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Best 44 Criminal Justice Programs in 2021

August 12, 2021 | Staff Writers

Online Criminal Justice Programs
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In order to provide prospective students with the best chance at having a great education, we have compiled this list of the top criminal justice programs in the nation. Some schools may excel at online programs while others may focus exclusively on the traditional, on-campus aspect of higher education. Regardless of the delivery format, these criminal justice schools excel at providing a quality education for their students.

Society is fascinated with Criminal Justice. Movies, tv shows, and books about detectives, police officers, and Crime Scene Investigators have entertained and amazed audiences since before Sherlock Holmes made his first appearance in 1887. But for those who are a part of Criminal Justice Programs, it is more than just a source of interest or amusement, it is their day to day life. Criminal justice covers a wide array of interests and prepares graduates to pursue careers as forensic science technicians, police officers, private detectives, fish and game wardens, fraud investigators, immigration and customs enforcers and more.

Top 5 Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Rank School Location
1Pennsylvania State University (PSU)Pennsylvania
2Arizona State University (ASU)Tempe, Arizona
3Arkansas Northeastern CollegeBlytheville, Arkansas
4Fort Hays State UniversityHays, Kansas
5United Tribes Technical CollegeBismarck, North Dakota

The best online schools for criminal justice provide non-traditional, distance, and working students with the resources, convenience, and flexibility that they need to graduate with a degree in criminal justice and transfer into the career. Online learning becomes more popular and practical every day, making it not only possible but easy to achieve a degree regardless of your circumstance.

To help you find the best fit for your unique situation, we have put together a list of the best Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree Programs in the country. Each program offers something unique and personal, and each one provides the education needed to unlock your inner sleuth.

Students who enroll in criminal justice programs study things like the cause of crime, response by law enforcement agencies, and prevention and rehabilitation. Throughout their studies, students become familiar with the courts, policing, and corrections. Criminal justice can be an interesting and rewarding career to get into, especially for those interested in the psychology behind the criminal mind.

While it’s clear that earning a criminal justice degree can allow you to make a positive contribution to society, as a prospective student, you may still have some questions. For this reason, we have compiled this guide of everything you need to know before enrolling in a criminal justice program. We’ll cover the different types of criminal justice majors, future career opportunities, the most respected degree programs, and how to determine which is right for you.

Studying Criminal Justice Sciences

Benefits of Specializing

Like many prospective students, you may be wondering if you should choose a criminal justice specialization. If your goal is to pursue a specific career path after graduation, then specializing is an essential part of your education. By focusing your studies on a specific career area that interests you as a criminal justice major, you are better equipped to obtain a position within that field after completing your degree. With that said, if you don’t yet know which direction you’re heading, then a general criminal justice degree may also be an option for you. It will allow you to learn a wide variety of different aspects of the criminal justice system, enabling you to narrow your decision down further down the line.

Types of Criminal Justice Degrees

As a student of criminal justice, there are a variety of fields you can specialize in to put you on the fast track to achieving your career goals. Let’s take a look at ten of the most common types of criminal justice majors.

1. Criminology – What is criminology? Criminology involves both social and behavioral sciences and is the study of deviant behavior and why individuals commit crimes. As a criminology major, you will learn about crime theory, criminal law and policy, and how to analyze case studies. 

2. Forensic Science – The study of scientific methods used to examine and interpret evidence of civil and criminal cases. The forensic science field covers everything from DNA analysis to accounting, to autopsy techniques, and everything in between.

3. Police Science – You will study and research that deals with police work, including investigating crimes, skills for responding to emergencies, and communicating with the public. 

4. Law Enforcement Administration – For students uninterested in being on the frontlines of police work, this may be a great area of study to major in. You will learn how to keep police departments and other law enforcement organizations like the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) running smoothly behind the scenes. 

5. Corrections – If you major in corrections, you’ll study everything about correctional science and prison life. This field of study prepares you for working in prisons, jail facilities, and even researching correctional science. 

6. Pre-Law Studies – When studying pre-law, you’ll learn about the justice system, the different theories behind laws, and how the judicial system and law enforcement work. The skills are relevant to a career as an attorney or paralegal.

7. Sociology – Sociology is the study of social life, change, and the causes and consequences of human behavior within these contexts. Students usually earn an associate’s degree in criminal justice and then move on to study sociology.

8. Criminal Justice – Criminal justice consists of a broad variety of majors within one degree. You’ll study every aspect of a crime, from the time it’s committed up until the individual is sentenced to prison. This career is an excellent choice if you’re looking to build a foundation for further studies within the industry.

9. Criminal Psychology – This is the study and analysis of criminal behavior, thoughts, and intentions. You’ll learn in-depth what makes people commit crimes, as well as the reaction during the criminal act and when on the run.

10. Rehabilitation – This area of study includes studying sociology, as well as substance abuse, therapy, and counseling services within correctional facilities. Students should consider studying psychology along with rehabilitation for the best possible career outcome after graduation.

Comparing Degrees

Bachelor of Arts vs. Bachelor of Science Degree

A Bachelor of Arts (BA) in criminal justice is more of a broader degree than a technical Bachelor of Science (BS). The BA explores general concepts such as criminology, juvenile delinquency, and white-collar crime, whereas the BS digs deeper into specific topics like technology in criminal justice. Both programs require about the same amount of hours to earn your degree, although you have to enroll in more than 300 level classes with the BS. 

For students interested in simply studying what criminal justice is in broad terms, then you should consider the BA degree. If you’re interested in specializing in a particular field, the BS is likely the better option to prepare you academically for that specific career. Either way, you will have to take additional courses to supplement your degree to apply to the career path you want.

Difference Between Campus and Online Criminal Justice Degrees

Are you torn between earning your criminal justice degree on campus or and online? Both come with their own unique set of benefits. What’s best for you essentially comes down to your learning style. Often, universities offer both online and in-person programs or a hybrid option that combines both formats.  

Campus Criminal Justice Degrees: 

In-person degrees are the traditional college experience. These programs involve attending classes on a physical campus, meeting with professors and students, and making use of campus facilities. 

There are many benefits to an in-person degree. One of the biggest benefits is that you are fully immersed in the learning environment. When you are on campus, you have access to resources unavailable to you when studying from home. You are also surrounded by professors and peers who are learning and teaching alongside you, which provides you with a strong community in which you can learn. 

An in-person degree is also beneficial to somebody who learns better through interaction. As you take your classes in a lecture or seminar setting, it can be easier to feel engaged with the material and the instructor. It can also be easier to ask questions, take notes, and make a connection with the person responsible for grading your work. 

Also, a traditional campus degree enables students to socialize beyond the classroom. This opportunity to meet and interact with peers can lead to friendships, networking opportunities, and extracurricular engagement. Part of the college experience is the opportunity to join a club, find a job, or have a great time with people going through the same things as you. 

Online Criminal Justice Degrees:

For many people, online degrees are hugely beneficial. These programs generally involve taking courses and seminars online, taking part in video chats, and accessing library materials from a distance.

Online degrees can be great for people who can’t drop everything else in their life to attend school. For instance, you might be working, have family commitments, or simply cannot relocate to the campus. Online programs are also very advantageous to people who have certain accessibility or ability requirements that make it difficult for them to use a traditional college campus. With an online degree, you can access university resources from home.

Online degrees also tend to be more flexible than in-person programs. Often, you can take online classes based on your schedule. This flexibility can be very helpful if you are working or have a family. It is also just better suited to some people’s learning style. 

There are hundreds of career paths available to graduates of a criminal justice program. Typically, criminal justice programs focus on criminology, law, sociology, forensics, and policing. Broadly, the field encompasses all study of the criminal justice system, the correctional system, and the criminal court. As a result, career paths tend to be in the criminal justice system, the corrections system, the legal system, research, or academia. 

Criminal justice degrees have specializations in criminology, and often overlap with criminology extensively, but remain distinct from criminology degrees. In general, criminology focuses on the social and theoretical aspects of crime. This involves studying the causes of crime, the impacts of crime, and the scientific study of criminal behavior. In contrast, criminal justice focuses on the pre-existing legal system and the mechanisms currently in place to deal with crime. 

The potential career paths open to you depend upon the particular degree you have attained, your area of specialization, whether or not you have a master’s degree, and any internships you have participated in. Often, criminal justice majors work in more active or “practical” positions than their criminologist colleagues. These positions tend to be the various cogs in the wheel of the justice system. 

Career Options After Earning a Criminal Justice Degree

The most common criminal justice careers are those which contribute to the continued operation of the existing criminal justice system. The specifics of these careers will differ depending upon the criminal justice specialization you have decided to study. 

Many people enter policing after completing a criminal justice degree. Some of the most popular career choices for criminal justice majors are fields within policing which seem exciting, such as crime scene investigator and detective. Other criminal justice majors go on to become high ranking law enforcement officials and federal agents. Criminal justice majors have also gone on to become Secret Service agents or CIA agents. Certain programs, such as Marist College, offer internships with departments such as the Secret Service during the program itself.

Some of the most popular criminal justice careers include:

  • Police officer
  • Bailiff
  • FBI agent
  • Correctional officer
  • Probation officer
  • Lawyer
  • Forensic science technician
  • Private investigator
  • Crime scene investigator
  • Fraud investigator
  • Criminologist

You can often enter these careers without pursuing a criminal justice degree. For instance, most states do not require bachelor’s degrees for applicants to police academies. However, criminal justice degrees can not only give you an edge over the competition when it comes to hiring but can also allow you to advance far more quickly. 

Criminal justice degrees also provide you with an extensive or thorough understanding of the criminal justice system, which allows you to be more effective in the position you enter, demonstrates your dedication to employers or superior officers, and qualifies you for promotions.

Educational Requirements for Criminal Justice Career Paths

As previously mentioned, many career paths open to criminal justice majors do not require a criminal justice degree. Instead, this degree helps you to avoid plateauing in those careers or struggling to advance. To work in a high ranking or desirable position, a degree is required. Other careers, such as state or district attorney, require a degree to enter in the first place. 

Many criminal justice careers require a law degree. To go on to law school, a student must first have a degree. One of the best degrees to get into law school is a degree in criminal justice. Further, to work as a criminologist, students typically have to pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Often, they must also complete a Ph.D program

Also, many careers within federal policing require a degree. We should note that federal criminal justice departments, including courts and law enforcement, feature a huge range of career options. These different careers have different requirements. For instance, a forensic science technician will likely require a science degree, or a hybrid criminal justice and forensics degree.

Continued Education Options After Your Criminal Justice Studies

Criminal justice majors often go on to pursue even higher levels of education. Though this is not always necessary, it enables students to strengthen their knowledge, specialize in a particular field, or train themselves for a specific career path.

Many criminal justice majors decide to enter law school. This is often in the hopes of working as a lawyer, a district attorney, or in criminal justice reform. Law school leads to a huge range of career paths and is not restricted solely to criminal justice. It is one of the most popular areas for criminal justice students to continue their education.

Other times, criminal justice majors decide to pursue a master’s degree. A master’s degree tends to open up even more career paths, increases specialization, and often allows for larger salaries. Also, a master’s degree may be a requirement for certain promotions. By pursuing an MA, criminal justice majors can often move into areas such as criminology, sociology, or forensics. 

Some criminal justice majors decide to pursue a Ph.D. when they hope to teach, research, or work in highly specialized departments. To teach criminal justice at a university, it is likely that you will require a Ph.D. As most professional researchers work for universities, a Ph.D. may be necessary if you intend to research criminal justice full time. Also, many policymakers who influence the practical side of criminal justice have PhDs, including members of think tanks, policy researchers, and government advisors. 

Qualities of a Good Criminal Justice Program

Generally, well respected criminal justice programs combine a rigorous analysis of the criminal justice system with sociological and criminological theories, which allows the student to move beyond a surface-level understanding of the legal system. For the most part, respected programs have strong research arms, knowledgeable instructors, experienced professionals, and good campus resources. Often, they also provide the opportunity for real-world experience in the form of work placements or internships. Some of the most well respected criminal justice programs have partnerships with government departments tasked with carrying out certain actions on behalf of the criminal justice system. 

Best 44 Criminal Justice Schools

1

Pennsylvania State University (PSU)

  • Pennsylvania
  • Graduation Rate: 50%

Courses at PSU’s online, Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice program are typically 12 to 15 weeks long and are designed for students with or without a background in criminology. The degree also allows for the option of an 18 credit minor in homeland security. Students will finish the course with a field internship and a capstone class where they explore past, present, and future criminal justice developments. Those with previous law enforcement training can earn up to 7.5 credits for their experience.

Cost per Credit Hour: $550
Graduation Rate: 50%
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2

Arizona State University (ASU)

  • Tempe, Arizona
  • Graduation Rate: 50%

ASU’s Criminal Justice degree focuses heavily on research and analysis, creating students who are well versed in the impact of crime, law enforcement and court systems, and correctional facilities. Students participate in internships, self-directed study, and an honors thesis during their time at Arizona, which provides 7.5-week terms and an optional fast-track criminal justice degree program. ASU accepts up to 64 community college credits and Arizona transfer students with a minimum GPA of 2.0 are guaranteed admission. To provide efficiency and convenience to their online students, Arizona offers several start dates throughout the year and also partners with Google to offer access to additional educational aids.

Cost per Credit Hour: $633
Graduation Rate: 50%
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3

Arkansas Northeastern College

  • Blytheville, Arkansas
  • Graduation Rate: 22%

Arkansas Northwestern College offers an Associate in Applied Science in Criminal Justice and an Associate of Science in Criminology. These degrees are designed to prepare students, with or without experience, for entry-level jobs in criminal justice fields such as law enforcement, the court system, corrections, and security. The program combines a broad background of courses in the area of law enforcement, corrections, and criminal law with a liberal arts education.

Tuition per Credit: Approximately $156
Graduation Rate: 21.5%
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4

Fort Hays State University

  • Hays, Kansas
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
Fort Hays State University criminal justice degree

Fort Hays State University was founded in 1902 on 200 acres and now enrolls over 15,000 students. Fort Hays offers four online programs in criminal justice with the choice to specialize by mixing and matching courses that best fit student’s interests. Fort Hays accepts previous credit and transfers, and will even help students find job placement after graduation.

Tuition per Credit: $166.95
Graduation Rate: 43.9%
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5

United Tribes Technical College

  • Bismarck, North Dakota
  • Graduation Rate: 27%
United Tribes Technical College

The United Tribes Technical College has been serving students for 47 years and is the first tribal college that offers fully online degrees. UTTC offers associate and bachelor degrees in criminal justice that utilizes a law enforcement training simulator that offers real-life, real-time scenarios in a range of critical response situations.

Tuition per Credit: $115 – $200
Graduation Rate: 27%
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6

Angelo State University

  • San Angelo, Texas
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
angelo state university criminal justice programs

Angelo State University was founded in 1928 in San Angelo, Texas. Angelo offers to bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and one master’s degree in criminal justice. The MA is offered completely online only and requires two letters of recommendation and a GPA of 2.75 to be admitted. This degree can be completed in as little as 18 months.

Tuition per Credit: $50
Graduation Rate: 43.9%
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7

University of Central Florida (UCF)

  • Orlando, Florida
  • Graduation Rate: 65%
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UCF’s Online Criminal Justice Program can be completed as either a  Bachelors of Science or a Bachelors of Arts, depending on the preference of the student. Online classes are designed by their individual instructors, which allows for variation between asynchronous and non-asynchronous classes. Students are encouraged but not required to participate in an internship, which can take the place of an upper-level course. Students who wish to transfer from another institution must have a minimum GPA  of 2.0 at their last school and up to 12 hours of criminal justice related coursework will be accepted. Unfortunately, because of state regulations, UCF is not able to accommodate distance learning for those in the states of Michigan, Minnesota, or Oregon.

Cost per Credit Hour: $105
Graduation Rate: 65%
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8

Missouri State University

  • Springfield, Missouri
  • Graduation Rate: 54%

Missouri State University is the second biggest school in the state, with over 26,000 students enrolled and offers over 180 different degree programs. Missouri State offers five different degrees and certificates in the criminology and criminal justice department, and degrees in criminology can be taken as a three-year, four-year, or accelerated path, with students guaranteed to get the first-hand experience with courts, the law, corrections, and the police.

Tuition per Credit: Approximately $248
Graduation Rate: 54%
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9

Indiana State University

  • Terre Haute, Indiana
  • Graduation Rate: 41%
criminal justice degrees

Indiana State University is for those interested in criminology or criminal justice programs. ISU also offers cyber criminology &Security Studies and Intelligence Analysis. In these programs, students will gain an understanding of criminal behavior, the criminal justice system, mechanisms of social control and their relationship to society. ISU”s award-winning online programs will give students the flexibility and time management they need to balance their busy schedules.

Tuition per Credit: $310
Graduation Rate: 40.7%
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10

Florida International University (FIU)

  • Miami, Florida
  • Graduation Rate: 49%

Every online student at FIU is matched with a virtual success coach to help and guide them through their online education. This aid, as well as 24/7 access to tech support and various tutoring service and academic coaches, provide a huge support to distance learners, particularly those that are newly returning to school. Students at FIU also have the ability to join the FIU Honors College, a group that practices problem-solving, communication and analysis skills and allows them access to scholarships, study abroad and research opportunities, jobs, and internships. To graduate from the honors program, students must complete 12 credits of honors coursework. Students who may be hesitant to apply also have the ability to take a demo course, to see what an online experience at FIU would be like before enrolling. Enrollment is open to students in the fall, spring or summer.   

Cost per Credit Hour: $329
Graduation Rate: 49%
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11

University of Massachusetts (UMass)

  • Amherst, Massachusetts
  • Graduation Rate: 54%

Known as one of the country’s top research universities, UMass offers its Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice entirely online. Students in the program also have the option of minoring in business, economics, English, history, political science, or psychology. For those that wish to pursue an MA, UMass uniquely offers an accelerated joint degree program, allowing students to apply some graduate courses toward both degrees. Students at UMass are accepted on a rolling basis, providing the opportunity for students to apply at almost any time. Prospective students under 21 who have fewer than 12 college credits must submit their SAT or ACT scores in order to be considered. UMass is unfortunately unable due to state requirements, to provide distance learning to residents of Arkansas, Kansas, or Minnesota.

Cost per Credit Hour: $375
Graduation Rate: 54%
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12

The University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK)

  • Kearney, Nebraska
  • Graduation Rate: 56%

UNK stands apart from its competitors by offering multiple online criminal justice programs, providing learners with the freedom to pursue their genuine interests. UNK’s degrees, however, are designed for degree completion for individuals who have already finished the majority of their general education or who already have an Associate’s Degree. UNK’s programs are offered entirely online and are instructor lead with specific start and end dates. All options conclude with a capstone class and intensive field internship. Applicants must earn a minimum ACT score of 20, an SAT score of 1030, or be ranked in the top 50th percentile of an accredited high school to be considered. UNK also accepts up to  66 transfer credits.

Cost per Credit Hour: $417
Graduation Rate: 56%
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13

Concordia University – Saint Paul

  • Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
Concordia University at Saint Paul Online Criminal Justice Programs

Concordia University in Saint Paul is a private, Lutheran based institution. It varies from others schools by enrolling students of its Criminal Justice degree in a cohort learning program. This program groups students together at the beginning of their studies, who remain together until graduation, regularly working and communicating together.  Students who complete their Associate’s degree at one of Concordia’s partner institutions will receive a $2,000 scholarship to Concordia and are guaranteed a seamless credit transfer. According to their records, 92% of students who graduated with an online degree in Criminal Justice received an employment offer by the time of graduation.

Cost per Credit Hour: $420
Graduation Rate: 47%
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14

University of Oklahoma (UO)

  • Norman, Oklahoma
  • Graduation Rate: 66%

Coursework in UO’s online Criminal Justice program is taught in an accelerated format, allowing students to potentially take up to 18 credits a semester. All classes are taught exclusively online and a rolling calendar allowing students to take courses with separate start dates. UO prides itself on innovation and seeks to offer its students as many options as possible to aid in their degree including free software, iPad integration, digital textbooks, and on-campus space designed for meetings and peer collaborations. Students in the program finish with 192 hours of fieldwork.

Cost per Credit Hour: $806
Graduation Rate: 66%
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15

University of Colorado (CU)

  • Denver, Colorado
  • Graduation Rate: 45%

CU’s Criminal Justice Program allows students to fulfill their coursework either entirely online or through a combination of on campus and off campus learning, providing flexibility and convenience. Discount tuition rates can also be obtained for non-Colorado residents who are enrolled online. CU stands apart by offering a generous bachelor-master joint degree program, allowing 15 credits to be applied to both degrees and making it possible to complete a Master’s degree in criminal justice with only one more year of study.

Cost per Credit Hour: $968
Graduation Rate: 45%
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16

University of Wisconsin (UW)

  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Graduation Rate: 53%

Offered entirely online, UW’S online BS in Criminal Justice recognized and accommodates for the busy lifestyle of working adults providing flexibility and speed. Students have the opportunity to complete their degree in their own time in as little as two years. In addition to its flexibility and quick pace, UW perhaps stands most apart in its price. Offering students $310 per credit hour tuition cost.

Cost per Credit Hour: $310
Graduation Rate: 53%
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17

Florida State University (FSU)

  • Tallahassee, Florida
  • Graduation Rate: 75%

Designed for students who have already earned an Associate’s Degree, FSU’s online program allows students to complete their Criminal Justice Degree with the choice of a minor, an onsite internship, or a specialization in criminology. Designed for those with limited availability, FSU makes it a priority to give students flexibility and ease in their studies. Potential applicants to the program must complete their Associate’s  Degree in Florida or meet the FSU Liberal Studies requirements and complete an oral competency exam. An ACT or SAT score must also be submitted. Start dates for students are in the fall, spring or winter and students may transfer up to nine credits from a previous institution.

Cost per Credit Hour: $315
Graduation Rate: 75%
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18

University of Memphis (UofM)

  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Graduation Rate: 51%

The University of Memphis sets itself apart with its strong emphasis and ties to the community. This focus not only ensures that UofM will provide students with internships from local and national criminal justice agencies, providing them with quality first-hand experience in the field, but also that it seeks to provide students with skills needed to develop and maintain lasting relationships with the community around them, a skill they consider to be vital for someone in the field of criminal justice. With a student to faculty ratio of 15:1, students will receive the attention they need, whether they decide to pursue their degree entirely online or with a combination of on- and off-campus work.

Cost per Credit Hour: $413
Graduation Rate: 51.4%
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19

University of Maryland University College (UMUC)

  • Adelphi, Maryland
  • Graduation Rate: 84%

Students at UMUC are able to complete their degree entirely online or participate in selective hybrid classes. These hybrid courses meet once a week, allowing students to do most of their work away from campus but still occasionally participate in the benefits of in-class instruction and aid. Courses in the program are taught and developed by local law enforcement and pride themselves on their combination of theoretical, practical and real-world learning. Students after completing the program will be prepared to move into a command position in local law enforcement or pursue federal law enforcement.  

Cost per Credit Hour: $500
Graduation Rate: 84%
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20

Park University

  • Parkville, Missouri
  • Graduation Rate: 42%
Park University online criminal justice degree

Park University was established in 1875 and offers 81 academic programs. The criminal justice department offers a bachelor degree which is 45 credit hours, an associate degree which is 27 hours, and a minor, which is 18 credit hours. More specific concentrations are available. Criminal justice courses are offered online for the convenience of working students with other obligations and time commitments.

Tuition per Credit: $399
Graduation Rate: 42.4%
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21

Western Kentucky University

  • Bowling Green, Kentucky
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
criminal justice degrees

Western Kentucky University was founded in 1906 and now enrolls over 20,000 students and offers over 300 academic programs. WKU offers both a BA in criminology and an MA in criminology, offered completely online. Students taking online classes will never be charged out-of-state tuition, and they will get the unparalleled flexibility to start a course whenever they want and proceed at their own pace.

Tuition per Credit: $510
Graduation Rate: 43.6%
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22

University of Central Missouri

  • Warrensburg, Missouri
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
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The University of Central Missouri was founded in 1871 and has been transforming students into life-long learners ever since. Central Missouri offers both bachelor and master degrees in criminal justice, offered either face-to-face or online. The school offers an accelerated BS/MS so students can earn their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in five years. Students can also complete this program 100% online. The online courses have the same requirements that the on-campus courses have to ensure students get a quality education from the excellent faculty, with online courses being offered in a stable rotation.

Tuition per Credit: $221
Graduation Rate: 53.2%
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23

Portland State University (PSU)

  • Portland, Oregon
  • Graduation Rate: 42%
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With advanced certificate options in criminology, criminal behavior, and crime analysis, PSU’s online Criminal Justice degree truly allows a student the ability and freedom to tailor their education. Rated by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s top 10 most innovative universities, Portland does all that it can to make learning convenient and personal. PSU prides itself on its innovation and creative thinking skills. It’s Criminal Justice degree can be completed in just two years.

Cost per Credit Hour: $524
Graduation Rate: 42%
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24

Washington State University (WSU)

  • Washington D.C., United States
  • Graduation Rate: 66%

WSU boasts being the second oldest criminal justice program in the nation, founded in 1943, and its longevity has served it well. With awards and prestige all throughout the nation, WSU recently boasted on their criminal justice website being rated #1 in the nation. Washington also established the founding chapter of the Alpha Phi Sigma, a Criminal Justice Honor Society. Washington State University’s Online criminal justice program is offered entirely online and combines research with real-world experience to prepare graduates for state, federal and private law enforcement.

Cost per Credit Hour: $569
Graduation Rate: 66%
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25

Slippery Rock University

  • Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania
  • Graduation Rate: 65%
slippery rock university criminal justice degree

Slippery Rock University was founded in 1889 and has been preparing students for a life of career success ever since. SRU knows how important field work is, so they help students combine theory and practice in real-world situations. . For especially ambitious students, Slipper Rock offers students an accelerated program where they can earn their BA and MA in just four years!

Tuition per Credit: $312
Graduation Rate: 65.1%
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26

Midway University

  • Midway, Kentucky
  • Graduation Rate: 49%
Midway University criminal justice degree

Midway University is a private, liberal arts institution in Kentucky. Midway is unique because they understand some students have gained knowledge from experience outside a typical university setting, and they are willing to give students college credit for it. To give students the utmost flexibility, Midway offers evening classes or online classes for those with busy schedules and professional careers. The criminal justice program is offered as a bachelor degree.

Tuition per Credit: $1,020
Graduation Rate: 48.8%
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27

William Peace University

  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 42%

William Peace University is a nationally-ranked and award-winning university. It was founded in 1857 and has been affiliated with the Presbyterian church for more than 150 years. The Criminal Justice program will teach students the skills and understanding they need of crime and criminal behavior as well as law and law enforcement. With strong ties to the local justice departments, students are sure to get excellent hands-on experience.

Tuition per Credit: $325
Graduation Rate: 42%
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28

Ohio University

  • Athens, Ohio
  • Graduation Rate: 67%

Ohio University’s Bachelor of Criminal Justice program is a degree completion course, designed for students who have already completed an associate’s degree in criminal justice or a similar field, and are looking to further their education and advance their career. Students will focus on criminal behavior theories and research, decision-making processes, punishment, and the workings of the criminal justice system. Ohio also provides its students with a low 18:1 student to faculty ratio.

Cost per Credit Hour: $243
Graduation Rate: 67%
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29

University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF)

  • Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Graduation Rate: 33%

UAF provides its students with not only an education in Criminal Justice but emphasizes law enforcement in its unique environment. Courses in this degree include law enforcement in rural Alaska, Alaskan language and culture, and rural justice in Alaska. These courses examine the anthropology, language, cultural and societal qualities of  Alaska and their unique influence on criminal justice. Particularly between potential issues arising from western justice systems and native communities. The harsh weather conditions of the area are also taken into consideration, such as the difficulty in enacting procedure in an area with little to no roads. With an astounding student to faculty ratio of 11:1, students are sure to receive individual attention.

Cost per Credit Hour: $244
Graduation Rate: 33%
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30

Tarleton State University

  • Stephenville, Texas
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
criminal justice degree

Tarleton State University was established in 1899 and has over 100 undergraduate and graduate degrees. It has five locations as well as online programs which allow students to obtain a degree while maintaining professional and personal obligations. The criminal justice degrees at TSU merge theory with practice providing for a well-rounded, relevant, quality education.

Tuition per Credit: Approximately $325
Graduation Rate: 44%
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31

University of Florida (UF)

  • Gainesville, Florida
  • Graduation Rate: 87%

UF’s online degree is technically a Bachelor’s of Arts in Criminology, but it still prepares graduates to work in fields such as Federal Investigations, Corrections, Probation or Police Officer, and similar positions. UF’s degree in Criminology emphasizes understanding crime and the role it plays in society. This unique focus provides students with sociology and psychology rich perspective not necessarily obtained in a study of simply Criminal Justice. 

Cost per Credit Hour: $258
Graduation Rate: 87%
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32

Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO)

  • Cape Girardeau, Missouri
  • Graduation Rate: 50%

Students in SEMO’s Criminal Justice Online Bachelor’s Degree have the option of two tracks to participate in. The Academic/University track provides students with a well-rounded education in the criminal justice field and utilizes theory, technique and application practices. The Law Enforcement Academy track provides the basic training needed for individuals pursuing a degree in law enforcement.

Cost per Credit Hour: $265
Graduation Rate: 50%
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33

SUNY Canton

  • Canton, New York
  • Graduation Rate: 30%

SUNY Canton’s criminal justice department offers four programs: criminal justice, criminal investigation, homeland security, and law enforcement leadership. Students can expect a nearly 100% job placement rate after graduation thanks to the experienced and talented faculty that teach skills and understanding needed in the workforce. Courses are offered online to give students the flexibility needed for their professional and personal obligations.

Tuition per Credit: $277
Graduation Rate: 29.8%
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34

California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB)

  • San Bernardino, California
  • Graduation Rate: 45%

CSUSB is one of the best criminal justice schools in California. Its online bachelor’s degree program is open to any students from any state who have met California’s General Education requirements, which they evaluate. Rated as one of the top online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice by the Best Degrees Program and Best Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice by the Center for Online Education, CSUSB offers students a quality education at a very affordable tuition price.  

Cost per Credit Hour: $270
Graduation Rate: 45%
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35

University of Missouri at St Louis (UMSL)

  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Graduation Rate: 44%

UMSL’s degree in criminal justice gives students an education in the fields of criminology, social science, law, public administration, and corrections. It is also tailored toward students seeking to attend law school. Students are able to complete their degree entirely online and will be prepared for a wide scope of potential careers. UMSL was rated #4 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report.

Cost per Credit Hour: $911
Graduation Rate: 44%
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36

University of Cincinnati (UC)

  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Graduation Rate: 59%

UC’s online Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice is offered entirely online and emphasizes study in the fields of sociology, criminology, psychology, and law. While not required, students are strongly encouraged to participate in service learning projects and to involve themselves in community-based research and study, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of their studies and to strengthen their sense of civic responsibility.

Cost per Credit Hour: $389
Graduation Rate: 59%
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37

Mercyhurst University

  • Erie, Pennsylvania
  • Graduation Rate: 64%
Mercyhurst University

Mercyhurst University is a four-year, Catholic institution founded in 1926. Mercyhurst’s motto is “Carpe Diem” which means “Seize the Day.” In the Criminal Justice program, Mercyhurst offers a 12-credit certificate as well as undergraduate degrees. The curriculum includes courses in Organizational and Human Behavior, Organized and White Collar Crime, Politics of Crime, Law and Society, Issues in Juvenile Justice, and Forensic Science.

Tuition per Credit: $840
Graduation Rate: 64.2%
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38

University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM)

  • Monroe, Louisiana
  • Graduation Rate: 40%

ULM’s online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice Degree gives its students a hands-on and in-depth knowledge of criminal justice. It focuses primarily on the law enforcement system and coursework emphasizes knowledge of the police force, the court system, and corrections. Upon completion of the program, students are prepared for careers in fields such as forensic science technicians, police officers, private detectives, fish and game wardens, fraud investigators, and immigration and customs enforcers.

Cost per Credit Hour: $400
Graduation Rate: 40% 
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39

University of North Carolina Pembroke (UNCP)

  • Pembroke, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 90%

UNCP’s Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice strongly emphasize stimulating students with both real life and in classroom experiences. As a result, students in the online Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree Program will be provided with experiences designed to stimulate critical analysis in diverse social settings and real-world situations. Faculty at North Carolina come from a variety of backgrounds in the criminal justice field, providing students with a broad array of perspectives.

Cost per Credit Hour: $380
Graduation Rate: 90%
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40

Seattle University

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Graduation Rate: 77%

Seattle University was founded in 1891 as a Jesuit Catholic University and now offers more than 120 academic programs. SU offers certificates, bachelor, and master degrees in the criminal justice program that will provide students with knowledge of the components of the criminal justice system and stages of the criminal justice process. The criminal justice program offers a whopping 13 degree choices for students looking for a more specific line of studies.

Tuition per Credit: Approximately $1,216
Graduation Rate: 77.2%
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41

Central Washington University

  • Ellensburg, Washington
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
criminal justice program

CWU’s knows that the job demand is growing in this field, so they are out to offer the best degrees in law and justice. This line of work is not only noble but satisfying. The opportunities are vast, where students can choose a path that will lead them to careers as correction officers, juvenile justice officers, law enforcement officers, and wildlife agents. Not only is this school known for its diversity, but also as being ranked with the top online programs in the state.

Cost per Credit: $264.70
Graduation Rate: 52.4%
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42

Bethune – Cookman University

  • Daytona Beach, Florida
  • Graduation Rate: 53%

Bethune-Cookman University was founded in 1904 by a brave, African-American woman who wanted to educate young women. Now, this is a full-fledged university that offers a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration. A minimum GPA of 2.75 is required as well as a bachelor’s degree and letters of recommendation. Most students are able to finish the degree in 18 months.

Tuition per Credit: $560
Graduation Rate: 52.5%
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43

Pittsburg State University

  • Pittsburg, Kansas
  • Graduation Rate: 50%
Pittsburg State University criminal justice program

Pittsburg State University desires to give its students a transformational experience. Pittsburg offers a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice. This program will give students the skills they need and the practical experience they need to succeed. Students can also choose a variety of career goals, including law school, law enforcement, probation and parole, social service agencies.

Tuition per Credit: $274 – $372
Graduation Rate: 50.1%
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44

Northern Kentucky University

  • Highland Heights, Kentucky
  • Graduation Rate: 37%
Northern Kentucky University Online Colleges in Kentucky

Northern Kentucky University was founded in 1946 and is the winner of three national championships. This school has over 90 major and master programs, many of which are available completely online. The Criminal Justice degree requires 48 credits total and students must have at least a 2.0 GPA and an ACT score of 18, and to pass each class the student must receive a C- or higher.

Tuition per Credit: $390
Graduation Rate: 37%
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Best Criminal Justice Programs Ranking System

We know that finding the best school to fit your unique needs can be a huge challenge. For that reason, we work hard to develop lists of the best schools based on the characteristics most important for you. Whether that be the cost of attendance, student success, resources available, flexibility of schedule, or any other number of important factors, we’ve got you covered. For more information about our ranking process and to find lists of schools based on specific characteristics, check out our methodology page.

While every effort has been made to ensure up to date and accurate information, we invite any school listed to contact us for edits or to add or update their school’s information. We also invite schools not included on our list to contact us with information about their university. We are always seeking to provide the best and most useful information.

Determining Which Degree Program is Right For You

Determining which criminal justice program is right for you is not always an easy task. Finding the right program for you is not a simple matter of selecting the highest-rated program out there. Instead, it is a matter of drawing a comparison between the programs available and your personal needs. It is important to remember that an educational degree should suit further your individual development. 

When deciding which program to attend, it can be useful to make a list of requirements. This list of requirements might include a price range, location, type of school, degrees offered, and extracurriculars available. It might also include some more individualized factors, such as the campus-style, the size of the school, the size of the classes, and the specialization of potential supervisors. 

There are a few things that apply to almost everyone when selecting the right school. First, it is important to make sure that your school is an accredited institution. For your criminal justice degree to hold weight in the workforce, it must be recognized. It is also important that the school you choose has enough course offerings in criminal justice to offer a major in the field. Often, departments will offer a few courses in an area to allow a minor or just for the sake of a well-rounded education. 

When selecting the right school, you also need to consider the range of courses offered. If you are simply exploring the field, it may be best to find a fairly broad program. This will allow you to test out the different areas of criminal justice and find a specialization that suits you. However, if you are already certain that you know which area of criminal justice you want to specialize in, it is best to find a school or department catered to your specialization. 

It is also important to think about how you plan to pay for your education, which will differ for everyone. Some people have the financial resources to attend university without taking on excessive debt. For others, this is not possible. When selecting a school, it is important to take financial considerations into account, including not only the cost of tuition but also work opportunities, funding opportunities, living costs, and student loans.

Conclusion

If you are interested in a career in law, policing, police reform, criminology, or academia, a degree in criminal justice might be the right path for you. This degree familiarizes you with the ins-and-outs of the criminal justice system. You learn the pros and cons of society’s response to crime, and the mechanisms available to change criminal justice systems and criminal behaviors. 

Criminal justice is a broad field, and, within it, students study rehabilitation, forensics, policing, corrections, sociology, criminology, and more. As a result, there is no single path to a degree in criminal justice. Instead, this degree can take a wide range of different forms, including online courses or in-person classes, bachelor’s of arts or bachelor’s of science degrees, and a variety of majors. After completion, students can go on to work in a wide number of professions. 

If you’re interested in criminal justice, take a look at the course offerings available at a school near you. Then, look at some of the offerings available at the top schools across the country to get a good sense of the type of education it will provide you with. In the end, the right program for you will depend upon your particular needs, wants, and circumstances. 

Find the program that’s right for you

Whether you’re trying to start your career or make a big change, we can help you find the perfect school to help you reach your goals.

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