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Help shape America’s response to crime with an online master’s in criminology from a top university.
If you find yourself watching the news with an analytical eye on criminal behavior, then a degree in criminology probably has your name on it. There may be no panacea to reducing crime rates, but as a criminologist, you’ll take a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding why people commit crimes - and find effective ways to reduce criminal behavior.
And there is a deep need for professionals who possess foundational knowledge in all aspects of the field. A master’s degree can set you up for a career as an administrator, scholar, investigator, police officer, probation officer, or caseworker in the criminal justice system.
Top 10 Best Online Master's in Criminology Degrees
|#1||University of California Irvine Irvine, CA|
|#2||Regis University Denver, CO|
|#3||Florida State University Tallahassee, FL|
|#4||University of Texas at Dallas Richardson, TX|
|#5||Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY|
|#6||San Jose State University San Jose, CA|
|#7||University of Nebraska Omaha Omaha, NE|
|#8||California University of Pennsylvania California, PA|
|#9||Missouri State University Springfield, MO|
|#10||California State University, Long Beach Long Beach, CA|
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What kind of master's in criminology should you get?
Before applying to a program, you’ll need to determine what your career goals are. If you’re considering future doctoral studies, for example, you’ll need a program that will allow you to hone your skills in research and writing.
And, while most of us imagine the college experience taking place in brick and mortar buildings, there are great online options available.
Getting a degree online is no longer the shady proposition it was in the not-too-distant past. There are now many high-quality, accredited programs that are designed for nontraditional students. You’ll get the same credentials without having to uproot your entire life to attend school.
For more information on online learning, check out our ranking of the Best Online Colleges.
How much money do people make with a criminology degree?
There are a lot of job options in the field of criminology, and the salary range reflects that diversity. PayScale.com shows salaries ranging from $40,000 to $122,000 per year, but your pay will ultimately depend on your employer, your geographical location, and your job experience.
In the field of criminology, having a master’s degree on its own may not land you in your dream job. It can, however - when combined with appropriate work experience - propel you into higher-level administrative positions with higher pay and better benefits.
What can you do with a degree in criminology?
There are a lot of options for careers in the field of criminology. Many positions are found in government agencies, though non-profit agencies and the private sector also provide options for careers in advocacy and security. And if you like the research component of criminology, you may want to pursue an academic career.
Here are some other job possibilities in the field of criminology:
- Private Investigator
- Research Intelligence Analyst
- Victim-Witness Coordinator
- Juvenile Counselor
- Corrections Officer
What are the requirements for a master’s degree in criminology?
Each university has its own set of admissions requirements - and it’s well worth taking the time early on to find out what each program is looking for. For admission to any of the programs on this ranking, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution.
Some programs are also looking for candidates with extensive experience - which may even outweigh considerations like GRE scores or your past GPA. Part of many application requirements is a personal statement outlining your career goals. This can be a great place to outline life experiences that may bolster your overall application.
What are the best master’s in criminology degrees?
At College Choice, we know you’re looking for the best program for your tuition dollar. So we work hard to ensure that the institutions on our rankings reflect both academic excellence and return on investment. All schools on our rankings are regionally accredited - so you know they are reputable institutions.
Our research team also looks at indicators of quality like national and industry-specific reputation scores. And we weigh return on investment by comparing tuition costs to early career earnings. We hope our research makes your search a lot easier!
See our rankings methodology page.
University of California IrvineLocation
Located in California’s Orange County, the University of California, Irvine is a public research university and a member of the 10-campus University of California System. The youngest university to become a member of the elite Association of American Universities, UCI’s online criminal justice program ranks at #3 nationally according to U.S. News and World Report.
UCI’s Department of Criminology, Law, and Society offers an online Master of Advanced Study in Criminology, Law, and Society which will increase opportunities for career advancement. The program is designed to help those in a range of fields – like law enforcement, corrections, and social services – move into positions of leadership. At UCI, you’ll encounter top-notch faculty and and a strong curriculum that combines theory with practical applications. Courses include:
- Introduction to Criminology, Law, and Society
- Legal Institutions and Society
- Crime and Social Deviance
UCI’s online MAS in Criminology, Law, and Society is a 52-quarter-credit program comprised of 13 courses which students generally complete over two years of study. There is no thesis option for this program – though a research paper serves as a capstone project for the degree. And while the majority of the program is online, there is one accelerated 5-day introductory course in residence on the UCI campus at the beginning of your course of study.
Founded in 1877, Regis University is a private, Catholic (Jesuit) university located in Denver, CO. Comprised of five colleges, the university has greatly increased the accessibility of its highly-ranked degrees through robust online offerings. Their online graduate Criminal Justice programs currently rank among the best in the country according to U.S. News and World Report.
Regis University’s College of Contemporary Liberal Studies offers an online Master of Science in Criminology for those who want to grow their careers in the field of criminal justice. Students in Regis’ program explore a wide range of factors that cause criminal behavior, gaining valuable skills in statistical analysis, leadership, ethics, and decision-making along the way. And Regis allows students to tailor the degree to their interests by choosing one of three focus areas:
- Leadership Focus
- Human Behavior Focus
- Cybercrime / Terrorism Focus
Regis University’s online MS in Criminology is a 36-credit program which provides students with considerable freedom of choice in course selection. Students have the option to choose a focus area (it isn’t required), and even within those areas students can opt for courses that most interest them. The program can be completed on a full- or part-time basis and is available entirely online, on-campus, or in a blended format.
Florida State UniversityLocation
A senior member of the State University System of Florida, Florida State University is a large public research university which boasts the oldest university campus in the state. The university is dedicated to making its high-quality programs as broadly accessible as possible – and their online graduate Criminal Justice programs ranks at #7 nationally according to U.S. News and World Report.
FSU’s College of Criminology & Criminal Justice offers an online Master of Science in Criminology which helps students pursue leadership in the field. Designed for working adults, FSU’s program provides real-world training from nationally recognized scholars – in a flexible, online format. Graduates are ready to take on leadership positions within their agencies or teach in a Florida community college. Courses include:
- Race, Ethnicity, and Social Justice
- Criminal Justice Administration
FSU’s online MS in Criminology and Criminal Justice is a 36-credit program comprised of five core courses and a wide range of electives. Depending on your career goals, you can choose between a coursework-only option and a thesis or area-paper option. The degree can be completed on a part- or full-time basis, with three start dates throughout the year. And since all students in FSU’s online programs pay in-state tuition, the program is competitively priced.
University of Texas at DallasLocation
Located in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, TX, the University of Texas at Dallas is a public research university. The university has a reputation for innovative programs that combine cutting-edge research with excellence in teaching. UT Dallas’ online graduate Criminology program is no exception, currently ranking at #4 in U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 ranking. Program Features
UT Dallas’ School of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences offers a Master of Science in Criminology which is the first of its kind in the state. UT Dallas’ program is both interdisciplinary and research-focused, and as an online student, you’ll learn from some of the best criminologists in the world. And, depending on your career aspirations, the program can be designed as either a terminal or non-terminal degree. Courses include:
- Proseminar in Criminology
- Etiology of Crime and Criminality
- Delinquency and Juvenile Justice
UT Dallas’ online MS in Criminology is a 36-credit program comprised of 10 required courses and either two electives or a 6-credit independent study project (for doctoral-track students). Graduates of the program will be ready to advance to analytic and administrative posts in the field of criminology – as well as for teaching positions at the community college and university level. If you’re looking for a highly reputable online Criminology program with affordable tuition, this one is hard to beat.
Western Kentucky UniversityLocation
Bowling Green, KYTuition
A public university located in Bowling Green, KY, Western Kentucky University ranks at #145 among national universities, according to U.S. News and World Report. The university, which was originally founded in 1906, has gone through a significant transformation in recent decades, leading to high rankings for both their on-campus and their acclaimed online programs.
Western Kentucky University offers an online Master of Arts in Criminology which provides a social scientific perspective to evaluate crime patterns in society. WKU’s program utilizes the latest research in areas like penology, rehabilitation, and recidivism as well as insight into the corrections system and criminal law. And students learn from full-time faculty who are experts in their field. Courses include:
- Quantitative Research Methods
- Advanced Social Statistics
- Survey of Criminal Justice Studies
WKU’s online MA in Criminology is a 30-credit program comprised of 15 credits of required core courses and 15 credits of electives. Students have a wide range of choice when it comes to elective selection, and can choose courses from within the department as well as relevant course from outside. WKU’s program provides both a high degree of flexibility and affordability combined with dedicated support from expert faculty.
San Jose State UniversityLocation
San Jose, CATuition
Part of the 23-campus California State University System, San Jose State University is a public, urban university in the California Bay Area. The school ranks among the top 35 regional universities in the West according to U.S. News and World Report, and their online programs provide robust academics in flexible formats for nontraditional students.
If you’re looking for a reputable Criminology program that takes you beyond the horizons of the US context, SJSU’s program is well worth looking at. The Department of Justice Studies offers an online Master of Science in Criminology with a Concentration in Global Criminology that provides a global perspective on crime. You’ll utilize analytic and research techniques to study contemporary international crime as well as diverse global responses to criminal activity. Courses include:
- Comparative Criminal Justice systems
- Applied Research Methods and Statistics
- International Human Rights
SJSU’s online MS in Criminology is a 30-credit program comprised of 15 credits of core courses, 12 credits in the Global Criminology concentration, and a 3-credit applied project as a culminating experience. Most students take two years to complete the entire program and graduates are equally prepared for high-level leadership positions in their professional contexts and for further doctoral study.
University of Nebraska OmahaLocation
Located in Omaha, NE, the University of Nebraska-Omaha is a nationally ranked public research university which combines the resources of a Carnegie Doctoral Research University with a close-knit community. UNO is also home to one of the top two online Graduate Criminal Justice programs in the country according to U.S. News and World Report.
UNO’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers an online Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Designed to meet the needs of the professional community, the MS program is a non-thesis, terminal degree (meaning it won’t lead to a PhD program). Students in UNO’s online program improve professional skills – and gain new ones – as they learn from expert faculty in a flexible online format. Core courses include:
- Seminar in Administration of Justice
- Criminal Justice Research, Theory, and Methodology
- Statistical Applications in Criminal Justice
Students in UNO’s online MS in Criminology and Criminal Justice is a 36-credit, professionally-oriented program comprised of 11 required courses and capstone project. Students can choose to complete the degree entirely online, or in evening classes on UNO’s campus. You can set your own pace for the program, but if you choose to study full-time, you’ll be finished in as few as 18 months.
California University of PennsylvaniaLocation
Located in the Pittsburgh suburb of California, PA, California University of Pennsylvania is a small public university and a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. According to U.S. News and World Report, the university is home to a top-ranking online Criminal Justice program and has a strong focus on applied education.
California University of Pennsylvania offers an online Master of Arts in Applied Criminology that provides in-depth study of criminology and criminal justice. This practitioner-oriented program combines rigorous academics with unique opportunities to put theory into practice. As a student at Cal U, you’ll gain a solid theoretical foundation as well as real-world knowledge and skills from experts in the field. Required courses include:
- Advanced Behavioral Analysis of Violent Crime
- Equivocal Death Analysis
- Criminal Investigative Analysis
Cal U’s online MA in Applied Criminology is a 30-credit program which can be completed in just over a year of full-time study. The program includes both required courses and electives – and a highly flexible capstone experience that can range from internships, extra coursework, or a thesis. Cal U also offers students the chance to complete a capstone study-abroad experience in locations like Scotland Yard.
Missouri State UniversityLocation
With its main campus located in Springfield, MO, Missouri State University is a large public university that ranks at #31 among public regional universities in the Midwest, according to U.S. News and World Report. MSU takes accessibility seriously, providing extensive, high-quality online programs at the graduate level – at tuition rates that fall below national and regional averages.
MSU offers an online Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice that prepares students for high-level positions in the field. The curriculum covers a broad range of topics – from managerial and leadership strategies to advanced research techniques and criminal justice policy making. This is a well-supported online degree program that will prepare you for career advancement – or for doctoral or law degree programs. Courses include:
- Criminal Justice Policy
- Applied Research in Criminal Justice
- Leadership and Management in Criminal Justice
MSU’s MS in Criminology and Criminal Justice is a 30 to 36-credit program, depending on whether you choose the thesis or non-thesis option. Both tracks include 12 to 15 credits of core courses and a number of electives to customize your degree with the help of a faculty advisor. And students have significant choice when it comes to capstone projects – with options ranging from a thesis or policy analysis paper to practicum or independent study.
California State University, Long BeachLocation
Long Beach, CATuition
With a campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean, California State University, Long Beach is a public research university and one of the largest institutions in the 23-campus California State University system. CSULB’s School of Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Emergency Management is the largest in the state and has a stellar reputation for academic rigor, diversity, and high retention rates.
CSULB’s School of Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Emergency Management offers an online, accelerated Master of Science in Criminology & Criminal Justice. The program, which is designed for working professionals, balances theoretical knowledge with practical applications that will prepare you for career advancement or further study. Students learn from CSULB’s faculty of scholar-practitioners with extensive industry experience. Topics include:
- Police Organization and Management
- Crime and Public Policy
- Law and Social Control
CSULB’s online MS in Criminology & Criminal Justice is a 36-credit program comprised of nine required courses, electives, and a capstone project. There is both a thesis and non-thesis option, but as an online student, you’ll be encouraged to complete the comprehensive exam rather than the thesis. Either way, this is a highly reputable online degree program which provides essential knowledge, opportunities for networking, and a credential that will be highly respected no matter where you live.
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