Best Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Programs

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Fastest Criminal Justice Degrees Online

Believe it or not, cities, counties, states, and the country itself aren’t served and protected by superheroes but by ordinary folks like you and me who decide to pursue an extraordinary career in criminal justice. Criminal justice can include any number of occupations, from a parole officer to a member of a SWAT team to working for the Department of Homeland Security.

What kind of online degree in Criminal Justice should you get?

There are several paths to a career in criminal justice, but the best way to get your career started is with a bachelor’s degree in criminology or criminal justice. Traditionally this is done through an on-campus program at a school that features a department that specializes in the field.

But as online programs have grown and flourished in recent years, online bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice as well as bachelor’s completion programs have become more common. For a list of the best online colleges and universities in the country, see our ranking, “Best Online Colleges and Universities.”

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How much money do people make with an online degree in Criminal Justice?

The criminal justice field is diverse, and compensation will depend not only on the part of the country to happen to live in—police officers in Duluth, Minnesota, will not make the same amount as police officers of equal rank in New York—but also the particular field you happen to choose.

Let’s say you are interested in police and detective work, however, which is a common occupation for criminal justice majors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for police officers and detectives is just over $60,000, or approximately $30 per hour. The growth outlook is slower at 4 percent, but there are still plenty of jobs available.

What can you do with an online degree in Criminal Justice?

In addition to traditional police and detective work, however, the criminal justice field now includes a wide array of career possibilities. One consideration you’ll want to bear in mind is whether you’re interested in the private or public sector. Those interested in the private sector will likely want to consider careers in private security.

Those interested in working in the public sector, however, will have many more options. Some careers in the public sector include: probation officer, forensic scientist, correctional officer, fish and game warden, security guard, state trooper, crime scene investigator, F.B.I. agent, C.I.A. agent, immigration and customs enforcement agent, D.E.A. agent, Secret Service agent, and U.S. Marshal.

What are the requirements for an online degree in Criminal Justice?

Unlike graduate programs in criminal justice, students interested in an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will not need any prerequisites beyond the typical undergraduate admissions criteria. Once in the program, however, requirements will vary from school to school. Some schools will offer criminal justice programs as part of a liberal arts major, while other schools will have a curriculum that is more specific.

Other schools will have opportunities to specialize in a particular area of criminal justice, such as forensics. If you happen to know what area of specialization you are interested in, keep an eye out for these schools so that you can get on the fast track to your career. If you are unsure what area of specialization is best for you, you might do well to consider a program that will expose you to as many of the subdisciplines as possible.

What are the best online degrees in Criminal Justice?

We’ve compiled a list of the top 50 online bachelor’s degree programs in criminal justice with your needs in mind. Here’s how we did it. First, it’s important to identify and get into the best school you can. So we started things off by taking an objective look at the best schools in the country as measured by reputation and return on investment. We also factored in the cost of attendance because, let’s be honest, money doesn’t grow on trees!

Our data for this ranking was drawn from a variety of public sources, such as U.S. News & World Report, the National Center for Education Statistics,, and the U.S. Census. The end result, we think, is a list of schools that not only represent the best education you can get and a good return on investment but also one that will fit your budget . . .

. . . as a real-life superhero!


See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Arizona State University

    Phoenix, AZ



    OverviewArizona State University, a leader and innovator in online education in a number of areas, offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice. The program helps develop the research, analytical, and communications skills required for working in complex criminal justice occupations. The program faculty consists of professors who are leaders in their field as well as criminal justice professionals with expertise in policing, gangs, fraud, corrections, and courts. FeaturesGraduates of the program will be well poised to enter careers in the criminal justice system and corporate security at a time when the industry is experiencing steady job growth. Many students continue their education and pursue advanced degrees in law, criminology and criminal justice, or other social science disciplines. The program offers training in the policies and practices of criminal justice system components in the following areas:

    • Law Enforcement
    • Corrections
    • Court Systems
    NotablesThe School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, which offers the degree, has received national recognition from the likes of U.S. News and World Report. The faculty is likewise involved in national-level pursuits in the field, and they are at the forefront of research. ASU also has an online graduate program, which has been named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top five degrees in the nation for three years running.

  2. Drexel University

    Philadelphia, PA



    OverviewDrexel University, no stranger to rankings of best online programs, offers an online bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice that both covers the field broadly and also prepares students with a solid foundation in other disciplines. While some programs prepare students particularly for careers in law enforcement, Drexel’s program seeks to prepare its students for a range of professional positions. Students will be exposed to coursework in criminology, the study of crime and criminal behavior, as well as an understanding of the history, structure, administration, policies, and procedures of the agencies of crime control and criminal justice, including law enforcement, corrections, and the judiciary. FeaturesThe program includes coursework in sociology, psychology, legal studies, political science, information science, chemistry, bioscience and biotechnology, and computer science, including the computer-based skills, technological expertise, and biochemical/biotechnological knowledge that are increasingly important to the operation of the agencies of the modern criminal justice system. Graduates of the program pursue careers in some of the following areas:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Private Security
    • Legal Professions
    • Forensic Science
    NotablesThis program is organized into four 10-week quarters per year (as opposed to the traditional two semester system) which means you can take more courses in a shorter time period. Students can also transfer up to 135 quarter credits (equivalent to 90 semester credits) from any accredited institution of higher learning as long as the grade is a C or better. Students can complete the program fully online, on campus, or in a blended format.

  3. Washington State University

    Pullman, WA



    OverviewWashington State University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal justice through its Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. It features a policy-focused curriculum that provides students with the broad exposure in the social sciences preferred by governmental and private agencies. Students in WSU’s program can expect to grow as critical thinkers, creative evaluators, ethical actors, and effective communicators concerning matters of crime and administration of justice at the local, state, national, and international levelsFeaturesThis program’s curriculum is developed according to Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences standards. Many students from WSU’s program proceed to graduate programs in Criminal Justice or related fields. Even more, WSU’s program prepares students for a wide range of positions in the working world:

    • Criminal Justice System (law enforcement, corrections, probation and parole)
    • Government Agencies (policy and planning, crime research, and investigation)
    • Private Sector Organizations (security management)
    NotablesWSU also offers a minor in Criminal Justice, which is designed to introduce students to the various components and activities of our system of justice, such as the police, courts, corrections, and juvenile justice. A minor in criminal justice will be useful to any student desiring knowledge of how our American system of justice works. The minor in Criminal Justice requires 18 credits of course work in criminal justice. Half of the courses must be taken at the 300-400 level and taken in residence at WSU or through WSU-approved education abroad or educational exchange courses.

  4. University of South Florida

    Tampa, FL



    OverviewThe University of South Florida offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Criminology through its College of Health and Human Sciences. The program provides students with in-depth exposure to a wide array of issues and professions within the criminal justice system, including law enforcement, detention, the judiciary, corrections, juvenile justice, and probation and parole. FeaturesThe program concentrates on achieving balance in the above aspects of the system from the perspective of the criminal justice professional, the offender, the victim, and society. The curriculum is designed to prepare students to either enter the profession after graduation or pursue additional graduate work in Criminology, Criminal Justice, or a related field, such as law, political science, or public policy. Coursework in the program includes:

    • Survey of Criminal Behavior
    • Theories of Criminal Behavior
    • Research Methods
    • Seminar in Criminology
    NotablesThe degree requires 120 credit hours to complete, and students can complete their degree entirely online. The 30 of the 36 hours required for the major must be completed through USF, but students can transfer up to half of their credits from another institution. 

  5. University of Central Florida

    Orlando, FL



    OverviewThe University of Central Florida’s Department of Criminal Justice offers both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. The undergraduate curriculum is designed to prepare graduates for positions in the field of criminal justice in local, county, state, and federal justice agencies. Students are also prepared to pursue careers in private security organizations.Features At UCF, you’ll encounter excellence in teaching, research, and service. The wide-ranging curriculum options reflect the equally expansive career options that are available. After your coursework is completed, you’ll take a capstone class in Criminal Justice Ethics. Before that, however, some of your coursework will cover:

    • Criminal Justice System
    • Crime in America
    • Data Analysis for Criminal Justice
    • Prosecution and Adjudication
    NotablesThe faculty at UCF has an abiding interest in its students, both graduate and undergraduate, and the department seeks to balance learning, service, and critical inquiry. The department also conducts quality research and pursues local, state and federal funding to advance knowledge in the discipline.

  6. University of Cincinnati

    Blue Ash, OH



    OverviewThe University of Cincinnati offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice that provides students with an understanding of criminal offending and the criminal justice process. It offers training not only in responding to criminal behavior but also understanding the roots of criminal behavior. The program is thus interdisciplinary in nature. Cincinatti’s program will be of particular interest to those interested in matters of criminal justice, crime prevention, child behavioral problems, adolescent delinquency, or effective intervention.FeaturesGraduates from the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program pursue careers in law enforcement, corrections and supervision, security, and safety in both the public and private sectors. Private companies require the services of graduates to keep property secure and people safe, or to conduct private investigations. Graduates interested in public careers can pursue areas like:

    • Police and Sheriff’s Departments
    • State Police and Prison Systems
    • FBI and Department of Homeland Security
    NotablesStudents from Cincinnati’s program can also pursue graduate work. Additional, nontraditional careers some graduates pursue include work in national forests as park rangers, fish and game wardens, or in airports as air marshals. In whichever setting graduates find themselves, the University of Cincinnati Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice ensures they are well prepared to enforce laws and keep people and property safe.

  7. Bemidji State University

    Bemidji, MN



    OverviewBemidji State University, located in Bemidji, Minnesota, offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice in addition to an on-campus degree in the same field. The program is designed to prepare students for careers in a wide variety of areas in the criminal justice field, including peace officers, youth counselors, lawyers, probation officers, law enforcement, and more. The degree is offered within a liberal arts framework to develop the knowledge, values, and ethical consciousness that are essential for becoming successful managers and leaders in the field.FeaturesGraduates of the program are equipped with knowledge about the nature and causes of crime and delinquency, understanding of the law, law enforcement, corrections, courts, and victims and victim services in American society. Students will be prepared to serve in both the private and public sectors through a combination of course work, internships, and special research projects. You can also focus your study further with an emphasis area:

    • Law enforcement
    • Corrections
    • Victimology
    • Tribal Justice
    NotablesThe degree is also appropriate for students who choose to pursue advanced study in criminal justice or law. For students who are interested in the criminal justice field but committed to another major area of study already, the Bemidji State also offers two minor areas of study – Criminal Justice and Fraud Examination. 

  8. University of Missouri-St Louis

    Saint Louis, MO



    OverviewThe University of Missouri St. Louis, part of the University of Missouri system, is nationally recognized for excellence, including being ranked in the top five in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. UMSL offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice, which prepares students for a wide variety of careers.FeaturesThe curriculum is interdisciplinary in nature and includes coursework in criminology, social science, law, public administration, and corrections. It provides students not only with practical knowledge but also training in the theories, assumptions, values, and processes of the system of justice. Many pre-law students choose criminology and criminal justice as an undergraduate major, and the program offers an internship program for college credit. You might find yourself working in the following areas:

    • Corrections Counseling
    • Juvenile Justice
    • Probations and Parole
    • Victim Advocacy
    NotablesUMSL enjoys a number of strategic partnerships with public agencies that form an integral part of helping students arrive at a career decision. Stated outcomes of the program include the ability to develop critical thinking skills through the application of criminological theory and social science research methods, develop fundamental understanding of interdisciplinary underpinnings of criminology and criminal justice issues and policies, and acquire knowledge about the structure and functioning of the fundamental institutions that are part of criminal justice systems.

  9. Florida International University

    Miami, FL



    OverviewFlorida International University is a leader in online education, so it is little wonder that they offer an excellent program in criminal justice in addition to their many other online offerings. FIU offers a fully online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice through its Department of Criminal Justice to meet the growing demand for criminal justice and security professionals, particularly in Homeland Security. FeaturesThe Department of Criminal Justice is recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in the field, and graduates enjoy an excellent job placement record in a wide variety of fields, including law enforcement and corrections in local and state agencies. Some graduates also pursue careers in the private sector, for instance, in private security for both individuals and businesses. Others make it to the top of the field, with jobs at the:

    • CIA and FBI
    • Secret Service
    • Homeland Security
    • Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    NotablesSome of the particular areas of strength of the program include training in criminological theory, the criminal justice system, the constitution, terrorism, and public policy. The Criminal Justice also prepares students well for advanced studies in law and legal studies and those interested in attending law school. The program prides itself on offering training that is both theoretical and practical and on its placement record.

  10. Loyola University Chicago

    Chicago, IL



    OverviewLoyola University Chicago, a well-respected private institution in the Windy City, has increased its online offerings in recent years and features an online Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology. The program introduces students to all aspects of the nation’s complex criminal justice system while also giving them a strong background in the liberal arts. FeaturesStudents in the major are required to complete 36 credit hours in criminal justice and criminology courses beyond the core Loyola requirements. This includes eight required courses. You’ll also end the degree with an internship in your area of focus. A sampling of your core major classes includes:

    • Introduction to Criminal Justice
    • Theories of Criminal Behavior
    • Corrections
    • Criminal Procedure
    NotablesOther opportunities for students interested in Criminal Justice and Criminology at Loyola include a minor in criminal justice and criminology, which requires six courses totaling 18 credit hours, as well as a combined BS/MA program. The combined program is open for students who have maintained a 3.5 GPA and are in their junior year. Students eligible for this program can complete up to twelve of the 30 hours required for the MA degree during the senior year of the undergraduate degree.

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