Criminology encompasses everything from forensics to drug rehabilitation and incarceration policy. Law enforcement officers of all stripes are seasoned in the country’s strongest criminal justice programs and, conveniently for students, many top schools now offer a bachelor’s in criminal justice entirely online.
Esteemed online criminal justice programs connect students with instructors boasting professional experience in courts, law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities and private firms. Top ranked institutions have successfully modified the classroom environment to suit virtual formats, ensuring that distance learners can access a premier education in the field.
Online programs in criminal justice (CJ) allow working adults to start a new career or to increase their credentials in their current profession. An online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can also prepare students for criminology graduate studies.
Students graduating from criminal justice programs are entering a growing field. Through 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 17% hiring increase in paralegal positions, a 31% increase in counseling jobs for substance abuse and behavioral disorders, and a 12% increase in security and surveillance jobs. Positions in law enforcement and other branches of criminal justice are growing as well.
Finding the right online criminal justice program can seem daunting. Prospective students must evaluate hundreds of options from a diverse set of schools. Read on to see our list of the best online criminal justice programs in the country, and to learn more about each school’s academic specialties and online platforms.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||Saint Leo University||Saint Leo||$$$$$||33701 State Road 52|
Saint Leo, FL 33574-6665
Saint Leo, a Catholic institution, offers an affordable online criminal justice degree program, and the majority of enrolled students are eligible for some type of financial aid. The program comprises 120 credits, including 39 major-specific credits. Students will also have the option to concentrate their degree in criminalistics or homeland security. Specialized courses include introduction to homeland defense, police organization and administration, forensic science and criminal justice, and criminal procedure.
Saint Leo boasts a partnership with the FBI National Academy Associates, helping students land government positions after completing their degree, and serves as a top location for veterans and current military members. Saint Leo's online program features a structure that aims to fit around the busy schedules of working adults.
|2||Concordia University - Saint Paul||Saint Paul||$$$$$||1282 Concordia Ave|
Saint Paul, MN 55104-5494
CSP's online criminal justice bachelor's degree program features an accelerated format. Courses are offered in seven-week periods, meaning students can complete courses in about half the time it would take at a traditional school. To earn their degree, students will need to complete 44 credits through CSP; the rest of the credits can be transferred from another school or satisfied with a prior bachelor's degree from an accredited school.
Along with their accelerated class format designed for current criminal justice professionals, CSP also boasts an impressive job placement rate for graduates within one year of earning their degree. When applying, students will either be placed on the Minnesota POST licensure or non-POST licensure track, depending on their previous experience. It is important to note that this is a program designed for working adult learners who have criminal justice experience.
|3||Northern Arizona University||Flagstaff||$$$$$||1900 S. Knoles Dr, Babbitt Administrative Center|
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-4132
Perfect for students with a bachelor's degree or community college credits, NAU’s bachelor's of justice studies 90-30 allows students to bring in up to 90 credits from another institution. Of the 120 required credits, a minimum of 30 must be completed at NAU to be eligible to graduate. Students will need a C or better in these classes for them to count toward their degree. Unlike other similar programs, NAU’s program is designed for all students, not just working adults looking to advance their current career.
The bachelor's of justice studies has two emphasis areas: intelligence studies and criminal justice administration. While most students interested in criminal justice may pick the latter, either study can prepare students for a career in a criminal justice role. An emphasis area is required to graduate. While an internship is not required, students can use this experience to earn credits toward their degree.
|4||Champlain College||Burlington||$$$$$||246 S. Willard St|
Burlington, VT 05401
For over 20 years, Champlain has provided working adults with convenient online learning meant to further their careers. Champlain’s online bachelor's in economic crime investigation is no exception, meant to find students a position analyzing finances and accounting as it relates to crime. This niche field can lead to high-paying positions related to criminal justice.
All of Champlain’s courses are offered entirely online in seven or eight-week formats, depending on the course and the time of year. There are six start dates available throughout the year, and students can apply for any start date to begin working toward their degree. To make things easier for adult learners, Champlain accepts up to 90 transfer credits from accredited schools.
Champlain’s admissions process focuses on analysis of a student’s entire history, including work and volunteer experience as well as their personal career goals.
|5||University of South Dakota||Vermillion||$$$$$||414 E Clark St|
Vermillion, SD 57069-2390
Located in Vermillion, USD serves as the flagship school of the state. The university hosts over 10,000 students and boasts a 16-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Among the myriad of online degree options is the bachelor's in criminal justice.
The online criminal justice bachelor's degree can be completed as a BA or BS. The 120-credit program takes four years to complete, although there is a degree completion option for students with previous school credit. Courses include criminology, criminal law, and information literacy in the discipline.
General requirements mandate first-time undergraduate applicants have a minimum 2.6 GPA, a minimum SAT score of 1070 or ACT score of 21, a minimum score of 3 on the English Language Arts and Mathematics Smarter Balanced Assessments, or for the student to have graduated in the top 50% of their high school class.
|6||Rowan University||Glassboro||$$$$$||201 Mullica Hill Road|
Glassboro, NJ 08028
Rowan University, also called Rowan Global Learning and Partnerships, has crafted its programs for working adults looking to complete their degree. The online bachelor of arts in law and justice studies .
The bachelor's in criminal justice comprises 51 of the required 120 credits students must complete. Thirty of the total required credits must be completed at Rowan. Notable courses include an intensive writing seminar on law and justice, a criminal law internship, criminal justice research, and law and human rights. Other courses round out the degree and provide an interdisciplinary approach, such as essentials of psychology and statistical literacy.
To be eligible for this online program, students need a minimum of 24 college credits or an associate degree and a minimum 2.4 GPA for all transfer credits.
|7||King University||Bristol||$$$$$||1350 King College Rd|
Bristol, TN 37620-2699
King University, a Presbyterian school based in Bristol, Tennessee, has educated students for over 150 years. Recently, King’s education has expanded into the digital space with the growth of their online programs. The online criminal justice bachelor's degree demonstrates the flexibility of King’s online degrees.
The bachelor's in criminal justice is an online degree completion program and requires a total of 45 previous credits to be eligible, including 30 specific prerequisite courses that must be completed prior to applying. After getting into the program, students will need to complete 48 credits to finish their degree. Notable major-specific courses include juvenile justice, ethics and justice, alternatives to justice: restorative justice, and American policing.
Because there are multiple start dates throughout the year, students can begin their online studies whenever is most convenient for them. In total, this program should take roughly 16 months to complete.
|8||University of Nebraska at Omaha||Omaha||$$$$$||6001 Dodge St|
Omaha, NE 68182-0225
UNO provides some excellent opportunities for students earning a bachelor's in criminology and criminal justice, including internships that students may complete at local law institutions, although these must be completed in-person. Students can study abroad in London to learn about the inner workings of the United Kingdom’s justice system.
Aside from these opportunities, students will need to complete 120 credits to earn their degree, all of which can be completed online. Students with previous course experience can also transfer credits into the program. To finish their degree, students will take a senior assessment to demonstrate their understanding of criminal justice. Applicants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA and 45 credits to apply to the program.
|9||University of Alabama at Birmingham||Birmingham||$$$$$||Administration Bldg Suite 1070|
Birmingham, AL 35294-0110
UAB will allow students to study online, in-person, or through a hybrid of the two while working toward their bachelor's in criminal justice. The program comprises 120 credits with 48-51 required for the major. Students with no previous class credit can expect to finish this program in four years. Notable course requirements include the judicial process in America: an overview, corrections in America: an overview, and criminal justice ethics.
Along with their major, students can choose to use some of their elective credits to earn a minor relevant to their degree. All courses for both the major and minor must be completed with a GPA of 2.5 or higher.
|10||Southern New Hampshire University||Manchester||$$$$$||2500 North River Road|
Manchester, NH 03106-1045
In terms of flexibility of education, SNHU is among the top in the nation. Students working toward an online BS in criminal justice can choose from six different concentrations, and courses in the program are offered in eight-week terms and start at six different times during the year.
SNHU allows students to transfer in up to 90 credits, cutting the time and cost of the degree. Students with relevant law enforcement training can also receive up to 12 credits for their real-world experience. In total, 120 credits are needed to graduate, regardless of which concentration students choose. Students with no prior school credits will be required to take part in SNHU’s general education program, which is designed to teach students the skills necessary for any job.
|11||Bay Path University||Longmeadow||$$$$$||588 Longmeadow Street|
Longmeadow, MA 01106
Bay Path's American Women’s College offers an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice comprising 120 credits. The fully online program is designed to help women find a role in the justice system immediately after earning their degree and can typically be completed in four years. Due to the flexible nature of the online format, students are able to study at their own pace.
Courses required for the major include principles of policing, women in criminal justice, victimology and criminology. A variety of electives in subjects such as liberal arts and humanities provide an interdisciplinary approach and provide a well-rounded education. Graduates of the program can pursue a variety of career paths that include positions as corrections managers, emergency management coordinators, and forensics accountants.
To be eligible for this program, students must have a minimum 2.0 GPA for all high school and transfer credits.
|12||LeTourneau University||Longview||$$$$$||2100 S Mobberly Ave|
Longview, TX 75607-7001
Intended for students with some prior experience in the criminal justice system, LETU's online bachelor's in criminal justice can be completed online, on campus, or through a hybrid of the two. While applicants are likely interested in completing this degree entirely online, LETU does bring in current law enforcement agents and experts to give students hands-on training and experience.
Regardless of how students choose to earn their degree, they’ll have the option to concentrate their degree in one of three areas: criminal justice management, human trafficking, and homeland security (which is only available online). To graduate, students will need to earn 120 credits, 21 of which must be degree-related upper-level courses. Since LETU is a Christian school, 12 theology credits will be required to graduate. All online courses are offered year-round.
|13||California Baptist University||Riverside||$$$$$||8432 Magnolia Ave|
Riverside, CA 92504-3297
CBU allows students to bring in up to 100 previous credits toward their degree; however, for the online bachelor's in criminal justice, students will be required to bring in at least 24 previous credits prior to applying. These courses must have been completed with a GPA of 2.0 or higher.
Once in the program, students will need to complete 48 credits related to criminal justice. Because CBU’s online courses are offered throughout the year and last only eight weeks, most students complete the BS in criminal justice in just 16 months; however, the time it takes to complete this degree depends on how many transfer credits students are bringing in.
|14||University of Mary||Bismarck||$$$$$||7500 University Dr|
Bismarck, ND 58504
University of Mary is a private Catholic school based in Bismarck, North Dakota. The online bachelor's criminal justice is designed for working adults who may not have any prior college credits or criminal justice experience. Students can pursue a bachelor of science or bachelor of arts in the major.
Courses can be started roughly every five weeks, making this an incredibly flexible program. Some full-time workers have completed this program from start to finish in just 30 months, although accelerated study isn’t required for the program. Course requirements for the major include police science, dynamics of addiction, and juvenile justice. Electives cover topics such as human trafficking and serial killers.
|15||Ashland University||Ashland||$$$$$||401 College Avenue|
Ashland, OH 44805
The online bachelor's in criminal justice at AU caters to those who currently work in the field, but is available to any student. This 100% online program does suggest that students without work experience partake in an internship, which would require in-person studying. Highlighted courses in the major include advanced criminology and profiling, gangs and cults, and juvenile delinquency.
Students can complete the online BS in criminal justice with a minor of their choice in just three years. With courses offered year-round, students can finish their degree as quickly as they’d like. Students who have transfer credits can further reduce the time it takes to earn, or complete, the online degree.
|16||Florida Institute of Technology||Melbourne||$$$$$||150 West University Blvd|
Melbourne, FL 32901
Boasting accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Florida Tech offers an online bachelor of arts in criminal justice comprising 121 credit hours. Students take courses in an accelerated eight-week format, meaning they can complete the degree in under four years. This program is designed for students with no prior criminal justice experience, but graduates leave prepared for positions including FBI special agent, corrections supervisor, and crime scene investigator.
Notable core courses include homeland security, criminal justice ethics, introduction to terrorism, and the intelligence process. Courses such as global perspective and research methods in applied psychology add an interdisciplinary element to the studies.
Applicants will need either 24 transferable credits or to submit their high school transcript. For transferred credits, students will need to have a 2.0 GPA or higher for the credits to count.
|17||Dallas Baptist University||Dallas||$$$$$||3000 Mountain Creek Parkway|
Dallas, TX 75211-9299
DBU imbues its online bachelor's in criminal justice with Christian ethics, meaning core courses for the major include Biblical studies and religious morals. The program comprises 120 credits and can be completed fully online. All courses must be completed with a 2.0 GPA or higher, and the same standard is applied to any transfer credits.
Because DBU is private, no in-state tuition is available; however, many online students receive some form of financial aid. To specialize their education, different online minors are available. For students that are sure they’ll want to continue their education, DBU offers an accelerated BA in criminal justice/MA in leadership option.
|18||University of Nebraska at Kearney||Kearney||$$$$$||905 W 25th St|
Kearney, NE 68849-1212
Available entirely online, UNK's bachelor's degree in criminal justice comes in two formats: the UNK criminal justice comprehensive or criminal justice major. The coursework for both is similar, as are the outcomes; however, students will have slightly different requirements based on which they choose. For example, the criminal justice comprehensive major requires about 21 more criminal justice credits, whereas the criminal justice major has room for a minor.
Regardless of which option is selected, students will be required to complete 120 credits, roughly half of which will be related to criminal justice. While UNK accepts transfer credits, at least 15 credits in criminal justice need to be completed through the university. A 2.5 GPA or higher must be maintained to be eligible to graduate, and in-state students can take advantage of a lower per-credit tuition rate.
|19||University of Louisville||Louisville||$$$$$||2301 S 3rd St|
Louisville, KY 40292-0001
Designed for working adults, UofL’s online bachelor of science in criminal justice provides an affordable per-credit tuition rate for all students. While the program is designed for working adults, students aren’t required or expected to have previous criminal justice experience.
A total of 121 credits are needed to graduate, including 13-15 arts and sciences credits, 31 general education credits, and 50 upper-division criminal justice credits. Assuming no transfer credits are used, this degree can be completed in four years. That being said, the bachelor's in criminal justice can also be structured as a degree completion program. To complete this program, students will need to maintain a 2.0 GPA or higher. After graduating, students will be connected to UofL's extensive professional network.
|20||University of Missouri-St Louis||Saint Louis||$$$$$||One University Boulevard|
Saint Louis, MO 63121-4400
UMSL's online bachelor of science in criminology and criminal justice is open to students without any previous college credit or real-world experience in the field. The BS is a comprehensive program intended to help students find a position in law enforcement, criminal justice, or law school immediately after graduation.
Prior to applying to UMSL, students will need to submit their high school transcript as well as ACT or SAT test scores. After enrolling, students are required to complete 13 credits related to criminology and criminal justice, all of which can be completed online. After finishing these courses, students can begin the 37-credit major. A total of 120 credits are required to graduate.
|21||University of West Georgia||Carrollton||$$$$$||1601 Maple St|
Carrollton, GA 30118-0001
An online degree from UWG can be a fast and affordable option for students on a budget, as per-credit tuition rates are decreased for every course a student takes in a term. So, the faster students complete their degree, the less they’ll pay for their education. It generally takes students three years to complete the online bachelor's of science in criminology — much faster than a traditional degree length.
The accelerated timetable assumes students take 15 credits each semester, including during the summer. A total of 120 credits are required, and up to 90 transfer credits are allowed. There are three different enrollment dates offered to online students, and applicants will need to submit transcripts from their high school and any accredited institutions they’ve attended.
|22||California State University - Stanislaus||Turlock||$$$$$||One University Circle|
Turlock, CA 95382
Stan State's accelerated bachelor of arts in criminal justice is intended for current criminal justice employees, such as police officers. While most of the program will be completed online, some courses will require on-site evening classes. Current criminal justice employees in the area can benefit from this 18-month cohort program. Students can choose between a law enforcement or corrections concentration, depending on their career goals. Courses in the program are offered in quick five-week sessions, and students should expect to spend at least one evening per week on-site for discussions.
Before applying, any prospective students will need at least 60 transferable credits and will need to have maintained a 2.0 GPA or higher. Some specific courses are also required before students can begin this accelerated bachelor's degree program. The program has a flat tuition fee that can be reduced with financial aid.
|23||Stevenson University||Stevenson||$$$$$||1525 Greenspring Valley Rd|
Stevenson, MD 21153-0641
Meant specifically for working adults who want to advance their criminal justice career, Stevenson's online bachelor's in criminal justice was created with flexibility in mind. One notable part of Stevenson’s program is the generous transfer system. Students are eligible to transfer up to 70 credits from a community college and up to 90 credits from a four-year institution, greatly reducing the remaining credits needed for this 120-credit program. Courses are offered in an accelerated eight-week format, so students can complete required courses quickly.
There are important requirements to note prior to applying. All applicants will need a minimum of 15 transferable credits with a 2.0 GPA or higher. Also, students will need to show at least two years of professional work experience in the criminal justice field. Fortunately, work experience can potentially count as up to 30 credits toward the degree.
|24||Loyola University Chicago||Chicago||$$$$$||1032 W. Sheridan Rd|
Chicago, IL 60660
Loyola’s online bachelor's in applied criminal justice leadership is perfect for working adults that want to study at their own pace. Available entirely online or in a hybrid format, most courses are offered asynchronously. On the way to earning the required 120 credits to graduate, students will be taking accelerated eight-week courses with six start dates throughout the year. Of the 120 credits, at least 30 credits are specific to the major.
This degree is best for current criminal justice workers who want to advance their career. While no previous school or work experience is required, Loyola does accept up to 15 transfer credits. To be eligible for the program, applicants must provide high school and/or college transcripts with a 2.0 GPA or higher.
|25||Park University||Parkville||$$$$$||8700 NW River Park Dr|
Parkville, MO 64152-3795
Available as either a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science, Park's bachelor's of criminal justice administration can be completed at a variety of campuses across the nation. However, only the bachelor of science is offered entirely online, so students looking for a flexible education will likely be more interested in this option.
The BS in criminal justice administration comprises 45 credits for the major, all of which must be completed with a 2.0 GPA or higher. This major also requires students to choose a concentration in law enforcement, corrections, or security; each concentration requires six credits to complete. In total, students should plan on completing 121 credits.
Park connects students with criminal justice internships, though this requires in-person attendance. Applicants will need a minimum 2.0 GPA in high school and past college courses.
An online bachelor’s in criminal justice qualifies graduates for positions in law enforcement at all administrative levels. Recent graduates often obtain employment in police forces, correctional facilities, private security firms and probation offices. The mean salary for criminal justice jobs is $43,980, a number which can substantially rise through promotion, graduate education or by working overtime.
Criminal justice is an expansive field, and it’s important for students to plan their career path in school. If you want to work in forensics, for example, you’ll need to have laboratory experience and a different course load than if you are planning on becoming a detective. Internships can also help you enhance your resume, providing you with direct experience in your field of choice while expanding your network of contacts and increasing your job opportunities. Some schools even accept course credit through internships, making them all the more prudent.
While it’s possible to have a rewarding career with only a bachelor’s degree, many of the highest-paying positions are reserved for applicants with master’s degrees in criminal justice. It’ll be important to consider graduate school when planning your future: judges, police supervisors and agency directors generally require master’s degrees for consideration.
If you’re interested in studying and working in criminal justice, you should identify which subfield interests you as quickly as possible. Choose a school offering classes or programs pertaining to your interests, and pursue internships early and often to boost your credentials and prepare yourself for the career you’ve always wanted.