Best Online Criminal Justice Programs of 2022

A criminal justice degree can prepare you to pursue jobs like FBI agent, correctional officer, criminal justice educator, detective, and probation officer.

portrait of Meg Whitenton
by Meg Whitenton

Published on May 11, 2022 · Updated on July 12, 2022

Edited by Jared McMasters
Share this Article

Criminal justice incorporates aspects of the judicial system, law, and government. Criminal justice professionals include police officers, lawyers, probation officers, judges, and security guards.

A bachelor's in criminal justice meets or exceeds the minimum education requirement for many entry-level jobs in law enforcement, including specialized agencies like the FBI and CIA.

www.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.

Ready to start your journey?

Many students now forgo on-campus courses and instead study criminal justice online. Virtual programs may offer accelerated schedules and set or in-state tuition rates, potentially saving students thousands of dollars in tuition and fees.

Graduates of bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice possess interdisciplinary skills with widespread career applications. They may qualify for positions as paralegals, forensic analysts, and public policy officials. Students who continue on the path toward a terminal criminal justice degree can become judges, lawyers, or government specialists.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects positive job growth and lucrative wages for entry-level criminal justice professionals, including police and detectives.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Programs

Is a bachelor's in criminal justice worth it?

Yes, a bachelor's in criminal justice is a versatile degree. Graduates exceed the minimum education requirements for many entry-level law enforcement and security jobs.

A bachelor's in criminal justice can also help graduates springboard into a related field. The combination of legal, social services, and public policy training students can gain in this program can prepare them to enter any one of these professional fields.

Furthermore, an online bachelor's in criminal justice can save students time and money.

What can I do with a bachelor's in criminal justice?

Criminal justice programs are known for their broad applications in various career fields. Graduates can become police officers or detectives, corrections officers, or probation officers. They may also qualify for specialized or administrative positions in law enforcement.

A bachelor's in criminal justice can also prepare graduates for roles that require field experience, such as arbitrator, mediator, or conciliator. Students who go on to pursue an advanced degree may eventually become judges, lawyers, or public policy officials.

Are criminal justice majors in demand?

Yes, criminal justice jobs are projected to grow from 2020-2030, according to the BLS. Private investigators and arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators enjoy the highest growth rate projections during this period at 13% and 10%, respectively.

Fortunately for job seekers in this field, a steady increase in occurrences of fraud, lawsuits, and cybercrime is expected to continue the demand for qualified criminal justice professionals. Such protective service occupations touch nearly every aspect of life across the United States, in both rural and urban communities.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in criminal justice?

According to the BLS, salaries for criminal justice jobs range from $47,920-$66,020 for a variety of entry-level employment opportunities. While entry-level salaries in criminal justice may not eclipse the national average income, many of these positions offer additional financial benefits, such as pensions and health insurance coverage.

Bachelor's degree holders may qualify for higher-paying roles in criminal justice since their education exceeds the minimum requirements for many jobs.Generally, law enforcement and criminal justice professionals in state, federal, or local government earn higher wages than those in similar jobs in other sectors.

What are the highest paying jobs with a bachelor's in criminal justice?

Police officers and probation officers are among the highest-paid entry-level criminal justice professionals, earning median annual salaries of $66,020 and $60,250, respectively, in May 2021.

Within law enforcement, detectives and criminal investigators top the list of highest earners, with salaries exceeding $83,000 per year. Furthermore, police and detectives employed by the federal government earned nearly $94,000 a year as of May 2021. Graduates with bachelor's degrees in criminal justice can also increase their earning potential by pursuing advanced degrees.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Program?

A bachelor's in criminal justice can prepare graduates to enter fields including law enforcement, corrections, and security. Schools may offer a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS) in criminal justice, respectively incorporating a philosophical or practical approach. BA degrees tend to include a liberal arts core, while BS degrees may focus on technical aspects of this career field.

These degrees sometimes offer a choice of wide-ranging criminal justice concentrations. Options may include computer science, forensics, public policy, administration, or human services. A college may offer a criminal justice program through its social sciences, humanities, political science, or law department.

A typical four-year bachelor's degree requires students to complete 120 credits. Some online programs require learners to earn the same number of credits; however, they commonly accept transfer credits for previous educational experiences and may offer accelerated schedules. Many criminal justice programs occur 100% online.

While not always required, internships are strongly recommended to enhance an online criminal justice program. Students can gain invaluable field experience by pursuing an internship, practicum, or apprenticeship in their concentration and/or chosen field. Even online programs may require occasional visits to campus.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

Popular Online Bachelor's in 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 Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Program?

Introduction to Criminal Justice

Students in this course gain an overview of state, local, and federal criminal justice sectors and their respective and interdisciplinary functions. Coursework also explores the variety of government, civilian, and sworn criminal justice professions in the United States.

The Judicial System in the United States

This course focuses on the multiple levels of the federal court system. Students explore common judicial policies and procedures. They also learn the responsibilities of sworn and civilian professionals and allied organizations in handling cases through the courts.

Technology in Criminal Justice

This course explores the role of technology in both committing crimes and pursuing criminal justice. Students examine the common patterns of tech-based crimes. They also explore cutting-edge technological tools used by investigators and prosecutors.

The Correctional System in the United States

Students in this course discuss wide-ranging issues including public policy, sentencing, and incarceration. Coursework examines the organizations affecting the correctional system, laws regarding punishment in the U.S., and the concept of systemic incarceration.

U.S. Law Enforcement

This course chronicles the history and evolution of policing in the United States. Students examine the responsibilities of police officers, including building positive community relationships and maintaining transparency and accuracy in reports and other documentation.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Program?

The admissions requirements for an online bachelor's in criminal justice may vary by school and program. Most of the requirements are the same for online and in-person bachelor's degrees, though perks often exist for those interested in online programs. For example, many online programs offer rolling admissions and may waive SAT or ACT score requirements.

Application

Submitting a formal application is the first step toward enrolling in an online criminal justice program. Applicants must confirm they completed certain requirements. The application also verifies a student's residence to determine whether they qualify for in-state tuition rates, if applicable.

Test Scores

Online bachelor's programs in criminal justice commonly require SAT or ACT scores from the last five years. Some schools maintain test-optional admissions policies. Standardized test scores enable admissions officers to build a broader picture of an applicant's academic potential within a college program.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are important validations of character for potential college students. Applicants commonly request letters of recommendation from sources they know and trust, such as mentors, teachers, counselors, faith leaders, employers, or coaches. Students should give each referrer at least 3-4 weeks to write a letter of recommendation.

Essays

Undergraduate essays offer applicants the opportunity to make an impression on admissions officers directly, in their own words. Essay prompts are designed to inspire self-reflection and give insight into an applicant's goals, potential, and state of mind. Essays also convey an applicant's written communication skills.

Official Transcripts

Academic transcripts are always required with a student's undergraduate college application. Official transcripts outline the applicant's academic performance in high school. Students must also submit separate transcripts for any previous college experience. Most colleges require students to arrange for transcripts to be sent directly from their high school or community college to their new institution.

What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Degree?

Career Outlook

A bachelor's degree exceeds the minimum education requirement for some entry-level law enforcement jobs. Police officers, for example, must possess a high school diploma and complete police academy training to enter the field. Police officers and detectives with a bachelor's degree may qualify for senior administrative roles in law enforcement.

According to the BLS, police and detectives earned a median annual salary of $66,020 in May 2021. These positions are popular among criminal justice graduates. Criminal investigators earned a median annual wage of $83,640 during the same period. The BLS reports that probation officers earned about $60,250 in May 2021.

The BLS also projects jobs for private investigators will grow 13% from 2020-2030, a much higher rate of growth than the average of 8% across all occupations. A bachelor's in criminal justice can also lead to careers in arbitration, mediation, and conciliation, a field the BLS projects will grow 10% by the end of the decade.

See where an online bachelor's in criminal justice can lead.

Learn more about criminal justice careers

Career Paths

Police Officer

Police officers patrol an assigned territory to protect the citizens of their community. Police officers often work in a specialized area of law enforcement, such as transit, narcotics, or the FBI. They must have at least a high school diploma and police academy training to enter the field.

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

Correctional Officer

Correctional officers maintain order among incarcerated people in jails, prisons, and other detention centers. They may oversee detainees who are awaiting sentencing along with those already sentenced. Education requirements vary by state; however, most correctional officers undergo corrections training.

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

Probation Officer

Probation officers supervise people who receive sentences of probation instead of incarceration. They meet regularly with probationers to ensure their compliance with the conditions of probation and document their progress. Probation officer jobs typically require a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related major.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $60,250

Private Investigator

Private investigators search for financial, legal, and personal information to assist in cases. They may verify a person's identity, prove or disprove the existence of an injury for insurance claims, or locate a missing person. Some hold criminal justice degrees, though that's not always required. Most states require licensure for private detectives and investigators.

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

Arbitrator, Mediator, or Conciliator

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help opposing parties resolve conflicts before they escalate to the U.S. court system. They assist in facilitating communication between the two parties, ideally resulting in mutually beneficial terms. They typically hold a bachelor's degree and years of experience in a field like criminal justice, business, or law.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $49,410

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

Continuing Education

Bachelor's degree-holders may already qualify for senior roles in law enforcement since a bachelor's degree exceeds the minimum education requirement for many jobs in this field. Earning a master's degree in criminal justice can lead to work within specialized agencies like the FBI, DEA, or Secret Service, or in administrative law enforcement positions.

Students may also earn a master's degree in criminal justice to qualify for jobs in a closely related specialization. For example, an advanced criminal justice degree can lead to careers in emergency management, policy analysis, forensic examination, or cybersecurity.

Furthermore, professionals who earn a doctorate can become judges or hearing officers.

How Do I Choose Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Program?

Cost

A variety of elements impact the cost of an online bachelor's in criminal justice, including whether a school is public or private and whether a student qualifies for in-state or out-of-state tuition rates. Many online programs disregard residency status and offer set or in-state tuition rates for all enrollees. Students should also factor in cost considerations for expenses like textbooks, learning supplies, and access to campus amenities.

Program Format

Most online bachelor's in criminal justice include synchronous or asynchronous coursework, though others may combine the two methods or enable students to choose their preference. Many online programs also condense the full curriculum of the bachelor's degree into an accelerated schedule or offer a choice of full- or part-time enrollment.

Location

While the majority of online programs are accessible from anywhere, their location still matters. Some bachelor's in criminal justice may require occasional in-person attendance for orientations or workshops, or offer sought-after internships in field-specific hot spots, like Washington, D.C. Additionally, residing near campus can enable students to pursue a hybrid program or take advantage of the campus library, technology lab, or sports complex.

Accreditation

The importance of choosing an accredited college or university cannot be overstated. Only schools that endure the rigorous accreditation process through the Department of Education receive this designation. While some bachelor's in criminal justice programs formerly received programmatic accreditation through the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, no current accreditation process exists for this program.

Student Support

Student support for online degrees should be as comprehensive as the support for on-campus programs. An online bachelor's in criminal justice should offer accessible technical and technology support. Additionally, an online bachelor's should also include career services, tutoring, and virtual meetings with instructors. Mentorships, internships, and alumni events are also critical to students' success in an online program.

2022 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

#1

University of Central Florida

School Information
Location Orlando, Florida
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 72%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $179
Out of State | $716

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree-Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | N/A

UCF's online bachelor's in criminal justice program includes coursework and interactive training. Learners study legal prosecution and the history of crime in America. Students also learn how to analyze data. 

Enrollees take 33 credits of core courses and 18 credits of criminal justice electives. Some electives include an internship. UCF also offers six undergraduate certificates in criminal justice. Students can add these certificates to their degree. Applicants need at least 30 undergraduate credits and a 2.0 GPA.

View School Profile
#2

Florida International University

School Information
Location Miami, Florida
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 63%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $229
Out of State | $346

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree-Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

FIU's online bachelor's in criminal justice program prepares students for careers in justice and public safety. This program requires 18 credits of criminal justice electives. Students also complete 18 credits of core courses, including criminological theory and professional development in criminal justice. The program concludes with a capstone.

High-school graduates should submit their transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Applicants with 75-90 transferable credits may apply for FIU's combined bachelor's/master's degree in criminal justice.

View School Profile
#3

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $390 per credit for full-time learners; $455 per credit for part-time learners
Out of State | $390 per credit for full-time learners; $455 per credit for part-time learners

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree-Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

Liberty offers an online bachelor's in criminal justice for law enforcement officers and other working professionals. Students can choose from one of nine specializations. Options include juvenile justice, homeland security, and crime scene investigation.

Each course lasts eight weeks. Learners can finish the program in 3.5 years. Prospective students may transfer in up to 75% of the degree's requirements. Applicants need a 2.0 or better in their previous coursework.

View School Profile
#4

Southern New Hampshire University

School Information
Location Manchester, New Hampshire
Admission Rate 88%
Graduation Rate 44%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $320
Out of State | $320

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree-Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

SNHU's online bachelor's in criminal justice provides deep knowledge of justice theories along with training in complex interpersonal skills. The curriculum offers seven concentrations. Options include corrections, substance abuse, and security management.

The curriculum also includes an embedded criminal justice communication certificate. SNHU accepts up to 90 transfer credits, including up to 12 credits for law enforcement training. New students may begin at any one of the six annual, eight-week terms.

View School Profile
#5

San Diego State University

School Information
Location San Diego, California
Admission Rate 34%
Graduation Rate 73%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $431-$450
Out of State | $431-$450

Credits to Graduate
48-66

Program Information
Degree-Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | N/A

SDSU offers a bachelor's in criminal justice online. Applicants need an associate in the administration of justice or its equivalent. The school breaks each semester into two blocks. Students who take two courses each block can earn their degree in 22 months.

SDSU's curriculum requires 18 core course units, six public administration units, and 12 criminal justice elective units. Students may also add a minor in public administration. Applicants need a 2.8 GPA. Prospective enrollees must have completed all general education and lower-division major requirements.

View School Profile
#6

Sam Houston State University

School Information
Location Huntsville, Texas
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 54%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 53% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $244
Out of State | $244

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree-Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

SHSU offers a BA and a BS in criminal justice online. Students in the BA program take a foreign language. Enrollees pursuing a BS earn additional credits in the social sciences. Major courses include global terrorism, victimology, and white collar crime. Students may also complete an internship.

First-year applicants need a high school diploma. They must also submit either SAT or ACT scores or a waiver. New students may begin in the fall, summer, or spring semester.

View School Profile
#7

Averett University

School Information
Location Danville, Virginia
Admission Rate 24%
Graduation Rate 100%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $480
Out of State | $480

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree-Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | N/A

A private university located in Danville, Virginia, Averett provides an online bachelor of science in sociology and criminal justice. Students can choose one of five degree minors. Options include business administration, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

Degree-seekers take one course every eight weeks and can graduate in two years. Applicants need college and work experience. They also need a combined college/high school GPA of 2.0 or better. Averett offers up to 36 credits for military or academy training.

Visit Site
#8

Florida Atlantic University

School Information
Location Boca Raton, Florida
Admission Rate 63%
Graduation Rate 50%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $203
Out of State | $722

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree-Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

FAU offers an online bachelor's in criminal justice that trains students for graduate study or law enforcement careers. The curriculum requires 27-30 upper-level credits in criminal justice. Courses include victimology, cooperative education, and serial homicide.

Students may complete up to 12 credits of a master's degree in criminal justice in their senior year. Applicants should submit ACT or SAT scores. They should also submit a high school or GED diploma.

View School Profile
#9

California State University-San Bernardino

School Information
Location San Bernardino, California
Admission Rate 69%
Graduation Rate 55%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 33% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $420
Out of State | $420

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree-Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | N/A

CSUSB's bachelor's in criminal justice program requires 21 units of criminal justice and 18 units of electives. Courses include gangs, forensic profiling, and wildlife crime. Learners can complete the program in 18 months.

Transfer students with at least 60 units at a community college or university may apply. They need a 2.7 GPA or better. Applicants must have completed all prerequisite courses.

View School Profile
#10

University of Maryland Global Campus

School Information
Location Adelphi, Maryland
Graduation Rate 15%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 90% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $306
Out of State | $499

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree-Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

UMGC's bachelor's in criminal justice program requires 120 credits. Enrollees take 33 credits of major courses. These include criminal investigation, juvenile delinquency, and drugs and crime. UMGC offers some courses in a hybrid format.

Learners can reduce the coursework required for UMGC's master's degree in management through the school's vertical pathway. Applicants need a high school or GED diploma. UMGC accepts up to 90 transfer credits. 

View School Profile

Image Source: Ignatiev, Getty Images

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.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.