Why Attend a Criminal Justice Program?
If you’re interested in helping others in the community, you may find work in the criminal justice field very rewarding. There are various jobs in criminal justice, ranging from police detective to private investigator and even crime scene analyst.
Many students pursue a criminal justice degree to have a career in law enforcement and the justice system. The best criminal justice schools teach students about the court system, policing, and corrections. In addition to learning about how the criminal justice system works, students also learn about the psychological behavior of criminals and criminological theory.
There are numerous benefits to earning a criminal justice degree.
Top 5 Criminal Justice Degree Programs
|1||Pennsylvania State University (PSU)||Pennsylvania|
|2||Arizona State University (ASU)||Tempe, Arizona|
|3||Arkansas Northeastern College||Blytheville, Arkansas|
|4||Fort Hays State University||Hays, Kansas|
|5||United Tribes Technical College||Bismarck, North Dakota|
Ability to Help the Community
There are few careers in which you can directly impact your community, but a job in the criminal justice field allows you to do just that. Not only can you protect the citizens of your community, but you can also solve important cases, enforce the law, and execute justice.
Increased Job Opportunities
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts a 7% increase in law enforcement positions between 2020-2030, with an estimated growth of 51,700 jobs. In addition, private detective and investigator jobs are predicted to grow by 13% (which is faster than average), with an estimated increase of 4,400 jobs. And if you’re interested in becoming a Forensic Science Technician, the Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates a growth of 16% or 2,700 new jobs. So, obtaining a degree in Criminal Justice is a solid choice with the predicted job growth in the industry.
Healthcare and Retirement Options
One of the many things to consider when you begin your career is whether the company provides healthcare and retirement benefits. Many jobs in the criminal justice sector offer benefits such as vacation time, healthcare, and retirement options. Whether you’re working for the government or a private company, having access to these benefits is immeasurable.
Range of Job Possibilities
Degrees from the best criminal justice colleges allow graduates to enter well-paying, in-demand jobs in various professional settings, from law enforcement to social work. While a college degree is not required for every position in the criminal justice field, a degree will allow you to earn more pay and better benefits.
Best 44 Criminal Justice Schools
Pennsylvania State University (PSU)
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.
Arizona State University (ASU)
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.
Arkansas Northeastern College
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.
Fort Hays State University
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.
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.
Angelo State University
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.
University of Central Florida (UCF)
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.
Missouri State University
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.
Indiana State University
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.
Florida International University (FIU)
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.
University of Massachusetts (UMass)
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.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK)
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.
Concordia University – Saint Paul
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.
University of Oklahoma (UO)
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.
University of Colorado (CU)
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.
University of Wisconsin (UW)
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.
Florida State University (FSU)
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.
University of Memphis (UofM)
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.
University of Maryland University College (UMUC)
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.
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.
Western Kentucky University
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.
University of Central Missouri
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.
Portland State University (PSU)
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.
Washington State University (WSU)
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.
Slippery Rock University
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!
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.
William Peace University
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.
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.
University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF)
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.
Tarleton State University
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.
University of Florida (UF)
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.
Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO)
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.
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.
California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB)
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.
University of Missouri at St Louis (UMSL)
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.
University of Cincinnati (UC)
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.
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.
University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM)
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.
University of North Carolina Pembroke (UNCP)
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.
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.
Central Washington University
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.
Bethune – Cookman University
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.
Pittsburg State University
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.
Northern Kentucky University
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.
What Can You Do with a Criminal Justice Degree?
Some students earn a Criminal Justice degree to further their current career in law enforcement. However, most students graduate without any previous industry experience and work in law enforcement, social work, or the court system.
Some popular jobs include:
- Police Officer, State Trooper, or Border Patrol Agent
- Probation Officer or Corrections Officer
- Deputy US Marshall
- Private Investigator
- Loss Prevention Manager
- Fraud Investigator
- Forensic Investigator or Crime Lab Analyst
- Paralegal or Court Professional
- Social Worker or Victim Advocate
The salary for jobs in this field range considerably, from Correctional Officers making an average of $23.00 an hour to Police Detectives making an average of $31.00 an hour. The average salary for police officers, forensic science technicians, and probation officers falls in the middle.
Many factors determine salary in this field, including previous work experience, your state, whether you work for the government or a private institution, and even incentive pay (if applicable).
Pursuing a master’s degree in Criminal Justice can open doors to career advancement, more employment opportunities, and a higher salary in the industry.
In addition to leadership roles within law enforcement, a master’s degree can also open doors to some of the following positions:
- CIA Agent or Analyst
- DEA Agent
- Criminal Profiler or Criminologist
- IRS Special Agent
- Forensic Examiner
- Information Security Officer
- Emergency Management Director
- Federal Protective Service Officer
A Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice can increase your salary considerably. For example, the median hourly wage for detectives and criminal investigators is $43.45, while Information Security Officers have an average hourly salary of $49.33 per hour.
What is the Cost of a Criminal Justice College Degree?
Tuition for a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice begins at around $6,000 per year, but you also need to factor in technology fees, textbooks, and various campus fees like parking. Also, if you’re attending in person, you’ll need to factor in room and board, whether you live on campus or in an apartment.
Tuition for a master’s degree also begins at around $6,000 per year, but the duration of a master’s degree is much shorter, making the total cost of the degree much cheaper than an undergraduate degree.
Whether you’re seeking an undergraduate or master’s program, scholarships are plentiful. They’re a good way to help offset the cost of tuition. While many scholarships are offered by universities and colleges, you can also search for scholarships online and through any local community groups that you may be a part of. In addition to scholarships, there are often financial aid options including grants, federal loans, and private loans.