Best Online Criminal Justice Degrees

by TBS Staff
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Criminal Justice Online Degrees

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

Associate Degree

$49,000

Bachelor's Degree

$68,000

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.

Best Online Criminal Justice Degrees of 2021

  1. Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    Tuition

    $9180

    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).

  2. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $13016

    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).

  3. Penn State World Campus
    Location

    University Park, PA

    Tuition

    $21678

    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).

  4. University of Louisiana at Monroe
    Location

    Monroe, LA

    Tuition

    $9455

    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).

  5. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
    Location

    Natchitoches, LA

    Tuition

    $10448

    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).

  6. Trine Online
    Location

    Fort Wayne, IN

    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).

  7. Fort Hays State University
    Location

    Hays, KS

    Tuition

    $12420

    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).

  8. Southeastern Oklahoma State University
    Location

    Durant, OK

    Tuition

    $8490

    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).

  9. McNeese State University
    Location

    Lake Charles, LA

    Tuition

    $9985

    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).

  10. Crown College
    Location

    Saint Bonifacius, MN

    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).

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.

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.

Featured Criminal Justice Programs

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.

Accredited colleges and universities follow the best practices in education, and accredited degrees hold more value on the job market.

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.

Homeland Security

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

Forensic Science

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

Criminology

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

Criminal Justice Administration

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

Cybersecurity

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.

Earning an online criminal justice degree typically requires four years of full-time study.

Courses in an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Program

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.

true Police Officer
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.

true Emergency Management Directors
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.

true Probation Officer
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.

true Correctional Officer
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

What Majors Go Well With Criminal Justice?

Psychology, sociology, political science, and information technology are all common secondary subjects for criminal justice students.

Is Criminal Justice a Difficult Major?

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.

What Is the Highest Paying Job in the Criminal Justice Field?

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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