Best Online Criminal Justice Degrees
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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
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
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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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.
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
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
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
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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