Best HBCUs for Criminal Justice Programs
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Editor & Writer
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Criminal justice graduates form the backbone of society. They offer protection, support, and guidance to the community, whether they work in the public or private sectors. And they can enjoy job security and advancement opportunities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 11% job growth for forensic science technicians between 2021 and 2031. Graduates can use their criminal justice degree as the foundation for a law career. Not only are lawyers in high demand, but the BLS reports these professionals earned a median annual salary of nearly $128,000 in 2021.
These are just two examples of criminal justice careers. Graduates can pursue other roles as well, including:
- Police/correctional officer
- Crime scene investigator
- Youth correctional counselor
- FBI agent
Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) can provide valuable education for students interested in criminal justice. This guide explores the top criminal justice HBCUs for aspiring law enforcement officers, detectives, lawyers, and government officials.
Featured Online Criminal Justice Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
Why Attend an HBCU for Criminal Justice?
Attending a top criminal justice HBCU offers a unique educational approach. Here are three reasons why.
HBCUs often include specialized classes that explore criminal justice issues in Black and other historically underrepresented communities. For example, Bowie State University requires a class on race, class, gender, and criminal justice.
Even a standard criminal justice course can take a different approach at an HBCU. When the majority of faculty and student body identify as members of marginalized and historically underrepresented communities, they provide a unique perspective on criminal justice topics.
Various Justice Reform Approaches
Not only do HBCUs offer a different curriculum approach, but many also put criminal justice into practice at their campuses and surrounding communities. HBCUs are often at the front lines of criminal justice and policing reforms. For example, Dillard University works to systemically change policing, while Lincoln University of Missouri opened the first HBCU police academy.
Since HBCUs have traditionally served students with limited access to education and resources, they generally prioritize lower-than-average tuition. While the costs vary across HBCUs, students can often expect lower tuition and scholarship opportunities. For example, Prairie View A&M University offers tuition under $4,000 per semester, plus several university scholarships. Even HBCUs that charge on the higher end — like Hampton University — offer several merit scholarships.
2023 Best HBCUs for Criminal Justice Programs
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The Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina founded Morris College in 1908. The institution maintains church relations and offers majors in Christian education and pastoral ministry. It also aims to provide an affordable, career-focused liberal arts education for people of all ethnic backgrounds, with tuition totaling just over $7,300 per semester.
In alignment with that goal, Morris College offers two programs that can prepare students for jobs in law enforcement: criminal forensics and criminal justice. Both include 122 credits and a required internship.
The criminal justice major offers classes in criminology, juvenile delinquency, and criminal law. Students also explore social research and special problems in the administration of justice.
Prairie View A&M University
Established in 1876 as an agricultural and mechanical college, PVAMU became an independent unit of Texas A&M University in 1973. It now offers lower-than-average tuition — about $3,700 per semester — for majors across the eight schools and colleges.
PVAMU's College of Juvenile Justice offers a 120-credit BS in criminal justice. Students explore correctional systems, criminal justice research methods, and court practice. Students can also choose from five concentration options: juvenile justice, policing, legal studies, corrections, and criminalistics.
Graduate students at PVAMU have the option to pursue a master's in juvenile justice online or a doctorate in juvenile justice in person. The institution also offers minors in criminal justice, emergency management, and crisis informatics.
Bowie State University
As Maryland's first HBCU, Bowie State University serves nearly 6,300 students and offers 29 undergraduate majors. It focuses on affordability, with in-state undergraduate tuition totaling less than $4,400 per semester.
The College of Professional Studies offers several career-focused programs, including a bachelor's in criminal justice. Students can complete the program online or offsite at the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland.
Required classes include criminalistics, data analysis, and race in criminal justice. Learners must also include a concentration in community-based corrections, forensic science, or social justice.
The American Missionary Association founded LeMoyne-Owen College in 1862 as an elementary school. Over the years, the institution has faced several challenges like being set on fire during the Memphis race riots in 1866 and overcoming the yellow fever epidemic in 1873. Through it all, the college has persevered.
Today, LeMoyne-Owen College offers over 20 undergraduate programs, including an interdisciplinary major in criminal justice. The Center for Cybersecurity offers this criminal justice major with a concentration in cyber defense and security.
Classes include victimology, comparative justice, law and the poor, and forensic evidence. The cybersecurity courses explore topics like network security and cyber law. Students must also take classes in sociology and psychology and complete an internship.
Texas Southern University
Originally founded as the Houston Colored Junior College in 1927, TSU now includes 11 colleges and schools, plus online programs. The 7,500 students come from diverse backgrounds, representing the local community and the global population.
TSU offers a bachelor of science in the administration of justice — one of the university's most popular degree programs. The classes compare to other criminal justice programs, with law enforcement, corrections, and criminal investigation courses.
Students also complete classes in juvenile justice systems and police-community relations before being assigned an internship. After graduation, learners can continue their studies with a master's (available online) or doctoral degree, also in the administration of justice.
In 1865, the American Baptist Home Mission Society of the Baptist Church founded one of the oldest HBCUs in the country: Shaw University. Today, Shaw still honors its Baptist roots by teaching Christian principles and offering theological education at its divinity school.
Shaw's Department of Social Work, Sociology, and Justice offers five bachelor's programs. The options include a bachelor's in sociology with a concentration in criminal justice.
This program provides a foundation in sociology with topics like social change, race and ethnic relations, and social stratification. The criminal justice concentration immerses students in corrections, criminology, and criminal law.
Students can also choose three additional criminal justice courses, like probation and parole, court procedure, or a senior criminal justice seminar.
Bluefield State College
Founded in 1895, BSC originally served the children of Black coal miners in West Virginia. The school continues to value affordability and accessibility and promote public service.
BSC offers a BS in criminal justice administration with a hybrid fast-track option. Students can also shorten their program time by earning credits for vocational training or professional criminal justice experience.
Learners explore topics like criminal procedure, criminal law, and victimology. They can also choose one of five concentrations: cybersecurity, forensic investigation, corrections, probation and corrections treatment, and law enforcement.
Since its 1861 founding, HU has grown to serve over 3,200 students on a 314-acre campus. This Virginia school offers nearly 100 degree and certificate programs, both online and in person.
Hampton offers several degree programs that focus on criminal justice. For example, the bachelor's in sociology program dives into criminal justice topics like criminal law, crime scene investigation, and criminalistics cybercrime. Students can also enroll in the public safety degree program with a criminal justice concentration.
Another option includes Hampton's online criminal justice degree program, which includes a multidisciplinary study of behavioral sciences. Classes cover criminal law, homeland security, and a required internship.
Alabama State University
Alabama State University began with just 113 students in 1867. It has since grown into a 172-acre campus near downtown Montgomery, Alabama, that offers online and in-person classes.
ASU offers an undergraduate criminal justice degree program with core classes in criminal law, criminology, and social science research. Students must choose a concentration in law enforcement, corrections, or juvenile justice. Other requirements include a criminal justice seminar and a professional internship.
Students can also pursue a minor in criminology. Instead of just taking an introductory criminology course as part of the core classes, learners can dive into topics like deviant behavior, criminalistics, and social psychology.
Founded in 1865, Talladega values diversity, integrity, and excellence. It aims to prepare students for the global community through accessible programs that cost just over $6,000 per semester.
Talladega's Division of Social Sciences and Education offers a criminal justice degree program that combines law, theory, and practical experience. Graduates can pursue entry-level or supervisory jobs in the criminal justice field or continue with graduate programs or professional options such as law school.
The curriculum immerses learners in constitutional law, criminal procedure, and juvenile justice. Students also review research methods and complete an internship.
Frequently Asked Questions about HBCU Criminal Justice Programs
What HBCU has the best criminal justice program?
The best HBCU for criminal justice depends on the wants and needs of the student. For example, suppose a learner wants several concentration options. In that case, they might prefer the criminal justice program at Alabama State University or Bluefield State College.
Likewise, those interested in criminal justice and cybersecurity might pursue the program at LeMoyne-Owen College. Students looking for the most cost-effective program might choose Prairie View A&M University or Bowie State University, while those who want to study online might select Hampton University.
What's the difference between criminal justice and criminology?
Criminology refers to the study of criminal behavior and motive, while criminal justice explores the judicial and community response to crime. Both programs can prepare students for a career in law enforcement, so they often share required courses.
For example, a criminal justice program may include a criminology and introductory psychology course, even though the program focuses on the judicial system. Likewise, criminology degree programs often include a criminal justice course.
What skills do I need to succeed in criminal justice?
Necessary criminal justice skills depend on the specific career path. However, soft skills in critical thinking, communication, and ethics can help professionals succeed in the criminal justice field.
Students should look to build strong foundations in criminal law and criminological theory. Specialized skills in cybersecurity, correctional practices, and policing can also prove useful.
What courses can I expect to take if I go to an HBCU for criminal justice?
Standard criminal justice courses include criminal investigations, corrections, and juvenile justice. Learners usually learn about the judicial system, criminal law, and policing. Many programs also include introductory courses in criminology and psychology.
Nevertheless, each HBCU criminal justice program includes a unique set of required courses — especially with concentration options. Some programs focus more on cybersecurity, while others emphasize the connection between criminology and criminal justice.