2024 Doctorate in Criminal Justice Online Programs [PhD Guide]

By Joy Cromwelle
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on May 18, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
Ready to start your journey?
Explore doctorate in criminal justice online programs for 2023. Compare online doctoral criminal justice programs, salaries, & careers.

Looking for doctorate in criminal justice online programs? Compare doctoral programs, schools, career paths, and salaries.

Doctorate in Criminal Justice Online

A phenomenal way that you can boost your skillset and chances to get into the upper levels of the criminal justice system is to pursue a doctorate in criminal justice online.

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PhDs in criminal justice are often the heads of organizations, the movers and shakers of policy decisions, and at the forefront of national security.

Universities Offering Criminal Justice Online Doctorate Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

California University of Pennsylvania

With over 200 dynamic programs that allow students access to associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees, California University of Pennsylvania has been paving the way for higher education since 1852.

With on-campus and distance learning opportunities, this public university extends hands-on learning opportunities to help students have a positive global impact.

  • Doctorate in Criminal Justice

California University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University began in 1965 and has grown into a leader in education excellence that helps students gain undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degrees in a variety of majors.

Their global distance learning program is top-rated among military members and veterans and allows for a flexible option for future educational opportunities, making it to U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans.

  • Doctor of Management in Criminal Justice

Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Florida International University

As an internationally recognized public research university located on the beautiful coast of Florida, Florida International University began in 1965 as a way to serve the areas growing population. Today, FIU offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate’s, including degrees in law and medicine. Their online programs let FIU reach students globally.

  • PhD in International Crime and Justice (Hybrid)

Florida International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Liberty University

Liberty University prides itself on its diverse, faith-based learning opportunities provided to students through in-class and distance learning programs.

Established in 1771, Liberty University offers students to gain a certificate, bachelor, master’s, or doctoral degree in over 600 program areas. This private school represents students across the US and the world.

  • PhD in Criminal Justice
  • PhD in Criminal Justice – Homeland Security

Liberty also offers an online criminal psychology degree program for students interested in this specialty.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

National University

Founded in 1971, National University is a network of nonprofit educational institutions headquartered in San Diego, California. NU is dedicated to providing flexible, quality education for busy adults. It offers a wide variety of advanced degrees that can be earned through fully online programs.

NU offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in fields such as business, education, psychology, and marriage and family therapy. Its fully online programs allow it to reach students across the US and from around the world.

  • Doctor of Criminal Justice

National University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University is a private university that began educating adults in 1964. This vibrant campus is located in Davie, Florida, and is made up of eighteen schools that reach students around the globe. With more than 150 interactive, research-based programs of study, NSU offers Undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs.

  • PhD in Criminal Justice

NSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University’s historic roots began in 1889 and have grown into a globally reaching private Roman Catholic university. Each program offered at Saint Leo’s is grounded in a liberal arts education, with specializations in many areas. Students can gain an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees with online or on-campus classes.

  • Doctor of Criminal Justice – Education
  • Doctor of Criminal Justice – Homeland Security

Saint Leo University is accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of Central Florida

Developed with the idea of space exploration in mind in 1963, the University of Central Florida is a public space-grant educational institution that provides over 200- degree paths to help students further their career aspirations.

Through online and on-campus learning, UCF’s student-centered education leads to a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees.

  • PhD in Criminal Justice

The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Louisville

Starting in 1798, the University of Louisville is a public research university that prides itself on the academic success shown by students all over the world.

The university offers a multitude of degree programs leading to an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral or professional certification. Their school of medicine is world-renowned in innovations and discoveries.

  • PhD in Criminal Justice

The University of Louisville is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Walden University

Beginning in 1970, Walden University is a private postsecondary school that offers students a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in a multitude of programs, including technology, health science, and criminal justice.

Walden is known for its progress in online learning, bringing the classroom to students wherever they are around the world.

  • PhD in Criminal Justice

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Doctorate Degree in Criminal Justice Programs

Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide.

Accredited criminal justice PhD programs generally focus on high-level skills and management training.

PhD in Criminal Justice

police detectives investigating the crime scene

Those who specialize in criminal justice for their PhD typically find themselves working with a lot of theory and research. A lot of the focus is usually on understanding the criminal mind. It’s can be a fascinating area of study, but certainly not for the faint-hearted!

You will need excellent research skills, the ability to deal with the less savory aspects of the human condition, and a keen ability to get into the minds of others. Good criminal justice majors understand psychology and sociology.

Many criminal justice classes focus on sociology, forensics, history, and psychology. All of this can help prepare you for real-world scenarios.

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Criminal justice majors often pursue careers as professors or researchers, lending their knowledge to others in pursuit of some of the most nefarious criminals in the world. Others write textbooks or guides to the human condition, and some criminal justice majors even find themselves enjoying consultant roles on crime shows.

PhD in Homeland Security

homeland security officer guarding a building

The Department of Homeland Security was created on November 25, 2002, as a direct result of the 9/11 terror attacks. Working for this department can be a rewarding and challenging job.

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Employees for the Department of Homeland Security can work locally, on the state level, or nationally. If you opt to apply your skills at the Department of Homeland Security, you may also qualify for a career in a range of fields such as an FBI Agent, Secret Service Agent, Policy Analyst, or DEA Agent.

PhD in Law Enforcement

Forensic scientist collecting evidences in a crime scene

When most people think of jobs that they can get with a PhD of Criminal Justice, law enforcement is the first thing that comes to mind. While you don’t need a doctorate to be a police officer or security guard, it can help if you want to work in the top levels of law enforcement.

Many people who have their doctorate in criminal justice work managing teams of people, or specialized roles like investigator or detective. You might also work in forensics, which requires a considerable degree of criminal justice expertise, as well as an understanding of science. Forensic scientists and technicians are the ones who piece together crime scenes and find culprits.

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Forensic science is a growing field, and you could possibly rise quickly through the ranks if you are smart, dedicated, and able to put together clues rapidly. To excel in law enforcement, you need to have a thick skin, be able to read people, and manage stress well.

Doctoral Curriculum for Criminal Justice Programs

Criminal Justice degree student studying online

Accredited criminal justice PhD programs typically prepare students for a long career in the field by giving them a host of skills and providing insight into how law enforcement works on a regional, statewide and national scale. Coursework varies by school, but some standard classes often come with this degree.

  • Leadership Theory: Leadership theory deals with how to work with people and establish powerful leadership. It explores the various ways organizations gel together and how to cultivate cohesiveness.
  • Criminal Justice Management: Similar to leadership theory, this course focuses specifically on how the management structure works in different criminal justice organizations.
  • Management Theory: All members of a team are different, and management theory talks about how to deal with different personalities and workplace conflicts.
  • Advanced Strategic Planning: This course addresses concepts like logic modeling, change development, and how to effectively measure the results of specific initiatives. It goes hand-in-hand with management.
  • Philosophy of Law and Justice: Understanding the basic foundation of our legal and justice system is imperative to working in criminal justice. This course can be an excellent way for PhD candidates to round out their studies.
  • Public Safety Leadership: As PhD candidates usually work directly with the public, understanding how to interact with them and propose actionable initiatives is a useful skill.
  • Quantitative Research Methods: This course deals with the research aspect of criminal justice, specifically best practices when it comes to quantitative data.
  • Trend Analysis and Data Interpretation: Anyone who works at the higher levels of a criminal justice organization will need to be able to digest and understand data accurately. They will also need to spot trends.
  • Advanced Qualitative Research for Public Service: If you want to be effective in the public service sector, you need to understand how to distill down research so that people can understand it.
  • Advanced Quantitative Techniques: This course details new techniques and systems used to gather data. It can be beneficial for anyone working with the public sector or at a higher level on a criminal justice team.

These classes are just a small sample of what could be available to you. There are plenty of other electives that you can opt for to hone your skill sets further.

Doctorate in Criminal Justice Careers & Salaries

Doctorate in Criminal Justice Careers & Salaries

Many people with higher degrees in criminal justice find themselves in teaching positions, generally at the college or university level. They may also work with the sociological aspects of the criminal mind and help to unravel some of the toughest cases.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the annual median salaries for the jobs listed below. All of these jobs are popular professions for those with criminal justice careers, and many of them have outstanding advancement opportunities.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Information Security Analysts $103,590
Police Lieutenants $92,970
Detectives and Criminal Investigators $86,940
Criminologists $86,110
Emergency Management Directors $76,250
Criminal Justice University Professors $63,560
Forensic Science Technicians $60,590
Survey Researchers $59,870
Trade School Teachers $59,140
Judicial Law Clerks $57,510

Your PhD of Criminal Justice can help you explore many different career paths in criminal justice, and even teach others valuable skills so that they can go on and work in the field also.

Many of these jobs require seriously excellent people skills, the ability to think on your feet, and effectively manage others. They are often  great jobs for those who are natural leaders who want to make a difference in the world.


Doctorate in Criminal Justice Accreditation

When pursuing online PhD programs in criminal justice, or any other programs like criminology masters programs, it’s essential to know if they have regional accreditation. Regional accreditation is a validation of the college and a stamp of approval for the quality of its classes.

To qualify, these colleges need to meet a certain level of excellence and are judged on a federal level. Those who are up to scratch are given the badge of honor of regional accreditation.

A regionally accredited school will look better on your resume and allow you to have more opportunities when you graduate. You can find this information simply by going online and doing research on the college of your choice.

It’s always wise to check the credentials and credibility of a college before starting classes there. You want to make sure that your education is as useful as possible after you graduate from school. Doing your due diligence pays off.

Criminal Justice Licensure and Certifications

police officer studying on his laptop

In addition to getting your online criminal justice PhD, you may want to look into different licensure and certification options. Many of these are available, and they can help you be more credible in your field.

Check out the ACA for potential certifications that apply directly to your particular field of study. Some areas of criminal justice may mandate that you be certified in certain areas before you can begin work. Occasionally, a degree won’t be enough, and taking advantage of certifications can give you a leg up in the field.

Criminal Justice Professional Organizations

police officers meeting before working

There are several professional organizations that you can join to help you further your education and network properly with other criminal justice professionals. Below is a list of some of these organizations.

It’s by no means comprehensive, and the state you live in might have additional regional or local ones for you to join.

Financial Aid

Financial Aid for criminal justice degree students

If you want to get your doctorate in criminal justice online, there are plenty of options for financial aid. You can take out several loans to cover the cost of your college, but it’s advisable not to take out more loans than you can reasonably pay back.

A good rule of thumb is only to borrow what you need. Many people take out loans for courses, books, and other essential collegiate items.

Also, you may be able to qualify for certain types of grants. Since you do not need to pay back grants, they tend to be an attractive option that can seriously offset some of your school debt. If you qualify as lower-income, you might be eligible for income-based grants.

Excellent scholars who show exceptional promise in their chosen fields of study also can often get grants to individual colleges and universities. These merit-based grants tend to be competitive, so it’s advisable to apply early.

Ultimately, there are plenty of options available. It’s best to look at what is offered to you on both a state and federal level. Apply for grants, even if you think that you might not get them. You could be pleasantly surprised.

What Can I Do With A PhD In Criminal Justice?

police detective in a crime scene

There are plenty of things that you can do with a degree in criminal justice. Some people prefer to get into teaching or mentoring others in the field. You could also use those top-notch people skills to be able to get into the minds of criminals and understand what makes them tick.

If you have an aptitude for science, you might join a forensics team, and help piece together clues from crime scenes from the bottom up. Forensics can be a rewarding and lucrative field with plenty of room for growth.

Is It Worth Getting A PhD In Criminal Justice?

Yes, it is worth getting a PhD in criminal justice for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 3% job growth in protective service occupations over the next 10 years. Common careers in this field include survey researcher, criminal justice university professor, criminologist, and police lieutenant.

Many people are pleased that they got their PhD in criminal justice because it opens up many doors for career growth. PhDs in criminal justice usually have better prospects than their counterparts who only have bachelor’s degrees and have opportunities to manage teams and craft policy.

A growing number of PhD programs do not require a dissertation allowing you to complete your doctoral requirements in less time with a capstone project.

How Long Does It Take To Get Your PhD In Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice degree student studying online

Traditionally it takes roughly four years to complete your degree in criminal justice, but some adult learners take it a little bit slower due to familial or work obligations.

Have a time frame in mind and then give yourself a little bit of wiggle room just in case something comes up. Most colleges and universities will be very understanding and accommodating.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice?

If you opt to get your degree online, it will mostly likely take you somewhere between two and five years to complete between 40 to 60 credit hours of work. The beauty of getting an online degree is being able to set your own schedule.

Before committing to your course load, you will want to evaluate what other obligations you have going on seriously. It’s better to take it slow than to get burned out. You can always take on more classes if your time gets freed up.

How Much Does A Doctorate In Criminal Justice Cost?

police officers walking on the streets

Costs vary depending on what college you attend, but generally speaking, you’ll pay anywhere between $20,000 to $60,000 for your doctorate. Granted, that’s a wide range, but it takes into account electives and grants.

If you want to save some money on your schooling, you should try to get as many grants as possible. Grants are phenomenal ways to offset costs because you don’t need to pay them back.

What Can You Do With A Doctorate In Criminal Justice?

There are plenty of things that you may do with your doctorate in criminal justice, including teaching, working in the higher levels of governmental agencies, and applying your knowledge to catch mastermind criminals and bring them to justice.

Getting Your Doctorate in Criminal Justice Online

police detective checking files in office

If you are serious about climbing the ladder in the field of criminal justice, getting your doctorate can be a good way of setting yourself apart from other candidates.

Some people think that it’s too late, or that they are too old to go back to school, but the reality is that the vast majority of adult learners wind up making substantial career changes later in life, and being happy with the results.

You can create an investment in your future at any stage of life, so why not take hold of your life and apply today?

Ready to start your journey?