Best Online Associate in Criminology Programs

We've ranked the top online associate in criminology programs. Compare schools by cost and convenience. Earn your associate degree.

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by Doug Wintemute

Published on May 13, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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An associate degree in criminology can equip students with the skills and credentials to pursue entry-level careers in law enforcement. The two-year training provides students with an introduction to sociology and criminal behavior. Learners also examine the laws and the legal system, while developing research and communication skills.

Graduates with this degree can enter several protective service occupations or further their training in a related discipline, such as an criminal justice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 8% growth for protective service occupations between 2020 and 2030, and the median annual wage for these professionals in 2021 was $46,590.

Prospective students can find criminology programs in many of the top online schools and community colleges. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost of tuition and fees was about $3,620 for two-year institutions in 2019-2020. Here, we take a closer look at the best online associate in criminology programs and what students can expect from their studies and postgraduate experiences.

What Can I Expect From an Online Associate in Criminology Program?

The typical associate degree program in criminology features approximately 60 credits and runs for two years. The training helps students develop a criminology foundation, giving them the problem-solving, communication, and leadership skills required by most entry-level protective services occupations. Students also acquire research skills, knowledge of criminology theory, and practical training.

To create the proper foundation, these programs examine the history and structures of the laws and legal system. They explore the best practices for various law enforcement personnel, learning how to incorporate ethical frameworks and cultural awareness into their daily work.

Depending on the school, an associate degree program in criminology can award an AA, AS, or AAS degree, and these programs may differ in focus. For example, an AA degree may provide more interdisciplinary and theoretical training, an AS, more analytical and specialized training, and an AAS, more practical and career-focused training.

An associate in criminology may also offer specializations, which can enable learners to focus their studies in particular areas. Some possible concentrations include corrections, homeland security, security management, substance abuse, and police administration. Certain programs and specializations might include an internship and could qualify graduates for certification.

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Popular Online Associate in Criminology 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 Criminology Program?

Policing in the United States

This course teaches students about the history, functions, and structures of policing in the United States. Students also review the changes and challenges in the profession.

Justice System

In this course, students examine the justice system, including its history, departments, and processes. They look at the issues in the system, its capacity to respond to crimes, and how it serves victims and the community.

Correctional Process

Students in this course learn about the correctional process, including correctional institution operations, correctional paths, and correctional theories. They also examine the issues in the field and the effects of rehabilitation on offenders.

Sociology of Deviance

In this course, students explore the sociological theories of deviance, looking at historical and contemporary perspectives. Learners study the causes of crime and the different social interpretations of criminal behavior.

Psychology of Criminal Behavior

This course explores the various psychological factors that influence criminal behavior. Students may examine specific groups of people as well, including people with mental health conditions and those managing substance misuse.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Scholarships for Criminal Justice Majors The Student's Guide to College Loans The Student's Guide to Financial Aid and the FAFSA

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

The typical admission requirements for an online associate in criminology program include only a high school diploma or a passing grade on the GED test. Competitive programs may feature more requirements, such as college entrance exam scores and college application essays. Some programs may even have specific course prerequisites and minimum GPA requirements.

As part of the application package, prospective students usually need to include official transcripts and letters of recommendation. Resumes may also be required, which could lead to transfer credits from schools that award credit for life and work experience.

Online learners may also need to meet technological requirements, ensuring they can access the course materials and submit their work properly.

What Can I Do With an Online Associate in Criminology Degree?

Career Outlook

While the employment outlook for protective services depends on local budgets, the demand stays relatively consistent because of the desire for improved public safety in most communities. The BLS projects the addition of more than 286,400 protective service jobs between 2020 and 2030.

Within this occupational group, graduates with an associate in criminology can access entry-level law enforcement, security, and corrections positions. They may need to complete additional training programs to qualify for certain jobs. Their training in sociology and criminal behavior can even prepare them for counseling or probation officer careers, though these may also require additional training.

Uncover where an associate degree in criminology can lead you.

Learn more about criminal justice careers

Career Paths

Police and Detectives

Police and detectives investigate crimes, enforce laws, and respond to emergency calls. These professionals patrol their communities, monitor suspicious behavior, and make arrests. Police and detectives often specialize in certain crime types, and they may need to complete an academy training program to qualify for employment.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $66,020

Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Correctional officers and bailiffs plan and monitor probation programs for law offenders. They connect offenders with various services, evaluate their progress, and provide progress and completion reports to the courts and law enforcement. Associate graduates may need to complete a state or federal training program to qualify for employment.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $47,920

Private Detectives and Investigators

Private detectives and investigators provide specialized investigative services for individuals and organizations. They may conduct surveillance, look for missing persons, or research public records for information. Private detectives and investigators need to ensure their work does not interfere with police operations and adheres to investigative and privacy laws.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $59,380

Security Guards and Gambling Surveillance Officers

These professionals provide security and surveillance services for organizations by patrolling the premises, protecting people and property, and monitoring suspicious activity. They often work with surveillance technology and may need to alert law enforcement in the case of an emergency. Security guards and gambling surveillance officers may need to complete a specialized training program for employment.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $31,470

Substance Misuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

These professionals provide support and counseling to individuals with substance misuse, mental health, and behavioral disorder issues. They provide education and support, develop treatment and management plans, and connect individuals with resources and services. Professionals may need additional training and certification to qualify for employment.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $48,520

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Public Health Careers Behavioral Psychology Careers Forensic Science Careers

Continuing Education

For many law enforcement and corrections positions, graduates need to complete a police or corrections academy training program. Local and state organizations have their own programs, while federal organizations and institutions may require the completion of national programs.

Associate degree programs provide an excellent foundation for further study. Graduates can pursue bachelor's degrees and higher. The most direct paths after an associate in criminology include a bachelor's in criminal justice or a bachelor's in criminology. Graduates can also specialize with a bachelor's in law enforcement or a bachelor's in corrections.

For those who wish to enter a counseling or psychology field, a bachelor's in behavioral psychology, a bachelor's in applied psychology, or a bachelor's in counseling can lead to more employment opportunities, master's degrees, and state licensure.

How Do I Choose an Online Associate in Criminology Program?

Cost

The process of evaluating education costs may look different for each individual, but many start by comparing online and on-campus costs, out-of-state and in-state tuition, and private and public school fees. Evaluate the true program cost by factoring in fees for books, room and board, and transportation, as well as any income you'll lose by spending time in school.

Program Format

By looking at the program format, prospective students can determine how and when they will study. They might compare synchronous vs. asynchronous learning and part-time vs. full-time programs to identify which is best for them. Accelerated programs may also be available for learners who have more open schedules.

Location

Prospective students should start thinking about location after choosing between online and on-campus studies. The location of on-campus programs impacts where learners live and travel to each week. Location can also matter for online learners, as degree-seekers may need to complete on-campus residency requirements.

Accreditation

Per our online college accreditation guide, prospective students should pay close attention to institutional and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation should be a major consideration, as it can impact financial aid, employment, and postgraduate licensure. Though not always mandatory, programmatic certification may be available from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

Student Support

Student services can significantly impact a degree-seeker's educational experience. Meaningful online student services may include academic support, career services, and wellness programs. Individual programs can also add to the experience with college mentorships, internships, and practicums.

Best Accredited Online Associate in Criminology Programs

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Best Online Associate in Criminology Programs

  1. LeTourneau University
    Location

    Longview, TX

    Tuition

    $23386

    Located in Longview, Texas, LETU enrolls over 3,000 students and boasts a 92% placement rate for online or graduate students three years out from graduation.

    The school's online associate in criminal justice program includes courses in criminology, administration of criminal justice, and criminal law. Distance learners complete all coursework in an accelerated learning format with three five-week sessions.

    Graduates of the associate in criminology program typically find careers in areas like justice and human rights, homeland security, terrorism and counter-terrorism, and criminal law.

    Applicants must submit standardized test scores and hold a minimum high school GPA of 2.5. The university charges the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students.

    LeTourneau University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  2. Upper Iowa University
    Location

    Fayette, IA

    Tuition

    $21630

    Based in Fayette, Iowa, UIU enrolls over 5,000 students and reports a graduation rate of about 47%.

    For the 60-credit online associate in criminal justice, learners must achieve a minimum 2.0 GPA to graduate. Students must complete at least 15 credits at UIU, including 12 of the last 15 credits required for graduation.

    Students enrolled in the online associate degree in criminology take core courses in criminal law, ethics in criminal justice, deviance and social control, and corrections.

    Applicants must submit standardized test scores. UIU allows transfer credit from regionally accredited postsecondary institutions. The school charges the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state tuition.

    Upper Iowa University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  3. Central New Mexico Community College
    Location

    Albuquerque, NM

    Tuition

    $4360

    Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, CNM enrolls over 22,000 students, making it the largest community college in the state.

    The 60-credit online associate in criminology offers introductory classes in criminal justice systems, contemporary social problems, and research methods. Students must complete a criminology capstone course to graduate.

    This program prepares students to transfer to a four-year university for a bachelor's in criminology. CNM features transfer agreements with many colleges in New Mexico or out of state.

    Applicants must submit standardized test scores and must hold a high school diploma or GED equivalent with a minimum 2.5 GPA. CNM accepts transfer credit from regionally accredited institutions.

    Central New Mexico Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  4. Arkansas Northeastern College
    Location

    Blytheville, AR

    Tuition

    $5012

    Located in Blytheville, Arkansas, ANC boasts the lowest tuition rate in the state. About 30% of ANC students take classes through the college's off-campus centers.

    The 60-credit online associate degree in criminology features core courses in criminal justice, criminal evidence, social problems, and criminal investigation. Students typically complete the program in two years.

    This program prepares students to transfer to a four-year institution for a bachelor's in criminology. Graduates may also pursue careers with law enforcement agencies or government.

    Applicants must submit ACT scores. ANC accepts transfer credit from accredited postsecondary institutions. The college charges different tuition rates for in-county, in-state, and out-of-state students.

    Arkansas Northeastern College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  5. Elizabethtown College
    Location

    Elizabethtown, PA

    Located in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, Elizabethtown College boasts a 53% four-year graduation rate.

    The school's 64-credit online associate in criminal justice features core courses in modern corrections, the American criminal justice system, ethical issues in criminal justice, and criminal justice research methodology.

    The program requires students to take at least 15 credits at Elizabethtown, including nine credits in criminal justice core classes. Graduates of the online associate in criminology program often find careers in law enforcement, security, or asset protection.

    Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED equivalent and at least three years of work experience. Elizabethtown charges the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students.

    Elizabethtown College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Frequently Asked Questions About Associate in Criminology Programs

Is an associate degree in criminology worth it? true

Yes. An associate in criminology provides degree-seekers with a foundation that can take them in many different directions. They can use the training to enter the workforce, pursuing a law enforcement, corrections, or security career. They can also continue their training in an academy program or a bachelor's program.

Degree-seekers also benefit from the value of an online degree, which allows them to study from anywhere in their own time. Online learners have a greater selection of schools and programs, along with various study schedule options.

How fast can I get an associate in criminology degree online? true

The standard associate in criminology takes students two years to complete. Schools may allow learners to fast-track their studies in several ways, including taking a heavier course load or taking courses in summer and winter sessions. Additionally, online learners can leverage asynchronous and self-paced courses to accelerate their training.

Degree-seekers who qualify for transfer credit, such as those with previous training or relevant experience, may also reduce study times. How significantly these options shorten the program length depends on the situation, but it may be possible to complete the degree in less than 18 months.

Is an online associate degree in criminology credible? true

Yes. An online associate in criminology is a very credible credential, which can lead to quality employment and continuing education opportunities. As long as students complete a program from an accredited school, they should be able to transfer credits and satisfy entry-level employment requirements.

Certain programs feature programmatic accreditation, which offers students a little more credibility assurance. For example, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences provides a certification process that recognizes high quality programs.

How much money can I make with an associate in criminology?

Graduates with an associate in criminology have access to competitive salaries. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for protective service occupations was $46,590 in May 2021, which was slightly higher than the median annual wages for all occupations.

Police and detectives earn the highest salaries among the common career paths, earning median annual wages of $66,020 in May 2021. Some of the highest wages for individual positions include detectives and criminal investigators, who made $83,640, security guards with the state government, who earned $75,490, and state correctional officers, who made $62,090 during the same period.

Is an associate degree in criminology demand?

Yes. Employers in many industries welcome graduates with an associate in criminology. Even as crime rates decrease in many areas, communities want improved public safety and protective services. The BLS projects 8% growth for all protective service occupations between 2020 and 2030, which equates to about 286,400 new positions.

The BLS also projects the addition of more than over 50,000 police and detectives, more than 150,000 security guards and gambling surveillance officers, and more than 4,000 private detectives and investigators between 2020 and 2030.

Image Source: Nitat Termmee, Getty Images

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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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