From the Panhandle to the Atlantic coast, the southern tip to the Gulf, Florida’s warm temperatures, theme parks, and ocean life is home to over 20 million residents. Unfortunately, over 175,000 of them are behind bars.
The Sunshine State leads the country — and the NATO world — in incarceration rates per 100,000 (Florida has 833, while the U.S. as a whole is only 698; the next closest on the list is the U.K. at 139), so the need for more men and women in blue — especially in Florida — is an understatement.
If you’d like to serve and protect — or help shape, monitor, or change the system — then a degree from one of the criminal justice colleges in Florida might be the ticket.
What kind of job can I get with a criminal justice degree?
With a CJ degree on your resume, you could have one of many titles — from bailiff to FBI agent, probation officer to security guard, park ranger to private detective. Although salaries can vary depending on what path and where you follow it, most experts agree that the outlook for job opportunities in criminal justice are on the upswing over the next 10 years — especially police officers, sheriff patrol, and detectives.
How do I decide where to go?
In almost every case, choosing a college in your home state will cost you less out of pocket. Florida Gulf Coast University, for example, charges $203.94 per credit for undergrad residents and $838.73 for non-residents — over four times higher. So, if you’re looking to save money (and who isn’t when it comes to postsecondary education?), our first suggestion is to stay put.
But cost alone shouldn’t determine your choice (some can be offset with financial aid, scholarships, grants, or other options). Tops on your “pro” list should be the best degree to meet your career goals (will an associate’s get you where you want to go? Or does your long-term plans require a master’s?), than what school meets your objectives. Maybe having hands-on training is important, so look for institutions with internships. Or a certain subject matter — like forensics or teenage probation — piques your interest. Find a college that offers courses, minors, or certifications in those areas. Some criminal justice schools may require a foreign language or specific gen eds that may or may not be on your radar. The list can go on, but the long and the short of it — do your do diligence before you apply, so there are no surprises.
Best Criminal Justice Colleges in Florida in 2021
Where do I start?
If you’re looking for a school in the Sunshine State, than begin here. We’ve put together a list of criminal justice colleges in Florida and ranked the top 10 bachelors and top 5 masters. Using key words like corrections and criminal justice (see Our Ranking Methodology for complete details), we searched the NCES College Navigator system, removed any that weren’t regionally accredited (the highest level of accreditation), then ranked the remaining by lowest total tuition costs.
This list isn’t meant to include all the colleges in the state that offer a criminal justice degree, but just a sampling that met our criteria. If anything, it will give you a better understanding of what to look for in a university as you narrow down your search.
1. Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton)
Topping our list of criminal justice colleges in Florida is Florida Atlantic University. In the College of Social Work and Criminal Justice, there are several different paths students can take — a BA in criminal justice, a combined five-year BA with an MS in criminology and criminal justice, an interdisciplinary BS in data science and analytics, an MS stand alone, criminal justice minor, or research designation. All undergrad courses — like drug courts, serial homicide, human trafficking, terrorism, and computer crime — are offered online, as well as on-campus.
- Tuition: $12,600
The University of West Florida (Pensacola/tied)
With a Criminal Justice BA from The University of West Florida, grads can step into many entry-level positions, such as corrections, juvenile justice, or law enforcement, or use their bachelor’s to pursue an MS. UWF also offers an online criminal justice degree, an accelerated BA to MS, minors in criminal justice, forensic studies, or juvenile justice, along with a BA in CJ/social work and opportunities for internships.
- Tuition: $12,600
3. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (Tallahassee)
The third on our list of criminal justice degrees is Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Of the 30 credits needed for the criminal justice major, nine come from a substantive area — legal studies, minority and gender studies, juvenile justice, or corrections — and 18 from a minor. Although not required, an internship is strongly encouraged, along with courses like the African American experience, public speaking, American court systems, and penology.
- Tuition: $18,216
4. Florida Gulf Coast University (Fort Myers)
The distance-learning BS from Florida Gulf Coast University provides students with a “balanced criminal justice perspective (with) an emphasis on the victim, offender, criminal justice system, and society.” Parts of the 120 credits to complete the degree are foreign language, service learning, summer courses, and civic literacy, along with classes like meth criminal justice research, leadership in CJ agencies, substantive criminal law, and an internship. Co-eds can then specialize in areas like law enforcement, corrections, legal studies, juvenile justice, international justice, or management.
- Tuition: $24,480
5. Florida International University (Miami)
The multilingual, multinational Florida International University is also multi-degree for criminal justice. The Miami-centered institution offers a BS in crime science, a BS, MS, and minor in criminal justice, MA in global affairs, a doctorate in international crime and justice, an accelerated BS to MS in criminal justice, a six-year BS with a juris doctor degree, a JD/MS joint degree, an MS plus masters in public administration, and pre-law certificate. In addition to courses like criminological theory and research methods/analysis, students must have global learning and foreign language credits, and are strongly encouraged to complete an internship.
- Tuition: $24,740
6. Florida State University (Tallahassee)
Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice emphasizes research that affects public policy — not just for the state, but the entire CJ community. So it’s no surprise that students are required to take courses like research methods in criminology, theories of offender treatment, and crime detection and investigation, in addition to more broad subjects like social reality of Black males, crimes against humanity, human behavior, and violence in America. This capital city higher ed institution also offers a cyber criminology major, combined BS/MS, online or one-year master’s degree, PhD, and joint masters in public administration or social work.
- Tuition: $26,064
7. Webber International University (Babson Park)
All criminal justice management courses at Webber International University are taught by current or retired law enforcement officers, preparing students for careers with the FBI, U.S. Marshalls, Home Land Security, military police, or a variety of other career options. The private, not-for-profit institution offers an associate’s, bachelors, and master’s degree, with the option to do the BS and MS online. Some of the courses include police report writing, criminal law and procedure, evidence collection, principles of management, business statistics, and a final semester internship.
- Tuition: $51,052
8. Edward Waters College (Jacksonville)
Considered the state’s oldest independent higher learning institution as well as the first for African Americans, Edward Waters College offers degrees in business administration, biology, communications, psychology, and criminal justice. Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in CJ have four concentration options — criminal justice, emergency management, forensic investigation, and police academy — with courses like constitutional law, victimology, probation and parole, mitigation and preparedness, latent prints and impressions, and terrorism and homeland security.
- Tuition: $59,512
9. Hodges University (Fort Myers)
One of the top criminal justice colleges in Florida, Hodges University offers an associate’s and bachelors in criminal justice, plus a master’s in legal studies — all online. With courses in criminal investigation, forensics, crime theory, and counter-terrorism, grads can expect to find jobs as FBI investigators, fish and game wardens, fire services, DEA investigators, or a long list of other career options.
- Tuition: $70,800
10. Warner University (Lake Wales)
Warner University offers a bachelor’s in criminal justice where “students will gain knowledge in numerous areas… such as deviant behavior, forensics, the legal process, and the dynamics of law enforcement.” Some of the required courses include criminal investigations, ethical dilemmas, corrections and penology, delinquent behavior, and juvenile crime. The small college (just over 1,000 students) located between Orlando and Tampa has a 13:1 student-to-teacher ratio and a president who hosts game nights at his house.
- Tuition: $94,000
1. University of Central Florida (Orlando)
Independent learning is part of the University of Central Florida’s MS in Criminal Justice program, with projects like advanced research, papers, internships, practicums, and conference presentations. Along with core courses like the administration of justice, nature of crime, policy and data analysis, and criminal justice organizations, grad students also have the option to pursue a dual MS with a master’s in public administration.
- Tuition: $13,307
2. University of North Florida (Jacksonville)
Known as having one of the country’s largest and most extensive criminal justice internship programs, the University of North Florida has agreements with 60+ non-profit and government organizations. Although an internship is not required for a MS, students do have the opportunity to take a practicum, along with theory and research courses for a well-rounded understanding of their interrelationship.
- Tuition: $19,248
3. Saint Leo University (Saint Leo)
Saint Leo University offers a traditional, two-year MS or an accelerated program in a variety of formats — online, video conferencing, Zoom, or on-campus. As part of the 36-credit requirements, students will study human resource and fiscal management, policymaking, procedural laws (among others), plus have the opportunity to focus on highly specialized topics like terrorism in Israel or criminal advocacy. This FBI National Academy Associates partner also has a hands-on capstone project, internships, and year-round courses.
- Tuition: $21,960
4. Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale)
Offered entirely online, the MS in Criminal Justice from Nova Southeastern University trains students for careers as an animal cruelty investigator, secret service agent, bounty hunter, state trooper, or more than 15 other paths. The 30-credit degree provides 12 different concentration tracks, a thesis or field study elective, and 5 core criminal justice courses — survey and legal issues, social administration, program evaluation, and investigative processes.
- Tuition: $24,300
5. Keiser University (Fort Lauderdale)
Along with a MA, Keiser University offers a PhD, 13 bachelors, and 3 associate’s degrees in criminal justice. To complete the masters, grad students are required to take 12 set courses that include seminars in criminal justice, law enforcement, court systems, and correctional systems, conflict analysis and resolution, research, theory, and professionalism/ethics.
- Tuition: $25,712
Our Ranking Methodology
Using the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator and program/majors of corrections and criminal justice (other), criminal justice/law enforcement administration, criminal justice/police science, and criminal justice/safety studies in Florida, we searched the database for all degrees (certificate, associates, bachelors, and masters). We then removed any institutions that weren’t regionally accredited, were TBD, or their last accreditation was before December 15, 2020.
To whittle down our results of 54 institutions even more, we then searched just associates and bachelors with 5% to 70% of applicants admitted. For a master’s degree, we used the same programs/majors, but eliminated any that had already been selected for the other two degrees.
We were left with 11 bachelors and 6 master’s degrees in criminal justice. We then ranked them separately by lowest in-state tuition costs (minus fees, etc.), listing the top 10 bachelors and 5 masters for a total of 15 criminal justice colleges in Florida.
If you’re employed by one of the schools listed and disagree with the information we’ve provided, please feel free to contact us and we’ll make the correction.