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Best Criminal Justice Schools in Ohio: Online/Campus

Enrolling in one of the top criminal justice programs in Ohio can open up a world of career possibilities in law enforcement, legal administration, and many other fields. Explore below the wealth of online and campus-based criminal justice degree and certificate programs available in Ohio today.

Author: Shannon Lee
Editor: STEPS Staff

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If you’re looking for an entry-level position, earning an undergraduate degree at one of the criminal justice schools in Ohio will provide the necessary foundational knowledge to prepare you for your future career. Meanwhile, there are graduate degrees and certificate programs if you’re already working in law enforcement, the court systems, or corrections to help you take the next step in your career. These programs are often offered both on-campus and online to accommodate the hectic schedules of students, especially those who will continue working while in school.

This guide offers an in-depth look at the top-ranked criminal justice schools in Ohio and can help you find an online or on-campus program that’s right for you.

The Best Colleges in Ohio for Criminal Justice: 2024

There are so many criminal justice schools in Ohio that finding the right one can be challenging. Identifying the best school depends on several crucial factors unique to the individual student. However, there are still some characteristics, like affordability, learning options, accreditation, and education quality, that most students find essential. We’re spotlighting several Ohio criminal justice programs that stand out in terms of these and other key traits. A more complete rankings list will be released later, so check back soon.

Columbus State Community College

Columbus State Community College is a two-year college offering a wide selection of criminal justice program options. At the degree level, there’s an associate degree in criminal justice with three academic majors to choose from. Graduates with the law enforcement major will have earned their Ohio Peace Officer certification in addition to their college degree. Columbus State Community College also has general criminal justice and probation and supervision majors, the latter of which is best suited for students interested in corrections.

Because only some people need or want a college degree, two certificate programs are available. First, students can earn their Homeland Security certificate, designed for current criminal justice professionals who wish to shift into a public or private security position. Second, the Basic Peace Officer certificate consists of coursework and hands-on training that prepares students to become certified police officers in Ohio. These classes are the same ones that a law enforcement major in the associate degree program would take.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 60-65
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $177.93 per credit in-state | $363.92 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: On-Campus and Full-Time
  • Specializations: Law Enforcement; Criminal Justice; and Probation and Supervision
  • Credits: 27
  • Length: About 1 year
  • Cost: $177.93 per credit in-state | $363.92 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: On-Campus and Full-Time
  • Specializations: None
  • Credits: 24
  • Length: About 1 year
  • Cost: $177.93 per credit in-state | $363.92 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: On-Campus and Full-Time
  • Specializations: None

Bowling Green State University

Bowling Green State University offers two main criminal justice programs. There’s a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice at the undergraduate level. It’s available in the general and forensic investigation tracks, allowing students to tailor their degree to their needs. This program requires a practicum and internship, which let students apply their classroom knowledge through field experiences.

For those interested in a master’s degree, Bowling Green State University has a Master of Science in criminal justice. Like the bachelor’s program, it’s available with a forensic investigation concentration. A victims and offenders concentration is also available.

Lastly, there’s an accelerated Master of Science in criminal justice program. This is open to juniors and seniors already enrolled in the Bachelor of Science criminal justice program at Bowling Green State University who want to get a head start on their criminal justice master’s degree.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 122
  • Length: About 4 years
  • Cost: $584.97 per credit in-state | $917.82 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: On-Campus and Full-Time
  • Specializations: Forensic Investigation
  • Credits: 33
  • Length: 1-2 Years
  • Cost: $576.56 per credit in-state | $909.41 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: On-Campus; Full-Time and Part-Time
  • Specializations: Forensic Investigation and Victims and Offender

University of Dayton

The University of Dayton’s Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice and security studies program is special because it’s one of the few criminal justice schools in Ohio offering multiple academic pathways and specialization options. While most bachelor’s-level criminal justice programs provide at most one concentration, the University of Dayton offers four. These include business intelligence, criminal justice studies, cyber security management, and pre-law.

In addition to these specialization options, students can also consider the criminal justice and Juris Doctor accelerated pathway. It usually takes seven years of full-time study for someone to earn a bachelor’s and a law degree. However, this accelerated program takes five and a half years, with three years of undergraduate studies and two and a half years of legal coursework.

The University of Dayton also has the Omega Phi Delta and Alpha Phi Sigma student organizations. They provide opportunities for students to engage in community criminal justice activities and volunteer events.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 124
  • Length: About 4 years
  • Cost: $1,322.22 per credit
  • Mode: On-Campus and Full-Time
  • Specializations: Business Intelligence; Criminal Justice Studies; Cyber Security Management; and Pre-Law.

Top Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs in Ohio

Criminal justice is a popular field of study, so with the recent dramatic growth of distance learning, many traditional criminal justice schools in Ohio with on-campus programs also offer online criminal justice degree options. Many of these programs can be completed entirely online, meaning students never have to set foot on campus. Online criminal justice degrees in Ohio are widespread at every level, making earning a degree possible for students with families, jobs, and other responsibilities that require them to complete their coursework on an ever-changing schedule.

To help you find the right online criminal justice degrees in Ohio, we’ve spotlighted three schools that are affordable, accredited, and offer flexible learning possibilities. If you’re interested in online criminal justice degrees from schools in states outside Ohio, check out our main guide to online criminal justice degrees.

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati’s School of Criminal Justice offers several criminal justice programs, many of which are available online. Students earn their Bachelor of Science in criminal justice at the undergraduate level. This is a fully online program with the only campus visit you might want to make is for graduation ceremonies, and even that’s optional.

At the graduate level, there are two online criminal justice degrees in Ohio available. Those seeking a degree can get a Master of Science in criminal justice. Of the required 33 credits, 15 cover core courses. The remaining 18 credits can consist of any criminal justice courses the student chooses, although three topical area selections are available. Students interested in topical areas who don’t want to commit to a master’s degree can enroll in any of the three graduate certificate programs that cover the same material.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 120
  • Length: About 4 years
  • Cost: $496.00 per credit in-state | $581.00 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Fully-Online and Full-Time
  • Specializations: None
  • Credits: 33
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $746.00 per credit in-state | $761.00 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Fully-Online and Full-Time
  • Specializations: Correctional Rehabilitation; Crime Analysis and Prevention; and Analysis of Criminal Behavior
  • Credits: 12-15
  • Length: 1 year
  • Cost: $746.00 per credit in-state | $761.00 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Fully-Online and Full-Time
  • Specializations: Correctional Rehabilitation; Crime Analysis and Prevention; and Analysis of Criminal Behavior

Ohio University

The bachelor’s of criminal justice online program from Ohio University is an upper-division transfer program intended for students who have an associate degree in criminal justice or related fields. Therefore, only students who have earned at least 60 credits from an accredited post-secondary institution may apply. Depending on how much prior coursework they have already completed, students can complete the program with the minimum 32 criminal justice credits required to graduate.

In addition to the core criminal justice courses, students will take classes in other areas, such as oral communication, ethical reasoning, research methods, theories of behavior, and social problems. Online students can also pace their learning, allowing them to graduate in as little as four semesters or several years if they want to take a lighter course load. For added convenience, online classes are offered asynchronously, meaning students can not only attend class from anywhere there’s an internet connection but also at any time that suits them.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 32
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $307.00 per credit in-state | $312.00 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Fully-Online; Part-Time and Full-Time
  • Specializations: None

University of Toledo

The online Bachelor of Science in criminal justice program at the University of Toledo can be completed entirely online, or students can opt for a hybrid format and take specific courses only available on campus and the rest online. Experiential learning comes from internships from which students can receive credit that will apply toward their graduation requirements.

Even though the bachelor’s in criminal justice program has no formal concentrations, criminal justice students are encouraged to minor in a field that can apply to criminal justice. For example, those wishing to focus on white-collar crime may want to minor in business or accounting. Those interested in technology-based crimes may want to minor in cyber security. Minors in political science or legal specialties are available for those looking to work in policymaking. To be admitted to the program, prospective students must have at least a 2.50 cumulative GPA from high school and an ACT score of at least 19 or an SAT score of at least 910.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 120
  • Length: About 4 years
  • Cost: $428.53 per credit in-state | $818.53 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Fully-Online and Hybrid; Full-Time
  • Specializations: None

Which Types of Criminal Justice Degrees Are Offered by Ohio Colleges?

Future criminal justice students will appreciate the plethora of criminal justice schools in Ohio to choose from. These can be found at the graduate and undergraduate levels and vary in their cost, learning formats, and time it takes to complete the programs. There are many choices to meet the varied professional and education needs of students, who may be veteran professionals or just starting out. The following sections discuss the major types of criminal justice programs available in Ohio.

Associate Degrees

The associate degree is the fastest and most affordable option for students seeking a college degree in criminal justice. These two-year programs provide essential foundational knowledge for most criminal justice careers, along with general education coursework for a balanced education. Even when a college degree isn’t required for a particular position, such as an Ohio police officer, getting this degree is helpful to make the graduate more marketable and provide training and skills their peers may lack.

Examples of Accredited Ohio Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

Sinclair Community CollegeDaytonOn-CampusHigher Learning Commission
Cuyahoga Community CollegeClevelandOn-CampusHigher Learning Commission
Hocking CollegeSoutheastOn-CampusHigher Learning Commission
Terra State Community CollegeFremontOn-CampusHigher Learning Commission
Central Ohio Technical CollegeNewarkOn-Campus and HybridHigher Learning Commission

Bachelor’s Degrees

A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice takes twice as long to complete as an associate degree. The bachelor’s degree provides several advantages in return for this extra time in school. One of these benefits is its broad education as a result of the additional general education requirements. Another benefit is the extra criminal justice training. Because there are more credits, students take deeper dives into criminal justice topics, especially at the theoretical level. Earning a four-year degree opens more room for advancement later. Whether it’s a lateral transfer, promotion, or graduate school, having a bachelor’s degree may be required for any of these progressions.

Examples of Accredited Ohio Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

Miami UniversityOxfordOnline and On-CampusHigher Learning Commission
Franciscan University of SteubenvilleSteubenvilleOn-CampusHigher Learning Commission
Lake Erie CollegePainesvilleOn-CampusHigher Learning Commission
Akron UniversityAkronOn-Campus and HybridHigher Learning Commission
Ohio Dominican UniversityColumbusOn-CampusHigher Learning Commission

Master’s Degrees

The master’s degree in criminal justice is best suited for existing criminal justice professionals who want to advance in their careers. There are three main scenarios in which a master’s degree from one of the criminal justice schools in Ohio can help.

First, the student wants a promotion that requires a graduate degree. Second, a graduate degree provides leadership and management training to help students shift into managerial or supervisory roles within their current organizations. Third, a prospective criminal justice master’s student wants to learn more about a particular area of criminal justice, like terrorism or cybersecurity, and the master’s degree provides this specialized training.

Examples of Accredited Ohio Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

University of CincinnatiCincinnatiOnline and On-CampusHigher Learning Commission
Tiffin UniversityTiffinOn-CampusHigher Learning Commission
Bowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenOnlineHigher Learning Commission
Youngstown State UniversityYoungstownOnlineHigher Learning Commission
Xavier UniversityCincinnatiOnlineHigher Learning Commission

PhD and Professional Doctorate Programs

Criminal justice doctorates are the least common types of criminal justice programs in Ohio. This is because most positions in the courts, corrections, and law enforcement don’t usually require doctoral training. However, some jobs benefit from this terminal degree. These jobs normally involve teaching at the postsecondary level, conducting research, or developing policies that affect the criminal justice system and how the government handles crime.

Examples of Accredited Ohio Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

Kent State UniversityKentOn-CampusHigher Learning Commission
University of CincinnatiCincinnatiOn-CampusHigher Learning Commission

Undergraduate and Graduate Certificate Programs

Criminal justice certificates exist so students may obtain the necessary training and skills without spending extra time and money on courses they don’t need. More specifically, it provides the ability to get an education for students who don’t need a full degree.

For example, someone who already has a college or graduate degree might want to enter the criminal justice field for the first time. Or there’s an experienced criminal justice professional who wants to move into a new position that requires a new skill set. A criminal justice certificate provides the necessary instruction to those students without them having to earn a second degree.

Examples of Accredited Ohio Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

North Central State CollegeMansfieldOn-CampusHigher Learning Commission
Ohio UniversityAthensOn-CampusHigher Learning Commission
Columbus State Community CollegeColumbusOnline and On-CampusHigher Learning Commission
The Ohio State UniversityColumbusOnlineHigher Learning Commission
University of CincinnatiCincinnatiOnlineHigher Learning Commission

How to Get Financial Aid for Your Criminal Justice Degree in Ohio

Figuring out how to pay for an Ohio criminal justice degree can be one of the most complex parts of the process. Luckily, criminal justice students have financial aid opportunities such as student loans, grants, work-study, fellowships, and scholarships.

Scholarships, grants, and fellowships are among the most desirable because they don’t have to be paid back. But this means they’re also more challenging to get. Many of these gift-based forms of financial aid have special eligibility requirements that can make it easier for criminal justice students to receive an award. For example, the University of Toledo has scholarships for criminal justice students. Some nonprofit criminal justice organizations, like Alpha Phi Sigma, also offer scholarships.

Another often forgotten form of financial aid is tuition assistance employment benefits. Employees of certain employers, like those working for The Ohio State University, are eligible. To learn more about how to pay for your criminal justice education, please see our criminal justice scholarships and resources page.

Employment and Salary Prospects for Criminal Justice Students in Ohio

Graduates from criminal justice schools in Ohio can expect solid job opportunities. Many criminal justice occupations in Ohio show positive job growth for the next few years. While this doesn’t seem to apply for correctional officers and jailers, this slow job growth is present in most states. Also, even though the total number of correctional officers and jailers is expected to drop for the foreseeable future, it’s anticipated that there will be more than 1,000 job openings each year.

As for compensation, the average annual wages for many common criminal justice positions in Ohio are slightly lower than the national average. However, this is balanced by the fact that the cost of living in Ohio is more than 15%lower than the national average. Also, you can generally expect to earn more in a major city than in a rural area for many common criminal justice positions.

Job Growth Rate
Average Annual Openings
Annual Mean Wage
Security Guards3.9%3,670$36,140
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers3.2%1,890$68,300
Private Detectives and Investigators6.7%130$52,770
Court, Municipal, and License Clerks4.5%1,090$43,230
Correctional Officers and Jailers-10.3%1,080$50,350

Sources: Projections Central;Bureau of Labor Statistics

Criminal Justice Professional Organizations in Ohio

  • Ohio Community Corrections Association
    Part of Ohio’s penal system includes a community corrections program, which assists individuals who have spent time in the state’s correctional system. This organization offers professional development and educational resources to individuals working in the community corrections system.
  • Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police
    This is a nonprofit organization that promotes the interests of law enforcement executives and other law enforcement professionals with leadership responsibilities. Activities include networking events, research, and community engagement.
  • Ohio Identification Officers Association
    This professional organization works on behalf of all professionals in Ohio who engage in forensic and scientific examination of physical evidence from crimes. To achieve its mission, association works to improve forensic procedures, support law enforcement agencies, and assist the Ohio government when drafting statues and regulations.
  • Ohio Association of Security and Investigative Services
    Also known as OASIS, the Ohio Association of Security and Investigative Services exists on behalf of all private investigation and security professionals. Activities include professional development, legislative advocacy, and ensuring professionalism of its membership.
  • Alpha Phi Sigma
    This is one of the most prominent criminal justice honor societies in the United States and offers a host of benefits. Some of these include mentorship and network events, as well as access to scholarships and career development opportunities. Membership is based on local chapters at schools all over the country, including criminal justice schools in Ohio.