Online Criminal Justice Programs 2021

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Online Criminal Justice Degrees

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Prospective students with a passion for ensuring justice and gathering facts should consider majoring in criminal justice. With this degree, graduates careers can lead to advanced federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation or rise as leaders in local police departments.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for police and detectives to grow 5% between 2019 and 2029, faster than the average for all other occupations. These professionals earned a median income of $65,170 in 2019. They typically spend their days responding to calls, patrolling areas, and collecting evidence from crime scenes.

A bachelor’s degree takes about four years to complete, and busy learners can earn a criminal justice degree online. Keep reading to learn about the top criminal justice programs, common courses, and scholarships for aspiring law enforcement officers.

Masters in Criminal Justice

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Considering a Criminal Justice Degree?

  • Q. What kinds of jobs can you get with a criminal justice degree?

    After completing a criminal justice program, graduates can apply for law enforcement positions, become private investigators, or work as bailiffs.

  • Q. How many years does it take to get a criminal justice degree?

    A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice takes full-time enrollees about four years to earn. Some colleges offer accelerated programs that may only take three years.

  • Q. What is the highest-paying job in criminal justice?

    The BLS offers salary information for criminal justice positions. By earning a doctorate, criminal justice majors can work as lawyers, who earned a median income of $122,960 in 2019.

What Can I Do With a Criminal Justice Degree?

Earning a criminal justice degree opens many doors. While not every local police department requires a bachelor’s degree to practice as a law enforcement officer, pursuing education beyond academy training qualifies individuals for higher-earning jobs. Federal agencies that offer higher salaries often require a bachelor’s degree. Head police chief positions typically require a formal degree.

Aside from working as law enforcement officers, graduates can work as detectives, correctional officers and bailiffs, and forensic science technicians. Individuals with a passion for entrepreneurship could even open their own private investigating business.

An undergraduate criminal justice program can prepare learners for additional education. Graduates who build upon their education with a master’s degree and a doctorate could choose to become lawyers. Read on to learn more about earning a criminal justice degree.

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What Are the Requirements for a Criminal Justice Program?

To qualify for a criminal justice program, learners must submit an application and fee, official high school transcripts, and SAT or ACT scores. Each program sets its own minimum requirements for GPAs and test scores. Prospective students should check with a specific school’s admissions department to learn more.

Once enrolled, students must maintain a set GPA, attend class, and engage in class discussions. Some criminal justice programs may require a service-learning or internship component. Typically, undergraduate programs do not require a thesis or capstone project. However, learners may need to submit a professional portfolio at the end of their studies.

Courses in a Criminal Justice Program

During their studies, criminal justice students hone hard and soft skills. Courses involve soft skills like interpersonal communication and active listening skills. They also cover hard skills, like record keeping and protocols for crime scene investigations.

Most criminal justice programs include 10-15 courses totaling 30-45 credits. Credit requirements can impact program length, but most learners complete this undergraduate degree within four years.

Criminal justice courses cover theories about crime prevention, the history of laws, and elements of restorative justice. Some criminal justice programs may require in-person components like an internship. In the following sections, we highlight five common criminal justice courses.

  • Current and Historical U.S. Laws

    Law enforcement officers need a strong understanding of current laws and their creation. In this course, learners discover which laws they must uphold and how landmark Supreme Court cases influenced these laws. Students learn how lawyers influence the interpretation of these laws in court cases. Enrollees examine case studies and engage in classroom discussions about common offenses to the law. This course typically requires traditional lectures, multiple-choice tests, and essays.

  • The Restorative Justice Movement

    The restorative justice movement developed in the 1970s, and it heavily influences the modern criminal justice system. This class discusses both the history and theories that shape the restorative justice movement. Upon completion, students should possess a strong understanding of how professionals use restorative justice in the courtroom to repair harm caused by a crime. The coursework discusses the effectiveness of meetings with the offender, victim, and community members.

  • Criminal Justice Ethics

    Enrollees discuss best practices and professional behavior for on-the-job activities. This course covers topics like sexual harassment, race relations, and malpractice impact to the field. A criminal justice ethics course typically involves case studies that illustrate criminal justice scenarios and encourage classroom discussion. Exams usually follow an essay-based format rather than multiple choice to account for open-ended interpretations on ethics.

  • Best Practices for Crime Scene Investigations

    Students learn how to effectively complete a crime scene investigation without mishandling evidence or compromising an investigation. The course teaches learners how to correctly document discoveries, uncover evidence, and collaborate with professionals like detectives. Enrollees study past crime scene investigation case studies and evaluate the methods and actions. Some crime scene investigation courses allow students to complete hands-on field work.

  • Corrections

    Some individuals with a criminal justice degree oversee correctional facilities. This course covers modern correctional methods like parole, incarceration, and probation. Students analyze each method and discover which ones judges typically apply to certain cases. Enrollees also examine data on the effectiveness of varying types of corrections. This class discusses the daily operations of federal and state prisons and best practices for supervision.

Professional Organizations for Criminal Justice Students

Professionals can commit to lifelong learning by joining professional organizations. These groups publish informative newsletters and scholarly journals, host conferences, and connect criminal justice professionals from varying backgrounds and experience levels. Some criminal justice organizations allow students to join. See below for a few of the many professional organizations for criminal justice degree-seekers.

  • Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences ACJS promotes scholarly activities within the criminal justice field. More than 1,800 members benefit from an educational annual meeting, access to four scholarly journals, and a job board. This organization also offers research grants to advance the field.

  • American Academy of Forensic Sciences This professional organization invites anyone working in the U.S. legal system to get involved. AAFS allows members to join a specialized section, such as the toxicology or pathology section. The organization hosts meetings, offers education training, and publishes a reference library.

  • American Correctional Association ACA aims to advance correctional effectiveness. The organization formed in 1870 and now connects thousands of criminal justice professionals across the world. To join, ACA charges $35-$150 depending on the member's years of experience. Members gain access to online training discounts and exclusive industry publications.

  • American Society of Criminology This organization helps its members pursue scholarly information on how to control and prevent crime. Members can join specialized ASC divisions that focus on one topic, like corrections or cybercrime. ASC provides three annual publications to its members that discuss current criminal justice topics.

Scholarships for Criminal Justice Students

Degree-seekers can avoid large student loan payments by applying for scholarships. Private companies, foundations, nonprofits, and educational institutions all offer this type of financial aid. Most scholarships require a short essay, recommendation letters, and official transcripts. See below for three scholarships reserved for criminal justice students.

  • Alpha Phi Sigma Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Each year, this criminal justice honor organization offers three scholarships to students in the field. A scholarship committee selects the recipients based on an essay submission. The essay must include academic sources and total no more than 15 pages. Alpha Phi Sigma also offers scholarships for students who wish to attend the organization’s annual conference.

    Amount: Varies

    Explore Here

  • Melissa Linville Criminal Justice Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Students pursuing a degree in criminal justice with at least a 3.0 GPA qualify. Applicants must write an essay (1-2 pages) about their ambition and goals in the criminal justice field. This scholarship honors the memory of a former Crimcheck employee.

    Amount: $500

    Explore Here

  • My Alarm Center Student Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: Students majoring in criminal justice or a similar field like law enforcement can apply. Applicants must write 500-1,000 words about the current relationship between law enforcement officers and the community, and why they wish to pursue this career.

    Amount: $1,000

    Explore Here

2021 Online Bachelor’s Programs in Criminal Justice

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  1. Ashland University

    Ashland, OH

    Founded in 1878, AU is a comprehensive college located in Ohio. AU manages a strong online and adult studies program that includes a 120-credit bachelor's in criminal justice. Designed by criminal justice experts, the online program provides students and those already working in law enforcement with necessary training for career success.

    The curriculum covers core topics such as criminology, victimology, and policing in the United States. Students can choose from a generalist track or four other specialized tracks to tailor the degree to their interests. The options include legal studies, correctional administration, and law enforcement administration. Participants build hands-on expertise during field experiences with professionals.

    Enrollees receive credit for professional training in corrections and law enforcement. All students pay the same affordable tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires a minimum 2.70 high school GPA and a 2.25 GPA on transfer credits.

  2. University of Central Missouri

    Warrensburg, MO

    UCM offers 150 programs, including an online bachelor's in criminal justice and criminology completion program. The school offers nontraditional learners an innovative curriculum that blends theoretical learning, field experience, and the use of state-of-the-art technology. Students complete the bachelor's entirely online or in a hybrid format with some classes taken in Warrensburg. The 120-credit curriculum explores topics such as corrections, criminal law and procedure, juvenile justice, and policing a democratic society.

    Enrollees use real data to investigate research questions in the program. They complete FEMA independent study coursework that provides hands-on experience in incident command and use of the National Incident Management System. The program exposes students to ArcGIS software for crime mapping. Learners can also get experience at a site within UCM's network of local, state, and federal partners through internships.

    Online and hybrid learners pay the same affordable tuition. Admission requires a minimum 2.0 transfer GPA.

  3. Arizona State University

    Scottsdale, AZ

    ASU operates one of the nation's largest virtual colleges. ASU Online's bachelor's in criminology and criminal justice explores the causes and consequences of crime and how criminal justice agencies address criminality. The degree requires general education courses that students may transfer from prior college education. The criminal justice curriculum explores concepts such as corrections, policing, criminology, and courts and sentencing.

    All students complete a course that teaches them how to apply descriptive and inferential statistics. Elective credits allow students to explore complementary criminal justice issues such as terrorism, sex crimes, and police accountability. Participants can also use elective credits to pursue a supervised internship at a law enforcement agency. Students hone their skills when they collaborate with peers on projects and analyze case studies.

    Out-of-state students pay modestly more tuition than their in-state peers. Admission requires SAT or ACT scores for freshmen and a minimum 2.5 GPA for transfer students.

  4. University of Louisville

    Louisville, KY

    Located in Kentucky, UofL's bachelor's in criminal justice program gives students a strong foundation in adult and juvenile justice. The 54-credit curriculum requires completion and transfer of general education credits prior to enrollment. Alternatively, students may opt to complete two years of general education credits online at UofL.

    Learners pursuing a degree in criminal justice explore core topics such as criminal behavior, criminal procedure, juvenile justice, and criminal law and evidence. Students learn how to use quantitative research methods to analyze criminal justice data. Various electives give learners flexibility to explore subjects in criminal justice and related departments.

    UofL's criminal justice organizations -- Lambda Alpha Epsilon and Alpha Phi Sigma -- stream meetings and other events so that online learners can network with on-campus peers. Enrollees receive transfer credit for military and law enforcement/correction academy training. All online students pay the same affordable tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires an associate degree or equivalent credits.

  5. Washington State University

    Pullman, WA

    WSU manages one of the nation's oldest criminal justice programs. WSU's Global Campus offers a bachelor's in criminal justice and criminology, a policy-based curriculum influenced by psychology, sociology, and political science. The 120-credit curriculum includes general education requirements that students can meet by transferring an associate degree or significant credit. The criminal justice curriculum explores fundamental topics such as criminal law, criminological theory, and administration of criminal justice.

    Students take electives to explore complementary topics such as crime control policies or policing and society. They may also opt to learn about issues that affect specific populations, such as violence toward women or juvenile justice and corrections. An optional internship gives learners hands-on experience working in a law enforcement setting. Out-of-state students pay modestly more tuition that their in-state peers. Admission requires SAT or ACT scores for freshmen and a minimum 2.5 GPA on transfer credits.

  6. East Central University

    Ada, OK

    ECU offers the only program in Oklahoma dedicated to criminal justice policy. Faculty design the bachelor's in criminal justice policy program especially for professionals working in criminal justice who want to finish a degree. The 124-credit curriculum includes general education courses and other requirements that students can fulfill by transferring credits. The criminal justice core courses explore criminal behavior, civil rights and civil liberties, public policymaking, and the legal aspects of the criminal justice process.

    Electives examine complementary issues such as juvenile justice or addictions and society. Participants may also use elective credit to pursue a human resources practicum within a law enforcement agency. Students can transfer up to 94 credits to finish the degree sooner. ECU offers competitive tuition rates and provides a nonresident tuition waiver in some instances. Admission requires SAT or ACT scores for freshmen and at least 24 credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA for transfer students.

  7. University of North Alabama

    Florence, AL

    UNA is the state's oldest public four-year college. The university's online programs include the bachelor's in criminal justice. Students complete general education courses and other requirements before completing the 45-credit major. The curriculum includes introductory coursework on the U.S. government, current social problems, and criminal justice. Courses also cover advanced topics such as criminology and research methods in criminal justice.

    Criminal justice majors use 21 elective credits to complete a minor or second major. One option, the crime scene investigator minor, develops students' proficiencies in evidence management, forensic investigation, and crime scene reconstruction. Some enrollees may prefer the security and emergency management minor or another alternative. All students complete a research practicum in criminal justice.

    UNA offers affordable tuition and scholarships for eligible transfer students. Admission requires SAT or ACT scores for freshmen and college transcripts for transfer students.

  8. Lynn University

    Boca Raton, FL

    Located in Boca Raton, Florida, Lynn enrolls about 3,200 students in programs administered by six colleges. The bachelor's in criminal justice program enrolls students new to criminal justice and professionals. The curriculum blends theoretical knowledge and field-based exercises that give students practical experience. The 120-credit program includes a core curriculum that develops learners' skills in critical thinking and writing, personal finance/statistical analysis, and ethical decision-making.

    The criminal justice major delves into concepts such as criminal law, policing in America, victimology, and law and courts. The program features a unique opportunity for full-time students to participate in a semester-long internship in Washington, D.C. Lynn issues iPads for undergraduate academic programs.

    Online students in the criminal justice program pay a low flat tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires a high school or GED diploma for freshmen and official transcripts for transfer students.

  9. Eastern Kentucky University

    Richmond, KY

    A leader in distance education, EKU offers a bachelor's in criminal justice degree online. The 120-credit program provides a comprehensive overview of the justice system and societal problems. The curriculum's core explores six topics, including crime and delinquency and applied criminal justice analysis. Students use 27 elective credits to build knowledge and expertise in areas such as the judicial process, the juvenile justice system, and living and working in prison.

    Students can also use elective credits to earn certificates in correctional intervention strategies or intelligence studies. EKU's support services include free online tutoring and career services. Learners can transfer up to 90 credits toward the degree in criminal justice. Online students pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Active-duty military personnel enjoy a steep tuition discount.

    Six start dates provide students with great flexibility. Admission requires SAT or ACT scores for freshmen and a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA for transfer students.

  10. Averett University

    Danville, VA

    Averett features programs specifically for nontraditional learners. The Virginia-based college offers an online bachelor's in sociology and criminal justice program that enrolls students with some college credit and work experience. The 120-credit program emphasizes the application of theoretical knowledge in real-world settings.

    Students can accelerate degree completion by transferring general education courses and other requirements. The program provides 45 credits of core criminal justice courses. Enrollees study criminology, race and ethnicity, police in America, and juvenile delinquency and justice. Participants diversify their skills with one of four minors: leadership, homeland security, business administration, or cybersecurity and computer forensics. Students also learn how to apply research methods to evaluate programs and address social problems.

    Learners can transfer up to 90 credits and Averett may award up to 36 credits for military or police academy experience. Admission requires a minimum 2.0 GPA on transfer credits.

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