Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree 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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Updated on April 9, 2024
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An online associate in criminal justice provides you with an academic understanding of the systemic origins of crime, as well as roles of law enforcement, legal systems, correctional facilities, and public policy. You can often select concentrations that coincide with your 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 $3,564 and an average out-of-state tuition of $8,415. Most associate degrees take full-time learners two years to complete, though exact program length may vary significantly, particularly if you are enrolled in self-paced programs.

Many criminal justice professions are especially in-demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that between 2022 and 2032, the number of jobs for paralegals and legal assistants will grow by 4%. Many criminal justice professionals earn above-average salaries. In 2023, police earned a median annual salary of $72,280.

Popular Online Associate in Criminal Justice Programs

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

10 Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

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#1 Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

Peirce College

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online

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.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$14,400
Out-of-state
$14,400
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$13,896
Out-of-state
$13,896
Retention Rate
100%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,046
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#2 Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

Pamlico Community College

  • Grantsboro, NC
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

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.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$1,824
Out-of-state
$6,432
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
36%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
362
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
83% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#3 Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

Trine University

  • Angola, IN
  • 4 years
  • Campus

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.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$32,990
Out-of-state
$32,990
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$41,457
Out-of-state
$41,457
Retention Rate
84%
Acceptance Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
3,573
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#4 Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

Regent University

  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

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.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$17,220
Out-of-state
$17,220
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$15,552
Out-of-state
$15,552
Retention Rate
77%
Acceptance Rate
50%
Students Enrolled
10,483
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
93% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#5 Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale

  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

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%.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$19,808
Out-of-state
$19,808
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$27,162
Out-of-state
$27,162
Retention Rate
60%
Acceptance Rate
97%
Students Enrolled
20,330
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#6 Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

Chaminade University of Honolulu

  • Honolulu, HI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

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.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$26,800
Out-of-state
$26,800
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$24,720
Out-of-state
$24,720
Retention Rate
81%
Acceptance Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
2,208
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
61% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#7 Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

Ashland University

  • Ashland, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

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.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$22,000
Out-of-state
$22,000
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,444
Out-of-state
$6,444
Retention Rate
77%
Acceptance Rate
74%
Students Enrolled
4,447
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
72% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#8 Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

Amarillo College

  • Amarillo, TX
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

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.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$1,128
Out-of-state
$2,664
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
62%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
9,079
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
57% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#9 Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

Saint Leo University

  • Saint Leo, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

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.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$23,990
Out-of-state
$23,990
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$14,568
Out-of-state
$14,568
Retention Rate
64%
Acceptance Rate
73%
Students Enrolled
9,832
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#10 Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

University of Maine at Fort Kent

  • Fort Kent, ME
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

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.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$7,350
Out-of-state
$11,760
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
68%
Acceptance Rate
100%
Students Enrolled
1,624
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
69% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

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

An online associate in criminal justice typically requires 60 credits and takes you 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, you may be able to earn an associate of science or an associate of arts. Both pathways can prepare you for entry-level criminal justice jobs or help you pursue a four-year degree.

In addition to classroom learning, you often complete internships. This fieldwork helps you apply your theoretical knowledge and prepares you for various law enforcement training programs.

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

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

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, you must submit proof of high school graduation or GED and official transcripts from all secondary and postsecondary institutions attended. Naturally, a history of good grades reflects well on your academic capabilities, and you can transfer credits earned at other postsecondary institutions.

Even though many colleges no longer require standardized test scores, submitting above-average SAT and ACT scores reflects well on your knowledge of English and mathematics.

You should also include work experiences, extracurricular activities, and community service work to demonstrate engagement in diverse academic and professional spaces; this is especially true if you have professional experiences that coincide with your intended path of study. You may even be 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 your experiences, goals, and character.

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

Career Paths

  • Police Officers: 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.

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 complete a 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.

Criminal Justice Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

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 the skills needed to enter the workforce in various legal and law enforcement capacities. You can also continue with your schooling and earn a bachelor's degree.

The demand for public safety professionals should continue to grow. For example, the BLS projects 3% job growth for police officers and detectives between 2022 and 2032.

If you have an associate in criminal justice, you can get positions with above-average salary potential. According to the BLS, paralegals and legal assistants earn a median annual salary of $60,970, while corrections officers earn $53,300. Police and sheriff's patrol officers earn an even higher median annual salary of $72,280.

Your earning potential in forensic science often increases with more experience, a higher degree, and more specialized knowledge. The lowest 10% of forensic science technicians earned a median annual salary of $39,700 as of May 2022, while the top 10% made more than $104,300.

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.

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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