Criminal justice is a vast field that encompasses the legal and judicial systems and several governmental agencies. Criminal justice professionals work in law enforcement, corrections, and security as detectives, lawyers, judges, security guards, and probation and police officers. While criminal justice is not among the 10 most popular undergraduate majors, many learners find these programs valuable, and many students pursue bachelor's degrees in the field.

Graduates with an online bachelor's in criminal justice can often pursue entry-level careers with federal agencies like the FBI and CIA or enter a police academy. Online students also learn skills that apply across industries, including decision-making and critical thinking under pressure. Read on to learn more about online bachelor's in criminal justice programs, including possible career options, core and elective courses, and admission requirements.

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

Coursework in an online bachelor's in criminal justice program can prepare graduates for careers in fields like corrections, law enforcement, and private security. Detail-oriented, organized, and orderly students often succeed in online criminal justice programs; however, no matter your natural traits, you can gain the hard skills and knowledge you need to succeed in the field over the course of your degree.

Like most bachelor's programs, a bachelor's in criminal justice usually requires four years of full-time study. Most criminal justice curricula consist of approximately 120 credits. These programs usually blend theory-focused classroom work with a field experience like an internship, practicum, or apprenticeship. If you have the chance, you should try to complete fieldwork, as it can prove valuable when you seek a job after graduating.

Sometimes, online bachelor's in criminal justice programs are actually concentrations within social science, humanities, law, or political science programs. At other schools, students can pursue concentrations like human services, public policy, or administration within their criminal justice program.

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Popular Online Criminal Justice Programs

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

How Do I Know If an Online Program Is Popular?

When trying to determine the popularity of an online program, prospective students can look at several different factors. Possible data points include enrollment statistics, job outlook, and graduation rate. You can use a combination of these factors to determine the overall popularity of a program.

Prospective learners can also seek out student testimonials from program graduates. You can often find student testimonials on a program's website. For a more balanced, unbiased opinion, you can find program graduates through LinkedIn.

A school's name recognition can be a reliable indicator of a program's popularity, but it's one of many factors that determine overall popularity. Make sure to consult other factors before making a decision.

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

Introduction to Criminal Justice

Students often take this survey course during their first semester, learning about the function, organization, and history of criminal justice. Possible covered topics include the court system, policing, and prisons.

Theory of Criminology

In this course, learners delve into the theory behind the different causes of crime. Many versions of this course explore the sociology and etiology of crime.

Research Methods in Criminal Justice

In this course, students learn basic research design for criminal justice. Possible topics include qualitative research, quantitative research, survey and questionnaire construction, and sampling.

Law in Criminal Justice

During this course, students learn about the Constitution and the laws that govern criminal justice professions. Many versions of this course use case studies to simulate real-world experiences.

Capstone/Thesis

Many online bachelor's in criminal justice programs culminate in a thesis, capstone project, senior seminar, or internship/practicum experience during the final semester.

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

Popular online criminal justice programs aren't necessarily any more difficult to get into than less popular programs; however, this varies by program. While there are no guarantees, If you can demonstrate strength in each of the requirements below, you should have a good chance of getting into the program of your choice.

Application

All online programs, no matter the discipline, require applicants to fill out an application form, which collects background information on each prospective student. In some cases, you can apply to multiple schools at once through application systems like the Common App and Coalition App.

Test Scores

Some online bachelor's in criminal justice programs require applicants to send in ACT or SAT scores. Other schools eliminate this requirement or maintain test-optional policies, which allow prospective students to submit standardized test scores only if they strengthen their applications.

Letters of Recommendation

Most online bachelor's in criminal justice programs require all applicants to submit 1-3 letters of recommendation. If you are an adult learner, you can ask professional supervisors to write these letters on your behalf. If you are a recent high school graduate, you can ask former high school teachers.

Essays

Most online bachelor's programs require applicants to write and submit 1-3 short essays, often 500-700 words. Typical prompts include a statement of purpose or questions about career goals or a time you overcame a challenging situation.

Official Transcripts

All online bachelor's programs require applicants to send transcripts from prior secondary and postsecondary schools they have attended. If you have completed an associate degree at an accredited community college, you should be able to earn approximately 60 transfer credits.

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

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2021, protective services occupations paid a median annual wage of $46,590, higher than the median annual wage for all careers ($45,760). Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS projects 8% job growth for protective services careers, which is comparable to the projected growth rate for all careers during that period.

As such, careers for bachelor's degree-holders in criminal justice appear stable regarding salary potential and growth prospects over the next decade. While criminal justice is not among the 10 most popular undergraduate majors, many students pursuing the degree generally feel a strong calling toward their potential careers.

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

Career Paths

Police Officer or Detective

Police officers and detectives work in police precincts investigating crime, solving cases, and protecting people who live in the community. They usually need a bachelor's degree and must complete a rigorous academy training program before qualifying for jobs.

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

Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists help rehabilitate people on parole or probation. They might meet with these people and work with them to reenter society. They usually need a bachelor's degree and must often pass several exams before qualifying for positions.

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

Correctional Officer or Bailiff

Correctional officers supervise people in prison, while bailiffs maintain order and provide security in courtrooms. These careers require a high school diploma and physical strength, but a bachelor's degree in a relevant field like criminal justice can provide an advantage when competing for jobs.

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

Private Investigator

Private investigators work for clients on various cases, often searching for information that will settle personal cases concerning financial or legal matters. They can work for agencies or themselves as freelancers. They usually need relevant experience in the field, and the knowledge provided by a bachelor's degree in criminal justice can help them succeed.

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

Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians collect and analyze evidence at crime scenes. They need a relevant bachelor's degree and significant on-the-job training, as they must master the forensic science tools required to analyze evidence properly.

Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $61,930

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

Continuing Education

The prevalence of continuing education for bachelor's degree-holders in criminal justice depends on the career they aspire to. A bachelor's degree actually exceeds educational requirements for some positions in the field, including security guard, bailiff, private investigator, and some police positions.

However, a master's degree in criminal justice can help you qualify for higher-paying, more advanced roles within federal agencies like the FBI, CIA, and DEA. Through an advanced degree program, you may also be able to pursue adjacent fields like cybersecurity, forensic analysis, and emergency management.

Should I Choose a Popular Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Degree Program?

Choosing a popular program can provide several benefits, including increased funding, the support of a bigger peer and alumni network, and more student testimonials to consult.

However, you should not choose a program solely for its popularity. In less popular programs, you may be able to receive increased one-on-one attention from professors and stand out more. Consider what you need most from a program before making a decision.

Additional Program Factors to Consider

Cost

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), during the 2019-2020 academic year, one year of a bachelor's degree program at a public, in-state four-year university cost an average of $21,035. Enrolling online can help reduce true program costs, as you can avoid paying fees like room and board, transportation, and parking.

Program Format

Online learners must choose between synchronous learning, which involves live, scheduled courses, and asynchronous learning, which does not. They must also pick between full-time, part-time, and accelerated enrollment based on program availability.

Location

Even if you go to college online, you may want to enroll at a nearby school. Many criminal justice programs offer students the opportunity to complete an internship, and it may be easier to arrange a placement at a site near campus.

Accreditation

Accreditation is a third-party review process that speaks to the quality of a school's programs and services. You should try to only enroll at schools that hold accreditation. Otherwise, you cannot receive federal financial aid, and employers may not hire you.

Student Support

Especially for online learners, student support can make all the difference in a program. Before enrolling, check to see if your school offers student services like tutoring, internship placements, networking events, mentor matching, and career services.

Most Popular Accredited Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

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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.

The school programs listed in this ranking were selected due to their popularity among students — identified by the percentage of applicants who enrolled at a school after being offered admission. These programs were then ranked based on their overall academic quality and online offerings. To learn more about our different rankings, read our ranking methodology.

#1

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

School Information
Location Little Rock, Arkansas
Admission Rate 66%
Graduation Rate 43%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $280
Out of State | $280

Credits to Graduate
120

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

UA Little Rock offers a popular criminal justice degree with courses in an accelerated, asynchronous format. Learners complete courses in seven weeks each.

Before applying to the program, candidates must earn at least 12 credits at the school, which includes taking two composition courses. Applicants must also hold at least a 2.25 GPA. The curriculum includes 15 hours of elective courses, which include options such as cybercrime, juvenile delinquency, terrorism, and crime prevention.

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#2

Campbellsville University

School Information
Location Campbellsville, Kentucky
Admission Rate 70%
Graduation Rate 36%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 77% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $410
Out of State | $410

Credits to Graduate
120

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

CU's bachelor's in criminal justice program allows students to learn online in an asynchronous format with eight-week terms. The curriculum includes 46 hours of electives, so learners can tailor their degrees to their career goals. Electives include family violence, social psychology, and the fundamentals of homeland security.

Applicants must submit transcripts from all colleges and universities they previously attended. Candidates who transfer fewer than 24 credits must also submit high school transcripts.

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#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 | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $390
Out of State | $390

Credits to Graduate
120

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

Students earn Liberty's online bachelor's in criminal justice through eight-week terms and asynchronous courses. Liberty allows learners to transfer up to 75% of the credit required for this degree.

Students choose from nine specialization options, which include options like general, business administration and management, and crime scene investigation. Other options are criminal psychology, corrections and human services, and homeland security. Applicants must hold a minimum 2.0 GPA.

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#4

Ashland University

School Information
Location Ashland, Ohio
Admission Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 65%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $370
Out of State | $370

Credits to Graduate
120

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

AU offers a popular online bachelor's in criminal justice with seven-week courses and an asynchronous learning format. The school's generous transfer policy means that professional experience in corrections and law enforcement can count toward the degree.

Students may choose from five learning tracks, including criminal justice generalist, legal studies, and law enforcement administration. Students can also choose a criminology and research and a correctional administration track. Applicants must submit transcripts. Any transfer student with fewer than 30 credits must submit their high school transcripts.

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#5

Lewis University

School Information
Location Romeoville, Illinois
Admission Rate 64%
Graduation Rate 67%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 43% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $430
Out of State | $430

Credits to Graduate
128

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

Lewis offers a popular criminal justice degree with a unique focus on social justice. The curriculum includes subjects such as excessive use of force, juvenile justice policies, and community-oriented policing. Coursework also covers the causal factors of crime. 

Lewis accepts up to 72 transfer credits from accredited community colleges. Applicants must be 21 years or older, have at least a 2.0 GPA, and hold a high school diploma or GED certificate.

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#6

City University of Seattle

School Information
Location Seattle, Washington
Graduation Rate 33%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 80% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $470
Out of State | $470

Credits to Graduate
180

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

CityU earned the designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education from the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. The school offers an online bachelor's in criminal justice.

Learners study the criminal justice system as a whole and complete a capstone course in bureaupathology. CityU offers rolling admissions, but applicants should submit required documents at least 30 days before their desired start date. 

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#7

New Mexico State University-Main Campus

School Information
Location Las Cruces, New Mexico
Admission Rate 55%
Graduation Rate 48%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $395
Out of State | $395

Credits to Graduate
120

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

Full-time learners can earn NMSU's popular criminal justice degree in just three years, due to the school's accelerated schedule. Students gain access to the school's criminal justice mentoring center, which can help them launch their careers. The center helps learners find internships, mentors, and career opportunities within the field.

NMSU does not post admission requirements for online undergraduate learners. But applicants must submit their academic information, personal information, and test scores. 

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#8

Methodist University

School Information
Location Fayetteville, North Carolina
Admission Rate 63%
Graduation Rate 45%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $400
Out of State | $400

Credits to Graduate
124

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

Students working towards MU's bachelor's in criminal justice finish courses in eight-week terms that allow learners to graduate in 3.5 years. Degree candidates must complete internships at local law enforcement agencies. All other courses occur online.

Before graduation, students earn at least 120 hours of hands-on experience. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate and submit applicable transcripts to qualify for admissions. 

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#9

Texas A & M University-Commerce

School Information
Location Commerce, Texas
Admission Rate 43%
Graduation Rate 43%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 65% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Term
In State | $750, includes required course materials
Out of State | $1,500, includes required course materials

Credits to Graduate
48 in the major; 120 to graduate

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

TAMUC students can earn up to 30 credit hours toward this popular criminal justice degree for their previous law enforcement or military experience. Learners must enroll in at least two courses per seven-week term, and they can enroll in more for the same price per term. On average, degree candidates take two years to graduate.

Applicants should first complete basic college courses and gain foundational criminal justice credits through work or academic experience.

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#10

Cameron University

School Information
Location Lawton, Oklahoma
Graduation Rate 21%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $224
Out of State | $538

Credits to Graduate
124

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

This online bachelor's in criminal justice requires learners to follow a traditional semester schedule with the convenience of online learning. Degree candidates study subjects such as the theories of crime, ethics in criminal justice, and juvenile justice.

Learners finish with a capstone course that prepares them for a career in criminal justice. CU offers an open admissions policy. Any applicant with a high school diploma or GED certificate can apply. 

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Frequently Asked Questions About Popular Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Are popular online bachelor's programs more difficult to get into?

Popular programs aren't necessarily more difficult to get into than less popular ones. Each online bachelor's in criminal justice program maintains its own unique admission requirements and admits a different percentage of students. Check each program's website for statistics and the most updated requirements.

Some popular programs may be difficult to get into because of the school's name recognition or the high quality of the program. However, each program is unique, and popularity does not necessarily correlate with admission difficulty.

What are the most popular college majors?

During the 2018-2019 academic year, NCES collected data to determine the most popular college majors among undergraduate learners. Here is the top 10 list:

  1. Business (390,600 degrees awarded)
  2. Health Professions (251,400 degrees awarded)
  3. Social Sciences and History (160,600 degrees awarded)
  4. Engineering (126,700 degrees awarded)
  5. Biological and Biomedical Sciences (121,200 degrees awarded)
  6. Psychology (116,500 degrees awarded)
  7. Communications and Journalism (92,500 degrees awarded)
  8. Visual and Performing Arts (89,700 degrees awarded)
  9. Computer and Information Sciences (88,600 degrees awarded)
  10. Education (83,900 degrees awarded)

How should I choose an online degree program?

Choosing a college is a personal decision, and the criteria you should consider depend on your preferences, goals, and circumstances.

However, every online student should consider cost, delivery method, location, student services, and accreditation, among other key factors. Before committing to a specific program, you should consider what you're good at, what careers you aspire to, and any professional or familial obligations.

You may also want to consider a program's popularity. If many students have completed a specific program, you should be able to gauge its quality more efficiently.

Are the most popular online programs also the highest quality?

The most popular online programs aren't necessarily also the highest quality programs. There's usually a reason that a program has achieved popularity; however, in lesser-known programs, you might be able to receive increased one-on-one attention from professors, build stronger relationships and networks with your cohort, and stand out more in the classroom.

However, if you prefer a popular program, finding student testimonials from program alumni should be easier. You may also benefit from a larger network upon graduation, as more students have attended the program and gone on to find jobs in the field.

What jobs can I get with an online bachelor's in criminal justice?

An online bachelor's in criminal justice program prepares you for entry-level careers in fields like law, security, law enforcement, and protective services. Possible job titles for bachelor's degree-holders in the field include police officer, detective, probation officer, correctional treatment specialist, bailiff, security guard, private investigator, and forensic science technician.

Keep in mind that no one degree can guarantee you a job, and demand for your services depends on several factors, including education, experience, employer, industry, and location.

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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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