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.
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.
www.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.
Ready to start your journey?
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:
- Criminal Behavior
- International Criminology
- Crime Causation, Prevention, and Intervention
- Conflict Management
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.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Degree Programs.
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?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 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 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
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.
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.
How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Criminology Program?
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.
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.
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.
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 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
Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team
Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.
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.
Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Criminology Programs
Is a master's in criminology worth it?
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?
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?
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.
Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree
Feature Image: YorVen / E+ / Getty Images
What Can You Do With a Psychology Degree?
Fields of Social Work: Explore Your Best Career Path
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.
Compare your school options.
View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.