Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice 2022

by TBS Staff Writers, Janice Monti
• 3 min read
reviewed by TBS Rankings Team
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An online master's degree in criminal justice gives learners advanced knowledge and skills in criminal justice topics such as organizational behavior, issues in policing, and criminal profiling.

Graduates can work as police officers, probation officers, correctional treatment specialists, and correctional supervisors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earn a median salary of $53,020 per year, while first-line supervisors of correctional officers earn a median of $62,500 per year.

Top 10 Online Master's in Criminal Justice
#1 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
#2 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
#3 Florida International University Miami, FL
#4 Georgia Southern University Statesboro, GA
#5 California State University – San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA
#6 California State University – Long Beach Long Beach, CA
#7 Texas A & M International University Laredo, TX
#8 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania Slippery Rock, PA
#9 Missouri Baptist University Saint Louis, MO
#10 Georgia College & State University Milledgeville, GA

Featured Online Schools

The Best Online Master's in Criminal Justice Programs

#1 Online College in California

University of Southern California

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 92%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Students can earn an online master's in criminal justice from USC in two years. Designed for criminal justice professionals seeking to advance in their careers, the program offers start dates in the fall, spring, and summer. The program requires no on-campus attendance, fieldwork, or clinical experiences.

The 24-credit curriculum emphasizes vulnerable populations, organizational leadership and changes, and field-specific technology. Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Prospective students submit a resume, 2-3 letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. USC does not require GRE scores.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: N/A

Accredited By: WASC Senior College and University Commission

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Available Scholarships: USC Black Alumni Association - Professional Graduate Student Scholarship

#2 Online College in Florida

University of Central Florida

School Information
Location Orlando, Florida
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 72%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

UCF has delivered online programs for more than 25 years. The university offers more than 100 online degrees, including a master's in criminal justice. The curriculum covers management and administrative theory. Learners explore research methods and statistics.

The 36-credit curriculum comprises 21 core credits, 15 elective credits, and a final capstone course. Students can complete a six-credit thesis as an elective. Online students may complete some electives on campus.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants submit a resume and two letters of recommendation.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public 

Concentrations Available: Dual public administration and criminal justice master's degree

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Available Scholarships: Jallad Family Endowed Scholarship

#3 Online College in Florida

Florida State University

School Information
Location Tallahassee, Florida
Admission Rate 36%
Graduation Rate 83%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

FSU's fully online master's in criminal justice program prepares learners to advance in the field or secure teaching positions at Florida community colleges. Graduates may also pursue businesses and consulting opportunities related to criminal justice.

Students earning the 36-credit degree complete 15 core credits, 12 elective credits, and up to nine credits from approved courses in other disciplines. Coursework addresses topics such as penology, victimology, and juvenile justice. Learners also explore the relationships among race, ethnicity, crime, and social justice.

Learners can apply up to six transfer credits toward the degree. FSU waives the GRE requirement for applicants with at least five years of professional experience in the field.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: N/A

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

Available Scholarships: Robert L. Clark Scholarship

#4 Online College in Virginia

Averett University-Non-Traditional Programs

School Information
Location Danville, Virginia
Admission Rate 24%
Graduation Rate 100%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Virginia-based Averett has offered accelerated and online programs for more than 30 years. Public safety professionals can pursue a master's in criminal justice online to qualify for administrative and leadership roles.

Students typically take two classes per eight-week block and graduate in less than 23 months. The 37-credit program requires 19 core courses and a three-credit thesis project or comprehensive exam. Students also earn 15 credits in one of the five concentrations.

The flexible online program features five annual start dates. Enrollees can begin coursework in January, March, May, August, or October. A success counselor supports each student during enrollment and throughout their studies.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Disaster management, human resource management, leadership, management, applied data analytics

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Available Scholarships: Graduate and Professional Studies Military Scholarship

#5 Online College in Massachusetts

Boston University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 19%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

BU's Metropolitan College provides a flexible online degree in criminal justice. Learners can earn the degree in person, fully online, or in a hybrid format. BU offers evening classes to accommodate working schedules. After earning the master of science in criminal justice, graduates can advance in law enforcement and public safety careers, secure teaching roles, and pursue doctoral studies.

Full-time students can earn the 32-credit degree in eight months. Part-time learners typically graduate in 16 months. Coursework covers criminal behavior, principles of leadership in organizational settings, and theories of social control. Students develop practical skills in strategic management, crime analysis, and cybercriminology.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Crime analysis, cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity, strategic management

Accredited By: New England Commission on Higher Education

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Available Scholarships: Megan McClung Memorial Scholarship

#6 Online College in Florida

Florida International University

School Information
Location Miami, Florida
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 63%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

FIU offers more than 100 online degrees, including a master of science in criminal justice. Graduates often enter careers in applied research and analysis with criminal justice agencies. Others pursue doctoral studies and academic positions.

Degree-seekers complete five core courses, four criminal justice electives, and three general elective classes.

Applicants to the competitive program need a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.2 GPA. Applicants submit two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a writing sample.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: N/A

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Available Scholarships: UWS C.A.M.P. 4 Justice Endowment

#7 Online College in California

California State University-Long Beach

School Information
Location Long Beach, California
Admission Rate 39%
Graduation Rate 74%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

In response to the growing demand for law enforcement and correctional professionals, CSULB offers an accelerated online master's in criminal justice program. Learners typically earn the degree in two years.

The 36-credit curriculum features 21 credits of criminology and criminal justice courses and 15 elective credits. Students must pass a qualifying exam after their first two semesters. The program culminates with a thesis or comprehensive exam.

Degree-seekers prepare for leadership roles in law enforcement, corrections, the courts, and private security. Graduates can also teach at community colleges or secure research positions in criminal justice agencies.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: N/A

Accredited By: WASC Senior College and University Commission

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Available Scholarships: The Robert R. Sawdey CSULB Scholarship

#8 Online College in Florida

University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee

School Information
Location Sarasota, Florida
Admission Rate 24%
Graduation Rate 47%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 69% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Established in 1975 as a branch of the University of South Florida, USFSM offers more than 40 degrees and certificates. The fully online master of arts in criminal justice program is a convenient option for working professionals seeking career advancement.

Applicants to the program need a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students provide two letters of recommendation and a personal statement.

Learners completing the 33-credit curriculum apply theory and research to criminal justice issues. Master's students can work with faculty members on research projects.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: N/A

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

Available Scholarships: Stoneybrook Masters Scholarship Fund

#9 Online College in Michigan

Michigan State University

School Information
Location East Lansing, Michigan
Admission Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 81%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A private university, MSU offers an online master of arts in criminal justice program. Degree-seekers apply theory and research to crime and risk assessment. Coursework covers contemporary criminal justice and public policy issues.

The 30-credit program examines recent developments in the field. Learners explore counterterrorism, law enforcement intelligence, and crime control strategies. Students can pursue independent research and internships.

The program features an optional specialization for students interested in managing security operations in business, industry, and government.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: Security management

Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Available Scholarships: Harriet B. Rigas Memorial Endowment Scholarship

#10 Online College in Georgia

Georgia Southern University

School Information
Location Statesboro, Georgia
Admission Rate 54%
Graduation Rate 50%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Part of the University System of Georgia, Georgia Southern delivers on-campus and online degrees in criminal justice. Graduates can pursue professional advancement or further academic training in the field.

The 36-credit online master's in criminal justice and criminology features three tracks. The criminal justice concentration focuses on theory and public policy within criminal justice systems and justice administration. The criminology track explores etiology and major theoretical perspectives with an emphasis on research applications.

Students in the cybercrime track learn about laws regulating electronic devices and the internet. Cybercrime students also explore types of cybercrime, cyber ethics, and state and federal jurisdictions.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: Criminal justice, criminology, cybercrime

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Available Scholarships: Georgia HERO Scholarship

Best Online Programs - Master's in Criminal Justice

Online Master's Degree in Criminal Justice Programs Ranking Guidelines

We selected these programs based on their quality, the types of courses they offer, and their faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation. We took into account the school's reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.

What is a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice?

Master's in criminal justice degree programs provide an extensive understanding of the criminal justice system's organizational components and processes. These programs typically cover crime and criminal justice from an interdisciplinary perspective, providing insights from areas such as public administration, sociology, law, and criminal justice. Students also learn to evaluate research-based information and apply it in the real world.

MCJ degree programs cover the ethical, systemic, and reintegration aspects of the criminal justice system. They cover the theory and application of criminal justice. Students learn to design research and perform quantitative and qualitative analyses.

An online criminal justice master's degree might cover the following subjects:

  • Analyzing Criminal Behavior
  • Criminal Justice Administration
  • Criminal Justice Ethics
  • Criminal Justice Statistics
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Research Methods
  • Theories of Social Control
  • Applying Principles of Leadership in Organizational Environments
  • Correctional Systems
  • Judicial System
  • Law Enforcement
  • Policy Analysis
  • Terrorism

Students pursuing a master's in criminal justice online may need to complete a thesis, a research project, or an internship.

MCJ students can focus their degrees on specific aspects of criminal justice. Criminal justice master's programs online typically offer concentrations in judicial management, federal law enforcement, security management, terrorism, behavior analysis, strategic management, homeland security, and forensics.

Online Master's in Criminal Justice Programs

A criminal justice degree can be your point of entry into a law degree program, or enable you to work in politics, academia, advocacy, corrections, homeland security, or law enforcement—to name just a few criminal justice jobs.

Students completing a master's in criminal justice online enjoy the flexibility to balance academic progress with personal and work responsibilities. Rather than driving to a physical classroom multiple times each week, distance learning programs allow students to watch lectures, turn in assignments, take exams, and interact with teachers and colleagues from any location.

When looking at master's in criminal justice programs online, prospective degree-seekers who desire flexibility should consider asynchronous degrees that allow students to complete assignments and watch lectures on their own time. Synchronous coursework, conversely, requires learners to log on at specific times and take part in live lectures and discussions.

Some students puruing online criminal justice master's degrees already work in the field and want to advance their knowledge while continuing to work. Others may hold bachelor's degrees and work in unrelated fields but desire a career change. Learners pursuing higher education at this level should know that they want to work in the criminal justice field after graduating.

Related Master's Degree Programs

As learners may recognize when researching prospective programs, the large criminal justice industry relates to several connected disciplines. Over the course of their research, some students may decide that criminal justice does not suit their needs. In those cases, the following related master's degree programs may prove a better fit.

The Advantages of a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice

Bachelor's degrees in criminal justice allow graduates to pursue a variety of professional paths, including positions as probation officers, forensic science technicians, correctional treatment specialists, and emergency management directors. Some individuals may feel a bachelor's degree provides all they need to enjoy a satisfying career. Others, however, may prefer an advanced degree to help them take the next professional step.

Individuals with master's degrees qualify for managerial and senior-level roles, which allow for more responsibilities and higher earning potential.

Individuals with master's degrees qualify for managerial and senior-level roles, which allow for more responsibilities and higher earning potential. Many government agencies and private and public security organizations look for candidates with advanced degrees to fill their high-level positions.

Some degree-seekers may consider completing a doctoral degree. The best candidates for these terminal programs typically possess distinct, nuanced ideas about the type of work they want to do. These degrees prepare learners for postsecondary teaching positions and advanced research roles. Review the following section to learn more about careers and salary options for criminal justice majors.

Choosing an Online Criminal Justice Graduate Degree Program

With so many online master's in criminal justice programs available, prospective students should take their time finding the perfect degree. State public university programs tend to offer the most affordable options, allowing students to save money without sacrificing quality. Prospective degree-seekers must take several factors into account when deciding where to apply and attend, measuring how the realities of each program measure up to their expectations. If a program does not meet your needs, keep researching until you find one that does.

Accreditation for Online Criminal Justice Master's Degrees

Attending an accredited online criminal justice master's degree is an important step in the education process, as many employers seek out this distinction when hiring. While no large-scale accrediting agency exists in the criminal justice field, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences certifies certain programs that meet their requirements.

Outside of programmatic accreditation, degree-seekers should look for institutional accreditation, which falls into two categories: regional and national. Regional accreditation tends to require a more rigorous review of universities and how they serve their students. Four-year institutions tend to obtain regional accreditation, while trade schools usually seek national accreditation.

Four-year institutions tend to obtain regional accreditation, while trade schools usually seek national accreditation.

The US Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) both work to support and delineate accredited institutions. CHEA maintains an extensive roster of accredited institutions, while the ED provides the Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's Degree in Education?

Students can complete an online Criminal Justice Master's degree program in about two years.

Criminal Justice Concentrations

Criminal justice is a diverse field, and many schools offer concentration options for learners who want to focus their knowledge in a particular subfield. The concentrations highlighted below provide an idea of what to expect, but students should consult individual schools to learn about their offerings.

Corrections

This concentration prepares graduates to work directly with inmates by teaching them about the corrections, probation, and parole systems. Students learn how prison facilities work, and how to accomplish goals within these systems.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Warden, Probation Officer, Corrections Counselor

Investigations

Students who pursue this concentration learn about organized crime, evidence gathering, interrogation and interview methods, investigative techniques and handling career criminals. They may also gain forensic skills for reviewing crime data.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Detectives, FBI/CIA agents, Investigators, Forensic Scientists

Juvenile Justice

This concentration prepares graduates to work in the juvenile justice system, addressing family violence, the effects of domestic abuse, laws surrounding minors, and juvenile rehabilitation.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Violence Prevention Specialists, Juvenile Offender Advocate, Program Director, Rehabilitation Specialist

Criminology

For the more science-minded, this concentration introduces learners to topics including data analysis, criminological theory, understanding existing criminal records, and getting inside the minds of those who commit unlawful acts.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Criminologist, Forensic Psychologist

Security Management

Individuals who want to work in private, public, and governmental security firms may pursue this concentration, which focuses on homeland security, threats of terrorism, information and network security, retail security, and security administration.

Careers this concentration prepares for:

Head of Security, Emergency Management Director, Forensic Computer Analyst

Courses in an Online Master's in Criminal Justice Program

What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice?

Individuals pursuing a master's in criminal justice online can choose from several career paths, depending on their interests and skill sets. Some may want to work as agents or detectives, while others may prefer counseling or rehabilitative roles. Still others aspire to educate the next generation of criminal justice professionals. In all cases, graduates typically possess a penchant for research, fact-finding, and working with a variety of personalities.

Criminal Justice Salaries Based on Experience

FBI Agent

These professionals investigate federal crimes by collecting evidence, conducting interviews, analyzing data, and conferring with other justice colleagues. They often write reports about their findings and present these findings to supervisors.

Entry Level

$52,000

Mid-Career

$65,000

Experienced

$86,000

Late Career

$99,000

Professor of Criminal Justice

Professors work in colleges and universities to teach students about the discipline. They present lectures, create assignments, grade papers, counsel learners about career options, and conduct research in the field.

Entry Level

$60,000

Mid-Career

$70,000

Experienced

$87,000

Late Career

$100,000

Correctional Counselor

Working in correctional facilities, counselors help inmates work through rehabilitation programs, design job and/or educational training, write reports about the progress of prisoners, and liaise between inmates and prisons to ensure proper services exist.

Entry Level

$34,000

Mid-Career

$40,000

Experienced

$50,000

Late Career

$51,000

Forensic Computer Analyst

These professionals work to secure computer networks, root out malware and other corrupting files, and teach other employees about network safety. They may conduct reviews, offer training sessions, and report to supervisors on ongoing security issues.

Entry Level

$59,000

Mid-Career

$86,000

Experienced

$100,000

Late Career

$99,000

Employment Settings — Criminal Justice Degree Careers

  • Alternative Schools
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Child Support Services
  • City Government Agencies
  • Correctional Facilities
  • County Government Agencies
  • County Jails
  • County Sheriff Office
  • Courts
  • Department of Human Services
  • Domestic Violence Agencies
  • Education
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Government Agencies
  • Halfway Houses and Pre-Release Programs
  • Highway Patrol
  • Immigration and Naturalization Services
  • Juvenile Detention Centers
  • Juvenile Group Homes
  • Narcotics Bureau
  • National Security Agency
  • Office of the Attorney General
  • Office of the Public Defender
  • Police Academies
  • Police Departments
  • Precinct Station Houses
  • Private Security Companies
  • Reintegration Programs
  • Social Services Department
  • State Police
  • State Prisons
  • SUSance Abuse Clinics
  • US Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • US Customs and Border Protection
  • US Department of Defense
  • US Department of Homeland Security
  • US Department of Justice
  • US Department of the Treasury
  • US Drug Enforcement Administration
  • US Marshals Service
  • US Postal Service
  • US Secret Service
  • Women's and Family Shelters
  • Youth Correction Facilities

Criminal Justice Membership Associations

Joining a criminal justice professional organization offers several benefits to both recent graduates and seasoned professionals. Many offer continuing education and training programs, which keep practitioners aware of industry shifts and provide opportunities to network with colleagues at conferences, through webinars, and in online communities.

National Criminal Justice Association
The NCJA represents individuals working in local, state, and tribal government agencies by providing an annual conference, virtual events, webinars, training programs, and news on issues and policy in the discipline
American Society of Criminology
The ASC serves members by providing regional divisions and meetings, a member directory, several trade publications, an active jobs board, member awards, and opportunities to take on leadership roles within the society
American Correctional Association
For nearly 150 years, the ACA has supported members through professional development opportunities, healthcare options, annual conferences, in-house publications, resources, governmental advocacy, and a marketplace for eLearning, books, certifications, subscriptions, and videos American Probation and Parole Association
APPA offers two training institutes each year to ensure that members stay current on events in the field. The association also provides a thriving online community, regular virtual and in-person events, and professional development opportunities International Association of Women Police
Offering a voice for women working in law enforcement, the IAWP provides an annual conference, an adopted officer program, annual awards, mentoring, scholarship, networking, peer support, and ongoing training opportunities. Members also receive WomenPolice, a quarterly publication

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice?

Master's in criminal justice degree programs provide an extensive understanding of the criminal justice system's organizational components and processes. These programs typically cover crime and criminal justice from an interdisciplinary perspective, providing insights from areas such as public administration, sociology, law, and criminal justice. Students also learn to evaluate research-based information and apply it in the real world.

What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice?

Individuals pursuing a master's in criminal justice online can choose from several career paths, depending on their interests and skill sets. Some may want to work as agents or detectives, while others may prefer counseling or rehabilitative roles. Still others aspire to educate the next generation of criminal justice professionals. In all cases, graduates typically possess a penchant for research, fact-finding, and working with a variety of personalities.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's Degree in Education?

Students can complete an online Criminal Justice Master's degree program in about two years.

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