Exploring the Best Criminal Justice Schools in Texas

Discover the best criminal justice schools in Texas and see how they can advance your career in corrections, law enforcement, and other areas of criminal justice.

Last Updated: 08/31/2021

Whether you want to launch a new career in law enforcement or corrections or are looking for more responsibilities and better pay in your current job, Texas criminal justice schoolshave programs that give you the policy knowledge and social science skills you need to get there. This guide discusses the criminal justice degree options available in Texas and highlights some of this year’s top-ranked schools. It also looks at convenient online criminal justice degrees in Texas, examines job outlook and earnings trends for criminal justice grads, and lists key student resources. Keep reading to discover which criminal justice schools in Texas best meet your needs. 

Best Criminal Justice Schools in Texas for 2021

Vetting potential degree programs can be daunting, so we’ve identified some of the best criminal justice schools in Texas to help you get started. The schools profiled below set themselves apart by offering quality, accredited programming with multiple pathways to completion. They provide the curriculum, flexibility, and student support you need to jumpstart your career as a court official, law enforcement officer, or security specialist. Find out who stands out in 2021 and look for our fuller ranking arriving later this year. 

1

Texas Christian University

Based in Fort Worth, Texas Christian University (TCU) confers graduate and undergraduate degrees in the arts and sciences. Its Department of Criminal Justice and AddRan College of Liberal Arts extend several degree options for students interested in careers in corrections, law enforcement, and social science. Its campus-based undergraduate program requires 124 credits and includes core instruction in criminal justice along with electives in social work, sustainability, victimology, and cyberspace policing. All students complete an applied internship before graduation and many study abroad in London, Scandinavia, and Japan.

TCU delivers its master’s program in criminal justice entirely online except for one two-day orientation session. Most students complete the program in just two years, progressing through study using a cohort model. Full-time faculty and experienced professionals facilitate all learning experiences. TCU also extends scholarship opportunities and career resources to its students, making it one of the best criminal justice schools in Texas. 

Delivery:

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Undergraduate Programs:

  • Bachelor of Science
  • Minor in Criminal Justice

Graduate Programs:

  • Master of Science

Specialization Options:

  • General Criminal Justice
  • Leadership, Executive and Administrative Development

2

Texas State University

A public research institution established in 1899, Texas State University administers criminal justice programming at every degree level from its main campus in San Marcos. These comprehensive, campus-based offerings develop hard skills in social science research methods, criminal court procedures, and corrections. Housed within Texas State’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, each course of study qualifies students for work in asset protection, policing, research, rehabilitation counseling, and other fields.

The school’s undergraduate program uses a traditional 4-year timeline and covers topics like juvenile justice, crime theory, and contemporary issues in law enforcement. Students can also complete optional internship experiences depending on their professional interests. At the graduate level, Texas State offers both a master’s degree and a doctorate. Learners in the master’s program complete 30-36 credits and choose from thesis or non-thesis tracks in research and executive administration. The doctoral program requires 51 credits and concludes with an original dissertation project that students defend before a faculty panel. 

Delivery:

  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Undergraduate Programs:

  • Bachelor of Science

Graduate Programs:

  • Master of Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy

Specialization Options:

  • Research Concentration
  • Executive Concentration
  • Generalist Concentration

3

Texas Woman’s University

Texas Woman’s University (TWU) has advanced knowledge and learning in the liberal arts for over a century. Initially a state-supported women’s college, TWU now operates a co-educational campus in Denton and offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. The 120-credit program uses an interdisciplinary approach to develop knowledge in modern legal systems, social science research, and practices in corrections and law enforcement. The curriculum includes core courses in sociology and constitutional law and electives in comparative justice, crime investigation, and cultural anthropology. 

TWU boasts flexibility in delivery, giving students the option to choose hybrid, in-person, or online learning formats. Online courses use intuitive and interactive tools for an enhanced overall experience. The school welcomes new and transfer applicants and administers a plan of study that moves from general education requirements through core major instruction and culminates in capstone components. In most cases, this means internship placements at regional law offices, government agencies, and law enforcement departments. Graduates of TWU’s program often find work as court clerks, investigators, and arbitrators. 

Delivery:

  • On-Campus
  • Hybrid
  • Online
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Undergraduate Programs:

  • Bachelor of Science

Specialization Options:

  • Generalist Track 

Top Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs in Texas

Unlike many other disciplines, you can earn an online criminal justice degree in Texas without ever traveling to campus. Online criminal justice degree programs typically deliver course content using synchronous tools on a regular, structured schedule or through asynchronous platforms that make material available at students’ convenience.

If you’re unsure you want to completely forgo face-to-face contact, schools like Sam Houston State University (SHSU) offer hybrid options that combine online coursework with in-person learning. Learn more about SHSU and other schools with these options below and be sure to check out our guide to online criminal justice degrees` for more information. 

1

Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University’s College of Criminal Justice offers a range of online programs designed for busy students and working professionals. Undergraduate study results in either a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA), depending on interest and professional aim. Both programs require 120 credits that most students easily complete in four years or less. Popular courses include victimology and forensic science, white-collar crime, terrorism, and cybercrime. 

SHSU also administers an online certificate and an online Master of Science in Criminal Justice. Students can follow a more generalist track, or they can focus study on leadership and management. Unlike the undergraduate programs, SHSU’s master’s degree entails applied instruction in program evaluation and advanced work in social science research methods. 

All programs come in online or hybrid formats regardless of degree level. SHSU does not distinguish between online or in-person degrees and uses the same faculty lineup for both modalities. 

Undergraduate Programs:

  • Bachelor of Science
  • Bachelor of Arts

Graduate Programs:

  • Master of Science 

Program Delivery:

  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time
  • Fully Online
  • Hybrid

Specializations/Concentrations Offered:

  • General Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Justice Leadership and Management

2

University of North Texas

A public research institution, the University of North Texas (UNT) manages 14 different schools and departments, including a College of Health and Public Service responsible for criminal justice programming. Those programs include graduate and undergraduate degrees, each of which is available entirely online for increased flexibility and convenience. Undergraduate students typically finish within 8 semesters, receiving quality instruction in criminal law, policing systems, psychology, and U.S governance. The master’s degree includes specializations in criminology and policy and concludes with a comprehensive exam assessing gained skills and knowledge. 

UNT uses a combination of synchronous and asynchronous tools to deliver criminal justice course content. Students enjoy a blend between self-paced study accessible anytime, anywhere and structured, collaborative experiences designed to solve real-world problems in criminology. Other courses include probation and parole, criminal justice ethics, and American governance. UNT stands out among other Texas criminal justice schools by extending field-specific scholarships and financial aid opportunities. 

Delivery:

  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time
  • Fully Online
  • On-Campus

Undergraduate Programs:

  • Bachelor of Science 

Graduate Programs:

  • Master of Science 

Specialization Options:

  • General Criminal Justice
  • Justice Policy and Administration 

3

Lamar University

An affiliate within the Texas State University System, Lamar University offers two online degrees in criminal justice. The Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science programs at Lamar adopt a generalist approach to the discipline, and the school also extends a fully accredited MBA in criminal justice for students interested in careers where business and management intersect with security and corrections. The curriculum for each program focuses on professional preparation for roles in law enforcement and public policy. Students take courses in criminal behavior, forensic science, and program evaluation among other subjects. The graduate program concludes with a capstone requirement designed to integrate technical knowledge in the social sciences with practical skills. 

Lamar uses asynchronous tools to deliver all course content, so students can access material and complete assignments on their own schedules. Courses come in convenient 8-week sessions to facilitate more accelerated and intensive learning. Most master’s students complete their degrees in just 18 months. The school also boasts affordable tuition rates payable on a course-by-course basis.

Delivery:

  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time
  • Online
  • On-Campus

Undergraduate Programs:

  • Bachelor of Science 

Graduate Programs:

  • Master of Science
  • Master of Business Administration in Criminal Justice

Specialization Options:

  • General Criminal Justice 

Types of Criminal Justice Degrees in Texas You Can Earn

Whether you’re familiar with the field or just starting out, the best criminal justice schools in Texasextend options that meet you where you are and build upon previous experience. These options use a variety of starting points designed to achieve different outcomes. Discover more about these pathways and find out which one meets your needs below. 

Undergraduate Criminal Justice Degrees in Texas

Associate Degrees in Criminal Justice

Associate degrees are usually administered by community or junior colleges and take around 2 years to complete. They offer basic training in criminal justice and prepare students for entry-level positions in corrections and law enforcement. If you’re interested in furthering your career but aren’t ready to make a 4-year commitment, an associate degree is a great option. It develops a working social science foundation you can build upon and enables easy transfer to a bachelor’s program.

Examples of Accredited Texas Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

  • City: Midland
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Uvalde
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Snyder
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Killeen
  • Delivery: Online and On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Temple; Hutto; Taylor
  • Delivery: Online and On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

One of the most prominent paths, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice provides comprehensive training in the discipline. Most Texas criminal justice schools administer this degree – either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science – to prepare aspiring professionals for work in a range of contexts. These programs build on previous work in some cases and develop new competency in criminal justice research, court procedures, and forensics. 

Examples of Accredited Texas Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

  • City: Fort Worth
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: San Antonio 
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Tyler
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Odessa
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Marshall
  • Delivery: Online and On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

Graduate Criminal Justice Degrees in Texas

Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

A graduate degree in criminal justice prepares you for roles with higher pay and responsibility. These programs advance knowledge gained at the undergraduate level and deepen your skills in criminology and social science. The best criminal justice schools in Texas also extend opportunities to specialize in areas like criminal justice administration, public policy, or leadership and management. These programs typically conclude in 2-3 years with a capstone component, usually a thesis, internship, or fieldwork experience.

Examples of Accredited Texas Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

  • City: Tyler
  • Delivery: Online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Laredo
  • Delivery: Online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Wichita Falls; Flower Mound
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Houston
  • Delivery: Online and On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Dallas
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

Criminal Justice PhD Programs

Professionals interested in working at the highest levels of practice can obtain a doctorate in criminal justice. Degree-holders typically work in academic or research-oriented roles in areas like forensic investigation, policy administration, and postsecondary education. Most candidates graduate within 5 years, but timelines can vary widely since students complete and defend original dissertation projects in addition to core coursework in topics like victimology and crime mapping. 

Examples of Accredited Texas Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

  • City: San Marcos
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Dallas
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Huntsville
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Stephenville
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Houston
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

Criminal Justice Graduate Certificates

Graduate certificates in criminal justice give working professionals with some academic experience the chance to gain new skills without committing to an entire degree program. This means you can maintain your current professional position and advance your career at the same time. Many certificate programs only take a year to complete and most focus on a single skill or topics like correctional practice, leadership and management, or criminal investigation. 

Examples of Accredited Texas Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

  • City: Brenham
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Snyder
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Houston
  • Delivery: Online, On-Campus, Hybrid
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Huntsville
  • Delivery: Online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • City: Killeen
  • Delivery: Online and On-Campus
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

Financial Aid Opportunities for Criminal Justice Students in Texas

The best criminal justice schools in Texasoffer affordable tuition rates, but costs for any degree program are still significant. Financial aid can help. Grants and scholarship awards are great ways to finance your education because they do not need to be repaid and are sometimes renewable. 

Many Texas criminal justice schoolsextend financial aid opportunities to new and returning students, especially at the graduate level. Such awards are typically need- or merit-based and often limited to enrolled students, unlike nationwide opportunities. Organizations like the Texas Jail Association and the Texas Corrections Association also extend scholarships to criminal justice students. For more information on financial aid opportunities, see our scholarship listing and our main financial aid guide

Employment and Earnings Outlook for Criminal Justice Grads in Texas

The job market for graduates of Texas criminal justice schoolsis encouraging. The nationwide growth rate for all jobs is currently 4%, which means graduates going into policing, education, and criminal investigation see more opportunity – more than double in some cases – than professionals in other sectors. 

Those same occupations also benefit from higher overall salary prospects. The annual mean wage throughout Texas is currently $52,400, so detectives, postsecondary teachers, and police officers can potentially earn more than other professions through at least 2028.

The data below details the conditions for key roles in corrections, law enforcement, and education, including earning potential and growth rates based on the latest projections. In each case, jobs remain in demand, especially when compared to other industries.

Job Growth
(2018-2028)
Avg. Annual Openings
(2018-2028)
Annual Mean Wage (2020)
Police Officers9%5,040$65,540
Probation Officers2.4%510$48,350
Detectives and Criminal Investigators7.4%1,300$81,920
Criminal Justice Teachers, Postsecondary16.2%120$55,770
Correctional Officers2.6%3,960$44,230

Sources:  Projections Central; Bureau of Labor Statistics

Resources for Criminal Justice Professionals and Students in Texas

Correctional Management Institute of Texas

This Huntsville-based institute is affiliated with Sam Houston State University and works to enhance corrections by conducting field research. It also sponsors training and continuing education opportunities in criminal justice and law enforcement. 

Texas Corrections Association

This association supports local criminal justice and corrections professionals through professional development opportunities and mentorship. It offers scholarships to qualified criminal justice students, recognizes outstanding work in the field, and updates its members with new job ads. 

Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

This organization partners with local sponsors and criminal justice professionals to build safer communities and reform correctional practices. It maintains an extensive resource center, composes white papers, and hosts regional events. 

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

This state agency oversees criminal justice efforts throughout Texas and manages several correctional facilities. It keeps an active job board for new openings, publicizes relevant news, and generates an active directory of facilities and initiatives. 

Texas Jail Association

Established in 1986, the Texas Jail Association represents correction officers employed in local jails across the Lone Star State. It hosts industry conferences, extends scholarships and awards, and develops policy positions on key issues.