Best Online Master’s in Criminology Programs

We've ranked the top online master's in criminal justice programs. Compare schools by cost, convenience, and academic quality.

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Published on May 3, 2022 · Updated on May 13, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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A master's in criminology can offer students the qualifications and credentials needed to apply for roles in a variety of industries and fields. These programs teach students about criminal behavior, crime prevention and intervention, and victimology.

According to the College Board, tuition and fees for a master's degree at public, four-year institutions cost an average of $9,000 per year during the 2021-2022 academic year. Students enrolled at private colleges paid an average of $29,670 during the same period. Most students spend two years earning their degrees but can finish in as few as 12 months.

Those who decide to attend graduate school can look forward to a promising job outlook with several roles projected to grow in the coming years. While salaries for master's in criminology graduates vary based on a worker's position, employer, and level of experience, many of these professionals earn higher than average salaries.

Continue reading to learn about common master's in criminology courses at top online schools. Explore potential career paths and options for continuing education.

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

Individuals who want to work to reform the criminal justice system and understand the motivations of people who break the law may thrive in an online master's in criminology program. Analytical, detail-oriented individuals who enjoy solving problems and learning about human behavior often feel drawn to this degree, especially if they want to help others.

When preparing for graduate school, prospective learners should know that most programs consist of approximately 30 credits and take about two years to complete. Accelerated programs may allow for completion in as little as 12 months, while part-time programs often take three years to finish. In addition to general core studies, many programs also provide concentrations in areas such as:

Although internships aren't typically required, some students decide to complete one as a way of gaining experience and making professional contacts while still in school. These experiences typically last a semester. Learners can usually choose a setting that closely aligns with their professional goals.

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Featured Online 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 Master's in Criminology Program?

Victimology

Students taking this course learn about the criminal justice services in place for victims, how they go about deciding whether to report crimes, and what support they receive during trials and beyond.

Human Behavior

This psychology-based course examines both normal and abnormal behavior. Learners review contemporary and historical research along with case studies.

Data Analysis in Criminology

Designed for those who want to conduct criminology research, this course examines methods of using statistical techniques, leveraging qualitative methods, and designing research projects that produce usable data.

Professional Development in Criminology

Typically taken in a student's final year of studies, this course prepares learners to go out and find criminology jobs after graduating. Students learn how to leverage the skills and knowledge they've learned throughout their training.

Criminology Practicum

While not a mandatory course, a practicum can allow students to gain real-world experience by working with criminology experts in the field. Like internships, these experiences typically last one semester.

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Criminology Program?

Graduate admission requirements for online master's in criminology programs vary by college or university. Therefore, it is important for prospective students to carefully read each school's application instructions. While most programs do not require applicants to possess a specific undergraduate degree, they may set a few prerequisites. Particularly competitive programs may also require applicants to participate in interviews. Some common components include:

Application

These days, most universities allow students to submit their applications online, however, a few may still allow learners to send in physical forms. Applications typically ask for common information such as the prospective student's full name, mailing address, date of birth, and citizenship status.

Test Scores

Some master's in criminology programs may require applicants to provide GRE scores as part of the application process. Some schools waive this requirement altogether, while others may allow students with high GPAs or a certain amount of previous work experience to bypass this step.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation allow those who know the candidate well to speak on their preparedness for advanced study and the type of impact they would make in the program. Reference letters should come from former or current professors, supervisors, coaches, mentors, volunteer managers, or faith leaders — not friends or family.

Resume and Work Experience

Some master's in criminology programs may look for candidates with previous work experience — sometimes related to the discipline. Providing a resume with work experience can help showcase the professional skills learners have built since they graduated from a bachelor's program and, in some cases, demonstrate their interest in criminology.

Essays

Grad school essays allow candidates to express themselves clearly and stand out from other applicants. Students should use this space to outline why they want to study criminology, how they plan to use their master's in criminology after graduating, and why they want to enroll in specific a program.

Official Transcripts

All master's in criminology programs ask prospective students to supply official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions previously attended, both to confirm their degree status and verify their stated GPA. Admission officers also use transcripts to identify which graduate-level courses from other institutions may transfer over to the new program.

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

Career Outlook

Completing an online master's in criminology can provide you with the training and credentials needed to work in a variety of different law enforcement, intelligence, and community roles. Jobs for graduates of these programs vary by demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), positions for private detectives and investigators are projected to expand by 13% between 2020-2030.

Salaries also vary, but most professionals make above the national average wage for all occupations. Those in executive or managerial positions can even earn six-figure salaries.

Career Paths

Private Investigator or Detective

These professionals spend their days investigating people and organizations to learn more about their financial, legal, and personal information. Whether hired by an individual or working in-house for a company, investigators and detectives gather information through surveillance, interviews, and records to learn more about their subjects before creating a report and presenting their findings.

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

Police Officer

Police officers work for local, state, and federal governments to enforce laws, keep the peace, and respond to both emergency and non-emergency calls. They perform routine traffic stops, issue citations and tickets, and make arrests when appropriate. They may also investigate crimes to gather evidence and interview suspects and victims.

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

Federal Special Agent

These professionals work for federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to enforce laws and investigate violations. Whether working undercover or in uniform, special agents help keep the public safe and address both domestic and international incidents that create dangerous situations.

Average Annual Salary (March 2022): $87,450

Fraud Investigator

Fraud investigators can work in public or private organizations to investigate individuals or companies suspected of committing fraud. In addition to collecting evidence, conducting interviews, and reviewing filings and tax documents, fraud investigators analyze their findings to make conclusions. They report their findings and make recommendations on how to handle fraudulent situations.

Average Annual Salary (April 2022): $63,900

Intelligence Analyst

Working with both government agencies and contractors, intelligence analysts identify and research suspected security threats. Working both in offices and in the field, these professionals must possess advanced skills in research, critical thinking, and writing to be effective at their jobs. They regularly process large amounts of data in the course of their work.

Average Annual Salary (April 2022): $72,430

Criminology Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

After completing an online master's in criminology, some students may decide to pursue a doctoral degree. While this next step is not all that common in the field of criminology, individuals who want to do research in the field or pursue work as professors may decide this step makes the most sense for them.

Students can also pursue postgraduate certificates in areas of cybersecurity, criminal psychology, or criminal justice.

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

Cost

For many learners, cost is one of the most important factors when it comes to deciding which online master's in criminology program to pursue. Understanding the true program cost can help students save money and avoid miscalculations later down the road. When comparing costs of online and on-campus programs, online options tend to offer lower rates and fewer program fees.

Program Format

When looking at online master's in criminology programs, students must decide whether asynchronous or synchronous learning works best for their personal, professional, and academic needs. Synchronous online programs have designated meeting times for courses, while asynchronous programs allow learners to complete lessons on their own schedules. Students should also consider whether full-time or part-time learning works best for them.

Location

When choosing an online master's in criminology program, location can still play an important role. If the program requires any in-person training or seminars, students may want to be within driving distance to avoid expensive plane tickets. Completely online programs allow students to cast their nets wider geographically.

Accreditation

While a programmatic accreditation board does not currently exist for the criminology discipline, students can look for colleges and universities that hold institutional accreditation. Completing this step can help ensure that learners attend a program that offers the academic, social, and professional support they need to thrive in school and the professional world.

Student Support

Student support services can make the difference between an average and transformative college experience, making it important to consider these when choosing a school. The best colleges provide professional mentorship opportunities as well as access to competitive internship placements. Online students can also ask about services created specifically for them.

Best Accredited Online Master's in Criminology Programs

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Best Online Master's in Criminology Programs

  1. University of California, Irvine
    Location

    Irvine, CA

    Tuition

    $15014

    UCI is a public research institution that serves around 36,000 students. The university offers more than 100 graduate certificates and degrees, including an online master of advanced study in criminology, law, and society. After completing this 52-quarter-credit program, graduates are prepared to fill leadership positions in fields like social work and criminal justice research.

    Required courses include police, courts, and corrections; legal institutions and society; and white-collar and corporate crime. Students attend a five-day residency at the beginning of their first fall quarter. The program culminates in a capstone seminar in social problems, law, and policy.

    This program does not maintain minimum GPA or standardized test score requirements for admission. However, applicants must submit a 600-word personal history, a 800-word statement of purpose, and three recommendation letters.

  2. Florida State University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $13318

    FSU offers an online master's degree in criminology that requires learners to take relevant, career-focused courses like civil and individual rights, criminal justice administration, and penology. The 36-credit curriculum also includes courses like applied statistics and computer applications in criminal justice. All students can pursue an independent study or internship.

    While FSU does not maintain a minimum GPA requirement, applicants must demonstrate strong academic potential. Applicants with five or more years of relevant work experience do not need to submit GRE scores. Students should also submit a current resume and a 300-500-word personal statement. FSU powers distance learning with the Canvas platform.

  3. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $13016

    Based in Orlando, UCF enrolls approximately 70,000 students in over 220 academic programs every year. Distance learners can pursue an online master's in criminal justice that teaches them to apply criminology theories to practical situations. Graduates may find work as FBI agents, correctional office supervisors, and criminal profilers.

    Students can complete the 36-credit program in under two years. Core courses include descriptive statistics and applied research methodologies. Through elective courses, learners may examine topics related to the emerging challenges criminal justice systems face at home and abroad.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students must also submit competitive GRE scores.

  4. Boston University
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Tuition

    $29154

    BU has delivered career-focused online programs since 2002. The university now offers an online master's degree in criminal justice that distance learners can complete in 16-18 months.

    The program's 32-credit curriculum splits evenly into required coursework and electives. Core courses include research/evaluation methods and criminal justice administration. Learners can pursue a concentration in crime analysis, strategic management, or cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity.

    Prospective students must submit a current resume, a personal essay, and three recommendation letters. BU maintains six start dates each year and accepts applications on a rolling basis. The program does not require standardized test scores for admission.

  5. Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    Tuition

    $9180

    FIU is a public research institution that serves over 57,000 students annually. The university offers an online master's in criminal justice that allows distance learners to choose between fully online and hybrid delivery methods.

    The program's 36-credit curriculum includes required courses like criminological theory, advanced data analysis, and transnational crime and national security. Students also take 12 credits of criminal justice electives and nine credits of general electives. Elective options include internships and teaching practica.

    In addition to a regionally accredited bachelor's degree, applicants need a minimum 3.2 GPA in upper-division coursework. Prospective students must submit a statement of purpose, a research writing sample, and two recommendation letters.

  6. Saint Joseph's University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $35344

    SJU delivers over 30 online certificates and degrees through the Canvas platform, including an online master's degree in criminal justice. This program emphasizes a top-to-bottom exploration of the criminal justice system, preparing students for scholar-practitioners roles in their industries.

    In addition to a general track, students can select a concentration in behavior analysis, behavior management, federal law enforcement, intelligence and crime analysis, or homeland security. The homeland security concentration covers emergency management and terrorism countermeasures. Students complete 30-36 credits, depending on their concentration.

    Admission requirements include a letter of intent, a resume, and two recommendations. Applicants with a GPA below 3.0 also need to submit a 300-500-word document explaining their previous grades.

  7. Regis University
    Location

    Denver, CO

    Tuition

    $26273

    Regis provides almost 200 academic programs, many of which students can access online through the Blackboard platform. The university offers an online master's in criminology that focuses on examining crime through the lense of cognitive and behavioral psychology. The program offers six annual start dates and five-week and eight-week courses.

    Required coursework consists of leadership principles, ethical conduct and positions of power, and criminal psychopathy. Students can pursue a cybercrime/terrorism or human behavior focus. All learners choose one of three capstone experiences: an internship, a project, or a comprehensive course.

    Prospective students must submit a resume and a 500-750-word personal statement responding to two designated prompts. Regis grants transfer credit for prior college work, career experience, professional certification/licensure, and military service.

  8. Saint Louis University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $31460

    One of the country's oldest Catholic universities, SLU serves about 13,000 students every year. The university offers an online master's in criminology and criminal justice; however, depending on which courses they select, distance learners may need to take some evening classes on campus.

    Foundational coursework in the 33-credit curriculum includes issues in jurisprudence and global public health practice. Students personalize their education with guided electives and advanced classes in one of three concentrations: administration of justice, emergency management, or treatment and rehabilitation. The emergency justice concentration is only offered online.

    Applicants should have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students who do not meet this threshold may qualify for conditional admission. Additional requirements include a three-page professional statement, a resume or CV, and three reference letters.

  9. The University of West Florida
    Location

    Pensacola, FL

    Tuition

    $9091

    Based in Pensacola, UWF powers distance learning with the Canvas platform. The university offers over 50 online degrees and certificates, including a master's in criminal justice. Through a 33-credit curriculum, students gain the research and data analysis skills needed to enter doctoral programs or pursue careers in education, program administration, and policy advocacy.

    All students complete an internship or a research paper as a capstone project. Learners can supplement major coursework by earning an optional certificate in social work or homeland security.

    UWF uses a holistic admissions process that considers the quality of each applicant's undergraduate education, in addition to their GPA and GRE or MAT scores. Prospective students must submit three recommendation letters and a personal statement that outlines their future goals.

  10. Colorado State University Global Campus
    Location

    Greenwood Village, CO

    Tuition

    $15212

    In an effort to provide more postsecondary learning opportunities to nontraditional students, CSU-Global offers dozens of degree and certificate options to online learners. Among these options is a master's in criminal justice.

    Core courses in this 36-credit program include applied research for criminal justice professionals, analytical methods, and criminal justice policy development and analysis. Students also take 12 credits within a specialization, choosing from options like fraud management and information technology. Individuals currently employed in a criminal justice setting can complete an internship for credit.

    Applicants should have a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students with a lower GPA may be accepted, but they may need to take an additional fundamentals of research and writing class.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Criminology Programs

Is a master's in criminology worth it? true

After deciding whether an online degree is worth it for your specific academic and professional needs, it's time to ascertain whether a master's in criminology is right for you. In this program students gain advanced knowledge of criminal behavior, crime prevention and intervention, and victimology, while also building tangible skills that translate to a variety of different jobs.

Whether you decide to work as an investigator or detective, want to move into research, or aspire to teach criminology to the next generation of professionals, criminology is a versatile subject that many hiring managers appreciate seeing on a resume.

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

Those who earn an online master's in criminology can select from a wide variety of positions including private investigator, federal special agent, intelligent analyst, and fraud investigator. These programs focus on both research and professional skills, so graduates will be prepared for a variety of career options.

Some students may decide to pursue a doctorate in criminology after graduating, while others may want to enter the workforce immediately.

Are criminology graduates in demand? true

Jobs for professionals with a master's in criminology are in demand. The BLS projects a 13% increase in private investigator and detective roles between 2020 and 2030, translating to approximately 4,400 new jobs. Meanwhile, jobs for police officers are projected to grow by 7% during the same time frame — leading to the creation of more than 51,000 new roles.

As cybercrimes become more of a threat in coming years, jobs for criminology specialists should continue to increase.

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

Professionals with a master's degree in criminology earn good salaries and have the potential to continue increasing their wages during their careers.

According to the BLS, police officers earned a median annual salary of $66,020 in May 2021, while investigators and detectives made a median of $59,380 annually. Those who work for a federal agency, such as the FBI, can also earn above-average wages. According to Payscale, special agents earned an average wage of $87,450 in March 2022.

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

The highest-paying criminology jobs depend on factors such as title, location, experience level, and employer. That said, some roles pay more than others. For instance, those who used their master's in criminology to teach at the postsecondary level earned a median annual wage of $79,640 in May 2021, according to the BLS.

According to Payscale, the top 10% of federal special agents earned an average of $155,000 per year in March 2022. The top 10% of fraud investigators earned an average annual salary of $95,000 during the same period. Students should carefully consider how much they want to earn annually before deciding on a career path.

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