The Master’s in Criminal Justice Online

Learn what an advanced degree in criminal justice is all about, see this year’s top-ranked programs, and get answers to commonly-asked questions.

Last Updated: 05/11/2022

Best Online Criminal Justice Master’s Programs of 2022

An online criminal justice master’s degree can provide the educational edge you need to move ahead in your career, whether you’re working in homeland security, law enforcement, or a related field. However, not every program is created equal. To help you find a program worthy of your time and money, we’ve created the following list of the best online criminal justice master’s degree programs from across the country. Schools were ranked on critical factors such as affordability, number of online programs, and strength of student support services. Learn more about this year’s top programs below and find the one that best meets your education and career goals.

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 289
2
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 404

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 29

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 3,385
5
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 130

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 3,312
7
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 1,062
8
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 561
9
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 324
10
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 204
11
Michigan State University

East Lansing, Michigan

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 51%
Online Students 3,201
12
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 398
13
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 178
14
Florida State University

Tallahassee, Florida

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 21:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 63%
Online Students 2,364
15
Lewis University

Romeoville, Illinois

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 481
16
Indiana University-Bloomington

Bloomington, Indiana

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 61%
Online Students 3,367
17

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 230
18
Anderson University

Anderson, South Carolina

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 100%
Online Students 23
19
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 21:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 47%
Online Students 334
20
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 150
21
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 49
22

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 22:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 67%
Online Students 3,588
23
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 24
24
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 194
25
Tiffin University

Tiffin, Ohio

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 15:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 99%
Online Students 46

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 1,410

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 68%
Online Students 2,743
28

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 1,152
29
Wilmington University

New Castle, Delaware

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 12:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 20%
Online Students 671
30
Fitchburg State University

Fitchburg, Massachusetts

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 56%
Online Students 160
31
University of Massachusetts-Lowell

Lowell, Massachusetts

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 77%
Online Students 206
32
Hilbert College

Hamburg, New York

Total online programs: 3

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 13:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 99%
Online Students 48

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 84%
Online Students 172
34
Georgia State University

Atlanta, Georgia

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 27:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 22%
Online Students 3,126
35
Delta State University

Cleveland, Mississippi

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 11:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 62%
Online Students 96
36
Saint Louis University

Saint Louis, Missouri

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 9:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 98%
Online Students 1,425
37
University of Central Missouri

Warrensburg, Missouri

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 15:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 73%
Online Students 333
38
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 687
39
Prairie View A & M University

Prairie View, Texas

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 42%
Online Students 209

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 21:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 61%
Online Students 714
41
Mercer University

Macon, Georgia

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 100%
Online Students 1,035
42
Liberty University

Lynchburg, Virginia

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 78%
Online Students 477
43
Albany State University

Albany, Georgia

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 16%
Online Students 43
44
University of North Georgia

Dahlonega, Georgia

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 10%
Online Students 119
45
Xavier University

Cincinnati, Ohio

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 11:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 100%
Online Students 241
46
Marshall University

Huntington, West Virginia

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 18:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 81%
Online Students 1,956
47
William Carey University

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 48%
Online Students 305
48
Troy University

Troy, Alabama

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 270
49
Indiana University-Kokomo

Kokomo, Indiana

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 38%
Online Students 54

Understanding a Master’s in Criminal Justice Online

Online master’s degrees in criminal justice provide an understanding of advanced theories and policy, legal and ethical accountability expected of professionals, and the strategic thinking needed to put these concepts into practice in the workplace. Since many of the areas covered in the curriculum can be taught online, some schools offer distance options that make it easier for students to juggle their education with personal and professional responsibilities. These programs may be offered fully online, but in other cases, hybrid programs are available that combine online components with on-campus requirements.

Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Options

Because many graduate students have busy lives and diverse needs, schools don’t offer one-size-fits-all educational options. In some cases, students decide to earn a master’s degree to enter a new field and should enter programs designed to familiarize them with the basics. In other cases, students may have many years of criminal justice work experience and they want to earn a master’s degree to help them advance in their careers. As a result, schools offer accelerated programs that cover a specialization without the extra coursework that addresses information they already know. Continue reading to find out more about these different degree options.

Typical MCJ Online

Typical online master’s degree programs in criminal justice are for those who have no previous experience in the field, as well as those who have already earned criminal justice degrees and are well into their careers. No matter what their background, students in these programs learn about advanced criminal justice and criminology theories, research methods and analysis, crime analysis, and leadership in criminal justice.

In order to accommodate online learners, criminal justice master’s degree programs may offer synchronous or asynchronous program options. In synchronous programs, students attend lectures during an appointed classroom time—often on the same schedule as classes taught on campus—but they may have some flexibility when it comes to completing tests and assignments. On the other hand, asynchronous programs are more flexible as students are allowed to watch lectures, as well as hand in assignments when it’s convenient for their schedules.

Accelerated MCJ Online

Accelerated master’s degree programs in criminal justice are created for those who have already dedicated their studies to the field and want to earn an advanced degree. As a result, schools offer these programs to people who are currently earning a bachelor’s in criminal justice so they can begin working toward their graduate degree while they’re in their senior year—which helps them complete their master’s degree faster than they usually would. When students are accepted into these accelerated programs, they can take a certain number of credits allowed by the department that will count toward both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

To be admitted into an accelerated master’s degree program, schools may require students to have at least a 3.0 grade point average and a high score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). School may also expect students to complete certain prerequisite courses for admission, such as research methods, crime theory and causes, and criminal justice policy. Depending on the school, students may be able to take classwork entirely online, or they may be required to do some of their coursework online and some of it on campus.

Online MCJ Programs with No GRE

Like the SAT, the GRE is designed to give schools information about students’ ability to handle the rigors of the programs they apply to. However, many schools do require that students take the GRE in order to gain admission into an MCJ program, some departments are waiving that requirement—especially for those who have already established themselves in the criminal justice profession. Although, this step alleviates the stress associated with preparing for a standardized test, criminal justice master’s degree programs with no GRE requirement are still just as rigorous and have high admissions standards.

MCJ Curriculum Breakdown

The exact curriculum that students will find in an online MCJ program depends on which school they attend. In some cases, students may get the opportunity to concentrate their studies on a specific area of the discipline, such as public administration, cybersecurity, behavior analysis, and corrections. The following are examples of the coursework that students in these programs may be required to complete.

Criminological Theory

This class provides a deep dive into the reasons why people commit crimes and the factors that contribute to criminal activities. Specific topics covered may include social deviance and contemporary issues in criminology.

Psychology and the Legal System

Students who are interested in how psychological research theories apply in a legal environment can take this class to learn the relationship between psychology and law enforcement, corrections, and the judiciary system. The course may discuss eyewitness testimony, jury selection, inmate counseling, and criminal profiling.

Restorative Justice

This class explores the theory and practice of restorative justice and how it affects offenders and crime victims, as well as the justice system and entire community. The course may provide an overview of how restorative justice is handled on a global level.

White Collar Crime

Students are taught the ways that white collar crime is detected, as well as the types of crimes other criminals commit. The class may cover how these crimes impact organizations and consumers.

Addiction

Those who are interested in the connection between addiction and crime can get an overview in this class. Students may learn about the physical and psychological effects of drug use, as well as treatment interventions.

The Judicial Process

This class provides an understanding of how the court system works through discussions of the ways the judiciary handles crimes from the first court appearance through the appeals process. Examples of controversial cases may be discussed to illustrate how the theories students learn work in the real world.

Organizational Behavior

Those who aspire to take leadership positions can learn the management skills they need in this class. Topics covered may include fiscal accountability, motivating employees, dealing with the hiring and onboarding process, and effective organizational communication strategies.

Fundamentals of Public Administration

Students will learn about the theories and principles associated with public administration in this class. The course may also cover the mechanics of public administration, including human resource management and budgeting.

How Does a Master’s in Criminal Justice Work Online?

Online criminal justice master’s degree programs generally require core classes that all students take in order to lay the foundation they need to move on to their specific concentration. These core classes may cover criminology, data analysis, criminal justice theory, crime intelligence analysis, and issues in criminal justice. In addition to the courses specifically related to their concentration, students may be required to choose a certain number of elective classes, such as juvenile justice and delinquency, mental health and the law, women and crime, and terrorism. In some cases, students may be required to complete a capstone course at the end of the program, where they incorporate all of the concepts they learned into a project.

NCJA & ACJS Accredited for Online MCJ Programs

To ensure that they’re receiving a quality education that will give them the skills that employers demand, students should only choose MCJ programs that have been accredited by the NCJA and ACJS. These accrediting agencies judge programs based on several factors, including curriculum, program goals, specializations offered, and faculty credentials.

Online Master’s in Criminal Justice: FAQs

As people explore which MCJ programs they’re interested in, they should keep in mind what will be expected of them so they can put their best foot forward. This section answers some important questions that hopeful students may have as they search for schools.

Will You Get Accepted into an MCJ Program?

The standards that prospective students are required to meet depend on the specific program that they are interested in. However, generally, people who apply to these programs are expected to:

  • Have at least a 3.0 grade point average
  • Submit a statement of purpose to describe their goals and how a master’s in criminal justice fits into them
  • Submit letters of recommendation
  • Submit a resume

What’s the Timeline for an MCJ Program Online?

Students can generally complete an MCJ program in about two years, but the exact time it takes to earn this degree depends on the requirements of a specific criminal justice department. The following is an example of what the timeline to complete this degree may look like.

Term Course Credits
1 Criminal Justice Theory 4
1 Ethics, Justice, and Social Control 4
2 Applied Research in Criminal Justice 4
3 Community Corrections 4
4 Capstone Course 4

Can You Afford an Online Masters in Criminal Justice?

Although factors like curriculum and accreditation are important when choosing an online criminal justice master’s program, affordability is also something that people weigh heavy when making their decision. To provide an idea of what students can expect to pay when they enroll in these programs, we put together the following sampling of the tuition costs at different schools.

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Total Cost
Southern New Hampshire University 36 $627 $22,572
Capella University 48 $540 $25,920
Purdue University 55 $420 $23,100
Walden University 48 $505 $24,240
Liberty University 36 $565 $20,340