Best Online Bachelors Degree Programs In Criminal Justice 2020
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The minimum educational requirement for many protective service occupations, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice provides a pathway to careers in law enforcement, forensic investigation, homeland security, and victim advocacy. Students entering these fields experience a stable job market and solid pay. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, police and detectives can expect to earn a median annual salary of about $63,000.
This guide helps prospective students figure out what program works best for them. Use this information to learn about online programs, accreditation, financial aid opportunities, coursework and specializations, and career prospects.
AdvertisementAffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in Criminal Justice for 2020
Choosing an online program depends on your personal needs and career goals. Use this guide to research program cost, admission and transfer policies, accreditation and academic reputation, delivery formats, curriculum, available specializations, and on-campus requirements.
The most affordable online colleges typically offer in-state tuition rates or reduced rates for distance learners. Several bachelor’s programs offer classes entirely online in asynchronous formats that enable students to access course materials at their convenience. Other programs rely on synchronous formats and schedule classes at fixed times. Hybrid or blended formats may require some face-to-face sessions and/or on-campus meetings.
Established in 1865, Pierce College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offers a variety of academic programs for working students, including one of the most affordable online criminal justice degrees in the country. The 121-credit online BS in criminal justice accepts up to 90 transfer credits. Students can receive up to 27 credits for Philadelphia Division of Prisons training and up to 57 credits for Philadelphia police academy training. The completely online degree costs the same for in-state and out-of-state students. The curriculum includes courses like ethics in criminal justice, law enforcement and policy in society, and victims and victimization. Students culminate the degree with a criminal justice capstone. Graduates qualify for criminal justice careers in local, state, and federal agencies. Pierce College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
A nonprofit institution with campuses in Stockton and Modesto, California, Humphreys University offers one of the most affordable online bachelor's degrees in criminal justice. The practical, hands-on BS in criminal justice features small classes; 11-week quarters; and instruction from faculty with experience as detectives, chiefs of police, and lawyers. The program accepts applications year-round and offers four start dates each year. The 181-credit degree includes general education, criminal justice core, concentration, and elective requirements. Distance learners can choose from two concentrations: corrections, probation, and parole; and law enforcement. Regardless of their concentration, all students take classes in multicultural issues in criminal justice, police and community relations, and criminal procedure. Students must also complete a criminal justice capstone to graduate. The program offers credit for CDC corrections and C.A. Post certificates. Humphreys College is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
The Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University offers an affordable online criminal justice degree. The BS in criminal justice combines computer science and forensics topics with traditional criminal justice theory and practice. The program prepares students for careers in law enforcement and related fields. The fully online, 120-credit degree requires courses like research methods in criminal justice, survey of forensic science, and terrorism and homeland security. Prior to enrolling in core courses, students must complete prerequisite classes in statistics, biology, and chemistry. The program requires a grade of "C" or better in all major courses. Students can gain professional experience and specialized training while earning academic credit through FIU's law enforcement apprenticeship program. Florida International University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Located in Macon, Georgia, Mercer University offers one of the most affordable online bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice. The BS in criminal justice leadership explores the structural, theoretical, and practical aspects of the criminal justice system. Students can begin the program in August, October, January, March, or May. The 120-credit program includes classes like theoretical forensics criminalistics, current trends in criminal law and procedure, and issues in interpersonal violence. The university accepts transfer credits and associate degrees from regionally accredited colleges. All distance learners pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. Graduates can work in roles like law enforcement officer, victims advocate, and forensic examiner. Mercer University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Trine Online in Fort Wayne, Indiana, offers a variety of online education opportunities for nontraditional students. The online BS in criminal justice ranks among the most affordable online criminal justice degrees, allowing all students to pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. New classes start every eight weeks. The 120-credit program includes instruction from experienced judges, law enforcement officers, lawyers, and administrators. Core courses include criminal procedures and evidence, juvenile justice, and state and local government. The program also requires a law enforcement internship or criminal justice capstone demonstration. Students can choose from the following concentrations to tailor the degree to their interests: law enforcement, forensic/correctional psychology, agency administration, addictions, academy training/professional training. Trine Online is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Saint Joseph's College in Brooklyn, New York, offers an online BS in criminal justice practice and policy that incorporates concepts from psychology, sociology, forensic bioscience, and political science. The 120-credit program includes 60 liberal arts and 60 major credits. The curriculum provides an overview of the criminal justice system and explores prevention and control of crime. Students take classes like quantitative applications for criminal justice; race, class, and gender in criminal justice; and crime analysis and policy. The program also requires a criminal justice capstone experience. Graduates can pursue careers like law enforcement officer, social worker, corrections officer, and investigator. Saint Joseph's College - New York is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois, offers a fully online BA in sociology with a criminal justice emphasis. One of the most affordable online bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice, the program prepares students for careers in law enforcement, court services, and corrections. Students take accelerated, eight-week classes through the Blackboard learning management system. The curriculum includes classes like correctional institutions, juvenile delinquency, race and ethnic relations, and police and urban society. The program's instructors hold years of professional experience in the criminal justice system. Students learn to think critically about social justice issues relevant to the field. As a member of the Yellow Ribbon Program, McKendree offers special support and services for active-duty military members and veterans. McKendree University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
A public research university located in Tampa and founded in 1956, the University of South Florida serves more than 37,000 undergraduate students each year. The school's bachelor of science in applied science in criminal justice ranks among the most affordable online criminal justice degrees. The bachelor's degree-completion program is designed for students with an associate degree. The 120-credit program includes general education, concentration, writing intensive, and elective courses. Required courses include theories of criminal behavior, survey of the criminal justice system, and a criminal justice senior capstone. Applicants need an associate degree with a minimum 2.0 GPA. The University of South Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Founded in 1919, Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is one of the largest private postsecondary institutions in the United States. The university offers a fully online BS in criminology and justice studies that explores topics like corrections, law enforcement, and the judiciary. Students complete four 10-week quarters each year, completing the degree at an accelerated pace. Students can transfer up to 135 quarter credits or 90 semester credits from an accredited institution toward the 182-184-quarter-credit degree. Graduates can pursue a variety of criminal justice and private security jobs or graduate study in areas like computer science or forensic science. Drexel University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
A public research institution based in Muncie, Indiana, Ball State University emphasizes service to others. Ball State Online boasts seven online bachelor's degrees, including a fully online BS/BA in criminal justice and criminology that prepares students for careers in policing and law enforcement, community corrections, the courts, and the private sector. Many of the program's students are currently employed in prisons, jails, law enforcement agencies, and community corrections agencies. The curriculum includes core classes in applied research methods, corrections, criminology, and policing. Students culminate the program with a criminal justice capstone that synthesizes degree knowledge and content. A transfer-friendly institution, Ball State awards credit for prior academic coursework, military service, and police training. Ball State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Established in 1893, Concordia University - Saint Paul is a student-centered, Christian liberal arts university that offers a fully online BA in criminal justice. Graduates can work as an FBI agent, private investigator, homicide detective, and fraud investigator. The curriculum helps students develop creative decision-making, critical-thinking, research, leadership, and analysis skills. Designed for working professionals, the program features flexible, seven-week courses. Required classes include ethical and legal dilemmas in the criminal justice system, exploring the criminal mind and identifying suspect behavior, and building an integrated criminal justice system. The program meets the academic licensure requirements for the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training. Applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA. Concordia University - Saint Paul is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
The University of Missouri - St. Louis is the biggest public research school in eastern Missouri. UMSL's fully online BS in criminology and criminal justice explores criminal theory, social science research methods, and the role of criminal justice institutions and policies. The program prepares students for careers in law, juvenile corrections, probation, and policing. Many students also use the BS to prepare for graduate study in related fields. Students must complete four prerequisite courses before beginning major coursework: theories of crime, research methods, introduction to criminology and criminal justice, and statistical analysis in criminology and criminal justice. Major courses include youth gangs, history of crime and justice, and crime prevention. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED and submit ACT or SAT scores and transcripts. The University of Missouri - St. Louis is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Founded in 1897, Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, offers many career-oriented undergraduate and graduate degrees, including one of the most affordable online criminal justice degrees. Designed exclusively for women and offered through the American Women's College, the fully online BS in criminal justice requires courses like women in criminal justice, research methods in criminal justice, and victimology and criminology. Students can tailor the degree to their interests through 15 criminal justice electives. The program prepares graduates for jobs like business intelligence analyst, correctional officer, and social worker. Applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA. Applicants with a lower GPA may receive conditional admission. Bay Path University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
Lake Superior State University enrolls around 2,100 students through diverse undergraduate and graduate programs. The university's online BS in criminal justice features instruction from current and former corrections officers, police officers, and lawyers. The program examines the contemporary criminal justice system and its major theories and practices. Through a combination of academic learning and hands-on training, students gain critical-thinking, research, analysis, and writing skills. The 124-credit degree takes four years of full-time study to complete. Many students earn the degree in preparation for law school, while others immediately apply their knowledge to careers in the criminal justice field. The curriculum explores topics like corrections, police processes, criminology, investigations, and abnormal psychology. A criminal justice internship gives students hands-on experience in the field. The program also offers specialized minors in areas like homeland security, law enforcement, and corrections. Lake Superior State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Founded in 1858 as the first university in Kansas, Baker University offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs on campus and online. Baker's online BS in criminal justice ranks among the most affordable online bachelor's programs in criminal justice. The curriculum explores criminal justice theories, practices, and ethics, preparing students for careers in criminal justice and graduate study. New courses start every seven weeks, and students can take classes year-round. The fully online, 124-credit program includes 42 major credits. Major courses cover topics like inequality and crime, criminal justice research, and white collar crime. Students can tailor the degree to their interests through concentrations in finance, healthcare administration, and human resources. Students need a minimum 2.0 GPA to graduate. Baker University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Founded by Baptists in 1885, Oakland City University delivers academic programs to students of all faiths in a Christian environment. OCC offers an online BS in criminal justice that examines law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Learners study topics like probation and parole, policing, criminal justice organization, and investigations. Required classes include conflict management in corrections, victimology, crime scene investigation, and drugs in criminal justice. The fully online program features five-week, asynchronous courses that give students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Students can also gain hands-on experience through optional internships with juvenile justice, law enforcement, and corrections agencies. Oakland City University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
A public postsecondary institution, the University of Louisiana at Monroe offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs online and on campus. ULM's online BA in criminal justice is the oldest program of its kind in Louisiana. The 120-credit curriculum focuses on police, corrections, and the courts. The program includes classes like criminal justice research methods, contemporary issues in criminal justice, and criminal justice ethics. Students can complete a three-credit internship after completing at least 60 credits. Graduates can work as forensic science technicians, crime scene investigators, and immigration and customs enforcement agents. The program features eight-week sessions and five start dates a year. All ULM distance learners pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. The University of Louisiana at Monroe is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
An interdenominational, Christian polytechnic university in Longview, Texas, LeTourneau University serves roughly 1,150 students each year. LeTourneau's flexible, fully online BS in criminal justice examines topics like criminal behavior, restorative justice, and conflict resolution. The 120-credit program requires general education, major, major elective, general elective, and theology and vocation courses. The university partners with local law enforcement agencies to offer hands-on learning experiences. Students take accelerated, year-round classes, including ethics of criminal justice, addiction theory, and cybercrime. Students can customize the degree through an optional homeland security concentration. One of the most affordable online bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice, the program prepares graduates for careers in homeland security, private investigation, and policing. LeTourneau University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
California State University - San Bernardino offers a fully online bachelor's degree-completion program in criminal justice through a partnership between the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Extended and Global Education. Designed for working students, the program examines corrections, the courts, law enforcement, and victimization. Admission requirements include at least 60 transfer credits from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 2.7 GPA. Applicants also need to complete two prerequisite courses and lower-division general education requirements. The program accepts new students each fall and spring. One of the most affordable online criminal justice degrees, all students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. California State University - San Bernardino is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
A private, Benedictine institution in Bismarck, North Dakota, the University of Mary offers an online bachelor's in criminal justice that prepares students for law enforcement careers and graduate study. All online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. The curriculum explores topics in the juvenile justice process, law adjudication, homeland security, and criminology. Students gain ethical decision-making, research, critical-thinking, and communication skills. Graduates can work as a victim advocate, forensic investigator, law enforcement officer, and security specialist. The program practices rolling admissions and offers a new start date every five weeks. Transfer applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA. The University of Mary is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
A private liberal arts institution in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Point Park University offers more than 20 online degrees, including one of the most affordable online bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice. Taught by criminal justice professionals, the fully online, 120-credit BS in criminal justice explores court procedures, criminology, and constitutional law. Classes include sex crimes investigation, history of organized crime, and risk assessment and investigation. All online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. The university accepts transfer credit from regionally accredited schools. Point Park also awards credit for experiential learning assessment portfolios, the College Level Examination Program, and Advanced Placement classes. Students must complete at least 30 credits in residency at Point Park. Point Park University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
Located in Charleston, Citadel Military College of South Carolina offers a variety of cheap online undergraduate and graduate degrees. The Citadel's online BA in criminal justice prepares students for criminal justice careers like border patrol agent, crime scene investigator, and public safety officer. The curriculum explores the causes and social context of crime. Students develop analytical and communication skills and learn to conduct criminal justice research. Required classes include comparative criminal justice systems, white collar crime, critical issues in law enforcement, and victimology. The 2+2 degree-completion program requires students to complete 65 general education and criminal justice credits at a technical college and 55 upper-division credits at the Citadel. Students with at least 24 transfer credits can apply to the program. Citadel Military College of South Carolina is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Rutgers University - New Brunswick is a public research institution that boasts one of the most affordable online bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice. Students can choose from an online BS or BA in criminal justice. The 120-credit degree-completion programs include courses in police and society, constitutional issues in criminal justice, and data analysis in criminal justice. All distance learners pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. Students may qualify for financial aid opportunities, such as student loans, grants, and scholarships. Students learn from the same expert faculty who teach on campus. Applicants need an associate degree in criminal justice from an accredited community college. They may also need to meet additional prerequisite requirements. Students can enroll part time or full time. Rutgers University - New Brunswick is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
The University of Central Florida offers more than 20 fully online bachelor's degrees. Distance learners can earn one of the most affordable online criminal justice degrees from UCF's College of Community Innovation and Education. The 120-credit BS and BA in criminal justice programs provide students with an advanced understanding of the criminal justice system. The programs include hands-on training and explore topics like prosecution under the law, data analysis and research, and the history of crime. Graduates can work as a crime scene investigator, immigration and customs enforcement agent, or law enforcement officer. The programs also prepare students for graduate study. Applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA. The University of Central Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Founded in 1826, Mississippi College offers faith-based programs in the liberal arts and sciences. The Christian institution draws from its Baptist heritage to offer one of the most affordable online bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice. MC's fully online BS in homeland security provides a foundation in criminal justice and includes homeland security-focused electives. The program requires courses like introduction to emergency management, grant writing for homeland security, and introduction to physical security. Designed for working students, the flexible program accommodates busy schedules. Graduates can work in law enforcement, emergency management, security, and intelligence analysis. Mississippi College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
The oldest private military university in the U.S., Norwich University offers an online BS in criminal justice that explores policing, corrections, and the courts. The flexible, fully online program offers several start dates each year, giving distance learners the freedom to enroll when it's convenient for them. The program fosters writing, research, and data analysis skills. Classes include history of the U.S. Constitution, procedural due process, and criminal justice ethics. The program also requires a six-credit capstone experience that focuses on ethical and legal issues of criminal justice. Students can choose from two concentrations to tailor the degree to their interests, including security management and intelligence. Norwich University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
A Christian liberal arts school in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, Geneva College prepares students for Christ-centered careers. Geneva's online bachelor of professional studies in criminal justice emphasizes compassionate service in legal professions and law enforcement. Graduates can work for local, regional, and national agencies, protecting and serving the public. The 120-credit degree includes 36 major, 18 core, and 66 elective credits and features eight-week courses. Students can use electives to complete an 18-credit minor. Required classes include contemporary issues in 21st-century policing, ethics and professionalism, adult community-based corrections, and public administration of justice. Geneva's competitive tuition, low-cost textbooks, and free access to Microsoft Office make it one of the most affordable online bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice. The college prefers applicants with four to five years of post-high school professional experience. Students can transfer up to 84 credits toward the degree. Geneva College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
A public research university founded in 1908, the University of Nebraska at Omaha offers a fully online BS in criminology and criminal justice. The 120-credit program includes 45 major credits, including classes like survey of corrections, the criminal court system, and criminal procedure. Students must earn a grade of "C" or better in all major requirements. The program strongly encourages but does not require majors to complete an internship to gain professional experience. One of the most affordable online criminal justice degrees, UNO's program offers the same financial aid opportunities to distance learners as on-campus students. The University of Nebraska at Omaha is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina, boasts one of the most affordable online criminal justice degrees. The fully online BA in criminal justice prepares graduates for careers in law enforcement, crime prevention, victim assistance, and corrections. The 124-credit degree requires 48 general education, 60 criminal justice, and 16 elective credits. Criminal justice classes include correctional philosophies and issues, introduction to law enforcement, criminal law, and juvenile justice. Students can transfer up to 64 credits from regionally accredited schools toward the degree. Learners can also receive credit for prior learning experiences, like military training and the College Level Examination Program. Students must complete at least 31 credits in residency at Campbell, including at least 12 upper-division credits. Campbell University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
One of the fastest-growing universities in the state, Northern Kentucky University serves more than 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year. NKU's fully online BA in criminal justice ranks among the most affordable online bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice. The program examines criminal justice theories and processes, criminal law, and crime and punishment, preparing students for jobs like forensic science technician, police officer, and immigration and customs officer. Courses include criminal justice research methods, corrections in America, and the criminal court systems. Students must earn a grade of "C" or better in all major classes to graduate. They must also complete at least 24 major credits in residence at NKU. Northern Kentucky University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
One of the oldest land-grant universities in the West, Washington State University offers more than 98 undergraduate majors, including one of the most affordable online bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice. The online BA in criminal justice and criminology teaches students to understand and prevent criminal behavior. The multidisciplinary degree incorporates ideas from psychology, political science, and sociology. The program requires general education, major, major elective, political science elective, and research methods and quantitative analysis coursework. Classes include realizing justice in a multicultural society, crime control policies, and introduction to the administration of criminal justice. Graduates can work in crime analysis, child protective services, and court administration. Washington State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
North Carolina Central University offers one of the most affordable online criminal justice degrees. The online BS in criminal justice includes certification from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. The program provides a foundation in the criminal justice system and offers four 12-credit concentrations in law enforcement, juvenile justice, corrections, homeland security. The 120-credit degree includes general education, criminal justice core, concentration, and elective coursework. Classes include police management theory, jail policy and practice, and emergency management and recovery. Graduates can work in law enforcement, forensic science, homeland security, and corrections. Students can earn up to 12 credits for knowledge-based exams. The department does not award credit toward criminal justice requirements for life or professional experience. North Carolina Central University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
A private institution founded in 1824, Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offers a fully online BS in criminal justice that examines topics like contemporary policing, crime analysis, and police management. The 120-credit degree features eight-week courses and takes 2-3 years to complete. Students must complete general education, professional education, elective, and major requirements. Courses include planning for law enforcement organizations, advanced law enforcement theory and management, and contemporary law enforcement strategy. Distance learners also complete a capstone project in law enforcement leadership. Graduates can pursue careers as customs agents, police detectives, and sheriffs. Jefferson Online practices rolling admissions and accepts new students year-round. Application requirements include proof of a high school diploma or GED and official college transcripts (if applicable). Thomas Jefferson University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois, offers an online BA in criminal justice that ranks among the most affordable online criminal justice degrees. All distance learners pay the same tuition rate, regardless of where they live. The flexible program, designed for professionals with experience in the criminal justice field, prepares graduates for career advancement in law enforcement, private security, the courts, probation, and corrections. The 120-credit degree includes 40 major credits. Students take classes like correctional services, strategic planning and ethics, and criminal law. The program features accelerated, eight-week courses. Faculty members hold relevant experience and use free open educational resources instead of traditional textbooks in some classes, saving students money. Aurora University is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS).
A private liberal arts university in Springfield, Missouri, Drury University offers a fully online, 124-credit BS in criminal justice that explores the psychological, environmental, and social causes of criminal behavior. Students take classes on topics like principles of forensic science, research methods for the behavioral sciences, and the correctional system. Criminal justice majors culminate the degree with a senior capstone or research project. The program encourages distance learners to apply classroom knowledge by working with community, correctional, and social agencies in their area. Drury requires distance learners to attend the commencement ceremony in person, which the school offers twice per year. Students must complete their last 30 credits at Drury and earn a minimum 2.0 GPA to graduate. Drury University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Seton Hill University is a liberal arts school based in Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania, about 35 miles from Pittsburgh. The university offers online undergraduate and graduate degrees, including an online BA in criminal justice. Full-time students typically complete the 120-credit online criminal justice program in four years. The curriculum includes core courses in restorative justice, the criminal court, applied criminology, and research methods. The program includes an internship and a criminal justice capstone project. Students learn to apply forensic science principles, and they gain experience in the field. Online courses follow an accelerated eight-week format, and learners can complete the program entirely online. Seton Hill University offers a low per-credit tuition rate. Additionally, students pursuing the affordable online degree can bring up to 90 transfer credits, further reducing the overall cost. Applicants must submit high school transcripts or their GED, along with official transcripts from any previous college coursework.
IU East offers an affordable online criminal justice degree. The university delivers online courses asynchronously, allowing learners to complete assignments at their convenience. Applicants to the 60-credit online BS in criminal justice program must have at least 60 college credits or an associate degree. The curriculum includes coursework in corrections and criminal justice, criminal law, theories of crime and deviance, and techniques of data analysis. Students learn the basic principles of crime scene investigation and law to prepare for careers in law enforcement and forensics. IU East requires no minimum GPA or standardized test scores. Prospective students submit an application fee, along with high school and college transcripts. Online learners pay an affordable per-credit tuition rate, and Indiana residents receive a tuition discount.
UNK offers certificate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs. The university delivers 82 affordable online degree programs, including a BS in criminal justice. The 120-credit criminal justice program explores current trends in crime and law. Learners study topics including ethical standards in criminal justice, the principles of law, and human behaviors. The curriculum includes courses in correctional services and systems, criminal justice research methods, and theories of crime and criminal law. To gain practical experience, students complete an internship at a location near their home. UNK sets no GPA or standardized test score requirements for admission. Applicants submit their high school diploma and an application fee. UNK holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
A private liberal arts university based in Misenheimer, North Carolina, Pfeiffer offers a variety of degrees online and on campus. Learners can pursue a BS in criminal justice entirely online. Pfeiffer's online criminal justice program is ideal for busy professionals who need flexibility and convenience. The university delivers coursework asynchronously, allowing students to access digital classrooms at all hours and to complete coursework according to their schedule. The curriculum covers topics in research methods, ethics in criminal justice, law enforcement operations, and criminal law. Applicants must complete an entrance exam. Pfeiffer offers credit to students who pass challenge exams, pass a DSST test, or submit a portfolio for review. Learners can also receive credit for military experience.
Florida State University offers nearly 300 on-campus and online degree programs, including an online bachelor's degree in criminology. The program comprises 36 credits and provides students with foundational knowledge and critical-thinking skills. FSU's online criminology program prepares learners for careers in criminal justice, and many graduates pursue further education. Criminology students must earn a minor or complete an internship. Students must also pass an oral exam. The curriculum includes courses in white collar crime, victimology, crimes against humanity, and human behavior. Applicants must hold an associate degree from a Florida institution or meet FSU's liberal arts requirements. Applicants must submit SAT or ACT scores, an essay, a residency declaration form, and college transcripts.
CUW is a Christian institution based in Mequon. The university offers more than 70 degree programs, including an online BA in management of criminal justice. The 120-credit program delivers an overview of essential criminal justice topics. Students prepare for positions that include a criminal justice teacher, criminal investigator, and judicial law clerk. The curriculum presents courses in constitutional law, business statistics, criminology, ethics in criminal justice, and corrections in America. Learners gain critical-thinking and research skills, while developing an understanding of ethics. Applicants must submit a nonrefundable application fee. Incoming freshmen submit a high school diploma or GED, and transfer applicants must provide official college transcripts. Students can apply up to 60 credits toward the degree, which helps make it one of the most affordable online bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice.
At Sacramento State, experienced professors teach online and on-campus courses that prepare learners to succeed in their field. The university offers an online BS in criminal justice that requires 60 credits and takes most full-time students two years to complete. Students entering the degree completion program must have completed four prerequisite courses. Sacramento State delivers online coursework asynchronously, allowing learners to complete program requirements at their convenience. The curriculum includes classes in crime and punishment, fundamentals of corrections, police and society, and contemporary issues in criminal justice. Prospective students must have at least 45 transferable credits and a minimum 2.6 GPA. Applicants must submit official transcripts from all previous institutions, and those who do not meet all academic requirements may need to submit additional documentation.
Based in Storm Lake, Iowa, BVU offers an online criminology and criminal justice program. Online courses follow an asynchronous format, giving students the flexibility to complete course requirements remotely at any time of day. One of the most affordable online criminal justice degrees available, the program offers two tracks. The 46-credit criminology track prepares students for graduate school, while the 45-credit criminal justice track is ideal for learners who plan to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. Each track requires the same core courses, which cover topics in criminal justice systems, criminology, the American government, and general psychology. Each track includes a capstone requirement. Applicants must submit official transcripts from any previous institutions, and applicants with fewer than 24 college credits must provide SAT or ACT scores. Applicants with at least a 3.0 GPA receive preference.
Located in Natchitoches, NSU offers affordable online degree programs. Distance learners complete coursework asynchronously, according to their schedule. NSU offers more than 40 online degrees, including a BA in criminal justice. Full-time students typically complete the 120-credit program in four years. The curriculum includes general education courses, such as English, political science, sociology, and psychology. Major classes explore topics in the police process, ethics, criminal law, and forensic science. Each year, the criminal justice department hosts a job fair with local agencies, allowing students to network and find employment. Applicants must submit official high school transcripts and SAT, ACT, or Accuplacer test scores. NSU accepts transfer credits earned from regionally accredited institutions.
Hilbert College is based on a 60-acre campus in Hamburg, New York. The school offers a variety of distance education programs, including an online BS in criminal justice. Students pursuing the degree choose from generalist, corrections, investigations, and law tracks. The generalist track requires 120 credits, including general education classes and criminal justice coursework. The curriculum covers topics in crime and society and diversity issues in criminal justice. Learners gain foundational knowledge in law and social issues to prepare for careers in the field. Hilbert College also offers a dual-degree option through which students can earn both a bachelor's and master's degree in five years. Hilbert College accepts transfer credits from accredited institutions. Transfer students must submit official college transcripts and must hold a minimum 2.0 GPA. The admissions office recommends that applicants submit a personal essay, a resume, or letters of recommendation.
Located in Burlington, Vermont, Champlain College provides online programs that are ideal for busy students who want to advance professionally. Champlain offers an affordable online criminal justice degree, which comprises asynchronous courses. Learners can access class materials at all hours and can complete assignments at their convenience. The 120-credit criminal justice degree helps students develop industry-specific skills. The curriculum includes courses in forensic accounting, digital forensic investigation techniques, cybercrime, criminal law, and networking fundamentals. Applicants must submit three to four short essays, transcripts, and a resume. Applicants typically need a minimum 2.5 GPA, but Champlain may accept students with lower GPAs on a case-by-case basis.
North Greenville University is a private, Christian institution located in Tigerville, South Carolina. NGU offers more than 50 degree programs, including an online bachelor's in criminal justice program. Criminal justice students gain essential writing, research, and investigative skills. The curriculum explores law enforcement processes, ethics, forensic analysis, and homeland security. The program includes an internship requirement, and most students graduate in four years. NGU delivers online classes in asynchronous and blended formats, the latter of which requires weekly online or in-person interaction. Applicants to the online criminal justice degree program must be at least 22 years old and must have a high school diploma or GED. Applicants must submit a nonrefundable application fee and official high school transcripts.
Founded in 1901 as a school for women, TWU now enrolls men and women, though its student body is primarily female. The university delivers undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including an online BS in criminal justice program. The 120-credit criminal justice curriculum emphasizes the social sciences. The program meets Texas core curriculum requirements through classes in composition, math, history, and government. Major coursework explores topics including criminal law, crime in America, social statistics, law and society, and criminal justice ethics. Full-time students typically complete the program in four years. Freshman applicants must hold a minimum 2.0 high school GPA and must submit SAT or ACT test scores. Qualifying adult applicants must submit only an application and proof of a high school diploma or GED.
APU is a private, Christian institution that offers both on-campus and online degree programs, including an affordable online criminal justice degree. Online courses follow an asynchronous format, allowing students the flexibility to complete coursework at their convenience. The university's BA in criminal justice program is ideal for students with previous college experience. The 120-credit program includes classes in police and society, juvenile justice, sex crimes, and criminological theories. Learners complete a capstone project, which involves researching a current issue in the field and presenting findings to a panel of professionals. Applicants to APU's criminal justice degree program must have at least 15 transferable credits and a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA. Applicants must submit official transcripts, a written statement, and an application fee.
A public institution located in Kentucky, UofL offers more than 40 fully online programs, including a BS in criminal justice program. The university's distance learning options are ideal for working professionals. The 121-credit program explores theories related to criminal justice, and learners gain skills necessary for careers in the field. The curriculum includes courses in criminal behavior, research design, juvenile justice, corrections in the U.S., and criminal law and evidence. Graduates often work as criminal investigators, corrections officers, crime prevention officers, and victim advocates. Applicants must have at least a high school diploma. UofL allows students to transfer associate degrees from regionally accredited institutions. Applicants must submit official transcripts and an application fee.
Best Online Associate in Criminal Justice
How Much Can You Make with a Criminal Justice Degree?
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice opens up a variety of rewarding employment possibilities and offers a competitive advantage over applicants without degrees. The following chart gives you an idea of the career and salary prospects for common careers pursued by graduates, including law enforcement, corrections, parole and probation work, and investigative and security fields.
A growing number of protective service positions require an undergraduate degree for entry-level positions or for advancement into supervisory roles. Federal agencies like the FBI or the U.S. Marshals Service offer a variety of career opportunities requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher. Students may also consider nontraditional fields, such as fraud prevention, mediation, and substance abuse counseling.
While employment projections differ for specific occupations, the demand for trained professionals remains constant as individuals retire or move into other roles. Jobs that offer less competitive pay levels often compensate by providing superior healthcare, retirement, and other benefits.
Probation Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialist
Job Description This criminal justice professional works with individuals in custody, on probation, or on parole. Their responsibilities often include determining effective rehabilitation and/or treatment programs, attending prehearing investigations and testifying in court, counseling, and writing and maintaining case reports.
Job Description Police officers and detectives perform a variety of duties, depending on their work environment. They investigate crimes, issue citations for violations, patrol designated areas and monitor suspicious behavior, and testify in court. Fish and game wardens also perform policing functions by enforcing hunting, boating, and fishing laws and investigating complaints and accidents.
Job Description Lawyers, businesses, and other individuals hire private detectives and investigators for many different reasons. These professionals conduct surveillance, verify a person’s background, and help find missing persons. Detectives and investigators carry out their activities as private citizens, requiring an in-depth understanding of local, state, and federal laws to ensure the gathered evidence is admissible in a court of law.
Job Description Security guards monitor alarms and security cameras, control building or property access, respond to emergencies, and detain violators or trespassers. Gaming surveillance officers survey casino gaming areas for suspicious activities, such as cheating, theft, or drunkenness. They make sure both the establishment and patrons comply with state rules and regulations, maintaining and organizing security and surveillance camera recordings.
Find the Best Online Criminal Justice Program for You
Finding the best online degree program is a personal decision, depending on your educational needs and career interests. However, prospective students should take time to learn about essential program and curriculum features before deciding on a target school. The following sections describe differences between online and campus-based programs, coursework and specializations, financial aid and scholarships, accreditation, and career advancement after graduation.
Common Courses in an Online Criminal Justice Degree
While online bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice establish distinctive curriculum and graduation requirements, they typically share common features, such as general educational classes and survey courses on the legal and criminal justice systems. Many programs require students to take courses in criminal justice theories and research methods as well as complete a culminating capstone or project.
Although specific requirements vary by school, students can expect to encounter courses similar to those described here.
Introduction to Criminal Justice
This gateway course examines the role, development, policies, and management of the different public agencies and organizations that constitute the U.S. criminal justice system, including police, courts, juvenile justice, and corrections. The course highlights critical issues in due process, community policing and corrections, domestic violence, and institutional and community-based treatment programs for juvenile and adult offenders.
This course introduces community corrections as an alternative to traditional incarceration for convicted criminals and people on probation and parole. Students explore the philosophy and history of community corrections, theories of offender treatment, and the legal framework. The course addresses the goals and functions of alternative models and the suitability of offenders for community corrections placement.
Students gain an understanding of the theory and practice of criminal law through an analysis of the penal code and state statutes. Readings and lectures explore sentencing procedures, the establishment of guilt, justification of punishment, and definitions of criminal conduct. Course participants engage in discussions of current public policy issues related to criminal law.
Criminology is the scientific study of the causes of criminal behavior. This course analyzes major theories of crime causation through a review of biological, psychological, economic, and sociological perspectives on the etiology of crime. Students explore and evaluate the major criminological theories, including classical, differential association, labeling, and routine activities approaches.
Prisons and Society
This critical approach to corrections explores changing perspectives on punishment and social control, emphasizing how economic, political, moral, technological, and social forces shape the use of prisons in society. Students learn about methods of punishment, rehabilitation, restitution models, and current controversies related to correctional practices, the treatment of juveniles, chemically dependent offenders, and other special populations.
Specialties and Fields of Study in Criminal Justice
Criminal justice undergraduates often incorporate specialties within their degree plan that focus on a career or personal interest. Usually structured as a set of related courses, these specialties enable students to tailor their criminal justice degree, strengthening their knowledge in a singular subject and giving them a competitive edge in the job market.
Sometimes called specializations or concentrations, the specific fields of study available within the major vary by program, but they generally reflect current trends in criminal justice or areas of faculty expertise. While the criminal justice discipline embraces many subfields, some of the most popular include corrections, homeland security, and cybercrime.
A corrections concentration appeals to students interested in working as correctional officers and supervisors, probation officers, and counselors for both juvenile and adult offenders. Courses focus on correctional administration, policies and procedures, penology, and crisis management, while also introducing best practices for treatment, supervision, rehabilitation, and the reduction of recidivism.
Concerns about border security and international and domestic terrorism drive the growing interest in the field of homeland security. This specialization covers national safety, disaster preparedness, risk assessment, and emergency management. Homeland security training leads to careers in immigration enforcement and border protection, transportation security administration, and related intelligence fields in federal government agencies and the private sector.
Undergraduates who possess a strong foundation in computer and technological applications may choose to study cybercrime and cybersecurity. This specialization explores ways to protect data and computer systems, and detect and prevent system and network vulnerabilities. Coursework typically addresses areas of digital forensic investigation, hacking, firewalls, and data encryption.
Attending Online vs. On-Campus
Students new to distance learning should weigh the pros and cons of traditional campus-based degrees versus those offered in online formats.
For most prospective students, tuition and fees represent the most important consideration in choosing a program. A campus-based four-year college can cost twice as much as an online degree. While most schools charge out-of-state students a higher tuition rate, some colleges make exceptions for online students, charging them the same rate as in-state residents. Distance learners also save on transportation and campus housing costs.
Potential distance learners should consider how the different delivery formats work with their scheduling needs. Fully online asynchronous course delivery provides the most flexibility, allowing students to log in at any time, completing coursework at their own pace while respecting assignment deadlines. Online courses delivered synchronously require specific log-in times for lectures, class discussions, or group work.
Within a degree program, delivery formats differ from school to school and even from class to class. Some online programs mandate on-campus attendance for workshops, orientations, or other requirements, or they require face-to-face blended or hybrid classes. Criminal justice programs frequently incorporate internships as part of their degree requirements but may permit students to arrange placements at locations near their homes.
Online criminal justice degrees offer affordable and convenient options for prospective students who need to keep their full-time jobs, maintain family responsibilities, or want to enter a program unavailable at a nearby school. Before deciding on the program that works best for you, learn more about how online programs work.
Accreditation is one of the most important factors to consider when searching for an affordable online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. This evaluative process ensures that schools meet certain standards agreed upon by federal, state, and nongovernmental agencies. Independent accreditation commissions evaluate an institution’s mission, academic quality, financial health, and administrative practices.
Schools that engage in the accreditation process are more likely to provide quality education and adequate support for the academic and career goals of their students. An unaccredited school can negatively affect financial aid eligibility, credit transferability, and even employment opportunities. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education maintain an online database of all accredited colleges and universities in the United States.
Legitimate colleges and universities receive either regional or national accreditation. National accreditation is typically reserved for technical, trade, and vocational colleges, for-profit institutions, some religious-sponsored colleges, or schools that prepare students for one specific employment, such as automotive technology or culinary arts. These schools may offer more lenient admissions requirements, shorter program lengths, and inexpensive tuition.
Regional accreditation requires higher academic standards associated with degree-granting higher education institutions, including four-year colleges and universities and those that offer master’s and doctoral programs in academic and professional programs. Regionally accredited colleges and universities maintain strict admission requirements and charge relatively higher tuition rates than nationally accredited schools.
Regional accreditation has received recognition as the preferred and most popular accreditation designation. Credits from regionally accredited schools transfer more easily than those from nationally accredited schools. Most graduate programs only admit bachelor’s degree-holders from regionally accredited schools. Approximately 85% of U.S. institutions of higher learning hold regional accreditation.
A third designation, programmatic accreditation, applies to specific degree programs or departments that function within a college or university. Programmatic accreditation agencies typically focus on a professionally oriented discipline, such as business, counseling, nursing, and criminal justice.
Graduation from a program holding approval from a programmatic accreditation agency may serve as a prerequisite for employment in certain fields, such as psychology, healthcare, or law. Even if not required for employment, some industries and professions view graduates of these programs as better trained and career-ready.
The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) awards programmatic accreditation to a small group of high-quality graduate programs in criminal justice. Widely recognized as the most prestigious credential in the discipline, few programs hold the ACJS designation. However, given the large number of first-rate criminal justice programs across the country without ACJS standing, the absence of this accreditation should not deter students from considering a school’s program.
Scholarships and Financial Aid for Criminal Justice
Students seeking the most affordable online degrees should not overlook financial aid opportunities like scholarships, grants, and loans. Both scholarships and grants, as “free money,” do not need to be repaid. Although often used interchangeably, the two terms refer to different kinds of awards.
Grants are need-based — funded by state and federal government, schools, and nonprofit organizations — to assist lower-income students. Most scholarships are merit-based, although they may also contain a need-based component. Students with specific academic, artistic, athletic, or other kinds of talent may apply for targeted scholarships.
Federal or bank loans represent another kind of financial aid; but, unlike scholarships and grants, they require repayment upon completing the degree or leaving a program. Government loans and school-sponsored assistance require students to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
This scholarship opportunity is open to minority students who have been accepted to, or are currently enrolled in, an undergraduate criminal justice program. Scholarship hopefuls must be nominated by a member of the American Correctional Association. Nominees should submit a 250-word essay on the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and how they have attempted to emulate these ideals. The scholarship amount is $1,000.
Crimcheck administers this annual scholarship program worth $500. The scholarship benefits freshmen who plan to major in a criminal justice field or students currently enrolled in a criminal justice program. Applicants must submit an essay describing their reasons for choosing a career in criminal justice, their professional objectives after graduation, and the scholarship’s function in their long-term goals.
This scholarship offers $1,000; $2,500; $5,000; and $10,000 award amounts. Applicants must be enrolled in an accounting, business administration, criminal justice, or finance program in an accredited U.S. college or university. Students must plan to pursue a career in anti-fraud after graduation and demonstrate their current interest in this arena. Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, and a completed application form.
After Graduation: Options for Criminal Justice Graduates
One of the most versatile undergraduate degrees, a bachelor’s in criminal justice serves as a stepping stone to an array of professional opportunities. This degree not only prepares graduates for several careers in law enforcement, corrections, security, and related fields, but it also provides a strong foundation for graduate work and advanced training in specialized fields.
Pursuing a graduate degree and advanced credentials beyond a bachelor’s can expand career prospects and salary potential. The remainder of this guide describes what to expect from a graduate degree program and provides some examples of post-baccalaureate certifications in specialized areas, such as addictions, security management, and forensic analysis.
Advancing Your Criminal Justice Degree
A master’s in criminal justice offers benefits beyond those acquired in an undergraduate degree. A graduate education teaches the analytical and critical thinking skills necessary for a range of supervisory and administrative roles. This degree emphasizes leadership, policy, and management skills with applications in law enforcement, corrections, rehabilitation, counseling, security, risk management, and emerging fields, such as digital forensics and cybercrime.
Students interested in the legal aspects of the justice system may pursue a master’s in preparation for a law degree or to move into administrative positions in the court system, corrections, or law enforcement. A master’s also provides a solid base for students who plan to enter a doctoral program, leading to careers in scientific research, postsecondary education, or high-level professional roles in forensic psychology, security consulting, and emergency and risk management.
Many students complete a master’s degree in two years if attending full time. Part-time online programs may require up to three years to finish, while accelerated programs may take as little as 12 months. Most semester-based programs consist of 40-50 credits.
While coursework varies by program, students can expect to take courses in criminal justice theory, quantitative methods and research, organizational management, and policy development and evaluation. Depending on the program focus, electives and specializations might address homeland security, corrections administration, emergency management, cybercrime investigation, and victim advocacy. Many programs incorporate a thesis or capstone research requirement.
Admission requirements vary by school but generally specify a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75-3.0. Applicants must arrange to send official transcripts showing proof of graduation from an accredited college or university. Some schools request GRE or other standardized test scores but may waive this requirement for applicants with work experience or a high GPA. Programs often request a personal essay or statement of interest and/or a resume documenting professional or volunteer experience in criminal justice fields.
Certifications and Licensure
Specialized certifications verify proficiency in criminal justice fields through advanced coursework and examinations. Several professional organizations offer criminal justice-related certifications that correspond to personal and professional interests. Although not required in all fields, certifications can help bachelor’s degree-holders advance in rank and salary, and expand marketability in the workplace.
For example, a Criminal Justice Addictions Professional Certification, administered by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium, offers advanced training for law enforcement, corrections, and probation officers who work with drug offenders or supervise others working in this area. The Certified Protection Professional credential, designed for security managers, covers best practices in risk management, information systems, security threat awareness, and other key areas.
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