detection, and protection. Topics include computer hacking, electronic surveillance, encryption, and network and mobile security. Students learn about the technological tools used to enhance computer security, such as data encryption and firewalls.
  • Policing in Society
    This course examines police work and challenges affecting policing in the current social and political environment. Students explore reactive, proactive, and community policing, as well as the difference between law enforcement and policing within a critical framework. Readings and lectures address contemporary issues such as profiling, policing in a multicultural society, and community-based policing.
  • Research Methodology in Criminal Justice
    This course introduces the main research methods and statistical techniques used to conduct criminal justice research. Coursework covers research design, hypothesis testing, data collection and analysis, and report writing. Students apply this knowledge to design and conduct research projects and evaluate and assess current policies and research.
  • Race in the Criminal Justice System
    This course connects theoretical perspectives and contemporary research to the analysis of racial disparities in crime rates, arrests, sentencing, and incarceration. Students examine the ways that structural inequality and biases create and reinforce law enforcement practices and public policies that unfairly target people of color.
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Paying for Your Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Degree Program

The cost of earning an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice varies depending on the college or university. Some institutions offer discounted rates for those earning a criminal justice bachelor's degree online, while others charge similar rates for distance and on-campus learners. Degree-seekers can explore a variety of ways to help pay for their education, typically starting with the completion of a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The FAFSA helps learners determine what types of federal aid and how much of it they are able to receive, including both loan and grant opportunities. Many students also explore scholarship opportunities, finding awards based on both financial need and merit.

Scholarships for Accounting Students


Brian Terry Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Open to bachelor's students planning to pursue careers in law enforcement, the Brian Terry Scholarships program operates in honor of patrol officers killed in the line of duty. Applicants must be studying criminal justice at the undergraduate level to qualify.

Amount: Varies


My Alarm Center Student Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Available to students studying criminal justice, law enforcement, or a related field, My Alarm Center Scholarships serve graduating high school seniors and freshman or sophomore undergraduate students. Applicants must submit an essay with their scholarship applications.

Amount: $1,000


Sheryl A. Horak Law Enforcement Explorer Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Law enforcement explorers who are at least high school seniors may apply for the Sheryl A. Horak Law Enforcement Explorer Memorial Scholarship. This merit-based award requires candidates to demonstrate a strong academic record, varied extracurricular activities, and solid leadership abilities, as reflected in a personal statement.

Amount: $1,000


The Melissa Linville Criminal Justice Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Undergraduate students enrolled in an accredited criminal justice program and high school seniors planning to pursue degrees in criminal justice may apply for the Melissa Linville Criminal Justice Scholarship offered by Crimcheck.net. Requirements include demonstrated leadership abilities and a 3.0 minimum GPA.

Amount: $500


Irlet Anderson Scholarship Award

Who Can Apply: Open to African American high school seniors planning on pursuing a career in criminal justice or law enforcement, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives administers the Irlet Anderson Scholarship award. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and meet a 3.8 minimum GPA requirement.

Amount: $3,500

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