Best Criminal Justice Degrees

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Nab one of the nation’s best Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Degrees.

Whether you envision yourself chasing criminals out in the streets or behind a desk strategizing crime prevention for the local community, a bachelor in criminal justice degree is necessary. It will provide an array of career opportunities and ensure your exciting yet stable vocational future.

What kind of Criminal Justice Degree should you get?

How you design your undergraduate experience should reflect your career aspirations. For example, if you hope to work directly in law enforcement then check out a program that emphasizes the practical applications of criminal justice.

But, if you’re more drawn to the analytics of crime, wondering what causes it and how it can be prevented, then you may want to look at programs which stress the importance of research and data analysis.

However you intend to specialize, you can be assured that all of the programs here will provide a sturdy foundation in criminal justice. And some of these programs can even be completed fully online. We’ve been sure to highlight those.

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Recommended Online Programs

For a full listing of online criminal justice degrees, be sure to check out College Choice’s Best Online Criminal Justice Degrees.

How much money do people make with a Criminal Justice Degree?

A degree in criminal justice will set you up to find work in a variety of settings: the court system, in a law office, in a police station. Because of the diversity of options upon graduation, the average salary for one holding a BS in Criminal Justice degree also varies.

For example, if you decide to become a police officer then you can expect to make around $48,000 annually in your first few years. However, if you want to apply your degree to security management, then you’re looking at least $63,000 a year.

Whichever route you take, the need for those with a BS in Criminal Justice degree is projected to rise at least another 3.5 percent in the next few years.

Top 10 Best Criminal Justice Degrees

Rank School Location
1 CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York, NY
2 Marist College Poughkeepsie, NY
3 George Washington University Washington, NC
4 Northeastern University Boston, MA
5 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
6 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
7 West Chester University of Pennsylvania West Chester, PA
8 Park University Parkville, MO
9 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX
10 Rutgers University-Newark Newark, NJ

What are the requirements for a Criminal Justice Degree?

The programs here are all full undergraduate degree programs. You will be required to first complete two years of general education coursework (in English, science, math, etc). Once those are finished you will dive into the criminal justice major, taking such introductory classes as:

  • Criminology
  • Courts and Law
  • Police and Society
  • Juvenile Detention

After finishing your core criminal justice classes you can further explore the complex world of criminal justice by taking a number of electives, in everything from transnational crime to the death penalty. Finally, you can gain hands-on experience by participating in an internship or field practicum. Some schools even require it (we’ve been sure to note which).

What are the best Criminal Justice Degrees?

While some of these programs specialize in corrections and others in cyber crime, they all share one thing one common: they are the best Bachelor in Criminal Justice degrees.

To determine the best Criminal Justice programs we started first with the academic reputation of each school nationwide that offers the degree. We then examined retention rates, as it reflects student satisfaction. And we then took into account the affordability of the program and the early salaries of its graduates.

After our extensive research, we found those programs that are the country’s absolute best at training leaders in law enforcement and criminology. Our figures and information come from the university and colleges’ websites, PayScale, and nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
    Location

    New York, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Part of the renowned City University of New York system (CUNY), the John Jay College of Criminal Justice is located in Midtown Manhattan. John Jay is uniquely a liberal arts school, but it specializes in forensic and criminal justice education. Over 15,000 students attend.

    Features

    What better place to earn your degree in criminal justice than the leader of criminology education, John Jay College. There you will gain a broad, multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional understanding of criminal justice. You will learn how to apply an analytical, ethical, critical, qualitative, and quantitative approach to crime control. Classes include:

    • Race, Gender, Ethnicity, Crime and Justice
    • Understanding Criminal Behavior
    • Crime Prevention and Control
    • Criminal Responsibility

    Notables

    John Jay is well decorated in its rankings, recognitions, and awards. Forbes includes the college among its list of “America’s Top Colleges.” As does The Economist. And U.S. News & World Report ranks the criminology program among the top ten best in the country.

  2. Marist College
    Location

    Poughkeepsie, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Marist College is located in Poughkeepsie, New York. It is a liberal arts college with around 7,000 students and approximately 60 academic areas of study. And, since its founding, Marist College is a Roman Catholic school.

    Features

    At Marist you have the opportunity to double major in criminal justice and psychology. Classes not only cover the causes of crime, but they examine the many responses society (and its systems) have toward crime control. At Marist you will be expected to complete an internship in addition to the coursework, which covers:

    • Policing in America
    • Corrections and Penology
    • Criminal Courts
    • Juvenile Justice and Delinquency

    Notables

    Just this past year U.S. News & World Report recognized Marist College as one of “America’s Best Colleges.” Similarly, The Princeton Review and Kiplinger’s called Marist one of the nation’s best and most affordable schools, respectively.

  3. George Washington University
    Location

    Washington, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in the nation’s capital, George Washington University (GWU) is a research university. GWU is organized into over a dozen colleges and schools, and it offers nearly 100 academic programs of study. It’s most popular areas, unsurprisingly, are in government, journalism, and international affairs.

    Features

    George Washington University offers a BA in Criminal Justice through the Department of Sociology. Because of where this program is housed, you can expect to take several classes on sociology and the sociological aspects of criminal justice. For example, at GWU you will the have the opportunity to take unique criminal justice classes such as:

    • The Sociological Imagination
    • Economics of Crime
    • U.S. Constitutional History
    • Transnational Crime

    Notables

    GWU is well ranked by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and The Princeton Review. The latter, in fact, consistently recognizes GWU in a number of distinctive areas: for having the most politically active student body, for having one of the most popular study abroad programs, and more.

  4. Northeastern University
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Northeastern University is based in Boston, Massachusetts. It is known for its active and ongoing research endeavors and for its unique co-op program. Students not only earn an education through this program, but they gain real-world experience through professional paid internships.

    Features

    Northeastern offers a BS in Criminal Justice degree that prepares you for either a professional or a research-driven career in criminal justice. You will learn how to predict and explain crime patterns while also developing community advancement strategies. Through Northeastern’s diverse range of electives you can take classes such as:

    • The Death Penalty
    • Human Trafficking
    • Corruption, Integrity, and Accountability
    • Crimes Against Humanity

    Notables

    Northeastern University is ranked 40th among all national universities by U.S. News & World Report. Likewise, The Princeton Review designates it as among the best schools for internship experience. Its criminology program is also considered one of the best in the country.

  5. Michigan State University
    Location

    East Lansing, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Michigan State University (MSU) is known for its stellar academic programs in an array of areas and disciplines. Its most popular academic degrees include the criminology, psychology, and education programs. MSU is located in Lansing, Michigan and is home to over 50,000 students.

    Features

    Through MSU you can earn a bachelor’s in criminal justice degree that focuses on the importance of security and civil liberty. You’ll take classes on everything from policing to juvenile justice, private security, and methods of criminal justice research. MSU also offers four unique study abroad opportunities to its criminal justice students:

    • Comparative Law and Legal Systems in the Caribbean
    • Australia: Its People, Government, Justice Systems and Public Policies
    • Madagascar: Paradise in Peril? Exploring Madagascar’s Biodiversity Crisis
    • The Philippines: Justice and Development Practice in Transitional Societies of Southeast Asia

    Notables

    A member of the elite Association of American Universities organization, MSU houses dozens of leading research facilities. MSU is also a leading member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance. It is ranked 82nd among all national universities by U.S. News & World Report.

  6. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    One of the most conservative Christian colleges in the nation, Liberty University is also the country’s largest evangelical school. Over 110,000 students, most of whom study online, attend Liberty. Campus is located in Lynchburg, Virginia.

    Features

    Graduates from Liberty’s BS in Criminal Justice program have gone on to become criminologists, fraud investigators, police officers, and crime scene investigators. Liberty ensures its students have many opportunities in the work force by providing a broad-based education in criminal justice. You can even specialize, in:

    • Homeland Security
    • Juvenile Justice
    • Public Administration
    • Strategic Intelligence Studies

    Notables

    U.S. News & World Report ranks Liberty in several of its categories, designating it among the best colleges for veterans and for having some of the best online education programs. Liberty is among the nation’s top ten most conservative schools.

  7. West Chester University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    West Chester, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    West Chester University (WCUPA) is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. More than 16,000 students attend WCUPA, which was originally founded as a teacher’s school. Today, WCUPA offers dozens of bachelor and master’s degrees in varying professional and academic disciplines.

    Features

    West Chester students gain both a theoretical and hands-on learning experience when earning a BS in Criminal Justice degree. While taking classes that can be tailored to meet your academic and vocational goals, you’ll also be expected to complete an exhaustive internship too. Some classes you can expect to take at West Chester include:

    • Theories of Crime and Delinquency
    • Corrections
    • Policing in America
    • Criminal Procedure

    Notables

    U.S. News & World Report has heaped much praise and many rankings on West Chester. The university is counted among the best in its region, the best college for veterans, and one of the most affordable college in the country. Likewise, its online programs are known for their excellence too.

  8. Park University
    Location

    Parkville, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Park University is primarily located in Parkville, Missouri but also has 40 other campuses across the country, 33 of which are located on military installations, not to mention many online options. Park is a private school with approximately 16,500 students. It offers nearly 54 degrees (38 Bachelor’s, eight Master’s, and eight Associates), 27 certificates (16 graduate and 11 undergraduate)

    Features

    Park University offers a BS in Criminal Justice degree that provides students with an in-depth understanding of the U.S. criminal justice system. In this program you will explore society and crime through theoretical, philosophical, and practical applications. And at Park there are three ways to further specialize in criminal justice, by enrolling in one of the three tracks:

    • Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement
    • Criminal Justice and Corrections
    • Criminal Justice and Security

    Notables

    In addition to its regional academic ranking, Park University is known for its committed service to student vets. It is ranked 1st among all private schools for “Best for Vets Colleges” by The Military Times. Similarly, Washington Monthly designates it as one of the best colleges for adult learners.

  9. Sam Houston State University
    Location

    Huntsville, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Sam Houston State University (SHSU) is located just outside of downtown Houston in Huntsville. SHSU is one of the oldest public universities in Texas and it is a member of the Texas State University System. Over 20,000 students attend.

    Features

    Offered through one of the best criminal justice colleges in the country, Sam Houston’s BS in Criminal Justice and Victim Studies degrees are unparalleled. You’ll investigate sociological aspects of crime and victimology while also gaining hands-on experience through an internship. You can even take classes online. Sam Houston’s curriculum covers:

    • Cyber Crime
    • Global Terrorism
    • White Collar Crime
    • Victimology

    Notables

    Sam Houston State University consistently shows up on the annual national rankings from Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and Washington Monthly. SHSU is most known, and praised, for its criminal justice programs, and the College of Criminal Justice is ranked in the top five nationally by the Journal of Criminal Justice.

  10. Rutgers University-Newark
    Location

    Newark, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Rutgers is a public school with multiple campuses located throughout New Jersey. It is a huge, sprawling research university with more than 70,000 combined undergraduate and graduate students. Rutgers is a senior member in the Big Ten Academic Alliance and the Universities Research Association.

    Features

    Rutgers’ BS in Criminal Justice degree is notably interdisciplinary. You’ll take classes in a range of disciplines, each of which provides a unique lens to better understanding crime and criminal justice. Also, Rutgers offers an accelerated BS/MA program in criminal justice for those who know they want an advanced degree. Core classes include:

    • Criminology
    • Police and Society
    • Corrections
    • Criminal Justice: Ethical and Philosophical Foundations

    Notables

    Rutgers, one of only nine colonial colleges founded before the American Revolution, is one of the oldest universities in the country. It is ranked among the top 100 best universities in the country by ARWU, U.S. News & World Report, and Washington Monthly.

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