10 Best Doctorate in Criminal Justice Online [2020 PhD Guide]

We’ve ranked the 10 best doctorate in criminal justice online programs. Compare doctoral programs, career paths, and salaries.

Doctorate in Criminal Justice Online

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

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

Best Doctorate Degree in Criminal Justice Programs

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

Top criminal justice PhD programs focus on high-level skills and fierce management training.

PhD in Criminal Justice

police detectives investigating the crime scene

Those who specialize in criminal justice for their PhD will find themselves working with a lot of theory and research. A lot of the focus will be on understanding the criminal mind. It’s 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 of your classes will focus on sociology, forensics, history, and psychology. All of this will prepare you for real-world scenarios.

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

The most successful candidates are those who are meticulous, driven, and able to deal with horrific details and scenarios without letting them impact their lives. PhDs of Criminal Justice often find themselves in management roles, so the ability to motivate a team will come in handy if you decide to pursue this profession.

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 is a rewarding and challenging job. Although you can work for the Department of Homeland Security right out of high school, the top tier positions are reserved mostly for those who have a PhD of Criminal Justice.

The Department of Homeland Security is almost always hiring, and the pay is quite good! If you can secure yourself a spot in one of the top positions, you probably will enjoy job security and a nice paycheck, as well as a robust retirement.

You can work locally, on the state level, or nationally. If you opt to apply your skills at the Department of Homeland Security, you can get a job as an FBI Agent, Secret Service Agent, Policy Analyst, or DEA Agent. Within these coveted roles, you can also move up to manage teams or task forces.

To work for the Department of Homeland Security, you need to be thick-skinned, think quickly on your feet, and be able to work with others diplomatically and fairly. It’s not an easy job, but it is very gratifying and lucrative.

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 helps 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 can 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.

Forensic science is a growing field, and you can 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.

Diplomatic skills will also come in handy, especially if you are working with large teams or task forces of people. The best candidates are both personable and direct, and able to think on their feet quickly and accurately.

Doctoral Curriculum for Criminal Justice Programs

Criminal Justice degree student studying online

Top criminal justice PhD programs prepare you for a long career in the field by giving you a host of skills and providing you with insight into how law enforcement works on a regional, statewide and national scale. Coursework varies by school, but some standard classes 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 is an excellent way for PhD candidates to round out their studies.
  • Public Safety Leadership: As PhD candidates will be working 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’s 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’s 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

There are plenty of jobs that you can get with a PhD in criminal justice. Although salaries vary, most of the jobs are quite lucrative. With your doctorate in criminal justice, your salary should start solidly above average, making this an ideal career choice for those who wish to set themselves up with a sound financial future.

Many people with higher degrees in criminal justice find themselves in teaching positions, generally at the college or university level. They 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 average 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 Average Annual Salary
Information Security Analyst $98,350
Criminologist $82,050
Criminal Justice University Professor $73,140
Detective $63,380
Forensic Science Technician $58,230
Survey Researcher $57,700
Trade School Teacher $57,570
Criminal Investigator $55,830
State Government Teacher $51,550
Victim Advocate $49,470

Your PhD of Criminal Justice will allow you to explore all of these different career paths, 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 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, 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 will pay off.

Criminal Justice Licensure and Certifications

police officer studying on his laptop

In addition to getting your online criminal justice PhD, you will also 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 will 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 will 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 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 can 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 can join a forensics team, and help piece together clues from crime scenes from the bottom up. Forensics is a rewarding and lucrative field with plenty of room for growth.

Is It Worth Getting A PhD In Criminal Justice?

Many people are pleased that they got their PhD in criminal justice because it opens up plenty of doors for career growth.

PhDs in criminal justice generally make much more 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 could take anywhere 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 can 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.

Universities Offering Criminal Justice Online Doctorate Degree Programs

Each of the universities included below are regionally accredited and offer Criminal Justice doctorate degree online.

#1  California University of Pennsylvania

California University of Pennsylvania campus

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.

#2  Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University campus

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.

  • Doctor of Management in Criminal Justice

Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#3  Florida International University

Florida International University campus

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.

#4  Liberty University

Liberty University campus

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

#5  Northcentral University

Northcentral University campus

Northcentral University started in 1996 as a private learning facility that offers advanced level degree programs through fully distance learning programs. NU has undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in business, education, psychology, and marriage and family therapy. Their fully online program allows them to reach students across the US and the globe.

  • Doctor of Criminal Justice

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

#6  Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University campus

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.

#7  Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University campus

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.

#8  University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida campus

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.

#9  University of Louisville

University of Louisville campus 1

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.

#10  Walden University

Walden University campus

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.

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 is one sure-fire 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? You have nothing to lose!

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Brooke Heeley
Brooke Heeley