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Top Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice Criminal Justice Degrees

Online degree programs in criminal justice provide a flexible higher education to students who need balance – with work, family commitments and education. Top online programs offer not only flexible schedules, but also great teachers, tremendous resources and student support to rival their on-campus counterparts. The following page helps aspiring criminal justice majors move their college and career forward in two ways. First, it provides a quick and easy way to search for online CJ programs from top colleges and universities across the country. This includes programs at multiple levels, and from myriad types of institutions. Second, it dissects the various higher educational journeys available in the field, from earning an associate degree online to seeking an advanced credential in the field. Find colleges and learn more about online degrees.

Best Online Criminal Justice Programs 2018-2019

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For those who are interested in entering a career that maintains the safety of others, an online degree in criminal justice is a good first step. As more schools provide online criminal justice degree programs, narrowing down the options can be overwhelming. To help along this process, we have created this list of the top online criminal justice programs based on our methodology. See who made our 2016-2017 rankings here.

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Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Rosemont College Rosemont, Pennsylvania$18,900100%69%44% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
2 Utica College Utica, New York$19,44697%82%44% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
3 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, Texas$5,17225%72%56% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
4 Liberty University Lynchburg, Virginia$23,80096%24%55% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
5 University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus Norman, Oklahoma$4,57580%71%70% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
6 Florida International University Miami, Florida$4,72144%50%60% 1 No Yes Yes School website
7 Bethel University McKenzie, Tennessee$9,30577%67%38% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
8 Troy University Troy, Alabama$20,83057%91%39% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
9 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, Florida$22,400100%70%43% 3 Yes Yes Yes School website
10 Bemidji State University Bemidji, Minnesota$7,36082%64%47% 4 Yes Yes Yes School website
11 University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, Nebraska$7,79049%86%50% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
12 Bellevue University Bellevue, Nebraska$6,84062%-32% 3 Yes No Yes School website
13 Columbia College Columbia, Missouri$6,84027%-40% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
14 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati, Ohio$9,32258%76%72% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
15 Peru State College Peru, Nebraska$4,80076%-40% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
16 Northern Michigan University Marquette, Michigan$9,33082%76%52% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
17 Park University Parkville, Missouri$11,73049%85%27% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
18 University of Toledo Toledo, Ohio$8,05292%94%47% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
19 Ashland University Ashland, Ohio$19,44894%72%57% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
20 University of Nebraska at Kearney Kearney, Nebraska$5,46070%85%60% 1 No Yes Yes School website
21 Oakland City University Oakland City, Indiana$23,40095%33%53% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
22 Aurora University Aurora, Illinois$22,58098%88%58% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
23 Tarleton State University Stephenville, Texas$3,90050%50%47% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
24 Rutgers University-New Brunswick New Brunswick, New Jersey$11,40846%57%86% 1 No Yes Yes School website
25 Ball State University Muncie, Indiana$8,99240%62%62% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
26 North Greenville University Tigerville, South Carolina$17,59499%59%51% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
27 Wichita State University Wichita, Kansas$6,38574%86%50% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
28 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin Odessa, Texas$4,31278%81%37% 1 No Yes Yes School website
29 University of Maine at Fort Kent Fort Kent, Maine$6,60068%81%48% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
30 North Carolina Central University Durham, North Carolina$3,65582%67%49% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
31 National University La Jolla, California$13,0164%-50% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
32 University of Wisconsin-Platteville Platteville, Wisconsin$6,41833%80%54% 1 No Yes Yes School website
33 Northern Kentucky University Highland Heights, Kentucky$9,00061%91%40% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
34 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Oshkosh, Wisconsin$6,42222%65%57% 1 No Yes Yes School website
35 Louisiana State University at Alexandria Alexandria, Louisiana$4,98475%33%28% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
36 University of Houston-Downtown Houston, Texas$4,84333%83%24% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
37 Colorado Christian University Lakewood, Colorado$22,36096%-41% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
38 Fayetteville State University Fayetteville, North Carolina$2,92373%59%37% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
39 St. Joseph's College-New York Brooklyn, New York$24,50095%67%69% 1 Yes No Yes School website
40 Union Institute & University Cincinnati, Ohio$12,24029%-19% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
41 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Natchitoches, Louisiana$5,18049%62%40% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
42 Fort Hays State University Hays, Kansas$3,78973%91%44% 1 No Yes Yes School website
43 New England College Henniker, New Hampshire$23,16277%99%36% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
44 University of Memphis Memphis, Tennessee$7,48844%57%46% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
45 Lamar University Beaumont, Texas$5,66420%76%38% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
46 University of Mount Olive Mount Olive, North Carolina$19,00093%48%44% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
47 McNeese State University Lake Charles, Louisiana$5,14734%64%45% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
48 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, Kentucky$8,56851%86%45% 3 No Yes Yes School website
49 University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, Alaska$5,93640%73%48% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
50 University of Maryland-University College Adelphi, Maryland$6,81611%-10% 2 Yes No Yes School website
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Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 El Paso Community College El Paso, Texas$2,2563%13% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
2 Eastern Gateway Community College Steubenville, Ohio$3,51022%19% 4 Yes No Yes School website
3 Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis, Indiana$4,05511%11% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
4 Highland Community College Highland, Kansas$2,21866%28% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
5 Albany Technical College Albany, Georgia$2,1406%39% 3 Yes Yes Yes School website
6 Sinclair Community College Dayton, Ohio$3,16944%16% 5 Yes Yes Yes School website
7 Metropolitan Community College Omaha, Nebraska$2,62531%13% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
8 Grayson College Denison, Texas$2,08831%20% 3 Yes Yes Yes School website
9 Garden City Community College Garden City, Kansas$1,82444%31% 2 Yes No Yes School website
10 Barton Community College Great Bend, Kansas$2,30469%29% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
11 Eastern Arizona College Thatcher, Arizona$2,40034%31% 3 Yes Yes Yes School website
12 College of the Ouachitas Malvern, Arkansas$2,79015%25% 5 Yes Yes Yes School website
13 Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson, Mississippi$2,39035%33% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
14 Lone Star College System The Woodlands, Texas$2,73610%8% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
15 Fayetteville Technical Community College Fayetteville, North Carolina$2,4322%12% 3 Yes Yes Yes School website
16 Stanly Community College Albemarle, North Carolina$2,43211%29% 5 Yes Yes Yes School website
17 Northeast Community College Norfolk, Nebraska$2,70040%48% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
18 Saint Louis Community College Saint Louis, Missouri$4,0803%10% 3 Yes Yes Yes School website
19 Randolph Community College Asheboro, North Carolina$1,82415%25% 3 Yes Yes Yes School website
20 Ogeechee Technical College Statesboro, Georgia$2,136-45% 3 Yes Yes Yes School website
21 Southern Crescent Technical College Griffin, Georgia$2,136-15% 3 Yes Yes Yes School website
22 Jefferson College Hillsboro, Missouri$3,50413%26% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
23 Arkansas Northeastern College Blytheville, Arkansas$2,15642%28% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
24 Central Texas College Killeen, Texas$2,94019%9% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
25 Southeastern Illinois College Harrisburg, Illinois$4,92046%35% 3 Yes No Yes School website
26 Dawson Community College Glendive, Montana$3,45066%44% 1 Yes No Yes School website
27 Craven Community College New Bern, North Carolina$1,82415%14% 3 Yes No Yes School website
28 Central Wyoming College Riverton, Wyoming$2,13663%26% 1 Yes No Yes School website
29 Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia, Mississippi$2,80021%22% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
30 Western Wyoming Community College Rock Springs, Wyoming$2,13672%38% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
31 Barstow Community College Barstow, California$1,1043%9% 2 Yes No Yes School website
32 North Central Missouri College Trenton, Missouri$3,27030%37% 2 Yes No Yes School website
33 Rowan College at Burlington County Pemberton, New Jersey$3,4807%22% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
34 Fox Valley Technical College Appleton, Wisconsin$3,91116%38% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
35 Mesa Community College Mesa, Arizona$2,06425%13% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
36 Arkansas State University-Mountain Home Mountain Home, Arkansas$2,25619%51% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
37 Redlands Community College El Reno, Oklahoma$4,15444%23% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
38 Shoreline Community College Shoreline, Washington$3,32830%32% 2 Yes Yes Yes School website
39 National Park College Hot Springs, Arkansas$2,94027%32% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
40 Kilgore College Kilgore, Texas$2,64028%20% 2 Yes No Yes School website
41 Irvine Valley College Irvine, California$1,104-44% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
42 State Fair Community College Sedalia, Missouri$3,60020%22% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
43 Western Oklahoma State College Altus, Oklahoma$2,36267%26% 1 Yes No Yes School website
44 Yavapai College Prescott, Arizona$2,28020%27% 3 Yes No Yes School website
45 San Joaquin Delta College Stockton, California$1,104-31% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
46 Alexandria Technical & Community College Alexandria, Minnesota$4,76833%64% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
47 Arkansas State University-Newport Newport, Arkansas$2,23213%36% 1 Yes No Yes School website
48 Louisiana State University-Eunice Eunice, Louisiana$2,86818%16% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
49 Pamlico Community College Grantsboro, North Carolina$1,82418%72% 1 Yes Yes Yes School website
50 Los Angeles Harbor College Wilmington, California$1,220-21% 2 Yes No Yes School website

The criminal justice field includes three main sectors: law enforcement, corrections and security. Numerous professions fall within these areas, such as forensic scientist, police officer, paralegal, probation officer, security guard, loss prevention specialist, teacher and many more (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics). Many careers in the field require some type of post-secondary education, from vocational training through advanced degrees. Traditional and online institutions across the country offer criminal justice degree programs via distance learning. Some schools offer an online criminology degree rather than one in CJ specifically. Criminology is a comparable major with a similar program. Let’s begin by examining the most common types of online criminal justice degrees in higher education:

Meet the Expert: KARLA LANT

Karla Lant is a retired criminal defense attorney and an adjunct professor for Northern Arizona University’s Master of Administration program. She teaches students working in law enforcement routinely as they study administration and leadership. During her years as a trial attorney her specialty areas included forensic science and medical and scientific evidence.

Now more than ever, students with high-quality training in criminal justice are crucial to the reform and support of our justice system. Criminal justice as a field has grown, and is a robust area of study. The days of simple experience being enough for criminal justice professionals are in the past; today even officers working the streets need sophisticated technology, well-informed theory, and an intellectual strength to excel.

Online Criminal Justice Degrees: An Academic Timeline

The path to a career in criminal justice varies by student. For those interested in the field, but perhaps unsure about their direction, it’s important to have as much information as possible. To simplify the investigative process, the timeline below identifies the educational options available from an associate degree to a doctorate and examines the important considerations involved in pursuing each of these degrees online.

Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice (Two Years)

An online associate degree in criminal justice provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary for an entry-level career in the field. All students must take a certain number of general education courses in addition to courses in law enforcement, corrections and criminology. Some schools allow students to declare a concentration in one of these three areas.

Students who earn an online associate degree in criminal justice can transfer to a four-year institution to complete a bachelor’s degree. Many students find this to be a cost-effective route to a four-year credential. Before deciding to follow this path, students should meet with the academic advisor at their two-year college to determine which credits will transfer over to a four-year institution. It is also helpful to speak with an academic advisor at the college or university they plan to transfer to find out the specific requirements because — this can simplify the transfer process later on.

Explore Associate’s Degree programs for Criminal Justice search programs >>
Miami Dade College
  • Enrollment: 99,253
  • Tuition: $3,366
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Associate in Criminal Justice Technology
Broward College
  • Enrollment: 61,784
  • Tuition: $2,494
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice Technology
Seminole State College of Florida
  • Enrollment: 27,853
  • Tuition: $3,131
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Associate of Science Major in Criminal Justice Administration
  • Associate in Arts Major in Criminal Justice
Troy University
  • Enrollment: 22,220
  • Tuition: $6,844
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Alabama
  • Associate of Science in General Education - Criminal Justice

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice (Four Years)

The online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice serves as the benchmark for students entering the field by expanding on concepts introduced at the two-year level. Students prepare for future careers by examining crimes and their effects on communities, as well as methods of promoting community safety. Courses help students clarify their career aspirations by identifying specific areas of interest. The following coursework is typical of years three and four in an online criminal justice degree curriculum:

Criminology: Focuses on explanations and measurement of crime, characteristics of criminals and victims. This includes property, white-collar, organized, violent and sexual crimes.

Courts and the prosecution process: Covers the purpose and function of criminal courts, including organization, jurisdiction and staffing. Other subjects include prosecution, adjudication and sentencing of offenders.

Policing: Examines police organizations and operations in the United States. Topics discussed include the impact of police on crime, disorder and social issues; police culture and public support; and community policing.

Corrections: An overview of the punishment and treatment of sentenced offenders. Students develop an understanding of correctional institutions and how they are organized, including staffing, inmates and subcultures among correctional institutions.


Other primary courses:

  • Law enforcement administration
  • Juvenile justice system
  • Criminal justice ethics
  • Alternatives to Incarceration
  • Crime control
  • Complex organizations
Explore Bachelor’s Degree programs for Criminal Justice search programs >>
Florida International University
  • Enrollment: 51,334
  • Tuition: $6,417
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Florida
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
University of Maryland
  • Enrollment: 43,574
  • Tuition: $6,384
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Maryland
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
Arizona State University
  • Enrollment: 43,072
  • Tuition: $9,724
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Arizona
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminology And Criminal Justice
Pennsylvania State University
  • Enrollment: 41,535
  • Tuition: $16,444
  • College Type: Public
  • State: Pennsylvania
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice (Two Years)

It usually takes two years of full-time study, after the bachelor’s degree, to earn a master’s degree in criminal justice. During that time, students gain knowledge and develop leadership skills that prepare them for supervisory or administrative careers in law enforcement management and the judicial courts. With a master’s degree in the discipline, graduates can also pursue careers in academia as instructors, although likely at the community college level. Visit our detailed page on online master’s programs in criminal justice to learn more.

Online Doctoral Degree in Criminal Justice (Eight Years or More)

A doctoral program in criminal justice explores the theories and legal framework of crime and criminal behavior, focusing on areas such as prevention, intervention and effective consequences. Coursework investigates theories of crime and criminal behavior, criminal laws and ethics. Students in an online criminal justice PhD program must research, write and defend a dissertation in an area of specialization, such as behavioral science, juvenile justice or organizational leadership. Graduates may pursue careers at organizations such as the CIA, FBI and secret service in positions that do not require fieldwork. Explore other career options, find top programs, and dive deeper into the timeline on our guide to online PhDs in criminal justice.

Quality Matters: Finding the Right Online CJ Program

Students interested in studying criminal justice can enroll at online community colleges, state and private schools, and for-profit institutions. No matter where an online criminal justice education resides, there are specific qualities that identify a high-caliber program.

A Stamp of Approval (Accreditation)

All online criminal justice degree programs should be fully accredited. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes six regional accreditation agencies as well as the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). Students should avoid any program without one of these forms of accreditation. Some programs are also accredited by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS), which promotes high-quality higher education, research and policy analysis for both educators and practitioners within the discipline.

Program Diversity

Students pursuing online criminal justice degrees benefit from the option to choose from multiple specializations or concentrations. For example, students who wish to pursue a career in academia can specialize in Teaching for Higher Education. Students interested in working in jails and prisons in administration can specialize in Corrections and Case Management. Other concentrations include Homeland Security, Public Safety Leadership, Forensics, Public Administration and Health Policy and Management. Many of these concentrations train graduates for careers in one of the hundreds of departments within the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ.gov) or the U.S. Secret Service (Secret Service.gov), a federal law enforcement agency headquartered in Washington, D.C., with more than 150 offices throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Resources and Technology

Flexibility is one of the top reasons students are attracted to online criminal justice degrees. Therefore, a quality program should have round-the-clock access to tools and technology such as digital libraries, communication software, tech support and other materials. The curriculum should also have a strong technology component. According to “The State of Criminal Justice 2012,” a report by the American Bar Association, the rates of violent crimes are declining, yet cybercrime is on the rise. Experts in the field need to be trained in advanced technology in order to combat this rising problem.

Networking Opportunities

Students need the opportunity to build relationships with faculty members who are subject matter experts with years of hands-on experience. They also benefit from an internship program that allows them to associate with experts in the field. Additionally, a strong alumni network is essential for finding a job after graduation.

Online criminal justice degree graduates should have the knowledge skills to seek and obtain entry-level positions in law enforcement, corrections and security. By developing a broad understanding of criminal law, the justice system, and the legal structure, students are able to graduate with a strong understanding of the nature of crimes, ethics in criminal justice and the ability to identify and analyze social problems and develop solutions. According to multiple studies by PayScale, the top six careers for criminal justice majors are police officer, paralegal, probation officer, detective, security officer and loss prevention manager.

Criminal Justice Certification

Although professional certifications are not required for most positions, those who hold them display a high level of education and experience in their specialty area. The professional programs below are examples of designations available to experts in the criminal justice field by various organizations. Requirements vary be certification.

ACA Corrections Certification: The American Correctional Association sponsors the Corrections Certifications Program, which offers credentials for experts working in adult corrections, juvenile justice, security threat groups and corrections healthcare.

Certified Jail Officer: The American Jail Association recognizes those jail officers with superior knowledge, skills and abilities, as well as a commitment to the corrections profession on a national level, with the Certified Jail Officer Program.

Certified Criminal Justice Specialist: The National Association of Forensic Counselors offers several certifications. Several of the programs, including the Certified Criminal Justice Specialist program, are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

Certified Security Consultant: Experts who display a high level of professionalism, knowledge and integrity as professional security consultants can earn Certified Security Consultant certification through the International Association of Professional Security Consultants.

Certified Law Enforcement Analyst: The International Association of Crime Analysts awards the Certified Law Enforcement designation to experts with high-level crime analysis, intelligence analysis, geographic profiling, police research and planning skills.

IAI Crime Scene Certification: The International Association for Identification manages the Crime Scene Certification Program, which is comprised of four separate designations: Certified Crime Scene Investigator, Certified Crime Scene Analyst, Certified Crime Scene Re-constructionist, and Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst.

The Inside Scoop: Interview with an Online CJ Graduate

The best way to discover the pros and cons of earning an online criminal justice degree is by listening to people who have already experienced it. Students and alumni can provide unique insight into the complete educational path, from the application process to finding a job. Let’s take a look at how Kerry Bush viewed his online program experience.

1. How did you get started with your online criminal justice degree education?

I knew I wanted to go into law enforcement from an early age because my father and uncles were on the police force while I was growing up and I always looked up to them. But even though I knew I would major in criminal justice, I was concerned about paying for a four-year education. I ended up enrolling in an associate degree program online while working full-time in retail, saving money for tuition. Then after I got my two-year degree I transferred to Florida State University to get my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice online. I think it was a smart decision because I saved a lot of money on tuition expenses.

2. How was the transfer process? Did your credit transfer without a problem?

Actually, since I knew I would transfer before I even started with my associate degree, I was able to meet with an advisor before choosing my courses and we mapped it all out so that it was a simple process. Most of the courses in a two-year program are general education courses similar to those at all colleges so it wasn’t that big a deal.

3. You mention that you wanted to follow in your family’s footsteps in law enforcement. Did you always plan on finding a position in a police department?

I thought I would become a police officer after graduation, but I ended up changing my path a bit. I decided to try volunteering in my community while earning my two-year degree because I thought it would help me when it came time to apply to four-year schools. I volunteered with the police department and a staff member who was active in Meals on Wheels encouraged me to give the program a try. I really enjoyed working with the elderly population in a way I didn’t know would happen. I still try to put in a few hours a month.

4. Were you happy with your online undergraduate education?

Definitely. There were so many benefits to doing the program online. I had the same courses as students on-campus and received the same diploma. But I had so much flexibility. In fact, I was able to continue working and volunteering once I got started. I didn’t have to go to campus for any courses at all, so it turned out to be even better than I expected. The faculty was amazing and I always felt supported- every step of the way.

5. What kind of technology was used in your distance learning program?

A few of my courses used videotapes but mostly I had to log in for discussions and lectures. Most of my courses allowed me to work on my own schedule. That was actually tricky in the beginning. I was handed these assignments and activities and a week to get them done. It can be difficult to get your own regular schedule without waiting until the last minute to get everything done. But I picked it up quickly. Everyone gets assigned an Academic Coordinator who keeps you on task.

Criminal Justice Degree Search Tool

Myriad postsecondary institutions offer criminal justice degrees at varied levels as part of their online learning options. Many of these programs have numerous qualities an online student may be looking for, such as asynchronous classes or a good value for cost, though only some may have the student support and financial assistance they may want. The search tool below will provide a quick and helpful list of online criminal justice programs that have all the qualities a student desires.