Best Online Associate in Criminal Justice Programs

Compare the best online associate in criminal justice programs and find an option that matches your academic and career goals.

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by Stefanie Grodman

Updated July 29, 2022

Edited by Kristina Beek
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An online associate in criminal justice provides students with an academic understanding of the systemic origins of crime, as well as roles of law enforcement, legal systems, correctional facilities, and public policy. Students can often select concentrations that coincide with their career objectives. Many graduates find work as police officers, detectives, paralegals, legal assistants, or corrections officers.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), public two-year colleges charge an average in-state tuition of $3,380 and an average out-of-state tuition of $8,130. Most associate degrees take full-time learners two years to complete, though exact program length may vary significantly, particularly for online learners enrolled in self-paced programs.

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Many criminal justice professions are especially in-demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that between 2020 and 2030, the number of jobs forparalegals and legal assistants will grow by 12%. Many criminal justice professionals earn above-average salaries. In 2021, police earned a median annual salary of $64,610, while detectives earned a median salary of $83,640.

What Can I Expect From an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Program?

An online associate in criminal justice typically requires 60 credits and takes full-time students two years to complete. Some programs offer accelerated course loads while others accommodate part-time schedules, so completion times may vary.

Associate programs provide foundational training in criminal justice. Depending on the school, students may be able to earn an associate of science or an associate of arts. Both pathways can prepare graduates for entry-level criminal justice jobs, or ready learners to pursue a four-year degree.

In addition to classroom learning, students pursuing an associate in criminal justice often complete internships. This fieldwork helps learners apply their theoretical knowledge and prepares them for various law enforcement training programs.

Some associate in criminal justice programs may allow degree-seekers to specialize their training in a specific subdiscipline. Possible concentrations at this level include law enforcement, corrections, and homeland security. Concentrations can help set graduates apart on the job market or qualify for admission into a specialized bachelor's program.

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Popular Online Criminal Justice Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Program?

Depending on a student's chosen concentration, a bachelor's in forensic science and crime scene investigation program has a wide variety of possible courses. Students may focus on the minutiae of crime scenes themselves or work on laboratory analysis. Courses can expand beyond science to cover government policy and even photography.

The Legal System

In this course, students examine the legal system, including its history, development, and various institutions. Learners look at the roles and responsibilities of each department and sector. Other covered topics may include property law and business law.

Policing in America

Students in this class learn about the policing field and profession, including its history, agencies, and fundamental issues. The curriculum may also look at the professional challenges facing policing and the need for reform.

Ethics in Criminal Justice

This course investigates ethical issues and standards encountered by criminal justice professionals. Students learn about some of the ethical challenges and major complaints levied against these professionals. Coursework also examines various movements and developments that have changed ethical frameworks in policing.

Correctional Rehabilitation

Correctional rehabilitation coursework examines the corrections process and its impact on prisoners. Students may look at specific prisoner types, programs, and institutions, along with corrections policies and ideologies. Some courses may compare American correctional processes with various international programs, identifying areas for improvement.

Crime Prevention

In this class, students learn about different crime prevention measures. They look at community programs, early intervention strategies, and legal system processes. The curriculum may make use of statistics, behavioral research, and anecdotal evidence.

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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Program?

Although exact requirements vary by program, when applying to online associate in criminal justice programs, individuals must submit proof of high school graduation or GED and official transcripts from all secondary and postsecondary institutions they have attended. Naturally, a history of good grades reflects well on applicants’ academic capabilities, and many applicants can transfer credits earned at other postsecondary institutions.

Many colleges no longer require standardized test scores. However, submitting above-average SAT and ACT scores reflects well on an applicants’ knowledge of English and mathematics.

Applicants should also include work experiences, extracurricular activities, and community service work to demonstrate engagement in diverse academic and professional spaces; this is especially true for individuals who have professional experiences that coincide with their intended path of study. Some individuals are even able to use work experiences as college credit. Many colleges also require several essays or letters of recommendation to gather a more holistic account of students’ experiences, goals, and character.

What Can I Do With an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Degree?

Career Outlook

With an online associate in criminal justice, graduates can pursue various protective service and legal careers. The BLS projects 3-5% job growth in these fields between 2019 and 2029, which is right around the average projected growth for all occupations (4%).

Typical salaries for many jobs in these fields exceed the median annual salary for all occupations in the U.S. Learn more about criminal justice careers, and see where an online associate in criminal justice can take you.

Career Paths

Police Officer

Police officers are charged with protecting people and property in their community. They may investigate crimes, patrol and monitor specific locations, speak to suspects and witnesses, and prepare court documents and cases.

Paralegal

Paralegals support lawyers in various ways, such as by conducting research for cases, preparing court documents, and assisting in court. Paralegals may also perform administrative work or specialize in a certain area of the law.

Correction Officer

Corrections officers manage personnel within prisons and jails, including supervising prisoners and protecting visitors and property. Their daily duties may include inspecting facilities and prisoners, filling out reports, and transporting prisoners.

Private Detective

Private detectives investigate various matters for individuals and organizations, such as financial activities and infidelity. These detectives may conduct surveillance, dig through social media, or interview people related to their cases.

Court Reporter

Court reporters make transcriptions and recordings of various court and legal proceedings. These reporters need to attend events and note participants' words, actions, and behaviors.

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Continuing Education

It is very common for individuals with an online associate in criminal justice to supplement their degree with professional training or certifications. For example, police and detectives must attend a training academy to hone practical skills such as firearm usage, emergency response, and self-defense. Many paralegals and legal assistants also complete a paralegal certification program.

Many graduates also choose to continue their education and completea bachelor's degree in criminal justice or related disciplines such as legal studies, criminology, or forensic science. Although a bachelor's degree is not explicitly required for many criminal justice careers, this credential can help professionals compete for more lucrative or high-ranking positions.

How Do I Choose an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Program?

Cost

Postsecondary education can be a significant financial investment. Public two-year colleges charge in-state learners an average of $3,380 and out-of-state learners an average of $8,130. Private colleges are even more expensive, charging an average of $16,900 per year.

Remote learners can save on a number of costs, such as housing, dining, and transportation expenses. Many online programs charge tuition on a per-credit basis. The Education Data Initiative indicates that public and community colleges charge in-state students an average of $140 per credit and out-of-state students $340 per credit. Private institutions charged a substantial $750 per credit hour.

Program Format

Although many learners embrace a standard full-time schedule, others prefer a more condensed learning format. Accelerated programs can be advantageous for individuals with a large number of transferable credits. Learners juggling coursework alongside other personal or professional demands may enjoy a part-time schedule.

Many remote learners prefer synchronous formats, which consist of live meeting times and set course schedules. Others enjoy the flexibility of asynchronous formats, which tend to be more self-paced.

Location

Although remote learners may have more options regarding the location of their programs, many choose programs at nearby institutions. State and community colleges often have affordable tuition options for in-state learners. Students with physical access to their campuses can also take hybrid courses, meet with faculty members, and take advantage of various in-person amenities.

Accreditation

Prospective students should always make sure that all colleges or universities that they consider are properly accredited. Institutions earn accreditation by undergoing a formal evaluation from accrediting bodies, such as the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). Institutions must demonstrate high instruction quality, strong student learning outcomes, and ample academic resources.

Student Support

Colleges should offer ample student support services for online students. Many schools offer academic support infrastructures, including virtual tutoring, essay help, and digital libraries. Institutions should also offer remote career support services like internship opportunities, mentorship programs, career advising, job boards, and alumni networking platforms.

Best Accredited Online Associate in Criminal Justice Programs

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Best Online Associate in Criminal Justice Programs

  1. Peirce College
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $6395

    Pierce delivers both an on-campus and online associate degree in criminal justice for students seeking a career in law enforcement or related field. Learners may also combine the two formats for a hybrid online/on-campus approach.

    The program's 61-credit curriculum covers the use of technology in criminal justice, effective communication, and ethical issues law enforcement professionals often face. The program also allows students to earn credit for training they receive through the Philadelphia Police Academy or Philadelphia Division of Prisons. The degree provides a solid foundation for Peirce's bachelor's in criminal justice degree, which typically requires an additional two years to complete.

    Applicants must provide high school transcripts or GED scores. The college awards conditional acceptance to all applicants. All associate in criminal justice students pay the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of residency.

  2. Pamlico Community College
    Location

    Grantsboro, NC

    Tuition

    $3087

    Located in Grantsboro, North Carolina, PCC offers an associate in criminal justice technology that prepares graduates to work in law enforcement, corrections, juvenile justice, probation, and private security. The curriculum focuses on the tools and technology law enforcement officers use to investigate and prevent crime.

    The program's 67-credit curriculum features courses in victimology, court procedures, and community policing. One course examines the history of organized crime and how it continues to affect communities today. Another class, on investigative principles, covers the processes involved in examining crime scenes, collecting and recording evidence, and identifying suspects.

    To apply to PCC's associate in criminal justice technology program, prospective students must submit official high school transcripts or GED scores. Some applicants may need to take a placement exam before starting coursework. Most full-time students graduate within two years.

  3. Trine University
    Location

    Fort Wayne, IN

    Tuition

    $14712

    Trine's online associate degree in criminal justice gives students the education and experience needed to serve as competent law enforcement, corrections, and probation and parole officers. While many graduates immediately pursue entry-level jobs, the 60-credit program also transitions seamlessly into the university's bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

    All classes take place online and use an asynchronous format, allowing students to view lectures and complete assignments on their own time. New courses start every eight weeks, and students can begin the program at multiple points throughout the year. Full-time learners can complete the program in one year.

    Applicants submit official high school transcripts or GED scores, along with transcripts from any other colleges or universities they previously attended. Trine also makes transferring easy, accepting up to 45 credits from other institutions.

    Trine is located in Angola, Indiana. The university offers discounted tuition for active-duty military members.

  4. Regent University
    Location

    Virginia Beach, VA

    Tuition

    $16779

    Located in Virginia Beach, Regent offers both an on-campus and online associate degree in criminal justice rooted in Christian values. The curriculum focuses on the prevention and investigation of various types of crime.

    The 64-credit program prepares students to serve as police officers, probation officers, forensic technicians, and legal assistants. Graduates can also seamlessly move into the school's bachelor's programs in criminal justice, cybersecurity, or paralegal studies, which require two additional years of study.

    Applicants under the age of 24 years must provide high school transcripts or GED scores; ACT, CLT, or SAT scores; and a personal statement. Prospective students 24 and older complete an admissions questionnaire and provide their high school transcripts or GED scores.

    Distance learners receive a lower per-credit tuition rate than on-campus students. Most full-time students complete the associate in criminal justice program in two years.

  5. Keiser University
    Location

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Tuition

    $27649

    Keiser's students can complete an associate degree in criminal justice online or at any of the school's 19 campuses across Florida. The program's 60-credit curriculum covers the role of institutions in criminal justice, common criminal behaviors, the operations of various law enforcement organizations, the juvenile justice system, and the principles of criminal investigations.

    Program applicants must meet with an admissions counselor, after which they submit proof of high school graduation or GED scores. Once enrolled, most full-time students graduate within two years.

    Keiser is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school features a freshman-to-sophomore retention rate of over 90%.

  6. Chaminade University of Honolulu
    Location

    Honolulu, HI

    Tuition

    $22913

    Chaminade delivers an associate in criminal justice program that covers the basics of the U.S. criminal justice system and the underlying causes of crime. Students learn how to manage a crime scene, collect evidence, and identify suspects.

    The program's 60-credit curriculum features a course on the juvenile justice system and its focus on rehabilitation over retribution. Students must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA to graduate and complete at least 15 credits at Chaminade. Most students complete the program in two years. Each course lasts 10 weeks, and learners may enroll at four different points during the academic year. All students take part in a service learning experience.

    Prospective students must submit official high school transcripts or GED scores along with transcripts from any postsecondary institutions they previously attended. Chaminade offers discounted tuition to military members and veterans.

  7. Ashland University
    Location

    Ashland, OH

    Tuition

    $20231

    Located in Ashland, Ohio, AU offers both an on-campus and online associate degree in criminal justice that prepares students to pursue various careers in law enforcement. Many graduates enroll in the university's BS in criminal justice program, which requires an additional two years of coursework.

    The online program features asynchronous classes, enabling learners to log in and complete assignments around their own schedules. Students engage in seven-week courses and benefit from opportunities to work with experienced law enforcement officers. Courses cover subjects like criminal justice ethics, victimology, emergency management, terrorism, and gang-related crime.

    Prospective students must submit a high school diploma or GED scores along with transcripts from any colleges or universities they attended in the past. Ashland offers a special discounted tuition rate to distance learners. More than 93% of Ashland graduates are employed or attend graduate school after receiving an associate degree.

  8. Amarillo College
    Location

    Amarillo, TX

    Tuition

    $5670

    AC offers a pair of two-year programs for future law enforcement professionals: an AS in criminal justice and an AAS in criminal justice law enforcement. Each program requires 60 credits completed across four semesters.

    The AS track prepares students to move directly into a bachelor's program after graduation. The curriculum features courses in the causes of crime, correctional systems, court systems, and the basics of criminal investigation.

    The AAS program focuses on preparing students for immediate entry-level career opportunities. It includes the college's Basic Peace Officer Academy. Graduates can sit for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement licensing exam and begin careers as police officers, correctional officers, and bailiffs.

    Applicants to either program must submit official high school transcripts or GED scores. Most incoming students take an assessment to determine proper placement in general education courses.

  9. Saint Leo University
    Location

    Saint Leo, FL

    Tuition

    $20036

    Saint Leo's associate in criminal justice program provides students with a strong foundation in law enforcement and criminal investigation. Students take part in hands-on learning experiences that include mock trials and exploring an actual forensics lab.

    The program gives students the opportunity to train with the Pasco-Hernando Police Academy and earn a police standard certificate. Students may also intern with local, state, and federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and U.S. Secret Service.

    The program's curriculum includes an introductory course on the Department of Homeland Security and how the agency works to prevent terrorist attacks and recover from natural and human-caused disasters. Another course covers due process in the criminal justice system.

    Prospective students must submit high school transcripts or GED scores. Saint Leo is located in a community just north of Tampa, Florida.

  10. University of Maine at Fort Kent
    Location

    Fort Kent, ME

    Tuition

    $10731

    In UMFK's associate in criminal justice program, students learn how to use reasoning, communication, analytical, and research skills in preparation for careers as competent law enforcement officers.

    The two-year, 60-credit program features hands-on experiences in which students work with criminal justice professionals in a variety of specialties. While many graduates immediately seek entry-level jobs, others move on to UMFK's bachelor's degree in rural public safety administration.

    Incoming first-year students must have a high school diploma or GED and meet the following course prerequisites: four years of English, three years of math, and two years of social sciences courses. The school accepts transfer students with a minimum 2.0 GPA across previous college-level coursework.

    Current and former military members may qualify for in-state tuition at UMFK. The university's rural campus is located in northern Maine near the Canadian border.

Frequently Asked Questions About Associate in Criminal Justice Programs

Is an associate degree in criminal justice worth it?

An associate in criminal justice program teaches students the skills needed to enter the workforce in various legal and law enforcement capacities. Graduates can also continue with their schooling and earn a bachelor's degree.

Are criminal justice majors in demand?

The demand for public safety professionals should continue to grow. For example, the BLS projects 5% job growth for police officers and detectives between 2019 and 2029.

How much money can I make with an associate in criminal justice?

Graduates with an associate in criminal justice can earn positions with above-average salary potential. According to the BLS, paralegals and legal assistants earn a median annual salary of $51,740, while corrections officers earn $45,300. Police officers and detectives earn an even higher median annual salary of $65,170.

Do I need a bachelor's degree to get a job in criminal justice?

While a bachelor's in criminal justice can help graduates qualify for positions with more responsibility and higher salaries, not all positions require a four-year degree. For example, candidates with an associate degree can begin their careers as police officers and legal assistants.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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