Criminology encompasses everything from forensics to drug rehabilitation and incarceration policy. Law enforcement officers of all stripes are seasoned in the country’s strongest criminal justice programs and, conveniently for students, many top schools now offer a bachelor’s in criminal justice entirely online.
Esteemed online criminal justice programs connect students with instructors boasting professional experience in courts, law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities and private firms. Top ranked institutions have successfully modified the classroom environment to suit virtual formats, ensuring that distance learners can access a premier education in the field.
Online programs in criminal justice (CJ) allow working adults to start a new career or to increase their credentials in their current profession. An online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can also prepare students for criminology graduate studies.
Students graduating from criminal justice programs are entering a growing field. Through 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 17% hiring increase in paralegal positions, a 31% increase in counseling jobs for substance abuse and behavioral disorders, and a 12% increase in security and surveillance jobs. Positions in law enforcement and other branches of criminal justice are growing as well.
Finding the right online criminal justice program can seem daunting. Prospective students must evaluate hundreds of options from a diverse set of schools. Read on to see our list of the best online criminal justice programs in the country, and to learn more about each school’s academic specialties and online platforms.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
University of Central Florida
|Orlando||4000 Central Florida Blvd|
Orlando, FL 32816
The University of Central Florida offers a BS and a BA in criminal justice. UCF's programs equip students with the knowledge and skills to work at the local, state or federal government level, as well as in private agencies. UCF offers classes on a semester calendar and students are able to register during all three academic terms.
UCF uses an in-house learning management system called WebCourse. It hosts integrated video lectures, assignments, collaborative platforms and interactive lab work. WebCourse is accessible for online criminal justice bachelor's degree students through standard laptops or tablets.
University of Massachusetts - Lowell
|Lowell||1 University Ave|
Lowell, MA 01854-5104
UMass Lowell's criminal justice program is available entirely online or through a blend of on-campus and distance learning courses. Students are expected to take 36-48 hours of criminal justice courses, and complete the degree with general education classes. Students must also fulfill a professional skills requirement: foreign language courses or a mixture of statistics, data analysis and information technology classes will satisfy the requirement.
UCF uses the Blackboard learning management system to provide students with access to course materials. Blackboard intuitively and conveniently organizes a host of multimedia tools, including live and recorded lectures, bulletin board discussions, interactive assignments and labs. The platform is accessible through computers or tablets.
Florida State University
|Tallahassee||222 S. Copeland Street|
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1037
FSU offers nontraditional students all of the benefits of a campus-based CJ program without requiring any on-site visits. FSU requires applicants for the online criminal justice bachelor's degree to have completed their general education liberal studies courses or an associate of arts degree from a public Florida institution. Once at FSU, students must:
Additionally, students may transfer nine semester hours of criminology coursework into FSU.
FSU uses Blackboard to deliver classes and supplementary materials, including live and recorded video and audio lectures, collaborative discussion tools, integrated email and 24/7 technical support. Students may be required to purchase additional course materials such as books, CD's and DVD's. Students are required to have a tablet or laptop.
Saint Leo University
|Saint Leo||33701 State Road 52|
Saint Leo, FL 33574-6665
Saint Leo's CJ program combines criminology courses with general education requirements, providing distance learners with a comprehensive education. Saint Leo's is a private Roman-Catholic college, and most students are adult learners or military personnel.
Saint Leo's program is delivered through Pearson LearningStudio, which lets students access coursework through computers, tablets or smartphones. Multimedia resources include live and streaming video lectures, interactive lab work and collaborative discussion boards. Technical support is available 24/7, and instructors are always willing to answer questions and provide assistance.
Sam Houston State University
|Huntsville||1806 Ave J|
Huntsville, TX 77340
Sam Houston University offers BA degrees in victim studies and a criminal justice bachelor's degree online. The program requires 120 credit hours and enrollment is considered for summer, fall or spring semester. Popular courses include white collar crime, cyber crime, forensic science and victimology.
Sam Houston University's online courses are managed and delivered through the Blackboard learning system, where students can access multimedia educational tools such as video lectures, group discussion boards, assignments and coursework. Professors can interact with students through Blackboard's integrated messaging system, and technical support is readily available.
Western Carolina University
Cullowhee, NC 28723-9646
WCU's criminal justice program offers a BS and a minor in criminal justice. The school requires prospective transfer students to have one year of criminal justice experience. Applicants must also hold an associate degree or have completed all general education prerequisites.
WCU uses the Blackboard platform to host video lectures, class projects and assignments. Students also use Blackboard to manage email communications with classmates and faculty members. Technical support is available 24/7.
Fort Hays State University
|Hays||600 Park St|
Hays, KS 67601-4099
Fort Hays State University's CJ program offers BA and BS degrees in justice studies in a convenient online setup. Most of the school's online criminal justice students are adult learners, many of whom already have experience in law enforcement or military service. FHSU requires students to complete 124 credit hours to earn their degree. Admissions and applications are considered on a rolling basis.
To provide the best education possible, FHSU uses several learning management systems including Blackboard, Moodle and Google Applications. Through these programs, students can access video lectures, collaboration platforms, coursework and discussion boards.
Washington State University
|Pullman||French Administration Building|
Pullman, WA 99164-5910
WSU's criminal justice bachelor's degree online earns praise for its strong retention and graduation rates and experienced faculty, most of whom have held top positions in law enforcement agencies. To graduate, students must complete either two years of a foreign language prior to attending college, or one year in college.
Washington State uses Blackboard Learn to implement their online courses. WSU's 'Global Campus' integrates with Blackboard to provide course-specific multimedia support through live and streaming videos, online discussion boards, project collaboration tools and assignments.
|Boiling Springs||Main St|
Boiling Springs, NC 28017-0997
The CJ program at Gardner-Webb prepares students for specialized and administrative positions in law enforcement agencies and correctional facilities at all levels of government. Gardner-Webb's courses cover a range of criminal justice topics, including philosophy of law enforcement, the social implications of imprisonment and how to optimally move criminals through the legal system.
GWU's criminal justice bachelor's degree online courses are administered through Blackboard, where students can access lectures and assignments and collaborate with classmates and professors.
|Glassboro||201 Mullica Hill Road|
Glassboro, NJ 08028
Rowan University's BA in law and justice provides students with the tools to find gainful employment in law enforcement or to continue onto a master's program. The degree requires 120 total credit hours, with criminal justice courses accounting for 60 credits. The remaining hours can be filled with general education and elective classes.
In 2012, Rowan University switched from Blackboard to the Canvas learning management system. Students use Canvas to access course materials, including lectures, digitized library materials, collaborative project programs and integrated email. Technical support is also available to address any software issues and to facilitate an active and engaged learning environment.
University of Nebraska at Omaha
|Omaha||6001 Dodge St|
Omaha, NE 68182-0225
University of Nebraska-Omaha offers a criminal justice bachelor's degree online, focusing on practical criminology matters and the societal effects of law and justice. The program requires 120 total credit hours and students must maintain a C- grade or better to graduate.
The general education curriculum comprises 40 total credits. The remaining required courses to complete a criminal justice bachelor's degree online are:
A minimum of 30 credits of upper level courses are required.
UNO students access course materials through Blackboard's course management system. They can view live and streaming video and audio lectures, discussion boards, integrated email and assignments. Archived lectures are on Blackboard as well. The school's system is accessible through laptops, tablets and smartphones. Technical support is available on weekdays.
Concordia University - Wisconsin
|Mequon||12800 N Lake Shore Dr|
Mequon, WI 53097-2402
Concordia University's Wisconsin campus offers a fully encompassing online criminal justice degree from a Christian perspective on legal, operational and managerial issues in law enforcement. Concordia's instructors work in the criminology industry, which gives them a breadth of practical knowledge to incorporate into the curriculum. Classes are taught asynchronously.
Courses are taught through Blackboard, which hosts video and audio lectures, bulletin boards, assignments, exams and other course materials. Online students at Concordia University are assigned an E-Learning assistant to facilitate their distance education. Technical support is available to address any problems students have with Blackboard or other aspects of online education.
|Stevenson||1525 Greenspring Valley Rd|
Stevenson, MD 21153-0641
Stevenson offers its online CJ program to professionals with at least two years of work experience. Students learn about the administration of justice at all levels of government in preparation for immediate employment or placement in a graduate criminological program. Applicants are admitted on a rolling deadline.
Online courses at Stevenson are administered through the Blackboard learning management system. Students use Blackboard to access archived course materials, including audio lectures, bulletin boards, assignments and exams. Stevenson also provides remote technical support.
|Saint Bonifacius||8700 College View Drive|
Saint Bonifacius, MN 55375-9001
Crown College's BS in CJ offers a Christ-centered overview on all facets of the criminal justice system, with selected focuses. The degree is targeted towards both professionals in law enforcement and freshman interested in criminology.
Crown's online courses are implemented through Angel Learning. Here, students can access course materials, such as lectures, discussion boards, assignment and exams. Angel allows instructors to remotely monitor and interact with students.
|La Jolla||11255 North Torrey Pines Road|
La Jolla, CA 92037-1011
The CJ program at National University prepares students for entry level careers in criminology. The program covers a range of law enforcement-related topics, including forensic science, juvenile justice and court systems. Seniors have the opportunity to complete a comprehensive research project with supervision from full-time faculty.
The criminal justice program degree can be focused on one of four areas of research:
180 quarter units are required for degree completion, 45 of which must be taken at National.
National University's online courses are administered through both eCollege and Blackboard. Students can access important course information and resources like video lectures, interactive assignments and message boards. The school's courses are backed with technical support from faculty members and technical service staff.
University of Mount Olive
|Mount Olive||634 Henderson St|
Mount Olive, NC 28365-0919
Mount Olive's targets their online bachelor's degrees at adult learners looking to enhance their current careers. Their CJ program focuses on practical experience from industry-connected instructors through study, research and analysis on domestic and international criminology issues.
Online courses at UMO are administered through Moodle. In Moodle, students can view archived course materials, collaborative project software, integrated email and chat systems, assignments and exams.
University of Houston - Victoria
|Victoria||3007 N. Ben Wilson|
Victoria, TX 77901
The University of Houston-Victoria's CJ program helps students learn to understand criminal behavior and to research rehabilitation procedures and crime prevention methods. The degree prepares students for further graduate study and for immediate employment in law enforcement.
Online students at UHV use Blackboard to view course materials, such as archived video lectures, collaborative discussion boards, assignments and exams. Blackboard is available through computers, tablets and smartphones, and the school's technical support staff is available to address any issues.
University of Louisville
|Louisville||2301 S 3rd St|
Louisville, KY 40292-0001
Louisville's criminal justice bachelor's degree online program gives students a functional knowledge of the entire criminal justice system, linking theory and practice in a thorough review of criminal reform policies. Graduates of this BS program are poised to find employment in law enforcement and to continue their education in a master's or doctorate program. Courses are delivered asynchronously.
Blackboard is the learning management system of choice for Louisville's online courses. Students use Blackboard to access assignments and lectures, collaborate with students and professors and participate in discussion boards.
Pennsylvania State University - World Campus
|University Park||128 Outreach Building|
University Park, PA 16802
Students in Penn State's online CJ program focuses on both the theoretical and practical facets of rehabilitating juvenile and adult offenders. Instructors have real world experience in law enforcement and are specifically trained to lead online courses. The criminal justice program also offers a unique homeland security minor for 18 credits.
Penn State uses Blackboard's ANGEL platform to deliver online instruction. ANGEL archives course materials, such as video lectures, assignments and interactive discussion boards. Students will occasionally collaborate with classmates and faculty through Skype.
University of Memphis
Memphis, TN 38152
The University of Memphis offers an online BA in criminology. The program emphasizes research, scholarship, service and community outreach to give students an all-encompassing overview of criminal justice. Faculty members at Memphis have received recognition for their work through research grants and various awards.
The University of Memphis uses Desire2Learn to connect online students with their course materials. Resources include live and recorded video lectures, podcasts, collaborative discussion boards and integrated email messaging. The school offers 24/7 technical support to distance learners.
|Dobbs Ferry||555 Broadway|
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
Mercy College's BS in criminal justice program is administered by diverse faculty members; the staff includes current or former attorneys, law enforcement officers, court officials and other professionals with experience in criminology. Their varied backgrounds provides a base for comprehensive instruction in this complex field. The bachelor's degree requires 120 credit hours for full completion.
Mercy College's learning management system is Blackboard, where students can access labs and assignments, bulletin board discussions, video and audio lectures and exams. Technical support is provided 24/7.
|Fort Lauderdale||1500 NW 49th St|
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
An online CJ degree at Keiser University provides students with a strong basis for understanding complex issues in criminal justice in topics such as victimology, deviant behavior, private security and juvenile rehabilitation. The program strongly emphasizes research and analysis through verbal and written skills.
Keiser uses Blackboard to deliver course materials to students. The learning management system organizes and archives video and audio lectures while providing access to collaborative message boards, simulation labs and assignments. Online courses are accessible on several devices and mediums.
University of Oklahoma - Norman
|Norman||660 Parrington Oval|
Norman, OK 73019-3072
Oklahoma's BS in CJ will provide you with a foundational understanding of a range of criminology issues, from forensic science to justice systems. The program accommodates working adults by providing flexible course schedules and asynchronous classes. The degree can be completed in as little as 18 months with transferable prior credits.
Oklahoma uses the Desire2Learn learning management system to implement their online curriculum. Students can use their computer to access course materials, including readings, audio lectures, bulletin boards and simulation labs. Technical support is available 24/7.
California State University - San Bernardino
|San Bernardino||5500 University Pky|
San Bernardino, CA 92407-2397
CSU-San Bernardino offers a comprehensive overview of foundational issues in criminal justice through courses like correctional theory, courts and law and drug rehabilitation. Students take classes from instructors with terminal degrees in the field. Courses are presented in five-week blocks, allowing students to progress quickly through class material.
CSU-San Bernardino uses Blackboard to deliver course materials to students, including simulation labs, bulletin board discussions, collaborative workshops, assignments and exams. Blackboard is supplemented with a 24/7 integrated support team to assist students with technical issues.
Anderson, SC 29621-4035
The CJ program at Anderson University covers a spectrum of important topics, from the history of correctional systems and procedure to the future of policy changes. The program educates adults seeking long-term careers in law enforcement, preparing students for immediate employment or graduate level work. Students can tailor their program to focus either on law enforcement or homeland security and emergency preparedness.
Anderson University's online courses are delivered through the Moodle learning management system. Here, students can conveniently access course materials, resources and collaborative activities. Moodle provides students with integrated messaging and simplified communication with fellow classmates and faculty.
An online bachelor’s in criminal justice qualifies graduates for positions in law enforcement at all administrative levels. Recent graduates often obtain employment in police forces, correctional facilities, private security firms and probation offices. The mean salary for criminal justice jobs is $43,980, a number which can substantially rise through promotion, graduate education or by working overtime.
Criminal justice is an expansive field, and it’s important for students to plan their career path in school. If you want to work in forensics, for example, you’ll need to have laboratory experience and a different course load than if you are planning on becoming a detective. Internships can also help you enhance your resume, providing you with direct experience in your field of choice while expanding your network of contacts and increasing your job opportunities. Some schools even accept course credit through internships, making them all the more prudent.
While it’s possible to have a rewarding career with only a bachelor’s degree, many of the highest-paying positions are reserved for applicants with master’s degrees in criminal justice. It’ll be important to consider graduate school when planning your future: judges, police supervisors and agency directors generally require master’s degrees for consideration.
If you’re interested in studying and working in criminal justice, you should identify which subfield interests you as quickly as possible. Choose a school offering classes or programs pertaining to your interests, and pursue internships early and often to boost your credentials and prepare yourself for the career you’ve always wanted.