Inside Look at Online Criminal Justice Degrees

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Considering a criminal justice education with an online degree program? Learn what you need to know about program options, school accreditation, degree paths, career advancement, and take the next steps to a successful criminal justice career.

Last Updated: 05/11/2022

2022’s Best Online Schools for Criminal Justice

With more and more schools offering online criminal justice degrees, it can be challenging to know which ones are worth your time and money. To help, we researched and analyzed thousands of colleges to determine the best schools to earn your criminal justice degree online. Only regionally accredited programs were eligible. Schools offering multiple online criminal justice programs at an affordable price earned the highest marks. Browse the rankings below to learn more about each school and find the online criminal justice degree that best meets your needs.

About the ranking

Methodology for the STEPS Best Online Programs in 2022

Generate List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

Assign Impact of Data Points

After generating the list of eligible schools, the STEPS data team then assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability. Online program availability and overall affordability received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. When unable to verify this number, a star-based system was used to signify the number of programs relative to peers.

Affordability

  • Cost:
    Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid:
    Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

All STEPS rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

1
University of New Haven

West Haven, Connecticut

Total online programs: 8

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 18:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 98%
Online Students 1,820
2
Miami Dade College

Miami, Florida

Total online programs: 5

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 26%
Online Students 23,927
3
Eastern Kentucky University

Richmond, Kentucky

Total online programs: 6

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 15:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 77%
Online Students 4,199

Total online programs: 6

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 71%
Online Students 1,682

Total online programs: 5

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 78%
Online Students 9,184
6
New England College

Henniker, New Hampshire

Total online programs: 5

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 13:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 95%
Online Students 965

Total online programs: 6

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 4%
Online Students 119

Total online programs: 4

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 56%
Online Students 17,053
9
Saint Leo University

Saint Leo, Florida

Total online programs: 5

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 100%
Online Students 2,416
10
St Petersburg College

Clearwater, Florida

Total online programs: 5

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 23:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 21%
Online Students 4,056
11
Indian River State College

Fort Pierce, Florida

Total online programs: 5

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 25:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 10%
Online Students 3,688
12
College of Southern Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Total online programs: 4

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 21:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 15%
Online Students 12,215
13

Total online programs: 4

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 52%
Online Students 1,840
14
Georgia Southern University

Statesboro, Georgia

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 22:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 22%
Online Students 16,693
15
Florida Atlantic University

Boca Raton, Florida

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 22:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 58%
Online Students 8,809
16

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 21:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 73%
Online Students 7,897
17

Total online programs: 4

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 23:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 13%
Online Students 2,041
18
Arkansas Tech University

Russellville, Arkansas

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 75%
Online Students 3,977
19
Southeast Missouri State University

Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 86%
Online Students 3,908

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 20:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 86%
Online Students 13,365
21
Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw, Georgia

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 22:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 7%
Online Students 22,893

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 77%
Online Students 14,291
23
Utah State University

Logan, Utah

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 73%
Online Students 14,545
24
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Fairbanks, Alaska

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 11:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 50%
Online Students 1,597
25

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 100%
Online Students 903
26
Polk State College

Winter Haven, Florida

Total online programs: 4

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 25:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 5%
Online Students 1,327
27
The University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 20:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 65%
Online Students 24,765
28
Washburn University

Topeka, Kansas

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 15:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 69%
Online Students 1,855
29
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

Shippensburg, Pennsylvania

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 18:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 71%
Online Students 4,377
30
Ball State University

Muncie, Indiana

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 59%
Online Students 12,174
31
Boise State University

Boise, Idaho

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 18:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 52%
Online Students 11,071
32
Central Washington University

Ellensburg, Washington

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 20:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 65%
Online Students 3,494
33
Sam Houston State University

Huntsville, Texas

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 21:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 11%
Online Students 8,242
34
California University of Pennsylvania

California, Pennsylvania

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 82%
Online Students 1,960
35
Colorado Mesa University

Grand Junction, Colorado

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 47%
Online Students 4,805
36
Webster University

Saint Louis, Missouri

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 12:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 96%
Online Students 1,026

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 86%
Online Students 1,568
38
Northern Michigan University

Marquette, Michigan

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 20:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 72%
Online Students 4,156
39

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 82%
Online Students 12,496
40

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 66%
Online Students 830
41
Indiana Institute of Technology

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 12:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 99%
Online Students 168

Explore Top Criminal Justice Degree Programs in Popular States

Can You Get a Criminal Justice Degree Online?

Absolutely. Online criminal justice degree programs are extremely popular and are offered by a large number of both public and private colleges and universities throughout the U.S. Additionally, online programs are available for all degree levels with a variety of specialties to choose from. Below is a breakdown of the various online criminal justice degree options out there, what they’re comprised of, who they’re best for, how long they’ll take to complete, and more.

Online Certificates in Criminal Justice

Criminal justice online schools offer certificate programs on both the undergraduate and graduate levels and serve different purposes for the students they cater to. There are two basic types of undergraduate criminal justice certificate programs. General studies certificates provide students with an introduction to the world of criminal justice and a foundational understanding of the criminal justice system’s three major branches: law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. Vocational subject certificates also provide introductory coursework, but focus on specific areas in the field, such as policing, corrections, or private security. Undergraduate certificates typically require a year or less of study to complete. Sometimes the right certificate may be all that’s required for certain entry-level positions in criminal justice. It is also not uncommon for credits earned in a certificate program to be applied to a criminal justice associate or even a bachelor’s degree program.

Graduate criminal justice certificate programs are geared toward currently-employed professionals seeking to advance their knowledge and hone their skills in a particular area within the criminal justice field. Examples of certificate subjects include criminal justice and criminology, homeland security, cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity, and security management. Most graduate-level criminal justice certificates require applicants to possess a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a closely related field and can typically be completed in a year or less.

Online Associate Degrees in Criminal Justice

Much like undergraduate certificate programs, online criminal justice associate degree programs are designed to provide students with the foundational knowledge of the criminal justice system, but with a more in-depth. Topics covered include crime scene investigation, police studies, corrections, ethics, and constitutional law. Associate degree programs also include general education coursework in subjects such as math, science, history, sociology, and English composition. Programs are generally two years in length, but accelerated formats may be offered that can be completed in 18 months or less.

An associate degree in criminal justice helps prepare graduates for careers as investigators, and as police, probation and corrections officers. In most cases, credits earned may be applied to a criminal justice bachelor’s degree program.

Learn more about earning your associate degree in criminal justice online school.

Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

Students who hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice are more likely to land better jobs, enjoy higher pay, and have more access to career advancement opportunities. A bachelor’s curriculum includes both general education and major-specific coursework in subject areas such as criminology, corrections, governmental policy, and crime prevention. Additionally, many programs offer a choice of concentrations that allow students to tailor their studies to better meet their personal, professional goals.

Online criminal justice bachelor’s degree programs typically require four years of full-time study. Accelerated programs, however, can be completed in substantially less time – two years or less in some cases – depending on the number of previously-earned college credits transferred into the program.

Online Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

The criminal justice master’s degree program is designed for experienced professionals interested in developing the knowledge, skills, and credentials necessary for advanced positions within the criminal justice field. A masters-level education prepares students for mid- and top-level jobs in leadership, management, and administration. Concentrations in areas such as crime analysis, cybersecurity, forensic science, and strategic management are offered by some programs, while others programs allow for students to customize their coursework to focus on a specific specialized area of interest.

Online master’s degree in criminal justice programs are available for both full-time and part-time study. Full-time programs typically require two years to finish, but some can be completed in 18 months or less, depending on the availability of previously-earned transferable college credits.

Learn more about earning your master’s degree in criminal justice online.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Criminal Justice

Criminal justice doctoral degrees may be referred to by two titles: the Doctor of Criminal Justice (DCJ) and the PhD in Criminal Justice. Generally speaking, DCJ programs emphasize leadership and management skills to prepare students for top-tier administrative positions. PhD in Criminal Justice programs typically emphasize research, theory, and policy for students interested in careers in academic research, working on college campuses and in academic settings. However, not all online programs follow the same criteria, so it’s important to fully understand the focus of any program you’re considering, regardless of the degree title.

Online doctoral degree programs in criminal justice are intensive, highly competitive, and require applicants to hold a previously-earned master’s degree with a good grade point average. Students should expect to dedicate from three to five years to complete all coursework and dissertation requirements. A small number of online programs admit students with only a bachelor’s degree, but these programs typically take five to seven years for completion.

Learn more about earning your doctoral degree in criminal justice online.

Regardless of the degree level you’re pursuing, certain skills will go a long way while you’re enrolled as a student. Discover the most essential skills for criminal justice students and learn how each of them can benefit you in the field.

How Do Online Criminal Justice Programs Work?

Online degree programs offer a convenient, quality alternative to traditional on-campus programs. Successful online study, however, requires self-discipline and strong time-management skills. If you’re lacking either of these qualities, an on-campus program may likely be the better choice for you. The subject of criminal justice is a good fit for distance learning, with all degree levels available with 100% fully-online coursework. However, not all programs deliver all of their coursework online, so check course delivery methods carefully before enrolling. Also, some programs include in-person fieldwork components, which we will discuss below.

Here’s a closer look at the various course and program formats and delivery methods used by online criminal justice degree programs:

Course Format

Partially-Online

Partially-online degree programs are those that feature online coursework, but include some form of on-campus or other in-person participation. In-person components may include lectures, seminars, labs, exams, or orientation sessions. Individual courses may also be offered in a hybrid format that employs a combination of online and in-person components.

Fully-Online

“Fully-online” may refer to either the entire degree program, the individual courses, or both. Fully-online courses are those that can be completed without any required on-campus class attendance or other related in-person activities and offer 100% of the coursework online. It’s important to be sure you clearly understand how the term is being used by any program you’re considering.

Part-Time

Online criminal justice degree programs are more often than not presented in part-time study formats. The reason is that online students, particularly those in graduate programs, typically pursue their studies while working full-time jobs. Part-time programs allow students more time to complete their degree requirements when compared to their full-time counterparts.

Full-Time

Full-time online criminal justice degree programs are less common than part-time programs, but are may still be a popular option. Full-time programs offer the advantage of shorter completion times for undergrads interested in getting their careers going as quickly as possible. Full-time online criminal justice bachelor’s degree programs, for example, typically come with four- year curriculums for students entering with no prior college experience. Accelerated bachelor’s programs (requiring a substantial number of previously-earned college credits) may be completed in as little as two years or less.

Delivery Mode

Asynchronous

Asynchronous refers to online coursework that can be accessed by students at anytime. Students log in on their computers to view lectures and complete assigned readings and other tasks at times of their own choosing. And, in most cases, work can be done at the individual’s preferred pace. Students enrolled in asynchronous programs will still be required to meet some spefific deadlines to be eligble for graduation.

Synchronous

Synchronous refers to coursework that is accessed online, but is presented on a specific date and at a specific time. Synchronous coursework typically takes the form of streaming class lectures or other real-time presentations. Synchronous classes are commonly presented during the day, which means that they’re more likely to be part of a full-time degree program. However, some synchronous activities may be scheduled in the evenings or on the weekends for part-time programs.

Benefits of Online Programs

Not all criminal justice degrees are alike, and there are a few important differences between online and on-campus programs to keep in mind. For example, some online programs offer fewer concentrations or specializations when compared to their on-campus counterparts. On the other hand, distance learning allows students access to a range of schools and programs, allowing them to find the ones that offer the specific concentration or specialization they’re looking for. Nevertheless, most students find that the benefits available with online degree programs outweigh those of traditional programs. Here’s a look at some of the biggest benefits:

  • Tuition
    Public colleges and universities often charge higher (sometimes prohibitively higher) tuition rates to out-of-state students. However, many online criminal justice programs offer the same low rates to out-of-state residents enjoyed by in-state residents.
  • Accelerated degree programs
    Accelerated degree programs are those designed to be completed more quickly than standard programs. Accelerated criminal justice programs are sometimes offered on-campus, but are more commonly available online.
  • Study flexibility
    A big plus to most online programs (compared to on-campus) is that online students can access and complete their coursework at any time that’s convenient to them.
  • Time and money
    Online students save both the time and expense of traveling to and from classes on a physical campus.
  • Accessibility
    Some people simply don’t live near enough to a campus offering a criminal justice college degree program.

Does an Online Degree in Criminal Justice Include Fieldwork?

Depending on the specific program, an in-person internship, field practicum, or a field experience component may be a requirement or option, but not necessarily. In most cases, online criminal justice undergraduate (both associate and bachelor’s) and master’s programs offer fieldwork as an option and participation are strongly encouraged. And while in-person residencies are a common requirement of online doctoral programs in criminal justice, field experience is not.

How Much Does an Online Criminal Justice Degree Cost?

The cost of your online criminal justice degree will depend on the specific program and several factors (in-state vs. out-of-state student residency, public vs. private school, etc.) This chart provides examples of per-credit tuition costs (as of the summer of 2019) for five online criminal justice bachelor’s programs to give you an idea of what you might spend. Visit our pages for online associate, master’s, and doctoral criminal justice degrees for information on costs for those programs. And view our list of most affordable online criminal justice degrees to find the lowest-cost options that still deliver on quality.

School NameNo. of Credits*Cost/Credit**Total Cost**
Bellevue University127$425$53,975
Liberty University120$390 full-time (12 credits or more per semester);
$455 part-time (less than 12 credits per semester)
$46,000 full-time;
$54,600 part-time
North Carolina Central University120$144.29 in-state; $573.58 out-of-State$17,314.80 in-state; $68,829.60 out-of-state
Southern New Hampshire University120$225.00$27,000
University of Arkansas at Little Rock120$280$33,600

Discover more ways to learn about paying for college by reading our guides on financial aid and scholarships.

Career Outlook for a Criminal Justice Graduate

In broad terms, criminal justice degrees are meant for individuals interested in careers in a wide range of criminal justice fields, including:

Law enforcement

Police Officers, Seriff’s Deputies, Bailiffs, etc.

Corrections

corrections officers, parole officers, etc.

Private security and investigation
Court staff

clerks, records personnel

Homeland security

FBI agents, etc.

Social services

social workers, juvenile justice officers, drug and alcohol counselors

Career outlook varies substantially by specific occupation. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Career Outlook Handbook, the 2016-2026 job growth estimate for police and detectives is 7%, while the job growth estimate for correctional officers and jailers is -7%.

To learn more, visit our what can you do with a criminal justice degree page.