2024 Best Online PhD in Criminology Programs [Guide]

By Amy Wilson
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on July 4, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
Ready to start your journey?
Explore the top online PhD criminology programs for 2023. Learn about career opportunities, curriculum, admissions requirements, and financial aid options.

Are you interested in earning an online PhD in Criminology?

Online PhD in Criminology Programs

Online doctorate programs in criminology educate students in the sociology of crime. You can learn what social factors contribute to increasing crime rates and how to conduct scientific research on crime.

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Experts in the field can help draft laws to prevent crime, assist in the rehabilitation of criminal offenders, or conduct academic research. The field of criminology plays an important role in making communities safer for everyone.

Universities Offering Online PhD in Criminology 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

California University of Pennsylvania offers an online Doctorate in Criminal Justice program. It can typically be completed in 2 years. Those interested in the program must have a master’s degree in a related field with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Students must submit a personal statement and a writing sample when applying.

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

Texas A&M International University

Texas A&M International University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice. The program requires students to complete a semester on campus before moving to online classes. Applicants with a master’s degree are required to complete 49 semester hours, while those with a law degree need to complete 52 hours.

Texas A&M International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona offers a Doctor of Psychology with a specialization in Criminology and Justice Studies. Each course is 6 to 9 weeks long. Students are required to complete 62 credits to graduate. Applicants must submit official transcripts from a master’s degree program that they completed with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

The University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of North Georgia

The University of North Georgia offers an online PhD in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Intelligence. To graduate, students must complete 54 credit hours, including two teaching practicums. Applicants must have a master’s degree with a GPA of 3.2 or higher and official GRE test scores.

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

Washington State University

Washington State University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice and Criminology.

To graduate, students must complete 72 credit hours, with 33 of those hours dedicated to dissertation research. Applicants must have a master’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, 3 letters of recommendation, official GRE test scores, and a personal statement.

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

Online PhD in Criminology Programs

PhD in Criminology Programs

Criminology is the branch of sociology that deals with crime and criminals. You may want to look into doctoral programs in criminology if you have already studied sociology or a related field at the bachelor’s or master’s level and would like to develop more specialized knowledge.

Criminology PhD programs, much like masters programs in criminology, can help prepare you for a variety of career paths. Professionals with a PhD tend to pursue careers in research or academia. Advanced knowledge of criminology could also be beneficial if you work in a rehabilitation or correctional facility for criminal offenders.

It’s also applicable to government agencies and private nonprofits that work to lower crime rates and increase public safety.

Here are some subjects that are typically covered in doctoral criminology programs:

  • Criminal law
  • Forensics
  • Criminal psychology
  • Sociology
  • Statistical analysis
  • Research methods

A doctorate in criminology is usually a very research-intensive degree program. You will likely learn a lot about how to collect data and analyze research methodology.

As part of a PhD program, you will probably be expected to complete a dissertation. A dissertation demonstrates that you know how to conduct methodologically correct research and contribute new knowledge to the field for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Ideally, this knowledge would have practical applications that could help to improve society.

Criminology Careers & Salaries

Criminology Careers & Salaries

Advanced knowledge of criminology could be useful for career paths in which people attempt to understand and mitigate criminal behavior.

Criminology expertise could be applied to a career in sociology, social and community service management, research, correctional treatment, or counseling. A doctoral degree can also help you qualify for a career in academia or for senior or leadership positions in the field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some careers related to the advanced study of criminology.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Executives $185,950
Political Scientists $125,350
Detectives and Criminal Investigators $86,940
Sociologists $86,110
Postsecondary Teachers $80,790
Survey Researchers, Scientific Research and Development Services $74,800
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
Forensic Science Technicians $60,590
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $55,690
Rehabilitation Counselors $37,530

Social and community service managers can work in a variety of industries, but they are most often employed by individual and family services. They may also work for the local government or for religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations.

Other employers of social and community service managers include nursing and residential care facilities as well as community and vocational rehabilitation services. Most sociologists work in research and development.

Criminology Doctorate Curriculum

Criminology Doctorate Curriculum

Here are some examples of courses you might take while earning your doctoral degree in criminology:

  • Theories of Crime: You’ll study sociological theories about why people commit crimes.
  • Criminology and Public Policy: You’ll learn how the study of crime and criminals can influence public policy to be more effective.
  • Applied Statistics: You’ll learn how to correctly analyze and interpret data that you have collected while conducting research.
  • Philosophy of Law, Justice, and Social Control: This course covers the legal and criminal justice systems from a philosophical perspective.
  • Race and Ethnicity in Crime and Criminal Justice: You’ll study systemic racism in the criminal justice system.
  • Civil Liability for Criminal Justice Professionals: This course covers the legal obligations of criminal justice professionals as well as situations in which they could face civil lawsuits for misconduct.
  • Advanced Criminal Law: You’ll study laws that define criminal offenses and regulate the penalties of convicted offenders.
  • Police and Society: This course explores the role of police, the ways in which police can affect society positively or negatively, and the ways police can be more effective at their work.
  • Criminal Justice Policy and Administration: You’ll study policies within the criminal justice system and how they affect the judicial process and corrections system.
  • Analysis of Crime Data: You’ll study the numbers collected in crime research and learn how to interpret them.

Exact course requirements can vary from one university to another. It’s common for doctoral programs to require the completion of a dissertation or capstone project as well.

How to Choose an Online Doctoral Program in Criminology

Online Doctoral Program in Criminology

Here are some factors you may want to take into account when choosing an online doctoral program in criminology:

  • Affordability. Some schools may charge higher tuition than others.
  • Available concentrations. Some programs allow you to choose a concentration within the field of criminology, such as cybercrime or juvenile justice.
  • Synchronous or asynchronous coursework. In a synchronous online format, online classes meet at a specific time, just like traditional classes. In an asynchronous course, you may be able to complete all assignments according to your own schedule.
  • Job placement rate. You may want to attend a program that is known for being able to place most of its graduates in jobs after completion of the degree.
  • On-campus requirements. Some online programs offered by traditional universities may require that you come to campus occasionally to meet with your adviser or attend seminars. Other programs may be fully online.

Since there are many different types of programs, it’s beneficial to explore your options so you can find the one that best suits your needs and preferences.

Admissions Requirements

Doctoral Program in Criminology admissions

What qualifications should you have before you even apply to an online doctoral program in criminology? Here are some common admissions requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited university
  • Minimum grade point average of 3.0
  • Previous professional experience
  • Background in research

Admissions requirements can vary at different universities. Some universities may consider GPA to be the most important qualification, while others might prefer candidates with previous work experience. Some universities require that you have a master’s degree, especially if you do not already have work experience in the field.


Doctoral Program in Criminology accreditation

Regionally accredited universities are regularly evaluated by an outside agency to ensure the quality of their educational programs and student services. The name of the agency that provides a university’s accreditation can usually be found on the university’s website.

Before you apply to an online criminology degree program, you may want to check to make sure it is accredited. A university’s accreditation status can affect how easily you can transfer course credits to other universities and whether you can qualify for federal financial aid.

A degree earned from an accredited institution is also widely respected by employers and universities alike. To learn more about regional accreditation, you can visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Criminology Licensure and Certifications

Criminology Licensure and Certifications

In addition to pursuing a terminal degree in the field of criminology, you may also be interested in earning a certification from a professional organization.

The American Correctional Association (ACA) offers professional certifications for corrections workers, such as the Certified Corrections Executive (CCE) certification. Earning a certification often requires passing an exam that corresponds with specialized knowledge or training.

Certifications are not always required for criminal justice careers, but they can indicate your expertise in the field and your commitment to continuing education.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Doctoral Program in Criminology financial aid

There are many financial aid opportunities available for qualifying students, even for those in online doctoral programs.

Scholarships exist for students in nearly every field and at every level of education. Some professional organizations and nonprofits have scholarship opportunities for students who are studying criminal justice or a related field, such as criminology.

You may also be able to receive financial assistance from your current employer, especially if furthering your knowledge of criminology would benefit your work. To apply for federal financial aid, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Criminology Professional Organizations

Criminology Professional Organizations

Professional organizations sometimes host in-person networking events. They can also provide members with access to job listings, continuing education opportunities, online trade journals, and other professional publications.

Here are some professional organizations for people who work in criminology and the broader field of criminal justice:

These organizations may be able to provide you with useful resources while you complete your PhD program and after you graduate.

Is There a PhD in Criminology?

PhD programs in criminology

Yes, there are PhD programs in criminology. These doctoral programs teach students how to use rigorous scientific research to inform public policy and practice within the criminal justice system.

You can also take advanced interdisciplinary coursework in subjects such as law, statistics, and sociology. Most PhD programs also require the completion of a dissertation under the guidance of a supervisor.

Similar to what you may find in top criminal justice PhD programs, a PhD in Criminology can help you develop advanced research skills that are highly applicable in academia or in organizations that utilize criminological research.

What Can You Do with a Doctoral Degree in Criminology?

Doctoral degrees in criminology are primarily intended for students who want to teach or conduct research. Some professionals who hold a criminology PhD work as postsecondary teachers, criminologists, or survey researchers.

Doctoral degrees are a standard requirement for postsecondary teachers and researchers. This type of degree could also be useful for careers in the criminal justice and corrections systems. A doctorate may also help qualify you to take on leadership roles in institutions that aim to rehabilitate criminal offenders.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Criminology Online?

PhD programs generally take 3 to 5 years to complete, but your time to completion can vary depending on the length of the program and how many hours of coursework you take on each semester.

doctoral degree in criminology

Programs that require a dissertation generally take longer to complete than non-dissertation programs. Without a dissertation requirement, you may be able to complete your PhD in as little as 3 years if you attend full-time.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Doctorate in Criminology?

There are many challenging and rewarding jobs you can pursue with a doctorate in criminology. Exactly what jobs you can qualify for once you have completed your doctorate depends on a variety of factors, such as your work experience and area of specialty.

Criminology-related occupations include postsecondary teacher, social and community service manager, sociologist, survey researcher, probation officer, correctional treatment specialist, and rehabilitation counselor.

What Does a Criminologist Do?

jobs with Doctorate in Criminology

Criminology is one of the branches of sociology. So, a criminologist is technically a type of sociologist. Criminologists conduct scientific research regarding criminals and the types of crimes they commit.

They may look for the answers to questions such as:

  • What factors lead people to commit crimes?
  • Which types of people are most likely to commit which types of crimes?
  • What are the most effective methods society can use to prevent crimes?
  • How can we help offenders become productive members of society?

There is much research to be conducted in this field, and the knowledge that could be gained from criminological research might help make communities safer for everyone.

What’s the Difference Between a Doctoral Program in Criminology vs. Criminal Justice?

Here are some key differences between the fields of criminology and criminal justice:

Doctoral Program in Criminology Doctoral Program in Criminal Justice
  • Involves the scientific study of crime and criminals
  • Usually more research-oriented
  • Focuses more on learning how to conduct research
  • Focuses on studying the criminal justice system and its operations
  • Usually more career-oriented
  • Focuses more on applying research within the criminal justice system

While criminology and criminal justice do overlap somewhat, they are two distinct fields.

Is a PhD in Criminology Worth It?

Yes, a PhD in Criminology is worth it for many students. Job growth is expected for a number of occupations related to criminology. Employment of postsecondary teachers is expected to grow 9% over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, employment of social and community service managers is expected to grow 17%, and employment of sociologists is expected to grow 4%. Criminology is a fascinating area of study for many people, and doctoral studies can help you expand your knowledge and career opportunities in this growing field.

Getting Your PhD in Criminology Online

PhD in Criminology Online

If you’re interested in analyzing crime from a sociological perspective, you may have decided that getting a PhD in Criminology is the next step for your education and career.

A number of accredited universities offer this doctoral program on campus as well as online. Online programs, whether it’s an online degree in criminology or a broader online criminal justice degree, are typically known for their convenience and flexibility. Plus, you would likely save time by avoiding the commute to campus.

With so many options available, you can compare programs to discover which ones best match your learning preferences and your professional interests. You can start your doctoral journey today by exploring accredited universities!

Ready to start your journey?