Best Online Criminology Programs of 2021

This page delves into the best online bachelor's in criminology programs. Discover different programs and careers to find your best fit.

portrait of Bethanny Parker
by Bethanny Parker

Published on December 22, 2021 · Updated on April 27, 2022

Share this Article 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?

A bachelor's in criminology is a four-year degree that helps students understand crime and how society reacts to crime. Students learn about the theories of crime and the relationships between law and society.

College costs an average of $35,720 per year, including expenses such as room and board. Tuition alone averages $9,580 per year for in-state tuition at a public college. Out-of-state tuition and tuition at private schools usually runs much higher. Some top online schools charge lower tuition rates, but not all do.

According to Payscale data from Dec. 2020, bachelor's in criminology graduates earn an average base salary of $51,000 per year. As of July 2021, bachelor's in criminal justice degree-holders make $68,000 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for sociologists (including criminologists) will grow 5% from 2020-2030. This projection is slightly slower than average.

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

Criminologists need good problem-solving and computer skills. These skills also serve students well in a bachelor's in criminology program. Students also need to be organized and have good time management skills.

A bachelor's in criminology program requires at least 120 credits and takes about four years to complete. Some schools allow students to choose a concentration within their bachelor's in criminology program. Common concentrations include:

Some programs may require labs or internships. Check with your admissions counselor to learn about program requirements.

You can earn either a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS) in criminology. A BA usually requires a foreign language in the general education requirements. The BS typically requires additional science courses instead of a foreign language.

Most online bachelor's in criminology programs occur 100% online, with no in-person requirements. However, in-person requirements vary by school. Some courses may feature labs that students must complete in person.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Degree Programs.

Best Online Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting Programs Best Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology Programs Best Online Bachelor's in Behavioral Psychology Programs

Popular Online Bachelor's 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 Bachelor's in Criminology Program?

Communication Skills for Criminal Justice

This course focuses on communication skills for corrections officers and law enforcement. Students work on their interpersonal communication skills, learn to write reports, and practice interviewing suspects.

Criminology and Public Policy

Students enrolled in this course learn how criminologists impact public policy development in the real world. Learners explore deviance theories and social control. The course also covers the relationships between public policies, civil liberties, and the constitution.

Data-based Policing Strategies

In this course, students learn how data evolved with regard to policing strategies. They examine the benefits and challenges of data analysis in creating effective policing strategies. They also learn how knowledge gained through data can help prevent crime.

Crime Analysis and Solutions

This course teaches students the methods used in crime research to determine policing strategies' effectiveness. Students use common technologies and tools to examine trends and patterns in criminal activity.

Prevention of Crime

Students enrolled in this course practice using their criminal theory knowledge to determine how it helps prevent crime within various communities. They examine the relationships between proven interventions, environmental design, and criminological research in preventing crime.

What are Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Criminology Program?

Admission requirements vary by school. However, each school's requirements typically do not differ for online and in-person programs. No matter which school you want to attend, the admissions process starts with an application. Other common requirements include test scores, high school transcripts, essays, and recommendation letters.


Most schools have an electronic college application that you can submit online. You often can create an account and save the application if you cannot complete it in one session. In addition, you can submit applications to many schools at once with a multi-school application called the Common App. Most schools require an application fee.

Test Scores

Many schools require applicants to submit test scores from college entrance exams. You may need a minimum score on the SAT or ACT for acceptance. Some schools accept students with lower scores but require them to complete extra courses in math and/or writing. These remedial courses help prepare you for college but do not count toward degree credits.

Letters of Recommendation

Some schools may require letters of recommendation. Usually, if you just graduated high school, you should ask your high school teachers for letters of recommendation. Be sure to ask teachers who have nice things to say about you. If you have been out of school for a while, it is better to get your recommendation letters from someone at work. For example, you may ask your supervisor.


Often, you need to write a college application essay as part of the admissions process. The average essay length is 400-600 words, but this varies by school. Be sure to follow the guidelines provided, including topic requirements. Some schools give you a few topics to choose from. Others let you come up with your own topic.

Official Transcripts

You'll need to request your official high school transcripts, as well as transcripts from any college you've attended. Schools may list a minimum GPA needed for admission. Prospective schools also evaluate your college transcripts for transfer credit. If you transfer from a community college or other institution to a four-year school, the new school determines whether any of your existing credits can apply toward your criminology degree.

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

Career Outlook

The job outlook for bachelor's in criminology graduates varies depending on the position. The BLS projects the job outlook for probation officers to grow slower than average at 4%. The BLS also projects jobs for court and municipal clerks, police and detectives, and private detectives and investigators to grow 6%, 7%, and 13%, respectively.

According to Dec. 2021 Payscale data, bachelor's in criminology graduates earn an average base salary of $62,000, which compares to $65,000 for all bachelor's degree-holders.

Court clerks, probation officers, police, and detectives often work in government. Private detectives can work for investigation, guard, or armored car services. Substance misuse counselors often work in outpatient mental health or substance misuse centers.

See where a bachelor's in criminology can take you. Learn more about criminology careers.

Career Paths

Police and Detectives

Police officers and detectives respond to both emergency and nonemergency calls. They monitor traffic and issue citations for traffic infractions. They also serve arrest warrants and arrest those suspected of committing crimes. Police officers and detectives usually need to complete a police academy training course and on-the-job training.

Median Annual Salary: $67,290

Probation Officers

Probation officers rehabilitate people who have violated the law and are either in custody, on probation, or on parole. They talk to parolees and probationers, and offenders' friends and relatives, to evaluate their progress. They offer resources such as job training assistance to help offenders get back on their feet.

Median Annual Salary: $55,690

Private Detectives and Investigators

Private detectives and investigators gather information by conducting interviews and searching public records, such as court records. They gather evidence and document it carefully so that it will be admissible in court. They may conduct surveillance to gather more evidence. They also check if defendants have a criminal history or civil judgments.

Median Annual Salary: $53,320

Substance Abuse Counselors

Substance abuse counselors work with people who have substance use disorders. These people may live with drug addiction, alcoholism, or eating disorders. Substance abuse counselors evaluate their clients' physical and mental health, along with any problematic behavior. They determine whether they are ready for treatment and what that treatment should include.

Median Annual Salary: $47,660

Court Clerks

Court clerks perform routine tasks such as collecting data, maintaining records, and providing information to clients. They prepare orders, bills, claims, and reports. They also answer customers' questions while not sharing any legal advice. They locate, file, and maintain written or electronic records.

Median Annual Salary: $36,920

Criminology Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Criminal Justice Careers Psychology Careers Forensic Science Careers

Continuing Education

People with a bachelor's in criminology may opt to continue their education by earning a master's degree in criminology or criminal justice. They may even decide to earn a doctorate in criminal justice. This degree prepares students for law enforcement leadership positions.

With a master's degree in criminology or criminal justice, graduates are eligible for positions as detectives, cybersecurity specialists, and forensic scientists. Graduates with a doctorate in criminal justice can tackle research and policy development positions or advance in law enforcement.

How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Criminology Program?


For students attending a public, four-year college or university, the cost of attendance averages $25,864 per year. So, students completing a bachelor's degree in four years pay an average $103,456 in total. These figures consider the total cost of college, including tuition, fees, supplies, books, and room and board. When comparing costs, keep in mind that some schools charge lower tuition for online programs.

Program Format

You should also consider the program format when deciding where to earn your online bachelor's in criminology. Some programs are synchronous, while others are asynchronous. Asynchronous programs allow you to log in whenever it is convenient for you. Also consider whether the program is part-time, full-time, or accelerated. Accelerated programs allow you to finish sooner.


When choosing between a local on-campus or an online program, check with the online school if it requires in-person components. Some programs have in-person labs or practicums. If your program is 100% online, then the school's location does not matter.


Most schools are regionally accredited by a third-party accreditation agency. This type of accreditation is very important because it is hard to transfer credits from an unaccredited school. Some schools also hold national accreditation for specific programs. The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) publishes a list of ACJS certified programs.

Student Support

Student support services play an important role in a student's success. Check with your school to see which services it offers. Many schools offer mentorship programs, academic advising, and tutoring. Some help you find internships. Online students can often access the same student support services as their on-campus peers.

2021 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Criminology Programs

Rankings compiled by 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.

Best Online Bachelor's in Criminology Programs

  1. University of Florida Online

    Gainesville, FL



    UF Online offers a bachelor of arts in criminology that provides students with the theories and methods for studying the intersections of crime, law, and society. Graduates with online criminology degrees can pursue jobs as criminal investigators, probation officers, and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors.

    UF Online's criminology degree requires 120 credits and takes four years to complete. Major requirements include courses in advanced principles of criminal justice, law and the legal process, and law and society.

    Each candidate must possess a high school diploma (or equivalent), a cumulative "C" average, competitive SAT or ACT scores, and a record of good conduct. A transfer applicant must hold a minimum 2.5 GPA and have completed prerequisite courses, such as intro to statistics. UF Online is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. University of South Florida

    Tampa, FL



    USF offers a bachelor of science in applied science with a concentration in criminal justice for those who possess an associate of science from a Florida public institution and want to pursue a bachelor's degree. The criminal justice concentration prepares students for graduate school or professional training related to law enforcement, detention, and corrections.

    This applied science degree with a concentration in criminal justice requires 60 credit hours beyond the associate degree. Core concentration courses include theories of criminal behavior and survey of the criminal justice system.

    Each applicant must have completed an AS degree from a Florida state or community college with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Enrollees can transfer up to 60 credits from the AS degree into the bachelor of applied science program. USF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. University of Wisconsin Whitewater

    Whitewater, WI



    UWW offers a law enforcement bachelor's degree-completion program that provides a path to a bachelor's in criminology for law enforcement officers who have been working for at least three years and already hold an associate degree. The program combines credit for prior learning, independent learning, online learning, and traditional face-to-face courses.

    Degree-seekers can complete the UWW criminology program in three years. Required major coursework includes introduction to criminology, criminal investigation, criminological theory, and forensic documentation.

    Each applicant should complete an initial expression of interest form on the program website. UWW is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  4. Florida State University

    Tallahassee, FL



    FSU offers an online bachelor's degree in criminology and criminal justice that prepares individuals for careers as child welfare caseworkers, victim advocates, private investigators, parole officers, or social services case managers. The program can also lead to further graduate studies or law school.

    This online criminology degree requires the completion of all general education credits and 36 credits in major-specific coursework. Major core courses include introduction to criminal justice, white-collar crime, the sociology of black males, and crimes against humanity.

    To graduate, each student must hold an associate of arts degree from a Florida institution or complete FSU's liberal studies requirements, earn 36 credits of criminology courses with a "C" or higher in three core courses, and maintain an overall 2.0 GPA. FSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  5. LeTourneau University

    Longview, TX



    LETU offers a bachelor of science in criminal justice that provides students with an understanding of criminal behavior and positive methods for conflict resolution, including restorative justice and alternative behavior modification incentives. Enrollees can pursue online and on-campus formats.

    This criminal justice degree requires 120 credits, including 36 credits of major coursework. Students can choose from three concentrations: criminal justice management, human trafficking, and homeland security. Required major courses include criminal law, justice and human rights, and police and the community. University requirements include theology and vocation courses.

    Each applicant must hold a high school diploma (or equivalent), a minimum 2.5 GPA, and a minimum SAT score of 1030. LETU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  6. Missouri State University

    Springfield, MO



    MSU offers a bachelor of science and bachelor of arts in criminology. The bachelor of science awards a degree more specialized in criminology, while the bachelor of arts includes liberal arts requirements like foreign languages, fine arts, and humanities with its criminology courses.

    Students must declare their major before completing 60 credits at MSU. The criminology program requires 45 credits in major requirements in addition to general education requirements. Major core courses include juvenile justice, criminal procedure, and criminal law and the courts.

    MSU admits students on a sliding scale, based on their class rank and GPA, which determines what minimum test scores they need to have on the SAT or ACT. The higher a candidate's class rank and GPA, the lower the test score threshold. MSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  7. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

    Saint Mary of the Woods, IN



    SMWC offers a bachelor of science in criminology that prepares individuals for careers in law enforcement or the criminal justice system. The program provides a social science understanding of crime and criminal behavior, along with a solid foundation in liberal arts. Students can complete the program on campus or online.

    The bachelor of science program requires 36 credits of major coursework in criminology, in addition to general education requirements. Major core courses include juvenile justice, corrections, and criminal interviewing and investigation. Students can choose from concentrations in psychology or sociology.

    Each applicant must possess a high school diploma (or equivalent) and submit their transcripts. Test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, are not required for admission but are encouraged. SMWC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  8. University of North Carolina at Wilmington

    Wilmington, NC



    UNCW offers an online bachelor of arts in criminology with concentrations in criminal justice, criminology, and public criminology. Enrollees can complete the first two concentrations entirely online, while the public criminology concentration may require some in-person classes.

    The bachelor of arts in criminology program requires 39 credits of major coursework, in addition to all general education and university requirements. Core courses include criminology, methods of social research, and sociological data analysis and interpretation. Students must also complete seminars in their chosen area of concentration.

    Each applicant must possess a high school diploma (or equivalent) and a minimum 2.5 GPA. Transfer students must have 24 credits of transferable college-level coursework. UNCW is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  9. Regis University

    Denver, CO



    Regis offers a bachelor of science in criminology that examines crime as a social phenomenon and emphasizes a sociological approach to analyzing the social, political, and environmental factors that influence crime. Regis also offers a combined bachelor's to master's program in criminology for those who plan to pursue further graduate studies and wish to save time.

    The bachelor of science in criminology requires 120 credits and takes four years to complete. Major coursework includes introduction to forensic science, crime analysis, psychology of crime, and family violence. Program electives offer courses on topics of youth violence and delinquency, homeland security, and animal exploitation.

    Each applicant must possess a high school diploma (or equivalent) and submit all previous transcripts. Regis is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  10. Arizona State University

    Scottsdale, AZ



    Based in Tempe, Arizona State University is one of the largest schools in the U.S., currently enrolling nearly 75,000 students. This leading research university offers more than 300 online degrees, including a bachelor of science in criminology and criminal justice.

    Students in this BS program explore the causes and consequences of crime, as well as the roles of agencies responsible for managing crime. The 120-credit curriculum covers topics such as introduction to policing, courts and sentencing, and statistical analysis.

    Graduates can pursue a variety of career paths, including positions as correctional officers, forensic specialists, and fraud investigators. To apply, prospective students must hold a minimum 3.0 high school GPA, rank in the top 25% of their graduating class, or meet minimum SAT or ACT score requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Criminology Programs

Is a bachelor's in criminology worth it? true

To determine whether a bachelor's in criminology is worth it, you must consider the degree's cost and the salary you expect to earn after graduation. The lower the cost of the degree and the higher the anticipated salary, the better your return on investment will be.

For example, if you can find a school that only costs $15,000 per year instead of $25,000, you can shave $40,000 off your education cost. This means your education may pay for itself faster.

What can I do with a bachelor's in criminology? true

Bachelor's in criminology graduates frequently gain employment as police officers, detectives, probation officers, or private detectives. Police officers, detectives, and probation officers typically work for the government. Police officers arrest criminals, interview suspects, and make routine traffic stops.

Private detectives and investigators may start their own investigative services. They may also work for an ongoing investigation, guard, or armored car service. They gather evidence through surveillance, interviews, and public records searches.

Are criminology majors in demand? true

The demand for criminology majors varies by job. For example, the BLS projects a 4% growth rate for probation officers and a 23% growth rate for substance abuse counselors from 2020-2030. The BLS projects 9,500 new jobs for court, municipal, and license clerks from 2020-2030. In addition, the BLS projects 4,400 new jobs for private detectives and 51,700 for police and detectives during the same period.

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

Salaries vary by job. Bachelor's in criminology graduates earn an average base pay of $62,000 per year. Police officers and detectives earn a median salary of $67,290 per year, while court clerks earn a median salary of $36,920 per year.

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

Jobs in law enforcement pay the highest salaries to those with a bachelor's in criminology. According to the BLS, detectives and criminal investigators earn a median salary of $86,940, transit and railroad police earn a median of $72,580, and police and sheriff's patrol officers earn a median of $65,540. Fish and game wardens earn a median of $58,040 per year.

Salaries for law enforcement personnel vary depending on the level of government and the job title. Those who work for the federal government earn a median income of $92,080, while those who work for the state government earn a median of $70,280. Those who work for local governments earn the least, with a median salary of $65,850.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Scholarships and Financial Aid for Online College Students Your Guide to College Loans Your Guide to the FAFSA

Featured Image: labsas / E+ / Getty Images 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.