Fastest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

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While many protective service fields have their own internal training programs, a bachelor's in criminal justice can give graduates a competitive advantage over other applicants. Accelerated programs allow learners to fast track their training, making it an attractive path into the field.

Even as crime rates decrease in the U.S., according to Pew Research Center, some people continue to demand more public safety. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 8% growth in protective services jobs between 2020 and 2030. These professionals made median annual wages of $46,590 in May 2021, about equal to the median annual wage of $45,760 for all occupations.

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Here, we explore accelerated bachelor's in criminal justice programs and what they offer students during and after their studies. We take a look at the application process and some of the considerations for prospective students. We also rank the fastest online bachelor's in criminal justice programs featured at the top online schools.

How Fast Can I Get an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Degree?

An accelerated degree in criminal justice can cut traditional study times down by 1-2 years. Students in these programs still complete the standard 120 credits, but they do it in 2-3 years instead of four years. This is typically accomplished by condensing 14- to 16-week sessions down to 7- or 8-week sessions.

Course loads depend on the school and student. To finish a program in about two years, students need to take 4-5 classes within each of the five annual eight-week sessions. Standard three-credit courses require about three hours of class time and six hours of study each week, so accelerated students may need to commit even more time than that.

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

The training in a bachelor's in criminal justice focuses on crime and criminal behavior. Students learn about the criminal justice system and advanced criminology while also completing practical training via internships and crime scene simulations. These programs attract ethical and moral problem-solvers who want to support their communities.

When choosing an accelerated program, prospective students need to consider how strenuous and challenging the courses and work load can get. Typically, these programs appeal most to learners with great academic strengths and a solid work ethic. Furthermore, an accelerated degree in criminal justice may not have the same number of specialization options, though tracks like case management, law enforcement, corrections, and forensic science may be available.

An online bachelor's program in criminal justice may also award different degree types, including a BS and BA. BS programs tend to target more analytical training, whereas BA programs feature more flexibility in electives. BA programs may also feature a foreign language requirement.

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

What Courses Will I Take in an Accelerated Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Degree Program?

Criminology

This course explores the causes and effects of criminal behavior in people. Students examine criminal justice and behavioral theories, including the environmental and social influences on criminals.

Correctional Rehabilitation

In this course, students study the correctional rehabilitation system and the institutions that play a role in it. The training analyzes the leading corrections processes and its effects on law offenders of different ages.

Justice and Society

Students in this course learn about the function of criminal justice in society. They examine the different processes and institutions involved in creating and enforcing laws and the impacts they have on society.

Police Process

This course examines the structures and processes of community policing. Students look at the leading models for crime prevention, plus the most popular theories and analyses.

Criminal Law

In this course, students learn about the history and development of the country's criminal law system. They also learn about the political institutions involved in managing criminal laws and the processes for creating, enforcing, and changing laws.

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

Admission requirements depend on the competitiveness of the school and program. The minimum requirement for a bachelor's in criminal justice is a high school or GED diploma. For an accelerated degree in criminal justice, prospective students may need a minimum 3.0 GPA or course prerequisites that show they are capable of success in a challenging program.

In an online bachelor's in criminal justice, applicants likely need to meet the minimum technological requirements as well.

Application

After collecting all the requirements for their undergraduate application, prospective students can submit the components to their school's online portals. To save time and manage multiple applications, applicants may use one of the college application systems.

Test Scores

Schools may request scores from college entrance exams as part of the application. SAT and ACT results can help schools sort through applicants. In many cases, prospective students receive test waivers, which allow them to forgo these tests.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendationplay an essential role in the application process, providing schools with relevant insight about the applicants. The best letters come from school counselors or teachers and employers in relevant subjects and professions. Applications often call for between 1-3 letters.

Essays

Prospective students can often showcase their writing abilities and discuss more about themselves in the form of college application essays. Schools may give students freedom in these essays or provide them with prompts to follow. The most common essays include personal statements, statements of interest, and statements of purpose.

Official Transcripts

All prospective students must submit official transcripts, but these records are especially important for those in accelerated programs. Transcripts provide details on previous training and grades, which help schools determine an applicant's academic capability. For transfer students, transcripts help schools assign transfer credits.

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

Career Outlook

Criminal justice professionals are in demand, even in the safest communities. The flexibility of the training, which students can use to pursue many career paths, also helps make it one of the most popular college majors in the social sciences department.

The BLS projects 8% growth for protective service occupations between 2020 and 2030, which is about the same as the average 8% growth rate for all occupations. The BLS also projects 9% growth for legal occupations during that period.

Discover how a bachelor's in criminal justice can transform your future. Learn more about criminal justice careers.

Career Paths

Police and Detectives

Police and detectives enforce laws and protect people and property within their communities. They respond to emergencies, investigate crimes and suspicious activities, and report on their findings to management and the courts. While requirements vary by organization, most of these professionals must complete an academy training program for employment.

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


Probation Officers

Probation officers oversee the rehabilitation process of law offenders by managing programs and reporting on their progress. They connect offenders with services and support professionals, conduct drug tests, and evaluate performances. Candidates often must complete a government training program for employment.

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


Correctional Officers

Correctional officers maintain the safety of prisoners, staff, and visitors in prisons and jails. They supervise and report on all activities, conduct inspections and searches, and provide escorts throughout the facilities. These professionals may need to complete a training academy program for employment.

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


Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

These professionals mediate communications between parties to find a suitable middle ground. They oversee the discussions and manage the legal ramifications, including applying laws and preparing the appropriate paperwork. Depending on the position and employer, professionals may need to complete additional and independent training programs.

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


Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants support lawyers in many ways, including completing research and paperwork. They may arrange and manage evidence and exhibits for cases and handle communications with trial participants. Prospective paralegals can pursue certification to improve their credentials and employment chances.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $56,230

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

Continuing Education

Graduates with a bachelor's in criminal justice enjoy many continuing education options. The most direct route takes them into programs like a master's in criminal justice, a master's in crime scene investigation, or a master's in criminology.

Graduates might pursue a more specialized avenue, such as a master's in law enforcement administration or a master's in forensic science. A master's in behavioral psychology might also be available in some cases. For those who do not want a full graduate degree, a graduate paralegal certificate program may be appealing.

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

Cost

When using cost as a comparative tool, prospective students can start by comparing online and on-campus programs. They may want to weigh the differences between in-state and out-of-state programs as well, plus public and private school tuition rates. For accelerated programs, applicants need to consider how their income may be impacted.

Program Format

To find the ideal program format, prospective students should compare synchronous vs. asynchronous delivery methods and the scheduling demands of full-time vs. part-time students. In accelerated bachelor's degree programs, students take more courses in a shorter period. Most online programs run asynchronously.

Location

Location should be a consideration for all prospective students. While location has a different impact depending on how learners choose between online and on-campus programs, it still plays a role. Online learners may need to attend classes on campus, or they may want to use the school's facilities.

Accreditation

Prospective students should ensure their school of interest has online college accreditation. By attending a school without this, learners may not have access to federal financial aid and their credentials may not be respected. Though not mandatory, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences accredits criminal justice programs.

Student Support

By looking for schools with high quality student services, learners can ensure they will have access to various support channels if needed. Online student services, such as career services, college mentorships, mental health services, and academic support programs can greatly enhance a learner's experience. In-program internships and practicums also add multiple layers of support.

Fastest Accredited Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1 Fastest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

  • Little Rock, AR
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $280

Out of State | $280

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

UA Little Rock offers many degree completion programs, including the BA in criminal justice for students with prior college credit. The major introduces students to concepts like corrections and research methods. 

Students use elective credit for specialized training in areas such as cybercrime. They also learn crime prevention strategies and security management techniques. 

This accelerated degree in criminal justice allows students to participate in an internship. Seven-week classes quicken degree completion. Applicants must possess the prerequisite coursework and a minimum 2.25 GPA.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,495
Out-of-state
$18,750
Retention Rate
66%
Admission Rate
66%
Students Enrolled
9,581
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 Fastest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Ashland University

  • Ashland, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $370

Out of State | $370

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

Located in Ohio, AU offers a BS in criminal justice with five specialization tracks. AU has a very generous transfer policy, allowing transfer students to complete their degrees in less time. The school also awards credit for training in law enforcement and corrections.

Students can choose a generalist track or a more specialized one like law enforcement administration or correctional administration. Seven-week courses can allow students to finish the degree faster.

AU accepts all credits with at least a C- grade from a regionally accredited school. Transfer students must possess a minimum cumulative 2.25 GPA.

Average Tuition
In-state
$20,950
Out-of-state
$20,950
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
71%
Students Enrolled
5,091
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 Fastest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

New Mexico State University-Main Campus

  • Las Cruces, NM
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $395

Out of State | $395

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

NMSU's BA in criminal justice (CJ) is a degree completion program. Students can take the program's upper division courses online. The curriculum consists of 33 credits that blend theoretical knowledge and applied learning.

Students examine topics like criminal law and advanced research methods. Learners can complete internships in their communities to receive on-the-job experience. 

Online learners can use the CJ mentoring center to explore job opportunities and get advice on mentorship and internships. Admission to the accelerated degree in criminal justice requires a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA and all college transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,875
Out-of-state
$21,864
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
55%
Students Enrolled
14,296
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 Fastest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Pfeiffer University

  • Misenheimer, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $460

Out of State | $460

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

Pfeiffer, located in North Carolina, offers a suite of degree completion programs. The BS in criminal justice requires 48 credits of upper-division coursework. Students learn about corrections, criminal law, and forensic evidence. 

The sweeping number of elective courses include cybersecurity and disaster management and planning. Students can also pursue an internship to get real experience at an agency.

Enrollees can earn their degrees faster by transferring up to 75 credits and taking eight-week sessions. Admission to this bachelor's in criminal justice requires all college transcripts for transfer applicants.

Average Tuition
In-state
$29,800
Out-of-state
$29,800
Retention Rate
59%
Admission Rate
64%
Students Enrolled
1,277
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Fastest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Lancaster Bible College

  • Lancaster, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online or Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $440

Out of State | $440

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

LBC offers an accelerated BA in criminal justice for busy nontraditional students. The program offers focus areas in legal studies, victim advocacy, law enforcement, and forensic investigation.

Six-week courses allow students to finish the BA faster. How long a student takes to complete this accelerated criminal justice program largely depends on transfer credits. Students may also get up to 30 credits for life experience. 

All enrollees pay the same affordable tuition regardless of where they live. Applicants must have a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA for transfer applicants.

Average Tuition
In-state
$25,162
Out-of-state
$25,162
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
96%
Students Enrolled
2,172
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

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.

#6 Fastest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Madonna University

  • Livonia, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $500

Out of State | $500

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

MU welcomes transfer students who want to earn a BS in criminal justice entirely online. The completion timeframe varies depending on the credits transferred. This major requires students to earn 45 credits in core courses that explore topics like juvenile justice and Constitutional law.

Students can use electives to learn about subjects such as forensic psychology and criminal investigation procedures. Participants get online peer tutoring and have easy access to professors. 

Students receive credit for military experience in this accelerated degree in criminal justice. Admission requires a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA for transfer applicants.

Average Tuition
In-state
$23,100
Out-of-state
$23,100
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
75%
Students Enrolled
2,992
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
61% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#7 Fastest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

San Diego State University

  • San Diego, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year

In State | $8,174

Out of State | $8,174 plus $396 more per unit

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

Students can earn the BS in criminal justice at SDSU in just 15 months. Enrollees can build on an associate degree or significant credits. Students examine issues like investigation and reporting and administrative behavior. 

The program offers an optional minor in public administration. Students in this program also learn about social justice issues, such as accessibility. 

Eight-week courses can help students finish their bachelor's in criminal justice faster. Applicants must possess at least 60 transferable semester units and a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.8.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
34%
Students Enrolled
35,544
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#8 Fastest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Portland State University

  • Portland, OR
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $279

Out of State | $279

Credits to Graduate

180

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

PSU's criminology and criminal justice bachelor's program enrolls students with prior college experience. The core curriculum covers topics such as policing in America and crime control strategies.

Students can gain more specialized training through elective classes like applied crime mapping. All enrollees complete an internship placement at an agency in their community. 

Five-week courses can help students quickly move through this online bachelor's in criminal justice. Admission requires at least 20 transferable semester credits and a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.25.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,462
Out-of-state
$21,528
Retention Rate
74%
Admission Rate
96%
Students Enrolled
25,321
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#9 Fastest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Hampton University

  • Hampton, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $300

Out of State | $300

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

Virginia-based HU delivers an accelerated BS program in criminal justice online. The major explores issues like juvenile delinquency, criminal law, and victimology. An internship gives learners an opportunity to apply lessons learned in the workplace. 

Enrollees can transfer credits from regionally accredited institutions. Students can also earn credit for military training, for life experience, and through exams. The degree completion timeframe varies for each student depending on these two factors.

Transfer applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.0.

Average Tuition
In-state
$24,950
Out-of-state
$24,950
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
36%
Students Enrolled
4,293
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
11% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#10 Fastest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Tarleton State University

  • Stephenville, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online or Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year

In State | $9,808

Out of State | $22,110

Credits to Graduate

120

Program Information

Program Accreditation | N/A

Students can complete the BAAS in criminal justice administration at Tarleton in just two years. This degree is intended for working professionals with some criminal justice experience. Students accelerate degree completion by transferring prior college credits. Enrollees can also earn up to 33 credits for relevant work experience like some military training.

The accelerated degree in criminal justice explores topics such as homeland security, criminal justice ethics, and rules of criminal evidence. An internship option provides hands-on training. Applicants must possess at least 30 transferable credits and a minimum 2.0 GPA.

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,526
Out-of-state
$14,296
Retention Rate
65%
Admission Rate
56%
Students Enrolled
13,166
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Popular Online Criminal Justice Programs

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

Frequently Asked Questions About Fastest Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Can I get a bachelor's degree in one year?

Yes. You can earn a bachelor's degree in one year through various degree-completion programs. Students in these programs can bring in up to three years worth of transfer credits to reduce their study times.

In a true accelerated degree in criminal justice, however, the quickest graduation times are about two years. Students in these bachelor's programs must complete the full 120 credits for the degree, so it is not possible to reduce study times down to one year.

Are accelerated degree classes worth it?

Yes. Accelerated degree classes are very worthwhile for students who put a value on their time. For example, students who need to complete their training and enter the workforce quickly will find accelerated training beneficial.

While a bachelor's in criminal justice is not always required for protective services employment, the credentials can help graduates secure jobs and advance in their careers more easily. Through the flexible and valuable online training, learners may even study while employed.

Are accelerated bachelor's degrees as valuable as traditional degrees?

Yes. An accelerated bachelor's degree in criminal justice is just as valuable as a traditional degree in the discipline. Accelerated programs cover the same materials as standard programs in a shorter time. Though they are usually more challenging, the fast graduation times make them worth it for many students.

In the eyes of an employer, a candidate who completed an accelerated online bachelor's in criminal justice may appear more qualified and capable than traditional students. After all, these graduates demonstrated that they can handle heavy workloads with success.

Is an accelerated bachelor's degree in criminal justice right for me?

Determining if an accelerated bachelor's degree in criminal justice is the right choice requires you to evaluate if you can handle the heavy workload. Students in these programs study up to twice as fast as students in traditional programs, which can mean twice the workload in a shorter time.

In addition to the large number of classes, shorter breaks, and more projects, you need to think about your home and work scheduling needs. An accelerated program can dominate a student's schedule, leaving little time for work and leisure.

Are accelerated degree programs affordable?

Yes. An accelerated degree in criminal justice is typically going to cost the same as a traditional program. Most schools charge by credit and offer several financial aid options to support students and make their training more affordable.

There are even programs that charge flat tuition rates per semester or year. This allows students in accelerated programs to fit in more courses in a year and save money. To qualify for heavier course loads, students may need to get special permission from school administrators.

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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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