Best Accredited Online Colleges for Criminal Justice
Justice, security, and law-enforcement build strong foundations for a functioning society and a degree from accredited online colleges for criminal justice is the first step for those hoping to make a difference.
Ensuring justice and the punishment of those that break the law is an important part of maintaining peace in our society, which underscores the importance of those that feel the calling to not delay pursuing one of our top 30 Accredited Online Colleges in Criminal Justice. What better feeling could there be knowing that every time you lay your head down at night you were part of the system that put away the bad guys and helped liberate the wrongly accused?
What Will You Learn With a Criminal Justice Degree?
If you’re curious what the field of criminal justice entails, you’re probably not alone. The field is broad and encompasses many sub-fields, but they all share one common goal, which is ensuring that justice is served to those that have committed crimes.
A lot of what you’ll be learning in criminal justice programs is the structure of the system. You’ll also dive more deeply into why people commit crimes, criminal law, methods for rehabilitating and integrating criminals back into society. You can think of the aforementioned subjects as the backbone and foundation of the house of justice, but there are many other areas of criminal justice you may have the opportunities to explore.
Some specialized areas of criminal justice you may end up exploring in either your core curriculum or through elective courses include law enforcement, forensic science, homeland security, and international justice, among others.
Many of the programs on this list also require that students complete an internship in which you’ll gain real-life experience in how the criminal justice system works. This will allow you to translate the theories you’ll be taught in the classroom into applicable knowledge in your criminal justice career.
What Are the Best Criminal Justice Degrees?
Accredited Online College uses the most recent data from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Each program is scored individually. It’s then compared to all other universities offering that degree to determine the final score you see by each ranking. Accredited Online College considers the affordability, student-to-faculty ratio, and the number of programs offered on-campus and online. To learn more, visit our methodology page.
The Bachelor of Science in criminal justice is one of the best online degrees you can get in this field, and we’re not the only ones who think this as College Affordability Guide in 2020 named Liberty University among their top online criminal justice degrees. Whether you’re already working in criminal justice or just getting into studying the field this degree will give you the tools and confidence to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for this subject.
This BS in criminal justice is a 120-credit hour program that is estimated to take students around 3.5 years to complete. Students can choose a specialization within this degree in business administration and management, corrections and human services, crime scene investigation, criminal psychology, homeland security, and juvenile justice among others. Classes are also held in accelerated eight-week modules, so you learn and earn your degree faster.
Florida International University
The primary focus of the BS in criminal justice from Florida International University is teaching students a solid foundation in which they can build their future criminal justice careers. They do this by starting at the beginning with students required to take an Introduction to Criminal Justice class and then moving through progressively more difficult classes. Students complete the program with a senior capstone project that requires students to formulate an in-depth analysis of a problem in criminal justice.
While the core criminal justice curriculum consists of 18 credit hours, students can focus their studies on aspects of criminal justice they find of particular interest through another 18 credit hours of upper-division electives. Those interested in pursuing a combined bachelor’s/master’s in criminal justice can apply to this school’s program once they have earned 75 credit hours at the bachelor’s level. Enrollment in this program allows students to earn up to 12 credit hours that apply toward their master’s degree while earning their bachelor’s.
Washington State University
The Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice and criminology from Washington State University is a degree designed to make the world a better place through providing students with a well-rounded education and the ability to think critically. The school’s criminal justice program dates back to the 1940’s, so you can be sure that this school knows what it’s talking about in the field.
The criminal justice core curriculum consists of 18 credit hours of coursework in which students will take classes such as Introduction to the Administration of Criminal Justice, Introduction to Criminological Theory, Research Methods for Criminal Justice, and others. Students can also participate in a criminal justice internship in which they gain real-world experience in their future careers, although this doesn’t seem to be a graduation requirement as it’s listed under possible electives.
Pennsylvania State University-World Campus
If you’re looking for a degree taught by the same professors that teach the school’s on-ground classes then look no further than Penn State University’s Bachelor of Science in criminal justice program. With the same professors teaching your class and the same degree granted as your on-ground cohorts, the only thing that distinguishes this online degree from the on-ground degree is the amount of flexibility it provides its students.
This 120-credit hour program is offered by a distinguished university, which helps cushion the blow of the tuition which costs between $576 to $617 per credit hour of work. If you’re wanting to enhance your resume then you may want to consider pursuing a homeland-security minor that consists of 18 credit hours. The homeland security minor will provide you with the knowledge necessary to be effective in a security-focused position in government or in the private sector.
Arizona State University
For those out there that are relatively certain they will someday go on to pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice, you may want to take a look at ASU’s 4+1 accelerated program option. The program allows students that have maintained at least a 3.4 GPA in their Bachelor of Science in criminal justice program to also complete a Master of Arts degree in just for a combined total of only five years. This five-year option eliminates a year from what it would normally take to earn these degrees individually.
To apply to the 4+1 accelerated program option, students need to maintain the required cumulative GPA listed above for the first 90 credit hours of their BS degree. The program is designed for driven students that want to cut time and money off earning these two degrees. If you’re just interested in the BS program then this school is still an excellent choice to pursue your education as there is a large variety of criminal justice classes to choose between.
Problem-solving skills, the ability to think outside the box, and effective communication are some of the attributes that make for a successful career in criminal justice, which is why the BS in criminology and criminal justice from Missouri State University-Springfield created their program around these skills. If you think about it, these skills are what makes for success in most industries, so you’ll be gaining a skill set that will be useful wherever you end up.
While you pursue the BS in criminology and criminal justice from this university you’ll have the ability to specialize your study with a certificate in criminal investigation, terrorism and national security, or conservation law enforcement. This university also offers a combined accelerated bachelor’s and master’s program that allows students to take up to 12 credit hours of coursework and apply it to both degrees.
University of South Florida-Main Campus
If you’ve already earned an Associate in Science degree, then the Bachelor of Science in applied science with a concentration in criminal justice program from the University of South Florida is for you. Whether you plan to continue your education into graduate studies or are just looking for professional advancement, this degree teaches you everything you need to succeed.
The criminal justice core curriculum consists of two classes: Theories of Criminal Behavior and Survey of the Criminal Justice System. Students will also be expected to select five upper-level criminal justice courses as electives. All students are expected to maintain a cumulative GPA throughout the program of 2.0. If accepted into this program, you can expect to walk down the aisle with your diploma two years after enrollment if you take 15 credit hours of coursework per semester.
University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus
For those who aspire to work in the law enforcement field, the University of Oklahoma’s Bachelor of Science in criminal justice was designed for specifically this reason. The objective of this program is to teach students the ins and outs of our criminal justice system on multiple levels. Skills that are emphasized are conflict resolution, ethics, and deviance and social control.
Once admitted to the program, students will be paired with an advisor who will help create a graduation plan which accommodates the student’s other commitments. This program was designed for adults who wish to continue working while they complete their studies.
To graduate, students must complete all 120 course credits and maintain a minimum 2.0 grade point average. There are four areas of concentration within the program, which are: homeland security, restorative justice, administrative leadership, or investigations and intelligence analysis
Sam Houston State University
Sam Houston State University’s bachelor’s degree in criminal justice stands out from the crowd. It is one of the oldest as well as prestigious programs in the United States. This four-year degree is available completely online or on-campus. Students benefit from learning from experts in the field which allows them to benefit from the expert’s first-hand experience.
In total, the program is 120 credit hours and includes a variety of courses, including cybercrime, victimology, child abuse and neglect, global terrorism, white-collar investigation and more, making the program well-rounded. Start times are offered in fall, spring, and summer.
The degree can be completed as a Bachelor of Science, or a Bachelor of Art. As a science degree, social sciences courses are required, and as an arts degree, classes in a foreign language are part of the curriculum.
Florida State University
The bachelor’s degree in criminology from Florida State University can be completed entirely online, however, the degree awarded is equivalent to that of on-campus students of the program. The flexible online format was designed to accommodate those who are currently working and wish to earn their degree at their own pace.
The program focuses on helping students to build their critical thinking skills and ability to solve complex problems. Graduates often go on to pursue work as a child welfare caseworker, crime intelligence analyst, detective, private investigator, social services case manager and others. This program is also geared toward those who wish to pursue law school or other graduate degree programs.
In total, the program has 36 credit hours and a C-average is required to graduate. In order to apply for this program, an Associate of Arts degree or completion of the liberal arts requirements are necessary.
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus
The online degree in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati blends sociology, psychology, history and political science to help graduates gain skills in critical thinking and understanding human behavior in the context of law enforcement. Both entry-level and advanced positions in criminal justice are achievable with this degree.
The U.S. News & World Report has ranked this program among the top 15 Best Criminal Justice Schools year to year. Students can expect to gain detailed knowledge in multiple aspects of criminal justice. Career paths include various roles in criminal justice settings, from policy reform to law enforcement. The program consists of 120 credit hours and there are start times in spring, summer, and fall.
A cumulative 2.7 GPA in high school is required to apply for the program. Applicants from other areas of study who wish to transfer into this program must have a 2.0 GPA average from all other courses.
Ball State University
With their fully online degree in criminal justice, Ball State University allows students to continue working in their current careers, while advancing their knowledge of the criminal justice system and earning a bachelor’s degree. They stand out for their emphasis on data-driven decision-making, ethics, and cultural competency.
Their program was designed for those with an interest in careers in community corrections, law enforcement, asset protection, or other law-related fields. One of the highlights of this program is that classes are asynchronous, so students can work around their own schedules.
This degree includes 120 credit hours and there are start dates in the spring, summer, and fall. Students with a military background may be offered credits for their service, which will contribute to their total credit count. For students who wish to apply, they should be advised that after submitting an application, the review period can take 3-4 weeks.
National University is the largest private, nonprofit university in San Diego.The main focus of their online Bachelor of Science in criminal justice administration is to provide their students with a comprehensive understanding of the policies and practices of our criminal justice system. This program covers the criminal justice system at the local, regional, and federal levels.
Professionals in the law enforcement field who are seeking to gain their knowledge and advance their career, as well as students who are just beginning their path of study, are well-suited for this program.
The professors are experts in the criminal justice arena and offer real-world knowledge to prepare students to critically think, examine, and implement laws in the court system, law enforcement, and corrections positions. The program covers a multitude of topics, such as patterns of juvenile delinquency, criminal sanctions in relation to victims and offenders, and leadership and management styles.
Colorado State University-Global Campus
Colorado State University’s Bachelor of Science in criminal justice curriculum is centered on practical and real-world skills needed to be a leader in multiple avenues of law enforcement. Course Report has ranked Colorado State’s criminal justice degree program #1 in the country. Plus, this program is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
This program emphasizes how to make informed decisions within the context of law and order, as well as how to operate within effective systems of law enforcement. There is an option to specialize. Options include, but are not limited to, organizational leadership, project management, human resources and organizational development, marketing, emergency management, and healthcare management.
Upon completion of this 120-credit program, graduates often go on to pursue careers in crime analysis, victim advocacy, child protective services, border security, cyber-crime prevention, court administration, and others. Job opportunities are available at both the local and federal level.
Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University’s criminal justice bachelor’s degree prepares graduates for careers in law enforcement, courts, as well as social service agencies and corrections. Graduates may also pursue law school or other graduate studies after completion of this program. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Eastern Kentucky University’s criminal justice program among the top in the nation.
The fully online program is offered at six different start times during the year, which allows students to work within their existing schedule. The program is on an accelerated schedule, which means each term is eight weeks in duration. Plus, students are paired with an academic advisor who remains in contact with students even after graduation.
In total, the program is 120 credits. Students can choose from various minors to tailor their education to their specific areas of interest. Upon graduation, common career paths include police officers, sheriffs, social and human services assistants, as well as correctional officers and bailiffs.
Bellevue University’s Bachelor of Science in criminal justice was created to empower those with the knowledge and skills necessary to have successful careers in law enforcement, corrections, and in the courts. The curriculum is focused on policy development, legal and ethical principles, as well as contemporary social issues.
Although this course is completed online, it still offers a sense of hands-on learning through case studies, policy analysis, and real-world critical thinking activities. In total, this program has 127 credit hours. Within the program, there are 51 elective credits, which allow students to customize their learning to suit their interests.
To be accepted a person must have an associate degree or have 60 credits with a C- average or higher. The school was awarded Gold in Military Friendly Schools for 2020-2021.
University of Central Florida
U.S. News & World Report has ranked the University of Central Florida one of the best schools for a bachelor’s degree, as well as for veterans. Their bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is offered as an arts or sciences degree. Both paths focus on the ins and outs of our criminal justice system.
Career paths are available at the federal or local level and often include a corrections officer, FBI agent, or law enforcement officer. Although the training is conducted fully online, there are both case studies and interactive training to prepare students for real-world experience within law enforcement in the United States.
This program has 120 credits. While many students go on to work in law-related fields after graduation, this program is also designed to prepare students for entry into law school or other graduate studies.
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
Southern Illinois University is both nationally and internationally recognized as a leading research facility. Their online Bachelor of Arts in criminology and criminal justice offers the flexibility of completing coursework at your own pace, while receiving a degree from a prestigious institution.
The content of the program is identical to the in-person program option and taught by the same professors. Students can work at their own pace and begin the program during the multiple start dates offered in the spring, fall, and summer.
Of the 120 credits within the course, there are 39 electives that students can choose to further their individual interests. Core topics include introduction of the criminal justice system, criminological theory, as well as criminal justice research.
Saint Leo University
The criminal justice bachelor’s degree is ideal for people who are motivated to work within law enforcement, help solve crimes, and support the creation of safer communities. The professors of this program include people who have ample experience working as crime scene investigators, federal agents, and chief deputies.
The focus of this program is to prepare students with the real-world skills needed for a variety of positions, from negotiation with hostile criminals to policy creation on the regional and federal level. Students can specialize in either criminalistics or homeland security within the 120-credit hour program.
Saint Leo University is a Catholic school, and they are partnered with the FBI National Academy Associates. They have been ranked by G.I. Jobs and Military Advanced Education magazines as one of the most military-friendly schools in the United States.
Central Methodist University-College of Graduate and Extended Studies
The online criminal justice degree program at Central Methodist University includes training for multiple aspects of criminal justice – from investigation, to law and policy creation, to the social aspects of criminal deviance. The wide scope of topics makes this program well suited for a variety of career paths within law enforcement.
The program is offered as a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science. It is recommended that students looking to apply possess skills in listening, empathy, and flexibility, as these are necessary for being successful in the program. Skills that are taught include critical thinking, conflict resolution, and ethics within law enforcement.
Admission requirements include the completion of a college prep program with a 2.5 GPA average. Alternatively, a 225 GED score is also acceptable. While graduates often begin their careers in the criminal justice field, others go on to pursue graduate school.
Whether you choose to major or minor in criminal justice at Troy University you’re sure to gain knowledge that will go far beyond foundational concepts to true insight into current problems in the justice system. The major in criminal justice is composed of 36 credit hours of work and includes classes such as Survey of Law Enforcement, Careers in Criminal Justice, Constitutional Law, and Current Trends in Criminal Law, to name a few.
If working toward a bachelor’s degree you’ll be able to select a concentration in homeland security or digital forensics, which you can use toward a Master of Science in criminal justice if eligible for enrollment in the BS/MS accelerated program. Students eligible for the accelerated program must have maintained a 3.4 GPA when they reach 90-credit hours of earned coursework toward their bachelor’s degree.
University of Nebraska at Omaha
The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska Omaha has a Bachelor of Science in criminology and criminal justice perfect for the working criminal justice professional looking to earn or finish their bachelor’s. The program is especially easy to apply to if you happen to be a student of the University of Nebraska Kearney or Lincoln as the school works closely with both of these educational institutions.
The criminology and criminal justice major consists of 43 credit hours of specific coursework created to provide students with both a broad and detailed understanding of both criminology and criminal justice. Students will also take six credit hours of writing and research-based classes which will develop the ability to critically think and clearly communicate, two vital skills for those working in the justice system.
Lake Superior State University
If you’re someone who approaches education with practicality in mind and wants to learn their craft from people that have lived your future career then you’ll want to take a second to look at Lake Superior State University’s Associate and Bachelor of Science programs. Those that choose to work toward an associate degree can choose a concentration within criminal justice of corrections, homeland security, or law enforcement.
Students working toward the four year bachelor’s degree can choose to concentrate their studies in corrections, criminalistics, generalists, homeland security, law enforcement, or public safety. The Bachelor of Science in criminal justice with a concentration in generalist is also touted as a popular choice for Canadian students due to the school’s close association to Sault College and the Ontario police departments.
University of South Dakota
The University of South Dakota’s Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in criminal justice gives students the experience of collaborating within the criminal justice system and with closely allied agencies. The school recognizes that not only one job or person is involved with justice and that students and graduates have to be team players in the system.
Students have the option to pursue a science degree, liberal arts, or minor in criminal justice. Both the bachelor’s degrees are four-year programs that can be enrolled in by those that recently completed high school. The bachelor’s degree also prepares students for pursuing graduate education, while also providing hands-on education for individuals who need some experience before landing their first criminal justice job.
University of Toledo
The Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from the University of Toledo focuses on teaching their students a holistic perspective of crime. Students will also be taught how criminal justice agencies work together to tackle the national problem of crime. You’ll think about crime and the problems associated with criminal activity from the juvenile age through the lifespan. Since this is a large university, you’ll have access to a wide variety of criminal justice classes.
The criminal justice major is designed around 13 core classes designed to give students a foundation into criminology and a solid education of research methods. Some classes can only be taken as a junior or senior so you’ll have to work closely with your academic advisor to ensure you take the right classes at the right time. Students will also select 12-credit hours of elective coursework in criminology to complete the major.
Western Carolina University
North Carolina residents will find the $13,937 total Bachelor of Science in criminal justice program from Western Carolina University hard to beat in terms of value. The program has relatively rigorous admission requirements, listing an earned associate degree and one year of criminal justice experience as what they expect from their applicants. The one year of criminal justice employment will make ineligible many recent associate degree graduates.
The criminal justice core curriculum consists of 49-credit hours consisting of six courses. Distance learning students will focus their studies in an administration of justice concentration composed of classes in social justice and the law, criminal procedure and judicial process, legal liability in criminal justice personnel, criminal justice management, and criminal justice policy.
Individuals will find their ideal degree at Park University if they are looking for a liberal arts education combined with practical information and skills that will be applicable in their future career. This university offers an Associate of Science, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and the ability to minor in criminal justice entirely online. The school has a criminal justice degree to fit most kinds of students.
The Associate of Arts requires that students complete 27 credit hours of criminal justice specific classes, while the bachelor’s degrees expect students to take 45 credit hours. Those working toward their bachelor’s degree in criminal justice are able to select a concentration in law enforcement, corrections, or security. Park University works closely with local and federal criminal justice departments to provide their students with top-notch internship experiences they’ll remember for a lifetime.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers a Bachelor of Arts in justice tailored specifically to individuals located in the Pacific Northwest. The degree focuses specifically on problem-solving and addressing Native American issues. You’ll learn about the challenges often encountered with rural justice and how the tribal justice system operates. The entire degree is composed of 120 credit hours with the justice major composed of eight core classes.
The eight core classes that compose the justice major include Introduction to Justice, Introduction to Addictive Processes, Research Methods, Criminology, Ethics and Justice, Principles of Corrections, Rural Justice in Alaska, and Juvenile Delinquency. Students will finish this program by either completing an internship, research, or Seminar in Critical Issues. When you break down the cost you’ll find that this degree is extremely affordable at just over $38,500 for all 120 credit hours.
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
You’ll have the opportunity to get a Rutgers University criminal justice degree at an affordable price by utilizing the university’s collaboration with community colleges. It’s a pretty well-known fact that community college tuition is generally cheaper than the tuition you’ll pay at a major university, which is why some students choose to complete their associate at a community college. The online Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Rutgers University can be taken through the school’s affiliated School of Criminal Justice at the County College of Morris.
If you’re looking for a more liberal education, then those who have already earned an associate degree can apply to the Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice program through either Brookdale Community College or Mercer Community College. All of these programs require that students complete a total of 120 credit hours of coursework, which includes the previously earned associate degree.
Students who want a degree in Homeland Security will want to check out the bachelor’s degree in homeland security offered by the Administration of Justice Department of Mississippi College. Gaining anti-terrorism knowledge is useful in a variety of careers ranging from law enforcement to intelligence analysis.
While pursuing this degree you’ll be required to take Introduction to Criminal Justice; Introduction to Homeland Security; Introduction to Emergency Management; and either American Constitutional Development I and II or Arrest, Search, and Seizure and AJU 301 Criminal Investigation.
After taking these classes students have the ability to select 15 credit hours of elective coursework ranging in topics from Legal Aspects of Homeland Security to Domestic Terrorism. To round off the requirements for this major students are encouraged to take Abnormal Psychology and Non-Verbal Communication, but other classes can be substituted for these with approval of the criminal justice program director.
What Kind of Jobs Can I Get With a Criminal Justice Degree?
There are many different kinds of jobs that those with a criminal justice degree will be eligible to work. The kind of job and the pay will depend on the level of education, the type of organization you decide to work for, and the number of years you’ve worked the job. The good news is that there is a job that will fit almost any kind of personality type.
Let’s break down the possible career opportunities based on the level of education you obtain. If you decide that an associate degree is as far as you want to go in your educational journey, at least right now, then you may want to consider becoming a police detective, an immigration and customs inspector, or a criminal investigator and special agent. All of these jobs are hands-on and require the identification and apprehension of suspected criminals. The expected salaries in the jobs in this category are surprisingly high at greater than $80,000 per year, probably because of the high-risk nature of these occupations.
Those that decide to go two years further in their education and obtain a bachelor’s in criminal justice should consider a career as an intelligence analyst, adjudicator, or a social worker. These careers require that you analyze situations, objectively assess data, and problem solve. If you choose a bachelor’s degree level job in criminal justice you can expect to take home an annual salary of between $60,000 and just over $80,000.
If you’re willing to put the time and effort into getting a master’s degree then you may be qualified to become a social worker, licensed professional counselor, or a criminal justice and law enforcement teacher. Jobs at the master level require that individuals be able to learn a theory and then apply the theory to real situations. All that extra time to get a master’s degree may not pay off financially compared to those with an associate or bachelor’s as the jobs in the master’s degree category can expect a yearly pay of between $40,000 and $65,000.
The top of the educational pyramid is the doctoral degree and those that end up getting a doctorate in the criminal justice field end up becoming lawyers or judges. Judges, magistrates, and lawyers operate at various levels of the law ranging from common law courts all the way up to the Supreme Court. Judges and Lawyers are where you make the big bucks with median salaries ranging between $120,000 and $140,000 per year.
What Requirements Will You Need to Apply for a Criminal Justice Degree Program?
Like the pay and the types of jobs you’ll be able to land after graduation, the admission requirements to criminal justice programs vary depending on the level of education you decide to enroll. Those that are wanting to apply to an associate degree program will likely be asked to submit proof that they completed high school or its equivalent.
If the program is the first college you’ll be attending since graduating high school, the school may require that you take and submit either the ACT or SAT scores. Some schools require that students submit essays to predetermined questions, which gives the admission team insight into the students thinking style and ability to write clearly and concisely. If you have completed coursework in your past at another college, the program will want you to send them official transcripts from these educational institutions.
Students wishing to apply to a bachelor’s degree program will be asked to submit most of the same materials as those applying to an associate program minus the ACT or SAT requirement. Some schools may require students to participate in a live or virtual interview before admitting you into their program. These interviews are opportunities for the school to gauge your motivations and fit with their particular program.
Admission to master’s and Ph.D. programs are highly competitive and often require the submission of letters of recommendation, a purpose statement, and live or virtual interviews. Letters of recommendation are a way in which schools gauge how you are in society when interacting with others. A purpose statement is often another requirement because of the rigor of these programs and the dedication it requires to complete these degrees. The schools want to make sure that you have thought out the sacrifices that will be necessary to complete the degree.