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Best Criminal Justice Schools in North Carolina: Online & Campus

Online or in person? Undergraduate or graduate? Degree or certificate? When you study criminal justice in North Carolina, the choices are up to you. Learn about the top criminal justice programs in North Carolina today and pick the one that best aligns with your needs and goals.

Author: Quinn Dannies
Editor: STEPS Staff

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North Carolina is an appealing place to work in law enforcement, advocacy, and corrections because of its commitment to criminal justice education and training standards. As you earn an in-person or online degree from one of the criminal justice schools in North Carolina, you’ll learn about the intricacies of the legal system, including the roles of law enforcement, courts, and corrections. Additionally, you’ll delve into criminology theories that help analyze the causes and patterns of criminal behavior, contributing to a deeper understanding of societal dynamics.

No matter what your goals or interests are, there’s a criminal justice school that is right for you in North Carolina. Start learning about some of the top online and in-person programs now, get answers to frequently asked questions, and explore programs for every degree level.

2024 Rankings: Best North Carolina Colleges for Criminal Justice

You’re here because you want to find the best program to meet your goals. These schools are a great place to start your search. We’ve done the research and identified three of the top criminal justice colleges in New York. To make our picks, we’ve considered the school’s academic excellence, program availability, student support, and affordability. That said, this list is just the start. Stay tuned for our full college ranking lists, coming soon.

Campbell University

Campbell University’s criminal justice program stands out for its flexibility and range of options. The school offers associate and bachelor’s degrees with multiple opportunities for specialization. Because of this, students can apply their learning to a range of careers in social work, the legal system, and law enforcement. Campbell operates campuses near Camp LeJune and Fort Liberty and has many online options. This makes it a great choice for service members and their families who want to learn in person but need flexibility to balance their responsibilities.

Military families and civilians alike benefit from Campbell’s accelerated eight-week course structure. This format promotes deep learning since students aren’t juggling as many classes at once. Plus, it allows students to customize their course load and take short breaks without derailing their studies. Although you’ll spend less time in each class, small class sizes and plenty of virtual networking opportunities mean you’ll have no problem developing solid relationships with your peers, professors, and industry professionals.

Program Highlights:

Criminal Justice BA/BAS

  • Credits: 124
  • Length: 4 years
  • Cost: $450 per credit in-state | $450 per credit out-of-state
  • Delivery: On-Campus; Online; Full-Time; Part-Time
  • Specializations: General; Pre-Law; Social Science

Fayetteville State University

The criminal justice program at Fayetteville State University is one of the school’s most prominent and best-resourced departments. The school is home to over 350 distinct majors related to the policies and practices of criminal justice. This means that you’ll be able to find a degree track that perfectly fits your goals and interests. Fayetteville offers all the programming you’d expect to prepare students for law enforcement and corrections jobs, but they also go above and beyond by providing training in emerging practices like mediation and justice in policing. Regardless of your specialty, Campbell goes above and beyond by partnering with local organizations to offer hands-on learning experiences in real-world settings.

As with all top criminal justice schools in North Carolina, Fayetteville is committed to flexibility and student support. You’ll have the option to study entirely online, in person, or mix and match according to your needs. Small class sizes ensure you’ll receive personalized support from your professors and develop close connections with your peers. You’ll also have access to student services, including tutoring, career counseling, and advising.

Program Highlights:

Criminal Justice BS

  • Credits: 120
  • Length: 4 years
  • Cost: $42 per credit in-state | $208 per credit out-of-state
  • Delivery: On-Campus; Online; Hybrid; Full-Time; Part-Time
  • Specializations: See Site

Rockingham Community College

If you’re short on time and ready to enter the criminal justice field, the associate in criminal justice technology at Rockingham Community College might be just the ticket. Like most associate degrees, the Rockingham program takes about two years, but the school offers condensed eight-week semesters. This means you’ll complete your work for the year over about four months rather than the standard eight. This can be an ideal option for students balancing multiple roles and responsibilities. Plus, since you’ll have more time off during the year, you’ll have the time to reset and recharge between terms.

Current law enforcement officers will be delighted to hear that their mandatory basic law enforcement Training counts for 16 credits toward their AAS in criminal justice. This means you can earn your diploma an entire semester earlier or lighten your courseload each term.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 64
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $76 per credit in-state | $268 per credit out-of-state
  • Delivery: On-Campus; Online; Full-Time; Part-Time
  • Specializations: None

Top-Rated Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs in North Carolina

Hybrid and online criminal justice degrees in North Carolina are the latest twist on education. Imagine attending classes from your couch or a coffee shop. Criminal justice schools in North Carolina make it possible. These programs can be a lifesaver for full-time workers, people managing family obligations, or folks who don’t have access to a nearby campus. The best part is that you’ll earn the same degree as students who attend on-campus programs without breaking the bank.

If you have more questions about online programs, we’ve got you covered. Check out our guide to online criminal justice degrees to learn more about what to expect and explore programs in other states.

Lees-McRae College

Why do we love Lees-McRae College? First, there are the small class sizes. Typically, the school maintains a 1-to-9 teacher-student ratio. You can count on getting as much one-on-one attention as your heart desires. Next, there’s the speedy pace of the program. Because it’s broken up into eight-week terms, you can earn your degree in half the time. The program’s structure mandates completing 30 hours of coursework spread across 10 courses. These classes will take you on a deep dive into criminal justice research and statistics, equipping you with insights into essential administrative aspects like budgeting and organizational management. And what about tuition rates? They’re on par with other schools in the state.

Lees-McRae has incredible student support to help you excel in your studies, the online programs are flexible to meet the needs of all types of students, and you’ll be in and out in no time. What more could you ask for?

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: 1 year
  • Cost: $500 per credit in-state | $500 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Fully Online / Full-Time
  • Specializations: None

University of North Carolina Wilmington

The University of North Carolina Wilmington stands out for the number of specializations available to its students. Undergraduates can select from criminology, criminal justice, and public criminology concentrations based on their goals and interests. Because students have the chance to specialize early, it’s no surprise how successful Wilmington’s graduates are. In fact, 95% of graduates were employed or enrolled in an advanced degree program within six months of receiving their diploma.

Students can study fully online, in person, or a mix of both. Through the school’s practicum course, you can earn credit while completing an internship with community partners across the state. So, what’s the catch? We couldn’t find one. The school offers an excellent program with affordable tuition and plenty of student support.

Program Highlights:

Criminology BA

  • Credits: 120
  • Length: 4 years
  • Cost: $185 per credit in-state | $838 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Fully Online / In Person / Part-Time / Full-Time
  • Specializations: Criminology; Criminal Justice; Public Criminology

Eastern Carolina University

If you’re looking to spruce up your credentials or earn an advanced degree, may we suggest attending Eastern Carolina University? The school offers an excellent online BS in criminal justice and professional certificates in teaching criminal justice, public management, and security studies. We’re particularly impressed by the range of expertise Eastern Carolina’s faculty brings to the table. The school’s professors have career experience alongside formidable research backgrounds.

You’ll have the chance to participate in learning and leadership opportunities outside the classroom, including student organizations, field experience, study abroad, career fairs, research programs, and the National Criminal Justice Honor Society.

If you’re not ready to pursue a master’s in criminal justice, Eastern Carolina’s undergraduate programs in criminal justice could be a good place to start. While they require some on-campus time, the school offers plenty of online classes to keep your classroom visits to a minimum.

Program Highlights:

Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $290 per credit in-state | $1,020 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Fully Online/ Part-Time / Full-Time
  • Specializations: None

Types of Criminal Justice Degrees You Can Earn in NC

Criminal justice students in North Carolina come from many backgrounds and experience levels. Fortunately, criminal justice schools in North Carolina have an equally huge range of programs to meet the needs of all kinds of students. If you’re just starting your career, earning an associate degree is a fast and affordable way to learn the ropes. Career professionals or continuing students might consider earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree or professional certificate to expand their knowledge and increase their credentials. Below, we’ll take a closer look at criminal justice schools in North Carolina at every level and the schools that offer them.

Associate Degrees

An associate degree in criminal justice is a great entry point for students in the early stages of their career or educational journeys. Typically, it only takes two years to complete these degrees, and your classes can be much more affordable than those offered by four-year colleges. Earning an associate in criminal justice opens the doors to entry-level careers like crime scene tech, corrections officer, or police officer. You can also apply the coursework you do for this degree toward a BS or BA later on.

Examples of Accredited North Carolina Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

Wayne Community CollegeGoldsboroOnline; On-CampusSACSCOC
Surry Community CollegeDobsonOnline; On-CampusSACSCOC
Richmond Community CollegeHamlet, LaurinburgOnline; On-CampusSACSCOC
Durham TechDurhamOn-Campus; HybridSACSCOC
Brunswick Community CollegeBolivia, Southport, Leland, SupplyOnline; On-CampusSACSCOC

Bachelor’s Degrees

Typically, it takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. The length of the program gives you time to develop your skills and explore a broad range of topics related to your field of study. When you graduate, the extra time you spend in school can let you skip over some entry-level positions and move into better-paying roles in the police force, corrections, or public policy.

Examples of Accredited North Carolina Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

Gardner-Webb UniversityBoiling SpringsOnlineSACSCOC
William Pace UniversityRaleighOnline; On-Campus; HybridSACSCOC
UNC PembrokePembrokeOnline, On-CampusSACSCOC
North Carolina A&T State UniversityGreensboroOnline; On-CampusSACSCOC
Montreat CollegeMontreatOnlineSACSCOC

Master’s Degrees

Earning a master’s degree allows you to examine critical components of the criminal justice system deeply. You’ll have more freedom to follow your interests and develop specialized skills. On the job market, your advanced degree qualifies you for higher profile positions in management and development of law enforcement organizations. With a master’s in criminal justice, you’ll be prepared to teach the topic at some colleges in the state.

Examples of Accredited North Carolina Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

North Carolina Wesleyan UniversityRocky MountOn-Campus; HybridSACSCOC
East Carolina UniversityGreenvilleOnlineSACSCOC
Lees McRae CollegeBanner ElkOnlineSACSCOC
NC Central UniversityDurhamOnline; On-CampusSACSCOC
UNC CharlotteCharlotteOn-CampusSACSCOC

Certificate Programs

If you don’t want to commit to earning another degree, a professional certificate can be a great option for expanding your skills and improving your credentials. These programs can typically be completed in less than a year and can help you qualify for promotions or better positions. Plus, if you decide to return to school down the road, you can likely apply these credits toward your new degree.

Examples of Accredited North Carolina Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

Fayetteville State UniversityFayettevilleOn-CampusSACSCOC
Meredith CollegeRaleighOn-CampusSACSCOC
East Carolina UniversityGreenvilleOn-CampusSACSCOC
University of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmingtonOnlineSACSCOC

Financial Aid Programs for Criminal Justice Students in NC

School can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. With a bit of planning and initiative, you can earn your degree for far less money than advertised on a school’s website. Here are just a few ways to go about lowering your tuition costs.

First, look into financial aid programs at your school. Most schools offer some financial support to students based on academic merit or financial need. Next, look into outside scholarships, grants, and other aid. For example, The North Carolina Department of Justice runs a student loan forgiveness program for criminal justice majors who go on to work for the state. Many of the organizations we link to at the end of this article run scholarship programs, too. You can also look for federal financial aid through the FAFSA program.

These strategies are just a starting point. If you want to get serious about lowering your tuition, you’ll want to visit our criminal justice scholarships and resources page for more tips on how to find funding.

Salaries and Job Demand for Criminal Justice Grads in North Carolina

Before you start buying textbooks, consider the job outlook for criminal justice majors in North Carolina. Below, we’ll look at some typical jobs for people with criminal justice degrees to help you evaluate if your time spent in school will pay off.

While the need for criminal justice grads in North Carolina isn’t skyrocketing, there will still be plenty of chances to put your degree to use. You’ll see in the table below that there are thousands of job openings for people with criminal justice backgrounds each year, with investigation, technician, and teaching offering some of the better growth areas. And, once you’re in the door, you can look forward to ample opportunities for career advancement and, in many cases, the support of a strong union.

Overall, working in law enforcement, corrections, or criminal justice education is a solid bet for North Carolina residents.

Job Growth Rate
Average Annual Openings
Annual Mean Wage
Police Officer3%1,920$65,790
Forensic Science Technician11%2,500$63,740
Criminal Investigator7%230$86,280
Criminal Justice Teachers8%160$60,260
Correctional Officer-6%1,340$38,710

Sources: Projections Central;Bureau of Labor Statistics

Resources for Criminal Justice Students and Professionals in North Carolina

Ready to widen your area of exploration and learn more? The resources below will give you more valuable insight into how to get your criminal justice degree and what you can expect after graduation.

  • North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections
    This state-run site consolidates all the information for correction facilities across North Carolina. Here, you can learn about state-sponsored resources for corrections officers, keep current on the latest research, and browse job opportunities state-wide.
  • North Carolina Jail Administrators’ Association
    The North Carolina Jail Administrators’ Association caters specifically to corrections officers at every level. This site is a great resource for industry-related news, networking, and scholarship opportunities.
  • North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police
    North Carolina police officers benefit from their local chapter of The Fraternal Order of Police. Nationally, The Fraternal Order of Police is the largest organization for police officers and supports its members through professional development, scholarships, and legal funds.
  • North Carolina Criminal Justice Association
    The North Carolina Criminal Justice Association links career professionals and academia. Their goal is to keep people in the field up to date with emerging research and current best practices. You can access their back catalog of journals, information about upcoming events, and scholarship information on their site.