Online Criminal Justice Degrees

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An online criminal justice degree opens doors to a number of rewarding careers serving the public through law enforcement, the legal system, and corrections. Those who typically excel in a criminal justice degree online are critical thinkers with strong verbal and written communication skills. An eye for small details and the ability to explain difficult concepts are also key for criminal justice professionals. Prospective online criminal justice students should not have any felony convictions, domestic abuse convictions or DUI convictions, and should not have used illegal drugs for three years prior to their job application.

Those who feel called to protect the public can expect greater flexibility in criminal justice online degree programs, which makes it easier to continue working full-time or manage a busy schedule. Though many online criminal justice degree programs can be completed fully online, some will require several visits to the campus.

It's beneficial to take on a relevant internship locally, as well, to gain experience before entering the job market. These may be found in community police departments, legal offices and elsewhere. It's also wise to check out relevant certifications, such as the Criminal Justice Awareness and Terminology Certification, as detailed further below.

Regardless of which program is right for you, an online criminal justice degree properly prepares graduates for a rewarding and meaningful career. To learn more about how you can pursue your degree online, be sure to check out our guide below.

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Mary Lou Chernik Criminal Justice

“Earning a master’s degree has enhanced my reputation as a medicolegal death investigator and has allowed me to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher.”

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Online Criminal Justice Degree Overview

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police and detective work will grow at a rate of 4% between 2014-2024. Graduates of online criminal justice degree programs will have an edge over the competition, making it far easier to secure a job. Employers in the criminal justice field value professionals who demand and deserve respect, and earning your degree will demonstrate your commitment to justice.
Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $12,837 15.78% 1+ years $30,600 $46,000 8.9%
Bachelor's $18,070 11.51% 4 years $36,900 $62,900 4.7%
Master's $16,476 10.39% 1+ years $43,100 $62,900 3.9%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

If you want to ensure public safety on the ground in your community, an associate degree will take you less time and money to earn while ensuring opportunities for advancement as a police officer. If you have more specific interests in criminal justice, a higher-level degree such as a bachelor's or master's may be a better fit. A bachelor's degree requires less financial investment when spread across four years and results in stronger employment opportunities. Though a bachelor's degree will, on average, cost approximately $5,000 more than an associate degree, the average difference in salary between the two degrees is $6,300, making a bachelor's degree a worthwhile financial investment. A master's or doctoral level program requires additional financial investment, but will likely yield higher salaries across the span of your career.

Online Criminal Justice Degrees


Online Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Although there are good jobs in the criminal justice field that don't require more than a high school diploma or GED (like uniformed police officer), an online criminal justice associate degree can seriously strengthen a candidate's credentials to work as a police officer, detective, or legal investigator. At an average cost of $12,000 for one to two years of study, an online associate degree can help an applicant secure an average salary level approximately 2.5 times higher than the cost of tuition.
Criminal Justice
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For the 2016 rankings, has greatly refined its approach to evaluating schools and their respective programs. Our innovative method of assessing schools is what makes our rankings so distinctly authoritative. On the surface, every ranking we produce employs a basic formula: Academic Quality + Online Offerings + Cost and Student Aid = Final Score. This final score determines where a school ends up in our rankings. Of course, there's a lot more than meets the eye. Visit our methodology page to discover the data points that shape our formula and to learn more about our process.

Criminal Justice Associate’s Degree Rankings

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description
1Keiser University - Ft LauderdaleFort Lauderdale$$$$$1500 NW 49th St
Fort Lauderdale, FL
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Based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Keiser University was founded in 1977 to deliver career-oriented education to adult learners. Today the private, nonprofit school has 18 locations spread across Florida, and a thriving online campus. The school offers degrees to more than 20,000 students from the associate to doctoral level. Many degrees are available through the Fort Lauderdale Online Division, including Keiser’s online criminal justice associate degree.

The associate of arts in criminal justice program follows a 60-credit curriculum, and explores the components and traditions of the American criminal justice system. Students receive an in-depth and hands-on education in legal systems, law enforcement organizations, juvenile issues, corrections, and patterns of criminal behavior. The degree is divided into 36 hours of general education credits and 24 credits in major courses. There are no prerequisites. Web-based students have access to Keiser’s Online Career Center, which offers job postings, resume counseling, interview coaching, career-development workshops, and more.

2Liberty UniversityLynchburg$$$$$1971 University Blvd
Lynchburg, VA 24515
(800) 434-9595

Liberty University is the largest private non-profit school in the United States. The Lynchburg, VA- based institution offers its 110,000 students a wealth of options and resources, including more than 545 different fields of study and more than 270 online degrees.

The Helms School of Government’s associate of arts in criminal justice program requires 60 credits to complete, and students may transfer as many as 45 into the program. Students learn the basics of law enforcement and the criminal justice system, and develop excellent written and oral communications skills to increase their career prospects. This criminal justice associate degree online can also be used as a pathway to a bachelor’s degree, which Liberty offers in its virtual classrooms. A 25% “emergency response discount” is available to all first responders. Web-based students have access to IT support, an online library, writing help, and tutoring. The school boasts a 91% employment rate for its online graduates.

3Saint Leo UniversitySaint Leo$$$$$33701 State Road 52
Saint Leo, FL 33574-6665
(352) 588-8200

Established in 1889, Saint Leo is a Catholic liberal arts institution in the Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL, metropolitan area. With more than 16,000 students, the university is one of the largest Catholic schools in the nation, and one of the top regional schools in the South. Saint Leo offers more than 40 academic programs in 40 learning centers across seven states, military bases, and online.

Saint Leo has 30 years of experience teaching law enforcement, and its online associate degree in criminal justice takes a liberal arts approach, which provides students a broad background in general studies and encourages critical thinking skills. The 60-credit curriculum examines all aspects of the criminal justice system, from crime scene investigation, to ethics and legal issues, to homeland security. The associate of arts criminal justice program lays the groundwork for students who want to earn their bachelor’s. Saint Leo Online has an array of programs and services to help students succeed in web-based education, including “Starting Point” orientation tutorials, access to the school bookstore and library, and 24/7 access to career services. Applicants can download a free e-book to learn more about Saint Leo’s online experience.

4West Kentucky Community and Technical CollegePaducah$$$$$4810 Alben Barkley Drive
Paducah, KY 42002-7380
(270) 554-92000

Located in Paducah, KY, West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) is a public, two-year college focused on career education. Most of the school’s 8,500 students attend part-time, and more than half take at least one of their courses online. WKCTC has offered classes digitally for more than two decades and is a pioneer in online education. The school’s virtual classrooms host dozens of degree programs, including an online criminal justice associate degree.

The associate in applied science in criminal justice degree is a 60-credit program that students can pursue entirely online, and may specialize in one of four areas of concentration -- criminal justice, corrections, law enforcement, and security and loss prevention. The curriculum begins with general studies coursework, and proceeds to major classes like criminalistics, computer forensics, and police supervision. The program is designed as a pathway to entry-level positions in law enforcement or as a gateway to a more advanced degree and an administrative role. Online students pay in-state tuition, and the school has a nine-step orientation program on its website.

5Pamlico Community CollegeGrantsboro$$$$$5049 Hwy 306 South
Grantsboro, NC 28529
(252) 249-18513084

Founded in 1962 as an industrial arts school, Pamlico Community College (PCC) in Grantsboro, NC, has grown into a fully-accredited two-year institution. The school offers a variety of degree programs in the liberal arts, sciences, healthcare, business, and technology. PCC is home to 700 students and offers most of its degrees on campus and online.

The 67 credit criminal justice technology associate degree prepares students for careers in law enforcement, corrections, probation and parole, the legal system, security, and loss prevention. Students complete general studies courses, including classes in writing, mathematics, the humanities, and the sciences, and proceed to courses in their major. The online associate degree in criminal justice is a broad program that includes two certificates, a diploma, and a two-year degree. Students gain first-hand experience meeting with officers, investigating crime scenes, and attending court proceedings. Online learners have access to the college’s library, advising and counseling services, tutoring, career center, and the Virtual Student Success Center.

6Albany Technical CollegeAlbany$$$$$1704 South Slappey Boulevard
Albany, GA 31701
(229) 430-3500

A member of the Technical College System of Georgia, Albany Tech provides secondary education throughout seven counties in southwest Georgia. The school offers two-year degree programs, career-training, continuing education, and community enrichment to a student body of 3,000 full-time and 2,500 part-time students at learning centers across south Georgia. It also has a vibrant virtual campus with 30 online programs, including a criminal justice associate degree.

Albany Tech’s associate of applied science in law enforcement technology degree is a 60-credit program combining criminal justice theory and practice. Students can specialize in criminal justice or Homeland Security by adding technical certificates. Background checks are not required for admission, but they are necessary for placement in a lab, clinic, or internship setting. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and have passed the COMPASS exam with appropriate scores. The Blackboard platform is used to deliver course content.

7Bismark State CollegeBismarck$$$$$1603 Edwards Ave.
Bismarck, ND 58506-5587
(701) 224-5400

Located on a 220-acre campus overlooking the Missouri River in North Dakota, Bismarck State is a comprehensive public two-year college with a student body of more than 3,700. The school offers an array of associate degrees, certificates, professional programs, and a bachelor’s in energy management, both in on-campus and online. Almost two-thirds of students at BSC take at least one web-based course – more than 40 percent attend online only.

The associate of applied science in criminal justice degree is a 60-credit program that waives the entrance requirements for other associate-degree tracks at Bismarck State. Background checks are required, however. Taught by an experienced faculty and under the supervision of a board of advisers from the law enforcement community, the curriculum combines general and professional education courses. Students take liberal arts courses such as college composition, and fulfill major requirements with courses like criminology, juvenile delinquency, and police administration. All classes can be taken via the web, but a field internship is necessary to graduate. This online associate degree in criminal justice is not intended for transfer.

8Southern New Hampshire UniversityManchester$$$$$2500 North River Road
Manchester, NH 03106-1045
(603) 668-2211

Based in Manchester, NH, Southern New Hampshire (SNHU) is one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. A private nonprofit institution, SNHU is primarily a virtual campus, with about 3,000 students in its traditional, brick-and-mortar location and over 75,000 attending classes via the web. The university offers more than 200 career-oriented degree and certificate programs, from the associate to master’s level, including an online associate degree in criminal justice.

SNHU’s associate of science in criminal justice program is designed for working law enforcement professionals who wish to advance their careers, and students interested in entry-level positions in the field. Graduate gain an understanding of the American system of criminal justice and the issues facing modern law enforcement. Classes in this 60 credit program explore ethics, juvenile justice, and the legal system, and students can specialize in policing, corrections, and security through their selection of electives. SNHU online programming is available 24/7 and can be fast-tracked. The university claims some of the lowest tuition costs in the country, and a full slate of services is available to online students, including writing help, round-the-clock computer support, and tutoring.

9Northeast Community CollegeNorfolk$$$$$801 E Benjamin
Norfolk, NE 68702-0469
(402) 371-2020

Located in Norfolk, NE, Northeast Community College is a public, two-year school providing access to associate degrees, career-training, job certification, and cultural enrichment to more than 23,000 students. In addition to the 200-acre main campus, the school has satellites in 60 communities and a growing virtual campus. Northeast hosts an online associate degree in criminal justice with two available areas of concentration – corrections and law enforcement.

Northeast Online’s associate of arts criminal justice degree takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining a core curriculum with specialized classes in its two concentration areas. The corrections track includes visits to area jails and prisons, and sessions with a mobile crime lab and repelling wall. The law enforcement track involves guest speakers and courses in police and society and criminal investigation. Admission to all online criminal justice associate degree programs includes background checks, physiological and psychological exams, and a polygraph test. Students may also receive credit for completing the course at the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center. Northeast has an active Criminal Justice Association, which offers great networking opportunities. Online students can receive advising help, order textbooks, visit the library, and explore career services from the Northeast Online site.

10Western Wyoming Community CollegeRock Springs$$$$$2500 College Dr
Rock Springs, WY 82902-0428
(307) 382-1600

Western Wyoming Community College (WWCC) opened its doors in 1959 to forty students. Today, the two-year school provides access to higher education to more than 2,700 students, 97 percent of whom are from western Wyoming. WWCC also has a robust distance-learning program that is a leader among schools in the Rocky Mountains.

WWCC hosts an online associate degree in criminal justice designed for students planning to transfer into a four-year program. The associate of arts in criminal justice curriculum emphasizes general education courses required for a baccalaureate degree, and includes a few classes in the major. An introduction to criminal justice gives participants a broad overview of the American criminal justice system; criminal law looks at legal issues; and criminology explores crime and its root causes. Each class follows a traditional semester schedule, and online learners must dedicate at least nine hours per week to each three-credit course. WWCC recommends its “Intro to Online Learning” class for new students.

11Northampton Community CollegeBethlehem$$$$$3835 Green Pond Rd
Bethlehem, PA 18020-7599
(610) 861-5300

Northampton Community College (NCC) in Bethlehem, PA, is one of the few community colleges with a residency program. It’s also home to a vibrant virtual campus. More than 34,000 students pursue degrees and certificates in over 100 areas of study at NCC, and its criminal justice program is one of its most popular majors. Despite its size, the school boasts a 21-1 student to faculty ratio. The campus is also one of the most diverse in Pennsylvania and received national recognition for its “tech savvy.”

Northampton’s online criminal justice associate degree is designed for three groups: students seeking entry-level work in law enforcement, corrections, and counseling; working criminal justice professionals looking to develop their careers; and transfer students intending to transfer to a baccalaureate degree in the field. The associate in applied science criminal justice curriculum is evenly split between general education classes, criminal justice core courses, and psychology and sociology classes that describe criminal behavior. NCC uses Blackboard to deliver its online coursework, while proctored exams are taken on campus or arrangements can be made for a local option. Online students have access to the same advising, tutoring, IT, and career services as on-campus students. NCC alumni include a four-time Pulitzer Prize winner, an Oscar-winning documentary director, and many chief executives.

12Columbia College - MissouriColumbia$$$$$1001 Rogers Street
Columbia, MO 65216
(573) 875-8700

This private liberal arts institution in Columbia, MO was founded in 1851 as Christian women’s college. Today, over 29,000 students (women and men) are enrolled in its 36 nationwide educational centers and online campus. More than half of the student body registers for at least one online course each year.

Columbia College offers an online criminal justice associate degree which integrates sociology and psychology into a study of the American criminal justice system. The 60-credit associate in science in criminal justice administration program provides a comprehensive overview of modern law enforcement, from criminology to penology. Students take 24 general education credits and 24 credits in the major. Twelve additional electives allow specialization in areas like corrections or political science, while available internships and practicums provide valuable hands-on experience. Online classes are scheduled in eight-week sessions, six times a year, allowing students to fast-track their education.

13South Texas CollegeMcAllen$$$$$3201 W Pecan
McAllen, TX 78502-9701
(956) 872-8311

With more than 34,000 students, South Texas College (STC) is the largest university south of San Antonio. Based in the Rio Grande Valley city of McAllen, TX, STC is a comprehensive community college that offers professional certification, dozens of associate degrees, four bachelor’s degrees, job training, and cultural enrichment. Thirty degrees at South Texas can be earned entirely via the web, including an online associate degree in criminal justice.

The criminal justice associate degree program at STC prepares students for careers in policing, corrections, the court system, private investigation, protective custody, corporate security, and several federal agencies. The curriculum is liberal-arts based with the majority of classes in general education, and only a half dozen in the major. Online students can access many of the same services and amenities as on-campus students, including the library, advising, the bookstore, and tutoring; and STC has orientation courses for using Blackboard and finding student resources. STC is one of the most affordable schools in the nation and most students graduate debt-free.

14Central Texas CollegeKilleen$$$$$6200 West Central Texas Expressway
Killeen, TX 76549-4199
(254) 526-7161

Central Texas College (CTC), based in the city of Killeen, TX, is a public two-year college with more than 100 learning centers around the globe, a presence on dozens of military bases and naval ships, and an online campus with over 55,000 enrolled worldwide. CTC offers more than two dozen degrees that can be earned entirely online, including an online criminal justice associate degree.

The associate of applied science in criminal justice program follows a 60-credit curriculum divided into four semesters. The program is an intensive immersion in the basic precepts of criminal law in the U.S., and the curriculum is a blend of criminal justice core courses with general education courses. Students may also specialize with a concentration in corrections. CTC participates in the Servicemembers Opportunities College Degree Network, and is known for its close ties to the military. A full slate of online student resources, from advising to tech support, is available on the CTC Distance Education page.

15Florida Institute of TechnologyMelbourne$$$$$150 West University Blvd
Melbourne, FL 32901
(321) 674-8000

Located in Melbourne, FL, Florida Institute of Technology Online is the second-largest private university in the state and the only independent tech school in the Southeast. Founded in 1958, Florida Tech is now a comprehensive university with acclaimed offerings in communications, psychology, education, the humanities, and criminal justice. The school’s 6,600-member student body is a split of undergraduate and grad students.

The associate of arts in criminal science program combines a liberal arts core -- the writing, computation, and business classes of a general studies degree -- with a thorough overview of the modern American system of justice. Students take courses in criminology, juvenile delinquency, crime prevention, investigation, substance abuse, and the many psychological and sociological factors affecting contemporary law. Completion of 20 classes is required, each lasting eight weeks, and the entire curriculum can be done via the web. All students in Florida Tech’s online associate degree in criminal justice program must take the one-credit mastering e-learning class. Five start dates allow students flexibility in scheduling.

16Park UniversityParkville$$$$$8700 NW River Park Dr
Parkville, MO 64152-3795
(816) 741-2000

Based in Parkville, MO, Park U. has more 18,000 students across 40 campuses in 21 states. This private four-year nonprofit university offers 63 degrees from the associate to master’s level. Park is a leader in online education, earning national recognition for quality and affordability. The school offers more than three dozen programs on its virtual campus, including a criminal justice associate degree online.

The associate of science in criminal justice administration program follows a 60 credit curriculum with three available specializations: corrections, law enforcement, and security. Coursework is designed to be highly interactive and highly flexible. Students gain a theoretical and practical understanding of the American justice system, and graduate prepared for more more than 40 different career opportunities. Students may also pursue a bachelor’s degree, while certifications are available in homeland security and terrorism. The university’s programming earned the Quality Matters online seal of approval.

17Rio Salado CollegeTempe$$$$$2323 W 14th St
Tempe, AZ 85281
(480) 517-8000

Rio Salado is one of ten Maricopa Community Colleges in the greater Phoenix area, and one of the fastest-growing public two-year schools in the nation. Based in Tempe, AZ, Rio specializes in online learning, with more than half of its 54,000 students studying via the web. Over 600 classes and dozens of degree programs are available via Rio Salado’s RioLearn virtual campus. The online criminal justice associate degree prepares students for careers in law enforcement, counseling, corrections, and many federal agencies.

The associate of applied science in administration of justice prepares students to face issues in the American justice system in the 21st century. Instructors hold a variety of criminal justice backgrounds as police officers, attorneys, parole officers, and paralegals. Rio’s unique schedule allows new students to begin courses every Monday, and students must maintain a C average to graduate. A RioLearn demo allows prospective students to try out the school’s online environment and sample a class.

18St Petersburg CollegeClearwater$$$$$6021 142nd Ave N
Clearwater, FL 33760-2822
(727) 341-4772

Founded in 1927, St. Petersburg College (SPC) was the first two-year college established in Florida. The school now offers over 100 career-oriented degree and certificate programs, and awards more associate degrees than most community colleges in the nation. Part of that success is due to SPC’s virtual campus -- the largest online school in Florida -- as more than a third of the school’s 64,000 students participate online.

SPC’s College of Public Safety Administration offers several variations on the criminal justice associate degree online. The school has a traditional criminal justice technology associate of science program, which can be specialized with a homeland security certificate. The 64 credit curriculum prepares students for baccalaureate programs or entry-level positions in the courts, corrections, and law-enforcement agencies, but does not lead directly to certification as an officer. Other programs include an associate in digital forensics and computer investigations, and an associate in crime scene technology. All can be earned entirely via the web and coursework is asynchronous.

19Peirce CollegePhiladelphia$$$$$1420 Pine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102-4699
(888) 467-3472

With its main campus in the Center City district of Philadelphia, PA, Peirce College has been providing educational opportunities to working adults for over a century. The private nonprofit college was established in 1865 to expand the options of Civil War vets, and it has maintained a mission of career-oriented, practical instruction ever since. Peirce has been offering accredited digital courses longer than most universities in the United States.

The 61 credit curriculum in Pierce’s associate of science in criminal justice studies includes emphases in law enforcement, corrections, criminal investigation, private security, and juvenile justice. Coursework provides students experience in criminal court systems, victimization, and homeland security, among others. The school’s professors have real world experience and serve as officers, judges, and attorneys. Ambitious students can join Alpha Phi Sigma and the criminal justice honor society, and accelerated tracks are available. All on-campus support services are accessible to online learners.

20Tyler Junior CollegeTyler$$$$$1400 East Fifth Street
Tyler, TX 75701
(903) 510-2200

One of the largest community colleges in Texas, Tyler Junior College (TJC) takes its name from the east Texas city in which it’s located. With professional training and certification programs, more than a 100 degree options, and a 137-acre campus, the school is a community hub. It’s one of the few two-year schools with residential options and is known for its award-winning athletics.

TJC’s online criminal justice associate degree prepares students to continue their bachelor's in the field. The 60 credit curriculum of the associate of art in criminal justice program explores contemporary issues in law and justice from theoretical and practical standpoints. Faculty include former federal law enforcement officers, crime scene investigators, and homicide detectives with more than 200 years of cumulative experience. Students complete 44 general education credits, in addition to 16 credits of major coursework. Tuition at TJC costs about one-third of a typical four-year college education, and the schools’ 16-hour, Tech Skills Boot Camp, is available to help students prepare for digital learning.

21Hodges UniversityNaples$$$$$2655 Northbrooke Dr
Naples, FL 34119
(800) 466-8017

Hodges University is a small private nonprofit institution in Naples, FL offering 34 career-oriented degree programs. With 78 percent of students over the age of 24 -- and an average of 32 -- Hodges is committed to educating working adults. Classes are scheduled for maximum flexibility, and the school takes a competency-based approach, which allows ambitious students to move forward on a fast-track. Hodges’ digital campus has become an important part of the university’s mission.

Hodges’ criminal justice associate degree online emphasizes coursework in the major -- of the 60 credits required to graduate, only 20 are general studies -- providing students a thorough understanding of the justice system. Classes in the criminal justice associate degree core curriculum take students from crime scenes to courtrooms, and explores all aspects of the American legal system. The Blackboard platform allows close interaction with faculty, peer to peer discussions with classmates, and easy assignment submission.

22Surry Community CollegeDobson$$$$$630 S. Main St.
Dobson, NC 27017-8432
(336) 386-81213264

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Surry Community College is a comprehensive two-year school with 4,000 students, and offers associate degrees, certification, and professional training. More than 60 percent of students hail from Surry County and attend the Dobson-based school part-time; 20 percent are enrolled in the college’s distance learning programs. The online criminal justice associate degree prepares students for careers as law enforcement and corrections officers, security personnel, and loss prevention specialists.

The associate of applied science in criminal justice technology emphasizes criminal justice systems and operations. The degree introduces judicial processes, security services, and law enforcement on the federal, state, and local levels. Courses in psychology and sociology are also part of the curriculum. Students with a background in law enforcement or who have completed a police academy program may be able to waive some classes. Online students are required to complete an orientation to the Moodle platform before the first class. Every web-delivered course shares the same outcomes as the on-campus equivalent.

23Somerset Community CollegeDobson$$$$$808 Monticello Street
Dobson, KY 42501-2973
(877) 629-9722

Established in Somerset, KY, in 1965, Somerset Community College (SCC) has evolved into one of the nation’s fastest-growing two-year schools. Serving a ten-county area, the college provides degrees, certificates, occupational training, and continuing education to a student population of 6,400. In addition to the main campus, SCC has facilities in five other Kentucky locations and a virtual campus.

Somerset’s online associate degree in criminal justice offers four areas of specialization – criminal justice, corrections, law enforcement, and security and loss prevention. The criminal justice associate in applied science consists of 61 credit hours, nine of which are completed in the concentration. Students can also elect to add certifications in computer forensics and advanced law enforcement. Background checks are not required (but may be for employment in the field later). SCC uses Blackboard to deliver course content and the college recommends students spend at least nine hours a week per course.

24Columbus State Community CollegeColumbus$$$$$550 E Spring St
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 287-5353

Columbus State Community College (CSCC) sits on the edge of downtown in Columbus, OH. With almost 30,000 students, it’s one of the biggest schools in the Buckeye State, and offers associate degrees, career certification, technical education, and enrichment programming. Despite its size, CSCC keeps class sizes small with an average of 20 students per course. The main campus is augmented by a second campus in Delaware, OH, nine learning centers in the nearby suburbs, and an expanding virtual campus.

Columbus State’s criminal justice program is multifaceted, and students select from a variety of degree tracks. The online criminal justice associate degree prepares students for entry-level positions in law enforcement, with concentrations in crime scene investigations, homeland security, crime prevention, and victim advocacy. Students who attend a police academy can register for the law enforcement academy track, a two-year degree that prepares serving, sworn police officers to advance in their careers. The probation and supervision track is aimed at people interested in the legal services. CSCC helps students determine if they’re ready for digital learning via an online readiness assessment.

25Allen Community CollegeIola$$$$$1801 N Cottonwood
Iola, KS 66749
(620) 365-5116100

Allen Community College was established in 1923 on the third floor of Iola High School in Iola, KS. Today, 2,300 students can choose between two campuses, six outreach sites, and online curriculums. Run by the Kansas Board of Regents, Allen offers two-year degrees, vocational certification, adult education, and workforce training programs, including a criminal justice associate degree online.

The associate in science with an emphasis in criminal justice studies program is offered as an associate in science (AS) or an associate in applied science (AAS). The AS is a 65-credit curriculum for students planning to transfer to a four-year program or police academy. The AAS degree requires only 60 credits but includes more courses in the major, including a criminal justice practicum and 12 credits at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center. Online learners have access to the school’s library, writing center, and 24/7 tech support.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

A criminal justice online degree at the bachelor's level opens the doors to a number of careers in the criminal justice field. Some examples include the probation officer, detective, and computer forensic investigator careers described above. Although earning a bachelor's degree requires four years and an average investment of $18,070, the cost per year is much cheaper than earning an associate degree. Also, salary levels with this degree can be much higher than with an associate or high school diploma/GED.

    Drugs and Society, Statistics in Criminal Justice, and Crime Prevention


    Criminal Justice, Computer Forensics, and Science in Criminal Justice


    Probation Officer, Computer Forensic Investigator, and Homicide Detective


    $58,630 per year, $28.19 per hour


    4% growth rate per year

Criminal Justice
Get Seal
For the 2016 rankings, has greatly refined its approach to evaluating schools and their respective programs. Our innovative method of assessing schools is what makes our rankings so distinctly authoritative. On the surface, every ranking we produce employs a basic formula: Academic Quality + Online Offerings + Cost and Student Aid = Final Score. This final score determines where a school ends up in our rankings. Of course, there's a lot more than meets the eye. Visit our methodology page to discover the data points that shape our formula and to learn more about our process.

Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree Rankings

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description
1University of Central FloridaOrlando$$$$$4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816
(407) 823-2000

UCF's online criminal justice degree prepares graduates for careers in justice agencies, private security organizations, and related positions. Both a BA and BS degree are available; students who apply for the BS program must have at least one year of college-level foreign language experience. Students may also participate in online internships. The curriculum covers white collar crime, community-based corrections, women and crime, risk management in criminal justice, private security, and much more.

UCF hosts a user-friendly online services interface, which offers students access to library services, a writing center, online consultations, software, and skills training through LyndaCampus, the UCF bookstore, and more. Non-resident students have access to a competitive tuition rate, and several campus-based fees are waived for all online students.

2Liberty UniversityLynchburg$$$$$1971 University Blvd
Lynchburg, VA 24515
(800) 434-9595

Founded in 1971 as a nonprofit Christian university, Liberty offers a criminal justice degree online, and the program provides students with a foundation in the constitutional basics of law and justice. Students can pursue specializations in business administration and management, criminal psychology, crime scene investigation, homeland security, public administration, strategic intelligence, or juvenile justice. Students can access their courses through the Blackboard LMS; all courses are eight-weeks long. Qualifying students -- those who have volunteered or worked full-time in emergency response fields within the last five years -- are eligible for the Emergency Response Personnel discount. Distance learners with law enforcement or military experience may be able to receive credit for their professional training. Reduced per-credit tuition rates are available to full-time students.

3Arizona State University - SkysongScottsdale$$$$$1475 N Scottsdale Road - Ste 200
Scottsdale, AZ 85257
(480) 884-1860

ASU's online criminal justice bachelor's degree covers the science of criminology and the inner-workings of the criminal justice system, including law enforcement, corrections, and the courts. Graduates often pursue careers in either criminal justice or corporate security; many others continue their education in law, criminology, or criminal justice in graduate school. Courses cover real-world issues, and the curriculum features classes that review gangs, domestic violence, white collar crime, and much more. ASU's faculty includes Nobel Laureates, Fulbright Scholars, and Pulitzer Prize winners. Students have access to a variety of online resources, including Google Apps for Education, Microsoft Office, and iWork software. Online courses include interactive activities, customized video lectures, conferencing tools, and real-time assessment activities.

4University of Massachusetts - LowellLowell$$$$$1 University Ave
Lowell, MA 01854-5104
(978) 934-4000

UMass Lowell is one of five campuses in the UMass system. The school offers a criminal justice degree online, and the program successfully integrates programmatic material with a foundation in the liberal arts. Students can customize their degree with a variety of electives, many of which are available for the first time in 2017. These classes include hate crimes; criminal mind and behavior; gender, race, and crime; and child maltreatment. Criminal justice students can begin their master's in criminal justice during their undergraduate career by taking two graduate-level courses that count towards their core credit hours. Courses are delivered through Blackboard, and students can access digital library materials and several other online services.

5Florida International UniversityMiami$$$$$11200 S. W. 8 Street
Miami, FL 33199
(305) 348-2000

FIU's online bachelor's of science in criminal justice provides students with the skills and knowledge needed to work in law enforcement, security, or corrections. Core course topics include global terrorism, measurement and analysis in criminal justice, and criminal justice and public policy. All online students are paired with a success coach upon admission to the university. Both residential and out-of-state students have access to competitive tuition rates, and qualifying distance learners may apply for several scholarships earmarked for undergraduates. Students can register online for a virtual degree-specific information session to find out more about the program. Courses are available through the Florida Virtual Campus' Blackboard LMS; here, students can also find information about virtual proctoring services.

6Pennsylvania State University - World CampusUniversity Park$$$$$128 Outreach Building
University Park, PA 16802
(814) 865-5403

In 1998, Penn State became one of the first universities to provide online courses to distance learners. PSU's online criminal justice degree meets the needs of both professionals in the field and students who have limited experience with criminal justice. The degree is certified by the Academy of Criminal Justice Science (ACJS), and all faculty who teach both on campus and online are trained to adapt coursework to the virtual environment. Asynchronous coursework is delivered through the Blackboard LMS and may include readings, group discussions, projects, and other activities. Faculty members work with instructional designers to create engaging learning experiences that are of the same caliber as classes found on campus. Active military members and their spouses are eligible for Grant-in-Aid benefits.

7Keiser University - Ft LauderdaleFort Lauderdale$$$$$1500 NW 49th St
Fort Lauderdale, FL
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Students in Keiser's bachelor of arts in criminal justice program take courses on a variety of topics in the criminal justice system, including forensics, private security, and juvenile justice. Graduates are expected to know how the Constitution and Supreme Court interact to shape laws, and they develop strong research and analytical skills that can be applied in the field. Students can choose from several elective courses, including cyber crime and deviant behavior, to customize their degree. Courses are accessible through the Blackboard LMS, and online students are automatically enrolled in the school's Online Writing Lab (OWL). Students can chat with an admissions agent online at anytime.

8Indiana Wesleyan University-MarionMarion$$$$$4201 S Washington St
Marion, IN 46953-4974
(765) 674-6901

Indiana Wesleyan has offered adult education programs since 1985. Its online criminal justice bachelor's degree prepares students for careers throughout the field, with a "Christ-centered" perspective woven into the curriculum. Courses include restorative justice, cybercrime, and youth and crime. Students complete a final capstone paper addressing a current issue within the criminal justice system. Typically, students enter with an associate degree and complete this accelerated program in 18 months. All students are assigned to a peer cohort upon admission. IWU is home to the Center for Learning and Innovation, which is dedicated to educating and working with faculty to design and implement engaging and high-quality online courses. Students can watch IWU's live online streaming of many sporting events, including men's and women's basketball. IWU is the largest member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in the nation, and has the largest enrollment of any private university in the state.

9Florida State UniversityTallahassee$$$$$222 S. Copeland Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1037
(850) 644-2525

Founded in 1851, FSU is the oldest higher education institution in the state and serves over 41,000 students. Graduates from FSU's online bachelor's degree in criminology leave school prepared to pursue careers in law enforcement, social welfare, corporate security, and other related fields. The FSU College of Criminology and Criminal Justice also offers a comprehensive job search portal for graduates. FSU's criminology and criminal justice faculty are renowned for their research productivity: The FSU Criminology and Policy Research team recently presented a report on elder fraud issues, with recommendations on how community centers can help educate their residents and promote safe shopping programs.

10Saint Leo UniversitySaint Leo$$$$$33701 State Road 52
Saint Leo, FL 33574-6665
(352) 588-8200

All courses at Saint Leo are offered in a distance format, perfect for students who want to pursue a criminal justice degree online. Saint Leo's program features a criminalistics specialization with a strong focus on forensic science analysis and interpretation of evidence. The curriculum is rooted in the school's commitment to "steadfast moral consciousness" and to recognize the fundamental rights of people from all backgrounds. Students take core criminal justice courses, along with general electives that range from literature to social science. For incoming distance learners, Saint Leo provides "Starting Point," a series of self-paced tutorials about different aspects of online learning, available on its site 24/7.

11Western Carolina UniversityCullowhee$$$$$Highway 107
Cullowhee, NC 28723-9646
(828) 227-7100

Located in Cullowhee, North Carolina, WCU serves over 9,000 undergraduates. The school offers a bachelor's of science degree in criminal justice online, with a concentration in administration of justice. Popular courses include stress management in criminal justice, computer applications & criminal justice, and cyber crimes. Applicants interested in WCU must first apply to the university; after they are accepted, they can then apply to the criminal justice program. Courses are accessible through the Blackboard LMS and students have access to online library and tech support services. Students can further connect with the university through its multiple social media channels, including Instagram and YouTube. WCU offers both merit-based and need-based scholarships to qualifying students, along with military tuition assistance to active service members.

12Concordia University - Saint PaulSaint Paul$$$$$1282 Concordia Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55104-5494
(651) 641-8278

Concordia offers an online bachelor of arts in criminal justice, a program designed for professionals in criminal justice who want to enhance their skill set while they work full-time. Students who complete this program leave school prepared to enter high-level positions as private investigators, CIA agents, fraud investigators, and related jobs. Students must complete a criminal justice e-folio as a culminating project that reflects their understanding of the field and highlights their career objectives. Popular courses include contemporary issues in criminal justice, inside the criminal mind, and troubled youth. CSP recently reduced its tuition by 33%, making it the second-lowest tuition in Minnesota and the Concordia University system.

13Southern New Hampshire UniversityManchester$$$$$2500 North River Road
Manchester, NH 03106-1045
(603) 668-2211

Southern New Hampshire University is a nonprofit, private school with over 60,000 online students. SNHU's online bachelor's degree in criminal justice offers leading instruction from experts in the field and simulated real-world scenarios. Students can pursue several specializations as part of the program, including a general track and concentrations in corrections, criminology, homeland security & counterterrorism, human services, legal studies & advocacy, or police administration & operations. The program requires students to complete a final capstone project that offers them the opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they developed in school. Distance learners have access to several dedicated web services, including an online writing center, free Smarthinking tutoring services, one-on-one career counseling, and more. Students take courses at their own pace; classes are offered during six nine-week terms per year. SNHU offers one of the lowest per-credit tuition rates in the nation, and active-duty military and their spouses can receive further discounts.

14Florida Gulf Coast UniversityFort Myers$$$$$10501 Fgcu Blvd S
Fort Myers, FL 33965-6565
(239) 590-1000

FGCU offers a BS in criminal justice in a hybrid format. Students with an associate degree or qualifying transfer credits can complete all upper division courses online; freshmen will need to take a few courses on-campus in Fort Myers. Students must also complete an internship at an approved law enforcement agency, law firm, local government entity, corrections facility, or a similar organization. On average, 80% of students complete courses both on-campus and online, while 20% take classes entirely online. Distance learners can tailor the curriculum to an extent by taking elective courses that align with their specific interests. FGCU works to keep costs down, and has maintain its tuition rate for the past three years. Matriculating freshmen have a 3.78 GPA and 1583 SAT score on average.

15Florida Institute of TechnologyMelbourne$$$$$150 West University Blvd
Melbourne, FL 32901
(321) 674-8000

Students enrolled in the Florida Institute of Technology's multidisciplinary online criminal justice program learn a broad range of criminal justice theories and practices, and develop a multicultural awareness of criminal behavior. Students can customize their degree focus by choosing from high-level electives like crisis and conflict resolution, introduction to crime analysis, and organized crime. Asynchronous online courses are offered in eight-week increments. Peer-to-peer and instructor interaction takes place through live conference software, chat rooms, and discussion forums. Students have access to resources like Turnitin software, which helps distance learners check for errors in citations or possible plagiarism, as well as free Smarthinking tutoring services.

16Rowan UniversityGlassboro$$$$$201 Mullica Hill Road
Glassboro, NJ 08028
(856) 256-4000

Rowan's bachelor of arts in law & justice prepares students for careers in law enforcement and security, court services, corrections, and social services. Many graduates also continue their education in a related grad program. Rowan's law & justice offering is a full-time program that can be completed over four or five semesters. Courses are structured in eight-week modules, and the curriculum covers legal theory and its applications while helping distance learners develop strong analytical and communication skills. Popular courses include sentencing and the rights of the convicted and law & human rights. Rowan's online programs are offered in conjunction with six other academic colleges, which helps students access a variety of quality content and to communicate and interact with a large network of students and professors.

17Excelsior CollegeAlbany$$$$$7 Columbia Cir
Albany, NY 12203-5159
(518) 464-8500

Excelsior College is an adult-centric higher education institution with online programs built for working professionals and other nontraditional students. About 75% of students work full-time and 10 percent work part-time while they're in school. Excelsior offers an online criminal justice bachelor's degree with an emphasis in investigative forensics. The program is designed for newcomers and experienced professionals in the field alike. Excelsior offers a flexible transfer policy, allowing students to transfer up to 117 existing college credits, and to receive credit for relevant military and professional experience. The faculty includes experienced professionals in the field who can facilitate student connections with potential employers in homeland security, law enforcement, forensics, and other domains. Students must complete a capstone research project to graduate. Distance learners have access to several online services, including free Smarthinking tutoring services, an Online Writing Lab, software skill tutorials, and more.

18Fort Hays State UniversityHays$$$$$600 Park St
Hays, KS 67601-4099
(785) 628-4000

Fort Hays State offers both an online bachelor of science and bachelor of arts in criminal justice. As an interdisciplinary program, the curriculum centers on the roots of criminal behavior and society's response. Most students are working professionals, and many already work in criminal justice. Students can pursue concentrations in law enforcement, corrections, law and courts, or create a customized focus through electives. Coursework is delivered through the Blackboard LMS, and students can interact with professors over Skype, email, and the phone. Fort Hays offers one of the lowest tuition rates in the country. The school's Department of Criminal Justice also provides job placement assistance to graduating students.

19Park UniversityParkville$$$$$8700 NW River Park Dr
Parkville, MO 64152-3795
(816) 741-2000

Students in the criminal justice degree online at Park University can pursue concentrations in law enforcement, corrections, or security. The curriculum covers theory, philosophy, and real-world applications, preparing students for a range of careers in the field. Students on the cusp of graduation can complete the program by either completing an internship within their state of residence or finishing a senior writing project. Park generally doesn't require students to take exams with a proctor. The school's online classroom is powered by the Canvas LMS. Online students have access to a range of library services, including librarian live chat. Students can also contact the dedicated Online Operations Department with questions about their online experience.

20University of Nebraska at OmahaOmaha$$$$$6001 Dodge St
Omaha, NE 68182-0225
(402) 554-2800

Among UNO's 15,000 students, about half are enrolled in online courses. Nebraska's online criminal justice degree curriculum includes both general and major-related core classes in criminal justice theory, research, and response to crime. In addition to taking online courses through UNO, students can apply to take intercampus online courses through UNL (Lincoln) or UNK (Kearney). Courses are accessible through the Blackboard LMS; students also have access to Google Apps for Education. UNO is home to the Nebraska Center for Justice Research and the Juvenile Justice Institute. The program's faculty members often present research at national conferences and to community agencies to help them formulate best practices and inform policy in the field. The university has received the Carnegie Classification of community engagement for excellent curricular engagement and outreach partnerships.

21University of MemphisMemphis$$$$$Southern Avenue
Memphis, TN 38152
(901) 678-2000

Memphis is a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the seventh largest higher education system in the country. Students looking for a quality online criminal justice bachelor's degree can pursue a BA in criminology and criminal justice at UofM. The curriculum covers the root causes of criminal activity, prevention and intervention strategies, program analysis, and modern issues covering social justice. Online students work with an academic advisor to stay on track with program requirements through graduation. Courses are taught asynchronously and are available through eCourseware at UofM Online. Distance learners have access to many of the same resources as on-campus students, including library services, financial aid opportunities, career prep training, and more. Courses often include weekly discussions, and students can expect feedback from instructors within 48 hours. Courses are taught on the university's semester schedule, and all distance learners qualify for UofM's reduced eRate tuition.

22Westfield State UniversityWestfield$$$$$577 Western Ave
Westfield, MA 01086-1630
(413) 572-5300

Westfield State was founded in 1839 by Horace Mann, and the school is recognized as the first co-educational institution to open its doors to all students, regardless of racial of class background. WSU offers a criminal justice degree online, and the program is primarily designed for graduates from Massachusetts community colleges who plan to complete the final two years of their program online. Students who have not graduated from this system are still invited to apply, though some courses may require students to attend campus in-person. The curriculum covers the criminal justice system and the local and national legal system. Core courses review the American judicial system and theories of crime. Classes also cover how the law and criminal justice affects demographics differently, highlighting how the system treats people based on their gender, class, race, and cultural background. Students log in to the Plato LMS to access online courses and to Blackboard Collaborate for virtual meetings with peers and professors. WSU offers a very competitive annual tuition for all students, including free tuition for all students over 60.

23Concordia University - WisconsinMequon$$$$$12800 N Lake Shore Dr
Mequon, WI 53097-2402
(262) 243-5700

CUW's bachelor's degree in management of criminal justice prepares students to operate in law enforcement at all levels of government. Instructors are active professionals in the field, and classes are delivered from a Christian perspective. The curriculum includes core business courses, such as public relations and managerial accounting, along with degree-specific offerings like juvenile theory and criminal investigation. All students are assigned an online student success advisor upon admission and have access to an online writing lab, free Smarthinking tutoring services, career services, and more. CUW is one of 10 universities in the U.S. operated by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Campuses are independent but share academic resources. Advanced transfer students, with an associate in criminal justice or 63 credits of relevant coursework, are encouraged to apply.

24Columbia CollegeColumbia$$$$$1301 Columbia College Dr
Columbia, SC 29203
(803) 786-3012

Originally founded as a women's college in 1851, Columbia changed its name when it became a four-year co-educational institution in 1970. Columbia's online criminal justice degree is a multidisciplinary program that features a focus in criminal justice administration. Students can pursue both a bachelor of arts and bachelor of science; the BA is recommended for students already employed in the field, while a BS is advised for graduating high-school students or people who want to change careers. The curriculum includes general education courses; ethics, foreign language, and multicultural course requirements; and core content. Core classes include police in a democratic society, management of criminal justice agencies, and advanced research writing and methods courses. Asynchronous coursework is offered through the Dream2Learn platform, which also provides access to library and tutoring services. Courses are structured in eight-week increments over five sessions annually.

25Siena Heights UniversityAdrian$$$$$1247 E. Siena Heights Dr.
Adrian, MI 49221
(517) 263-0731

Working professionals or students who already hold an associate degree can pursue an online applied science program through Siena Heights University. This is a career-focused degree for professionals from a variety of public service backgrounds, including law enforcement and criminal justice. The curriculum includes liberal arts course topics, management classes, and career-specific electives. Students can transfer up to 90 previously earned credits to complete the 120-credit degree requirement for their BAS. Students may also be able to obtain credit from their professional or military experience and training. Students can opt to apply for the online cohort program, which allows them to network and get to know their peers. Courses are taught asynchronously, and are accessible through eCollege and structured in eight-week terms. SHU has offered distance education programs since 2004; most distance learners graduate from the applied science program in two years or less.

Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Earning a master's in criminal justice degree online can help working individuals secure promotions and higher salaries. Depending on your area of study, you can earn a master's degree in one to three years. This advanced degree explores niches within criminal justice and will likely open doors to additional career paths.

    Organizational Behavior, Victimology, and Policing Special Populations


    Homeland Security, Science in Terrorism and Counterterrorism, and Science in Criminal Justice


    Criminal Investigator, Youth Correctional Officer, and Victim's Advocate


    $44,570 per year or $21.43 per hour


    5% growth per year

Criminal Justice
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For the 2016 rankings, has greatly refined its approach to evaluating schools and their respective programs. Our innovative method of assessing schools is what makes our rankings so distinctly authoritative. On the surface, every ranking we produce employs a basic formula: Academic Quality + Online Offerings + Cost and Student Aid = Final Score. This final score determines where a school ends up in our rankings. Of course, there's a lot more than meets the eye. Visit our methodology page to discover the data points that shape our formula and to learn more about our process.

Criminal Justice Master’s Degree Rankings

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description
1Florida State UniversityTallahassee$$$$$222 S. Copeland Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1037
(850) 644-2525

Located in Tallahassee, Florida State University is recognized as a preeminent research university in the state by the Florida legislature. Students looking to advance to a leadership position in law enforcement, corrections, or juvenile justice will find a premiere online criminal justice master's degree through FSU. This program, offered through the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, was recognized as one of the Best Online Programs in Grad Criminal Justice for 2016 by U.S. News & World Report. Students must have an undergraduate degree to apply, though not necessarily in criminal justice. All application materials are considered on an individual basis. Courses are delivered via MyCampus, powered by Canvas LMS. [email protected] program offers smaller class sizes and personalized feedback from instructors. Online students enjoy access to a comprehensive set of resources, including a one-on-one reading/writing center, an extensive library database, training courses, proctored testing support, and more. Notable FSU alumni include actor Burt Reynolds and rock star Jim Morrison.

2University of Central FloridaOrlando$$$$$4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816
(407) 823-2000

University of Central Florida's master's in criminal justice online provides a deeper investigation of the elements at play in shaping the U.S. criminal justice system, from philosophical to economic factors. UCF also places an emphasis on research, writing, and computer skills. An online graduate degree in criminal justice opens doors to a wide range of careers: for example, the school produces many criminologists, DEA agents, or forensic examiners. A user-friendly online student services interface provides access to full UCF library services, software and skills training through LyndaCampus, advising services, tech support, and more. Dedicated Online Success Coaches are also available via phone to answer questions about UCF's online programs. Located in Orlando, Florida, UCF is the second-largest public university nationwide. U.S. News & World Report ranked the school as its 13th most Innovative School of 2016.

3Michigan State UniversityEast Lansing$$$$$
East Lansing, MI 48824-1046
(517) 355-1855

Michigan State University began its existence in 1855 as an innovator -- it was the first institution of higher learning in the U.S. to teach scientific agriculture. In 1998, the school launched an online criminal justice master's degree -- its first online degree. This program is designed to advance the skills of professionals already operating in the criminal justice field. Students may follow the general track for a master's in criminal justice, go with an international focus, or choose a concentration in security management or judicial administration. Students generally take anywhere from one year to three years to complete the degree. Core curriculum covers policy analysis, an in-depth understanding of criminal behavior, and research methodology. Online courses have similar requirements and activities as their on-campus counterparts, including weekly readings, discussions, and occasional case problems or research papers. Internships are available on a voluntary basis. Online courses are accessed via the Dream2Learn (D2L) platform. MSU is one of only 62 members of the renowned Association of American Universities.

4University of LouisvilleLouisville$$$$$2301 S 3rd St
Louisville, KY 40292-0001
(502) 852-5555

University of Louisville is a state-supported research university and a member of the Kentucky public university system since 1970. The university currently offers 16 online programs with almost 6,000 students taking at least one online course. Louisville's online master's in criminal justice provides a thorough curriculum in structure, theories, and issues in the criminal justice system, along with advanced research methods. Specialized electives include a broad range of topics, such as capital punishment, international terrorism, and substance abuse and policy. Courses are structured in an accelerated six week format, with six starting points throughout the year. Program requirements can be completed in two years with a full course load. Students access coursework and can interact directly with peers and instructors through the Blackboard LMS. Louisville's Department of Criminal Justice scholarships include a Blue Coats Scholarships for Metro Louisville First Responders, and an NSA Scholarship for members of the National Sheriffs Association. Graduate students can transfer up to six credits, and may be able to earn credit for qualifying professional development.

5University of Colorado - DenverDenver$$$$$1380 Lawrence Street, Lawrence Street Center, Suite 1400
Denver, CO 80217-3364
(303) 556-5600

A master's in criminal justice online from University of Colorado Denver is a boon for both existing criminal justice professionals and students looking to enter the field. The program has been recognized as the 9th best of its kind nationwide by U.S. News & World Report. Curriculum covers a broad range of law enforcement-related topics, from the development of laws and codes to juvenile justice. Electives are also offered in several domains, including domestic violence and homeland security. Students may choose a degree concentration in general criminal justice, crime analysis, gender-based violence; or emergency management and homeland security. The program includes a culminating capstone projects, in which students work with an agency client to identify a problem and formulate a solution. Asynchronous courses are delivered via Canvas LMS. UCD program alumni include 40 police chiefs in Colorado, FBI and CIA agents, research faculty, and city mayors. UCD is one of four University of Colorado campuses in the state.

6Troy UniversityTroy$$$$$University Avenue
Troy, AL 36082-0001
(334) 670-3100

With roots date back to 1887, the Troy State University System was formed in 1982. Today Troy University is an educational engine that has grown far beyond the borders of its namesake Alabama college town. Due to its innovative curriculum, reputable faculty, and flexible online course options, Troy's online criminal justice master's degree is one of the best in the nation. This master's degree is a non-thesis program that prepares students to lead in the criminal justice field as professors, criminal investigators, federal probation officers, or criminologists as a few examples. Concentrations are available in homeland security, digital forensics, or a customized emphasis via elective choice. Courses are accessed via the Blackboard LMS. Troy is a long-standing military-friendly university. The school offers two proprietary scholarship opportunities for qualifying students, the Troy Horizon Scholarship and the school's Military and Family Scholarship. Students connect via the Trojan Café, an online community created in 2014 that allows students to interact with peers and professors and stay up-to-date on university news and events.

7Nova Southeastern UniversityFort Lauderdale$$$$$3301 College Ave
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314-7796
(954) 262-7300

Nova Southeastern University's SACSCOC-accredited online master's in criminal justice offers 12 different concentration options, including (but not limited to): legal perspectives in criminal justice, substance abuse, public administration, information security, and strategic community planning. Program graduates pursue careers as, for example, conservation officers, federal air marshals, animal cruelty investigators, and detectives. Students access courses and other student services through the Blackboard LMS, which also facilitates student interaction through chat and discussion boards. Students who to take more than two courses per semester can complete the program in less than two years. NSU is a private research institution that serves a diverse student population, offers small class sizes with one-to-one professor interaction, and operates cutting-edge facilities, including one of the best research libraries in the nation. NSU maintains cooperative partnerships with many law and social service agencies throughout the state of Florida.

8Mississippi CollegeClinton$$$$$200 South Capitol Street
Clinton, MS 39058
(601) 925-3000

The oldest college in the state, Mississippi College was founded in 1826. Today the school is a private Christian university affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention that produces quality online higher education programming tailored for busy adults. The university's online criminal justice master's degree features a homeland security focus, ideal for students looking to advance their careers in federal agencies such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or the Transportation Security Administration. Courses cover legal facets and special issues associated with the criminal justice field, as well as technical topics like grant writing methodologies. Course materials, discussion boards, assessments, and other learning components are accessed via the Moodle LMS. In 2017, U.S. News & World Report ranked MC as number 22 on its list of best value schools in the nation.

9University of CincinnatiCincinnati$$$$$2624 Clifton Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0063
(513) 556-6000

Since its introduction a decade ago, more than 1,500 students have completed the University of Cincinnati's master's in criminal justice online. The program's seasoned and skilled staff include a winner of the American Society of Criminology's Edwin H. Sutherland Award, the society's most renowned mark of distinction. The school offers concentrations in analysis of criminal behavior, law enforcement & crime prevention, and corrections and offender rehabilitation. Students have the option of attending online part- or full-time. Courses and student services are accessed through the Canopy platform, which provides links to the Blackboard LMS; tutorials; 24/7 chat support; WebEx conferencing tools; and other services. Founded in 1819, UC has produced many firsts, including the development of the first antihistamine and the first degree program offered by satellite. The school is classified as Carnegie-designated Research University for high research activity. UC programs are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. All online courses meet Quality Matters best-practice standards.

10University of Massachusetts - LowellLowell$$$$$1 University Ave
Lowell, MA 01854-5104
(978) 934-4000

A leading research university, the University of Massachusetts Lowell's online master's in criminal justice is ideal for either students already working in the criminal justice system or those looking to enter a new field. Curriculum covers theory and research, administrative and management skills in emergency management, forensic psychology, criminal behavior analysis, terrorism, and more. Many of UMass Lowell's criminal justice electives are available for the first time in 2017, courses which include a focus on mental health, criminal justice, intimate partner violence, and comparative terrorism and counterterrorism. Programs are administered and taught by full-time experts in the field. Online program support is available to students via the school's dedicated Online Learning Office. Online courses are accessed via Blackboard LMS, and students can try out a demo course online at any time. UMass Lowell is regularly listed as providing its graduates with one of the highest returns on investment among schools in the United States.

11Sam Houston State UniversityHuntsville$$$$$1806 Ave J
Huntsville, TX 77340
(936) 294-1111

Located in Huntsville, Texas, Sam Houston State University, named in tribute to the legendary Texas leader, bears the motto "the measure of a life is its service". In turn, Sam Houston's online criminal justice master's degree is geared towards just that, public service. The degree is ideal for professionals and novices in the field who work full-time and cannot commute to campus. Graduates are prepared to work at various government and public-sector levels, from the field to administration to social policy. This is a non-thesis program, with a capstone course that meets the university's comprehensive exam requirement. Courses are taken in a sequence that allow students to complete the program in two years. Distance learners have access to writing and online tutors, library services, advising and more. Blackboard LMS provides course access, links to the Blackboard Collaborate and Mobile apps, as well as to multimedia resources via NBC Learn.

12Lewis UniversityRomeoville$$$$$One University Parkway
Romeoville, IL 60446-2200
(815) 838-0500

Founded in 1932 by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis University is a private Catholic institution located in Romeoville, Illinois. The school's two-year master's in criminal justice online program combines the study of criminal with social justice theories and practices. Lewis students learn organizational and management theory, and choose from a range of electives that align with career goals. Example elective courses include homeland security/defense, correctional counseling, and issues of juvenile crime. A cyclical curriculum builds upon foundational topics as students move through the program. Virtual Blackboard-based courses are asynchronous, with weekly scheduled assignments and discussion forum assignments. Students have access to 24/7 technical support. Lewis is a Gold Academic Alliance Member of the FBI National Academy Associates, Inc. -- the largest international law enforcement leadership network in the world -- and the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program. All Lewis programs are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

13Valdosta State UniversityValdosta$$$$$1500 N Patterson St
Valdosta, GA 31698
(229) 333-5800

While the majority of Valdosta State's 11,200 student population hails from Georgia, the university enrolls students from the 49 other states, the District of Columbia, and over 60 countries. VSU's online master's in criminal justice integrates theory with practice through its curricular focus on scientific research methods and the social sciences. Students choose between thesis and non-thesis option degrees, and between an applied criminal justice track, (which focuses on court procedure, correctional studies, and law enforcement) or an alternative research and theory track, which places an emphasis on investigating the causes and correlations of crime theory and real-life incidents. Potential career options are extensive and include (but are not limited to) arson investigator, narcotics agent, U.S. customs agent, or corporate security specialist. Outside of Georgia, VSU offers in-state tuition rates to residents of Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama. Certain courses may include video conferencing, which allows students to attend live courses without ever leaving the comfort of home.

14University of San DiegoSan Diego$$$$$5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
(619) 260-4600

The University of San Diego is one of 36 institutions nationwide to earn designation as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus. According to Ashoku, this designation is reserved for "global leaders in social innovation and changemaking in higher education [that] represent a vision of what education and universities can be". USD's online criminal justice master's degree can be completed in just five semesters -- less than two years. Curriculum is designed with feedback from law enforcement and public safety organizations, and faculty have extensive experience in the field. Course content combines criminal justice topics with management and leadership skills, covering topics like budget and resource allocation and effective communication techniques. Courses are taken year round and consist of three 14-week semesters. USD students create a portfolio of learning throughout the program. Courses are asynchronous and often combine multimedia and interactive activities. Students connect with peers via chat, email, and discussion forums. Military members and their spouses, veterans, and law enforcement and public safety professionals are eligible for reduced tuition rates.

15University of New HavenWest Haven$$$$$300 Boston Post Rd
West Haven, CT 06516
(800) 342-5864

The University of New Haven's master's in criminal justice online is tailored to the needs of working professionals. Generally completed in two years, UNH students enrolled in the program remotely attend accelerated classes in seven and a half week terms during the year and six week terms during summer. Students may start the program during any term, with asynchronous courses accessed through the Blackboard Learn LMS. UNH alumni have gone on to work for a number of federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Department of Defense. The Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences is named after Henry Chang-Yu Lee, a celebrated forensic scientist. Lee joined UNH in 1975 to create the program and continues to serve at UNH as Chief Emeritus for the State of Connecticut's Scientific Services Division.

16University of North TexasDenton$$$$$1501 W.Chestnut Ave.
Denton, TX 76203-1277
(940) 565-2000

The University of North Texas is located in Denton, one of the largest cities within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The school's online master's in criminal justice places an emphasis on justice policy and administration. Many students complete the program as a stepping stone in their career: students use the degree to advance in the corporate world as investigators or contingency managers, in all levels of law enforcement, or in such roles as probation or parole officers and victims' advocates. Courses are designed by full-time faculty members who bring years of experience in the field. Students can transfer up to nine credit hours in past graduate credits or professional training toward their degree requirements. Course materials are delivered via the Blackboard Learn LMS, also used to interact with peers and professors. Students have access to a dedicated Off-Campus Services Office for questions concerning their online program, as well as an online writing lab, online tutoring, and library services.

17University of MemphisMemphis$$$$$Southern Avenue
Memphis, TN 38152
(901) 678-2000

The University of Memphis offers its online criminal justice master's degree through the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy. Curriculum covers criminological principles, theories, and concepts, and prepares graduates with an understanding of social justice perspectives in public policy. Students also learn the analytical and research skills necessary to become leaders in the criminal justice field. Online courses are asynchronous and accessed through the eCourseware LMS. UM offers a unique Adult Scholarship program to students ages 25 and older, for both part- and full-time students. Online students have access to many of the same services as on-campus students, including library services, career preparedness, disability resources and others. UM is a public research university and a pinnacle member of the 45 institutions that make up the Tennessee Board of Regents System. Over 3,600 graduates are enrolled in its 110 degree programs, which are accredited by SACSCOC.

18New Mexico State UniversityLas Cruces$$$$$2850 Weddell Street
Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001
(575) 646-0111

New Mexico State University is a public research institution located in sunny Las Cruces, New Mexico. NMSU was the first honors college in New Mexico, and the school is a NASA Space Grant College. The university's online master's in criminal justice prepares graduates to pursue an advanced study in criminal justice and related fields, or to take leadership positions as administrators or policymakers. A focused coursework non-thesis option is available to online students. Admission is competitive, and accepted students are assigned to a small peer cohort. Internships are optional and available to students who maintain a GPA of 3.0. Courses are delivered through the Canvas LMS. Weekly assignments may include a combination of readings, critical analyses, class discussions, learning exercises, research papers, and live web meetings. Active military service members are eligible to pay the NMSU in-state tuition rate, and students with residency in a member state of the Western Region of the U.S. also receive a tuition discount.

19Wichita State UniversityWichita$$$$$1845 N. Fairmount
Wichita, KS 67260-0124
(316) 978-3456

Founded by scholar and police chief O.W. Wilson in 1937, Wichita State University's master's in criminal justice online is the second-oldest of its kind in the U.S. Research faculty come from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds and bring a wealth of urban field experience to the classroom. Full-time students can complete degree requirements in less than two years. Student may attend part-time, but must complete the program within six years. Students work with an online graduate coordinator to develop a customized plan of study based on their interests and needs. Graduates are prepared to attend law school, earn their doctorate in a related field, or use the degree as evidence for advancement in their current career. Courses are accessed via the Blackboard LMS. Students may access a range of helpful services through WSU's OneStep portal, including live chat, technical assistance, academic advising services and more. For students who like to stay in the know, WSU runs a listener-supported public radio station that may be streamed live (89.1 KMUW-FM), and the school has published an independent, student-run newspaper -- The Sunflower -- since 1895.

20Wilmington UniversityNew Castle$$$$$320 Dupont Hwy
New Castle, DE 19720
(877) 967-5464

Located in New Castle, Delaware, Wilmington University is the second fastest growing university in the nation according to The Chronicle of Higher Education (2014). Online programs are offered through the College of Online and Experiential Learning, with courses designed to engage working adults. An online master's in criminal justice places an emphasis on administration of justice, with concentrations offered in leadership and administration, criminal behavior, or homeland security. Graduates can also work toward a post-master's certificate in homeland security, a domain with a continued need for well-informed criminal justice professionals. Students complete weekly assignments via the Blackboard LMS, and have opportunities to interact with peers and instructors in small classes. Courses may span the traditional semester length or may be offered in an accelerated block structure that takes place over seven weeks. Up to 75 credits can be transferred toward degree requirements. Students enjoy access to online advising, library services, tutoring and more. Based on recent alumni responses to the Wilmington University Alumni Review Report, 91% of graduates felt "exceptionally well prepared" for their jobs.

21University of Arkansas at Little RockLittle Rock$$$$$2801 S University Ave
Little Rock, AR 72204
(501) 569-3000

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock's master's in criminal justice online is an accelerated program geared towards professionals in the criminal justice field who are looking to advance to a supervisory role or become a better-informed and well-rounded practitioner. Students study advanced concepts and issues in criminal justice, as well as leadership/management skills, while gaining the research and critical-thinking skills needed to analyze and make informed decisions on new policies. A culminating capstone paper allows students the opportunity to apply learned theory to real-world issues in the field. Electives are interdisciplinary and may include courses from gerontology, journalism, history and other subjects. UALR enrolls upwards of 11,000 students from 82 countries in its more than 100 programs. The university is a member of the Electronic Campus of the Southern Regional Education Board. ULAR is also home to many institutional organizations within the Little Rock community and the state of Arkansas, including the Center for Public Collaboration, which consults with public officials, government representatives, and public-service organizations on a variety of public issues.

22Tarleton State University - Global CampusStephenville$$$$$Box T-0011
Stephenville, TX 76402
(817) 732-7300

Tarleton State University is a member of the Texas A&M University System, which the school joined in 1917. Its online criminal justice master's degree is designed to provide professionals in the field with advanced analysis and research skills, as well as knowledge of historical and contemporary issues in the field. Graduates are prepared to make better policy decisions and better protect their communities. The program's thesis option requires a comprehensive research project, while its non-thesis track includes a comprehensive exam. Thesis students can complete the program in under two years, while non-thesis students usually finish the degree in about a year. Reputable faculty members include police chiefs, and district and county judges and attorneys. More than 500 students are enrolled in Tarleton's 15 online programs, which feature class sizes with an average student-teacher ratio of 19:1. Courses are accessed via the Blackboard LMS, and online students can schedule one-on-one chat sessions with the writing clinic or the accounting and statistics clinic. Students may apply for a number of non-traditional, graduate and transfer scholarships available directly through Tarleton.

23Saint Cloud State UniversitySaint Cloud$$$$$720 Fourth Ave. South
Saint Cloud, MN 56301-4498
(320) 308-0121

St. Cloud State University is one of the largest higher-education institutions in Minnesota and the school operates with an educational philosophy centered on active and applied learning, community engagement, and global and cultural understanding. St. Cloud's online master's in criminal justice offers specializations in criminal justice administration, criminal justice counseling, or a customized degree via electives. St. Cloud's Department of Criminal Justice Studies also helps prepare students for the first step in the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (more than 96% of its students have passed the MPOST exam). Graduates pursue a variety of careers, becoming public safety specialists, FBI agents, and family service advocates. Both a thesis and portfolio option are available. Asynchronous courses are accessed through the D2L learning platform, and distance learners enjoy access to library services, online tutoring, proctored testing, and more. St. Cloud is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools in the U.S. and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

24University of Oklahoma - NormanNorman$$$$$660 Parrington Oval
Norman, OK 73019-3072
(405) 325-0311

The University of Oklahoma's master's in criminal justice online curriculum covers complex topics in administrative leadership, restorative justice, ethical decision making, policy development, and other critical domains needed to become a leader in the criminal justice field. Students may design a customized focus area through chosen electives, or choose a pre-designed concentration in corrections management, restorative justice, administration and leadership, or drug abuse policy and management. Program track options include a thesis, a research project, or a comprehensive exam as a culminating degree requirement. In Spring 2017, UO begins transitioning its online courses from the D2L to the Canvas LMS, which offers an intuitive user interface and easy mobile apps. Distance learners enjoy access to advisory and library research services. The school offers tuition rate discounts to active and veteran military members and their spouses. Founded in 1890 in Norman, Oklahoma, just outside of Oklahoma City, OU now has three campus locations in the state, as well as learning centers in Italy, Mexico, and Brazil.

25University of Central MissouriWarrensburg$$$$$202 Administration Building
Warrensburg, MO 64093
(660) 543-4111

The University of Central Missouri is located in Warrensburg, Missouri, about an hour south of Kansas City. UCM's online master's in criminal justice program was created in 1962, and the program's alumni includes police and corrections officers, judges, attorneys, professors, and more than 400 chief administrators worldwide. Applicants to the program must have an undergraduate degree in criminal justice or a related field. Students without experience who are still interested in the program may complete background courses prior to enrolling. Both a thesis and non-thesis degree option are available. The same competitive online tuition rate is offered to all students, regardless of state of residency. Students access courses through Blackboard LMS and Google Education apps and online learning support is available via UCM personal assistant live online chat sessions.

Online Doctorate Degree in Criminal Justice

A doctorate in criminal justice will help those people who are seeking high-level careers in academia, private or governmental research agencies, or criminal justice leadership. An online doctorate in criminal justice will allow you to pursue a variety of specializations while continuing to work.

    Contemporary Public Safety Leadership, Race and Ethnicity in Crime and Criminal Justice, and Management and Leadership Theory


    Criminology, Criminology and Criminal Justice, and Criminal Justice


    FBI Agent, FBI Investigator, and First-Line Supervisor of Police Officers


    $68,400 to $115,720 per year

Online Criminal Justice Choose Your Career

Average Criminal Justice Salaries


Computer Forensic Investigator

Salary: $55,360
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
27% 14,400 Bachelor's None

Computer forensic investigators examine computer systems and data in order to present information for legal cases. They can also help determine when and how a hacker gained access to a system, as well as discover hidden digital information. A bachelor's degree in computer forensics will provide the necessary background for a successful career in this area. In addition, analytical and problem solving skills are key, as well as effective verbal and written communications abilities, and an interest in the latest technological advances.

Legal Investigator

Salary: $44,570
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
5% 34,900 Associates Licensed Private Investigator / Certified Legal Investigator recommended, not required

A legal investigator, more commonly known as a private investigator (PI), is a for-hire detective. They may search for clues by studying crime scenes, conduct surveillance and background investigations, report information to the authorities, and testify in court. PIs often work undercover. In addition to their help in the criminal justice field, PIs may also be hired to escort valuable property from place to place or to guard high-profile individuals. There are no formal educational requirements to be a PI, but most states require PIs to obtain a license. To be successful in this field, PIs must be assertive, unafraid of confrontation, possess effective communication skills (including the ability to question or interrogate individuals), and be extremely detail-oriented. They must also be at least 18 years old and have no criminal record.


Salary: $75,720
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
4% 108,720 High School Diploma or Equivalent On-Job Training

Detectives investigate crimes. They gather evidence, interview witnesses, conduct background checks on victims and suspects, identify responsible parties, prepare for court, and assist in the prosecution of offenders. The scope of the work varies by location, and the work itself can be stressful and dangerous, so a detective must have mental and physical endurance. The minimum education requirements for a detective are a high school diploma, law enforcement certification, and experience as a sworn law enforcement officer. However, many agencies require a two- or four-year degree in criminal justice, forensic science, or a related field. Additionally, detectives should possess strong communication skills, the ability to remain objective, and the patience and empathy necessary to work through the long investigation process.

Probation Officer

Salary: $49,060
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
4% 91,700 Bachelor's State Specific Licensing Requirements

Probation officers, also known as parole officers, help criminal offenders re-enter society after serving their sentences. Based on their supervision of and interaction with the offender, parole officers attend hearings and make suggestions to the parole board. Parole officers may encounter dangerous situations and heavy workloads of 70 to 130 cases at a time. Most state and federal parole agencies require applicants for this position to hold a bachelor's degree, typically in either criminal justice, psychology, social work, correction, sociology, counseling, or business administration. Most parole officers must be at least 20 years of age, have a valid driver's license, and must attend required training and certification courses. They must also have a license to carry a firearm, undergo background investigation and drug screening, and pass a psychological examination.

Uniformed Police Officer

Salary: $58,630
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
4% 806,400 High School Diploma or Equivalent Police Academy Training

Uniformed police officers protect the public by enforcing local, state, and federal laws within their jurisdiction. Police officers have a number of specific responsibilities, including preventing and investigating criminal activity; apprehending criminals; conducting routine safety patrols; enforcing traffic laws; conducting safety inspections on roads and highways; and participating in public safety community programs. Education requirements to become an officer vary by state or city. Some police departments require a candidate to have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED, though several years of college coursework, such as an online associate degree in criminal justice, is often needed. Higher degree levels typically equate to higher pay and more opportunities for promotion and advancement. Candidates must be US citizens, 21 years of age, and must meet rigorous physical criteria include tests of stamina, agility, vision, hearing, and physical and mental strength. Military police experience is highly advantageous.

Online Criminal Justice Degree in Action

Mary Lou Chernik Criminal Justice

Mary Lou Chernik is an Air Force vet with more than 27 years of investigative experience that has earned a master of science in management for criminal justice, and a bachelor of science in criminal justice from Colorado Technical University (CTU), online. She also earned two associate of applied science degrees by going to on-ground campuses part-time while in the Air Force.

As a board certified fellow with the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, she has worked in private, federal, and state agencies. She has 24 years of experience as the administrator of a woodworking company and ran her own private investigations business for 16 years. In addition to teaching criminal justice courses online, she works part-time as a field deputy medical investigator.

Why did you pursue your criminal justice degree online?

I live in a rural community with limited access to higher education. I had three choices—do nothing, move to a city where I would have access to an on-ground campus, or complete my degree online. I really liked CTU's accelerated program. I was just going to finish my bachelor's degree for my own satisfaction, but found I really liked online learning. Earning a master's degree has enhanced my reputation as a medicolegal death investigator and has allowed me to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher.

What were the biggest advantages for you as you studied online?

The biggest advantages for me were the flexibility of online learning and not having to waste time by driving to a campus. I continued to work, while going to school full time.

What were the challenges or obstacles you faced as an online student?

Time management was a challenge throughout my degree programs, along with self-discipline. The same flexibility that was an advantage was also a challenge because it was up to me to decide when to study or when to participate, rather than going to weekly class meetings. Balancing work, family, and school required both self-discipline and time management skills.

How did the online format help prepare you for your career?

I now teach criminal justice online degree courses for an online college. My experience as an online student helped me become familiar with online classrooms, submitting assignments, working with others through discussion boards, and the like. I know many of the challenges my students face. I know I would not be teaching online college courses if I had not been an online student first.

Online Criminal Justice Professional Requirements

State law prescribes whether or not you need to pursue a professional certification to work in criminal justice. Generally, uniformed police officers are required to be certified with the Peace Officer Skills Training Certification before they can work in the field. A Certified Criminal Justice Professional Certification will likely enhance a probation officer's credentials. Take a look below for more information.

The Criminal Justice Awareness and Terminology Certification

Whether or not you hold a college-level degree, this short, ultra low-cost, and highly recognized multiple choice certification is a great way to demonstrate your professional prowess and boost your résumé.

Is it required?


How long will it take?

35 minutes

Certified Criminal Justice Professional

Parole or probation officers who work with recovering drug users may pursue this clinical certification. Specific requirements vary by state, but a bachelor's degree is usually required. Additional hours of work-experience and specialized education may also be required depending on your jurisdiction.

Is it required?

Varies by state

How long will it take?

At least 4 years to earn a bachelor's degree

Peace Officer Skills Training Certification

This certification is required in order to work as a uniformed police officer. In some jurisdictions, correctional officers are also required to have this certification. Only candidates who have successfully completed 500 hours in an approved peace/police officer academy and have at least a high school diploma or GED are eligible for this certification.

Is it required?

Varies by state

How long will it take?

500 hours