Online Ph.D. In Criminal Justice

A Ph.D. degree in criminal justice can lead to new and exciting career opportunities. Here, we list the best online criminal justice programs.

Updated April 10, 2023

Reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
Online Ph.D. In Criminal Justice 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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No matter their job title, criminal justice professionals strive to protect lives and property, bring criminals to justice, and make their community safer. Police and detectives play an essential role in this field, investigating crimes and making arrests. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that these professionals earn a $67,290 median annual salary. BLS projections indicate 5% employment growth for these professionals between 2019-2029.

Top salaries for detectives and criminal investigators exceed $146,000 annually. In addition to obtaining on-the-job experience, professionals increase their salary potential with an advanced online criminal justice degree. Many reputable universities offer this degree entirely online, an advantage for learners planning to work while in school. 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.

Featured Online Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Online Ph.D. in Criminal Justice 2022

#1 Online Ph.D. In Criminal Justice

Nova Southeastern University

  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Nova Southeastern University offers in-person Ph.D. programs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as well as online programs. Prospective graduate students interested in criminal justice careers should look into the Ph.D. in criminal justice program. Working professionals take advantage of the flexible program to earn their degree around their other commitments.

The school may allow learners to earn credit for internships and service-learning experiences. Students can explore the school’s website for details about graduate-level internships and hands-on learning opportunities. Learners can join student organizations to access professional development and network with peers.

Nova Southeastern University Facts:

Online Master's Programs: 46

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 9

Graduate Tuition Rate: $19,665 in-state; $19,665 out-of-state

Nova Southeastern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Average Undergrad Tuition
Average Graduate Tuition
Retention Rate
Admission Rate
Students Enrolled
Institution Type
Percent Online Enrollment
45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Questions Graduates Ask Pursuing a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice

Is a Ph.D. in criminal justice worth it?

The answer depends on degree-seekers' career aspirations. The degree's potential benefits include specializing in organizational leadership, behavioral science, or juvenile justice.

What can I do with a Ph.D. in criminal justice?

Criminal justice jobs for professionals with a Ph.D. include postsecondary educators, forensic scientists, and private investigators. Other graduates start a career with a federal agency, such as the Department of Homeland Security.

How long does it take to get a Ph.D. in criminal justice?

Full-time students typically complete an online criminal justice degree in three years. Part-time degree-seekers may need more time if their program includes additional graduation requirements.

What is the difference between a Ph.D. and a doctorate?

Ph.D. programs emphasize the research skills graduates need to make an academic contribution to the field. Doctoral programs prepare students for a top position at a criminal justice agency or organization.

Why Get a Degree in Criminal Justice?

An online criminal justice degree may qualify graduates for a tenure-track teaching position at a college or university. Professors share their expertise and experience with the next generation of criminal justice professionals. Students also perform original research, and their findings can make a significant and positive impact on the field.

Online degrees offer many advantages, such as asynchronous learning. Students do not attend courses at specific times, allowing them to continue working or tend to other responsibilities. This benefit also promotes financial stability, as learners may need less financial aid, such as loans, than their peers who do not work while in school.

How Much Does a Criminal Justice Degree Cost?

Students earning a Ph.D. should expect to pay a higher per-credit tuition rate than other degree-seekers in a bachelor's or master's program. However, learners can save by enrolling in an in-state public university. Prospective students should also note that many top public schools extend in-state tuition to online degree-seekers.

Some universities attract students through tuition-reduction programs, such as an automatic 15% discount for active-duty military personnel and veterans. Returning alumni and learners employed with a partner company or organization may enjoy additional discounts. Degree-seekers who apply transfer credit toward their Ph.D also save on tuition.

Online programs often feature hidden financial benefits, such as fee exemptions. Degrees offering a fast-track option may also save students money. In addition, online degree-seekers can circumvent multiple university fees, such as housing, a meal plan, and textbooks.

Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay.

How Much Do Criminal Justice Majors Make?

Salary varies by the career graduates pursue. This process begins when degree-seekers select a specialization, such as online teaching in higher education or emergency management. Postsecondary teachers in the field earn a $63,560 median annual salary. Professionals in California, Florida, and New York make significantly more than their peers in other states. The BLS projects 5% growth for police and detective jobs between 2019-2029, suggesting graduates should enter a strong job market.

Emergency management directors earn a $76,250 median annual salary. Highly educated and experienced managers working in Washington, D.C., make nearly $50,000 more annually. The BLS projects that employment for these professionals will grow 4% between 2019-2029.

No matter their day-to-day responsibilities, criminal justice degree-holders advance their career in similar ways, such as gaining professional experience and earning certifications. Other avenues include taking professional development or continuing education courses.

Courses in Criminal Justice

Top criminal justice degrees' curricula emphasize numerous topics, such as juvenile justice, causes of crime, and international terrorism. Students who select a specialization take advanced courses, preparing them for various criminal justice jobs. Programs conclude with a dissertation component requiring learners to complete original research, write a dissertation, and defend it in front of faculty.

The following sample curriculum introduces core courses typical to most criminal justice degrees. Not all universities offer or require them, which may significantly affect learners' academic experiences and learning outcomes. Please contact an admissions counselor to learn more about their school's program and the student experience.

Certifications and Licensure for Criminal Justice

Online criminal justice degree graduates improve their career prospects with professional certifications. Like a degree, a certification helps job applicants stand out to potential employers. Typical requirements include possessing relevant criminal justice experience, joining an organization, and passing examinations. Certification renewal steps may involve completing continuing education courses or additional tests.

The Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists awards the CFCS to experienced criminal justice professionals. Certification steps include purchasing study materials, providing two professional references, and passing an examination. CFCSs use their expertise to lead financial crime investigation teams and run efficient departments and organizations. The International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA) developed the CLEA certification to recognize highly skilled criminal justice managers and other experts. Eligibility requirements include three years of relevant experience and IACA membership. Candidates must also pass a comprehensive examination. IACA offers professionals eight recertification pathways, including publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed journal. Criminal justice experts with a computer science background earn CHFI certification to detect hackers and other malicious actors. Certification steps include either taking an official training course or possessing relevant professional experience. Candidates then attempt a four-hour, 150-question examination. The minimum passing score varies by exam but ranges from 60-85%.

Scholarships for Criminal Justice

Scholarships can make a criminal justice degree more affordable and help learners avoid student debt. The following scholarships accept applications in 2021 and consider prospective or current Ph.D. students. Please visit each award's website to access application materials and review the most up-to-date requirements and deadlines.

Scholarships for Criminal Justice
Scholarship Amount Who Can Apply

American Criminal Justice Association-Lambda Alpha Epsilon Scholarships

Varies ACJA-LAE members apply for up to three annual scholarship opportunities. Application requirements vary by award but may include submitting an academic paper, possessing good standing in the organization, and attending one or more conferences.

The Melissa Linville Criminal Justice Scholarship

$500 Crimcheck awards this competitive scholarship to undergraduate and graduate students majoring in criminal justice. Other application requirements include full-time enrollment and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

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