Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs 2021

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Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with paroled inmates to reduce recidivism. Typical responsibilities include meeting with parolees and their families, recommending services, and maintaining records. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that these criminal justice professionals earn a median salary of $55,690 per year and projects the field to grow 4% from 2019-2029.

Although probation officers need only a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions, many employers reserve management roles for professionals with a master’s in criminal justice. Other career opportunities for advanced degree-holders include postsecondary educator. According to the BLS, postsecondary teachers in the criminal justice field earn a median annual salary of $63,560.

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Top 10 Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs

? This represents the average net price of attendance for full-time students as gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Individual costs may vary. Costs per credit hour may also vary by program or degree.
Rank School Avg Net Price ? This represents the average net price of attendance for full-time students as gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Individual costs may vary. Costs per credit hour may also vary by program or degree.
1 Saint Leo University $22400
2 Liberty University $23800
3 Missouri Baptist University $25816
4 Utica College $19446
5 Sam Houston State University $5172
6 Concordia University-Saint Paul $21750
7 Anderson University $25140
8 University of the Cumberlands $9765
9 Chaminade University of Honolulu $25374
10 University of Central Florida $6368

Questions to Answers About Master Programs in Criminal Justice


  • What can I do with a master's degree in criminal justice?

    A master’s degree may qualify graduates for a promotion or raise. Professionals may also use the degree to pursue a non-tenure-track teaching position at a college or university.


  • How long is a master's in criminal justice?

    Full-time students typically need 18-24 months to earn a master’s in criminal justice. Many accelerated programs allow motivated degree-seekers to graduate in one year.


  • Can you teach with a master's in criminal justice?

    Experienced criminal justice professionals with a master’s degree can apply for teaching positions at community and junior colleges. Master’s degree-holders may also lecture at four-year schools.


  • How much can you make with a master's in criminal justice?

    Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists earn a median annual salary approximately $16,000 higher than the median for all occupations, according to BLS data. The highest 10% of these professionals earn more than $98,510 per year.


Why Get a Degree in Criminal Justice?

A criminal justice master’s degree can lead to numerous benefits, depending on the student’s career goals. Graduates may receive a raise, secure a promotion, and qualify for doctoral programs. Current professionals in the criminal justice field should consult a work supervisor to learn how a degree can lead to career advancement.

Students in online criminal justice programs receive a flexible educational experience, along with opportunities to master transferable technology and time-management skills. Many distance learners benefit from enrolling in a program with asynchronous courses. These classes do not require students to attend at set times, allowing degree-seekers to schedule their education around personal and professional responsibilities.

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How Much Does a Criminal Justice Degree Cost?



Multiple factors influence the cost of earning a master’s in criminal justice, including the learner’s type of institution and residency status. Public colleges and universities typically charge in-state students significantly discounted tuition rates. Course fees can also impact a degree’s cost.

Some schools offer lower tuition rates for online students, and distance learners usually save money on campus housing and meal plans. Additionally, many online degree-seekers save on costs associated with commuting and childcare. Some schools also waive campus fees for online students.

Many of the top colleges and universities offering master’s in criminal justice programs award institutional and departmental financial aid. These opportunities may not require a separate application, and typical eligibility criteria include a minimum undergraduate GPA. Some awards renew annually as long as recipients earn satisfactory grades.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree



Even with financial aid, students may need additional assistance to pay for a master’s in criminal justice program. The following calculation tool compares tuition costs to the user’s salary, cost-of-living expenses, and expected financial aid. A low expected monthly contribution indicates the user should apply for additional scholarships and grants.

College Affordability Calculator

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

How Much Do Criminal Justice Majors Make?

Employer and geographic location can significantly affect salary potential. According to the BLS, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists working for local and state governments earn a median annual salary more than $15,000 higher than professionals employed by social assistance agencies. The top-paying states for professionals in the field include California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

Professionals can increase their salary potential by pursuing additional education, such as a master’s in criminal justice. Individuals can also enroll in certificate programs, which require graduate-level coursework and typically require 12 months or less to complete. Obtaining a professional certification can also help job applicants impress employers.

In addition to researching salary trends, master’s in criminal justice students should consult their school’s career advisors to learn more about prospects in the field. Current criminal justice professionals may also benefit from speaking with a work supervisor or human resources professional.

Courses on Criminal Justice



Master’s in criminal justice curricula prepare students to lead teams and manage departments. Coursework emphasizes statistical analysis and research skills, along with common causes of crime. Some programs feature specializations, such as corrections management, law enforcement administration, and homeland security.

Most criminal justice master’s degrees include the following foundational courses. However, course titles and academic expectations vary by school. Most program websites feature an in-depth curriculum page with course descriptions, graduation requirements, and program outcomes. Prospective students can contact an academic advisor for more details.

To prevent crime, criminal justice professionals must understand why crime occurs. Students in the course examine historical and modern theories, review related disciplines, and analyze prominent researchers’ diverse opinions. Learners also examine crime’s biological and sociological roots. Degree-seekers apply this information by researching challenges that modern criminal justice workers face.

Effective managers must understand organizational structures, the contributions of human resources professionals, and financial best practices. The class introduces degree-seekers to topics such as professional development and retention strategies. Learners hone leadership skills during class discussions and project simulations. The course does not typically require prerequisites.

Many criminal justice professionals must analyze the latest crime research and statistics. The course emphasizes research-design principles, ethical research, and data-collection tools. Degree-seekers apply knowledge and skills from this class during a capstone project, which typically requires learners to perform original research and write a master’s thesis.

Certifications and Licensure for Criminal Justice



Students completing criminal justice programs should research relevant certifications to improve their job prospects. Industry certifications demonstrate that the holder possesses a honed skill set. Typical certification requirements include membership with an organization, a certification fee, and a passing exam score. Recertification may involve completing continuing education courses.

Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional


California residents can earn this credential to demonstrate mastery of addiction counseling best practices. Candidates with a master’s degree need only 2,000 hours of professional experience. Applicants must submit a professional portfolio and pass the certification exam. Members of the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals receive a discount.

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Certified Fraud Examiner


Fraud examiners with at least two years of experience may qualify for this certification. Candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree and pass an exam on topics including accounting and auditing, fraud investigation, and loss prevention. Professionals maintain the certification by taking continuing education courses through the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

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Computer Hacking Forensic Investigation Certification


EC-Council awards this certification to cybercrime investigators skilled in evidence collection, forensic analysis, and digital evidence handling. Candidates without at least two years of relevant experience must take a training course before attempting the certification exam. Candidates must earn a score of 60-78% to pass, depending on the exam version.

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Scholarships for Criminal Justice



Scholarships can help criminal justice master’s degree-seekers finance their education and avoid student debt. The following scholarship programs for criminal justice majors accept applications in 2021. Some awards renew or allow recipients to reapply. Learners should visit each scholarship program’s official website to review application criteria, deadlines, and contact information.


  • The Melissa Linville Criminal Justice Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Crimcheck awards this competitive scholarship to criminal justice students with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate or graduate GPA. Application materials include a 1- to 2-page essay and proof of enrollment.

    Amount: $500

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  • Women in Federal Law Enforcement Foundation Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: Undergraduate and graduate degree-seekers with a minimum 3.0 GPA may qualify for these scholarships. Applicants submit a recommendation letter, an essay, and official transcripts.

    Amount: Varies

    Explore Here


Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs 2021



See Our Rankings Methodology
  1. Saint Leo University
    Location

    St. Leo, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Professionals in the criminal justice field interested in broadening their knowledge, increasing their skills or expanding their area of expertise can choose from several different areas of specializations with the online Master of Science in Criminal Justice program at Saint Leo University. Specialization options include Behavioral Studies, Corrections, Criminal Investigations, Forensic Science, Legal Studies, and Emergency and Disaster Management. Concepts covered in the 36-credit hour criminal justice programs include computerized databases, ethical standards in the administration of justice, human and fiscal resource management, policymaking, organizational leadership in criminal justice agencies, and personnel law, civil liability and substantive and procedural laws. All MS in Criminal Justice program participants take 5 core courses: Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice Administration, Legal Issues in Criminal Justice Administration, Public Policy Making in Criminal Justice, Leadership Applications in Criminal Justice and Applied Project in Criminal Justice Administration. Sample courses in the various specializations include Criminal Advocacy and Judicial Procedure, Advanced Forensic Science and Investigative Methodologies of Violence. Graduates are prepared for administrative positions in law enforcement, corrections, the courts, private security and security-related positions at the local, state or federal government levels. Specific positions could include correction supervisor, sheriff, forensic scientist, U.S. marshal, Secret Service agent, FBI agent or police sergeant. Online programs have 6 start dates throughout the year and typically take about 2 years to complete, though there is an accelerated option for students who receive special approval from the school. Academic advisers, tutoring, library resources, financial aid and career counseling are available to online students. Saint Leo University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The online Master in Criminal Justice degree at Liberty University offers multiple options so students can customize their degree with a specialization in forensic psychology, homeland security or public administration. The 36-credit hour degree can be completed in less than 2 years. The Christian school integrates ethics, criminal justice and biblical principles into its programs. The MS in Criminal Justice Forensic Psychology track covers crisis intervention, psychology and the legal system, and rehabilitation of offenders. Homeland Security students learn about the Homeland Security organization and administration, legal issues of the organization and complete a Homeland Security capstone. The Public Administration specialization focuses on public policy analysis, politics, and communication and conflict. The 6 core course requirements for all specialties include Criminal Justice Integration, Administration of Justice Organizations, Topics and Trends in Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice Program Evaluation, and Leadership, Ethics and Policing. Depending on the specialization, potential career areas for graduates can include law enforcement, corrections, counterterrorism, emergency management, intelligence, forensic science and homeland security. Students can access courses, including content, assignments and tests, in the Blackboard online learning environment. Online students can connect with classmates and access resources such as academic advisers, the library, online writing center, online student communities and financial aid. Liberty University discounts tuition for current and former military members and offers an additional discount for veterans who serve in a civilian capacity as an emergency responder. Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. Missouri Baptist University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice at Missouri Baptist University, which prepares professionals in law enforcement, corrections and other criminal justice fields for career advancement, is 100% online and can be completed in 12-24 months. Because Missouri Baptist is an evangelical Christian, liberal arts institution, the criminal justice program teaches law enforcement and disciplinary ethics with a Christian perspective. The degree focuses on the development of leadership and administrative skills to prepare graduates for management positions in the criminal justice field. The 36-credit program consists of 12 courses, including Criminal Justice Ethics and Leadership, Civil Remedies in Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice and the Mental Health Systems, Communities and Crime, and Foundations of Criminological Theory. Students end the degree with a research capstone project, where they combine classroom learning with professional experience to address current issues in the criminal justice field. Students already employed in the criminal justice field can work with their immediate superior in choosing their project. Potential career positions for graduates include probation officer, police officer and private detective. Classes are offered in an asynchronous format, so students can complete assignments at their convenience. Up to 6 graduate credits may be transferred from another regionally accredited college or university, and credit may be awarded for life experiences obtained through a professional career, community participation or military experience. Online students have access to study skills resources, tutoring and financial aid. Full-time criminal justice professionals can apply for a $500 Law Enforcement Grant for each semester they carry a full-time course load. Missouri Baptist University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  4. Utica College
    Location

    Utica, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Combatting financial crime is the focus of the online Executive Master of Science in Financial Crime and Compliance Management at Utica University. The program was developed in 1999 by leaders in industries and governmental organizations that combat economic and cybercrime. This specialized program is the only graduate level program of its kind in the country, according to the school. The curriculum centers on fraud and compliance risk management strategies, economic crime challenges, and technological and analytical solutions. Courses cover organizational theory and risk management, economic crime, legal and regulatory compliance issues, internet and computer security, and fraud analysis. Students learn how to identify different types of white-collar crime and fraud analysis investigative techniques as well as how to respond to economic threats. Students, in a cohort format, take 2 classes each semester for 6 semesters, completing the degree in 2 years. The program requires a 4-day residency at the campus in Utica, New York, for hands-on digital forensics training. Applicants to the program must have 3-5 years of fraud, auditing or financial investigation experience. Graduates are prepared to take the Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist and Certified Fraud Examiners examinations. Students who complete the degree can find careers as fraud investigators, attorneys, loss-prevention managers, auditors and compliance managers. Online students get support from academic advisors, success coaches, financial aid counselors, librarians, career counselors and technical assistants. Utica is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

  5. Sam Houston State University
    Location

    Huntsville, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Sam Houston State University offers 2 options to earn an online master's degree in criminal justice: a Master of Science in Criminal Justice and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management. Each program is 36 credit hours and takes about 2 years to complete. Graduates are prepared to advance in careers in law enforcement, corrections, securities and social services. The Master of Science in Criminal Justice is designed for all applicants, whether or not they have previous academic or work experience in criminal justice, who are seeking a master's degree in the field but do not plan to seek a PhD. The Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management is geared toward working criminal justice professionals seeking career advancement or who intend to ultimately pursue a PhD. Applicants to this program must be currently employed in a criminal justice-related agency with a minimum of 3 years experience. Sample courses in the programs include Critical Analysis of Justice Administration, Research Methods, Quantitative Analysis, Community Theory and Administration of Justice, Emergent Issues in Criminal Justice Leadership, Legal Aspects of Criminal Management and Ethics of Criminal Justice. Potential career positions for graduates of the criminal justice programs include judges, chief probation officers, police administrators, victim advocates and federal law enforcement agents. Academic advising, tutoring, library services, career counseling and financial aid are available for online students. Sam Houston State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  6. Concordia University-Saint Paul
    Location

    Saint Paul, MN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Leadership at Concordia University, St. Paul expands career advancement opportunities for leaders in law enforcement to potential positions in criminal investigation, forensics, security and emergency management. Students in the 36-credit program are from varying backgrounds, such as law enforcement, branches of the military, social services and the penal system. The online format gives flexibility to working students who can access courses and complete assignments when convenient. Courses, which each run 7 weeks, include Research Methods in Criminal Justice, Administration of Criminal Justice, Applied Ethics in Criminal Justice Leadership, Research Methods in Criminal Justice, Correctional Design, Legal and Legislative Issues and Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice Leadership. Specific potential positions for graduates of the MA in Criminal Justice Leadership program include forensic psychologist, criminal sociologist, corrections supervisor, criminal profiler, forensic examiner, district attorney investigator, police or detective supervisor and emergency management director. Concordia University, St. Paul is a Christian, liberal arts university that boasts a diverse student body and sense of community both on campus and online. Financial aid is available for eligible students, with special discounts and scholarship opportunities for active and retired military members and their spouses. Concordia University, Saint Paul is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  7. Anderson University
    Location

    Anderson, SC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The Master of Criminal Justice degree at Anderson University is a hybrid program that allows working criminal justice professionals to take most coursework online while requiring a few brief on-campus sessions for hands-on learning activities. Applicants to the program must have at least 5 years of law enforcement experience. The 36-credit degree can be completed in 20 months and prepares graduates for careers as executive-level officials in criminal justice agencies, such as chief of police, manager in a state or federal law enforcement agency or sheriff. A new cohort of 10-20 students enters the program each fall. Participants study research methods, the role of law enforcement, responsibilities of executive-level leaders, strategic planning and how to respond to the news media. Sample courses, available via the Canvas online learning system, include the Role of the Chief Executive, Executive Liability, Media and Political Survival, Managing a Multicultural Department and Criminal Justice Research. In addition to online classwork, program participants attend classes at the AU campus in Anderson, South Carolina, 2 days a month for executive class sessions for a total of 4 campus visits per semester. During these on-campus visits, students practice mock drills and press conferences and participate in group projects and case studies. Participants receive reading assignments before each term prior to the first on-campus class session and then work independently online between on-campus sessions. Students are also graded on participation in online chat rooms and forums. Resources available for online students include library services and financial aid. Anderson University, a Christian institution, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  8. University of the Cumberlands
    Location

    Williamsburg, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    This Kentucky university was founded in 1888 by Baptist ministers to prepare students for ethical leadership and community service with a curriculum imbued with Christian values. Law enforcement professionals who seek to advance to leadership, management or administrative positions in public service can pursue the online Master of Justice Administration (M.J.A.) at University of the Cumberlands. Designed by law enforcement professionals, this fully online program was developed to enable those already working in the field to complete their advanced training while holding full-time positions in law enforcement agencies. The program is comprised of 31 credit hours, which include 18 hours of core courses (foundational courses in criminal justice and administration), 12 hours of specialization courses and a capstone project. Students choose from among 8 specialization tracks within the program: law enforcement, corrections, homeland security, juvenile justice, family services, investigations, addiction studies and Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission (or equivalent). The program can be completed in as little as 1 year, but students can set their own pace as long as they complete the program within 4 years of enrolling. Applicants need not possess undergraduate degrees in criminal justice, but their official transcripts must show cumulative grade point averages (GPAs) from bachelor's programs of 3.0 or higher. Transfer students must show a minimum grade of B in their courses in order for their course work to be eligible for transfer. Applicants also must submit a 500-word essay focusing on their backgrounds and academic and professional goals and 2 letters of reference in addition to completing an interview with the program director. The online MJA costs $315 per credit hour and a $50 technology fee is charged per term. Students receive free counseling and career services.

  9. Chaminade University of Honolulu
    Location

    Honolulu, HI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration (M.S.C.J.A.) at Chaminade University of Honolulu prepares graduates for managerial and research positions in all aspects of the criminal justice system, in both the public and private sectors as well as in academia. It also prepares graduates for law school. Students enrolled in this 42-credit program choose from among 3 academic tracks: correctional, law enforcement or generalist, which provides students with a composite of courses dealing with the entire criminal justice system. The program can be completed in 18 to 24 months, though because it's intended to be flexible for adults working full time, students have up to 5 years from enrollment to complete their studies. Chaminade ensures small online class sizes to provide students with individualized attention, and course terms are on an accelerated 10-week schedule (with a minimum of 2 classes offered per term). The program culminates with a capstone project. Admission takes place 4 times a year: July, October, January and April. All application materials must be submitted at least 1 month prior to the start of the term. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0, be proficient in English, submit 3 letters of recommendation and complete a formal interview with a member of the program faculty. Tuition is the same for both on-campus and online students, although online students pay an additional fee of $93 per course. Students enrolled in this program also have access to Smarthinking Online Tutoring, a free online tutoring service; academic advisers; and assistance with career development.

  10. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Central Florida's College of Community Innovation and Education prepares graduates for work involving civic engagement or public service. Through this college, UCF offers an online Master of Science (M.S.) degree in criminal justice. The program is designed to help students advance to leadership or supervisory positions in law enforcement, criminal investigations or corrections. The program is 36 credit hours, which includes 21 credit hours of core courses, 6 of restricted electives and 9 of general electives. To complete the program, students must take a final written exam in their capstone class. Students may elect to complete a thesis, which would account for 6 of the general elective credit hours. Although the program can be completed online, some electives may not be available online. If students are interested in a career in public administration, UCF also offers an online Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) + M.S.C.J. dual degree option, which provides a graduate with 2 diplomas. In addition to their online applications, applicants must submit official transcripts from colleges attended, a resume, a statement of career goals and how the program will help them meet those goals and 2 letters of recommendation. Though the program's minimum GPA requirement for admission is 3.0, students not meeting that requirement may be considered for provisional acceptance. In these cases students are encouraged to submit a competitive GRE score as part of the admissions package. Courses are $327.32 per credit hour for in-state students and $694.82 for out-of-state students. Online students receive a number of support services, including tech support, online success coaches, online skills training, career support services and academic advisement.

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