Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs

The academic field of criminal justice explores how laws are created, interpreted, and enforced within different countries, states, municipalities, and other jurisdictions. Careers in criminal justice generally fall into two occupational categories: legal professions, such as lawyers, paralegals, and judges; and law enforcement professions, such as police officers and detectives, bailiffs, probation officers, and forensic investigators. Most career pathways in this rewarding field are attainable with a bachelor’s degree or less, and an online master’s in criminal justice can help students further distinguish themselves in the job market.

Master’s in criminal justice online programs build on the foundational knowledge and skills of undergraduate studies. The curriculum leans heavily on case studies, using real-world examples to illustrate complex theories and psychological approaches to law and criminology. Criminal justice master’s students often choose to earn a degree specialization in niche areas like homeland security, behavioral science, or forensic technology. Many online criminal justice master’s degree programs culminate in a thesis paper or capstone project, giving students the opportunity to demonstrate the new knowledge and skills they have gained. Others offer supervised hands-on training as part of an internship or practicum course.

Learn more about what you can do with a master’s in criminal justice and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

The best online master’s in criminal justice programs prepare students to enter the workforce after graduation and pursue a career related to their areas of interest. Those who plan to work in law enforcement or criminal investigation will take courses designed to build their analytical and critical thinking skills. Students who are drawn to the legal side of criminal justice will learn about laws, policies, and individual cases that have significantly impacted the U.S. judicial system. Degree specializations and internships can further build a student’s career skill set.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Online master’s degree programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar education. Students are able to access course materials, turn in written assignments, take exams, and contact their professors at their convenience. Additionally, current technology gives them the opportunity to study away from their home computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other portable device with Wi-Fi capabilities. Faculty members also work with students during the latter stages of their program, offering guidance on theses and capstone projects and/or helping them arrange internships close to their home.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MASTER’S IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE?

A master’s in criminal justice will qualify graduates for most entry-level roles in the criminal justice field, as well as managerial titles and other positions normally reserved for applicants with a graduate degree. It’s important to note that certain legal careers — such as lawyers and judges — will require an advanced law degree. These credentials are normally obtained after undergraduate studies have concluded, as an alternative to the master’s degree.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER’S IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROGRAMS?

Choosing the right program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online master’s of criminal justice programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online master’s in criminal justice, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1

Nova Southeastern University

 3/546.11%Fort Lauderdale, FL

campus_Nova_Southeastern_University

Nova Southeastern University's online Master of Science in Criminal Justice provides core, elective and specialty courses, with an interdisciplinary focus. The 36-hour program is ideal for those looking to gain training in a particular track, often leading to a career in one of many law enforcement or investigative roles. Depending on their area of interest, students complete 12 credits of the program in a specialization chosen from 12 available concentrations, including legal perspective in criminal justice, public administration, information security and more.

Graduates learn to apply the skills they learn in class to real world situations. Students are expected to practice time management while completing coursework through the Blackboard platform, which facilitates both synchronous and asynchronous online learning scenarios. Online students receive the same degree as on-campus students, with the added benefits of flexibility, convenience and accelerated options.

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2

Northeastern University Global Network

 3/5N/ABoston, MA

campus_northeastern_university

The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice at Northeastern promotes strategic thinking and global solutions for crime and terrorism. This program emphasizes a unique approach to learning, developing leadership, communication and ethics skills through one of six available concentrations, including community and family justice, policing, security and more. Graduates of this 45-hour MS in criminal justice program are prepared for leadership in law enforcement, the court system, private security and correctional facilities.

The program is offered entirely online or on-campus. Coursework is delivered asynchronously through Blackboard, incorporating a wealth of interactive multimedia tools to enhance the virtual classroom. These include video lectures, live chat by request and active web-based discussion boards. Assignments and course materials are always available through the online portal and work is completed weekly at each student's convenience.

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3

Arizona State University – Skysong

 2/5N/AScottsdale, AZ

campus_arizona_state_university_skysong

Arizona State University's online MA in Criminal Justice is ideal for students who want to develop an advanced understanding of the criminal justice system and select topics in criminology. The program comprises 33 total credit-hours, including a combination of core courses, electives and a capstone project. Students may specialize in an area of their choice by concentrating core and elective courses in that subject. Graduates of the online program are prepared to explore career options in policy analysis and program evaluation and management for government, nonprofit and social service agencies.

The degree is offered in a fully online format and enrollment is open to students during multiple sessions throughout the academic year. Courses are delivered asynchronously in an accelerated 7.5-week format through Blackboard. ASU was one of the first schools to use supplemental programs like Google Apps to enhance the virtual learning experience. The university also encourages students to use Quality Matters (a peer review system) and Zaption (an interactive analytics tool) to maintain effective, high-quality programming for online students.

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4

Sam Houston State University

 2/553.06%Huntsville, TX

campus_sam_houston_state_university

The Master of Science in Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State is tailored to established law enforcement, corrections, security or social services professionals looking to advance their careers in an accelerated program. Required coursework includes classes in justice administration, research and analysis and criminal justice leadership. Students complete the curriculum by taking electives in related topics.

Online students in the criminal justice program receive the same diploma as their on-campus counterparts. Courses are delivered both synchronously and asynchronously through Blackboard. As an experienced provider of effective online education methods, SHSU offers several web-based resources to its distance learners. These include videos, podcasts and multimedia services, as well as a support desk to address any IT needs.

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5

Concordia University – Saint Paul

 2/546.45%Saint Paul, MN

campus_concordia_university_saint_paul

The Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Leadership at Concordia is designed for students currently working in criminal justice. The program is tailored to those aspiring to a higher position in their career, promising a more focused and creative approach to learning than a bachelor's curriculum in the discipline. The master's degree comprises 36 credit-hours. Topics covered include correctional design, applied ethics in criminal justice leadership and more.

Concordia offers the MA in criminal justice leadership entirely online through an interactive learning system designed specifically for online students. Concordia promises flexible course formats, as well as a wealth of resources to accommodate online students, including 24/7 tech support, full library access, online instructor meetings and academic counseling.

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6

Lewis University

 3/562.46%Romeoville, IL

The online Master of Science in Criminal Social Justice at Lewis University offers students the practical training and diverse skills needed for a career in criminal justice. Students in this program must complete 36 credit-hours through a combination of core classes and electives designed to enable graduates to protect and advocate for criminal social justice within their communities. Course topics range from administration and management to comparative justice systems.

Lewis' MS in criminal social justice is offered entirely online. Courses are delivered asynchronously through an exclusive online learning system, but they aren't entirely self-paced. Students are expected to follow the schedule set by the instructor for each course, which may require occasional synchronous assignments or activities. Online students are paired with a dedicated student services coordinator upon enrollment; coordinators provide technical assistance throughout your time at school.

Testimonial

"Lewis provided an unparalleled level of networking with the instructors and law enforcement." – Tim McCarthy, M.S. in Criminal Social Justice Alumni

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7

Sul Ross State University

 1/527.94%Alpine, TX

The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice at Sul Ross State offers both a thesis and non-thesis option to students completing the degree requirements. The thesis track requires 30 credit-hours, while the non-thesis option, which incorporates additional electives from outside of the homeland security and criminal justice department, totals 36. All students explore core topics such as criminal justice theory, homeland security and methods of social research.

Sul Ross offers the master's in criminal justice in a fully online format. Courses are typically delivered through Blackboard and students complete them at their own pace; however, select online classes designated as "distance learning" as opposed to "web-based" courses are delivered synchronously through a video-conferencing platform. Online students may explore technology tutorials before starting and have full access to tech support experts for help with online education.

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8

Tiffin University

 3/538.82%Tiffin, OH

The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice at Tiffin University offers graduate students the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and focus their professional training in one of five available concentrations: crime analysis, criminal behavior, forensic psychology, homeland security administration or justice administration. With the exception of forensic psychology, curriculum in each concentration comprises three semesters and limits coursework each term to allow in-depth analysis of each concept. The forensic psychology concentration comprises four semesters and an intersession, and incorporates additional coursework in advanced psychological assessment and mental health law.

Like all of Tiffin's web-based programs geared toward vocational training and lifelong learning opportunities, the fully online master's in criminal justice was designed with career-oriented professional students in-mind. Classes are asynchronous and delivered through a comprehensive online learning management system. Distance learners are awarded the same degree as on-campus students and may take advantage of similar student services, including virtual library resources, academic tutoring and tech support.

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9

Liberty University

 2/550.41%Lynchburg, VA

Liberty University's online Master of Science in Criminal Justice - Public Administration program prepares students for leadership and effective decision-making in criminal justice. Students in this degree explore coursework in criminal justice integration, program evaluation and leadership, ethics and policing, in addition to a public administration cognate and electives of the student's choosing. As is the mission of Liberty University, all courses are designed to bring a Christian worldview to positions of leadership in the field.

The program is available entirely online. Courses are delivered asynchronously in Blackboard, allowing students the opportunity to manage their own schedules and complete their degree at an accelerated pace if they choose.

Testimonial

"Liberty has enabled me through its online programs to complete both my Bachelor's and Master's degree. As a military wife I have moved overseas and stateside many times but LU has always been one of the constants in my life. It has been such a blessing to work toward my degrees while still being able to home educate our children and play single mom throughout my husband's seven deployments. I am thankful for what LU stands for and am proud to call myself a part of the family." – Torie Pendleton, 2015

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10

Troy University

 2/534.98%Troy, AL

The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice at Troy University is designed to broaden your perspective and deepen your understanding of common issues in America's criminal justice system. In addition to required core courses in principles of administration, current trends in criminal law and criminology theory, Troy offers both a thesis and non-thesis degree track. Only the non-thesis option is available online; thesis students must complete the degree in residence at the Troy, AL campus.

The online master's in criminal justice comprises 30 course credit-hours. Courses are delivered via the Blackboard platform, with an emphasis on accelerated programs tailored to adult learners with full-time jobs. Troy uses a range of web-based tools and technology resources to deliver comprehensive criminal justice courses for busy professionals looking to advance their careers without disrupting their home life.

Testimonial

"As a full-time mom and employee, I chose eTROY because of the convenience that the online courses offered me while earning my graduate degree. With my degree, I am able to compete with others in my field for career advancement. The eTROY courses offer a welcoming environment that encourages student success." – Troy University alum

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11

Bethel University

 3/535.82%McKenzie, TN

The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice at Bethel prepares students for professional roles in management and administration within the courts, as well as law enforcement, security, probation and parole systems. The program covers core topics including diversity in the criminal justice system, statistics in the field and administration and organizations in the criminal justice system. Required coursework totals 36 hours, comprising 10 core classes and two electives; professionals already working in the field can apply to get the latter requirement waived.

The fully online master's in criminal justice is designed specifically for busy adult learners. The online curriculum targets a "writing-based, not test-based" model intended to build communication skills necessary for a career in criminal justice. Courses are typically asynchronous and are completed at the student's convenience.

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12

Saint Leo University

 2/544.89%Saint Leo, FL

The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice at Saint Leo University benefits both aspiring criminal justice professionals as well as those working in the field. The program comprises 36 total credit-hours, including core and elective courses that explore ethical and legal issues in criminal justice, public policy-making, leadership applications and more. Specializations in corrections, forensic science and incident management, among others, are also available online.

Courses are typically delivered asynchronously and the online learning system provides a highly interactive and engaging platform for dialogue between students and instructors. Online courses use audio, video, CD-ROM and traditional textbook materials to supplement the virtual classroom.

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13

University of Massachusetts – Lowell

 3/554.49%Lowell, MA

The University of Massachusetts-Lowell's online Master's in Criminal Justice program is intended for aspiring or active criminal justice professionals looking to take the next step in their career. The 33-hour program is comprised of 11 courses, including core curriculum in theory, scholarship, research, quantitative analysis and criminal justice administration, as well as electives in a specialization. Master's graduates may tailor the program to their individual needs, whether to enhance their professional skills or as preparation for a doctorate program.

Students can complete the degree online, though local residents looking for a broader selection of electives may opt for a blended format. Students complete courses asynchronously via Blackboard and may login at any time throughout each week to complete assignments, do research and participate in discussion forums and suggested virtual activities.

Testimonial

"When I decided to pursue my master's degree, UMass Lowell's program appealed to me because of the convenience of taking courses online. I have a young family and work full time and it made it more convenient for me to earn a graduate degree at this stage in my life." – S. Ted Lane, recent graduate

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14

University of the Cumberlands

 2/535.56%Williamsburg, KY

The online Master's in Criminal Justice Administration at UC is a 30 credit-hour program comprised of core and elective courses. The master's degree is customizable, and offers several areas of study to accommodate any concentration. Options include law enforcement, homeland security, addiction studies and more. The program is ideal for both aspiring criminal justice professionals and experienced workers in the field.

The program is available entirely online. The university emphasizes a global approach to learning through its online programs, offering distance and local students the opportunity to interact with professionals working in their field of choice across the country. Coursework is delivered synchronously through iLearn: students are generally free to complete and submit assignments on their own schedule.

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15

Albany State University

 1/539.62%Albany, GA

The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice at Albany State offers specialties in corrections and law enforcement. The 36 credit-hour program emphasizes theoretical, methodological and philosophical knowledge of the criminal justice system through a combination of coursework and thesis-level research. Graduates are prepared for a number of careers in criminal justice, and many continue on to doctoral programs.

Albany's program is offered entirely online. Courses are delivered through the Desire2Learn platform, and the school offers orientation training for online students and ongoing training for instructors. The curriculum in the master's in criminal justice accommodates many different types of students interested in the field, allowing both active and aspiring criminal justice professionals to complete coursework at their own pace.

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16

Michigan State University

 3/578.86%East Lansing, MI

The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice at Michigan State provides those working in the field with the opportunity to diversify and enhance their skills in a specialty area, potentially opening the door to a new direction in their career. The program requires 30 credit-hours to complete; students may choose a track from general study, security management or international focus options. It usually takes students 18 months to three years to complete their degree.

Michigan State's fully online master's in criminal justice was designed with busy professionals in mind. Coursework is typically asynchronous and is delivered through Blackboard and the Desire2Learn web-based learning platforms. Online instructors are both actively working in the field and well-versed in web-specific teaching tools, allowing them to understand the unique needs of adult distance learners.

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17

University of Cincinnati

 3/559.56%Cincinnati, OH

The University of Cincinnati offers an online master's in criminal justice. The program is comprised of 11 courses focused on a conceptual and theoretical framework, and teaches students how to perform research and policy analysis. Students can finish the degree in as little as one year. Interdisciplinary courses are a part of the program, and include subjects like sociology, law and public administration. Many graduates of this program pursue academic or research-oriented positions in the field.

Cincinnati's program is offered entirely online. With years of experience providing distance education to its off-site students, the university now offers all online courses asynchronously via the Blackboard learning system. Modules use various internet-based functions, including video lectures, podcasts and more.

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18

Tarleton State University

 2/544.66%Stephenville, TX

Tarleton State University's online Master of Criminal Justice program promotes a combination of advanced academic competencies and professional applied experience. The 30-hour degree is ideal for criminal justice professionals looking to advance their career. Coursework helps students develop analytical, critical-thinking and leadership skills as they progress through the curriculum.

The degree is offered in a fully online format. Coursework is typically asynchronous, delivered through the Blackboard online learning system. Through its fully interactive web-based applications, Tarleton offers online students and distance learners the opportunity to collaborate with peers and instructors through discussion boards, instant-messaging, podcasts and more.

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19

National University

 3/540%La Jolla, CA

National University's online Master of Criminal Justice is ideal for students looking to pursue a career in administration or research and development in criminal justice. The program requires students to complete 12 classes; coursework incorporates both theory and practice into core requirements and electives. Topics include critical issues in criminal justice, advanced criminology theory and professional ethics in criminal justice.

National's innovative one-course-per-month approach adds clarity and structure to the curriculum, while still allowing students to complete the degree faster than residential learners. Courses are typically delivered asynchronously through Blackboard.

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20

Texas A & M University – Central Texas

 1/5N/AKilleen, TX

This online Master of Criminal Justice is designed for aspiring administrative personnel in law enforcement, corrections and the court system. Coursework emphasizes a combination of academics, innovation, theoretical principles, research methods and administrative skills in the context of global criminal justice. Students must complete a total of 36 credit-hours in either thesis or non-thesis core and elective courses.

Students can finish the program without ever stepping foot on campus. Courses are delivered asynchronously through the Blackboard platform, and the school also uses Kaltura Media Streaming, Respondus, Turnitin and Atomic Learning to supplement the web-based materials. Students typically use multimedia video tools to complete assignments online; dedicated tech support is available 24/7 to distance learners.

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21

University of Colorado – Denver

 2/539.96%Denver, CO

The online Master of Criminal Justice at the University of Colorado Denver emphasizes leadership, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. The program is ideal for a variety of students, including those looking to advance or change careers within the field of criminal justice, as well as those progressing towards postgraduate study. Course topics include criminological theory, statistics, public policies for homeland security and disasters and more.

The degree is offered entirely online. Courses are typically delivered asynchronously through Canvas, by instructors specifically trained in online teaching. UCD's online courses are popular among students seeking flexibility and independence. Student support services are available online and are centered on social interaction and collaborative technology applications.

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22

University of New Haven

 5/549.6%West Haven, CT

The online Master's in Criminal Justice at UNH is best-suited to aspiring leaders and supervisors within the field of criminal justice. The two-year program requires 36 credit-hours to graduate, including core requirements and electives in theories of criminal behavior, research methods in criminal justice, leadership issues in policing and more. Students may opt to incorporate multiple electives within a specialization into their curriculum; popular choices include computer forensics investigation and criminal justice policy.

New Haven's graduate program in criminal justice is available entirely online. Students complete coursework, delivered through Blackboard, at their own pace. Distance learners can enroll during any of the six eight-week terms available throughout the year to online students.

Testimonial

"The Online, Criminal Justice Master of Science Program at the University of New Haven is a rigorous but manageable program. It's great because you are afforded the opportunity and flexibility of working a job while pursuing a graduate degree, without having to meet at a physical location." – Amber Okafor

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23

University of Central Missouri

 1/552.94%Warrensburg, MO

Central Missouri's Master of Science in Criminal Justice is offered through the school's department of criminal justice. Designed to benefit both students preparing to enter the field and those already working in criminal justice, coursework in this program is composed of 36 total credit-hours of core and elective requirements, shaped by the student's choice of a thesis or non-thesis track of study. Course topics include philosophy and policy, causes of crime and a look at the legal aspects of criminal justice.

The master's degree in criminal justice at Central Missouri is available entirely online. Courses are delivered asynchronously and synchronously via the Blackboard platform, requiring online students to manage their course load and schedules accordingly.

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24

East Carolina University

 2/558.63%Greenville, NC

ECU's master in criminal justice prepares graduates for a professional role in the field or for further postgraduate study. The program offers a combination of required core and elective courses in criminal justice principles, civil liability in criminal justice, advanced criminology and more. Additionally, master's certificates in criminal justice education, security studies or public management and leadership are completed independently or while satisfying part of the elective requirements of the criminal justice degree.

Only the non-thesis master's in criminal justice option is available online. Coursework is both asynchronous and synchronous, delivered through Blackboard and aided by additional online resources such as Lynda, which provides full access to multimedia libraries, PowerPoint presentations and video course delivery. Students are encouraged to communicate with instructors and peers through forums, discussion boards and other social platforms.

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25

Fayetteville State University

 2/534.6%Fayetteville, NC

The online MS in criminal justice at Fayetteville State University is ideal for students looking to enhance their skills and build a career in criminal justice research and management. Students must complete at least 33 credit-hours, including curriculum grounded in theoretical and research-oriented competencies. Courses include history of crime control policy, criminal justice administration and criminology theory.

Classes are typically delivered asynchronously, although synchronous activities, including chat sessions, are also a part of the curriculum. Fayetteville State uses Blackboard to host lectures; the platform also incorporates online research, text-based materials and streaming video modules.

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How Long Is a Master’s in Criminal Justice Program?
18 months to 3 years
Program Costs
$15,000 to $30,000 for full tuition
Concentrations
Public Administration, Conflict and Crisis Management, Homeland Security, Behavioral Science, Information Systems and Security, Forensic Investigation and Technology, Forensic Psychology, Legal Perspective in Criminal Justice, Community and Family Justice, Crime Analysis, Justice Administration
Accreditation
No specialized accrediting agency; students should ensure their program is nationally or regionally accredited instead.

Job Placement: Master’s vs Bachelor of Criminal Justice

Due to the “recession-proof”’ nature of criminal justice, the field a carries a relatively low unemployment rate. A recent article from CBS News listed criminal justice and fire protection among the 25 college majors with the lowest unemployment rates at 4.7%. According to a 2014 survey by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), the job placement rate is even more favorable for candidates who complete advanced education. The survey found that graduate degree-holders in the field of criminal justice and fire protection face an unemployment rate of 4.1%; by comparison, bachelor’s graduates with work experience face an unemployment rate of 4.6%, while recent bachelor’s graduates (without work experience) are unemployed 8.9% of the time.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that legal occupations are projected to rise 5% between 2014 and 2024, resulting in more than 64,000 new jobs. Using BLS data, the table below features growth projections for four common career pathways in criminal justice.

Profession Projected Growth Rate (2014-24) Projected Increase in Number of Jobs (2014-24)
Paralegals 11% 142,400
Accountants and Auditors 11% 142,400
Police and Detectives 4% 33,100
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 4% 3,300

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earning a Living

In addition to lower unemployment rates, recipients of a master’s in criminal justice also enjoy higher earning potential than their counterparts with lesser degrees. The table below uses data from PayScale to illustrate master’s in criminal justice salary expectations compared to the earnings for associate and bachelor’s degree-holders at the early and mid-career stages.

Degree Level Median Early Career Salary (0-5 years) Median Mid-Career Salary (10+ years)
Associate in Criminal Justice $30,600 $46,000
Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice $36,400 $58,500
Master’s in Criminal Justice $43,100 $62,900

Source: 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

As the table shows, criminal justice master’s graduates at the early career mark enjoy an 18% wage premium over bachelor’s degree-holders and a 41% premium over associate degree-holders. The wage premium is reduced at the mid-career stage, but master’s-holders still outearn peers with bachelor’s and associate degrees by 8% and 37%, respectively.

However, it should be noted that the salary of criminal justice professionals will gradually increase over the course of their careers. The next table examines salary expectations for five popular criminal justice occupations at four different career benchmarks.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
Police Officers $43,146 $51,046 $55,662 $61,218
Police Detectives $50,000 $52,000 $63,000 $69,000
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary $43,000 $45,000 $55,000 $59,000
Paralegals $38,734 $46,626 $51,154 $53,194

Source: PayScale

Based on the five careers listed above, probation officers enjoyed the highest career salary premium with a 67% increase between the entry-level and late-career marks. The salary increase for the remaining careers ranges between 37% and 42%.

Career Opportunities

Graduates who earn a criminal justice master’s online will be eligible for dozens of entry-level and managerial positions, although individual eligibility will depend on degree specialization and additional work experience. Four of the most popular career pathways for criminal justice master’s degree-holders are detailed below.

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary: These educators work at colleges and universities, instructing courses in subjects like criminology, law enforcement, and corrections. In addition to teaching duties, postsecondary educators often conduct independent research and publish their findings in academic journals.

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: These professionals assist convicted criminals as they adjust to the real world after their release from prison. They work to ensure their clients honor the stipulations of their probation and abstain from committing more crimes.

Paralegals: Paralegals often assist lawyers or attorneys in legal offices. Day-to-day duties typically include writing legal documents, maintaining client files, and helping lawyers prepare for court appearances.

Police and Detectives: Police officers are responsible for protecting people and property from criminal threats. Detectives are high-level officers who have been promoted after a few years of work experience; they investigate various crimes in order to determine a culprit and motive.

Profession Median Annual Salary
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary $64,460
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $49,360
Accountants and Auditors $67,190
Police and Detectives $60,270

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to criminal justice is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for criminal justice professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • National Association of Police Organizations: NAPO was founded in 1978, and today represents roughly 241,000 officers and detectives in more than 1,000 law enforcement units. Members receive invitations to three annual conferences, as well as continuing education opportunities.
  • National Association of Legal Assistants: NALA is a nonprofit organization representing more than 18,000 paralegals, both individual members and employees of member affiliates. The association offers two certifications for paralegals, as well as online webinars, job leads, and complimentary issues of the Facts & Findings academic journal.
  • American Probation and Parole Association: APPA represents probation and parole personnel working with criminals and juvenile offenders. The organization’s website features an extensive online resource library, as well as links to online and onsite training programs.

Despite the relative affordability of online criminal justice master’s programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Methodology

The methodology behind our rankings is grounded in statistical data and a few consistently applied guiding principles. Our 2017 rankings reflect the most recent data compiled from IPEDS and the College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Our goal is to objectively assess relative quality based on academic outcomes, affordability, and the breadth and depth of online learning opportunities. The following criteria was used to make these assessments:

Minimum Requirements

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, not-for-profit institution.
  • Must offer an online master’s in Criminal Justice degree program
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Ranking Factors

All eligible institutions are ranked on a 100 point scale. A perfect score of 100 is earned by ranking #1 for all ranking factors.

ACADEMIC QUALITY – 50% OF TOTAL SCORE

  • Admissions Rate – 25%
  • Enrollment Rates – 15%
  • Retention Rate – 15%
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate – 25%
  • Number of Master’s Criminal Justice Graduates – 20%

AFFORDABILITY – 25% OF TOTAL SCORE

  • Average Net Price – 40%
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Federal Loans – 20%
  • Loan Default Rate – 40%

ONLINE PROGRAMMING – 25% OF TOTAL SCORE

  • Percentage of Graduate Programs Offered Online – 40%
  • Graduate School Enrollment – 40%
  • Percentage of Programs Offered at the Graduate level – 20%