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Best Criminal Justice Schools in Washington: Online/Campus

Earning your criminal justice degree or certificate can lead to a fulfilling career in roles such as law enforcement, corrections, or security. We’ve surveyed the best criminal justice programs in the state of Washington offering online and campus-based options.

Author: Angela Myers
Editor: STEPS Staff

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If you want to keep your community safe, a criminal justice degree may be for you. And according to the Seattle Medium, criminal justice is one of the 20 most popular degrees in Washington. But while a criminal justice degree can lead to a personally and financially fulfilling career, it can be hard to know which type of program and school is ideal for your professional goals and learning preferences.

To help you find the right program to jumpstart your career, we’ve rounded up the best criminal justice programs in Washington — both online and on-campus options. Read on to learn more about which degree type is right for you, the career outlook for graduates, and financial aid opportunities for criminal justice majors.

Best Colleges in Washington for Criminal Justice Degrees: 2024

Finding the right criminal justice program is highly subjective, but there are some indicators of a quality program to research. These include curriculum quality, affordability, and student support resources. To launch your search, we’ve gathered details on three best-in-class criminal justice schools in Washington state that have all these qualities. Our full rankings will be coming soon, but for now, check out these spotlights on some of the best criminal justice programs in Washington.

Eastern Washington University

Eastern Washington University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. You’ll start with an introduction to criminal justice, then take more advanced degree-specific courses in subject matter related to psychology, forensic science, and law. Students also complete an internship to gain in-person experience in the field, and you’ll specialize in one of three areas: law enforcement, pre-graduate criminology, or social justice. Graduates of the program should be able to engage in critical inquiry of criminal justice institutions, practices, and policies, all against a backdrop of social justice and equity. You’ll also be exposed to methodological and theoretical approaches for conducting research and evaluation specific to criminal justice practices and policies. Courses include an exploration of ethics, criminal procedure, women in prison, and drugs and behavior, among other timely and relevant topics.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 180
  • Length: About 4 years
  • Cost: $243.12 per credit in-state | $827.76 per credit out-of-state
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Specializations: law enforcement; pre-graduate criminology; social justice

Seattle University

Seattle University offers a robust criminal justice menu through its Department of Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Forensics. You’ll find three criminal justice-specific options, including a bachelor’s degree, master’s program, and crime analysis certificate program. What’s unique about Seattle University’s programs is that they’re highly customizable. Students can choose to take the bachelor’s degree on a four-year track or an accelerated timeline. For the bachelor’s degree, students choose a specialization: administration of justice, criminology & criminal justice theory, forensic psychology, or forensic science. Accelerated students can choose between criminal justice and law specializations. The master’s of criminal justice offers specializations in victimology, criminal justice research, and investigative criminology. For added flexibility, master’s students can take the program in-person or online. There’s also a joint master’s and JD option for those interested in pursuing criminal law and an online master’s certificate in crime analysis.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 180
  • Length: About 4 years
  • Cost: $887.25 per credit
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Specializations: administration of justice; criminology & criminal justice theory; forensic psychology; forensic science
  • Credits: 180
  • Length: About 4 years
  • Cost: $887.25 per credit
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Specializations: forensic psychology; forensic science
  • Credits: 55
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $834 per credit
  • Delivery: On-Campus; Online; Hybrid
  • Specializations: victimology; criminal justice research; investigative criminology
  • Credits: 25
  • Length: About 1 year
  • Cost: $834 per credit
  • Delivery: Online
  • Specializations: None

Central Washington University

When looking at criminal justice schools in Washington, you’ll find intriguing programs offered by Central Washington University through its Department of Law and Justice. Students can choose between two master’s degrees in criminal justice — both offered in-person through their Ellensburg campus. You’ll have two options: a research-based track that culminates in a traditional thesis, and an exam-based track for those interested in more hands-on experience. Both master’s tracks require 60 credits and can be completed in about 2-3 years.

Students at CWU can also opt for an undergraduate Forensics certificate. Your core classes focus on death and crime scene investigations, questioned documents, hair and fiber analysis, firearms, skeletal analysis, and expert witness testimony.

A unique facet of the Department of Law and Justice is CWU’s Mock Trial Club, which gives you the chance to travel and compete in local or national mock trials, meet people with similar interests, and establish networking connections.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 60
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $325.16 per credit in-state | $776.97 per credit out-of-state
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Specializations: None
  • Credits: 30
  • Length: About 1 year
  • Cost: $210.95 per credit in-state | $761.40 per credit out-of-state
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Specializations: None

Top-Rated Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs in Washington

If you’re working full time while getting your degree or have life obligations that keep you away from campus, consider the many hybrid and online criminal justice degrees in Washington. An online criminal justice degree can be completed from the comfort of your home, with either synchronous virtual classes or asynchronous modules to complete whenever students have time. Criminal justice colleges in Washington with a hybrid program offer students the ability to take some classes online and others in person. Sometimes, students can customize how many classes they take on campus, while other times, hybrid programs have set in-person and online requirements.

With either option, students enjoy increased flexibility, and they often end up paying less, considering they cut back on transportation costs and may be able to opt out of certain student fees.

For a better idea of what an online or hybrid program may look like, explore the spotlighted criminal justice schools in Washington below.

Washington State University

When looking at online criminal justice schools in Washington, consider Washington State University’s global campus. All classes through the university’s global campus are designed to be completed online and can be taken anywhere in the world. Through the global campus, students take courses from top-tier faculty and utilize learning technologies like Blackboard to communicate with their professors and peers and submit assignments between synchronous class sessions. For the criminal justice bachelor’s degree specifically, students take core courses in subjects like criminological theory and criminal law. They also participate in research methods classes that culminate in a final semester capstone project. Throughout the four-year program, students take 12 credit hours of electives with course topics including American criminal courts, juvenile justice, and violence toward women. To make the degree more affordable, the school also offers scholarships for online students.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 120
  • Length: About 4 years
  • Cost: $567.40 per credit in-state | $632.60 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Fully Online; Hybrid; Part Time; Full Time
  • Specializations: None

Pierce College

For a flexible, high-quality associate degree, consider the Criminal Justice program from Pierce College. This two-year program has been designed with maximum flexibility in mind. Students can complete the degree 100% online, in a hybrid format, or through in-person courses at either the Fort Steilacoom or Puyallup campus. No matter the format, all students study criminal justice system theories, different perspectives on the legal system, and the impact of the system on local communities. The program also has a specific focus on domestic violence, as well as resources for women in the field. In this program, students also have the option to complete an internship, which is usually completed in person, but this isn’t a required component to graduate.

Pierce College works with nearby four-year academic institutions for students who want to continue onto their bachelor’s degree. They offer easy transfer to Washington State University, Saint Martin’s University, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, and University of Washington Tacoma.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 90-92
  • Length: About 2 years
  • Cost: $123.58 per credit in-state | $140.92 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Fully Online; Hybrid
  • Specializations: crime analysis and investigations; forensic technology; pre-cadet law enforcement

University of Washington Tacoma

The University of Washington offers a robust criminal justice program with a bachelor’s degree that can be earned completely online, on campus, or through a hybrid approach. For the online bachelor’s degree, students take 90 credit hours of criminal justice courses, receiving the same quality of education as the in-person counterpart — but with the added flexibility of being able to take their courses from the comfort of home or anywhere with a reliable internet connection. The curriculum consists of five content areas: corrections, research and theoretical methods, criminological theory, law adjudication, and administration of justice. There are also 90 credit hours of general education requirements that must be completed online, though students with previous college experience or an associate degree may not have to take all of the general education requirements.

Program Highlights:

  • Credits: 180 credits
  • Length: About 4 years
  • Cost: $284.87 per credit in-state | $937.13 per credit out-of-state
  • Mode: Fully Online; Hybrid
  • Specializations: None

Types of Criminal Justice Degrees in Washington

As you can see from the spotlight schools above, a wide variety of program formats exist for today’s students. To get a better idea about the different kinds of criminal justice programs in Washington and which is right for you, we’ve outlined the degree requirements and career outcomes for associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate programs available through criminal justice schools in Washington.

Associate Degrees

An associate degree is ideal for anyone who wants to start a career in criminal justice but isn’t ready to commit the time and financial investment a bachelor’s degree requires. For added flexibility, criminal justice schools in Washington like Pierce College offer this two-year degree online. Graduates report job titles like bailiff, patrol officer, and emergency management specialist.

Examples of Accredited Washington Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

CollegeLocationDeliveryAccreditation
Pierce CollegeLakewood or PuyallupOnline; hybridNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Bellevue CollegeBellevueOnline; hybrid; on-campusNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Whatcom Community CollegeBellinghamOn-campus; hybridNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Centralia CollegeCentraliaOn-campusNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Shoreline Community CollegeShorelineOnline; hybrid; on-campusNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degrees in Washington

A bachelor’s degree opens up even more career opportunities. This four-year degree provides an overview of criminal justice, and students often complete experiential components, such as an internship in the field. Some criminal justice programs in Washington like the one at Washington State University offer bachelor’s degrees that can be completed online for added flexibility. When someone graduates from this program, they’re equipped to work across criminal justice subdisciplines in a position such as a corrections officer or crime analyst.

Examples of Accredited Washington Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

CollegeLocationDeliveryAccreditation
Washington State University Global CampusGlobalOnlineNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
University of Washington TacomaTacomaOnlineNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Eastern Washington UniversityCheneyOn-campusNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Seattle UniversitySeattleOn-campusNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Criminal Justice Master’s Degrees in Washington

If you have your bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field and would like to advance to the next level, a master’s degree in criminal justice might be for you. Criminal justice schools in Washington often offer flexible, online master’s programs that can be completed alongside a full-time job, such as the program at Seattle University. When they graduate, students can qualify for a wider variety of criminal justice roles, including leadership positions.

Examples of Accredited Washington Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

CollegeLocationDeliveryAccreditation
Seattle UniversitySeattleOnlineNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Central Washington UniversityEllensburgOn-campusNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Washington State University PullmanPullmanOn-campusNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Franklin UniversityVancouverOnlineHigher Learning Commission

Criminal Justice Doctoral Degrees in Washington

A PhD or professional doctorate in criminal justice confers a high level of expertise in the field. This three-to-four-year program lets students dive deep into a specialized area, culminating in a doctoral thesis. After completing a PhD program, students are eligible to work in academia or in high-level positions in the criminal justice system.

Examples of Accredited Washington Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

CollegeLocationDeliveryAccreditation
University of WashingtonSeattleOn-CampusNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Washington State University PullmanPullmanOn-campusNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Criminal Justice Certificates in Washington

Many criminal justice schools in Washington offer certificates that provide specialized instruction. A certificate, either at the master’s or bachelor’s level, is a great way to dip your toe into the field and see if criminal justice is for you. It’s also a great addition to a degree in a related field, such as social work. Criminal justice certificates in Washington can be conferred in as few as three courses and usually take less than two years to complete.

Examples of Accredited Washington Colleges with this Criminal Justice Degree

CollegeLocationDeliveryAccreditation
Seattle UniversitySeattleOnlineNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Central Washington UniversityEllensburgOn-campusNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Whatcom Community CollegeBellinghamOn-campus; hybridNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Financial Aid Opportunities for Criminal Justice Students in Washington

While the costs of criminal justice programs in Washington vary, it’s important to have a plan in place for how you’ll pay for your degree. Fortunately, financial aid can lower the cost and make your degree more affordable. The most common types of financial aid include:

  • Scholarships
  • Student loans
  • Fellowships and grants
  • The federal work-study program
  • Employer reimbursement programs

When looking at financial aid options, consider ones that are designed for criminal justice majors and/or students in your state. There are plenty of criminal justice scholarships available across the United States.

In Washington specifically, you may want to consider searching for scholarships on WashBoard. The Washington State Financial Aid Program, the state government’s financial aid hub, is also a good resource for state-specific aid.

By searching for aid available by degree type, state residency, and other unique characteristics, you can ensure your degree is more affordable.

Employment and Earnings Outlook for Criminal Justice Grads in Washington

Criminal justice schools in Washington set their students up for success in the state. As outlined in the table below, professionals in the criminal justice field average between $69,000 and $110,000 per year in Washington. Some positions also have a job growth rate higher than 13%, meaning that the field also provides excellent job security.

Popular job titles for graduates include bailiff, paralegal, compliance officer, criminal justice and law enforcement teacher, detective, criminal investigator, or community service manager.

Plus, Washington state is known for reformative policing practices, making this state a great place to gain experience in criminal justice reform. This unique expertise can make students attractive candidates for jobs across the United States.

Job Growth Rate
(2020-2030)
Average Annual Openings
(2020-2030)
Annual Mean Wage
(2022)
Compliance Officers13.2%1,040$83,220
Police Patrol Officers7.5%920$92,250
Detectives and Criminal Investigators4.8%160$110,620
Paralegals13.9%1,100$72,590
Probation Officers3.9%190$69,960

Sources: Projections Central;Bureau of Labor Statistics

Resources for Criminal Justice Students and Professionals in Washington

  • Department of Corrections
    Washington State’s Department of Corrections is committed to helping criminal justice professionals be leaders in their field. The website offers skills development insight, free resources, and more to criminal justice professionals and students in the state.
  • Washington State Jail Association
    Students interested in jail living standards and restorative justice should explore this Washington nonprofit. Its mission is to improve the quality of life in state jails, and that mission is served through in-person educational events and online resources.
  • Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs
    Anyone looking to enter police leadership should consider the resources from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. This group organizes networking events, offers programs and resources for police personnel, and has an online member forum.
  • Washington State Paralegal Association
    Many graduates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice work as paralegals and may find this organization helpful. The Washington State Paralegal Association hosts free networking events and volunteer opportunities for members. They also have free resources for the paralegal profession available on their website.
  • Criminal Justice and Criminology Club
    Many criminal justice schools in Washington have a criminal justice club where students can gather, share resources, and learn from peers. Washington State University’s club is a great example of what this student organization can look like, though the exact components may differ from university to university.