The field of criminal justice is ever-changing and responding to continual technical advancements and our constantly moving digital culture.
In light of this arises an increasing need for criminal justice professionals who have relevant insight into the sociological, legal, and practical areas of law enforcement with the skills to critically think, problem-solve, communicate, and lead.
Criminal justice careers are truly about protecting people and public safety. It is a field that includes occupations ranging from police officers to probation officers to Homeland Security.
If you have completed a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and wish to continue your education, deepen your knowledge of criminal behavior and correctional systems, increase your chances of establishing a career in leadership in this field, or want to get involved in a research career, a graduate degree in criminal justice is worth considering.
Top 10 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degrees
Masters degrees in criminal justice will require specialization beyond the general training in your bachelor’s program, and most schools will boast strengths in one or more particular areas. Criminal justice graduate students often choose to earn a degree specialization in niche areas like homeland security, behavioral science, or forensic technology.
Many online degree programs culminate in a thesis paper or capstone project, giving students the opportunity to demonstrate the new knowledge and skills they have gained.
What Are the Best Master’s in Criminal Justice Degrees?
For those interested in pursuing further training for careers in this field and who are unable to attend a traditional residential program, we have provided a ranking of the top 35 online graduate programs in criminal justice.
Founded in 1855, Michigan State University became the United States first land-grant institution in 1862. The University was originally known as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, but has vastly expanded its curriculum and is now the nations eighth largest university with more than 50,000 students.
The Masters of Science in Criminal Justice, MSUs first online degree program, has been available to students since 1998. Courses are offered entirely online, and are taught by the same faculty members who are involved in the on-campus program. Many students complete the program in a year and a half to two years; however, it is also common for students to take three years to complete the program due to work and personal commitments. The program includes options to meet general requirements, specialize in Security Management, or pursue an international focus. Students must complete a minimum of 30 credits of coursework and will take classes such as Crime Causation, Criminal Justice Management, and Policy Analysis Under Conditions of Change. The program costs $698 per credit, and the mean earning of students after 10 years of working is $58,700, a good return on investment. The flexibility, quality, and economic advantage place Michigan State University at the top of the list.
With a booming main campus in Tempe, multiple regional campuses and a growing online school, Arizona State University is the largest school by enrollment in the U.S. with over 80,000 students. Being the largest school means students have ample opportunities. Academic options exist in every field, student life has something for everyone, and perhaps what ASU is best known for, research is well funded and producing incredible results. Arizona State University is a public research university with approximately 13,000 students who study online, making ASU a top-notch university to pursue an online degree.
ASUs Master of Arts in Criminal Justice, offered entirely online, examines the larger context of crime as well as the application of justice in our society. Students learn directly from professors who are nationally-recognized scholars in their respective fields and a prestigious group of criminal justice professionals who specialize in policing, gangs, fraud, corrections, and courts. The online criminal justice program offers valuable training in research methods and statistics, program planning and management, policy analysis, and program evaluation. Those pursuing the degree full-time can finish in 18 months, and all students must complete the 33-credit hour program within six years. Graduate certificates are also available in areas such as Corrections Management and Criminal Sentencing. The program is very affordable at $502 per credit hour, with no additional program fees.
Sam Houston State University, founded in 1879 and named for Texas hero Sam Houston, is the third oldest public university in Texas. SHSU is located in Huntsville, about an hour north of downtown Houston. Just over 20,000 students are enrolled at Sam Houston State, which is part of the Texas State University System. SHSU offers over 80 bachelors degree programs, more than 50 masters degree programs, and six doctoral programs. Currently, the University offers over 20 bachelors and graduate degrees entirely online, and continues to develop more each semester, making SHSU one of the top online universities in Texas.
SHSU offers online Master of Science degrees in Criminal Justice as well as Criminal Justice Leadership and Management. The criminal justice program, designed for working professionals in the field, equips students for advanced careers and leadership opportunities in law enforcement, corrections, social services, and more. The program consists of 36 credit hours, which can be completed in two years. Graduates of this program go on to pursue careers as judges, chief probation officers, police administrators, victim advocates, federal law enforcement agents, and much more. The cost per credit hour is only $451, making it one of the most affordable programs on the list.
The University of Colorado Denver is the states largest research institution, employing over 4,000 academic staff members and serving around 18,000 students. The University is home to an extensive online college, offering over 450 CU online courses, which allow students to receive a valued brick and mortar education without stepping foot on campus. Students can mix and match online and on-campus courses to maximize both lifestyle and learning style. The result is that students from all over the world can access a CU education.
CU Denver offers an online Master of Criminal Justice degree program that can also be mixed with on-campus courses. Problem solving and critical thinking skills are emphasized as students are equipped to take on positions in law enforcement, juvenile justice, homeland security, and other areas. The program is housed under the School of Public Affairs, which has been acknowledged as one of the best in the nation. Students will focus on law enforcement, judiciary responsibilities, correctional systems, juvenile justice, and the formulation of laws and codes. More than 40 Colorado police chiefs have graduated from the CU Denver Master of Criminal Justice program, as have FBI and CIA agents, city mayors, death investigators, and research faculty.
The University of California Irvine is a public research institution that belongs to the 10-campus University of California system. The Public Ivy university offers nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs.
UCI offers an online Master of Advanced Study in Criminology, Law, and Society. The program consists of 52 credit hours, which can be completed in two years. One course in residence, a five-day introduction, is required. Online students do not complete a thesis, but instead take the Social Problems, Law and Policy course, which includes a research paper that also serves as a capstone. During this capstone course, students will choose a social problem related to crime, criminal justice, and law, relate it to legal and social issues, and devise a plan of action to research the problem. The University runs two application cycles for those starting the program in the fall. A degree is granted upon completion of 13 required courses. The cost per credit hour is $881, and on average, graduates make $60,600 ten years after graduation. The flexibility, return on investment, and overall reputation of this program leave no doubt that it is one of the best in the nation.
At Boston University, you can earn a fully online criminal justice masters degree in as few as 20 months. The 40-credit program features coursework in areas like criminal justice administration, trauma and crisis intervention, and policing in a democratic society, helping to prepare graduates either to take on leadership roles in public service or continue their education at the doctoral level. Students in the program can also choose to specialize in cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity or strategic management. Boston University does not require applicants to submit entrance exam scores, and students can receive course credit for professional experience and certifications.
Located in Bowling Green, Ohio, Bowling Green State University is a public research institution consisting of eight academic colleges. The University, which was founded in 1910, produces significant research especially in the fields of psychology, sociology, education and human development, energy, and sustainability. There are more than 800 full-time faculty, nearly 80 percent with the highest degree in their field, and students come from all 50 states and 70 other countries.
Through Bowling Greens eCampus, which delivers eight-week online courses year-round, students can earn a Master of Science in Criminal Justice. The program began in 2001 and emphasizes the development of individuals for leadership roles in criminal justice agencies, as well as provides a base for pursuit of doctoral study. The 11 required courses can be completed part-time in under two years and are taught by world-class faculty who have published in leading journals, consult with the National Institute of Justice, the Department of Justice, and the FBI. There are six start dates per year, allowing students to begin the program almost immediately. A portfolio of projects is required upon completing MSCJ studies. An excellent faculty, the flexibility of eCampus, and a cost per credit of $471 make Bowling Green State one of the best.
Florida State University, located in Tallahassee, is a senior member of the State University System of Florida. FSU was founded in 1851 and currently enrolls more than 40,000 students. The University is classified as a Research University with Very High Research by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and comprises 16 colleges and more than 110 centers, facilities, labs and institutes that offer more than 360 programs of study.
A Master of Science in Criminal Justice Studies is available online through Florida States College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The program is designed specifically for working criminal justice professionals and others who want the rigor and challenge of an excellent program, but need the convenience and flexibility of distance learning. No campus visits are required, and the degree can be completed in two years by taking two asynchronous courses per semester. An undergraduate degree in any field is required for admission. Graduates of the program, equipped with professional leadership skills, have gone on to hold law enforcement, corrections, and juvenile justice positions at the local, national, and international levels. This program has gained national recognition, and is recognized as one of the top in the nation.
Located in Norman, Oklahoma, which is 20 minutes south of Oklahoma City, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university. It was founded in 1890 and existed in Oklahoma Territory for 17 years before the state of Oklahoma was established. Today, there are approximately 22,000 undergraduate students, and the University offers 170 majors on three campuses in Oklahoma and several overseas.
The Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree is a 33-credit degree program that is 100 percent online. There are tracks offered in corrections management, restorative justice, drug abuse policy, and administration and leadership. Core courses include: Intro to Graduate Interdisciplinary Studies, Interdisciplinary Foundations, Research Methods in for Criminal Justice, Theoretical Foundations of Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice Policy Development, and Ethical Decision Making for Criminal Justice. Catered to the working adult, this program offers flexibility and personal attention. When a student is admitted into the program, they are assigned to an advisor who works with them to create an individualized graduation plan, identifying the courses needed to complete the degree. The cost per credit is only $969, and on average, students earn $58,200 ten years after graduation, making this degree cost effective. Individual attention, top-notch classes, and affordability make this Criminal Justice Program worth considering.
Colorado State University, located in Fort Collins, is a public research institution enrolling over 32,000 students. Bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees are offered through the universitys eight college and 55 academic departments. CSU-Global is part of the CSU System who aims to improve the economy by increasing accessibility to public higher education while reducing student loan debt. A skilled and knowledgeable workforce is good news for every industry. Offering a less-expensive yet exceptional education 100 percent online provides flexibility for the working adult to receive the education they need to advance in their field.
The Master of Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration is available entirely online through CSU-Global. Students can customize their degree by choosing to specialize in areas like Organizational Leadership and Change Management, Fraud Management, or Organizational Learning and Performance. The program emphasizes community involvement and collaboration, preparing students for successful careers in public and private organizations as they examine topics including ethics, decision making, and the impact of crime in society. The program can also serve as a pathway to career advancement or further doctoral study. The cost per credit is one of the lowest on the list, coming in at only $500.
The University of Nebraska Omaha is a public research institution founded by faculty of the Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The University exists to provide a Christian-based education free from ecclesiastical control.
There are several different options for those who are interested in a Masters of Science in Criminal Justice. A Master of Public Administration degree is available online with a specialization option in Criminology and Criminal Justice. A Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice is another fully online degree option. The program enhances professional skills, introduces new competencies, and can lead to career advancement. The 36-hour degree can be customized through a graduate certificate in Managing Juvenile and Adult Populations. Also, worth noting is the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice sponsors a small number of graduate assistantships for MA students. A graduate assistantship provides an opportunity to pursue graduate studies while working in an academic setting. An assistantship consists of tuition remission plus a stipend of approximately $12,000 for the academic year. Students who receive assistantships are expected to work as a teaching assistant and/or research assistant for a faculty member for 20 hours per week during the academic year. This is a great option for those who are not otherwise employed and are looking for a way to pay for their degree.
With regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and six start dates throughout the year, Regis University offers both a high-quality and highly flexible online criminal justice masters program. After taking introductory classes in areas like criminal psychopathology and transnational crime, students can further customize their learning by pursuing a concentration in either leadership, human behavior, cyber crime, or terrorism. Regis allows students to complete their coursework asynchronously, making it easier to balance your studies with a full-time job or family obligations. While you must possess a bachelors degree, you do not need to submit entrance exam scores in order to apply.
Located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, University of the Cumberlands is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The University was founded in 1889 and was known as Cumberland College until 2005. The founding principle of the University is to provide first-class education at affordable rates. For over a century, tuition and fees have been priced to accommodate most budgets without compromising educational quality, and the University of the Cumberlands provides an excellent education to students from all over the nation.
Among other graduate programs, the Master of Science in Justice Administration is available online at UC. The program welcomes pre-professional students as well as those who already have experience in the field. Community service and ethical leadership are emphasized as students develop the leadership skills and academic preparation to shape the profession. The degree can be customized through a variety of elective courses. Students in the program are given the opportunity to interact with criminal justice personnel throughout the nation, including state and federal authorities. The cost per credit is the lowest on the list, at only $315 per credit; students are required to complete 31 credit hours that can be completed in as little as 12 months.
The University of Wisconsin Platteville, founded in 1866, is a public institution offering bachelors and masters degrees to more than 11,000 students. Part of the University of Wisconsin system, the University has three colleges and five distance education programs. Nearly 3,000 students are pursuing degrees through Plattevilles online distance learning programs.
The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice features a selection of three emphasis areas, including Criminal Justice Theory, Criminal Justice Management, and Victim and Offender Services. Graduate certificates and a broad range of elective courses allow the degree to be further customized. Students graduate with the ability to exhibit managerial skills and extensive understanding of the criminal justice system. Students in the program can customize their area of emphasis and create their own academic plan to suit their goals, whether it be to go on into research, pursue a PhD program, go into law enforcement, or specialize in one of the numerous areas within criminal justice. To earn a degree, students must complete 30 credit hours of coursework. Additionally, students can earn a credential in Child Advocacy Studies by completing a nine-credit hour program separately or within the Master of Science Criminal Justice degree.
Columbia College of Missouri is a private liberal-arts college with a campus in Columbia and 36 extension sites throughout the United States as well as an online campus. Columbia is nonsectarian but has a covenant with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Originally a womens college, the University now admits men and women to a variety of degree programs and serves more than 29,000 students per year. The College offers 10 associate degrees, 59 bachelors degrees, and four masters degrees, including the Master of Science in Criminal Justice.
A Master of Science in Criminal Justice is available online with optional emphases in Law Enforcement Administration and Corrections Administration. The program prepares those aspiring to doctoral or law studies, as well as current law enforcement and criminal justice professionals seeking to enhance their administrative skills. It is designed primarily for those who are already in the field of criminal justice, but can accommodate others. The degree focuses on four areas: trends in criminal justice, policy development and analysis, research design, and ethics in criminal justice. An excellent option for those who are looking for affordability without sacrificing quality, Columbia College delivers at a cost per credit of $395.
Pace University is a private institution in New York, serving over 12,000 students. The University was founded in 1906 by the Pace Brothers as a school for accounting and business. Today Pace has a much broader selection of academic programs, including on-campus and online programs at the undergraduate and graduate level.
Paces Department of Criminal Justice and Security offers a Master of Arts in Management for Public Safety and Homeland Security Professionals through the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences. The degree is designed to be completed online with six weekends of residency over two years. Students complete 36 credit-hours and a masters project for graduation. The program is a result of the departments partnership with the Center for Homeland Defense and Security and works to train professionals in both the public and private sector to respond to and prevent future attacks using existing resources. The Manhattan location is mere blocks away from the World Trade Center site, offering a unique perspective and training ground for students. The cost per credit hour is $1,190, a more expensive option, but the median salary 10 years after graduation is $63,300. There is no doubt that this degree deserves recognition.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania, located in Indiana County, is one of the two largest institutions in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. This public research university enrolls approximately 10,600 undergraduates and 2,200 graduates in eight different colleges. There are 140 undergraduate and 70 graduate programs available. Grounded in the history that makes our nation great, several of the buildings on campus are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
IUPs Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers a Master of Arts in Criminology online. The program, designed primarily for those currently working in the criminal justice field or for those wishing to change careers, can be completed part-time in two years or full-time in one year. Since 2009, the program has been preparing students for career advancement and doctoral study. Online students have access to many of the same resources as those studying on campus, allowing for extensive and enriching research opportunities. Students are required to take the following courses: Criminological Theory, Research Methods, Legal Issues in Criminology, and other classes related to criminal justice. The cost per credit hour is $725, and the median salary 10 years after graduation is $40,800 making IUP an excellent choice both economically and academically.
The University of Louisville, a member of the Kentucky State University System, is a public institution that was founded in 1798. Today it is home to approximately 22,000 students from all 50 states and 116 countries. Not only is the University one of the first universities chartered west of the Allegheny Mountains, the University Hospital is credited with the first civilian ambulance or the nations first accident services, which is now known as an emergency room. Additionally, it is home to one of the first blood banks in the United States.
The Master of Science in Criminal Justice at U of L can be earned entirely online in two years. The 36 required credit hours include the completion of a professional paper. Courses are offered in six-week terms year-round, and students may transfer up to six hours of graduate credit from another institution. The programs curriculum includes required courses in theories of crime and delinquency, legal issues, and advanced statistics, while elective courses cover topics like capital punishment and criminal justice in media. The University offers financial aid and payment plans for military students, as well as scholarships to First Responders in the Metro-Louisville area, and for members of the National Sheriffs Association. At a cost per credit-hour of $714, the University of Louisville delivers an excellent education and ultimate flexibility at an affordable cost.
Founded as a normal school in 1923, Rowan University is now a public institution with campuses in Glassboro and Camden, New Jersey. The Universitys Division of Global Learning Partnerships offers 30 online and hybrid programs for adult degree seekers and those looking for professional development opportunities.
Rowan University offers a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice as a part-time program in an accelerated online format. The degree is designed for students preparing for doctoral study or for those aspiring to hold leadership positions in the field. Thirty semester hours are required for the degree and can be completed in only five semesters through Rowan Global. Coursework includes Management Of Criminal Justice Organizations, Police And Society , Law And Society, and more. Admission requirements include a bachelors degree, minimum 2.5 GPA, two letters of recommendation, CV or resume, a personal statement, GRE scores; undergraduate introduction courses in Criminal Justice and Research and Statistics are highly recommended. The MA at Rowen is offered in two tracks: Thesis or Non-Thesis. If you choose the Non-Thesis, electives in contemporary issues are taken and a comprehensive exam is issued. With a cost per credit at $730 and a flexible yet intense accelerated program, Rowen may be a perfect fit.
Founded in 1907 as a teacher training school on 43 beautiful acres, East Carolina University now owns 1600 acres and is a comprehensive university. Located in Greenville, North Carolina, ECU is the third largest university in the state with nearly 30,000 students enrolled.
ECUs Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences offers a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice that can be completed on-campus or online. Admission requirements include a bachelors degree, transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement of 500-750 words, GRE scores, and a personal interview. Knowing that ECU graduates are employed by diverse organizations such as the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, Sheriff Department, Police Department, Crime Laboratory, and Court adds credibility. The program at ECU prepares students to excel in criminal justice careers and does not require a thesis. Core courses include Criminal Justice Principles, Research Methods and Statistical Interpretation, and Criminal Behavior; this is followed by electives such as Juvenile Justice, Terrorism, and a Field Practicum of 30-40 hours a week for a semester. At an affordable $876 per credit combined with a flexible/non-thesis curriculum, ECU may be exactly what youre looking for.
Western Kentucky University offers a fully online and asynchronous criminal justice masters program, meaning students can pursue their degree entirely at their own pace and on their own schedule. You can also begin the program at any time during the year, providing even more flexibility for students who need to arrange their studies around personal or professional obligations. The program features core coursework in areas such as advanced social statistics and criminology, as well as a diverse slates of electives covering topics like family violence, adult corrections, and crime and popular culture. Applicants must hold a bachelors degree and submit GRE scores.
The University of Cincinnati, enrolling more than 40,000 students, is the second largest university in Ohio. More than 600 total programs of study are offered, many of which are nationally ranked. More than 2,000 students have graduated from the Universitys Criminal Justice Program throughout its fourteen years of existence.
The Master of Science in Criminal Justice consists of 11 courses to be taken over six 15-week semesters. Students can choose to follow the General Track or specialize in Analysis of Criminal Behavior, Law Enforcement Crime Prevention, or Corrections Offender Rehabilitation. The core curriculum consists of courses such as Criminology, Applied Statistics in Criminal Justice, Basic Research Methods in Criminal Justice, and a culminates in a research project. Students then choose six electives of 12 ranging from Biosocial Factors in Serial Offending to Computer Criminology: Cybercrime Digital Security. The 33-credit program can be taken in both full-time or part-time format, taking one to two years on average. Worth considering is the fact that UCs MSCJ is 100 percent online, up to nine credits can be transferred, admission does not require a GRE and there are no prerequisites. This equates to a perfect degree for working professionals who are looking for the flexibility to move into a new career or advance in one currently held.
There is a city called California in southwestern Pennsylvania, about 35 miles from Pittsburgh that is home to the California University of Pennsylvania. Set on a campus of 294 acres, and educating 8000 students, Cal U is a mid-sized public university. It is a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and was founded in 1852.
Cal U now offers a variety of online degree programs, including the Master of Science in Legal Studies. The criminal justice concentration option prepares students for advanced study of the justice system or for career advancement in the areas of policing, law, corrections, investigations, and human services. An interdisciplinary approach is utilized, allowing for diverse perspectives to influence the criminal justice field. This is accomplished through a 27 credit core concentration followed by 10 elective credits culminating in a thesis. Also offered online is a Master of Arts in Social Science Applied Criminology. This degree consists in learning criminal investigative analysis, equivocal death analysis, and geographical crime analysis. It is 30 credits and culminates in one of three options: Criminology Thesis, Criminology Internship, or Criminology Studies Abroad. With faculty who are authors, scholars, legal consultants, and whove held political office, students are instructed by experts.
A private Christian university, Faulkner University is affiliated with the Church of Christ. Faulkner was founded in 1942 as Montgomery Bible School in Montgomery, Alabama. The University now enrolls approximately 3,500 students and has satellite campuses in Mobile, Huntsville, and Birmingham.
A convenient Master of Justice Administration (formerly Criminal Justice) degree is available entirely online. It is one of the most flexible programs around. It is designed to drive students toward professional success while emphasizing Christian principles and ethics. The programs ten five-week courses can be completed in as little as 14 months. Also worth noting is that enrollment is year-round, and students take only one course at a time. If you decide to earn your degree at Faulkner, an intentional Biblical perspective is emphasized with academically excellent faculty. You can expect about 12-15 hours of classwork a week, an achievable balance assuming many in the program are working professionals. Admission requirements include a bachelors degree, minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5 (if over 3.0 there is no entrance exam requirement), letters of recommendation, resume, a personal statement, and MAT scores. If you are looking for a convenient, flexible, and Christian training in Criminal Justice at an affordable $635 per credit, look no further than Faulkner.
Nova Southeastern University, founded in 1964, is a private nonprofit institution in Davie, Florida. The university comprises 18 colleges and schools, offering various fields of study to more than 24,000 students.
In addition to offering courses through regional campuses, Nova makes distance education possible through several online degree programs. The Master of Science in Criminal Justice is offered exclusively online, allowing working students to continue their careers while studying. The platform utilized is Blackboard. The degree program requires 36 credit hours in core, specialty track, and elective courses. Admission requirements include a bachelors degree, minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5, two letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a 150-300 word personal statement of purpose. NSUs online program is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). If you are currently a police officer, veteran, military, or first responder, NSU offers the Valor Award, a 20 percent scholarship for the program. For those who complete the MS in Criminal Justice they will be prepared to pursue careers as police officers, detectives, animal cruelty investigators, FBI special agents, and more.
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