Online PhD Criminal Justice

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A Online PhD Criminal Justice program is the highest possible degree you can achieve in the field. This specialization provides insight into how criminal justice agencies work. You will gain an in-depth understanding of the legal system, criminal behavior, as well as prevention and implementation policies that help improve the overall safety of the community. If you are interested in expanding our understanding of criminal behavior and how to deal with it this may be a degree that you should pursue. Graduates with this degree often achieve high-level academic positions or work in research, consulting firms, or public policy groups. They make significant contributions to a wide variety of criminal justice-related organizations. Passionate about law, government, history or public administration? Learn from a faculty of professors, practitioners, and legal scholars who will equip you with the knowledge, training and resources to position you for success so you can make a difference in our nation and world. Those who specialize in a PhD in criminal justice typically find themselves working with a lot of theory and research. A lot of the focus is usually on understanding the criminal mind. It’s can be a fascinating area of study, but certainly not for the faint-hearted! You will need excellent research skills, the ability to deal with the less savory aspects of the human condition, and a keen ability to get into the minds of others. Good criminal justice majors understand psychology and sociology. Sociology, forensics, history, and psychology are the focus of many criminal justice classes. All of this can help prepare you for real-world scenarios. Teaching, policymaking, and research are typical career paths for those with a doctorate in criminal justice. 


Best Online PhD
Criminal Justice

When selecting the Best Online Criminal Justice PhD Programs, you need to decide what factors are important to you. At FBD (Find Best Degrees) we looked at accreditation, the cost of tuition, the department’s reputation, student support, financial aid, and graduation and/or job placement rates. (Click here for a more detailed look at our methodology.) 

The online doctorate in criminal justice (also called the DCJ) will become the pinnacle of your university career. To help you make the right decision, here is our ranking of the Best Online Criminal Justice PhD Programs: *

The Ph.D. program in International Crime and Justice focuses on international areas of study within the criminology and criminal justice field. The tuition and graduation rate are as below:
Univ Address Tuition Grad Rate
Florida International University 11200 S. W. 8 Street, Miami, Florida 33199 $8,912 67%

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 PhD Criminal
Justice Near Me

The Internet has definitely changed the way universities and colleges dispense their knowledge. With so many institutions offering Online Criminal Justice PhD programs, you no longer have to worry about finding a college or university near you. Now, even the most prestigious universities come to you by way of the World Wide Web.

When you are selecting the best online schools that allow you to pursue a DCJ, it is important to consider several key factors. Once again, we have done most of the heavy lifting for you by providing the list below. If you are searching for a local institution, just enter the location and we’ve got you covered. Take a look at our list below to find a criminal justice degree in your preferred geographic area.

What to expect from the Online PhD Criminal
Justice Program?

The biggest difference between institutions offering a DCJ, will be the specific approach they apply to the subject matter. There will be certain courses and electives that all the Online PhD Criminal Justice Programs expect you to complete, but there will be differences too. The required coursework will probably include classes in the philosophy of law, criminal justice ethics, methodologies in quantitative research, criminal law administration, justice and social control, and advanced criminological theory.

Here is a sample of what courses and electives might be available to you:

Leadership Theory

This course deals with how to work with people and establish powerful leadership.

Criminal Justice Management

This course focuses specifically on how the management structure works in different criminal justice organizations.

Management Theory

This module talks about how to deal with different personalities and workplace conflicts.

Advanced Strategic Planning

This course addresses concepts like logic modeling, change development, and how to effectively measure the results of specific initiatives.

Philosophy of Law and Justice

 Understanding the basic foundation of our legal and justice system.

Public Safety Leadership

PhD candidates usually work directly with the public, understanding how to interact with them is a useful skill.

Quantitative Research Methods

This course deals with the research aspect of criminal justice.

Trend Analysis and Data Interpretation

In the higher levels of a criminal justice organization you will need to be able to digest and understand data accurately.

Advanced Qualitative Research for Public Service

To be effective you will need to understand how to distill down research so that people can understand it.

Advanced Quantitative Techniques

This course details new techniques and systems used to gather data.

Areas of Specialization for Online
PhD Criminal Justice

Available Specializations in a DCJ program (Doctorate in Criminal Justice) might include:

Area of SpecializationDescriptionCareers This Concentration Prepares For
Homeland Security, DCJ /
PhD in Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security was created as a direct result of the 9/11 terror attacks. Working for At times, 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.this department can be a rewarding and challenging job.
Employees for the Department of Homeland Security work locally, on the state level, or nationally. If you opt to apply your skills at the Department of Homeland Security, you may also qualify for a career in a range of fields.
FBI Agent, Secret Service Agent, Policy Analyst, or DEA Agent
Policing/Law Enforcement, DCJ /
PhD in Law Enforcement
When most people think of jobs that they can get with a PhD in Criminal Justice, law enforcement is the first thing that comes to mind. While you don’t need a doctorate to be a police officer or security guard, it can help if you want to work in the top levels of law enforcement.Many people who have their doctorate in criminal justice work managing teams of people, or specialized roles like investigator or detective. You might also work in forensics, which requires a considerable degree of criminal justice expertise, as well as an understanding of science. Forensic scientists and technicians are the ones who piece together crime scenes and find culprits.

Organizational Leadership, DCJ / Public Administration, DCJ

There were 17,200 forensic science technicians in 2019, according to the BLS, and employment is projected to grow 16% through 2030. They work in police departments, crime labs, morgues, and medical examiners’ offices.
Forensics experts may have their own private practices, or they may work primarily in police departments or within the legal system.

In a 2009 blog post, the American Psychological Association calls forensic psychology a “postgrad growth area” and points out that the demand for forensic psychologists is greater than the supply.
Job growth for information security analysts is estimated at 33% by the BLS through 2030, because as computer and cybercrime continues to grow, there should be job opportunities in computer forensics in both the legal system, and in corporations large and small for the foreseeable future.
If you want to become a psychologist, you’ll need a doctorate (PhD or PsyD), and it’ll take at least four additional years of full-time study, depending on your program. As part of your requirements, you’ll also need to do a supervised internship and/or professional residency.

Why should I do an Online PhD
Criminal Justice?

If you are serious about being successful in your criminal justice career, getting your doctorate is the best way of setting yourself apart from other candidates.

As an adult, you may think that it’s too late, or that you are too old to go back to school. However, the reality is that the vast majority of adult learners wind up making substantial career changes later in life, and being happy with the results.

Free Courses for Online PhD
Criminal Justice

There are many free online criminal justice courses, but finding a completely free, legitimate degree is harder. However, a free online criminal justice certificate can definitely get you started in the right direction if you want to pursue a degree in that field.

The introduction of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and other free online courses has radically changed the way higher education courses are delivered, and criminal justice is no different. There is a myriad of free introductory and advanced courses in criminal justice. Online classes for criminal justice include history, policy, theory, and ethics and by starting to study these topics, the student will get a better understanding of what criminal justice is all about.

Here are three sources for free online courses in Criminal Justice:


They list courses by Coursera, EdX, University of Leeds, and University of York

Coursera – Hot Topics in Criminal Justice

An American MOOC provider. They offer free online courses, many of them led by top colleges or companies like Google. Learners can access all course materials and there’s a small fee for a certificate of completion.

“As a way of thinking about dealing with these problems, this course examines two over-arching issues: What should we do with people who have committed crime, and how should we identify who they are?”

edX – The Psychology of Criminal Justice

An American (MOOC) provider created by Harvard and MIT. It hosts online university-level courses in a wide range of disciplines to a worldwide student body, including some courses at no charge.

“Learn how behavioral science can improve our criminal justice system.”

How to get into the Online PhD Criminal
Justice program?

As with any university program there are requirements that need to be met when applying to a DCJ program:

  • Official transcript(s) – Request official transcript(s) from all institution(s) that you have previously attended. Some universities may even pay the transcript fee for you.
  • Applicable test scores – You may be required to submit scores from graduate admission tests such as the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), LSAT (Law School Admission Test. Not all institutions will require test scores.
  • Completed online application – A prerequisite to all other requirements.
  • Employment history – Make sure your resumé, or curriculum vitae, highlights any criminal justice work you have done.
  • List of transfer credits – If you have taken graduate level courses, you may be able to save money by transferring up to 50% of your required credits.

How long does it take to complete the Online PhD
Criminal Justice Program?

Usually, a doctoral program in Criminology (DCJ) takes three to four years to complete. However, many institutions are making the degree available in a 3-year part-time or accelerated format.

If you opt to get your degree online, it will mostly likely take you somewhere between two and five years to complete the 40 to 60 credit hours of work.

The best part of getting an online degree is the ability to set your own schedule and take courses when your schedule allows.

One Year Programs for Online PhD
Criminal Justice

Since many online courses are now a series of pre-recorded lectures, most online classes start whenever you wish, and take as long as you need. It is theoretically possible to complete an online course in a fraction of the time that an in-person class might take.

Assuming your schedule is clear, and you are not working, you can also conceivably take several classes at once. However, remember that most graduate courses are quite rigorous, so you may find it difficult to do this.

Obviously, the speedier you can complete a course, then the faster you can complete the entire program. Most institutions will probably discourage you from doing this but it is possible to achieve all the requirements of the program in a much shorter amount of time.

Accreditation For Online PhD Criminal
Justice 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.

Doctorate in Criminal Justice (DCJ) Vs PhD
Degree in Criminology

If you earn a doctoral degree, you are considered a scholar and expert in your field of study. Even though these two fields (a Doctorate in Criminal Justice and a PhD Degree in Criminology) sound quite similar, they are actually two different fields.

A doctorate in criminal justice (DCJ) degree can be considered either professional or academic (also referred to as research-based) and indicates that you have advanced knowledge in that field.

A Doctor of Philosophy degree, or Ph.D., in Criminology is only categorized as an academic field. The knowledge acquired for this degree is associated with field-related research.

Another difference between the two degrees is the dissertation. Both disciplines require a dissertation, but for the DCJ, the dissertation is only reviewed and assessed. The dissertation for the PhD Degree in Criminology must be published as well. This publication occurs in a peer-reviewed academic journal related to the field which, in this case, would be a journal that revolves around criminal justice theory or practice.

How to Pay for Online PhD Criminal
Justice programs?

The first thing you should do, once you’re accepted as a student or enrolled in a criminal justice program, is to apply for financial aid. For students studying towards a degree, that means filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA at

Every year more than 15 million students are awarded about $150 billion in grants, work-study, and low-interest student loans by the U.S. Department of Education. The types of financial aid are:

Federal Student Loans

When you fill out the FAFSA, you are automatically considered for federal student loans.

 GI Bill

The GI Bill is a very popular benefit for veterans. In fact, along with serving your country, the GI Bill is one of the main reasons that many people go into the military.

 Pell Grants

Pell Grants are awarded only to undergraduate students, and you’ll automatically be considered for Pell Grants when you fill out the FAFSA. The amount of aid you receive depends on your financial need, the cost of tuition at your school, and other factors. Remember that this is money that you do not need to repay.

Private Student Loans

Once you’ve gotten all the grants and federal student loans you can, there may still be some additional costs associated with going to college. You can make up the difference with private student loans, and pay the money back after you graduate.

Student Loans

The federal government regulates the maximum interest that lenders can charge on federally guaranteed student loans, creating lower interest on college loans. Additionally, loan repayment does not begin until six months after graduation (or when enrollment in school is less than half time).

Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loans

Stafford Loans are the most common form of criminal justice financial aid. Stafford Loans include the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. Loan proceeds are dispersed directly to students and can be subsidized or unsubsidized, depending on the student’s financial standing.

Private Loans

Another common type of criminal justice financial aid is a private loan. These loans offer higher limits and no payments until graduation, but interest starts to accrue the day the loan is distributed. Private student loans can be made out to either students or parents and are a much better alternative than credit card debt.

PLUS Loans

PLUS Loans are paid through FFEL and Direct Loan programs, but they are geared toward parents. You must be a dependent student enrolled at least half time in your undergraduate education, in order to qualify for this type of loan, and your parent needs to apply for the loan.

College Scholarships

Scholarships are competitive, but, if you qualify, they do not need to be paid back and are an excellent kind of criminal justice financial aid. For criminal justice students, the professional associations for your specialty may give scholarships to qualified individuals. For example, the Police Corps in your state may offer scholarships in order to increase the number of trained police officers. Paralegals can find scholarships with the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

Grants for School

Grants are another way to finance your education because it is money that is essentially free — you don’t have to pay back a grant. With over a thousand federal grant programs in the U.S., worth more than $400 billion, securing a grant can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in criminal justice financial aid loans. Schools often, automatically, consider you for grants when you complete a FAFSA and apply to school.

FAQs about Online PhD Criminal
Justice Programs

Is It Worth Getting A PhD In Criminal Justice?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 3% job growth in protective service occupations over the next 10 years. Common careers in this field include survey researcher, criminal justice university professor, criminologist, and police lieutenant.

Getting your PhD in criminal justice opens up many doors for career growth. PhDs in criminal justice usually have better prospects than their counterparts who only have a masters degree and have opportunities to manage teams and craft policy.

How Much Does A Doctorate In Criminal Justice Cost?

What college has the best Criminal Justice program?

Can you get a Criminal Justice degree online?

Criminology and Criminal Justice the same?

Career Opportunities and Salaries after Online PhD
Criminal Justice programs

A doctorate in criminal justice prepares candidates for an academic position. Criminal justice educators facilitate discussions on topics that include law enforcement administration, investigation techniques, and defensive policing.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the annual median salaries for the jobs listed below. All of these jobs are popular professions for those with criminal justice careers, and many of them have outstanding advancement opportunities.

CareersAnnual Median Salary
Information Security Analysts$103,590
Police Lieutenants$92,970
Detectives and Criminal Investigators$86,940
Emergency Management Directors$76,250
Criminal Justice University Professors$63,560
Forensic Science Technicians$60,590
Trade School Teachers$59,140
Judicial Law Clerks$57,510

Certifications and Licensing for Online PhD
Criminal Justice programs

In addition to getting your online criminal justice PhD, you may want to look into different licensure and certification options. Many of these are available, and they can help you be more credible in your field.

Check out the ACA for potential certifications that apply directly to your particular field of study. Some areas of criminal justice may mandate that you be certified in certain areas before you can begin work.

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)

  • 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 Online PhD Criminal
Justice program Students

Criminal Justice Professional Organizations

There are several professional organizations that you can join to help you further your education and network properly with other criminal justice professionals. Below is a list of some of these organizations.

  • National Institute of Justice: This national organization deals with understanding crime and justice on a macro level, and being able to distill that information down to state levels.
  • Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences: This organization works mostly with research initiatives and education. It deals with the theory of criminal justice and is an excellent research tool.
  • National Criminal Justice Association: This group works with public safety and education. It’s also a fantastic place for networking.
  • National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice: This group works with minorities in the criminal justice field as an advocacy organization.
  • American Correctional Association: This group has been around almost 150 years and is one of the most renowned professional organizations within the criminal justice field.


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.