Best Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Programs 2024

Learn how a doctorate in criminal justice can lead to greater opportunities in this multidisciplinary field.
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Updated on May 28, 2024
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If you want to delve into criminal justice research, advance to a leadership role, or head into an education job, a doctoral degree in criminal justice can prepare you for high-level roles.

Both a doctorate and Ph.D. in criminal justice are terminal degrees, meaning they're the highest level of degree that can be attained. With a heavy focus on research and analysis, these degrees can help you stand out from the competition in the job market or take on research-heavy roles.

Read on to learn more about how doctorate degrees can help advance your career in criminal justice.

Featured Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Programs

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

2024 Best Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Programs

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Best Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Programs 2024

Keiser University

  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Semester:
In-State | $3,964
Out-of-State | $3,964

Credits to Graduate: 44

The doctor of criminal justice at Keiser prepares you for academic careers and senior-level positions in law enforcement, the court system, and other fields. You can complete the 44-credit DCJ online in 20-32 months.

You'll study criminological theory, criminal justice policies and practices, and criminal justice program evaluation. An advanced leadership course will explore various leadership models and their implications in criminal justice management.

A culminating DCJ project documents your learning and expertise. Eight-week terms and the transfer of up to 18 credits can help you earn your degree faster. Admission requires a bachelor's or master’s degree and a minimum GPA of 3.0 from an accredited school.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$20,800
Out-of-state
$20,800
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$29,632
Out-of-state
$29,632
Retention Rate
68%
Acceptance Rate
97%
Students Enrolled
19,019
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Best Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Programs 2024

National University

  • San Diego, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $1,191
Out-of-State | $1,191

Credits to Graduate: 54

Designed for criminal justice professionals, NU's doctor of criminal justice offers specializations in policing, organizational leadership, homeland security, and public administration. This is a fully online program with no residency requirements.

You'll complete at least 54 credits in 36 months. Core courses examine issues such as public budgeting and finance, public personnel administration, and quantitative research design and methodology. Each three-course specialization develops practical knowledge applicable to the workplace.

A dissertation applies your research expertise and culminates the program. Founded by veterans, NU is a military-friendly school with tuition discounts for military personnel and their dependents. Admission requires a master's degree, but applicants do not have to submit GRE scores.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$13,320
Out-of-state
$13,320
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$15,480
Out-of-state
$15,480
Retention Rate
64%
Acceptance Rate
55%
Students Enrolled
18,631
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
80% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Best Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Programs 2024

Nova Southeastern University

  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $1,277
Out-of-State | $1,277

Credits to Graduate: 60

NSU's Ph.D. in criminal justice is a customizable curriculum with specialty tracks in organizational leadership, juvenile justice, and behavioral science training. The fully online degree requires 60 credits consisting of core courses, a specialization, and a dissertation.

Doctoral candidates receive extensive training in research methodology and program evaluation. You'll also learn how to analyze and interpret data. Each specialization requires five courses, and you can add additional specialty tracks to bolster your expertise.

Online learners pay the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency status. Admission requires a master's degree and a minimum GPA of 3.0 from an accredited institution.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$33,510
Out-of-state
$33,510
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$21,153
Out-of-state
$21,153
Retention Rate
78%
Acceptance Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
20,939
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Best Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Programs 2024

PennWest Global Online

  • California, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $685
Out-of-State | $1,024

Credits to Graduate: 42

PennWest's doctorate in criminal justice (D.C.J.) prioritizes a flexible curriculum to accommodate the needs of working professionals. You'll complete the degree entirely online with one required virtual or on-campus residency.

The curriculum includes training in criminal justice theory, criminal law and procedure, and modern policing. You'll learn how to use effective leadership principles and practices to manage criminal justice agencies.

During the program, you'll create a research portfolio that highlights your knowledge of evidence-based best practices in a criminal justice area. Active-duty military personnel receive tuition discounts at PennWest. Admission requires a master's degree in criminal justice or a related field and a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$7,716
Out-of-state
$11,574
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$9,288
Out-of-state
$13,932
Retention Rate
67%
Acceptance Rate
97%
Students Enrolled
6,509
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
80% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Best Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Programs 2024

Walden University

  • Minneapolis, MN
  • 4 years
  • Online

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $675
Out-of-State | $675

Credits to Graduate: 68

A customizable curriculum with seven specializations makes Walden's Ph.D. in criminal justice stand out. The program enrolls students with or without a master's degree in criminal justice.

You'll complete a core curriculum that explores policy and analysis, program evaluation of social programs, and leadership in criminal justice. Specializations include emergency management, law and public policy, and public management and leadership.

An online teaching in higher education specialization prepares students to train the next generation of criminal justice professionals. Four residencies help advance your development as a scholar-practitioner. You can earn your degree faster by transferring up to 38 credits.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$10,064
Out-of-state
$10,064
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$9,651
Out-of-state
$9,651
Retention Rate
25%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
46,455
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

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What's the Difference Between a Ph.D. and a DCJ?

There are several key differences between a Ph.D. in criminal justice and a DCJ:

DCJ stands for Doctor of Criminal Justice and is a relatively new professional doctorate degree. The first DCJ program in the United States launched in 2017 at Pennsylvania Western University, California. A DCJ is a professional doctorate, meaning it has more of a focus on applying criminal justice theory in the workplace.

A Ph.D. in criminal justice tends to be more focused on research and theory and will typically put a spotlight on conducting original research as opposed to applying theory to the workplace.

What Can You Do With an Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice?

An online doctoral degree in criminal justice can help you move into specialized roles within the workforce or head into a more research-focused or educational role.

A doctor of criminal justice features applied learning in areas like criminal justice leadership to prepare you for leadership roles in the field, such as a departmental director or a specialized analyst. A Ph.D. in criminal justice can also help you advance within the workforce, but with more of a focus on theory and research, and will open up doors in policy and educational fields.

Criminal justice is a vast, multidisciplinary field with applications well beyond the traditional law enforcement route. When paired with work experience, a doctoral degree in criminal justice can lead you to a number of varied, high-paying opportunities across industries.

Popular Careers With an Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice
Career Median Salary (2023) Job Outlook (2022-2023)
Forensic Scientists $64,940 13%
Educational Coordinators $74,620 2%
Emergency Management Directors $83,960 3%
Professors $84,830 8%
Cybersecurity Analysts $120,360 32%
Policy Analysts $132,350 7%
Source: BLS

What to Expect From an Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Program

The time it takes you to finish a doctoral degree in criminal justice varies widely depending on the program.

Some schools offer DCJ programs that, based on credit transfers and the workload you take on, can be completed in as little as two years. Most doctoral programs will take you longer if you are working full time while pursuing your doctorate on a part-time basis. A typical Ph.D. usually takes longer than four years to complete.

Transferable coursework from prior study can be applied to some programs, but how much of your previous credits will count toward your degree depends on the college or university.

Your classwork will vary based on whether you pursue a DCJ or Ph.D. A DCJ will feature classes with technical learning around criminal justice policies and leadership, but a Ph.D. will have a more research-oriented curriculum.

Some criminal justice doctoral programs allow elective coursework and concentrations in areas like justice administration. Some also offer dual degree programs, allowing you to work toward a Ph.D. in criminal justice and a juris doctor (JD) degree simultaneously.

Criminal Justice Certifications and Licenses

There are a number of certifications and licenses you can pursue in addition to a doctoral degree. A certification or license can verify your skills in an area, boosting your resume and certifying your skills.

Certified Emergency Manager

The Certified Emergency Manager designation is offered by the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM). The designation is nationally recognized and a major career-enhancing credential, according to the IAEM. IAEM also offers an Associate Emergency Manager designation.

Certified Homeland and Protection Professional

Offered by the Global Society of Homeland Security Professionals, the Certified Homeland and Protection Professional designation provides an objective means of distinguishing highly competent homeland protection professionals from their less experienced peers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Justice Doctoral Programs

How long does it take to get a doctorate in criminal justice?

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The time it takes to earn a doctoral degree in criminal justice depends on the program type and school you attend. At some schools, transferable coursework and a high course load can help you finish a professional doctorate in three years or less. A Ph.D. program, however, will typically take at least four years to complete.

Does the FBI hire people with a doctorate in criminal justice?

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The FBI hires many types of criminal justice professionals, including researchers, analysts, and more. While a doctorate isn't a requirement to work for the FBI, it can bolster your resume and help you stand out from the competition along with your work experience.

What degree is best for criminal justice?

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A degree in criminal justice provides instruction in a number of relevant fields, helping to prepare you for jobs in the interdisciplinary field. More specialized degrees in fields within criminal justice, like criminology and forensic science, may help you land jobs within those disciplines.

Do people in law enforcement have a doctorate in criminal justice?

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A criminal justice degree isn't a requirement to work in law enforcement, but a doctorate in criminal justice can help you land roles within law enforcement leadership and management.

Why get an online doctorate in criminal justice?

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A doctoral degree in criminal justice, whether a career-oriented DCJ or a research-focused Ph.D., can open up doors in both the varied field of criminal justice and beyond. As a terminal degree, a doctorate in criminal justice will give you high-level skills and help you stand out from the competition in the job market.

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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