A bachelor’s degree in criminology leads to careers in the criminal justice system, policing, probation, and corrections. It also leads to jobs in courts and law offices, and many graduates enter helping professions. Employment in forensics and security is expansive for graduates with training in technology and data analysis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs in social and community services, information security, and forensics to experience faster-than-average growth between 2016 and 2026. The BLS expects continuing growth in all protective services occupations for the same period.
The flexibility of an online criminology degree appeals to students who work full time and those with family obligations that limit their ability to take classes on campus. This guide outlines what to expect from an online bachelor’s degree in criminology. It covers program features, financial aid resources, and information about career possibilities and salary potential.
An online criminology degree provides many career opportunities in law enforcement, government, and legal and social services. The BLS projects a steady demand over the next decade in protective services positions and faster-than-average employment growth in criminology-related careers, like forensics and social services. Although a bachelor’s in criminology does not guarantee employment or a higher salary, it provides the skills and knowledge needed to enter and advance in many specialized fields. This chart illustrates salary and job growth information for careers suitable for criminology bachelor's degree holders.
These specialists facilitate negotiation and manage antagonism to resolve personal and professional conflicts outside of the court system. They often work in legal offices, government agencies, and social services. Their responsibilities typically include clarifying issues under dispute, applying relevant laws and regulations, and overseeing meetings for the disputing parties to reach settlement agreements. These occupations generally require a bachelor’s degree in criminology or a related legal field.
These managers work for a variety of social service agencies, coordinating programs and managing community outreach. They administer support services for clients with specific challenges, such as drug abuse, mental health needs, unemployment, and criminal histories. These managers assess the efficacy of the programs they administer and report outcomes to supervisors or external funders.
These specialists facilitate the rehabilitation of criminal offenders, providing support services to assist clients on probation or parole. They help offenders fulfill the conditions of their release and avoid recidivism, as well as connect them with social services, such as job training or drug counseling. Often, these professionals conduct investigations and testify in court regarding an offender’s progress since release.
Police officer and detective duties depend on the specific job requirements of state or local agencies, but generally include investigating crime scenes, obtaining warrants, interviewing and arresting suspects, writing detailed reports, and testifying in court. Many police officers, detectives, criminal investigators, and federal agents need at least a bachelor’s degree to advance in rank.
Although salaries and job growth for criminology graduates varies by industry demand, geographic location, and required skills, the BLS projects higher-than-average job growth and relatively high salaries for most related professions. Local and state government rank as the top two employers for these technicians.
Whether enrolled in a criminology bachelor’s degree online or in a traditional campus-based format, students can expect similar core courses in areas like criminological theory, law and criminal justice systems, research methods, and statistics. Some programs may require a capstone course or an internship. Because course offerings, specializations, and degree requirements differ by school, students should research each program's features before applying. This list outlines several common courses offered in a criminology major.
This introductory class situates the study of crime and criminal behavior within the social sciences. Topics include theoretical explanations and social constructions about crime and criminals, social-psychological determinants of crime, and contemporary issues.
This analysis of delinquency and juvenile justice covers the changing social definitions of childhood, adolescence, and delinquency; the social and legal contexts within which delinquency occurs; and the structure of the contemporary juvenile justice system.
Students learn how to use social science research methods and statistical techniques with applications to criminology. Topics include research design, hypothesis testing, survey construction, data collection and analysis, and reporting.
This course provides an overview of the forces that affect conflict escalation and de-escalation. Coursework emphasizes alternative methods of conflict reduction, resolution, mediation, and negotiation. Students learn facilitative mediation techniques through interactive simulations.
This course examines policing as a structure of social control and police as agents of social control. Topics include policing in a multicultural society, community-based policing, and current issues and challenges in law enforcement.
It's important to do your research before choosing an online criminology degree. Key factors to consider include tuition and fees, online delivery formats, and graduation and retention rates. You should also compare college rankings and research each school’s reputation and accreditation status. Accreditation can affect your ability to transfer credits, pursue further education, and secure employment. This section includes answers to common questions about an online bachelor’s degree in criminology.
Most bachelor’s degrees in criminology comprise 120 credits and take four years of full-time study to complete. However, several factors affect the time to completion. Students with work or family obligations may study part time, which lengthens the time to completion, while students enrolled in an accelerated program may graduate in 18 months.
National and regional accreditation establish academic quality for colleges and universities. Programmatic accreditation applies to single degrees or programs within a school. Technical and for-profit schools generally acquire national accreditation. Regional accreditation represents the most recognized and prestigious designation. The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences administers the only programmatic accreditation in criminology, but very few programs possess this designation.
A graduate from an online bachelor’s degree receives the same diploma as a student who graduated from an on-campus program. Online students complete the same course requirements as students enrolled in traditional brick-and-mortar programs. The same rigorous standards for assignments, examinations, and grading apply to both formats.
Most online programs possess built-in channels for interaction with professors, classmates, and student support. Professors provide feedback through email, texts, and live chat. Students in the same classes and cohorts enjoy ample opportunities to connect. Many schools offer online tutoring, and a growing number of institutions offer virtual library access and technical assistance 24/7.
Some schools offer concentrations that allow students to specialize in a specific subfield of criminology. Concentrations allow students to explore particular interests related to their career goals. Concentration areas for a bachelor's in criminology may include victimology, juvenile justice, conflict resolution, or forensic studies.
Students should investigate all sources of financial aid, especially scholarships and grants, which, unlike loans, do not require repayment. As a first step, students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for federal financial aid. Some nonfederal, need-based scholarships also require the FAFSA. This chart provides examples of need-based and merit-based awards for criminology undergraduates that are sponsored by professional organizations and honor societies.
Alpha Phi Sigma offers two awards: the V.A. Leonard Scholarship and Regina B. Shearn Scholarship. Each award, worth $1,500, recognizes undergraduates in criminology and criminal justice-related fields who demonstrate academic achievement and leadership in extracurricular activities. Applicants must submit evidence of academic performance, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement outlining their educational and career goals. An additional two-page statement must be submitted that details how the applicant will use the scholarship money.
Members of racial minority groups planning a career in criminal justice, criminology, or a related field may apply for this scholarship. Candidates must provide evidence of financial need, academic achievement, and acceptance or enrollment in a four-year undergraduate program. They must also submit a 250-word reflection on how the writing and personal example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. informs their lives. Recipients receive $2,000 in tuition paid to their college or university.
Lambda Alpha Epsilon restricts this scholarship to members of the honor society enrolled in undergraduate programs in criminal justice or related fields. Applicants must have completed at least two terms or three quarters of their education with at least a 3.0 GPA. Transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement describing educational and career goals must accompany the application. Award amount ranges between $100-$400.
HAPCOA provides funding for students from Hispanic or Latino backgrounds pursuing a career in law enforcement or a criminal justice-related profession. This $2,500 scholarship recognizes the academic achievements, leadership, and service of high school seniors or enrolled college students. Applicants must submit evidence of a 3.0 GPA, extracurricular activities, and other examples of exemplary service or academic honors. They must also submit a personal statement outlining their educational plans and career goals.
This $2,500 scholarship recognizes commitment to serving communities through law enforcement. Applicants must major in criminal justice, criminology, or a related social science, with a 3.0 GPA. They must attend an accredited four-year college or university, or an accredited community college with the intention of transferring to a four-year program. Applicants must submit a 500-word essay describing their involvement in a community project and the impact of that project on the participants.