Best Online Criminal Justice Degrees 2021
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Online bachelor's in criminal justice programs explore the different policies, practices, and components of the criminal justice system, including law enforcement, security, corrections, and the courts.
Some programs offer concentrations in areas like homeland security, juvenile justice, and victim advocacy.
Graduates who earn an online criminal justice bachelor's degree can work as police officers and detectives, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, and private detectives and investigators. Several criminal justice jobs offer salaries that exceed the national average. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2020, police officers and detectives earned a median salary of $67,290.
The Advantages of a Criminal Justice Education
Criminal justice majors study law enforcement techniques, emergency management strategies, and master the skills needed to work in courts and correctional facilities. An online criminal justice degree also prepares candidates for law school or graduate programs in other criminal justice fields. While some employers, including police departments, hire associate degree-holders, others require further education. For example, most federal law enforcement agencies expect prospective FBI agents, U.S. marshals, and Secret Service agents to hold a bachelor's degree.
A bachelor's degree also leads to greater salary potential. According to PayScale, as of October 2021, professionals with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice earn $68,000 annually, compared to $49,000 for those with an associate degree in criminal justice. Certain high-level positions, such as emergency management director or lawyer, may require candidates to earn a master's degree in criminal justice. The following section examines some career paths and salary opportunities for professionals with a bachelor's in criminal justice.
Average Salary by Degree Level 2021
Featured Online Criminal Justice Programs
Choosing an Online Criminal Justice Degree Program
Concentrations, tuition rates, and graduation requirements all differ from program to program. Prospective students should consider key factors like program costs, transfer policies, and degree length before making a final decision. For example, in-state schools often provide the most affordable option for residents, although some public universities offer reduced tuition rates for out-of-state distance learners. Take your time and be picky as you explore schools, selecting an online criminal justice program that fits your goals, schedule, and budget.
- Transfer Policies: Students with completed college-level coursework can save thousands by finding a program that accepts their transfer credits. However, each college or university maintains different transfer policies. Some exclusively accept credits from accredited institutions or only offer credit for general education coursework. Your prospective school's admissions advisor can help you explore your transfer options.
- School Size and Type: While large public institutions often boast expansive alumni networks and more concentration options, many smaller private schools feature low faculty-to-student ratios that foster collaboration.
- Program Length: Earning a bachelor's degree can take four or more years, depending on school policies, the student's enrollment status, program format, and transfer policies. Some full-time transfer students can complete a bachelor's degree in as little as one year. Many institutions offer part-time, self-paced, and accelerated program options.
- On-Campus Requirements: Some web-based programs incorporate on-campus experiences like residencies or orientation sessions, while others are presented entirely online. Prospective students should research any on-campus requirements when considering a program.
Best Online Criminal Justice Degrees of 2021
This public research institution offers more than 100 online programs, including an online bachelor's in criminal justice degree. The 120-credit program emphasizes criminal justice procedures, criminological theory, and homeland security.
After meeting coursework requirements, each criminal justice major completes a senior capstone project that examines crime and the relationship between public policy and crime control. FIU also offers an online combined bachelor's and master's program. The university offers a tuition discount for Florida residents.
Florida International University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
With over 70,000 students, UCF ranks among the largest public institutions in the country. The university offers over 230 degrees, including online programs, with an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
UCF emphasizes practical, interactive experiences in its fully online program. Degree-seekers can choose between a BA or BS, taking courses in the history of crime, criminal justice research, and the prosecution process. The 120-credit degree offers a significant tuition discount for Florida residents.
University of Central Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
This top-ranked public university dates back to 1855. Today, Penn State World Campus offers online degrees, including an online bachelor's in criminal justice. Created and taught by experienced faculty, the program emphasizes criminology, policing, and ethics.
The flexible, online program combines theoretical and practical approaches to criminal justice. Core classes include courts and the prosecution process; interpersonal communication; and first aid and CPR. The program also offers a homeland security minor to prepare for specialized career paths.
Pennsylvania State University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
Founded in 1931, ULM ranks among the best online criminal justice colleges. The public institution offers an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice that uses an accelerated, eight-week format.
The ULM criminal justice program started in 1970, making it the oldest such program in Louisiana. During the criminal justice degree, students develop foundational knowledge in law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. The program reports that within six months of earning a degree, 88% of graduates find work in the criminal justice field.
University of Louisiana at Monroe is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Founded in 1884, this public institution offers both on-campus and online degrees. Distance learners can earn a bachelor's in criminal justice degree at NSU.
The 120-credit program includes interdisciplinary coursework in sociology, psychology, and political science. Majors also study the adjudication process, police operations, forensic science, and criminal investigation.
Degree-seekers can choose a pre-law and paralegal studies concentration to prepare for careers in the legal system. During the concentration, each enrollee completes 21 credits of pre-law study.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Founded as a private university in 1884, Trine now offers multiple online degrees. Learners can pursue an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice that blends coursework in criminal law, psychology, and criminal justice.
Within the major, learners can choose to concentrate in psychology or criminal justice. Applicants with prior police, fire, EMT, or military experience can earn prior learning credit for their training. Undergraduates can also enroll in a combined degree program to earn a bachelor's and master's in criminal justice in four years.
Trine University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
This public institution in Kansas enrolls over 15,000 students annually. Learners can also enroll in online programs, including a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. The 120-credit program builds foundational knowledge while allowing majors to specialize their course of study through electives.
FHSU is one of the best criminal justice colleges because of its flexible, customizable curriculum. Enrollees can choose 21 credits of electives in areas like policing, offenders and victims, and criminology. More unique courses, like cybercrime, corporate crime, and serial predators, prepare graduates for focused career paths.
Fort Hays State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Founded in 1909, SOSU is a public institution that enrolls nearly 5,000 students annually. Distance learners can earn online criminal justice degrees at SOSU. This bachelor's program builds analytical skills by examining complex issues in criminal justice.
During the 124-credit degree, majors study criminology, police leadership, victimology, and law adjudication. The curriculum also introduces students to the legal system, juvenile delinquency, and corrections. Each enrollee also completes a capstone course as a culminating experience.
SOSU charges a flat tuition rate for online learners regardless of their state of residency.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
A public institution, McNeese was founded in Louisiana in 1939. At McNeese, a distance learner can earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. The program emphasizes evidence-based practices through a curriculum covering crime, forensic science, criminal justice administration, and criminology.
Criminal justice majors can focus their degrees by minoring in terrorism, preparedness, and security. The program also offers concentrations in forensic chemistry and pre-law.
The fully online, 120-credit program uses an accelerated course format in seven-week sessions.
McNeese State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Crown is a private, Christian institution in Saint Paul, Minnesota, that dates back to 1916. Classes at Crown integrate a Christian worldview into their material, including in its online criminal justice bachelor's program.
The fully online program includes coursework in juvenile justice, criminal justice ethics, victimology, and emergency management. Learners can add courses in psychology, alcohol and drug counseling, disaster management, or business.
Crown prioritizes small class sizes and offers online courses in eight-week terms.
Crown College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Located in Florence, UNA is the oldest four-year public institution in Alabama. UNA offers an online criminal justice degree for learners seeking an interdisciplinary approach to the field. Enrollees take courses in U.S. government, psychology, sociology, and business while studying criminal justice.
During the program, degree-seekers explore criminology, professional ethics, and research methods. UNA allows learners to customize the program by choosing 21 credits of criminal justice electives. In addition to classroom learning, students can pursue field practicums and internships to gain experience.
University of North Alabama is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
This private, Benedictine institution in Bismarck, North Dakota, dates back to 1959. Distance learners can earn bachelor's in criminal justice degrees online at Mary. The program emphasizes criminal justice ethics, criminology, and homeland security.
Enrollees gain a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system by studying the juvenile justice process, law adjudication, and community corrections. The curriculum builds strong research, critical thinking, and decision-making skills.
Mary accepts transfer students from regionally accredited institutions. Applicants with at least 24 college credits need a minimum 2.0 GPA.
University of Mary is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Founded in 1871, UW-Oshkosh is a public institution tht enrolls around 14,000 students annually. Undergraduates can earn online bachelor's in criminal justice degrees at UW-Oshkosh.
The fully online program allows students to choose between BA, BS, and bachelor of applied studies options. To apply, the BA and BS options require at least two years of professional experience, while the bachelor of applied studies requires an associate of applied studies in a related field.
Students take courses in accelerated, seven-week sessions. UW-Oshkosh earns its spot among the best online criminal justice colleges for its flexibility and asynchronous schedule.
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
This public research institution in Boca Raton offers an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice through its School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
During the 120-credit degree, majors study the causes of crime and delinquency, the legal system, and criminal justice agencies. Distance learners can choose electives -- like crime in schools -- to specialize their training. Majors also explore victimology, ethics in the justice system, and criminal justice management.
FAU offers a tuition discount for Florida residents.
Florida Atlantic University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
SEU is a private, Christian institution that opened its doors in Lakeland, Florida, in 1935. Degree-seekers can earn their bachelor's in criminal justice online at SEU. The program incorporates practical experience to prepare graduates for criminal justice careers.
During the 124-credit degree, majors study law enforcement, the court system, and corrections. The program includes interdisciplinary work in sociology, including courses like the sociology of policing. SEU also encourages students to minor in complementary areas, like psychology, social services, business, or pre-law.
Southeastern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Located in Macon, Georgia, MGA is a public institution that operates five campuses. Degree-seekers can also enroll in online programs, including a bachelor's in criminal justice program, which prepares learners to work in criminal justice agencies.
During the 120-credit program, enrollees learn to solve real-world issues. The program covers ethics in criminal justice, police administration, criminal procedure, and theories of criminal behavior. Each student also completes an internship and capstone course.
MGA offers a flexible schedule, and learners complete classes through eight-week terms.
Middle Georgia State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
This public research institution in Phoenix dates back to 1885. Students can earn an online bachelor's in criminal justice degree through ASU Online. The program examines the impact of crime and explores strategies to reduce criminal behavior. Enrollees develop research, analytical, and communication skills throughout the 120-credit degree.
While studying criminology, statistical analysis, and crime control policies, ASU students also learn how to create police reports, conduct research, and investigate crime scenes. The degree prepares graduates for many roles in the criminal justice field.
Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
TFC is a private, Christian institution that grants degrees both online and from its campus in Georgia, next to its namesake waterfall. Online learners can earn bachelor's in criminal justice degrees at TFC. The program emphasizes a Christian worldview in its criminal justice curriculum.
All TFC students must complete 30 credits of Bible and theology classes. The criminal justice major includes courses in criminology, juvenile justice, criminal procedure, homeland security, and forensics. Each enrollee also completes a criminal justice internship.
Toccoa Falls College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
This private, Baptist institution located in Rome, Georgia, dates back to 1873. The university now enrolls under 2,000 students annually on its residential campus and offers online degrees.
At Shorter, distance learners can earn a bachelor's in criminal justice with the option to pursue a BA or BS. The fully online program prepares criminal justice professionals through a curriculum focused on critical thinking and problem-solving.
Prospective applicants must submit high school transcripts and standardized test scores. Transfer students with at least 24 college credits do not need to provide ACT or SAT scores. Shorter requires a minimum 2.5 high school GPA or a minimum 2.0 college GPA.
Shorter University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
This North Dakota-based university dates back to 1913. The public institution offers an online criminal justice degree that trains students in the dynamics of crime and the functions of criminal justice agencies. Degree-seekers also gain practical skills and employ evidence-based approaches in their coursework.
MSU emphasizes career-ready approaches to criminal justice. The criminal justice program also offers the ND Peace Officer training program, which prepares enrollees for law enforcement careers and POST certification. MSU also partners with the Air Force to help service members earn bachelor's degrees.
Minot State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
As Hawaii's only Catholic university, Chaminade grants degrees both from its Oahu campus and through its online programs. At Chaminade, distance learners can earn online criminology and criminal justice degrees. The program blends theoretical and experiential learning to prepare graduates for the workforce.
During the degree, majors learn about the American criminal justice system, the causes of crime, and criminal justice law. The curriculum incorporates immersive experiences, including crime scene reenactments, to build practical skills.
Each enrollee must complete at least 120 credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA to earn their bachelor's degree.
Chaminade University of Honolulu is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
UW-Platteville is part of the state's public university system, dating back to 1866. Today, UW-Platteville ranks among the best criminal justice colleges thanks to its online bachelor's in criminal justice program.
During the major, degree-seekers study core areas like criminal law, corrections, policing, and criminology. The program also offers multiple electives that align with students' career goals, including community-based corrections, criminal investigation, police administration, and juvenile justice. Majors can also gain practical training through optional internships.
Each prospective student needs a high school diploma or its equivalent. Applicants under 22 years old also must submit standardized test scores.
University of Wisconsin Platteville is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
From its campus in Richmond, IU East enrolls more than 4,000 students annually. The public institution offers an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice. In this degree-completion program, majors study social control, crime deterrence, and corrections.
At IU East, students explore topics like criminology, crime scene investigation, correctional administration, and juvenile justice. The program also allows students to customize their degrees through criminal justice electives. Throughout the curriculum, learners also build management skills.
Each prospective student needs at least 60 transferable credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA to join the program.
Indiana University East is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
This private, Christian liberal arts university in Cleveland, Georgia, dates back to 1946. TMU emphasizes Bible-centered education, including in its online bachelor's in criminal justice program. The degree takes a Christian perspective on criminal justice and law enforcement while building leadership and public safety skills.
Enrollees take core courses in criminology, criminal law, and corrections. The program also incorporates an internship and capstone, and students can focus their degrees by choosing a concentration in law enforcement. This focus area prepares graduates for advancement or new opportunities in law enforcement roles.
Truett McConnell University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
As South Dakota's flagship university, USD offers an online criminal justice degree with the option to earn a BS or BA. The program trains graduates for careers in the criminal justice system or to pursue advanced degrees.
The university's criminal justice program takes an interdisciplinary approach, strengthening critical thinking and analytical skills. Majors study the relationship between the public and the criminal justice system, the role of law enforcement, and criminal justice administration.
The flexible program also offers low tuition rates, with out-of-state students paying the same as in-state students.
University of South Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Programs Ranking Guidelines
We selected these online criminal justice programs based on curriculum quality, faculty excellence, rankings, awards, and each school's reputation for providing quality online degrees.
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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.
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Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology
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Accreditation for Online Criminal Justice Degrees
You should earn your online bachelor's in criminal justice from an accredited institution. Accredited colleges and universities follow the best practices in education, and accredited degrees hold more value on the job market. Independent accrediting agencies evaluate colleges and universities according to their academic quality, student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and degree requirements. Accredited institutions must undergo regular reviews to keep their status. The Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognize valid accrediting agencies.
Accreditation benefits students in several ways. Accredited institutions can disburse federal financial aid to students. Credits earned at an accredited institution transfer more easily to other schools. In addition, some professional licenses and certifications require an accredited degree. Accreditation comes in several forms: regional, national, and programmatic.
Regional and national accrediting agencies review entire colleges and universities. Of the two, regional accreditation remains the highest standard. Programmatic accreditation evaluates specialized degree-granting programs, such as business schools, teacher preparation programs, or social work curricula. Criminal justice programs do not typically receive programmatic accreditation, so prospective students should look for a regionally accredited institution. The ED website and the CHEA website maintain extensive databases of accredited schools and programs.
Criminal Justice Concentrations
Criminal justice majors explore fundamental law enforcement principles, legal concepts, and detection methods. Students can also develop a specialty within the field by pursuing a concentration. Concentrations focus on academic tracks that allow candidates to explore areas like forensic science, homeland security, or criminal justice administration in greater depth.
The homeland security concentration trains students to respond to national security threats like terrorism, natural disasters, and global security issues. Majors explore emergency response management, international policy, and best practices in security. Students on this track often pursue careers in federal agencies or private security agencies.
Careers this concentration prepares for:
Emergency management specialist; customs and border patrol agent; security specialist
A forensic science specialization trains students to investigate crime scenes and collect evidence. Majors learn to conduct forensic laboratory work, analyze forensic data, and help police officers solve crimes. Candidates in this concentration may need to take additional biology, chemistry, and biochemistry courses.
Careers this concentration prepares for:
Crime scene investigator; police officer; detective
Candidates pursuing a criminology concentration study scientific methodologies to better understand criminal behavior. Students learn to solve crimes and understand criminal elements in society. Coursework may also introduce crime prevention strategies and concepts in forensic psychology.
Careers this concentration prepares for:
Police officer; detective; FBI agent
This track helps students who want to manage criminal justice institutions. Learners may narrow their criminal justice administration focus further by choosing an emphasis in either law enforcement or corrections. Coursework strengthens leadership and analytical skills.
Careers this concentration prepares for:
Probations administrator; program director; criminal justice coordinator
Blending criminal justice with information technology, this concentration introduces computer systems and network protection strategies. Students learn to prevent security breaches, identify hackers and other cybersecurity threats, and build cases against cybercriminals.
Careers this concentration prepares for:
Cybercrime analyst; crime analyst; fraud investigator
How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Criminal Justice?
Earning an online criminal justice degree typically requires four years of full-time study. Like other bachelor's degree candidates, criminal justice majors usually complete 120 credit hours, including general education classes, major field requirements, and electives. Most bachelor's degrees include 50-60 general education credits in English, history, communications, math, and science. Major coursework includes introductory courses and advanced concentration classes.
Incoming criminal justice majors with an associate degree or prior college credit can often earn their bachelor's degree in as little as one year. Many online programs accept up to 90 transfer credits toward the degree. Some students prefer to study part time and balance school with work or family obligations. Others select accelerated programs to earn their degree in the shortest possible time. Transfer students can request a credit audit from their prospective school to determine how many credits they need for their bachelor's degree.
Courses in an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Program
- Introduction to Criminal Justice: Introductory courses cover topics in law enforcement, criminal justice institutions, the judicial system, and corrections. Students explore the history of the criminal justice system, policing and justice theories, and common practices in different criminal justice fields. Coursework may also cover topics like community policing, law enforcement agencies, and criminal justice systems at the local, state, and federal levels.
- Criminology: Criminology classes explore crime's origin and impact in society. Students examine causation theories, different criminal categories, and society's response to criminal actions. Other course topics include victim responses to crimes, the victims' rights movement, and crime in a legal context.
- Criminal Law: Students in criminal law courses survey criminal liability, common law, and criminal codes. The course introduces students to classifications for criminal acts, the legal process, and defenses to criminal charges. Students may also study the roles of police, prosecutors, defendants, and criminal courts in trying criminal offenses.
- Police Administration: Ideal for students interested in police leadership roles, this advance course introduces major law enforcement management principles. Students study the relationships among units and organizations, law enforcement structures, and management functions. They also learn to evaluate staff performance, methods to increase effectiveness, and communications.
- Correctional Case Management: Correctional case management classes explore broad themes related to probation, parole, and community corrections. Prospective probation officers and correctional case managers study supervision methods, ethical issues in correctional case management, and correctional counseling.
Criminal Justice Degree Salary Information
Graduates with an online criminal justice degree work in many different settings, such as police departments, law offices, and correctional facilities. Popular criminal justice degree jobs include police officers, probation officers, and corrections officers. A bachelor's degree also fulfills qualifications for certain emergency management specialist positions, and many federal agencies prefer to hire candidates who hold a degree in criminal justice. The list below includes a few popular career paths for individuals with a criminal justice degree.
|Median Salary 2020: $67,290||Projected Growth 2020-2030: 7%|
Police officers respond to emergency calls, patrol neighborhoods, and investigate crimes. They also collect case-related evidence, make arrests, and testify in court.
|Median Salary 2020: $76,250||Projected Growth 2020-2030: 6%|
Emergency management directors create plans in response to natural disasters and crisis situations. They coordinate with officials during emergencies, lead response teams, and maintain public safety.
|Median Salary 2020: $55,690||Projected Growth 2020-2030: 4%|
Also known as community supervision officers, these professionals monitor people on probation. They write reports on probationers' treatment plans, monitor their rehabilitation progress, and maintain communication between clients and corrections personnel.
|Median Salary 2020: $47,440||Projected Growth 2020-2030: -7%|
Correctional officers work in jails and prisons, overseeing individuals awaiting trial or serving time. They supervise inmates, enforce jail rules, and inspect the facilities.
Popular Questions About Criminal Justice Degrees
Psychology, sociology, political science, and information technology are all common secondary subjects for criminal justice students.
Sometimes. As with most degrees, how difficult earning a bachelor's in criminal justice is depends on how well suited you are for the material. Criminal justice degrees often involve a fair enough of reading.
Criminologist is the highest-paying job in the criminal justice field that does not require a law degree. Judges and lawyers also make high salaries, but those careers require a law degree.
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