Criminal justice is the system used to identify, apprehend, judge, and punish crimes. It’s a complex field that’s vital to any society. It’s also a field constantly in need of leaders who can solve problems, implement programs, and positively impact crime policy. A Ph.D. in Criminal Justice can give you the tools to successfully fill this role.
You’ll build skills in critical thinking, research, analysis, program implementation and evaluation, teaching, and beyond. By earning your degree, you’ll open the door to careers in academia, research, and administration.
Of course, the decision to pursue a Ph.D. is a big one. But achieving your criminal justice career goals may not require as much time and money as you think. The programs listed here are online, giving you the flexibility to complete coursework around your schedule. They’re also highly affordable. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
What kind of Ph.D. in Criminal Justice should you get?
The most common terminal degrees in Criminal Justice are the Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice and the Doctor of Criminal Justice. Both will prepare you to become an influential leader in the field. However, a Ph.D. may focus more on research and academia, while the DCJ may focus on practical approaches to criminal justice issues.
If you already have a specialized interest in the field, you may want to choose a program with a concentration that appeals to you. Alternatively, select a program with a professor conducting research on a topic that piques your interest.
These degrees are available in traditional and online formats. Online programs appeal to many students because of the freedom to pursue your education anytime, anywhere. If you’d like to look into other affordable online programs, browse our list of the Most Affordable Online Graduate Schools.
How much money do people make with a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, criminal justice and law enforcement postsecondary teachers earn a median salary of $61,900. The top 90% earns $124,180.
Supervisors of police and detectives earn a median salary of $87,910, while emergency management directors bring home about $74,420 annually.
Other careers suited for a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice offer widely varying salaries, depending on the agency or institution that employs you. Each of the jobs listed above are growing about as fast as average, with jobs expected to increase by 8% over the next decade.
What can you do with a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice?
A Ph.D. in Criminal Justice prepares you to work as a professor, conduct research for an agency or think-tank, or work in criminal justice administration and management. You may also choose to pursue an executive-level security role in government, business, or administration.
You’ll be prepared to investigate and analyze crime, potentially for agencies like the CIA and FBI. You may pursue a career in law enforcement, work in probation or juvenile justice, or serve as a victim’s advocate, but these roles do not require a Ph.D..
What are the requirements for a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice?
For most of these programs, you’ll need to hold a master’s degree in criminal justice or a related field. Several programs have GPA requirements, with some expecting a minimum GPA of 3.0 or even 3.5. Additional requirements may include test scores, letters of recommendation, an essay or personal statement, a resume or curriculum vitae, a writing sample, and/or an interview.
Once admitted to the Ph.D. program, you’ll complete courses in research methodology, statistics, criminal justice theory and policy, teaching, and contemporary issues in criminal justice. After completing core coursework, some programs require you to complete a comprehensive exam to advance to candidacy. You’ll then develop expertise in an area of interest, conduct original research, and write a dissertation.
What are the most affordable online Ph.D.s in Criminal Justice?
To help you jumpstart or advance your criminal justice career, we’ve put together a list of the most affordable online Ph.D.s in Criminal Justice. We’ve extensively researched total tuition costs, and every program on this list is accredited. To ensure both quality and affordability, we used trusted sources like:
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- U.S. News and World Report
- Princeton Review
- Official university websites and course catalogs
So, if you’re ready to play an important role in criminal justice and looking for a convenient, affordable way to get there, these are the programs for you.
Sam Houston State University
Average Net Price: $11,742
Founded in 1879, Sam Houston State University is the third-oldest public university in Texas. The Huntsville-based school has a well-established history of preparing students for success. Today, SHSU enrolls 18,000 students who choose from over 130 degrees. Programs are offered through seven colleges and online. U.S. News and World Report has frequently recognized SHSU for its high-quality online degree programs. One affordable program is for a Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice.
Sam Houston’s Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice program provides students with an in-depth understanding of criminal justice research and theory as well as the tools to broaden discovery and knowledge in this field. In addition to core courses, students complete electives and research in their individual areas of interest. A Research Assessment Portfolio and a dissertation are required. Courses include:
- Proseminar in Criminal Justice Issues
- Criminological Theory
- Advanced Statistics
- Research Design
- Legal Aspects of the Criminal Justice System
Applicants must hold a master’s degree in Criminal Justice or a related field. They must submit transcripts, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, an essay, and a current resume. Interviews may be required in some cases. Graduates are well-prepared for criminal justice careers that emphasize theory, law, administration, research, and statistics.
Florida International University
Average Net Price: $12,219
Based in Miami, Florida International University is a public research university serving a diverse community of nearly 54,000 students. U.S. News and World Report ranks it among the nation’s Top 100 public universities. FIU offers more than 190 top-notch degree programs both on-campus and online. The school’s highly interactive online programs are also nationally ranked, and FIU is one of the largest providers of online learning in the country. FIU offers a Ph.D. in International Crime.
The Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice at FIU focuses on international areas of study within the criminal justice and criminology field. The program consists of required core courses, a research tools requirement, international crime and justice electives, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. In this program, you can expect to complete courses such as:
- Comparative Policing
- International Public Administration
- Terrorism and Homeland Security
- Criminological Theory
- Criminal Justice Policy Analysis
Applicants must submit transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a research paper or thesis that demonstrates writing ability. To satisfy the research tools requirement, students take courses in survey research and design, qualitative and quantitative research methods, program evaluation measures, grant writing, and more.
New Jersey City University
Average Net Price: $12,267
A public liberal arts university in Jersey City, NJ, New Jersey City University was originally founded in 1927 to train teachers. Now, NJCU is one of the state’s most comprehensive universities, and it’s also the most affordable. NJCU offers over 80 degree programs, many of them in interdisciplinary and emerging fields. Fully-accredited, fully-online options are available through NJCU Online, including a Doctor of Science in Civil Security Leadership, Management, & Policy.
The DS in Civil Security, Leadership, Management, & Policy is one of the first of its kind in the United States. The degree prepares graduates for executive-level security roles in business, education, or government. It emphasizes research and analysis and culminates in a dissertation. The program focuses on the three areas recognized by ASIS-International:
- National Security (Homeland Security and Intelligence)
- Corporate Security
- Information Assurance/Cyber Security
Students complete this program in a Learning Community of 15-20 students. Although courses are online, students gather for a two-week summer residency and four weekends on campus. Applicants must have four years of relevant work experience, a master’s degree, two letters of recommendation, and successful completion of a major graduate student assessment.
Arizona State University
Average Net Price: $12,947
Arizona State University is a public research university with its main campus in Tempe, AZ. ASU has five additional campuses throughout the Phoenix area, in addition to a large online learning platform. In total, ASU enrolls more than 100,000 students, making it the nation’s largest university. It’s also ranked as the nation’s most innovative university by U.S. News and World Report. The school is known for its stellar career preparation and excellent programs, including a Ph.D. in Criminology and Criminal Justice.
The Ph.D. in Criminology and Criminal Justice emphasizes theory, research, and policy in the field of criminal justice. It prepares criminology and criminal justice agency researchers, faculty, and administrators. Students must complete core courses in research methods and analysis, core courses in research and theory on crime and the criminal justice system, electives in related fields, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Courses include:
- Criminological Theory
- Criminal Justice Policies and Practices
- Advanced Research Design
- Advanced Statistical Analysis
- Topics in Quantitative Methods
Students consult with a supervisory committee to choose a minimum of nine electives tailored to their goals and interests. In total, the degree program requires a minimum of 72 credit hours of coursework and 12 hours of dissertation. Students are required to demonstrate proficiency in quantitative methods, qualitative methods, and research design.
Texas State University
Average Net Price: $13,579
Texas State University was established in 1899 in San Marcos, Texas. The public research university currently enrolls more than 38,600 students and offers more than 200 rigorous and distinguished programs. TSU is noted for its diverse student population, award-winning professors, and world-class research. It’s also the only Texas university to boast a presidential alumni: Lyndon B. Johnson. TSU offers an online Ph.D. in Criminal Justice.
Students enrolled in TSU’s Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice program complete theoretical, analytical, and elective courses preparing them for careers in academia or criminal justice administration. Students complete a minimum of 51 credit hours and a dissertation, and the degree program may be completed part-time or full-time. Courses include:
- Philosophy of Law, Justice, and Social Control
- Advanced Criminological Theory
- Criminal Justice Administration, Ethics, and Public Policy
- Race and Ethnicity in Crime and Criminal Justice
- Advanced Research for Planning and Evaluation
The dissertation is graded on a credit, progress, or no credit basis. It consists of original research and writing on a topic area of interest in the criminal justice field. Applicants are required to submit letters of recommendation and a personal letter outlining their background and goals. The program takes 3-4 years to complete but will take longer for part-time students.
University of Maryland-University College
Average Net Price: $15,256
Founded to benefit service members and working adults, the University of Maryland University College is a public university specializing in online education. The university is based in Adelphi, MD and offers undergraduate and graduate programs designed to effectively prepare students for the most in-demand fields. One of the nation’s largest online public universities, UMUC provides students with over 90 program options. No-cost digital materials accompany almost every course. One of the school’s affordable online programs is a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice.
UMUC’s Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice examines both the historical progression of research in key criminal justice areas and the latest developments in the field. Students conduct their own research as well, developing specialized areas of interest. The degree program is highly customizable, but requirements include:
- Advanced Statistical Methods – Limited Dependent Variables
- Doctoral Research Methods
- 5 elective courses
- A Clinical Assessment
- A Dissertation
The clinical assessment is required to advance to candidacy and evaluates research competency, professional development, and content knowledge. Nearly all Ph.D. students have found positions at the time of graduation. They work as professors, research analysts, policy consultants, post-doctoral fellows, and more.
Average Net Price: $15,667
Capella University in Minneapolis is a public university that focuses on online learning for nontraditional students. It’s home to more than 150 online programs and 1,600 courses. Programs are customizable and career-focused. Students choose from a wide range of learning formats and start dates. Every program is competency-based and created with direct input from industry leaders. One of these programs is for a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice.
The fully-online Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice gives students the skills and knowledge to positively impact the justice system and society as a whole. Requirements include 14 core courses, four elective courses, three dissertation research courses, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Students begin working on the dissertation early in the program in order to build momentum toward graduation. You’ll complete courses such as:
- Justice, Security, and Democracy
- Criminal Justice Policy and Administration
- Assessing Criminal Justice Theory
- Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice
- Analysis of Crime Data
Students build the critical thinking and analytical skills needed to strategize and develop policies for criminal justice administration. In addition to evaluating existing systems and issues, students work on original research in consultation with expert faculty. Students may choose a concentration in Corrections, Criminology, Higher Education, or Continuity Management.
Colorado Technical University
Average Net Price: $15,888
Introduced in 1995, Colorado Technical University’s online school has rapidly spread throughout the world. The university’s mission is to provide industry-relevant higher education to diverse learners. Experienced faculty deliver award-winning programs using CTU’s innovative technology. Over 100 programs can be tailored to student interests, inspiring and enabling students to pursue their personal and professional goals. You may be introduced in CTU’s highly-affordable Doctor of Management in Criminal Justice.
CTU’s Doctor of Management in Criminal Justice develops students’ knowledge of criminal justice and their managerial skills. Students engage in action research, practical projects, and coursework that prepares them to oversee the many moving parts of the criminal justice system. The dissertation is integrated into the program, and the degree can be completed within three years. Courses include:
- Ethics and the Criminal Justice Leader
- Criminal Justice Organization and Management
- Collaboration and Cooperation Within and Among Criminal Justice Agencies
- Diversity in Society and Criminal Justice
- Issues and Trends in Today’s Criminal Justice Organizations
Total tuition can be reduced with scholarships, transferred credits, and grants such as the Corporate Alliances Grant. CTU offers an additional discount for active-duty military. Students choose from three start dates and build their own course schedule. They are closely supported and mentored by faculty throughout the program.
California University of Pennsylvania
Average Net Price: $17,755
Popularly known as Cal U, the California University of Pennsylvania provides an excellent education at a reasonable price. The public university is located in California, PA and has an 18:1 student-faculty ratio. Princeton Review consistently ranks Cal U as one of the Northeast’s best colleges. 96% of Cal U graduates are working in the field or pursuing advanced degrees. With over 150 respected programs, Cal U offers something for everyone. For you, there’s an online DCJ.
Cal U’s online Doctor of Criminal Justice is the first regionally accredited DCJ program in the United States. It prepares students to occupy leadership roles in criminal justice, responding to current issues and making vital policy changes. The program emphasizes professional development and practical approaches to contemporary criminal justice issues. Students strengthen their analysis, evaluation, and policy implementation skills through courses like:
- Leading Criminal Justice Agencies
- Using Theory to Improve Criminal Justice
- Improving the Administration of Juvenile Justice
- Corrections: Crisis and Management
- Application: Achieving Justice More Often
This program can be completed in just two years on a part-time basis, including a comprehensive exam and a doctoral research portfolio. The program’s only on-campus requirement is a five-day summer residency. Graduates occupy leadership roles in sheriff’s offices, corrections departments, juvenile justice agencies, and investigative units.
Nova Southeastern University
Average Net Price: $26,740
Nova Southeastern University was founded in Fort Lauderdale, FL in 1964. Today, the private, not-for-profit research institution has eight campuses throughout Florida and an additional campus in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The forward-thinking university is also recognized for its wide array of interactive online programs, recognized by U.S. News and World Report as some of the nation’s best. In total, NSU enrolls more than 21,000 students. Join the NSU Sharks by pursuing an online Ph.D. in Criminal Justice.
In Nova Southeastern’s online Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice program, students complete 60 credits. These credits consist of 33 core-curriculum credits, 15 credits of a specialty concentration, and 12 credits for the dissertation. Students prepare for academia, research, and management roles in criminal justice. Courses include:
- Theories of Crime
- The Police and Society
- Criminal Law, Procedure, and Individual Rights
- Applied Statistics
- Program Analysis
Applicants must hold a master’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, submit three letters of recommendation and a curriculum vitae, provide a personal statement, and participate in an interview. Students choose a concentration in Organizational Leadership, Behavioral Science, or Juvenile Justice.