Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

TBS Staff Writers
by
Updated October 19, 2023
Find the best online master's degree in criminal justice with our list of top-rated schools that offer accredited online programs.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

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.

Featured Online Master’s

Loading...
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site

The Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs

#1 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

University of Southern California

  • Location-markerLos Angeles, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$57,256
  • Out-of-state$57,256
  • Retention Rate96%
  • Acceptance Rate11%
  • Students Enrolled48,321
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment17%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

University of Central Florida

  • Location-markerOrlando, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,478
  • Out-of-state$19,810
  • Retention Rate91%
  • Acceptance Rate44%
  • Students Enrolled69,402
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment59%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

Florida State University

  • Location-markerTallahassee, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,640
  • Out-of-state$19,084
  • Retention Rate93%
  • Acceptance Rate36%
  • Students Enrolled42,450
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment47%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

Averett University

  • Location-markerDanville, VA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$11,520
  • Out-of-state$11,520
  • Retention Rate50%
  • Acceptance Rate24%
  • Students Enrolled485
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment97%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

Boston University

  • Location-markerBoston, MA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$54,720
  • Out-of-state$54,720
  • Retention Rate94%
  • Acceptance Rate19%
  • Students Enrolled33,720
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment10%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

Florida International University

  • Location-markerMiami, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,721
  • Out-of-state$16,529
  • Retention Rate89%
  • Acceptance Rate58%
  • Students Enrolled58,711
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment68%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

California State University, Long Beach

  • Location-markerLong Beach, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,742
  • Out-of-state$17,622
  • Retention Rate87%
  • Acceptance Rate39%
  • Students Enrolled38,674
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment30%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee

  • Location-markerSarasota, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,206
  • Out-of-state$15,121
  • Retention Rate81%
  • Acceptance Rate24%
  • Students Enrolled2,207
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment69%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

Michigan State University

  • Location-markerEast Lansing, MI
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$15,555
  • Out-of-state$40,384
  • Retention Rate91%
  • Acceptance Rate71%
  • Students Enrolled49,809
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment26%
  • AccreditationYes
#10 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

Georgia Southern University

  • Location-markerStatesboro, GA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,371
  • Out-of-state$15,425
  • Retention Rate78%
  • Acceptance Rate54%
  • Students Enrolled26,054
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment41%
  • AccreditationYes

Best Online Programs

Masters in Criminal Justice

2023


The Best Schools

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.

  • Program Cost: Unless students secure significant scholarships, grants, or fellowship funding, college expenses can add up quickly. Find a program with low tuition or ample aid offerings. Individuals looking for state-specific information can review the Best Schools’ guide.
  • Transfer Policies: Students sometimes choose schools that do not fit their needs, even after conducting extensive research. For this reason, applicants should seek out programs with transfer-friendly policies so that they can transfer credits to a new school.
  • School Size and Type: Even online students should consider school size and type, as these factors can affect class size. Private schools tend to offer smaller student-to-teacher ratios when compared to public schools, but many in-state options also cap class sizes to maintain intimate learning environments.
  • Program Length: Program length may vary based on whether a student enrolls in an accelerated, part-time, or full-time degree. Students in accelerated programs may complete their degrees in one year, as opposed to two years for regular degrees. Part-time students may take 3-4 years to complete their degrees.
  • On-Campus Requirements: Most online programs do not mandate on-campus requirements, but prospective students should double-check these requirements before enrolling. Distance learners who live within driving distance of their school may visit campus to take advantage of certain resources.
  • Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements: Many programs require students to complete some type of culminating project, such as a researched thesis, a professional paper, or a project demonstrating their learning throughout the program.

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.

Courses in an Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Program

  • Legal Aspects of Criminal Justice: This course takes an in-depth look at common legal issues in the field, including how ordinances, statutes, and constitutional provisions govern how to carry out justice at the state and federal levels. Students also come to understand how judges and other justice employers are selected, promoted, and terminated.
  • International Terrorism: Students in this course receive an overview of both the history of international terrorism and its current state. Specific topics include the rise and fall of individual terrorist organizations, funding sources, handling threats, use of technology, counterterrorism, and how to prevent future groups from rising.
  • Research Methods: This required course equips learners with the tools they need to engage in qualitative and quantitative criminal justice research. Degree seekers cover topics such as establishing validity, determining a hypothesis, measuring and sampling data, allowances for errors, and the use of statistics in establishing probable causes.
  • White Collar Crimes: With a focus on nonviolent crimes, this class teaches students about white collar crimes and how investigators catch criminals. Students explore the types of crime less common to today’s world, such as bank robberies, before looking into more modern forms, such as credit fraud.
  • Homeland Security: A required course for those who want to work in national security, this class covers the history of the Department of Homeland Security since its founding in 2002 and explores issues handled by the department. Students also learn about domestic and international terrorism and study common security measures.

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

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 About Master’s in Criminal Justice

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.

Header Image Credit: MoMo Productions | Getty Images

Learn more, do more.

More topic-relevant resources to expand your knowledge.
0