Most Affordable Online Criminal Justice Degrees

Explore online criminal justice degrees from top colleges that have the flexibility and affordability you’re looking for.

Last Updated: 12/03/2021

Whether it’s protecting your community as a police officer, ensuring courtroom functions run smoothly as a court administrator, or entering one of dozens of other occupations, working as part of the criminal justice system can be incredibly rewarding. Many jobs in this field benefit from or require a college education, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is a smart option to give you the specialized training and knowledge needed.

Given how popular these degrees are along with the need many people have for flexible learning, many schools are offering them partially or even fully online. To help you find a quality program that won’t break the bank, we’ve put together the following list of accredited schools with the most affordable online criminal justice degree programs. You’ll also find helpful tips for lowering the cost of your criminal justice degree and get a better understanding of what affects the overall cost of your degree.

Top 50 Most Affordable Online Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degrees in 2021


There are many factors you should consider when picking a criminal justice bachelor’s program with cost likely being the most important (and often the deciding) factor. The following rankings of the most affordable accredited criminal justice degree programs can help you choose an affordable school without sacrificing things like flexibility, student support, and quality content. In creating our rankings list, we examined data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Click the “About the ranking” button below to learn more about how we ranked our online criminal justice bachelor’s degree programs.

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About the ranking

Methodology for STEPS Most Affordable College Rankings

Step #1: Create Universe of Eligible Colleges

To be eligible for this ranking, colleges 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.
  • Program(s) in subject area offered at least partially online.

Step #2: Assign Weightings and Rank Colleges Based on Scores in Key Areas

After creating the list of eligible colleges, STEPS’ data science team assigned weightings and ranked colleges based on a combination of affordability, online learning availability, and student support performance metrics. Affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

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.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

Student Support Services

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

About Our College Rankings Data

Each ranking on STEPS utilizes the latest data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which colleges and universities across the country self-report via surveys from the U.S. Department of Education.

Accreditation Glossary

ABHE: Association for Biblical Higher Education, Commission on Accreditation

ATS: Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools

DEAC: Distance Education Accrediting Commission

HLC: Higher Learning Commission

MSCHE: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

NECHE: New England Commission of Higher Education

NWCCU: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

SACSCOC: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

TRACS: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission

WSCUC: WASC Senior College and University Commission

1
Type: Public
Cost: $$

Fort Hays State University’s online undergraduate programs in criminal justice offer terrific learning flexibility. The degree is fully online, so you can complete all course requirements through distance learning. You can also choose between a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree. Both paths require students to earn the same 24 core credits and 21 elective credits in criminal justice in addition to their general education credits. The primary difference is that the Bachelor of Arts degree requires you to complete 10 fewer elective credits which are replaced by 10 foreign language credits. Even though the curriculum is fully online, you can maximize your learning with hands-on experience that includes a criminal justice internship at one of several local law enforcement and correctional facilities.

Program Highlights:

BA/BS in Criminal Justice

  • Credits: 120
  • Length: 8 semesters
  • Cost: $226.88/credit
  • Format: Fully online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
77%
AccreditationHLC
2
Type: Public
Cost: $$

The criminal justice bachelor’s program at Fayetteville State University takes a hybrid approach by combining the traditional on-campus degree path with an online criminal justice degree completion option. To take advantage of this, students complete 38 credits in general education core classes along with four, 200-level criminal justice courses on campus. Students can then complete the remaining credits for graduation either in-person or online. Generous transfer policies allow students to use as many as 90 credits from other academic institutions. Regardless of the path, this Bachelor of Science degree consists of 82 credits of criminal justice classes. Fayetteville’s criminal justice program is the first in the state of North Carolina to be certified by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

Program Highlights:

BS in Criminal Justice

  • Credits: 120
  • Length: 8 semesters
  • Cost: $124.25/credit (in-state); $607.92 (out-of-state)
  • Format: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
93%
AccreditationSACSCOC
3
Type: Public
Cost: $

Florida Atlantic University’s Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice online program provides a well-rounded education with a curriculum consisting of a minimum of 120 credits. Of those, 27 to 42 credits are in criminal justice and related topics with the remaining curriculum requirements consisting of liberal arts general education classes. With 15 elective credits available, there is tremendous flexibility to focus on a particular concentration or specialization within the criminal justice field. Alternatively, students can branch out and take non-major classes to earn a more well-rounded and diverse education. Students can complete their degrees 100% online with online support and career services readily available. For those interested in a master’s degree in criminal justice, Florida Atlantic University has a special combined degree program that permits them to take up to 12 graduate credits during the final year of their bachelor’s degrees.

Program Highlights:

BA in Criminal Justice

  • Credits: 120
  • Length: 8 semesters
  • Cost: $105.07/credit (in-state); $598.93 (out-of-state)
  • Format: Fully online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
59%
AccreditationSACSCOC
4
Type: Public
Cost: $$

The online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin stands out through its multi-disciplinary approach to the criminal justice curriculum. In addition to general education courses, students also take classes from other departments that work closely with the criminal justice system. The program also gives students the flexibility to continue working full-time or live far away from campus if needed. The degree is 100% online with classes lasting 7 or 10 weeks. The BS degree path consists of 120 credits, but students can also earn an online minor in criminal justice by completing 18 additional credits of criminal justice coursework. Transfer students are also welcome with incoming students needing at least 24 credits from an accredited post-secondary institution.

Program Highlights:

BS in Criminal Justice

  • Credits: 120
  • Length: 8 semesters
  • Cost: $327.34/credit
  • Format: Fully online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
81%
AccreditationSACSCOC
5
Type: Public
Cost: $$

Students wishing to tailor their coursework to get a customized criminal justice degree should consider Florida International University’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. The 120-credit degree consists of three groups of courses beginning with 24 credits of general electives followed by core criminal justice classes (18 credits) and upper-level criminal justice classes (18 credits). The upper-level classes are unique because, as electives, they allow students to create their own areas of specialization.

Students can start classes in either the fall, spring, or summer sessions. All online students are paired with a success coach to help them during each step of their program.

Program Highlights:

BS in Criminal Justice

  • Credits: 120
  • Length: 8 semesters
  • Cost: $228.81/credit (in-state); $345.87/credit (out-of-state)
  • Format: Fully online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
76%
AccreditationSACSCOC
6
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
72%
AccreditationSACSCOC
7
Elizabeth City State University Elizabeth City, NC
Type: Public
Cost: $
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
72%
AccreditationSACSCOC
8
Columbia Southern University Orange Beach, AL
Type: Private, For-Profit
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
68%
AccreditationDEAC
9
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
83%
AccreditationSACSCOC
10
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
66%
AccreditationHLC
11
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
39%
AccreditationNWCCU
12
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
78%
AccreditationHLC
13
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
73%
AccreditationHLC
14
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
73%
AccreditationHLC
15
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
65%
AccreditationHLC
16
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
69%
AccreditationHLC
17
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
55%
AccreditationHLC
18
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
47%
AccreditationHLC
19
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
58%
AccreditationWSCUC
20
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
68%
AccreditationSACSCOC
21
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
41%
AccreditationSACSCOC
22
Type: Private, For-Profit
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
52%
AccreditationDEAC
23
Bellevue University Bellevue, NE
Type: Private, Not-for-Profit
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
78%
AccreditationHLC
24
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
64%
AccreditationSACSCOC
25
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
51%
AccreditationHLC
26
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
70%
AccreditationHLC
27
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
64%
AccreditationHLC
28
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
58%
AccreditationHLC
29
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
45%
AccreditationHLC
30
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
49%
AccreditationWSCUC
31
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
45%
AccreditationNWCCU
32
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
69%
AccreditationHLC
33
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
32%
AccreditationSACSCOC
34
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
64%
AccreditationNWCCU
35
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
39%
AccreditationSACSCOC
36
Indian River State College Fort Pierce, FL
Type: Public
Cost: $
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
13%
AccreditationSACSCOC
37
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
54%
AccreditationHLC
38
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
25%
AccreditationSACSCOC
39
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
90%
AccreditationMSCHE
40
Polk State College Winter Haven, FL
Type: Public
Cost: $
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
7%
AccreditationSACSCOC
41
Tarleton State University Stephenville, TX
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
53%
AccreditationSACSCOC
42
Cameron University Lawton, OK
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
40%
AccreditationHLC
43
Type: Public
Cost: $
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
5%
AccreditationSACSCOC
44
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
73%
AccreditationSACSCOC
45
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
65%
AccreditationSACSCOC
46
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
86%
AccreditationHLC
47
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
77%
AccreditationMSCHE
48
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
94%
AccreditationSACSCOC
49
Washburn University Topeka, KS
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
62%
AccreditationHLC
50
Type: Public
Cost: $$
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
64%
AccreditationHLC

Funding Your Online Criminal Justice Degree: 5 Ways to Save

Tuition for a bachelor’s in criminal justice can be expensive. Fortunately, there are many ways to make earning a degree more affordable. We discuss a few of those ways below and encourage you to utilize as many as possible to make getting your degree easier and less of a drain on your bank account.

1

Apply to scholarships, grants, and fellowships created for criminal justice students.

These forms of financial aid are ideal because they don’t need to be paid back, but this also makes them quite competitive. Increase your chances of getting an award by focusing on those that require applicants to be enrolled in a criminal justice program. For example, My Alarm Center offers a $1,000 scholarship to students studying criminal justice or a related field. To learn more about these and other types of financial aid, visit STEPS’ financial aid guide for public service degrees and scholarships and resources guide for criminal justice students.

2

Loan Forgiveness

Many jobs for criminal justice graduates are in the public sector – including work for federal, state, and local governments – and some positions qualify as public interest jobs. The Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program allows eligible students in certain types of nonprofit occupations to make 120 qualified monthly payments on their student loans and have the remaining loan balance forgiven.

3

Employer Tuition Reimbursement Program

Many employers understand the value of their employees going back to school, and some have benefits that include reimbursing employees for money spent taking graduate or undergraduate classes. Employers have their own rules on implementation, though. For Delaware law enforcement officers, for example, the Delaware Criminal Justice Council reimburses eligible employees for 100% of their higher education tuition costs. The primary conditions are that the employee is continuously employed during schooling and receives a grade of a “C” or better.

4

Crowdfunding

One inventive way to raise money is through crowdfunding. While reasons for crowdfunding range from paying for a vacation to funding a life-saving medical procedure, some people use it to help pay for school. This is especially effective if you have a compelling reason for earning a particular degree and/or for not having the financial means to pay for it. GoFundMe is a popular place to raise crowdfunding capital.

5

Work-Study

Work-study is a type of gift-based financial aid, but students must work to earn the money. Work-study awards are based on financial need and offer part-time work to students attending schools participating in the Federal Work-Study program. The types of jobs vary widely, but schools are strongly encouraged to offer employment related to a student’s chosen course of study and/or that provides a civic education.

What Impacts the Affordability of an Online Criminal Justice Degree?

Tuition and financial aid awards have some of the biggest effects on a program’s affordability, so fully investigating both of those is essential when choosing a school. There are, however, several other factors to consider that can also have a drastic effect on your total cost of attendance.

Transfer Policy

The more transfer credits a school accepts, the fewer classes students with previous college coursework may need to take to earn their degrees. Schools differ in how many transfer credits they accept, though, so investigate each school’s policy carefully. Having more accepted transfer credits will not only help you save money by taking fewer classes, but it can also reduce the time it takes you to graduate. Earlier graduation means more time in the workforce making money.

Public Versus Private

In general, public schools have lower tuition rates than private schools since public institutions receive at least some of their funding from taxpayer dollars. However, taking full advantage of these lower rates may mean attending a public school where you have in-state residency status.

In-Person Requirements

Many online criminal justice programs are fully online, but some offer their curriculums in hybrid formats and require students to attend at least some classes on campus. Depending on where you live, the time and cost to travel to campus a few times a semester could dramatically increase the cost of your education.

Residency Status

For students attending a public college or university, it’s best to have in-state residency status since in-state students usually receive lower tuition rates than out-of-state students. Keep in mind, though, that some online programs charge resident and non-resident students the same tuition rate. So, depending on the program, residency status may not make a difference.

Career Services

You’re getting a criminal justice degree to have your job of choice, preferably a higher-paying position. In some cases, career services can make a big difference in achieving this goal. If the career services office at your college has graduates, faculty, and other networking connections with certain law enforcement agencies, the court system, or other legal employers, landing your dream job might be much easier.