Online Criminal Justice Degree

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Sherlock Holmes was one of the first, and most famous, fictional detectives. In the short stories and novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes performed the work that today is called criminology. Holmes was self-taught, but today you definitely need a Online Criminal Justice Degree to have a career as a criminologist. Criminal Justice is a social science that is concerned with the social impacts and reactions to crime, the causes and preventions of crime, and the criminals themselves. A degree in Criminal Justice also provides excellent career opportunities across a wide variety of fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, criminal justice careers are anticipated to grow at a rate of 7% between 2020 and 2030, which is above the national average. Many colleges and universities now offer an online criminal justice degree. In this guide we will be discussing all aspects of Online Criminal Justice Degree programs – curriculum, admission requirements, scholarships and much more. We will also review the best online criminal justice degrees in the country.


Best Colleges for Online Criminal
Justice Degrees

Perhaps, due to the popularity of TV shows like CSI, and other police stories, there has been a recent interest in learning about the criminal justice system. This, in turn, has sparked the creation of a myriad of college and university programs. We’ve investigated (no pun intended) many of these programs and created a list of the best colleges for criminal justice. Our focus was on the institutions offering an online criminal justice bachelor degree. And our methodology included elements like tuition, program quality, graduation rates, program reputation and many other parameters. Find out more about our methodology. (Link to methodology pop up) *

With a B.A. or B.S. in Criminal Justice through the University of Central Florida Online, one will gain an in-depth understanding of the justice system. Through a rich selection of hands-on, interactive training and online coursework students will learn about the history of crime in America, how to conduct research and analyze data, the details of prosecution under the law, and more. It will prepare students to work within the local, county, state, or federal justice agencies, private organizations, or a related field. Additionally, students will be well-qualified to pursue graduate work in criminal justice or related disciplines. Founded in 1963 to fuel the region’s talent pipeline and support the growing U.S. space program, UCF is built to make a better future for its students and society. It’s one of the reasons U.S. News & World Report ranks UCF among the nation’s top 20 most innovative colleges, while Forbes, Kiplinger, and The Princeton Review rank us a best-value university. The tuition and graduation rate are as below:
Univ Address Tuition Grad Rate
University of Central Florida 4000 Central Florida Blvd, Orlando, Florida 32816 $6,368 74%

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

Find Online Criminal Justice
Degree Near Me

There are so many choices for obtaining a criminal justice degree, perhaps you are asking yourself, “Can I get a criminal justice degree near me?” The answer is “Absolutely, yes.” Once again, we have done a good chunk of the work for you by providing the list below. Whether you are searching for, “criminal justice colleges in Texas,” the “top 10 criminal justice schools in Michigan,” or an “online criminal justice degree in San Diego,” we’ve got you covered. Take a look at below list to find a criminal justice degree near you.

What to expect From Online Criminal
Justice Degree Programs

As with most college level programs, online criminal justice degrees have quite a bit of variation in their curriculums. Generally, criminology is the study of crime from a social and individual perspective. However, each program, at each individual institution, will have their own particular focus.

Online Criminal Justice
Degree Types

Both the BA and BS degree programs can open the doors to a career directly into the criminal justice system or allow you to continue to a master’s degree. The difference between the BS degree and the BA is the technical education that is involved.

BS in Criminal Justice

The BS degree allows you to develop an analytical and practical perspective towards the criminal justice system. This will be a considerable help during your career. The focus in the BS degree is more on observed validation and real-world application. This could be helpful if you are pursuing a career in law enforcement as an officer or attorney.

Classes, in the BS program, are taught in the classroom, in the laboratory (where experiments can be conducted), and in the field, providing a technical perspective.

BA in Criminal Justice

Like many BA degree programs, the criminal justice bachelor’s degree is an interdisciplinary curriculum. The undergraduate studies will include literature, languages, communication, history and the humanities. But here, the emphasis of the program is geared towards the theoretical aspects of criminal justice and is perfect for students who are planning to purse a Masters or PHD.

The Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice degree program supplies the student with both a skill-based, and a scholarly understanding of the structure and operation of the police, courts, and correctional systems. Consideration is given to managerial, legal, behavioral and crime control issues. You will study the social, economic, political, and cultural forces that influence definitions of crime.

The BA degree will also enable you to focus on the academic approach to criminal justice. By having a firm grip on the theories, you can have a better understanding of the realities.

What Are Common Specializations for an Online
Criminal Justice Degree Program?

Criminology is the academic study of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Students, seeking a career in criminal justice, will most likely first try to earn an online bachelors degree.

Criminologists can be criminal investigators and researchers who examine the criminal mind and the nature of crimes. In some cases, criminologists aid in actual investigations and play a role in the apprehension of criminals, while in other cases they conduct research that leads to better law enforcement techniques. The term “criminologist” itself encompasses a variety of disciplines in the criminal investigation field.

The branches of criminology are usually classified as:

Depending on your area of specialization, the working conditions of criminologists can vary according to your specific job function:

What are the different fields of Criminology?

Laboratory WorkCrime Scene WorkOffice WorkCourt Work
A forensic scientist, or a science lab technician, spends much of the day working in a laboratory environment. There they study evidence obtained at a crime scene. Forensic scientists will also spend a considerable amount of time at the computer, analyzing data and using sophisticated software programs to identify possible criminal suspects.Criminal investigators gather evidence at the crime scene to be taken back to the laboratory for analysis. Their work may involve gathering tissue and fluid samples from dead bodies, examining blood stain spatters and weapons found at the scene of the crime and any other potential clues.The criminologist, like other police officers and detectives, spends a lot of time filling out and filing paperwork. Criminologists have to document their findings by filling out police reports and must keep extensive records for future investigative purposes.Some criminologists who are recognized as leading authorities in the law enforcement community can be asked to serve as expert witnesses in court cases. For example, forensic psychologists are sometimes called upon to comment on a suspect’s behavior and mental state.

What Will I Learn in a Criminal
Justice Degree Program?

As mentioned previously, each online criminal justice degree program, at each university, will have a different focus. Depending on whether you opt for a BS curriculum or a BA program will also determine which specific courses you will be required to take to earn the degree.

All programs will include:

CriminologyCourt System and CorrectionsSociology and PsychologyCriminal Law
At the very least, a student enrolled in a criminal justice major will need to take an introductory criminology course. The study of criminology explores the causes and nature of crime, the behavior and patterns of criminals, and perspectives on socially deviant behavior. Other topics may include crime statistics and recidivism rates, victimology, ethics, criminal profiling, and research and investigation.Classes in the Court System and Corrections will generally cover the history, functions, philosophy and problems associated with the judicial system. The adult justice system and the juvenile justice system will be covered and how they differ, particularly in terms of sentencing and punishments. Topics will include the basics of corrections, probation, parole and the jail and prison systems.Particularly for careers in crime prevention and rehabilitation, a background in sociology and psychology will be helpful to students who want to pursue a career in the criminal justice field. An understanding of the sociological and psychological factors of crime will help you understand the underlying problems and characteristics of people involved in the criminal justice system. Courses include topics such as violence, gangs, drug use,gender, race, poverty and mental illness.Courses in criminal law cover various aspects of the legal process, penal law and definitions of crime. Criminal law classes can also give you a better understanding of legal terms, high-profile criminal cases, prosecution and defense, constitutional law, criminal justice reform, evidence and forensic law. An emphasis on incarceration, punishment, retribution and rehabilitation may also be in criminal law courses.

Other courses may include:

Free Online Criminal Justice

The Internet has created a whole new world of educational opportunities. Even some that have no prerequisite requirements or associated costs. These are called Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). Many universities and other educational organizations provide the content for free. Here are a few such criminal justice courses that are free.

Justice on edX

Justice is a free criminal justice course that is available on edX and taught by Harvard professor Michael Sandel. This course explores theories of justice and applies them to today’s situations.

Forensic Science and Criminal Justice at University of Leicester

This course is offered for free as an MOOC by University of Leicester. It examines how forensic science has evolved and used in courtrooms today and also sheds light on various debates about how biometrics databased are used.

Introduction to American Law at Coursera

(University of Pennsylvania) – Coursera offers a free course that introduces students to different stages of American Law. Students will gain insights and can learn about complexities of various laws.

Hot topics in Criminal Justice at Coursera

Coursera offers this course for free. This course examines various hot button issues like how to identify who committed crime and what to do with them. This course also sheds light on various problems that are plaguing the current criminal justice system.

It is important to note that these lectures are usually not accredited nor can they be used to earn credits toward a degree. However, they are a great way to introduce, or refresh your knowledge of, topics for which you are earning credits.

How Do I Get Into an Online Criminal Justice
Degree Program?

Generally speaking, a career in Criminal Justice typically requires a minimum of an associate degree. However, police officers usually need a minimum of a high school diploma and police academy training. Lawyers need seven years of education from an undergraduate program and law school, plus a passing score on their state’s bar exam.

Like most bachelor’s degrees, an online bachelor’s in criminal justice also have admission requirements. To be admitted to an online criminal justice degree program, here are requirements

Every college and university will have different admission requirements, which is independent of the program the student is admitted to.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Criminal
Justice Bachelor Degree?

If you attend classes on campus, it takes four years to earn a criminal justice bachelor’s degree. The time duration for a BS degree is three to five years depending upon on any specialization and completion of practical work. The study duration for a BA degree is three to four years. Typically, online criminal justice degree programs can be completed faster as most universities offering online criminal justice programs let students finish them at their own pace. It is important to note that the real timeline is dependent on many factors such as

  • Specializations
  • How many credits per semester that the university allows, and the students are willing to sign up for?
  • The complexity of courses as some criminal justice courses, such as American Law, cannot be combined with many other courses in that semester
  • How many hours that students are willing to invest in towards finishing up assignments and class work
  • The timeline also depends on if students are going through the program full time or part time.

Accelerated & Fastest Criminal Justice
Degree Programs

What is the timescale of the speediest Criminal Justice Degree Online programs? In some cases, you may be able to earn an online criminal justice associates degree in as little as 12 months or an online criminal justice bachelor’s degree in a little more than that. If you have earned credits at other accredited institutions, students may be able to transfer them to a new institution which will further accelerate the timeframe. Here are a few universities that offer accelerated criminal justice degree programs:

University of Oklahoma, Norman

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King University

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Ball State University

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American InterContinental University 

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Purdue University Global – ExcelTrack™ B.S in Criminal Justice

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University of Bridgeport – Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

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Faulkner University – Accelerated BSc Degree in Criminal Justice

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DeSales University – Criminal Justice- Accelerated, BA

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Accreditation for Criminal Justice
Degree Online Programs

Accreditation is the process where institutions of higher education are certified that they meet satisfactory levels of quality. For a criminal justice degree online, there are two types of accreditations available – National and Regional accreditations. It is important to note the differences as this information will be useful at the time of admission and also if there are any transfers happening.

Nationally accredited schools will generally accept credits from either a regionally or nationally accredited school:

  • Regionally accredited schools may NOT accept transfer credit from a nationally accredited college or university.
  • Graduate schools, that offer a Master’s or a PhD, tend to be regionally accredited and will usually take in qualified applicants who possess a degree from an institution with regional accreditation.

There are six regional accreditation agencies. Make sure that the university you select is accredited by one of them:

North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

(NCA), aka (NCACS) – is a regional accreditation body that covers the of the North Central states division.

New England Association of Schools and Colleges

(NEASC) – the New England States are covered by this regional accreditation agency. 

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

(SACSCOC) – the actual name of this  regional accreditation agency is “The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools” (where the acronym “SACSCOC” comes from). This is a for Southern states.

Western Association of Schools and Colleges

(WASC) – California and Hawaii schools are covered by this accreditation agency.

Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

(NWCCU) – this regional accreditation institution includes the upper Western states, including Alaska.

Middle States Commission on Higher Education

(MSCHE) – is the unit of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. They accredit degree-granting colleges and universities in the Middle States region. This includes New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and several international locations.

How to Pay for Online Criminal Justice
Degree Programs

Paying for college is one of the biggest obstacles for any student. This part of the application process will often make the difference as to whether or not a student decides to take online courses. What most students don’t realize is that there are a range of funding options available. This runs from scholarships tailored to their individual situations to federally funded programs.

When you apply to an online school, make it a point to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA will consider your parents’ taxes to determine the amount of assistance available to you. Even if your parents can’t afford to help you pay for college, you must still include their information (unless you’re an independent minor or a member of the military). You can search for your school when applying for assistance, and the FAFSA will tell you if your school accepts government aid. If your school isn’t on the list, it isn’t accredited and you should look at other alternatives.

Once you apply for federal aid, you’ll be informed as to what grants and loans are available to you. US News recommends that you choose student loans from the federal government before looking at private loans. Private loans usually come with high interest rates, and you must start paying those loans as soon as you graduate or stop taking classes. Businesses that offer private loans typically charge students for their undergraduate loans even if they attend graduate school. Federal loans come with lower interest rates, and you don’t need to pay on those loans until six months after you withdraw from school or finish your degree.


Scholarships give you the chance to cover your entire college experience without paying a penny out of your own pocket. Organizations and companies across the country offer scholarships, which can usually have no application fees. Some professional organizations also offer scholarships for those studying specific fields. Other scholarships are based on your gender, location or even heritage. Ake sure to check with the groups your parents belong to. Many social lodges and organizations offer scholarships for the children of members, and you qualify as long as a relative is a member. Some scholarships are paid directly to the school, while others go into your bank account.

Employer Reimbursed Tuition

If you are working, check with the HR Department to see if your company has a program to reimburse workers for taking classes relevant to their work assignments. Not all employers do this or yours may have restrictions on what can be reimbursed. Usually there is a limit on the dollar amount per year, in total, and that the coursework must be related to your work.


Many brick-and-mortar colleges offer work-study programs that pay you for working on campus –  but you won’t have access to those jobs when you attend an online program. However, after filling out your FAFSA, ask if you qualify for any grants. Grants can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, and unlike loans, you don’t pay back grants.

Most accredited online colleges offer the same types of financial assistance as traditional universities. After filling out the FAFSA, and determining which options are available to you, you can decide how to pay for your college experience. A combination of scholarships, loans and grants might be your best choice for you.

5 Scholarships for Online Criminal Justice
Degree Programs

Criminal Justice programs have a lot of demand and they also put burden on students. Luckily there are quite a few organizations that offer scholarships for criminal justice degree students. Here are just a few:

Alpha Phi Sigma: The National Criminal Justice Honor SocietyOne of the scholarships that Alpha Phi Sigma offers is the V.A. Leonard Scholarship. 
Award Amount: $1500
American Association of JusticeThe American Association of Justice offers an annual scholarship titled: the Leesfield/ AAJ Scholarship.
Award Amount: $2500
American Association of Law Libraries (AALL)The American Association of Law Libraries offers an annual scholarship opportunity called the George A. Strait Minority Scholarship.
Award Amount: Varies
CrimcheckCrimcheck is a comprehensive and well-known pre-employment criminal background check company.
Award Amount: $500
My Alarm Center Student ScholarshipMy Alarm Center is a company that was established in 2000 with a vision of having the highest quality and most technically advanced alarm security systems and is known as the premier security company in the country.
Award Amount: $1000

FAQs about Online Criminal Justice
Degree Programs

How to get a Criminal Justice degree?

A career in Criminal Justice typically starts with obtaining a Bachelors Degree. The pre-requisite for that is an Associates Degree or a high school diploma with a GPA of at least 2.0. Prospective police officers also need police academy training. Lawyers need seven years of education from an undergraduate program and law school, plus a passing score on their state’s bar exam.

What college has the best Criminal Justice program?

How much is Criminal Justice college?

What can a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice do?

Can you get a Criminal Justice degree online?

How long to get a Criminal Justice degree?

Is criminology and Criminal Justice the same?

How Much Do Criminal Justice
Majors Make?

As in any career, experience affects salaries, and a criminologist is no exception. It is important to note that no degree guarantees any career or salary, but it will certainly help students to be better placed in career building and salary growth. Criminal Justice degrees also belong in the same fold. Although they don’t guarantee a career and salary, they help students immensely in molding careers in criminal justice.

A criminologist with one to four years of experience, can earn from $31,800 to $65,169 a year. With five to 19 years of experience they can earn $30,000 to $75,000 a year. Those with 20 or more years may earn $42,600 to $82,500 a year.

Police officers who have earned a bachelor’s degree may also qualify for promotions to positions as a detective or into supervisory roles. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for detectives in 2018 was $81,920. Police officers earned a median salary of $61,380 during that time.

Of course, the most popular roles among law enforcers are police officers and detectives. However, other jobs available for those with a criminal justice bachelor’s degree are as:

Special AgentsPrivate SecurityProbation OfficersForensic Scientists
Special Agents are roles within government agencies in the field of law enforcement. This includes the FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation, the DEA – Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Marshals, Immigration and Naturalization Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Customs.Private Security individuals work for private organizations that require security for their properties or in their workplaces. They may work as private investigators, conduct surveillance for clients to gather evidence that may be used in insurance fraud and child custody cases, or for employment verification.Probation Officers are those assigned to supervise people sentenced to probation and they may work as probation officers, correctional treatment specialists or case managers. They may also be juvenile officers, who are in charge of offenders under 18 years of age.The essential role of Forensic Scientists is to collect and process information from crime scenes that will later be used as evidence in court to resolve criminal cases.

Important Certifications Criminal Justice
Degree Students

The American Board of Criminalistics currently offers examinations in the following areas of certification:

Biological Evidence Screening (ABC-BIO)Comprehensive Criminalistics (ABC-CC)
Drug Analysis (ABC-DA)Forensic DNA (ABC-DNA)
Molecular Biology (ABC-MB)Fire Debris Analysis (ABC-FD)
Hair and Fiber (ABC-HF)Paint and Polymer (ABC-PP)

The steps that need to be followed, in the certification program, consist of:

  • Applying for the initial certification
  • Completing an appropriate certification examination
  • Having certification conferred by a vote of the Board of Directors
  • Demonstration of continued competency by submitting recertification paperwork for review and attaining the required points
  • Paying the Annual Maintenance Fees and submitting signed Rules of Professional Conduct
  • Confer recertification by vote of the Board of Directors.

Additional Resources for Criminal Justice
Degree Students

Getting into and graduating from online criminal justice degree programs will certainly help students in establishing a career in the criminal justice field. But it is also essential for students to know about and be closely associated with organizations and associations in this industry. By networking with these organizations, students can benefit from up-to-date knowledge on current trends in criminal justice along with opening up career opportunities or career growth. Here are several resources for those interested in Criminal Justice careers:


The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners.