25 Best Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs [2020 Guide]

We’ve identified the 25 best online Criminal Justice degree programs. Compare top schools and see what you could be doing after you graduate.

Online Criminal Justice Degree

A degree in Criminal Justice prepares you to work for the various levels of government in a wide range of roles. You could also work in the legal field. Criminal Justice graduates earn between $35,000 and $75,000 depending on their job.

Types of Online Criminal Justice Degrees

Click on the area that interests you to jump to that part of the page.

While these areas are all related, each one will prepare you for a different career.

Criminal Justice

police officers investigating the crime scene

If you are the type of person who dreams of protecting the innocent and sending offenders behind bars, then you should pursue a degree in criminal justice.

You’ll learn everything you need to know about the criminal justice system, particularly how its three major institutions—law enforcement, corrections system, and the courts—function.


You’ll be trained to develop strong leadership and management skills. You will also learn how to be analytical and diplomatic.

Upon graduation, you’ll find a host of employment opportunities. You can be a cool FBI special agent. You may also work as a crime scene investigator, a probation officer, or a police detective.

Corrections

corrections officer assisting an inmate

If you believe that criminal offenders should be given the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, then you should consider getting a corrections degree.

You will not only get the chance to land a good-paying job but also test your conflict-resolution skills and even help convicts get back on the right track.


As you prepare yourself for work inside correctional facilities, you’ll take up courses such as public safety and correctional methods. You will also be trained to maintain your cool and composure, which would help you in enforcing rules.

Upon graduation, you will likely work in prisons or jails, but you may also find employment opportunities in private security firms and even hospital settings.

Crime Scene Investigation (CSI)

crime scene investigator taking pictures in a crime scene

You’ve probably dreamt of becoming a crime scene investigator because of shows like CSI and NCIS. While the job is a lot more difficult than what TV often depicts, there is no denying that being a crime scene investigator is one of the more colorful jobs you can get.

The ideal candidate for a degree in CSI is analytical, organized, methodical, and hardworking. You’ll take up courses ranging from ethics, psychology, criminal justice, chemistry, physics, and legal studies.


Upon graduation, you’ll find employment opportunities in law enforcement agencies. You may also find work in private detective firms. Your education should prepare you for the rigors of the job, including being investigating disturbing crime scenes.

Aside from being physically fit, you must also be able to handle stressful working environments.

Emergency Management

first aid responders assisting a patient

Pursue a degree in emergency management if you dream of helping people during disasters such as tornadoes, wildfires, and storms.

You’ll also enjoy this field if you like helping people prepare for natural or man-made disasters.


With a degree in emergency management, you may find yourself working in public and private organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Red Cross.

You may work as a firefighter, first aid responder, or an emergency systems specialist. As you gain more experience and earn the necessary education or accreditation, you may even take up more senior roles such as the emergency services system director.

Homeland Security

SWAT officers preparing to enter a building

You will find a degree in homeland security worth taking if you have an interest in identifying, mitigating, and controlling national security risks.

While a homeland security degree can lead you to a job in law enforcement, it can also be your ticket to a job in criminal justice, emergency response, and cybersecurity, among others.

With a homeland security degree program, you will be given a strong foundation in areas such as intelligence, counter-terrorism, border security, and emergency management. You will learn more about cyber warfare, terrorist groups, and transnational security, among others.


Upon graduation, you stand to work in the federal government. One of the largest employers of homeland security degree holders is the Department of Homeland Security, with more than 240,000 employees.

You can also find employment in law enforcement agencies, emergency management companies, and security firms.

Law Enforcement

police officers wearing helmet and virus during a demonstration

You can prepare yourself for a lucrative career in criminal justice by earning a degree in law enforcement.

With a law enforcement degree, you’ll gain the knowledge, training, and qualification to become a police officer, detective, or probation or parole officer, among others.


Some of the courses you’d likely take when pursuing a law enforcement degree are investigative techniques, modern policing, law enforcement operations, and criminal investigations.

Law enforcement degree candidates are trained to be analytical and organized. They are also expected to be physically fit and mentally tough.

Courses for an Online Criminal Justice Degree

Courses for an Online Criminal Justice Degree

The courses offered in an online criminal justice program differ depending on the school, educational path, and career goals of the students. However, below are some of the courses you are likely to take during the course of a criminal justice degree program:

  • Criminal Justice— you will have a deeper understanding of criminal laws, courtroom procedures, and the criminal process from arrest, detention, and incarceration.
  • Victimology – you will learn about the experiences of victims as they move through the criminal justice system. You will better understand victimization patterns, among others.
  • Ethics and Diversity — you will learn more about the ethical practice of law enforcement, particularly in incorporating cultural awareness in various communities.
  • Terrorism — this will give you a closer look at the behavior and motivations of terrorist groups as well as the effects of terrorist activities at local and national levels
  • Drugs and Crime — you will learn about the origins of drug addiction and how it is related to crime. You will also learn and analyze drug policies, drug treatment, and drug prevention programs.

You’ll also take classes specific to your concentration.

Criminal Justice Degree Salary

Criminal Justice Degree Salary

You will be surprised to learn that a criminal justice degree opens up a wide range of employment opportunities. Below is a list of some of the jobs you can get with a criminal justice degree:

Careers Average Annual Salary
Lawyer $74,980
Private investigator/detective $59,320
Police officer $38,850
Federal Marshal $38,511
Forensic analyst $37,520
Paralegal $36,080
Probation officer $35,990

While education is the largest factor in determining your starting salary, performance and experience will be what moves you up in your organization.

Professional Organizations for Those with a Criminal Justice Degree

Professional Organizations for Those with a Criminal Justice Degree

The criminal justice field has become quite competitive in recent years. Joining professional organizations can help criminal justice degree holders build their credentials and expand their network.

  • American Academy of Forensic Science – Founded in 1948, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences is a group of forensic science professionals based in Colorado, USA. It has members from more than 70 countries. It promotes professionalism, competency, and integrity in the forensic science field.
  • American Correctional Association – A private and non-profit trade group, the American Correctional Association is the oldest and largest trade association for the corrections industry. Founded in 1870, it had played a significant role in prison reform in the United States. An accrediting body, it has accredited more than 900 prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities in the US.
  • American Jail Association – The AJA offers a career resource for individuals looking to gain employment in the corrections field. This association has members from more than 3,500 jails and correctional institutions in the United States.
  • National Criminal Justice Association – This non-profit and non-partisan association has members from the law enforcement, corrections, academics, and justice communities.

Joining one or more of these organizations as a student will give you additional insights into the industry through publications, industry news, and job boards.

Accreditation for a Criminal Justice Degree Online

Accreditation for a Criminal Justice Degree Online

Accreditation is an important factor when searching for a criminal justice degree online. Consider enrolling in a college or university with a regional accreditation as this ensures that the institution provides quality education.

Employers also tend to give preference to candidates with criminal justice degrees from colleges and universities with regional accreditation.

US colleges and universities offering criminal justice programs may also have national accreditation, which is considered less prestigious than regional accreditation. Nationally-accredited schools, though, may offer more affordable criminal justice programs.

Financial Aid for a Criminal Justice Bachelors Degree Online

Financial Aid for a Criminal Justice Bachelors Degree Online

Some students apply for private or federal loans to help them finance their criminal justice education. If you take this route, you will have to repay your lender upon graduation.

You can also look and apply for scholarships and grants, which don’t have to be repaid. You’ll have to meet strict requirements to qualify, though, such as submitting an essay detailing your achievements and compelling reasons why you should be given the scholarship.

See what federal aid you qualify for by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

You can then apply for private scholarships, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. scholarship, which is open to minority students currently enrolled or about to be accepted to an undergraduate criminal justice program.

You can also apply for a scholarship under the Melissa Linville Criminal Justice program, which benefits freshmen planning to major in criminal justice.

Other scholarships that you may want to try applying to are the Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarships and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) scholarships.

Questions Related to Earning a Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice Online

lawyers discussing in the office

Here are our answers to a few more questions you might have.

Can You Get a Criminal Justice Degree Online?

Yes, you can earn a Criminal Justice degree online. There’s a good number of colleges and universities across the country offering online criminal justice degrees.

Coursework for these programs is of the same quality as on-campus classes. You will also have the same professional opportunities as those who earn criminal justice degrees on-campus.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Criminal Justice Degree Online?

How long it takes to get a Criminal Justice degree online depends on the level of degree you want to take. You may earn a certificate program in criminal justice, which you can complete in 6 to 12 months. But this may not be enough to land you a job after graduation.

You may also take up an associate degree, which would take you around two years to complete. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice can take up to 3-4 years.

How Much Does Criminal Justice Degree Cost?

Criminal Justice Degree student studying online

How much a Criminal Justice degree costs depends on the level of degree you’ll be taking. An associate degree, which appeals to students who want to start a career in criminal justice in the shortest time possible, is the shortest to complete at 2 years.

The U.S. Department of Education says the average annual cost for an associate criminal justice degree is $21,141. Expect to spend at least $42,282 to complete this degree. Double that amount for a bachelor degree.

What Is the Best Online College for Criminal Justice?

The best online college for a criminal justice degree is one that is regionally-accredited.

You should also take into consideration other factors in choosing an online college for criminal justice degrees such as tuition fees, faculty longevity and credentials, and overall graduation rate.

What Are the Cheapest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs?

Criminal Justice Degree student studying online at home

You won’t have to pay thousands of dollars in tuition fees to get a criminal justice degree.

There are educational institutions offering affordable online criminal justice degree programs. Some of the most affordable degree programs cost just $200 per credit hour.

Universities Offering Criminal Justice Degrees Online

Rankings Methodology

The following colleges and universities are regionally accredited and offer one or more online programs in Criminal Justice.

#1  Arizona State University

Arizona State University campus

Arizona State University offers a BS in Criminology and Criminal Justice. The program is a 120-credit-hour program with a total of 40 classes with each class lasting for 7.5  weeks.

Students who maintain a GPA of 3.40 and higher can apply to the accelerated criminal justice degree program, which allows them to complete the BS and MA in just 5 years.

  • BS in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Committee.

#2  Ball State University

Ball State University campus

Ball State University offers a BS in Criminal Justice and Criminology that has the unique feature of allowing you to customize your degree based on the career path you want to enter.

This program is ideal for persons working in criminology and criminal justice who wish to achieve their degree while juggling family and jobs.

  • BS in Criminal Justice and Criminology

BSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#3  Bellevue University

Bellevue University campus

Bellevue University offers a BS in Criminal Justice and Emergency Management. The degree features a total of 127 credit hours and is offered on campus and online.

This is ideal for people who have deep-rooted values as justice, integrity, and honesty. Students will learn corrections, law enforcement, and court systems.

  • BS in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Emergency Management

Bellevue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#4  Bemidji State University

Bemidji State University campus

Bemidji State University offers a BS in Criminal Justice, which is provided partly online. The last two years of the BS are provided entirely online. Students pursuing this degree can choose to emphasize in Corrections, Law Enforcement, Victimology, and Tribal Justice.

The program is delivered entirely online, and there is the option to enroll for on-campus classes as well.

  • BS in Criminal Justice

Bemidji State University is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#5  Brandman University

Brandman University campus

Brandman University offers a BA in Criminal Justice. The program is designed to expose students to real-life experiences. The program covers legal strategies, ethical strategies, and knowledge for problem-solving.

This is a good choice if you are interested in being able to fit into a wide variety of justice, court, and law enforcement careers.

  • BA in Criminal Justice

Brandman University is accredited by the WSCUC Senior College and University Commission.

#6  Central Methodist University

Central Methodist University campus

Central Methodist University offers both a BA & BS in Criminal Justice. This program covers everything from profiling, serial crime, and American society law. Students get the opportunity to build the necessary skills for becoming a professional in the real world.

Courses covered include policing, criminal law, and the entire legal system.

  • BA in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Criminal Justice

CMU is accredited and/or recognized by the Higher Learning Commission.

#7  Colorado State University

Colorado State University campus

Colorado State University offers a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. This is a 120-credit-hour program that provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to perform in the criminal justice industry.

Students will learn law enforcement, managerial skills, and more to help with the smooth running of industry agencies.

  • Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice

Colorado State is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#8  Crown College

Crown College campus

Crown College offers a BS in Criminal Justice as well as a BS in Disaster and Emergency Management. This degree is ideal for anyone who wants to join the growing and exciting field of criminal justice.

The program here is a Christ-centered one with a broad overview of criminal justice, giving students multiple entry points to start their career.

  • BS in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Disaster and Emergency Management

Crown College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#9  Dallas Baptist University

Dallas Baptist University campus

Dallas Baptist University offers both a BA and a BS in Criminal Justice. Students of these programs are provided with a general scope of American crime and the criminal justice system.

Students enrolled in this program prepare for careers in the judicial system, in law enforcement, in corrections, juvenile justice, social services, and more.

  • BA in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Criminal Justice

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

#10  Drury University

Drury University campus

Drury University offers three different options. There is a BS degree in Criminal Justice, one in Emergency Management, and One in Law Enforcement.

Students who are certain about which areas they want to pursue underneath the criminal justice umbrella will find these specific programs of interest. Students who are still unsure will find the Criminal Justice program ideal.

  • BS in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Emergency Management
  • BS in Law Enforcement

Drury University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#11  Granite State College

Granite State College campus

Granite State College offers an online BS degree in Criminal Justice. The program prepares students to work in corrections, parole, advocacy, and probation roles, among others.

The program is unique in that it allows students to demonstrate their knowledge level and have this applied to their credit. Students who have work experience or volunteer-based experiences and training and earn credit hours for these.

  • BS in Criminal Justice

Granite State College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

#12  Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University offers a total of 9 online degrees that can help students prepare for a career in law enforcement, criminal justice, crime scene investigation, criminal psychology, and more.

Each degree program has a specific focus prepare students for particular jobs in a particular niche field of Criminal Justice.

  • BS in Criminal Justice – Business Administration and Management
  • BS in Criminal Justice – Crime Scence Investigation
  • BS in Criminal Justice – Criminal Psychology
  • BS in Criminal Justice – Homeland Security
  • BS in Criminal Justice – Juvenile Justice
  • BS in Criminal Justice – Public Administration
  • BS in Criminal Justice – Strategic Intelligence
  • BS in Law and Policy
  • BS in Law and Policy – Pre-Law

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

#13  Regent University

Regent University campus

Regent University offers a BS in Criminal Justice along with a BS in Professional Studies with an emphasis. Programs are offered on campus as well as online.

The BS in Criminal Justice has a focus on homeland security, making it a perfect fit for students who want to get into careers in that field.

  • BS in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Professional Studies – Criminal Justice

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

#14  Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University campus

Sam Houston State University offers a BA in Criminal Justice and a BA in Homeland Security Studies. They also offer a BS in Criminal Justice and a BS in Homeland Security Studies.

These courses provide students the ability to study at research institutes. The program also allows students to access world-renowned correctional and law enforcement training.

  • BA in Criminal Justice
  • BA in Homeland Security Studies
  • BS in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Homeland Security Studies

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

#15  Thomas Edison State University

Thomas Edison State University campus

Thomas Edison State University offers both a BA in Criminal Justice and a BS in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. These programs are suitable for adult learners and persons who have experience in law enforcement.

The program is designed to allow these people the opportunity to step up the career ladder.

  • BA in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Thomas Edison State University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#16  University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida campus

The University of Central Florida offers a BA and a BS degree in Criminal Justice. The programs are 120-credit-hour programs that are delivered entirely online. The program provides online, interactive coursework as well as hands-on training in some instances.

Students will learn the skills and knowledge they need to enter the various careers in the criminal justice system.

  • BA in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Criminal Justice

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

#17  University of Mary

University of Mary campus

The University of Mary offers students a BS in Criminal Justice. The degree is offered entirely online and gives students the ability to take their criminal justice career to the next level. Students are allowed to transfer qualifying credits and can finish the program in as little as two years.

  • BS in Criminal Justice

The University of Mary is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#18  University of Maryland Global Campus

University of Maryland Global campus

The University of Maryland Global campus offers a BS in Criminal Justice as well as a BS in Homeland Security. Both these programs are offered entirely online.

The programs give students the skills and knowledge they need to excel in a variety of careers in the field of Criminal Justice.

  • BS in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Homeland Security

UMGC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#19  University of Nebraska – Kearney

University of Nebraska at Kearney campus

The University of Nebraska at Kearney campus offers a fully online BS degree in Criminal Justice. The degree is a 120-credit program that provides students with the necessary knowledge and skills for jobs in the criminal justice fields.

The degree is suitable for persons already working in the area as well as is ideal for new high school grads.

  • BS in Criminal Justice

The University of Nebraska at Kearney is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#20  University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix campus

The University of Phoenix offers online degrees including a BS in Correctional Program Support Services, a BS in Criminal Justice Administration and a BS in Security Management.

Each program has its definite focus, and as such, these degrees are ideal for students who know for a fact what fields they want to get into after school.

  • BS in Correctional Program Support Services
  • BS in Criminal Justice Administration
  • BS in Security Management

The University of Phoenix is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#21  University of South Dakota

University of South Dakota campus

The University of South Dakota offers both a BA and a BS degree in Criminal Justice. The beauty of these programs is that they do not focus only on Criminal Justice

They include course material from other disciplines so that the program prepares students to work in a variety of segments of the criminal justice system.

  • BA in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Criminal Justice

The University of South Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#22  University of South Florida

University of South Florida campus

The University of South Florida main campus offers a BA in Criminology along with a BS in Applied Sciences with an emphasis in Criminal Justice.

The degrees are offered partially online as they are completion courses. The BA has an internship program, which, of course, cannot be completed online. The BS program is a capstone program, so students must have an ASC to enroll.

  • BA in Criminology
  • BS in Applied Sciences – Criminal Justice

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

#23  Washington State University

Washington State University campus

Washington State University offers a BA in Criminal Justice and Criminology. This program is well suited for those who have a keen interest in criminal behavior and want to make a difference in the ridding society of these plagues.

The BA program accepts students for summer and fall semesters annually.

  • BA in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Washington State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

#24  Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University campus

Western Carolina University offers BS degrees in Criminal Justice and Emergency and Disaster Management. This program is one of the largest at WCU.

Graduates have a lot of career opportunity options upon completing this program, and those already working the field can look forward to moving up the career ladder.

  • BS in Criminal Justice
  • BS in Emergency and Disaster Management

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

#25  Wilmington University

Wilmington University campus

Wilmington University offers an online BS in Criminal Justice. The program is delivered by experience Criminal Justice instructors and provides relevant training for the field.

The degree is not a “one size fits all option,” with its variety in course content and direction. Students get the opportunity to visit criminal justice agencies and to meet some of the industry practitioners.

  • BS in Criminal Justice

Wilmington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Is a Criminal Justice Degree Worth It?

police officers talking to each other in a parking lot

Yes, a Criminal Justice degree is worth it. After you graduate, you could be earning between $36,000 and $75,000 depending on your job title.

Earning a criminal justice degree is worth the time and effort as you have plenty of employment opportunities to choose from after graduation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 5% job growth for the protective services sector.

You can work not only for the government but also for private entities. In short, a criminal justice degree is your ticket to a good-paying and noble job in the future. Apply to universities and colleges offering online criminal justice programs now.

Joy Cromwelle
WRITTEN BY
Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.