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Criminal justice professionals include detectives, criminal investigators, and FBI agents. Professionals in the field can also work in homeland security and corrections. Earning an online master's degree in criminal justice qualifies graduates for leading roles, including command and director positions.

Many criminal justice careers offer above-average salaries and high job growth potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), police and detectives earn a median salary of more than $63,000 a year. A master's degree can help law enforcement officials advance their careers and pursue opportunities in policy making and leadership.

Criminal justice master's programs typically include coursework in criminology theory, which helps learners understand the motivations behind criminal behavior. Students also explore crime scene investigation, victimology, and criminal justice leadership. Master's students can gain specialized skills by pursuing a concentration in an area such as criminal justice administration, forensic science, or homeland security.

This page lists top-ranked online criminal justice master's programs and details salary information for criminal justice occupations. The sections below also include information about what to expect while earning a criminal justice master's degree online and advice for choosing the best criminal justice program.

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

Affordable Online Master's in Criminal Justice Degree Program Ranking Guidelines:
We selected the following online criminal justice programs based on each program's quality, types of available online classes, faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation. We also considered each school's reputation for online education.

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 Master's in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

#1 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

California State University, Long Beach

  • Long Beach, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online master of science in criminology and criminal justice at California State University, Long Beach prioritizes flexibility. Learners build specialized skills for advanced practice, preparing them for leadership positions with increased salary potential. With a master's degree, graduates can advance their current career or pursue new career paths.

The curriculum blends theory and practice to provide an advanced understanding of criminal justice. Learners focus their training by choosing electives based on their interests and career goals. Applicants with prior experience in criminology or a related field often meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees meet any in-person requirements, such as internships, at approved sites in their local area. Graduate students also build professional connections by attending networking events.

California State University, Long Beach at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 39%

Total Online Master's Programs: 3

Program Name: Master of science in criminology and criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,176

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $16,680

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
39%
Students Enrolled
38,674
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#2 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

California State University, San Bernardino

  • San Bernardino, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online master of arts in criminal justice at California State University, San Bernardino ranks as a top degree. The program builds specialized skills for advanced practice, preparing students for leadership positions with increased salary potential. After earning a master's degree, graduates can also pursue careers in new industries.

The curriculum explores criminal justice research and methodologies. Learners take electives and other specialized courses to gain career-specific training. The master's program builds on undergraduate training or professional experience in criminal justice.

Online enrollees work with the program to arrange professional internships at approved locations in their local area. The program hosts networking events and other professional development activities to help graduate students expand their professional connections.

California State University, San Bernardino at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 69%

Total Online Master's Programs: 5

Program Name: Master of arts in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,176

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $16,680

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
86%
Admission Rate
69%
Students Enrolled
20,638
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
33% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Colorado State University-Global Campus

  • Aurora, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online

The master's in criminal justice and law enforcement at Colorado State University-Global Campus, located in Aurora, offers a flexible online format. Students train for leadership roles in the field while earning their degree. Graduates can pursue career advancement in their current field or a new one.

The curriculum incorporates theoretical and applied approaches. Learners choose electives or a specialization to gain focused career training. The admission requirements include a background in criminal justice or a related field.

Online enrollees add to their resume by pursuing internship opportunities at approved locations in their local area. Internships and other practicum activities also provide professional networking opportunities.

Colorado State University-Global Campus at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 99%

Total Online Master's Programs: 12

Program Name: Master's in criminal justice and law enforcement

Graduate Tuition In State: $9,000

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $9,000

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,400
Out-of-state
$8,400
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
99%
Students Enrolled
12,670
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

University of Houston-Downtown

  • Houston, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Texas-based University of Houston-Downtown hosts a top-rated online master of science in criminal justice. The program emphasizes advanced practice skills, training learners for leadership roles and an increased earning potential. With a master's degree, graduates can also pursue new career opportunities.

The curriculum emphasizes research methods and analytical skills. Learners take electives and other specialized courses to gain career-specific training. Applicants without a background in criminal justice may need to complete prerequisites.

Online enrollees gain hands-on experience during local professional internships. The program hosts networking events and other professional development activities to help graduate students expand their professional connections.

University of Houston-Downtown at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 89%

Total Online Master's Programs: 3

Program Name: Master of science in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,578

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $14,274

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,460
Out-of-state
$15,408
Retention Rate
73%
Admission Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
14,640
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
53% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Texas A&M International University

  • Laredo, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students seeking an online degree can pursue the master of science in criminal justice at Texas A&M International University, located in Laredo. The program emphasizes specialized skills, preparing enrollees for increased responsibilities and a higher earning potential. A master's degree helps graduates advance in their current field or pursue a new career path.

The curriculum explores criminal justice research and methodologies. Learners specialize the program by choosing from a variety of electives. Applicants without a degree in criminal justice or a related field may need to meet prerequisite requirements.

Online enrollees gain real-world experience through internships offered in their local area. Internships and other networking events help graduate students expand their professional network.

Texas A&M International University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 54%

Total Online Master's Programs: 8

Program Name: Master of science in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $3,350

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $10,946

Average Tuition
In-state
$3,818
Out-of-state
$13,946
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
54%
Students Enrolled
8,305
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#6 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The master of arts in criminal justice at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice, located in New York, offers a flexible online format. The program emphasizes specialized skills, preparing learners for increased responsibilities and a higher earning potential. With a master's degree, graduates can also pursue new career opportunities.

The curriculum covers theoretical and practical approaches to criminal justice. Learners individualize the course of study by selecting electives and concentrations. The program encourages applicants to gain experience in criminal justice before applying.

Online enrollees participate in internship programs at approved locations in their local area. The program encourages professional development activities, including networking events, so graduate students can expand their professional connections.

CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 41%

Total Online Master's Programs: 1

Program Name: Master of arts in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,090

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $20,520

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,930
Out-of-state
$14,880
Retention Rate
80%
Admission Rate
41%
Students Enrolled
15,880
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
35% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#7 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Bellevue University

  • Bellevue, NE
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Bellevue University, located in Bellevue, Nebraska, offers a flexible online master of science in justice administration and crime management. The program strengthens specialized skills, preparing learners for leadership roles with a higher earning potential. With a master's degree, graduates can also pursue new career opportunities.

The curriculum incorporates theoretical and applied approaches. Learners prepare for focused career paths by choosing electives and concentrations. The program recommends that applicants bring a background in criminal justice or a related field.

Online enrollees complement the classroom experience with local internships. These and other networking events help students expand their professional network.

Bellevue University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: Data not available

Total Online Master's Programs: 24

Program Name: Master of science in justice administration and crime management

Graduate Tuition In State: $10,530

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $10,530

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,176
Out-of-state
$7,176
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
11,637
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
95% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#8 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Northeastern State University

  • Tahlequah, OK
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online master's in criminal justice at Northeastern State University, located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, offers high academic quality. The program emphasizes industry-relevant knowledge and skills, preparing learners for decision-making responsibilities. A master's degree can also lead graduates to new careers.

The curriculum incorporates theoretical and applied approaches. Degree candidates can individualize the program to prepare for focused careers. The program encourages applicants to gain experience in criminal justice before applying to the program.

Online enrollees gain hands-on experience during professional internships in their local area. The program encourages professional development activities, including networking events, so graduate students can expand their professional connections.

Northeastern State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 100%

Total Online Master's Programs: 13

Program Name: Master's in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $4,500

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $9,999

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,913
Out-of-state
$14,313
Retention Rate
60%
Admission Rate
100%
Students Enrolled
7,517
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
66% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#9 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

University of North Georgia

  • Dahlonega, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Graduate students seeking an online criminal justice degree can pursue the master of science in criminal justice at University of North Georgia, located in Dahlonega. The program draws on a rigorous curriculum that prepares enrollees for leadership responsibilities. After completing a master's degree, graduates can pursue career advancement in their current field or a new one.

The curriculum covers theoretical and practical approaches to criminal justice. Learners specialize their course of study to prepare for the job market. The program recommends a background in criminal justice before applying to the program.

Online enrollees work with the program to identify internship opportunities at approved sites in their local communities. Graduate students also participate in networking events to expand their professional connections.

University of North Georgia at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 81%

Total Online Master's Programs: 7

Program Name: Master of science in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $4,140

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $16,488

Average Tuition
In-state
$3,898
Out-of-state
$13,851
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
19,748
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#10 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

University of Nebraska at Omaha

  • Omaha, NE
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of Nebraska at Omaha hosts a top-rated online master of science in criminology and criminal justice. The program emphasizes advanced practice skills, training students for leadership roles and an increased earning potential. With a master's degree, graduates can advance their current career or move into new career paths.

The curriculum explores research and methodologies in criminal justice. Learners prepare for the job market by choosing a specialty through electives. The master's program recommends a background in criminal justice or a related field when applying.

Online enrollees complete local internships to gain hands-on experience. The program encourages graduate students to expand their professional connections through internships and networking events.

University of Nebraska at Omaha at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 83%

Total Online Master's Programs: 6

Program Name: Master of science in criminology and criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $5,558

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $14,440

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,224
Out-of-state
$19,488
Retention Rate
74%
Admission Rate
83%
Students Enrolled
15,153
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
53% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#11 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Midwestern State University

  • Wichita Falls, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The master of arts in criminal justice at Midwestern State University, located in Wichita Falls, Texas, offers a flexible online format. Degree candidates prepare for advanced roles in the field during the rigorous program. After earning a master's degree, graduates can also pursue careers in new industries.

The curriculum explores advanced methodologies and research in criminal justice. Learners often choose a specialized concentration, which can help them stand out in a competitive job market. The program recommends a background in criminal justice before applying to the program.

Online enrollees can add to their resume by pursuing internships at approved locations in their local area. Graduate students also build professional connections through virtual networking events and other activities.

Midwestern State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 79%

Total Online Master's Programs: 11

Program Name: Master of arts in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $4,060

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $5,230

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,567
Out-of-state
$7,516
Retention Rate
67%
Admission Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
5,969
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#12 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

University of Alaska Fairbanks

  • Fairbanks, AK
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The master's in criminal justice degree at University of Alaska Fairbanks uses a flexible distance learning format. The program emphasizes industry-relevant knowledge and skills, preparing students for decision-making responsibilities. A master's degree allows graduates to move up the career ladder or pursue a new career path.

The curriculum explores advanced methodologies and research in criminal justice. Learners take electives and other specialized courses to gain career-specific training. Applicants with prior experience in criminal justice or a related field often meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees can often complete professional internships at approved locations in their own community. The program encourages graduate students to participate in hands-on experiences and networking events to grow their professional connections.

University of Alaska Fairbanks at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 76%

Total Online Master's Programs: 9

Program Name: Master's in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $10,414

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $21,904

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,962
Out-of-state
$22,980
Retention Rate
73%
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
7,179
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#13 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

University of Louisiana at Monroe

  • Monroe, LA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online master of arts in criminal justice at University of Louisiana at Monroe offers high academic quality. The program draws on a rigorous curriculum that prepares learners for leadership responsibilities. Earning a master's degree helps graduates move into a new career path or advance in their current field.

The curriculum examines advanced theories and practices in criminal justice. Learners prepare for focused careers by choosing electives and concentrations. Applicants who majored in criminal justice or a related field typically meet the admission requirements.

Online degree-seekers meet any in-person requirements, such as internships, at approved sites in their local area. The program hosts networking events and other professional development activities to help graduate students expand their professional connections.

University of Louisiana at Monroe at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 80%

Total Online Master's Programs: 16

Program Name: Master of arts in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $6,490

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $18,590

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,788
Out-of-state
$17,888
Retention Rate
73%
Admission Rate
80%
Students Enrolled
8,673
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
43% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#14 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Excelsior College

  • Albany, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online

Graduate students seeking an online degree can enroll in the master of science in criminal justice program at Excelsior College, located in Albany, New York. Degree-seekers prepare for advanced roles in the field during the rigorous program. Earning a master's degree helps graduates move into a new career path or advance in their current field.

The curriculum explores criminal justice research and methodologies. Learners choose electives and concentrations to prepare for focused career paths. The program encourages applicants to gain experience in criminal justice before applying to the program.

Online enrollees meet any in-person requirements, such as internships, at approved sites in their local area. Graduate students grow their professional connections through internships and virtual networking events.

Excelsior College at a Glance:

Type of School: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: Data not available

Total Online Master's Programs: 27

Program Name: Master of science in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: Data not available

Graduate Tuition Out of State: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
25,245
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#15 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

The University of West Florida

  • Pensacola, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online master of science in criminal justice, offered by The University of West Florida from its Pensacola campus, ranks as a top degree. The program helps degree-seekers increase their salary potential and take on more professional responsibilities. With a master's degree, graduates can also pursue new career opportunities.

The curriculum emphasizes current research in criminal justice. Learners choose electives and concentrations to prepare for focused career paths. The master's program builds on undergraduate training or professional experience in criminal justice.

Online enrollees participate in internship programs at approved locations in their local area. Graduate students expand their professional connections by attending virtual networking events.

The University of West Florida at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 31%

Total Online Master's Programs: 15

Program Name: Master of science in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,088

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $22,166

Average Tuition
In-state
$3,735
Out-of-state
$16,004
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
31%
Students Enrolled
12,557
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
66% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#16 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

University of Houston-Victoria

  • Victoria, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The master of arts in criminal justice at University of Houston-Victoria uses a flexible distance learning format. The program helps students increase their salary potential and take on more professional responsibilities. After earning a master's degree, graduates can also pursue careers in new industries.

The curriculum incorporates theoretical and applied approaches. Learners choose electives or a specialization to gain focused career training. The program encourages applicants to gain experience in criminal justice before applying to the program.

Online enrollees work with the program to arrange local internships at approved locations. Internships and other practicum activities also provide professional networking opportunities.

University of Houston-Victoria at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 56%

Total Online Master's Programs: 9

Program Name: Master of arts in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $6,338

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $13,934

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,896
Out-of-state
$15,024
Retention Rate
61%
Admission Rate
56%
Students Enrolled
4,506
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
83% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#17 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

University of Michigan-Dearborn

  • Dearborn, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online master of science in criminology and criminal justice at University of Michigan-Dearborn offers high academic quality. The program emphasizes industry-relevant knowledge and skills, preparing learners for decision-making responsibilities. A master's degree allows graduates to move up the career ladder or pursue a new career path.

The curriculum explores theoretical and practical perspectives in the field. Learners focus the program with electives or a concentration. The master's program recommends a background in criminal justice or a related field when applying.

Online enrollees gain real-world experience through local internships. The program encourages graduate students to expand their professional connections through internships and networking events.

University of Michigan-Dearborn at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 62%

Total Online Master's Programs: 18

Program Name: Master of science in criminology and criminal justice 

Graduate Tuition In State: $12,770

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $22,750

Average Tuition
In-state
$12,729
Out-of-state
$25,845
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
62%
Students Enrolled
9,191
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#18 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus

  • Denver, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus hosts a top-rated online master of criminal justice. The program strengthens industry-specific skills, preparing students for leadership responsibilities. A master's degree can also prepare graduates for opportunities in new fields.

The curriculum examines theoretical and practical perspectives on criminal justice. Learners focus the program with electives or a concentration. Applicants who majored in criminal justice or a related field typically meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees complete internship requirements at approved sites in their own community. Degree candidates can also participate in networking events to expand their professional connections.

University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 67%

Total Online Master's Programs: 16

Program Name: Master of criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $6,786

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $22,590

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,920
Out-of-state
$24,408
Retention Rate
70%
Admission Rate
67%
Students Enrolled
24,910
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#19 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Missouri Southern State University

  • Joplin, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online master of science in criminal justice, offered by Missouri Southern State University from its Joplin campus, ranks as a top degree. The program uses a rigorous curriculum to prepare enrollees for advanced roles in the field. A master's degree helps graduates advance in their current field or pursue a new career path.

The curriculum covers theoretical and practical approaches to criminal justice. Learners prepare for focused career paths by choosing electives and concentrations. Applicants with prior experience in criminal justice or a related field often meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees complement the classroom experience with local internships. Graduate students also expand their professional network through online events.

Missouri Southern State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 94%

Total Online Master's Programs: 3

Program Name: Master of science in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $6,300

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $6,300

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,289
Out-of-state
$14,578
Retention Rate
65%
Admission Rate
94%
Students Enrolled
5,604
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#20 The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

New Mexico State University-Main Campus

  • Las Cruces, NM
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online master of science in criminal justice, offered by New Mexico State University-Main Campus from its Las Cruces campus, ranks as a top degree. The program helps enrollees move into leadership roles and increase their earning potential. A master's degree can also prepare graduates for opportunities in new fields.

The curriculum emphasizes the best practices in criminal justice. Learners take specialized courses to stand out in a competitive job market. Applicants with prior experience in criminal justice or a related field often meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees can often complete professional internships at approved locations in their own community. Graduate students expand their professional network through internships and online events.

New Mexico State University-Main Campus at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, 4-year or above

Admission Rate: 55%

Total Online Master's Programs: 16

Program Name: Master of science in criminal justice

Graduate Tuition In State: $4,844

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $16,834

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,875
Out-of-state
$21,864
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
55%
Students Enrolled
14,296
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
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The Advantages of an Criminal Justice Education

Criminal justice programs prepare students for careers as police officers, criminal investigators, corrections officers, and federal law enforcement agents. Criminal justice professionals with higher levels of education typically take home higher wages. Criminal justice professionals with an associate degree earn about $47,000 per year, according to PayScale, while those with a master's degree earn an average of $54,000 annually.

Pursuing an advanced degree in criminal justice often leads to additional career opportunities. Many criminal justice positions require education beyond an associate degree. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigations requires special agents to hold at least a bachelor's degree.

Candidates with a criminal justice master's degree can also qualify for management roles, including positions in police departments and federal law enforcement agencies. These jobs typically offer significantly higher salaries than entry-level criminal justice positions.


Average Salary by Degree Level
Degree Level Average Salary
Associate Degree in Criminal Justice $47,000
Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice $54,000

Source: PayScale


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Criminal Justice Degree Salary Information

An online master's degree in criminal justice qualifies graduates for a variety of career paths in areas related to law enforcement, emergency management, and corrections. With a master's degree, individuals can advance into leadership roles, such as detectives or criminal investigators in federal law enforcement agencies. The following careers offer advancement opportunities for professionals with a graduate degree in criminal justice.

Detective
Detectives gather evidence and investigate possible crimes. They work in local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, interviewing witnesses and suspects to solve cases. Detectives also write reports on suspected crimes, prepare cases with prosecutors, and testify in court. Many detectives specialize in a particular type of crime, such as homicide, white-collar crime, or vice.
Emergency Management Director
Emergency management directors create plans to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies. They lead responses after emergencies to minimize the risk of hazards to people and property. Emergency management directors also create emergency training programs to promote preparedness. Law enforcement experience and a master's in criminal justice meet the qualifications for this position.
Correctional Officer
Correctional officers oversee individuals in detention who are awaiting trial or have received a jail or prison sentence. These officers supervise inmates, enforce rules and regulations, and write reports on inmate behavior. Correctional officers may also transport inmates to court.
Correctional Treatment Specialist
Correctional treatment specialists create rehabilitation plans for probationers and parolees, advising them on court-ordered probation and parole rules. These specialists write case reports, set up counseling for clients, and keep written accounts of clients' progress. Related positions include probation officer, parole officer, and pretrial services officer.
Criminal Investigator
Criminal investigators solve crimes by conducting interviews, examining records, observing suspects, and arresting suspected criminals. They investigate violations of local, state, and federal law, which involves studying crime scenes to identify suspects and build a case. Investigators at the federal level can work for the FBI as special agents.

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)
Detective N/A $56,000 $59,000 $70,000
Emergency Manager N/A $54,000 $67,000 $81,000
Correctional Officer $34,000 $36,000 $38,000 $43,000
Correctional Treatment Specialist N/A $40,000 N/A $52,000
Criminal Investigator $49,000 $51,000 $57,000 $67,000

Source: PayScale


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Choosing an Online Criminal Justice Degree Program

Prospective criminal justice master's students may feel overwhelmed by the number of options. As more schools offer criminal justice master's degrees online, learners must spend more time choosing the right program that matches their interests and career goals. Factors to consider include program cost, on-campus requirements, and program duration.

In-state public institutions generally offer the lowest tuition rates, while private schools typically cost the most. However, some schools charge all online students the same rates, regardless of residency, which can reduce the cost of attending a public institution in another state.

  • Program Cost: The cost of earning a master's in criminal justice online varies depending on the program. In addition to tuition expenses, students should consider costs such as technology/online fees. Calculating the total cost of the degree, rather than only considering tuition, can help students find the least expensive program.
  • Transfer Policies: Some criminal justice programs accept transfer graduate credits. A generous transfer policy can save graduate students time and money. Students can contact program advisors to learn about a program's transfer policies.
  • School Size and Type: Prospective students may prefer a program with smaller class sizes and a lower student-to-faculty ratio. However, larger schools often provide opportunities to work with more faculty members and graduate with a larger cohort. In addition to school size, prospective students should consider whether they prefer public or private institutions.
  • Program Length: Criminal justice master's programs typically require two years to complete. However, program length varies depending on a student's enrollment status and program requirements. Prospective students should consider the total degree completion time, including time necessary to complete practicum or thesis requirements. Learners should also look for programs with enrollment options that meet their scheduling requirements, such as part-time or accelerated options.
  • On-campus Requirements: Some online criminal justice master's programs include on-campus requirements, which may involve an on-campus orientation or weekend residency periods. Local students may prefer a program with on-campus requirements, which provide opportunities to meet faculty members and fellow students. Learners considering out-of-state institutions may prefer programs with no on-campus requirements.

Accreditation for Online Criminal Justice Degrees

Prospective criminal justice master's students should check the accreditation status of a program before applying. Many professional certifications are only available to candidates with a degree from an accredited institution, and some employers only hire candidates with an accredited degree. For example, FBI special agents must hold a degree from an accredited U.S. college or university.

To earn accreditation, colleges and universities voluntarily submit to an independent review by a nonprofit accrediting agency. During this review, accrediting agencies evaluate variables like an institution's student learning outcomes, degree requirements, and faculty qualifications. Regional accrediting agencies typically evaluate liberal arts and research institutions, including most institutions that offer graduate degrees in criminal justice. Alternatively, national accrediting agencies generally evaluate vocational and technical programs.


The Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee accrediting agencies, maintaining standards for accreditation reviews. Students can review lists of accredited institutions on the websites of the ED and CHEA.

Criminal Justice Concentrations

Criminal justice graduate students can pursue a concentration to specialize their skills and prepare for specific careers. In addition to concentrations in law enforcement and corrections, many criminal justice programs offer specializations in criminal justice administration, homeland security, and criminology. A concentration also prepares master's students for further study.

  • Criminal Justice Administration:
    A concentration in criminal justice administration prepares students for leadership roles in the field, including at the managerial or director level. Learners strengthen their leadership skills by completing coursework related to overseeing criminal justice systems, with optional focuses in law enforcement and corrections.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Court administrator, corrections administrator, federal law enforcement administrator
  • Criminology:
    Students specializing in criminology explore crime and criminal behavior. Learners examine theories of crime, causes of criminal behavior, and crime prevention. Coursework may also cover forensic psychology, criminology theory, and investigative methods. This concentration prepares students for positions in law enforcement, including detective and investigator roles.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Police officer, sheriff, detective, private investigator, FBI agent
  • Forensic Science:
    A forensic science concentration prepares criminal justice students for leadership roles in crime scene investigation and evidence collection. Coursework covers forensic laboratory methods, analysis of forensic data, and how to build cases based on forensic evidence. While this concentration can lead to positions as forensic science technicians, it also helps law enforcement officers strengthen their forensic skills.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Crime scene investigator, forensic science technician, criminal investigator
  • Cybersecurity:
    A growing number of criminal justice programs offer concentrations in cybersecurity, which emphasizes computer investigative skills. Students in this concentration explore cybercrime, including homeland security threats like cyberintrusions. Students also learn how to investigate data and security breaches.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Cybercrime investigator, fraud investigator, e-crime specialist
  • Homeland Security:
    A homeland security concentration focuses on national security threats. Graduate students learn to address threats such as natural disasters and terrorism. This concentration prepares graduates for careers in federal law enforcement, including disaster response manager positions.T
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Emergency response manager, security specialist, disaster response manager

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

Full-time students typically earn their online master's degree in criminal justice in two years. Most criminal justice programs require 30-40 credits of coursework, which may include a practicum or a master's thesis.

Several program characteristics affect the length of a criminal justice master's degree track, including enrollment options. Some programs offer a part-time enrollment option, which can increase completion time to three or more years. Other programs provide accelerated enrollment options, which often include compact courses and reduced program duration. Additionally, incoming graduate students with applicable transfer credits can often graduate more quickly.

Some criminal justice programs incorporate optional or required practica, which can extend a student's graduation timeline. However, a practicum also provides valuable professional experience, which can help graduates transition into the workforce more easily. Online programs often appeal to working criminal justice professionals seeking career advancement, and many online programs include curricula designed for working professionals.

Courses in an Online Master's in Criminal Justice Program

  • Advanced Criminal Justice
    Many master's programs in criminal justice include a course covering advanced topics in the field, such as criminological theory, research-based criminal justice, and current issues in criminal justice. Graduate students examine interactions between branches of the criminal justice system, theories on community policing, and rehabilitative justice.
  • Criminal Justice Theory
    This course explores theoretical explanations for crime, including sociological, psychological, and biological theories. Graduate students read work by prominent theorists, along with critiques of the major schools of thought in criminology. The course examines how these theories shape criminal justice practice.
  • Investigative Criminology
    Graduate students learn advanced skills to investigate crimes. Coursework explores methods of profiling violent crimes, the ethics of criminal profiling, and scholarly research on investigating crimes. This course trains students to evaluate different types of crimes and criminals. Learners examine critiques of profiling methods and the use of profiles in today's criminal justice system.
  • Advanced Crime Scene Investigation
    This class provides advanced training related to processing and investigating crime scenes. Graduate students learn methodologies for analyzing crime scenes, methods for developing leads from physical evidence, and techniques for profiling offenders based on crime scenes. The course prepares students for leadership roles as investigators, detectives, and crime scene technicians.
  • Victimology
    Learners in this class study the harm caused by criminal activities, along with the victim's role in the criminal justice system. Students explore methods of measuring crime through victimization, the victim-offender relationship, and the victim rights movement. The course may focus on crime prevention and ways to involve the victim in the criminal justice process.
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Paying for Your Online Master's in Criminal Justice Degree Program

Funding your education might prove easier than you think. Many schools offer scholarships for students with excellent academics and private organizations offer scholarships to students who meet specific requirements. Work studies, loans, and grants can also help you finance your degree. Completing the FAFSA allows you to quickly apply for these types of financial aid in one place. The FAFSA application typically takes about one hour to complete.

Scholarships for Accounting Students


Captain James J. Regan Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students who wish to study criminal justice or law enforcement may apply for this scholarship. Applicants must write at least 250 words about how technology will affect law enforcement in the 21st century and submit three recommendation letters, two of which must be from outside of law enforcement. The recipient must demonstrate strong leadership skills.

Amount: $2,500


Lincoln Legal Professionals Association Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Nebraska residents who intend to study a major in the legal support field may apply with an application, resume, and transcripts. They must also submit a one-page essay about why they want to pursue a degree in the legal support field. The recipient needs at least a 3.0 GPA.

Amount: Varies


Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners offers this scholarship to students who plan to study fraud examination. Applicants need a declared major or minor in accounting, business administration, finance, or criminal justice. This scholarship requires two recommendation letters in addition to the application.

Amount: $1,000-$10,000


Out to Protect Scholarship Fund

Who Can Apply: Students who identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender and who are currently enrolled in a basic law enforcement training program in America may apply for this scholarship. Applicants must demonstrate being a positive role model for other law enforcement professionals. Applicants can apply by completing an application. Finalists must submit references.

Amount: $500-$1,000


Kush Arora Federal Justice Reform Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Individuals who demonstrate an interest in criminal justice reform may apply for this scholarship. The recipient must attend an accredited institution in the United States and maintain at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA. Applicants must submit their resume and transcripts and write a 1,000-word essay about a policy in the criminal justice system that needs reform or one that should stay the same.

Amount: $500


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