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Best Criminal Justice Schools in Pennsylvania: Online/Campus

With positive career projections and flexible learning opportunities, there’s never been a better time to pursue a criminal justice degree. Learn about the best criminal justice schools in Pennsylvania, online options, and how much you could earn after graduating.

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11/29/2023

Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State, in part because of its “key” role in the social, economic, and political development of the U.S. Appropriately, it’s also a hub for criminal justice schools, making it an ideal location to pursue higher education in this field. Attending one of the state’s many criminal justice programs can open up versatile career opportunities in the high-demand areas of law enforcement, social work, forensics, homeland security, and more.

Whether you’re looking to earn your degree on campus or online, many criminal justice schools in Pennsylvania offer flexible options that align with your personal and professional goals. In this guide, we’ve outlined some of the top criminal justice programs in Pennsylvania — both online and on campus — along with degree options, financial aid opportunities, employment outlooks, and student resources.

Best Pennsylvania Colleges for Criminal Justice in 2024

Whether you’re just starting your search for a criminal justice degree program in Pennsylvania or you’re a professional looking to advance in your career, you’ll find several highly distinguished schools in the state with standout features. We’ve outlined three of the top criminal justice schools in Pennsylvania that combine factors like top-notch faculty, diverse specializations and degree options, robust curriculum and student support. This is a preview of our full college ranking, coming soon — so be sure to check back.

Gannon University

Earning your undergraduate or graduate degree in criminal justice/criminalistics at Gannon University means you’ll receive instruction and mentorship from some of the best faculty in the country. This Pennsylvania criminal justice school has chosen some of the top minds in the field to train its students, ranging from forensic scientists to police officers and special agents in the FBI, NCIS, ATF, and others. You will also have the opportunity to study in the university’s forensic investigation center for hands-on practice in crime scene investigations, evidence collection, firearms training, interrogations, and more.

According to a state law called Act 120, Pennsylvania requires police officers to have their basic training certification prior to employment; so if you’re pursuing a postgraduate career in law enforcement, Gannon makes it easy to complete your Act 120 training while working towards your degree, making the transition to the workforce much easier.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 60
  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $870/credit
  • Delivery: Full time; On campus
  • Specializations: None
  • Credits: 120
  • Length: Four years
  • Cost: $870/credit
  • Delivery: Full time; On campus
  • Specializations: None
  • Credits: 36 credits
  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $780/credit
  • Delivery: Part time; Online
  • Specializations: None

Drexel University

If you’re looking for a criminal justice school in Pennsylvania with specialization opportunities and field experience, Drexel University is an ideal on-campus option. The department offers a bachelor’s degree with three concentrations: Criminal Justice, Justice Studies, and Justice Informatics. The school also offers a self-paced, fully online BS in Criminology and Justice Studies.

In addition to its specialization options for its on-ground program, Drexel University is known for its cooperative education (co-op) program option, where you complete six months of full-time employment in a criminal-justice position of your choosing while earning your degree. Many students have held positions at local police departments, law firms, nonprofit organizations, and community agencies. This program allows you to gain practical experience in the field while building a network to utilize after graduation.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 178-194
  • Length: Four years
  • Cost: On campus tuition: $58,293/year; online tuition:$459-$956 per credit
  • Delivery: Full time; Part time; On campus; Online
  • Specializations: Criminal Justice, Justice Informatics, Justice Studies

Temple University

This renowned Pennsylvania criminal justice schooloffers a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate in Criminal Justice, making it ideal for beginners and professionals alike. Undergraduate students can benefit from the criminal justice department’s Inside Out Program, which takes students into the prison system to complete select courses alongside incarcerated students for powerful behind-the-scenes insights. The undergraduate program also offers an optional 15-credit certification in cybersecurity and human behavior, which can enhance your resume in several criminal justice careers including cybersecurity, forensics, and national security.

As a graduate student, your studies will focus on criminal justice research, theories, policy, and decision-making. In addition to an impressive curriculum, you will also develop meaningful connections with faculty and graduate students through the Criminal Justice Graduate Student Association. Not only does this community offer support and learning opportunities for criminal justice graduate students, but it also invites members to present insights and opinions on criminal justice topics at an annual conference.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 123
  • Length: Four years
  • Cost: Pennsylvania resident: $17,136; out-of-state:$30,864
  • Delivery: On campus
  • Specializations: None
  • Credits: 30
  • Length: One to three years
  • Cost: Pennsylvania resident: $1,004 per credit; out-of-state: $1,381 per credit
  • Delivery: Full time; Part time; On campus
  • Specializations: None
  • Credits: 48
  • Length: Four years (max seven)
  • Cost: Pennsylvania resident: $1,053 per credit; out-of-state: $1,449 per credit
  • Delivery: Full time; On campus
  • Specializations: None

Top-Rated Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs in PA

Many criminal justice schools in Pennsylvania offer online degrees — an ideal solution for working professionals or those wanting more flexibility. Additionally, you may save time and money by eliminating the costs of transportation and on-campus course materials. Because not all online programs operate in the same manner, it’s important to identify the format, delivery, and schedule you can expect before enrolling. For example, some online programs will incorporate synchronous learning (live classes that take place at a certain time), while others will be mostly or fully asynchronous (recorded lectures that can be accessed at any time).

To learn more about what to expect from online learning in this specific degree program, take a look at our guide to online criminal justice degrees. Additionally, we’ve outlined below three of the best online criminal justice degrees in Pennsylvania, along with their degree options, delivery methods, and cost.

Pennsylvania State University

Earning an online criminal justice degree in Pennsylvania is seamless at Penn State World Campus — the online school at Pennsylvania State. Here, you can earn your associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees fully online. The university’s professors are licensed and experienced in various positions of law enforcement and criminal justice, so you’ll receive personal insights and guidance from seasoned professionals.

The associate degree program teaches the foundations of law enforcement, public policy, and behavioral science, so you’ll be well-equipped to pursue an entry-level career or bachelor’s degree.

Students earning their bachelor’s can expect to dive deeper into topics including law, policing, incarceration, and sociology. You may also choose to complete an 18-credit homeland security minor for undergraduate students, which can be useful in many careers including transportation security, emergency management, secret services, and customs officers.

Finally, the master’s program offers focused instruction in policy and administration from a criminal justice perspective, so you can learn the necessary skills to effect policy changes in your community.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 64
  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $7,602 per semester
  • Mode: Online; Part time; Full time
  • Specializations: None
  • Credits: 120
  • Length: Four years
  • Cost: $7,602 per semester
  • Mode: Online; Part time; Full time
  • Specializations: None
  • Credits: 30
  • Length: Two to three years
  • Cost: $1,017 per credit
  • Mode: Online; Part time; Full time
  • Specializations: None

St Joseph’s University

At St. Joseph’s University, a master’s degree in criminal justice will advance your expertise and career opportunities all within the convenience of online education. This private college maintains small class sizes in order to provide more individual instruction and peer support. It also offers one of the more flexible online criminal justice degrees in Pennsylvania, as the program can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis.

What sets this master’s program apart from others is its numerous specialization options, which you can select from based on your professional goals and interests. If you’re interested in advancing your career in behavioral health, the master’s program offers an optional 42-credit certification in Applied Behavior Analysis, which prepares you to assist neurodivergent individuals and those with mental illnesses within your criminal justice career.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: One to two years
  • Cost: $845 per credit
  • Mode: Online; Full time; Part time
  • Specializations: General track; Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging; Forensic Behavioral Health; Federal Law Enforcement; Intelligence and Crime Analysis; Homeland Security

PennWest Global Online

Offering a master’s and doctoral degree in Criminal Justice, this online complement to Pennsylvania Western University is an optimal choice for those with established careers who want to take their knowledge and skills to the next level. If you’re looking for an online criminal justice degree in Pennsylvania with robust specialization options, the master’s program provides three concentrations including Behavioral Crime Analysis, Forensic Linguistics, and Criminal Justice Studies. Because hands-on practice and field experience are a focus in this program, you may choose a capstone experience that supports your career goals such as an internship, study abroad course, thesis, or research publication.

The online, part-time doctoral program focuses on the modern applications of criminal justice in the community, particularly regarding federal consent decrees, police force, convictions, and recidivism. You will have to attend a one-week residency as part of this program.

Both graduate programs are connected with the Pennsylvania Center for Investigative and Forensic Sciences, which is a useful resource for law enforcement professionals seeking additional training and consultation throughout their studies.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 30-39
  • Length: One to two years
  • Cost: Pennsylvania resident: $516/credit; out-of-state: $526/credit
  • Mode: Online; Full time
  • Specialties: Behavioral Crime Analysis, Forensic Linguistics, Criminal Justice Studies
  • Credits: 42
  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: Pennsylvania resident: $568/credit; out-of-state: $851/credit
  • Mode: Online; Part time
  • Concentrations: None

Types of Criminal Justice Degrees in Pennsylvania

Whether you’re new to the criminal justice field or a seasoned professional looking to advance in your career, earning a degree can be the next step towards achieving your professional goals. Maybe you’re a recent high school graduate deciding between