Best Online Criminal Justice Programs

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Criminal justice is a broad, multidisciplinary field dedicated to the study of laws and law enforcement. Students explore the historical and sociological motives behind different laws, as well as the various ways that laws are interpreted and enforced at the municipal, state and federal levels. Criminal justice is a common academic pathway for police officers, detectives and other members of the law enforcement community, as well as forensic scientists, criminal psychologists and legal professionals. A bachelor’s degree is considered the minimum educational requirement for most criminal justice careers.

Many of today’s students are choosing to earn online criminal justice degrees. The web-based format is typically more flexible than classroom-based education, enabling students to hold down a job and financially support themselves while they pursue a degree. The best online bachelor’s in criminal justice programs feature the same rigorous coursework as traditional brick-and-mortar options. Online criminal justice degrees often include internships, as well, which allow students to gain supervised training at police stations, law offices and other real-world workplaces where criminal justice majors tend to find employment.

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

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

The best online criminal justice degree programs take a comprehensive approach to the field. Students pursuing a criminal justice degree online will learn about the procedures for creating, modifying and eliminating laws at different jurisdictional levels. They also study the underlying reasons behind criminal behavior, as well as strategies for deterring crime and reintroducing convicted offenders back into society once their prison sentences have ended.

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

Online bachelor’s degree programs in criminal justice are usually asynchronous, or self-paced. Students can access lectures and other course materials, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors on their own time from the comfort of their home computer. Current educational technology also allows them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices. For added convenience, online students can typically arrange internships and practicum courses at sites near their current residence, rather than being forced to commute to the community where their campus is located.

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

Most career pathways in law enforcement are attainable with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, although additional training is usually required; law enforcement officers must also earn an official commission. Although a doctoral law degree will be needed for those who wish to practice law as attorneys, a bachelor’s is generally sufficient for paralegals and other supportive legal personnel. Criminal justice online degrees are also an important step for students who plan to continue their education with a master’s program.

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

Choosing a 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 bachelor’s in criminal justice programs in the United States. If you are considering an online bachelor’s in criminal justice, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific bachelor’s degree requirements and offerings.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 University of Central Florida 79.67 3/5 65% Orlando, FL

Located in Orlando, Florida, the University of Central Florida has the largest student body in the U.S. The university is research-oriented and has been ranked as one of the most innovative schools in the nation. The University of Central Florida has been improving education technology for over twenty years through its innovative, student-focused strategies designed to meet students’ educational needs and career goals. The University of Central Florida’s online bachelor’s programs were ranked in the top 20 best online programs by the U.S. News & World Report. The online criminal justice degree from the University of Central Florida is 120 credit hours and prepares students to embark on rewarding careers in the criminal justice field and to pursue graduate education. Led by experienced faculty, students enrolled in the program engage in online discussions and collaborative coursework designed to ensure a well-rounded education.

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2 Liberty University 72.95 4/5 46% Lynchburg, VA

Liberty University was founded in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1971. Rooted in Christian teachings and traditions, Liberty University’s namesake comes from its original leaders’ goal to provide ethical and morally-centered education. The online programs offered by Liberty University are founded in the same Christian values that guide traditional face-to-face coursework. The faculty at Liberty University are ministers to their students and serve as both professional educators and facilitators of spiritual growth. Liberty University’s online programs are well-suited for individuals with demanding schedules and busy lives. Students will find online access to library resources, an online writing center, and online academic advising. The criminal justice degree online from Liberty University is geared toward individuals pursuing first-time careers as law enforcement officials as well as those with experience in the criminal justice field. The online program is 120 credit hours and offers a number of specializations, such as criminal psychology and strategic intelligence.

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3 Florida International University 72.11 3/5 49% Miami, FL

Located in Miami, Florida, Florida International University is Miami’s sole public-research institution. Driven by research, Florida International University strives to serve its diverse student population by providing innovative educational programs that emphasize creativity and community involvement. Florida International University offers a variety of online programs that are personalized to fit each student’s educational goals. Online students have access to advising, online coaching, and financial assistance. The criminal justice program offers criminal justice classes online, allowing students to earn their degree from the comfort of their home. The criminal justice degree consists of core courses that focus on policies and theories as well as upper division electives. The program is 120 credit hours and is led by faculty with diverse research interests, including immigration policies and theories of juvenile delinquency.

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4 Crown College 71.92 2/5 47% Saint Bonifacius, MN

Crown College is a private Christian university located in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota. Founded in 1916, Crown College is rooted in the Missionary Alliance belief system, a Christian movement aimed at positively impacting the world through community service and Christ-centered leadership. Crown College offers a variety of programs designed to prepare students for rewarding professional and spiritual lives. Crown College prides itself on its globally reaching education, and its student body represents 20 countries. The online programs offered by Crown College reflect a curriculum built around the teachings of Christ, and students form meaningful relationships with their peers, professors, and advisors. The online criminal justice program prepares students to embark on careers as ethical law enforcement officials with the tools necessary to effectively navigate the field of criminal justice. Courses incorporate Christian teachings with practical approaches to problem-solving.

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5 University of Massachusetts-Lowell 71.45 3/5 54% Lowell, MA

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is located in Lowell, Massachusetts, along the Merrimack River. At Lowell, students will find an educational experience designed with accessibility and affordability in mind. Backed by extensive research and community outreach, the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s programs offer students quality education that emphasizes lifelong learning in a global community. The online programs at Lowell are led by full-time faculty and adjunct professionals who provide real world perspectives through a combination of theory and practice. The online criminal justice bachelor degree is 120 credit hours and equips students with a broad understanding of the criminal justice field. Courses are designed to encourage critical thinking, group discussions, and meaningful peer interactions. Examples of classes include criminal law, crime mapping, and emergency management.

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6 Arizona State University-Skysong 71.08 3/5 51% Tempe, AZ

With its main campus in Tempe, Arizona, Arizona State University has five campuses in the greater Phoenix area. Arizona State University was ranked the most innovative university in America in 2015 by the U.S. News & World Report and was ranked in the top 20 best schools offering online bachelor’s degrees. Arizona State University’s research projects range from addressing environmentally friendly transportation infrastructure to building jetpacks and solving information security problems. The online learning forum offered by Arizona State University is interactive and designed to engage students in collaborative learning. Online support is available to students in a variety of forms, including online enrollment counseling and academic coaching. The online bachelor’s in criminal justice offered by Arizona State University is 120 credit hours and requires students to complete 45 upper division hours.

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7 University of Nebraska at Kearney 69.61 3/5 56% Kearney, NE

Located in Kearney, Nebraska, the University of Nebraska at Kearney opened its doors in 1905 as a normal school for teacher preparation. Since then, it has grown into a fully accredited university offering 120 undergraduate degrees and serves as a national model for undergraduate research programs. The University of Nebraska at Kearney offers competitive online education degree programs with many interactive features, including web seminars, discussion forums, and streaming videos. Students have access to online technical support 24/7, as well as academic support from online advisors and program coordinators. The online criminal justice program is 120 credit hours and consists of general education requirements, criminal justice concentration electives, social science or minor requirements, and computer skills requirements. Computer skills requirements help students develop research and data analysis skills.

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8 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus 69.14 4/5 50% University Park, PA

Pennsylvania State University is a public research institution with its main campus located in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State has over 24 campuses, including the entirely online World Campus, and the university enrolls almost 100,000 students annually. World Campus is an online learning platform designed to provide distance learners with the same quality of education experienced in face-to-face settings. Online programs are guided by Penn State’s best practice models, and curriculum is developed to enhance learning outcomes. The bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice at Penn State offers a broad range of criminal justice classes online designed to prepare students for demanding and rewarding careers in law enforcement, and students can complete their degree without ever setting foot on campus. Students enrolled in the criminal justice degree program have the opportunity to pursue a minor in Homeland Security.

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9 Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion 69.11 4/5 70% Marion, IN

Located in Marion, Indiana, Indiana Wesleyan University was founded in 1920 by the Wesleyan Church. The school’s Christian roots guide its curriculum, and at Indiana Wesleyan University, students will find an educational experience that embraces innovation, community engagement, and ethical leadership. The university is committed to enriching its students’ lives by encouraging spiritual growth and personal self-exploration within the context of the learning environment. Online learning at Indiana Wesleyan University reflects the college’s mission to positively impact the world. Distance education offered by Indiana Wesleyan University relies on cutting-edge technology and faculty expertise to deliver courses that prepare students to enter the career of their choice. The online criminal justice degree consists of 42 criminal justice specific credit hours that build upon a core education foundation. The professional-oriented credit hours can be completed in as little as 18 months.

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10 Florida State University 68.44 3/5 75% Tallahassee, FL

Florida State University is located in Tallahassee, Florida, and was founded in 1851, making it the oldest higher education institution in Florida. Florida State University enrolls over 40,000 students from 140 countries. Its educational programs emphasize diversity in thinking and freedom of expression. Curriculum at Florida State University is designed to reflect a modern global society rooted in 21st century research outcomes and best practices in teaching and learning. The criminal justice degree online from Florida State University assumes that students have completed general education requirements and are ready to pursue advanced courses in criminal justice. Students interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree online can review Florida State University’s frequently asked questions page in order to gain a better understanding of the demands of distance education.

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11 Florida Gulf Coast University 67.56 3/5 45% Fort Myers, FL

Florida Gulf Coast University is located in Fort Myers, Florida, where the university serves as an educational and community center bringing together a diverse body of students, faculty, and staff. Florida Gulf Coast University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and currently enrolls over 14,000 students. Eighty percent of classes are taught by full-time faculty. The university offers several programs fully online, and the distance education programs are powered by Canvas, the university’s online education delivery system. The online criminal justice bachelor degree from Florida Gulf Coast University is flexible and easily accessible, and 20 percent of students enrolled in the program never set foot on campus. The criminal justice courses offered online are upper division courses, and students are expected to have general education courses completed prior to pursuing the criminal justice degree.

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12 Western Carolina University 66.32 3/5 48% Cullowhee, NC

Located in Cullowhee, North Carolina, Western Carolina University offers competitive degree programs that emphasize the diversity of ideas, student engagement, community involvement, and sustainability. More than 9,000 undergraduate students attend Western Carolina University, and the school offers over 155 undergraduate degree programs. The online bachelor’s in criminal justice is 120 credit hours and is part of Western Carolina University’s distance learning program. Distance education courses at Western Carolina University are easily accessible and are designed to fit within the demanding schedules of students pursuing their degrees online. The criminal justice program focuses on three main areas: the justice system, diversity and ethics in criminal justice, and criminological issues. Students are also required to complete 15 credit hours of electives relevant to the degree program. Examples include homeland security, terrorism, and asset protection.

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13 University of Alaska Fairbanks 66.21 2/5 33% Fairbanks, AK

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is located in Fairbanks, Alaska, and is part of the University of Alaska System, which was founded in 1917 and has 19 campuses across the state. The University of Alaska Fairbanks is home to several innovative research projects and deeply values its connection to indigenous communities. The university’s goal to instill a desire for lifelong learning in its students is made possible for many through its e-Learning program. The program allows the university to share its educational resources with individuals who would not otherwise be able to pursue degrees due to location and time constraints. The online format provides flexible course assignments that are easily accessible. The online criminal justice program is an example of the high quality online programs offered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Students enrolled in the criminal justice program will learn how to apply theories to practice.

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14 University of Nebraska at Omaha 66.20 3/5 46% Omaha, NE

Located in Omaha, Nebraska, the University of Nebraska Omaha strives to provide its students with rewarding educational experiences that propel them into successful careers while also enriching their lives through personal growth. Founded in 1908, the University of Nebraska Omaha has worked with the city to develop connections with businesses and the government. These connections help build meaningful curricula and strengthen community ties. The online programs offered by the University of Nebraska Omaha are part of the college’s Online Worldwide distance learning program. Online curriculum is designed to promote interactive learning and student engagement. The online criminal justice degree offered by the University of Nebraska Omaha prepares students for a number of rewarding careers in law enforcement. The program is 120 credit hours, and students learn important skills in areas such as criminal procedures and crime scene investigation.

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15 Fort Hays State University 66.17 3/5 41% Hays, KS

Fort Hays State University is located in Hays, Kansas, and was founded in 1902. The university enrolls more than 8,000 online students, and its faculty strive to impact every student by providing them with individualized support and instilling them with a sense of confidence that is beneficial both personally and professionally. Fort Hays State University’s Virtual College provides students with the opportunity to pursue their professional goals from the comfort of their home. Virtual College is a distance learning platform led by experts in the field, and the online curricula reflect the university’s goal to positively impact as many lives as possible by offering affordable and accessible education. Students interested in earning a criminal justice degree will find that all of the criminal justice classes online are designed to connect theory with practice. Classes cover a number of important topics, from social justice to drugs and society.

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16 Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale 65.65 4/5 60% Fort Lauderdale, FL

Located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Keiser University was founded in 1977 by the Keiser family to provide career-oriented, quality education that caters to adult learners. The university strives to provide up-to-date education that is continually adapted to reflect the latest findings in research and evidence-based practices. Keiser University-Ft. Lauderdale’s primary goal is to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in a competitive global society. Keiser University has 18 campuses throughout the state of Florida and offers several degree programs fully online. Keiser’s eCampus is a virtual college that offers flexible programs that are easily accessible. The criminal justice degree online equips students with practical skills and theoretical knowledge. The program covers a variety of topics pertinent to careers in law enforcement, including criminal investigation, forensics, victimology, and corrections.

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17 Park University 64.92 2/5 41% Parkville, MO

Park University is located in Parkville, Missouri, and was founded in 1875 with the goals to provide innovative education and to instill learners with a sense of community caring that is strengthened through professional skills training and personal growth. Lifelong learning is an important part of Park University’s philosophy, and students are encouraged to think critically and to embrace diversity. Park University provides excellent online education that produces highly employable graduates. The online program curricula is designed to accommodate student needs and encourage collaborative learning that is also individualized. The online classes for criminal justice are part of the criminal justice administrative program and consist of three focal areas: law enforcement, corrections, and security. The degree prepares students to work for both public and private corporations and emphasizes a broad range of skills, such as criminal procedures and research in criminal justice.

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18 University of Memphis 64.82 3/5 40% Memphis, TN

Located in the bustling metropolis of Memphis, Tennessee, the University of Memphis is a key educational resource in southwestern Tennessee and the surrounding area. With over 21,000 students in attendance annually, the university serves as an important hub of information sharing. The University of Memphis’s educational programs are rooted in the college’s interdisciplinary and innovative curricula, and the online programs at the university are no exception. Students enrolled in online programs can expect easily accessible, flexible courses designed to accommodate even the fullest of schedules. Several resources are available to online students, including online student orientation, a comprehensive guide to pursuing a degree online. The online bachelor’s in criminal justice is one of the university’s many high quality online programs. The criminal justice program is 120 credit hours and provides students with a broad understanding of the criminal justice field.

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19 Northwestern State University of Louisiana 63.94 3/5 36% Natchitoches, LA

Northwestern State University of Louisiana is located in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Since its creation in 1884, the university has maintained its tradition to provide high quality education to a diverse body of students. The college identifies research and community service as key educational components and strives to instill in its learners a thirst for knowledge. Through high quality education and training, Northwestern State University of Louisiana prepares its graduates to become productive members of society with fulfilling careers. The university offers several fully online programs, and students enrolled online have access to a variety of resources including an informative frequently asked questions guide to pursuing an online degree. The online criminal justice program prepares students for careers in law enforcement and emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding criminal justice theories. Students are required to take courses in psychology, sociology, and political science, as well as general criminal justice electives.

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20 University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus 63.52 3/5 66% Norman, OK

Located in Norman, Oklahoma, just south of Oklahoma City, the University of Oklahoma was founded in 1890 and currently provides high quality education to over 20,000 students. The university is research-oriented and builds upon its curricula by utilizing evidence-based practices. The University of Oklahoma values community collaboration and cultural diversity. The online programs offered by the college are highly competitive, and the university was ranked as one of the best providers of online education by U.S. News & World Report. The online criminal justice bachelor degree prepares students for rewarding careers in the areas of law enforcement, corrections management, and police administration. With over $8,000 awarded in scholarships every semester, the bachelor’s program is affordable, flexible, and easily accessible, making it a great fit for students with busy schedules and prior responsibilities.

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21 University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus 62.67 3/5 45% Denver, CO

The University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus is located in Denver, Colorado, and currently provides quality education to over 14,000 students. The university strives to produce creative leaders with a strong sense of civic duty. Diversity of people and ideas are valued at the University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus, and its educational programs emphasize collaboration and innovation. The online programs offered by the university provide convenience without sacrificing quality, and not only will students receive an online education that is personalized to their needs, they will also positively impact the environment by reducing carbon emissions caused by commuting.
The online criminal justice program prepares students for a number of important service careers, including law enforcement, corrections, juvenile justice, and victim services. As criminology is also integrated into the program, students can also be prepared for further studies in graduate school. Experiential learning is a key component of the criminal justice degree. Internships provide students with real-world experience and can be catered to fit individualized career interests.

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22 Rowan University 62.41 4/5 72% Glassboro, NJ

Located in Glassboro, New Jersey, Rowan University was founded in 1923 as a teacher training school. Today it has over 16,000 students and 74 undergraduate degree programs. Rowan University was included in The Princeton Review’s Best Northern Colleges, and the university’s environmentally friendly practices have earned it 13 awards in green initiatives in the past nine years. Rowan University’s academic excellence extends beyond its Glassboro campus to reach students remotely across the globe. Rowan University’s online education delivery system, Rowan Global, offers accessible state-of-the art learning experiences that center around student success. The 120 credit-hour criminal justice degree online reflects Rowan University’s dedication to its students. The program is designed to promote personal and professional growth, and students gain knowledge in a variety of law and justice topics, including theories in crime, law and evidence, and juvenile justice.

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23 City University of Seattle 62.36 3/5 47% Seattle, WA

City University of Seattle is one of Washington State’s premier higher education institutions. Its educational programs are rooted in the university’s mission to provide accessible quality education that reflects a diverse student population. Learning at City University is guided by innovation and relevant, modern practices in a global society. City University online education programs are flexible and accessible anywhere with an internet connection. The online education delivery method is through Blackboard. The online bachelor’s in criminal justice offered by City University is 180 credit hours, and students can choose to concentrate in corporate security and investigation, cyber forensic investigation, or justice administration. Students have access to faculty with practitioner experience, as well as teaching experience. Skills linking theory to practice are emphasized.

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24 Drexel University 62.00 5/5 65% Philadelphia, PA

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel University has consistently been ranked one of the top 100 universities in the U.S. The university enrolls over 25,000 students annually and is one of the 15 largest private schools in the nation. The university was founded in 1891 and in its 125 years, it has grown to become one of Philadelphia’s leading private employers and currently conducts international research with China and Israel. Drexel University’s online programs emphasize leadership development, local and global community engagement, and the advancement of knowledge through collaboration. The online criminal justice degree is 182 credit hours and provides an overview of pertinent criminal justice topics, including communities and crime, crime prevention planning, and restorative justice. The degree prepares students for careers in law enforcement and graduate studies in law and related areas.

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25 Concordia University-Saint Paul 61.68 3/5 47% Saint Paul, MN

Concordia University- Saint Paul is located in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area of Minnesota. Founded in 1893, Concordia University- Saint Paul is a Christian liberal arts school. With over 100 years of educational excellence, the university continues to provide its students with quality learning experiences that emphasize professional development and personal growth through collaboration and faculty support. The online learning environment offers degrees designed to produce highly employable graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in the 21st century job market. The online programs are flexible and easily adaptable to fit the needs of the student. The online criminal justice bachelor’s degree has an amazing record of employability with 92 percent of its graduates reporting employment. The criminal justice program prepares students for the rigors of law enforcement, and students gain practical skills rooted in relevant criminal justice theories.

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Timeline
4 to 5 years
Program Costs
$35,000 to $55,000 for full tuition
Popular Minors and Dual Areas of Study
Law, Criminology, Forensic Science, Public Administration, Social Work, Psychology, Sociology, Emergency Management, Leadership
Accreditation
There is no programmatic accreditation for this major field of study. Students should defer to the regional/national accreditation of their four-year college or university.

Job Placement

A recent ranking by Pucker Mob listed ‘criminal justice’ as one of the best college majors for job placement, citing a 4.7% unemployment rate for all degree-holders in this field. However, the unemployment rate for criminal justice job candidates will depend on the amount of professional experience they have gained in addition to their undergraduate studies. A recent survey from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) includes unemployment rates for different college majors. Using findings from that survey, the following table includes unemployment rates for ‘criminal justice and fire protection’ bachelor’s degree-holders over the last three years of available data.

Academic Year Unemployment Rate for Bachelor’s Graduates with No Professional Experience Unemployment Rate for Bachelor’s Graduates with Some Professional Experience
2009-10 7.6% 4.1%
2010-11 8.9% 4.3%
2011-12 8.4% 4.0%

Source: From Hard Times to Better Times’ by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

As the table shows, the unemployment rate for criminal justice degree-holders is significantly lower for individuals with professional experience. It’s also important to note that the unemployment rate for experienced degree-holders was actually lower than the rate for inexperienced individuals with a master’s degree in criminal justice (4.4% to 4.6%), and only slightly higher than the rate for experienced master’s degree-holders (3.3% to 4.0%).

Earning a Living

A bachelor’s degree is generally considered the strongest investment for individuals who plan to pursue a career in criminal justice. Bachelor’s degree-holders in this field outearn associate degree-holders by a strong margin. The 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report examines earning potential for different degree levels and fields of study. The following table explores salary expectations for employees with an associate, bachelor’s and master’s in criminal justice.

Degree Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)
Associate Degree in Criminal $31,100 $46,000
Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice $37,000 $59,100

Source: 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

As the table reveals, employees with a bachelor’s in criminal justice outearn those with an associate degree by roughly 19% at the entry-level mark and 28.5% at the mid-career mark. However, the salary for graduates with a bachelor’s in criminal justice will vary by their chosen career path. The next table explores expected earnings at four career benchmarks for some of the most common professions for criminal justice majors.

Profession Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (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
Probation Officers $35,057 $39,926 $45,742 $58,590
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

Of the five professions listed above, probation officers enjoy the highest career salary growth: roughly 67% between the entry-level and late-career benchmarks. The other four professions also experience strong salary growth throughout their careers ― roughly 37% to 42%.

Career and Further Education Opportunities

Students who graduate with an online bachelor’s in criminal justice will be qualified for dozens of positions in law and law enforcement. Four of the most common career pathways for these degree recipients are detailed below.

Police and Detectives: Police officers and detectives are responsible for bolstering public safety and protecting human lives, property and natural resources. They also investigate crimes, collect evidence and arrest perpetrators of crimes; they often testify in court proceedings, as well. Other day-to-day duties include patrolling by car or on foot, writing police reports and obtaining different types of warrants.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants: These professionals act as supportive staff for practicing attorneys. Their job includes researching case studies, writing legal documents, requesting affidavits and preparing lawyers for trials and court appearances. Paralegals and legal assistants are also responsible for maintaining detailed client records, and must be skilled at legal database software that allows them to keep their records organized and up-to-date.

Forensic Science Technicians: These technicians gather physical evidence and analyze their findings in order to help investigators solve crimes. Their duties are largely compartmentalized to two locations: crime scenes and laboratories. They must be adept at identifying various types of evidence and utilizing different tools and lab equipment.

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with probationers, or individuals who have already been convicted of a crime. They meet with probationers on a regular basis to administer drug tests and discuss post-incarceration options, such as employment or higher education. They also monitor probationer activities to help ensure they do not reoffend, or commit more crimes.

Profession Median Annual Salary Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)
Police and Detectives $60,270 4% (33,100 jobs)
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $48,810 8% (21,200 jobs)
Forensic Science Technicians $56,320 27% (3,800 jobs)
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $49,360 4% (3,300 jobs)

Many criminal justice bachelor’s degree recipients choose to continue their education with a master’s program. For more information on this option, please visit our Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Guide.

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 physician’s assistants. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.

  • 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.

Larissa NonniLaw Clerk, Castro Legal Group

Larissa Nonni graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2009 from Monroe College in New Rochelle, NY. She is currently in her third year of law school and works at an immigration law firm.

How did your criminal justice bachelor’s degree help prepare you for your career and for law school?

Well, since high school I wanted to be an attorney but I didn’t want to do criminal law because I just felt like it was too cliché. So I pursued criminal justice because I wanted to understand the law enforcement side before I looked into the law side. In that regard, it helped me be more aware of the law enforcement side of things, and now in law school I realize how they both intertwine and how they need one another and play off of each other. This includes how in a criminal case, a problematic arrest can destroy a case, how someone’s environment plays a real role in their upbringing, especially when looking at criminal cases, and how as prosecutors, understanding that can give you a greater power in how to help defendants and what plea deals would be more beneficial to society.

What types of skills did you develop in your criminal justice bachelor’s program?

I would say psychological skills. I had criminology and victimology and those two classes were really helpful in understanding people in general, which goes back to the effects of environment in upbringing and how that affects people’s choices later on in life when it relates to crime. Also, my criminal justice program helped me develop my critical thinking skills. When you study these subjects, your way of thinking changes because you see people differently, which really helps me in my job now; I am able to look at different components and see how they played a bigger role in what we are dealing with today.

What advice would you give to bachelor’s graduates seeking a career in the field of criminal justice?

I would say that now-a-days, a bachelor’s is not enough if you want higher-up jobs. Make sure you research what you are really interested in in the field so that you know whether you will need to get a master’s after and if it’s really worth it to you. The job market is available for those that research and go after it.



Despite the relative affordability of online 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.

Best Online Criminal Justice Bachelor Degrees of 2016
Rank School Location
1 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
2 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
3 Western Carolina University Cullowhee, NC
4 Washington State University Pullman, WA
5 University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, NE
6 University of Massachusetts - Lowell Lowell, MA
7 University of Louisville Louisville, KY
8 Rowan University Glassboro, NJ
9 California State University - Sane Bernardino San Bernardino, CA
10 Central Washington University Ellensburg, WA
11 Florida International University Miami, FL
12 University of Wisconsin - Platteville Platteville, WI
13 Mercer University Macon, GA
14 University of Colorado - Denver Denver, CO
15 Northern Kentucky University Highland Heights, KY
16 Florida Gulf Coast University Fort Myers, FL
17 University of Nebraska at Kearney Kearney, NE
18 Viterbo University La Cross, WI
19 University of Mount Olive NC
20 Crown College Saint Bonifacius, MN
21 University of Oklahoma Norman, OK
22 Portland State University OR
23 University of Memphis Memphis, TN
24 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX
25 Stevenson University Stevenson, MD

Best Online Criminal Justice Bachelor Degrees of 2015
Rank Name Location
1 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
2 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
3 Florida International University Miami, FL
4 Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX
5 Rowan University Glassboro, NJ
6 University of Oklahoma Norman, OK
7 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
8 University of Louisville Louisville, KY
9 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX
10 Western Carolina University Cullowhee, NC
11 Tiffin University Tiffin, OH
12 California State University - San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA
13 University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, NE
14 Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale, FL
15 Hampton University Hampton, VA
16 Florida Gulf Coast University Fort Myers, FL
17 University of Massachusetts - Lowell Lowell, MA
18 Mercer University Macon, GA
19 Indiana Wesleyan University Marion, IN
20 Stevenson University Stevenson, MD
21 Trine University-Regional/Non-Traditional Campuses Fort Wayne, IN
22 University of Memphis Memphis, TN
23 St. John’s University Queens, NY
24 Crown College Saint Bonifacius, MN
25 Northern Kentucky University Highland Heights, KY