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Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Criminal Justice

Rankings, Salaries & Courses

Updated on: 12/04/2018
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Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can create a path toward many different occupations within the protective service. Correctional officers and bailiffs, detectives, and private investigators often begin their career with this degree. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a modest 5% growth for this job sector overall, communities continue to need protective service professionals.

Several colleges and universities across the country now offer online criminal justice degrees. Coursework for online programs boast the same quality and requirements as on-campus classes, opening similar professional opportunities for on-campus and online students after graduation.

Use this guide to learn more about the various aspects of criminal justice programs — coursework, job outlook, and scholarships — that can help you decide which program to pursue.

The Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in Criminal Justice 2018

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The list below ranks several colleges and universities that offer criminal justice programs across the United States. In creating the list, we examined various factors that affect the quality of a program, including coursework variety, tuition, school or program accreditation, and the resources available to both on-campus and online students. You can find specific program information, such as graduation requirements and specialization areas, on the school’s 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 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

How Much Can You Make in a Criminal Justice Career?

While a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can open the door to several possible careers within the field, it cannot guarantee professional advancement nor a specific salary level. However, many criminal justice positions require applicants to earn at least a bachelor’s degree.

The table below presents the job growth and salary projections for some of the common occupations open to criminal justice degree holders. It also describes the typical responsibilities that come with each position.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: 6%
Job Description

This type of criminal justice professional works with individuals in custody, on probation, or on parole. Their responsibilities often include determining effective rehabilitation and/or treatment programs for wards, attending prehearing investigations and testifying in court, counseling, and writing up and maintaining case reports. They also evaluate programs and community resources that can benefit their wards.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: 7%
Job Description

Police and detectives perform a variety of duties, depending on their work environment. They investigate crimes, issue citations for violations, patrol designated areas and monitor suspicious behavior, and testify in court. Fish and game wardens also perform policing functions by enforcing hunting, boating, and fishing laws and investigating complaints and accidents.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: 11%
Job Description

Attorneys, businesses, and other individuals hire private detectives and investigators for many different reasons. These professionals conduct surveillance, verify a person’s background, and help find missing persons. Detectives and investigators carry out their activities as private citizens, requiring an in-depth understanding of local, state, and federal laws to ensure the gathered evidence is admissible in a court of law.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: 6%
Job Description

Security guards monitor alarms and security cameras, control building or property access, respond to emergencies, and detain violators or trespassers. Gaming surveillance officers survey casino gaming areas for suspicious activities, such as cheating, theft, or drunkenness. They make sure both the establishment and patrons comply with state rules and regulations, maintaining and organizing security and surveillance camera recordings.

Source: BLS

Several factors influence demand, salary, and job growth potential for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, including population density and the number of prisons and correctional facilities in a state. The state government (excluding public schools and hospitals) employs the highest number of probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. California boasts the highest employment rate in this profession, followed by Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida. California is also the top-paying state for this profession, followed by New Jersey, Iowa, New York, and Alaska.

What Courses Can be Taken for an Online Criminal Justice Degree?

Each school crafts a curriculum that embodies its educational goals for students. As a result, criminal justice coursework can vary greatly between colleges and universities across the country. However, criminal justice programs generally offer similar core coursework to give students the foundational knowledge and skills needed for this field.

Community Corrections

In this course, students examine the ethical, legal, and social issues that led to the corrections methods used today. Studies focus on the effectiveness of probation, parole, diversionary programs, and incarceration alternatives.

Criminal Law

Students perform an in-depth philosophical analysis of the concepts and principles comprising criminal law foundations, including courtroom application. Learners study topics like criminal court decisions, criminal elements, and procedural aspects.

Criminological Theory

Course participants study current and emerging theoretical perspectives in criminal justice, the different explanations behind criminal behavior, and how society influences criminal justice practice.

Introduction to Criminal Justice

This course examines the functions and organizational structure of the different agencies making up the criminal justice system, such as corrections, juvenile justice, and law enforcement.

Prisons and Society

Students explore the effects of mass incarceration on prisoners, their families, and the community at large. They also study the impact of incarceration on democratic principles and justice as a whole.

How to Choose the Best Online Criminal Justice Program

There are several factors to consider when choosing an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice program. Prospective students should not only consider cost, but also graduation rates, student retention, and accreditation. The last factor plays an important role if you plan to apply for federal financial assistance, as the U.S. Department of Education only offers financial aid for students attending accredited schools.

In the following section, you can read the answers to five commonly asked questions about online bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice.

Can I Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice Completely Online?

Some schools do offer criminal justice programs entirely online. Coursework for these programs often consist of both asynchronous and synchronous classes. This setup gives online students the flexibility to schedule classes at times most convenient for them without foregoing the opportunity to interact with other students and professors in real time.

Is an Internship Required to Earn a Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree Online?

Most criminal justice programs require both on-campus and online students to complete an internship or practicum prior to graduation. An internship gives students the chance to explore a particular criminal justice arena and experience how their preferred career operates on a daily basis.

Do Online Criminal Justice Degrees Offer the Same Coursework as On-Campus Programs?

As a rule, schools that offer both on-campus and online bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice use the same curriculum for both programs. However, class schedules and course availability may differ, especially for online programs.

Is There an Advantage to Pursuing a Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree Online?

If you pursue your bachelor’s degree in criminal justice online, you can take advantage of the flexibility that comes with most online programs, especially if you enroll in asynchronous courses.You can also earn your degree faster if your program offers more than two enrollment or intake periods during the academic year.

How Can I Be Sure That an Online Criminal Justice Program Is Credible?

Check that the school offering the online criminal justice degree is accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and/or by one of the regional accrediting organizations widely accepted in the United States. At the current time, no organization grants specific programmatic accreditation for criminal justice degrees, so the accreditation of your prospective school is crucial.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Criminal Justice Programs

Some students take out private or federal student loans to help finance their college education. These types of funding options require repayment once a student graduates from or leaves a program. Scholarships and grants do not have to be repaid. Students must meet strict requirements to qualify for many of these scholarship programs, including submitting an essay that lists an applicant’s achievements and the reasons why they should be awarded the scholarship. Below, we have listed five criminal justice scholarships you can explore.

Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship

This scholarship opportunity is open to minority students who have been accepted to, or are currently enrolled in, an undergraduate criminal justice program. Scholarship hopefuls must be nominated by a member of the American Correctional Association. Nominees should submit a 250-word essay on the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and how they have attempted to emulate these ideals. The scholarship amount is $1,000.

Melissa Linville Criminal Justice Scholarship

Crimcheck administers this annual scholarship program worth $500. The scholarship benefits freshmen who plan to major in a criminal justice field or students currently enrolled in a criminal justice program. Applicants must submit an essay describing their reasons for choosing a career in criminal justice, their professional objectives after graduation, and how the scholarship award can help them meet their goals.

National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) Scholarship Awards

NOBLE administers three scholarship programs: Irlet Anderson Scholarship (worth $2,500), Charles Fonseca Scholarship (worth $2,000), and Bernard and Sylvia Davis Thompson Scholarship (worth $1,500). Each scholarship is a one-time award reserved for graduating high school seniors with at least a 3.8 GPA and proof of financial need. Applicants must plan to pursue a career in law enforcement or criminal justice after graduation. Applicants should submit a one-page essay stating their criminal justice career goals and the reasons why they want the scholarship.

Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarships

This scholarship has $1,000; $2,500; $5,000; and $10,000 award amounts. Applicants must be enrolled in an accounting, business administration, criminal justice, or finance program in an accredited U.S. college or university. Students must plan to pursue a career in anti-fraud after graduation and demonstrate their current interest in this arena. Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, and a completed application form.

Women in Federal Law Enforcement Scholarship

Applicants must have completed at least one year of study in a criminal justice program at an accredited two- or four-year institution. They should submit at least one letter of recommendation from a police official or community leader. Applicants must also write a 500-word essay that describes the role they played in a community project and the impact the project had on the city. The scholarship amount is $1,500.