An online bachelor’s in criminal justice studies prepares you for a career where you might investigate crimes, ensure the safety of communities, respond to disasters, or share case findings in court. These professionals include police officers, federal agents, detectives, criminologists, and forensic specialists. A PayScale poll found that criminal justice professionals report high job satisfaction and fulfillment in their careers.
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can help you start a career as a probation officer, correctional treatment specialist, police officer, or detective. According to the 2017–18 PayScale College Salary Report, professionals with a bachelor’s in criminal justice earn a median annual salary of $37,700 during their first five years on the job and $61,900 after ten years in the workforce. These earnings are fairly high compared to the median annual wage for all occupations, $37,690. In addition to brick-and-mortar programs, online criminal justice degree programs are widely available.
What Are the Best Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Programs?
Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Degree Program Ranking Guidelines:
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
1. Dalton State College
Part of the University System of Georgia, Dalton State College offers several fully online programs, including a BS in criminal justice. Students in the online criminal justice program explore principles, theories, and functions of the US criminal justice system. Learners prepare for careers in law enforcement, corrections, probation, and juvenile justice. The program begins with an introduction to law enforcement and the judicial process. Upper-level coursework examines criminal law, criminology, criminal procedure, and ethical issues in criminal justice. Students who pursue a concentration in law enforcement take thirty credits in topics such as victimology, drugs in America, juvenile delinquency and justice, and criminal justice administration. Students apply learned concepts during a capstone and internship.
Online courses are available in sixteen-week and eight-week options. Online students can earn credits for prior learning, such as military training or professional experience, to graduate more quickly. Distance learners have access to live tutoring through Smarthinking. Students earning the online criminal justice degree pay the same tuition rate, regardless of state residency. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED.
Dalton State College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
2. Texas A&M University–Texarkana
Based on a 375-acre campus, Texas A&M-Texarkana offers 24 undergraduate degrees and an 18-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The university offers a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice in a hybrid format. Designed as a degree completion program, students earning the criminal justice degree online transfer an associate degree from a community college. Students may also begin the program as freshmen.
The 120-credit curriculum blends on-campus and online courses. Students explore several topics, including law and society, deviance and deviant behavior, crime and delinquency, police and community relations, and the administration of criminal justice agencies. Students develop competency in the use of research methods and computer applications. A course in the US Constitution examines the state and federal constitutional rights granted to offenders, incarcerated individuals, and juveniles. Learners gain practical experience during a full-time internship at a criminal justice agency.
Students work with faculty to customize the degree. Available specializations include management, forensic science, human behavior, and juvenile justice. Students develop competencies in research, analytical thinking, and communication to prepare for a variety of positions in criminal justice. Students who transfer an associate degree complete the program in two years or fewer. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and must submit college transcripts.
Texas A&M University–Texarkana is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
3. The University of Texas of the Permian Basin
Surrounded by one of the biggest oil fields in the country, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin enrolls 7,000 students. The university offers 35 affordable undergraduate degrees at its Odessa campus and online, in collaboration with the University of Texas Online Consortium. The fully online bachelor’s of science in criminal justice and criminology does not require you to visit campus.
Students earning the criminal justice degree online complete 66 credits, after transferring general education requirements and lower-level courses. Students take upper-level courses in topics such as criminal justice administration, criminal evidence and proof, legal aspects of corrections, police and the community, and institutional corrections. Learners explore factors that contribute to criminality, including drugs and mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. A course in juvenile delinquency examines causation, delinquency distribution, prevention programs, and correctional treatment.
Students prepare for positions in corrections and rehabilitation, while learning techniques such as therapy in correctional settings. Elective options include terrorism, gang behavior, and violence and murder in the family. Students can complete the BS degree on a full-time or part-time basis. Applicants must have earned at least 54 previous credits with a minimum 2.25 cumulative GPA.
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
4. West Virginia State University
Institute, West Virginia
Established in 1891 as an historically black college, West Virginia State University enrolls 3,500 students at its campus in Institute. The university offers flexible online programs, including a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice that requires 120 credit hours. Students in the fully online program gain in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice system and its role in society. The curriculum aligns with the standards of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Graduates understand the causes of crime and are sensitive to racial, multicultural, and gender issues within the system.
Students take general education courses in the arts, humanities, and sciences before beginning the 51 major credit hours. Topics of study include police and society, criminal law, victimology, juvenile justice, punishment and corrections, and ethics in criminal justice. Students use 18 elective hours to concentrate in an area of interest, such as law enforcement, investigations, or corrections.
WVSU accepts up to 72 transfer credit hours. Students complete the online criminal justice bachelor’s degree in two to four years. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and a minimum 2.0 GPA on prior college coursework. Applicants must submit SAT or ACT scores.
West Virginia State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
5. Northern Kentucky University
Based in a metropolitan area near Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University enrolls 14,000 students and offers 90 bachelor’s programs through seven colleges. NKU’s online programs feature accelerated options for students with transfer credit.
The bachelor’s of arts in criminal justice requires 120 credit hours and is available entirely online. Learners study the history and philosophy of law enforcement, analyze the American court system, and explore theories and issues related to criminal behavior and criminal justice. The 24-hour core curriculum covers topics including police, corrections, the criminal court system, juvenile justice, and ethics in criminal justice. Students learn research methodologies used in criminal justice and study research design, sampling, and validity.
The program includes 23 elective credit hours, which students can use to focus in a specific area of the field or to earn a minor in another discipline. NKU delivers seven-week online courses asynchronously, and students can accelerate degree completion by transferring previous credit hours. All online students pay the same tuition rate. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and a minimum 2.0 GPA. Applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores.
Northern Kentucky University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
6. Missouri Southern State University
Located at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Missouri Southern State University serves 6,000 students and offers 140 academic programs. MSSU provides asynchronous online programs, including certificates and 14 undergraduate degrees. MSSU offers a 124-hour bachelor’s of science in criminal justice administration fully online.
Students gain knowledge and practical skills in small classrooms that facilitate individualized attention. In addition to general education requirements, learners complete 39 hours of core courses in areas including criminal procedure, criminal law, correctional practices, the juvenile justice system, probation and parole, and ethics in criminal justice. A course on asset protection examines security techniques used in loss prevention in retail businesses, schools, hotels, transit systems, and utilities.
Students earning the criminal justice degree online take 12 hours of criminal justice electives in areas such as organized crime, crime scene investigation, fish and game enforcement, homicide investigation, and child exploitation. Students complete an internship, during which they gain practical experience while working at a criminal justice agency. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and a minimum 2.0 GPA on previous college coursework and must submit SAT or ACT scores.
Missouri Southern State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
7. Potomac State College of West Virginia University
Keyser, West Virginia
Based in Keyser, Potomac State offers small class sizes and individual instructor attention. The school offers bachelor’s degrees and 50 associate degrees that transfer to neighboring colleges. Potomac State offers the only bachelor’s of applied sciences in criminal justice in West Virginia. The college offers the BAS as a degree completion program; students with an associate degree can graduate in as few as 18 months.
The 60-credit curriculum includes coursework in victimology, criminal evidence, ethics and the criminal justice system, and research methods in criminal justice. Students take four upper-level courses covering pressing issues in criminal justice and law enforcement, such as hate crimes; forensic techniques; community-based corrections; white collar and economic crime; and drugs, crime, and society. The online criminal justice program comprises eight-week, accelerated courses.
Potomac State maintains articulation agreements with several two-year institutions to facilitate seamless transfer of associate degrees. Applicants receive prior learning credits for experience such as police academy training. The college offers affordable tuition rates and scholarships for students in West Virginia and some neighboring states. Applicants must have earned an associate degree with a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Potomac State College of West Virginia University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
8. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley prepares students for careers in high-demand sectors. Located in an area known for innovation and emerging technology, UTRGV offers 120 degrees in disciplines such as science, technology, and engineering. Learners can study fully or partially online through distance programs such as the bachelor’s of science in criminal justice. The university offers the BS program in a hybrid format, ideal for current criminal justice and law enforcement professionals in the area.
Students transfer 42 general education credit hours and complete 70 hours of major coursework through UTRGV. The online bachelor’s in criminal justice program includes coursework in the American judicial system, criminal justice administration, probation and parole, criminal careers and behavior systems, and the legal aspects of evidence. Elective options include courses in genetics, toxicology, forensic DNA analysis, and gang behavior.
Online learners take courses in a 16-week format and earn the degree in as few as three years. Students without transferable credits take general education and lower-level courses on campus. UTRGV’s guaranteed tuition plan ensures each student’s tuition rate will not increase for four years. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and must submit SAT or ACT scores. Transfer students must have a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
9. California State University, San Bernardino
San Bernardino, California
Based at the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, CSUSB enrolls more than 20,000 students each year. The university maintains a diverse learning community and offers online degree completion programs that are ideal for working professionals with previous college experience.
Students in the bachelor’s of arts in criminal justice program complete all upper-level criminal justice classes online. The BA is designed for both criminal justice professionals who want to advance their careers and for individuals who are new to the field. Before entering the program, students complete lower-division requirements and two introductory courses on the criminal justice system and criminal law. Upper-level courses cover topics including victimology, police and police systems, law and the courts, theories of crime and delinquency, and correctional theory and institutions.
Elective options include courses in gangs, occupational and corporate crime, forensic profiling, and domestic violence and the criminal justice system. An elective course on community corrections explores alternatives to incarceration, such as community treatment facilities, restitution to victims, halfway houses, and probation and parole. Students learn from faculty ranked third in the country in published books on criminal justice. Most full-time students complete the degree in two years. In-state and out-of-state students pay the same tuition rate. Applicants must have earned at least 60 transferable credits with a minimum 2.7 GPA.
California State University, San Bernardino is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
10. Fayetteville State University
Fayetteville, North Carolina
FSU is the second-oldest state college in North Carolina. The liberal arts university enrolls more than 6,000 students and offers more than 60 degrees. FSU offers several fully online degree completion programs, including a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice that is ideal for students planning to pursue careers in law enforcement. The program comprises 120 credit hours, including a 38-hour university core.
The criminal justice curriculum holds certification from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and comprises 82 upper-level credit hours. Students earning the online criminal justice degree explore criminological theory, criminal justice ethics, criminal law, police and society, and prisons and society. Available electives include white collar crime; restorative justice; comparative criminal justice; and sex, sexuality, and the law. Graduates often secure positions as police officers, FBI agents, DEA agents, and crime analysts.
FSU accepts up to 90 transfer credit hours. North Carolina residents pay a fixed tuition rate as long as they maintain continuous enrollment, and 95% of FSU students receive financial aid. Applicants must have at least 24 transferable credit hours, including four prerequisite criminal justice courses; they must also submit college transcripts.
Fayetteville State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
11. University of Louisiana at Monroe
Founded in 1931, ULM is located on a 238-acre campus. The school enrolls more than 9,000 students each year and offers more than 80 online programs in a variety of disciplines. ULM’s fully online criminal justice degree was the first program of its kind in Louisiana. Students earning the bachelor’s of arts in criminal justice gain knowledge and training in law enforcement, courts, and corrections.
The online criminal justice bachelor’s degree includes coursework in criminal law, American national government, crime and delinquency, juvenile delinquency and justice, and criminal justice procedure and evidence. Students who plan to pursue managerial positions learn supervisory and administrative principles necessary to effectively manage police and correctional agencies. A capstone course during the final semester requires students apply knowledge in all areas of criminal justice.
Students earning the criminal justice degree online complete eight-week courses, and 88% of program graduates find employment in the field within six months of graduation. ULM accepts transfer credits from regionally accredited institutions. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED, must submit SAT or ACT scores, and must have a minimum 2.0 GPA in all transfer credits.
The University of Louisiana at Monroe is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
12. Park University
Founded in 1875, Park University provides students with a flexible, liberal arts education. The university enrolls about 16,000 students at its main campus in Parkville, Missouri, at its 41 US campuses, and online. The bachelor’s of science in criminal justice administration program offers concentrations in law enforcement, corrections, and security. Graduates are prepared to pursue roles in criminal justice and law enforcement.
Park’s online criminal justice degree requires 45 hours of coursework in areas such as criminal law, criminology, criminal procedure, and agency administration. Students also complete a criminal justice internship. Students apply six hours toward a concentration in law enforcement, corrections, or security. Students cultivate practical experience through participation in internships and extracurricular activities. Park’s criminal justice club fosters career awareness through visits to police departments and prisons and through participation in community-service projects.
Students can complete courses in eight-week or 16-week formats. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of state residency. The program offers multiple start dates throughout the year, allowing students to enroll at the most convenient time for them. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED, and transfer applicants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Park University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
13. University of Alaska Fairbanks
UAF enrolls 11,000 students and operates seven campuses across the state. The majority of UAF’s student body comprises undergraduate students, and the university offers small class sizes and individualized instruction. UAF offers a variety of online degrees and certificates, including an online bachelor’s of arts in justice program designed for students planning to pursue careers in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest.
Students learn how to address conflicts involving Native American, federal, and state issues. Learners are prepared to work with tribal and rural justice systems to foster restorative justice. The 120-credit curriculum includes courses in criminology, ethics and justice, principles of corrections, rural justice in Alaska, and juvenile delinquency. Elective options cover topics including gender and crime, police problems, and correctional counseling and rehabilitation. During a culminating experience, students choose to undertake an internship, participate in a seminar that explores critical issues relevant to the student’s intended occupation, or complete a research project.
Students take criminal justice classes online, without any on-campus requirements. In-state and out-of-state students pay the same tuition rate. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and at least a 2.5 GPA. Applicants must submit SAT or ACT scores. Transfer applicants must have at least 30 previous credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
14. Blue Mountain College
Blue Mountain, Mississippi
Founded in 1873 as a women’s college, BMC is today a co-educational Christian institution. With about 500 students, BMC combines a liberal arts education with vocational training. The college offers small class sizes to foster faculty-student relationships and scholarship. BMC offers select programs entirely online, including the bachelor’s of science in criminal justice. The 120-credit program is ideal for both current criminal justice personnel and for those who want to enter the field.
The online criminal justice program requires 53 to 60 semester hours in general education topics, including English, history, and math. Students also take courses in the Old Testament and New Testament. The 36-hour criminal justice major includes coursework in juvenile justice, criminal investigations, police administration and organization, and forensic science. A course in the criminal mind explores personality types, thinking processes, and crimes committed by infamous criminals around the world. The program culminates in an internship at a law enforcement agency.
The program comprises eight-week, asynchronous courses. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. The program offers start dates in the fall, spring, and summer. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and must submit ACT or SAT scores. Transfer applicants must submit college transcripts.
Blue Mountain College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
15. McNeese State University
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Part of the University of Louisiana System, McNeese is based on a 121-acre campus in Lake Charles. The university offers 60 programs and emphasizes the application of disciplinary knowledge in a variety of professions. Distance learners can complete programs fully online or in a hybrid format. The 120-credit bachelor’s of science in criminal justice prepares students for careers in law enforcement and criminal justice.
The fully online bachelor’s in criminal justice requires general education courses in areas including history, psychology, math, and English. Major coursework covers topics such as criminology, criminal law, police and policing, crime and jurisdiction, and criminal justice administration and management. A course on the US correctional system examines the treatment of individuals who violate the nation’s laws; students explore incarceration and relevant institutions. During a capstone project, students gather and analyze data and present their findings in a research paper.
Students complete the first two years of the program at Louisiana State University at Eunice or Sowela Technical Community College before transferring to McNeese. Applicants to the online criminal justice bachelor’s degree program must have a high school diploma or GED and must submit SAT or ACT scores. Transfer applicants must submit college transcripts and must have a minimum 2.0 GPA.
McNeese State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
16. University of Houston Downtown
Established in 1974, the University of Houston–Downtown is located in the nation’s fourth-largest city. UHD offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees through five colleges. Transfer students who have completed core coursework at a two-year institution can complete upper-level coursework online through UHD. The university offers a fully online bachelor’s of science in criminal justice. The 120-hour curriculum comprises general education requirements and at least 36 hours of upper-level coursework.
Online classes for criminal justice students include courses in criminology, the police system, the criminal court system, the correctional system, and a senior seminar in criminal justice. Students can apply 12 free hours toward a concentration in a specific area of criminal justice or a minor in another discipline. Students gain practical experience during an internship program, which places students at criminal justice agencies.
Learners who join UHD’s chapter of the Professional Society of Criminal Justice Students access resources related to the major, connect with a support system of peers, and participate in community-service projects. Graduates are prepared to incorporate theoretic knowledge and empirical validation to practical problems. Students earning the criminal justice degree online must complete at least 25% of program requirements through UHD. The university offers flexible scheduling options and student services available on campus and online. Applicants must submit previous college transcripts.
The University of Houston–Downtown is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
17. The University of Texas at El Paso
El Paso, Texas
UTEP is an urban research college that enrolls more than 23,000 students, the majority of whom are from west Texas and Mexico. The university’s online offerings make its programs accessible to students across the country. Students in the bachelor’s of arts in criminal justice program prepare for specialized careers dealing with criminal activity along the border between the United States and Mexico.
The curriculum comprises 120 credit hours, including general education courses and 36 hours of major coursework. Students take all criminal justice classes online, including courses in theoretic principles, practical applications, and the latest research in the field. Course topics include criminology, criminal procedure, juvenile justice, family law, immigration law, and criminal justice on border between the US and Mexico. A course on cybercrime explores crimes perpetrated using computers and the internet and emphasizes national security threats, vulnerable infrastructures, and cyberterrorism readiness. During a course on criminal justice organizations and management, students explore the inner workings of agencies, including the police and court systems.
UTEP has one of the lowest tuition rates among the nation’s research colleges and maintains recognition as a military-friendly institution. Applicants must have earned at least 12 transferable credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA.
The University of Texas at El Paso is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
18. University of North Texas
Based in Denton, the University of North Texas is one of the nation’s largest colleges. UNT offers programs in a variety of disciplines, including more than 100 bachelor’s degrees. Transfer students can complete their degrees online through UNT. The bachelor’s of science in criminal justice is available fully online, in an asynchronous format.
Students complete coursework in criminological theory, criminal law and procedure, police and corrections systems, and criminal justice and public policy. Learners use electives to study particular areas, such as drugs and society, terrorism, serial homicide, or world criminal justice systems. Students gain practical knowledge through experiential activities with local jails or prisons and through service-learning opportunities.
Students earning the online criminal justice bachelor’s degree also complete a criminal justice internship; some take advantage of study abroad opportunities offered through the criminal justice department. Criminal justice students can join organizations such as UNT’s chapters of Alpha Phi Sigma and Lambda Alpha Epsilon. UNT accepts transfer credits from two- and four-year institutions. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and must submit college transcripts.
The University of North Texas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
19. Polk State College
Winter Haven, Florida
Polk State College has four campuses in Florida and enrolls more than 20,000 students in bachelor’s and associate programs. Students benefit from small class sizes and affordable tuition rates. Polk State offers online degree completion programs for associate degree holders. Transfer students complete the upper-level requirements to earn the bachelor’s of science in criminal justice in two years.
The interdisciplinary curriculum draws from several disciplines, including law, criminology, psychology, and public policy. The curriculum includes courses in the American court system, criminal and delinquent behavior, corrections and penology, criminal investigations, and the legal aspects of criminal justice. A course on law enforcement and corrections administration examines the theoretical and practical aspects of running law enforcement and correctional facilities. Students learn about the interrogation process and study topics such as the use of Miranda Rights, the importance of nonverbal listening, and the rules that govern testimonial evidence.
Elective options include courses in terrorism, drugs and crime, organized crime, forensic science, and public safety systems integration. A capstone prepares students for careers in the field, and students complete a research project that examines policymaking in criminal justice. Applicants must have earned an associate degree with a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Polk State College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
20. University of Maryland–University College
The University of Maryland University College specializes in meeting the needs of working professionals. UMUC’s programs emphasize career skills and encourage students to apply classroom knowledge to their professional work. The school maintains 20 campus locations in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. UMUC also offers more than 90 online certificates and degrees, including a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice.
The 120-credit curriculum explores the nature of crime and the institutions in place to prevent and respond to crime. Students take criminal justice classes online, including courses in victimology, law enforcement administration, correctional administration, juvenile delinquency, and criminal investigations. Students use 46 elective credits to study areas of interest in the field or to earn a minor outside the discipline. Learners participate in extracurricular activities, such as the Criminal Justice and Investigative Forensics Club or the university’s Pi Gamma Mu chapter.
The program is fully online, with some courses available in a hybrid format. UMUC accepts up to 70 transfer credits from two-year institutions and up to 90 credits from four-year schools. Online support services include free tutoring and mentoring, tech support, and career services. UMUC offers affordable tuition rates and free electronic study materials for most courses. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and must submit SAT or ACT scores. Transfer applicants with 24 credits must submit college transcripts.
The University of Maryland University College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
21. Columbia College
Founded as a women’s college, Columbia College today enrolls men and women in its liberal arts and science programs. Columbia College serves 29,000 students at its main campus in Missouri and at 35 satellite locations across the country. The college offers more than 800 courses and 29 degrees entirely online.
Columbia college offers two online criminal justice programs: a bachelor’s of arts and a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice administration. The BA is designed for current professionals in the field, and the BS is ideal for students new to criminal justice. Both programs require 38 to 41 semester hours in general education courses, including classes in history, the arts, and the humanities. Students complete 42 to 51 hours of major coursework in areas such as criminology, criminal law, criminal justice administration, corrections and penology, and the juvenile justice system. Students interested in crime science investigations can pursue a CSI certificate requiring 15 semester hours of specialized study in topics such as crime scene photography and bloodstain evidence.
Students receive hands-on training through internship and practicum opportunities. Both online criminal justice programs culminate in an integrative seminar, and both programs prepare students for graduate studies. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of state residency, and military students receive a discounted tuition rate.
Columbia College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
22. Indiana University East
Indiana University East offers 50 degrees and hands-on learning through independent research, internships, and award-winning service-learning opportunities. The university offers programs at its Richmond campus and online.
IU East provides online degree completion programs for students with at least 60 transferable credits. Students in the bachelor’s of science in criminal justice program develop competencies in the field while honing managerial skills. The two-year program covers topics including corrections, crime and deviance, criminal law, courts and criminal justice, and constitutional rights and liberties. Students explore data analysis techniques and learn how to analyze aggregated and qualitative data during criminal justice investigations. Students interested in managerial careers learn about modern administrative theory and its applications to managerial positions in law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. Specialized course options include government finance and budgets and managing behavior in public organizations.
During a senior seminar, students examine select criminal justice challenges. The online criminal justice degree program culminates in a research internship. Graduates often pursue positions in law enforcement, probation, forensics, and corrections. Applicants must have either an associate degree or 60 transferable credits and a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Indiana University East is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
23. Southeastern Louisiana University
Louisiana’s third-largest public college, Southeastern provides its 15,000 students with personal attention. The university offers 150 degrees, including an online bachelor’s of arts in criminal justice.
The criminal justice program requires 120 semester hours, including general education courses in the arts, humanities, and sciences. The curriculum covers topics such as criminology, criminal law, the correction process, deviance and social control, juvenile delinquency, and race and ethnic relations. Students choose one of four minors: sociology, geography, anthropology, or geographic information systems. Learners gain practical experience during internships at criminal justice or law enforcement organizations.
Learners can join the Pre-Law Student Organization and the Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honor Society. Online students can also participate in the school’s annual Social Justice Lecture Series, during which international social justice activists speak to the community. Students earning the criminal justice degree online benefit from small class sizes and undergraduate research opportunities. Graduates often pursue jobs with police departments and federal agencies. Others enroll in law school. Southeastern offers start dates in the spring, fall, and summer. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and must submit ACT scores. The university accepts transfer hours earned with at least a 2.0 GPA.
Southeastern Louisiana University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
24. Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico University is a liberal arts school and a designated Hispanic-serving institution. ENMU enrolls about 6,000 students and offers more than 60 degrees. One of the university’s most popular majors is criminal justice.
ENMU offers two online criminal justice programs: a bachelor’s of arts and a bachelor’s of science. The programs are available in fully online and hybrid formats. Students gain a strong foundation in criminal justice topics and obtain practical experience during a required internship. Both programs require at least 40 credits of upper-division courses in topics including deviant behavior, sociology of law, criminal investigations, criminal law and the courts, juvenile delinquency, and race, ethnicity, and gender. Students can take specialized courses such as white collar crime, gangs in American society, border crime, and counterterrorism and law enforcement.
During a supervised internship, students work at a criminal justice or social services agency. Online learners have access to services including online tutoring, a digital library, and the student success center. ENMU maintains articulation agreements with several community colleges. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and must submit SAT or ACT scores.
Eastern New Mexico University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
25. Peirce College
Based in Philadelphia, Peirce College specializes in educating working professionals. Peirce was founded as a business college; today, the school educates students in a variety of disciplines. Peirce offers flexible online programs, including a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice studies.
The 121-credit curriculum is available fully online. Learners explore the social, legal, and technological challenges facing criminal justice professionals. Topics of study include criminology, the criminal court system, the correctional system, victims and victimization, and criminal justice research methods. Students work with faculty during a cooperative experience that cultivates practical skills. Students develop critical-thinking and communication skills, and those who meet the academic requirements can join Alpha Phi Sigma, a criminal justice honor society that recognizes academic excellence. Students take criminal justice classes online and learn from faculty who serve as police officers, judges, and security experts.
Students can alternate between on-campus and online learning each week, according to their schedules. Peirce also offers a competency-based educational option, which provides credit for prior knowledge and experience. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and must submit college transcripts.
Peirce College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
Choosing an Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Studies Program
Criminal justice classes cover a range of subjects, including sociology, psychology and law. Major courses cover specific topics and approaches in the criminal justice system. For example, criminology courses explore the theories and analytical processes used to study criminal behavior, while corrections classes study issues related to criminal punishment and rehabilitation systems. Students enrolled in an online criminal justice degree also learn about different types of crime, including gang activity and white-collar crime. Several courses explain daily operations for police officers and other law enforcement professionals.
With so many options, it can be difficult to choose a program. Students should carefully review factors like tuition cost, scholarships, location, program format, and program length.
Students interested in certain aspects of criminal justice should seek an online criminal justice program with a concentration in that area. Specializations allow students to tailor their education to their personal interests and long-term career goals. Specializations for a criminal justice degree online include criminology, legal studies, and human services. Students may also earn specializations in cutting-edge fields like homeland security, which studies terrorism and national defense, or cybercrime, which prepares students for careers in digital forensics.
What Will I Learn in an Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Program?
The curriculum of an online criminal justice degree will vary by institution. Most of these programs range from 120–125 credits, including general education requirements. Different programs offer different courses, concentrations, and electives. However, certain classes are common across all schools. Three common classes for criminal justice programs are listed below.
- Crime Theory and Causes: Students learn the theories and root causes of criminal behavior in order to effectively prevent crimes and rehabilitate offenders. This course examines the various motivations for criminals, including biological, psychological and socioeconomic factors.
- Alternatives to Incarceration: Many convicted criminals are sentenced to prison terms, but rehabilitation can take many forms. This course explores alternative options for offenders, including probation and parole, diversion programs, and non-traditional sentencing. Students also review methods of supervision and control of criminals who reside in different communities.
- Emergency and Disaster Management: The 9/11 terrorist attacks portended a shift in the way law enforcement and emergency workers handle crises and disasters. This course tackles both historical and contemporary response protocols in order to examine how they have evolved and adapted since 2001. Topics include natural disaster management and terrorist response.
Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Careers
Professionals who complete their criminal justice degree online can pursue many different careers in law enforcement and criminal rehabilitation. The BLS projects that protective service occupations will grow 5% between 2016 and 2026, resulting in roughly 158,200 newly positions across the country. We’ve covered three of these occupations below.
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: These uniformed officers respond to both emergency and non-emergency situations, and have the authority to arrest suspected criminals. Many police officers work in specific divisions, such as narcotics or SWAT.
- Median Annual Salary: $61,050
- Projected Growth Rate: 7%
Detectives and Criminal Investigators: Unlike police officers, detectives and criminal investigators are plainclothes officers who interview witnesses and collect evidence for criminal investigations. They may take part in raids and arrest offenders. Many detectives specialize in areas such as homicide or fraud.
- Median Annual Salary: $79,970
- Projected Growth Rate: 5%
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: Probation officers work with criminals who have recently been released from prison or placed on probation. Correctional treatment specialists counsel both probationers and parolees to ensure they undergo effective rehabilitation and do not conduct further criminal activity.
- Median Annual Salary: $51,410
- Projected Growth Rate: 6%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Accreditation for Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Degrees
Accreditation refers to the comprehensive evaluation of colleges and universities to ensure they meet certain criteria. Non-government organizations known as accreditators perform this evaluation in conjunction with federal and state agencies. Students must attend fully accredited schools in order to receive federal loans or other forms of financial aid. Accreditation also has a bearing on whether or not students may transfer credits from one institution to the other.
Two types of accreditation are used to assess postsecondary institutions in the United States. Regional accreditation is typically awarded to nonprofit colleges and universities with an academic focus, while national accreditation is normally for vocational or for-profit schools. The regional accreditation process is considered more rigorous and, as a result, students may have a difficult time transferring credits from nationally accredited institutions to regionally accredited ones. Full lists of recognized accreditors are available through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, a non-government organization that helps oversee the accreditation process, as well as the US Department of Education.
A third type of accreditation designation, “programmatic,” is reserved for specific sub-schools within larger institutions, including business, law and nursing schools. Students pursuing online criminal justice programs may be interested in a degree approved by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). However, the ACJS only certifies a handful of schools and does not reflect the full spectrum of available criminal justice degrees.
Criminal Justice Professional Organizations
Professional organizations can be helpful for students earning an online criminal justice bachelor’s degree. These organizations offer certification and professional development opportunities in criminal justice, including programs that focus on officer training and the First Amendment. Other perks include access to journals and online magazines, invitations to annual conferences and networking events, and information about job openings and internship opportunities. Below, we’ve reviewed three prominent criminal justice professional organizations.
- National Criminal Justice Association: Established more than forty years ago, the NCJA represents state, local and tribal governments and advocates for various criminal and juvenile justice issues. The association offers a semester-length internship program for undergraduates across the country, and also co-sponsors the annual National Forum on Criminal Justice.
- Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences: The ACJS hosts two online publications, Justice Quarterly and the Journal of Criminal Justice Education. The organization also recognizes criminal justice programs that meet the academy’s certification standards. Students earning degrees in criminal justice or related fields may become members at a reduced rate of $30 per year.
- American Probation and Parole Association: The APPA partners with Relias Training to offer online education programs for aspiring probation and parole officers. The association also receives funding from government agencies and private donors to improve correctional systems and rehabilitation programs.