The academic field of criminal justice explores how laws are created, interpreted, and enforced within different countries, states, municipalities, and other jurisdictions. Careers in criminal justice generally fall into two occupational categories: legal professions, such as lawyers, paralegals, and judges; and law enforcement professions, such as police officers, detectives, bailiffs, probation officers, and forensic investigators. Most career pathways in this rewarding field are attainable with a bachelor's degree or less, and an online master's in criminal justice can help students further distinguish themselves in the job market.

Criminal justice is regularly recognized as having some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, especially for students who earn a master's degree.

WHAT JOBS CAN YOU GET WITH A CRIMINAL JUSTICE MASTER'S DEGREE?

Master's in criminal justice programs prepare graduates for careers as police officers, detectives, postsecondary criminal justice and law enforcement teachers, and paralegals. Read more here..

CAN YOU GET A DEGREE IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE ONLINE?

Yes. Many schools offer their on-campus criminal justice program in a fully online format. Read more here..

HOW TO GET A CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE ONLINE

Admitted students must complete all curriculum requirements, including elective courses and a capstone project. Requirements will vary between schools, so students should contact prospective schools for more accurate information. Read more here..

WHAT TYPE OF DEGREE IS A CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE?

A criminal justice degree explores law and its enforcement in different countries, states, and other jurisdictions. Students will explore how laws were created and how they are interpreted within the current political climate. Read more here..

IS A CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE WORTH IT?

Yes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects legal occupations to increase 9% by 2026. Professionals who hold a master's in criminal justice also earn a higher median salary than those who hold a bachelor's. Read more here..

Master's in criminal justice online programs build on the foundational knowledge and skills of undergraduate studies. The curriculum leans heavily on case studies, using real-world examples to illustrate complex theories and psychological approaches to law and criminology. Criminal justice master's students often choose to earn a degree specialization in niche areas like homeland security, behavioral science, or forensic technology. Many online criminal justice master's programs culminate in a thesis or capstone project, giving students the opportunity to demonstrate the new knowledge and skills they have gained. Others offer supervised hands-on training as part of an internship or practicum course.

Learn more about what you can do with a master's in criminal justice with this comprehensive guide.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

The best online master's in criminal justice programs prepare students to enter the workforce after graduation and pursue a career related to their areas of interest. Those who plan to work in law enforcement or criminal investigation will take courses that build their analytical and critical thinking skills. Students drawn to the legal aspects of criminal justice will learn about laws, policies, and individual cases that have significantly impacted the U.S. judicial system. Degree specializations and internships can further develop a student's career skill set.

WILL AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Online master's degree programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar education. Students are able to access course materials, turn in written assignments, take exams, and contact their professors at their convenience. Additionally, current technology gives them the opportunity to study away from their home computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other portable device with Wi-Fi capabilities. Faculty members also work with students during the latter stages of their program, offering guidance on theses and capstone projects and/or helping them arrange internships close to their home.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MASTER'S IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE?

A master's in criminal justice will qualify graduates for most entry-level roles in the criminal justice field, as well as managerial titles and other positions normally reserved for applicants with a graduate degree. It's important to note that certain legal careers -- such as lawyers and judges -- will require an advanced law degree. These credentials serve as an alternative to the master's degree and are usually obtained after undergraduate studies have concluded.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER'S IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROGRAMS?

Choosing the right program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online master's of criminal justice programs in the United States. Before you enroll in an online master's in criminal justice program, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more about their specific requirements and offerings.

Rank School Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

Florida State University is a public research university located in Tallahassee. Established in 1851, it is one of the oldest higher education institutions in the state. The school holds regional accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).

Distance learners can take advantage of FSU's online master of science in criminal justice program. This fully online degree features asynchronous courses, allowing students to create their own schedules and work at a comfortable pace. Coursework prepares students for leadership positions in criminal justice, professorships at Florida community colleges, or post-law enforcement career opportunities.

Online criminal justice master's students need 36 graduate credit hours for graduation, of which 15 credits comprise the required core and 21 credits include electives. Required courses include a survey of criminological theories, research methods in criminology, and computer applications in criminal justice. FSU offers numerous electives, including comparative criminology, penology, police and society, criminal justice administration, and victimology. Full-time students who take two courses per semester typically complete the degree in two years.

Distance learners may participate in FSU's master's internship, developing their skill set with hands-on, real-world experience. Internships for master's students count for credit towards program requirements.

Prospective students need to submit their official transcripts, a personal statement, and a current resume. Those with five or more years of related professional experience do not have to submit their GRE scores.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Tuition: $444/credit in-state; $1,076/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact
Phone: 1(850) 6459169
Email: mhn1991@fsu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

2 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 70%

Established in 1963, with a campus located in Orlando, the University of Central Florida serves approximately 69,000 students and holds status as one of the largest universities in the country. Through UCF’s college of community innovation and education, distance learners can earn a master's in criminal justice online with no on-campus obligations.

The program aims to produce graduates capable of influential and effective participation in criminal justice, from the local to federal level. Students develop strong decision-making and problem-solving skills. The program requires 36 credits for graduation, including a capstone course. Required classes include the administration of justice, data analysis, policy analysis, research methods, and criminal justice organizations. Incoming students with previous college credit receive a course-by-course credit evaluation that identifies any transferable courses.

Prospective online master's in criminal justice students must submit their residency classification form, immunization form, official transcripts, and GRE or GMAT scores. Master's students also need two letters of recommendation from professors or professional references.

UCF criminal justice alumni move on to careers as correctional officer supervisors, criminal profilers, FBI agents, detective supervisors, detectives, and U.S. Marshals. UCF prepares students for these careers through experiential learning classes and internships.

Student resources at UCF include a writing center, tutoring services, career and financial advising, and online library access. Online learners receive 24/7 technical assistance through live chat. Distance students also take advantage of online therapists through the therapy assisted online program.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Tuition: $327/credit in-state; $695/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact
Phone: (407) 823-2603
Email: Elexis.Ritz@udf.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

3 Boston University Boston, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 87%

A private research university established in 1839, Boston University educates nearly 33,000 students. Online learners can pursue the master of science in criminal justice degree. Students choose between a concentration in strategic management or cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity. Additionally, BU offers optional graduate certificates for criminal justice majors, including data analytics, project management, and information security.

Both concentrations require 40 credits for graduation.Those in the cybersecurity track explore cyber criminology, related legal practices, digital investigative knowledge, leadership skills, and risk assessment. Those in the cybercrime track complete four courses outside of the required curriculum, including applied digital forensic investigation, IT security policies and procedures, and cybercrime. Most full-time students graduate in 24 months.

Distance learners in the strategic management track focus on the nature of public emergency management, legislative analysis, theories of organizational planning and decision-making, and emergencies in private jurisdictions. Learners take 10 courses, including criminology, victimology, white-collar crime, research methods, and criminal justice administration.

BU delivers courses asynchronously and offers 24/7 access to lesson materials online. Criminal justice majors learn from recorded lectures, PDF readings, discussion boards, interactive multimedia content, and assignments. Courses begin in October, January, or May. Prospective students must submit three letters of recommendation, a short self-evaluation, current resume, official transcripts, and an application fee. BU's online programs hold regional accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Criminal Justice
Available Concentrations: Cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity, strategic management
Tuition: $26,408/semester in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 40 credits
Program Length: 20-24 months

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
Work Experience: Applicants with experience and specialized certifications may waive one course per credential up to two courses in the strategic management concentration

Contact
Phone: (617) 353-3025
Email: memastro@bu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

4 Colorado State University Greenwood Village, CO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 69%

Distance learners can earn an online master's degree in criminal justice and law enforcement through Colorado State University. This public university serves 19,000 students from its main campus in Greenwood Village. Degree seekers explore criminal justice organizations, theoretical function perspectives on crime and control, community-based justice, government policies, and effective leadership and management in the field.

Online learners earn awards of completion that document their mastery of subjects such as foundations of criminal justice leadership and applied strategic leadership in criminal justice organizations. Additionally, students choose one of 15 available concentration areas, including options in accounting, fraud management, information technology, and international management. In total, CSU’s program requires 36 credits to for completion.

CSU prides itself on an accelerated, asynchronous curriculum that encourages distance students to work closely with faculty and peers. Classes start every month, each lasting for eight weeks. Required courses for the online master's degree in criminal justice consist of eight three-credit classes, including administration and management of criminal justice organizations, ethics, justice and social control, and criminal justice policy development and analysis.

Online students have remote access to resources such as the virtual library, which provides 24/7 access to journal article databases, government information, e-books, and reference materials. Additionally, CSU offers 24/7 tutoring support in all major subjects. Distance learners may also submit their research papers and other written assignments to an online writing lab to receive feedback before they submit them for class.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration
Available Concentrations: Accounting, applied business management, business intelligence, finance, fraud management, healthcare administration, human resource management, human resource performance, information technology, international management, organizational leadership and change, management, organizational leadership and performance, project management, strategic innovation, and change management
Tuition: $500/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact
Phone: (800) 920-6723
Email: Admissions@CSUGlobal.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

5 Northeastern University Global Network Boston, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 87%

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Northeast University is a private research university with approximately 25,500 students. The school offers an online master of science in criminal justice with no on-campus obligations. Students can choose from six concentrations: community and family justice, corrections, global criminal justice, leadership, policy, and security. NU alumni seek employment in courts, private security, corrections organizations, and law enforcement offices.

Learners gain a better understanding of the complicated criminal justice system through integrative experiential learning scenarios and a flexible online curriculum designed for working professionals. Required courses include communities and crime, youth justice and crime, substance abuse and addictions, criminal behavior and the family, and intimate partner violence. NU also offers an extensive list of electives to help students develop a program that fits their academic and career needs.

NU's experiential learning model allows students to develop real-world skills by studying with professionals working in the field. Experiential learning options include learning at work, experiential network (XN), and full-time co-op opportunities. The XN option can prove especially useful for distance learners, as students work remotely with a sponsoring organization over the course of six weeks.

Students may enroll as full-time or part-time learners. In most cases, full-time students complete their degree in three years or less. Prospective students must submit an online application containing a statement of purpose, resume, unofficial undergraduate transcripts, and two letters of recommendation.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Available Concentrations: Community and family justice, corrections, global criminal justice, leadership, policing, security
Tuition: $698/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 45 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Contact
Phone: (877) 668-7727
Email: cpsadmissions@northeastern.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

6 Florida International University Miami, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 57%

Florida International University's distance learners can complete the master of science in criminal justice in an entirely online or hybrid format. Required courses include criminological theory, research methods, data analysis, transnational crime, and criminal justice. Many criminal justice students take electives in college teaching preparation or doctoral studies preparation. Additionally, learners may take an elective internship to gain hands-on experience and grow their professional network.

The online master's degree in criminal justice requires distance learners to complete 36 credits in total. Prospective students need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA in upper division coursework. Applicants must include a letter of application, a writing sample, and two letters of recommendation.

FIU offers extensive funding opportunities for graduate students in the form of fellowships and grants. In addition to FIU's fellowship and external funding program, students can apply for assistance from award-granting institutions for criminal justice majors, including the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Criminal justice degree seekers may also apply for grants through individual programs through the Department of Justice. Depending on their research area or career aspirations, graduate students may secure funding through programs such as the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office on Violence Against Women, and Office for Victims of Crime.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Tuition: $380/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.2 minimum

Contact
Phone: (305) 348-5890
Email: international@fiu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

7 University of San Diego San Diego, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 82%

Launched in 2015, USD's online law enforcement master's degree offers in-depth study of modern criminal justice issues and delivers opportunities for students to develop management and leadership skills. This master of science in law enforcement & public safety leadership curriculum promotes a collaborative and community-based approach to shaping law enforcement policy and managing organizations. Covered topics include conflict resolution and negotiation, public safety law, multimedia communication approaches, and budgeting and resource allocation. The curriculum is contemporary and primarily skills-based. Asynchronous courses follow a year-round structure, with three 14-week terms per year. Students complete 10 seven-week courses (plus a final capstone project) online, completing the required 31 units over five semesters (20 months). Students may be eligible to transfer up to six graduate-level credits (including FBINA coursework) toward their program requirements.

Tuition is $699 per unit, with a discount of $50/unit provided to law enforcement and public safety association members, active military personnel, veterans, and military spouses. Flexible payment plans allow tuition to be paid in interest-free monthly installments.

100% of the program's students are online. There is no on-campus requirement for this program.


Program Overview
Program Name: Online Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership
Tuition: $699/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 31 credits
Program Length: 20 months

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 2.75 minimum
Work Experience: Professional experience in law enforcement, active-duty military, public safety or a related field

Contact
Phone: (619) 260-4580
Email: criminaljustice@sandiego.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

8 Webster University Saint Louis, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 64%

Webster University is a private, nonprofit university located in Webster Groves, Missouri. Distance learners may take advantage of the school's multidisciplinary master in criminal justice online program, which combines the foundations of criminology and criminal justice into one graduate curriculum. At Webster, criminal justice majors train in critical thinking, decision-making, and crime analysis to help them explain, predict, and prevent crime. Students learn about the criminal justice system, the processes of criminalization, and reform practices in the U.S. and around abroad. Upon graduation, learners can apply qualitative and quantitative methods of crime analysis, as well as understand the social, legal, and socioeconomic factors involved in law enforcement.

Distance learners complete foundational courses in policing and law enforcement, administration of criminal justice, ethics, theories of crime and justice, and white collar crime. During their final semester, criminal justice majors complete a final capstone project that demonstrates their mastery of required course content. Learners also select 18 elective credit hours from one or more specialty areas: international and regional security, cybersecurity threat detection, fraud investigation, or administration of justice. In total, learners need 27 credit hours and a B- or higher in all required courses for graduation.

Applicants should have a bachelor's degree with a 2.5 GPA or higher from an accredited institution. Webster may grant provisional acceptance to students who do not meet the GPA requirement if they provide proof of a substantial extracurricular record or high standardized test scores.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Available Concentrations: Administration of justice, fraud investigation, cybersecurity-threat detection, international and regional security
Tuition: $780/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 2.5 minimum

Contact
Phone: (314) 246-7800
Email: admit@webster.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

9 Mississippi College Clinton, MS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

Located in Clinton, Mississippi College is a private college founded in 1826. It is the second oldest Baptist-affiliated institution in the state. Distance learners at MC can earn a master of social science in homeland security entirely online. Many MC alumni from this program seek employment in immigration and customs enforcement, transportation and security administration, the Office of the Inspector General, citizenship and immigration services, or federal emergency management agencies.

Required courses for the homeland security degree include an introduction to homeland security, legal aspects of homeland security, grant writing, and special issues in the field. Distance learners may also choose electives in areas such as cyberterrorism, domestic threats, legal studies in homeland security, and physical security methods.

Applicants must submit an application fee and official transcripts. Interested students must have at least 30 semester hours of undergraduate work in the social sciences, including economics, history, administration of justice, political science, or sociology.

In affiliation with the American Criminal Justice Association, MC hosts a criminal justice club for on-campus and distance students. The club offers career forums for homeland security majors to connect with federal, state, and local professionals in the field. MC also maintains a center for counterterrorism studies, which provides resources such as data and analytics for student research projects. Online criminal justice master's students receive assistance from the center's staff and use the latest open source technology.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Social Science in Homeland Security
Tuition: $588/credit in-state and out-of-site
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact
Phone: (601) 925-3266
Email: hporter@mc.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

10 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 79%

Based in East Lansing and established in 1855, this public research university serves approximately 50,000 students. Full-time students can complete the entirely online master of science in criminal justice in two years or less, while part-time learners typically finish in three years.

Distance learners pursuing the criminal justice master's program online can follow either a general track or specialize in security management or judicial administration. All master's students need a minimum of 30 credits to graduate. Required courses include crime causation, prevention and control, quantitative methods and criminal justice research, policy analysis under conditions of change, and design and analysis.

In addition to submitting a standard graduate application, prospective students for the master's in criminal justice also need to supply official transcripts, a statement of their academic and professional goals, and three letters of recommendation. The statement of goals should outline any relevant work experience and motivations for pursuing a degree in the field. Applicants with a 3.2 GPA or higher do not need to submit their GRE scores. Interested master's students should also have at least 12 credits of undergraduate coursework in political science, psychology, social work, anthropology, or other closely related areas.

All master's students in this program gain practical experience in an applied setting through field placement opportunities or internships. Depending on the availability of these limited positions and the participating organizations, some master's students may earn a travel stipend.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Available Concentrations: Security management, judicial administration
Tuition: $756/credit in-state; $1,485 out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 1.5-2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.2
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact
Phone: (517) 432-2197
Email: gradschool@grd.msu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

11 California State University - Long Beach Long Beach, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 69%

Established in 1857, California State University currently holds status as the largest four-year institution in the U.S., with approximately 480,000 students. The public university offers an accelerated 24-month online master's in criminal justice program with flexible scheduling options for working adults and parents. Students take synchronous courses alongside the same cohort of peers they enter the program with.

This 36-unit curriculum includes training in relevant theoretical studies and tools for practical application. CSU alumni pursue administrative careers in law enforcement, private security, corrections, and probation and parole. Some graduates find teaching opportunities at the high school and community college levels, depending on their training, specialty areas, and background.

Admission to the program requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Prospective students submit two copies of their application: one to enrollment services, the other to the criminology department. Enrollment services must first admit incoming students before the School of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Emergency Management finalizes admission. Applicants must submit their GRE, LSAT scores, or two writing samples based on original research. Additionally, applicants must include official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a 750-1,250 word letter of intention. Competitive applicants have a 3.0 GPA or higher.

CSU expects graduate students to have a substantial academic history related to the field. Incoming students to the master's program in criminology and criminal justice should have a history of undergraduate-level courses focused on the criminal justice system, criminological theory, basic research methods, statistics, criminal law, and constitutional criminal procedure. New master's students without these prerequisites may still qualify for conditional admission.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice
Tuition: $573/credit/in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or LSAT

Contact
Phone: (800) 963-2250
Email: aili.malm@csulb.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

12 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 52%

A private university located in Davie, Florida, Nova Southern University offers a criminal justice master's program online that prepares students for a variety of law enforcement and public servant careers, including park ranger, parole officer, detective, correctional counselor, and DEA agent.

The program requires 30 credits, and each student completes the same 15 credits of core classes. Students customize the remaining 15 credits through one elective course and a concentration track. Degree seekers choose between 12 different concentrations, including information systems, substance abuse, business administration, emergency preparedness leadership, and public administration. Incoming students may transfer up to six credits toward the master's degree.

Distance students complete all requirements online through the Canvas system. Criminal justice students interact with professors and their fellow students through threaded discussion boards, chat rooms, email, whiteboards, and multimedia presentations. In most cases, students take two classes per semester and finish the program in two years. Students may enroll in more than two courses at a time if they wish to complete the degree on a shorter timeline.

Online degree seekers may take advantage of NSU's career services to prepare for the competitive job market. Master's students can also locate research positions, internships, and volunteer opportunities through the career center. Applications must include an application fee, two letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and a personal statement of 150-300 words. NSU holds regional accreditation from SACSCOC.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Available Concentrations: Legal perspective in criminal justice, behavioral science, business administration, public administration, substance abuse, strategic community planning, information systems, conflict and crisis management, child protection and juvenile justice, information security
Tuition: $755/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 2.5 minimum

Contact
Phone: (866) 239-7345
Email: eduinfo@nova.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

13 Saint Joseph's University Philadelphia, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 82%

The online master's in criminal justice program at SJU is 15-month degree with five career-focused concentrations: behavior analysis, behavior management, federal law enforcement, intelligence and crime analysis, and homeland security. Each track imparts in-demand skills that graduates use in positions as federal law enforcement officials, private investigators, and customs and border protection officers.

Before selecting a concentration, students complete four core courses in research, ethics, criminology, and professional writing. Each concentration gives students multiple pathways to customize their educations with electives. All students earn 30 credits. Professors, many of whom possess advanced degrees, bring academic knowledge and law enforcement experience to every course they teach. This master' s program does not require a thesis. New students can start the program at six points throughout the year.

Although not a requirement, SJU recommends that prospective students possess some professional criminal experience. As the university uses rolling admissions, students can apply at any time. SJU does not charge an application fee to applicants who submit all materials within 20 days of starting their applications. Students applying to the behavior analysis concentration must possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA; all other concentrations require a minimum 2.8 undergraduate GPA. A private university, SJU charges the same per-credit tuition rate to all students. Active military personnel, veterans, and their spouses receive an automatic tuition discount.

SJU holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Available Concentrations: Behavior analysis, behavior management, federal law enforcement, intelligence and crime analysis, homeland security
Tuition: $870/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 1.5-2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum for the behavior analysis concentration; 2.8 for all others
Standardized Tests: (e.g., GRE or GMAT)
Work Experience: The behavior analysis concentration requires a minimum of one year of applied behavior analysis work with client base or volunteer experience.

Contact
Phone: (866) 758-7670
Email: online@sju.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

14 Johnson & Wales University Providence, RI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 57%

Upperclassmen at JWU interested in earning the accelerated master's - criminal justice degree can start graduate-level coursework as soon as their senior year. This flexible, entirely online master's in criminal justice online program also attracts professionals who want to advance their criminal justice careers. The program boasts start dates every six weeks, and full-time students can earn their degrees in two years.

The 30-credit curriculum includes five core courses and five electives. Course highlights include contemporary criminology and crime prevention, criminal justice research methods, and juvenile justice issues. Courses convey skills applicable to criminal justice careers, such as moral philosophy, research, and management. An individually paced program, students can take as many or as few courses each semester as they please. An academic adviser works one on one with students to help them stay on track for graduation. Students can also access an online tutoring resource any time of day.

A private university, JWU charges identical tuition to all online graduate students. Current students who start this program as seniors pay the undergraduate tuition rate for their first three graduate courses. The university does not award scholarships or grants to master's in criminal justice online students, but it participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which awards tuition assistance to veterans and active military personnel.

JWU holds accreditation from the New England Commission on Higher Education.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Tuition: $702/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 15 months

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 2.85 minimum
Standardized Tests: GMAT required if GPA is below 2.85

Contact
Phone: (855) 236-8492
Email: onlineadmissions@jwu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

15 The University of West Florida Pensacola, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

At UWF, students can choose from an entirely online or hybrid master of science in criminal justice program. The degree prepares graduates for criminal justice careers and doctoral degrees. Full-time students can graduate in just 18 months. New students start the program in the fall, spring, and summer semesters.

In this 33-credit online master's degree in criminal justice, students attend virtual classes in the evenings and on weekends. The synchronous curriculum includes four core courses in areas such as research methodology and criminological theory. Students can personalize their degrees by taking one or more electives in criminal justice administration or penology. The curriculum stands out for its dual graduation tracks. The first track includes an internship, while the second requires a traditional master's thesis. Students can also complete an optional concentration in one of four in-demand fields. Students who select a concentration complete an additional nine credits. All senior faculty possess doctorates in criminal justice.

Admission requirements include MAT or GRE scores, a competitive undergraduate GPA, and three recommendation letters. Florida and Alabama residents pay the lowest tuition rates. Other out-of-state students pay approximately 75% more for their degrees than in-state students. Some out-of-state students may qualify for a tuition reduction waiver. Incoming graduate students may qualify for a merit-based scholarship or need-based grant. Veterans qualify for a tuition deferment program.

UWF holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Available Concentrations: Social work, public administration, homeland security, education
Tuition: $385/credit in-state; $1,044/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 1.5 years

Delivery
Format: Online or hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact
Phone: (850) 857-6349
Email: dscott2@uwf.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

16 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 47%

Liberty's master's degree in criminal justice boasts four concentrations: general, forensic psychology, homeland security, and public administration. Full-time students earn their degrees in less than two years. Graduates work in fields such as homeland security, social services, and law enforcement.

The flexible, 36-credit curriculum allows students to select four electives. Core courses include criminal justice integration, administration of justice organization, and criminal justice program evaluation. The program includes a thesis and non-thesis track. Students stay in good academic standing by earning a minimum "C" grade in all courses and completing the program within five years. Although an asynchronous program, Liberty's suggested course sequence -- one for each concentration -- keeps students on track for graduation. Liberty uses Blackboard to deliver online course content. Through Blackboard, students can view lectures and complete work at convenient times.

This online criminal justice master's degree requires that applicants possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Transfer students may apply up to 18 transfer credits towards their online criminal justice master's degree. The program accepts international students as long as they meet all application requirements, including TOEFL scores if applicants live in a country that does not speak English. Applicants benefit from no application fees. Full-time students pay a lower per-credit tuition rate than part-time students. Veterans automatically receive a tuition discount, and eligible students may qualify for a university-funded scholarship or grant.

Liberty holds accreditation from the SACS.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Available Concentrations: General, forensic psychology, homeland security, public administration
Tuition: $565/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 1.5 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact
Phone: (800) 424-9595
Email: government@liberty.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

17 East Carolina University Greenville, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 62%

One of the best online master's in criminal justice, ECU's criminal justice MS program boasts three optional certificates in security studies, public management and leadership, and criminal justice education. Full-time students complete the program in two years, and new students can start their degrees in the spring or fall semester.

The 36-credit curriculum includes 18 credits of core courses and 18 elective credits. The core curriculum features coursework in criminal justice principles, a seminar in criminal behavior, and principles of criminal justice administration and management. Students can tailor their educations to their career aspirations with electives. Students who complete a certificate earn an additional 15 credits. These students typically need an extra year to complete their education. Students can view lectures at any time of day, making the program ideal for busy professionals. The curriculum includes an extended thesis.

Applicants need a minimum 2.7 undergraduate GPA. Other application requirements include official transcripts, three recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose. The university occasionally asks applicants to interview prior to admission. In-state students save approximately 75% on their degrees compared to out-of-state students. The university charges a lower tuition rate to full-time students, as well. ECU does not award scholarships or grants to online graduate students. Veterans and active military personnel who take more than nine credit hours per semester receive a special allowance for private tutoring sessions.

ECU holds accreditation from the SACS.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Available Concentrations: Criminal justice education, public management and leadership, security studies
Tuition: $249/credit in-state; $894/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 2.7 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact
Phone: (252) 328-2411
Email: sorensenj@ecu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

18 Lewis University Romeoville, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 67%

Lewis' online master of science in criminal justice attracts experienced professionals seeking to advance their careers. In this master's in criminal justice online program, students learn how to manage personnel and resources, think ethically, and work closely with other criminal justice administrators and the broader community. Graduates pursue positions as CIA agents, police officers, and probation officers. Full-time students earn their degrees in two years.

The 36-credit curriculum includes core courses and electives. The 24-credit core curriculum includes coursework in fiscal management - criminal justice agencies, research methods, and criminal procedure. After completing the synchronous core curriculum, students move on to electives. Elective courses teach in-demand skills related to preventing terrorism, rehabilitating prisoners, and uncovering white-collar crime. At the end of the program, students take a comprehensive examination. Lewis does not require that master's students write a thesis.

Applicants must possess bachelor's degrees in behavioral or social science. However, Lewis conditionally admits applicants with other bachelor's degrees. These students must pass two introductory courses with a minimum "B" grade. All applicants need a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. A private university, Lewis charges the same per-credit tuition rate to all students. Part-time students do not pay higher tuition than full-time students. Lewis participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program to lower active military personnel and veterans' tuition costs.

Lewis holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Tuition: $575/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact
Phone: (866) 967-7046
Email: onlineprograms@lewisu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

19 University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 55%

At USD, graduate students can earn an online master of science in administration with a specialization in criminal justice. This unique program emphasizes the cross-disciplinary skills and knowledge that aspiring administrators need to succeed in their careers. This master's in criminal justice online program prepares graduates for many careers inside of and outside of the criminal justice field.

The 36-credit curriculum includes 24 credits of core courses in areas such as budgetary and fiscal management, research in administrative practice, and managerial communications. After completing the synchronous core curriculum, students take criminal justice electives. Students select four electives from six options, including criminal law, national security policy, and police administration. All students complete a capstone project. The program does not require a thesis. Students enjoy ample resources to help them succeed, including an online library and disability services.

Application requirements include a bachelor's degree, three years of professional experience, and three recommendation letters. The program considers transfer credit on a case-by-case basis, and new students can begin their educations in the fall or spring semester. Although a public university, USD charges the same per-credit tuition rate to all online graduate students. Additional fees apply. South Dakota National Guard members and Minnesota residents receive an automatic tuition discount.

USD holds accreditation from the HLC.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Administration with a specialization in Criminal Justice
Tuition: $451/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 2.7 minimum
Work Experience: Minimum of three years professional experience

Contact
Phone: (605) 658-6200
Email: gradasmissions@usd.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

20 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 51%

The entirely online master of science in criminal justice program at SHSU attracts students seeking law enforcement careers. With flexible course schedules, the program allows students to continue working while earning their degree. Graduates typically enter police administration, victim advocacy, and other law enforcement careers. New students start the program in the fall and spring semesters. Full-time students graduate in two years.

The 36-credit synchronous curriculum boasts courses in technical applications for criminal justice, quantitative analysis, and emergent issues in criminal justice leadership. Students select five electives to personalize their educations. Although students do not write a thesis, they must pass the program's capstone course with a "B" grade or higher. During the capstone, students investigate an emergent issue in criminal justice and present their findings to professors and peers.

SHSU accepts applications on a rolling basis. The university requires that applicants possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Prospective students with lower GPAs may apply with GRE scores. Other application materials include three recommendation letters from undergraduate professors and a personal statement. International applicants from countries that do not speak English must submit TOEFL scores. Texas residents save approximately 50% on their degrees compared to out-of-state and international online criminal justice master's degree students.

SHSU holds accreditation from the SACS.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Tuition: $490/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE required if GPA is less than 3.0

Contact
Phone: (936) 294-1971
Email: graduate@shsu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

21 Georgia College and State University Milledgeville, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 66%

Recent college graduates and experienced professionals earn their criminal justice MS at Georgia College. The program stresses criminological theory, research design, and other in-demand skills. Graduates work in diverse fields, including law enforcement and education. Full-time students earn their degrees in only 18 months. New students can start the program in the fall, spring, or summer semesters. All faculty possess advanced degrees and perform research in areas such as radical criminological theory, psychotherapy, and juvenile justice.

A mix of core courses and electives, the 36-credit asynchronous program concludes with a comprehensive exam. Students who do not pass the exam on the first try can try a second time. Georgia College encourages graduate students to perform research alongside professors. Graduate students and their mentor professors present their findings at conferences around the country. Students nearing graduation turn to the Georgia College Career Services Office to receive one-on-one advice.

Applicants must possess a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA. Those with a 3.0 undergraduate GPA or higher need not submit GRE scores. Georgia College typically offers conditional admission to students with lower GPAs. This criminal justice master's program online accepts up to nine hours of transfer credit earned in the past five years. Georgia residents save approximately 66% on their degrees compared to out-of-state students.

Georgia College holds accreditation from the SACS.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Tuition: $373/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 2.75 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE, MAT, or GMAT required if GPA is less than 3.0
Work Experience: Relevant work experience considered in application

Contact
Phone: (478) 445-4562
Email: sara.doude@gcsu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

22 Columbus State University Columbus, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 33%

The master of public administration - criminal justice track at Columbus State attracts recent college graduates and professionals seeking management-level positions. The program's courses emphasize leadership, analysis, and communication skills. Graduates take positions as FBI agents, social workers, and security agents. New students start the program in the fall and spring semesters.

The 36-credit asynchronous curriculum includes two components: core courses and concentration courses. Core courses include policy analysis and public personnel administration. The criminal justice concentration features courses in distributive justice and administration and management in justice systems. Students need a minimum 3.0 GPA to remain in good academic standing. Instead of a thesis, students take a comprehensive exam near the end of the program. Students who do not pass the exam on the first try may take it an additional two times in later semesters.

Columbus State selects incoming master's in criminal justice online students by using GRE and MAT score cutoffs. Other application requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and three recommendation letters from current or former undergraduate professors and work supervisors. Transfer students may apply up to nine hours of transfer credit towards their degree. Georgia residents save 75% on their educations compared to out-of-state students. Active military personnel pay the in-state tuition rate through the university's GoArmyEd program.

Columbus State holds accreditation from the SACS.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Public Administration-Criminal Justice Track
Tuition: $301/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online or hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact
Phone: (706) 507-8800
Email: enroll@columbusstate.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

23 University of Louisville Louisville, KY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

During the University of Louisville's online master of science in criminal justice, students take one course at a time, allowing them to balance studies with work and family obligations. Students receive individualized support from curriculum planning advisers. Full-time students earn their degrees from this online criminal justice master's program in two years. Graduates work as victim advocates and court referral officers, among other criminal justice positions.

The 36-credit, 12-course curriculum includes five synchronous core courses, such as theories of crime and delinquency and applied statistics. Students then choose six electives on topics such as serial murder, critical issues in corrections, and constitutional issues in criminal justice. No other online criminal justice master's degree on this ranking offers more electives. Students finish the program by writing a thesis under a professor's guidance.

Applicants need a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and must submit two recommendation letters. Transfer students may apply up to six credits towards their master's degree. The university boasts start dates every six weeks and uses rolling admissions. Students pay the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of residency. Active-duty service members receive an automatic 66% reduction in tuition. Kentucky National Guard members also receive tuition assistance. The university does not award scholarships or grants to online graduate students. However, students can select from one of many tuition payment plans.

UofL holds accreditation from the SACS.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Tuition: $714/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact
Phone: (800) 871-8635
Email: online@louisville.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

24 Arizona State University-Skysong Scottsdale, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 14%

The ASU online master of arts in criminal justice program attracts professionals seeking to balance work with their studies. Students take only one course at a time, meaning they spend no more than 12 hours per week on their studies. New students can start the program every 7.5 weeks. The curriculum prepares graduates for doctoral-level study and careers as intelligence analysts, victims' advocates, and wardens.

The 33-credit, 11-course curriculum includes four core courses in criminal justice planning and applied data analysis in criminal justice. ASU boasts dozens of electives, such as seminars on victimization, the nature of crime, and white-collar crime. The program concludes with a capstone course in theory and practice in criminal justice. During the capstone, students produce an extended research essay on criminal justice practice or policy. Faculty boast advanced degrees, significant experience, and leadership positions in criminal justice organizations, including the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

Applicants must submit two recommendation letters, a one-page essay, and undergraduate transcripts that reflect a minimum 3.0 GPA. International applicants may apply as long as they can prove English proficiency through the TOEFL or a similar exam. All online criminal justice master's students pay the same tuition rate. Arizona residents may qualify for one or more scholarship opportunities.

ASU holds accreditation from the HLC.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
Tuition: $672/credit in-state and out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 18 months

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact
Phone: (866) 277-6589
Email: asuonline@asu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

25 California State University - San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

An excellent choice for criminal justice professionals who want to advance their careers, the master of arts in criminal justice at CSUSB conveys in-demand skills for criminal justice managers and administrators. The program emphasizes in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice system, statistical analysis, and research methods. Full-time students graduate in two years.

The 45-credit curriculum boasts two graduation tracks: thesis and professional. In the thesis track, students write and defend a master's thesis. This track prepares students for doctoral criminal justice programs. In the professional track, students complete the program by passing a culminating examination. Both tracks use the same core curriculum and elective options. Students need a 3.0 GPA to remain in good academic standing. All professors possess advanced degrees and regularly publish criminal justice research in leading publications.

Prospective students with less than a 3.0 undergraduate GPA must submit GRE or MAT results. Applicants submit three recommendation letters and a two-page statement of purpose. Transfer students may apply up to 13 quarter credits towards their master's degrees. Out-of-state students pay approximately double the in-state tuition rate. Incoming online graduate students may qualify for one or more university-funded scholarships. Scholarship applicants can submit a single application for all scholarship opportunities.

CSUSB holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.


Program Overview
Program Name: Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
Tuition: $ 3,330/semester in-state; $396 nonresident fee per semester
Credit Requirements: 45 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery
Format: Online or hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE required if GPA is below 3.0

Contact
Phone: (909) 537-5506
Email: Cjgradinf0@csusb.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

While specific program content and requirements vary by school, most online master's degrees in criminal justice offer similar courses, providing students with the skills they need to pursue several career paths. Criminal justice master's programs prepare graduates for successful employment in a range of fields, including law enforcement, cybersecurity, homeland security, and forensics.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master's Degree in Criminal Justice

Concentration Description Careers this concentration prepares for
Homeland Security This concentration provides a comprehensive analysis of the causes and effects of domestic and international terrorism, the major elements of national safety, and the principles of emergency and risk management. Courses address preparedness and response to threats and national disaster and the roles and functions of federal government agencies in the development of homeland security policies. Immigration and customs enforcement agents, CIA agents, transportation security administration officers, and security and intelligence analysts
Cybercrime Investigation & Cybersecurity Students in this concentration acquire the knowledge and tools to investigate and prevent computer- and internet-related crimes, detect system vulnerabilities, and protect data. Coursework includes digital forensics, network and mobile systems, information security, and applications for prevention and detection. Courses also address risk management and assessment, cybersecurity policy, and trends in cybercrime. Cybersecurity specialists, information security analysts, computer forensics examiners, and security operations specialists
Forensic Technology The forensic technology concentration prepares students to apply technical and software tools for the analysis of evidence in criminal and legal investigations. Coursework covers forensic toxicology, computer forensics, and crime scene investigation. Students learn applications for firearm ballistics collection and analysis, fingerprint and other impression evidence, and drug and trace evidence. Forensic science technicians, crime lab technicians, forensic anthropologists, forensic toxicologists, and latent print examiners

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Criminal Justice

  • Research Methodology in Criminal Justice: This course, required of all master's students preparing for careers in criminal justice, introduces major research methods and statistical techniques. Students learn the steps required to conduct a research study, including research design, hypothesis testing, data collection and analysis, and report writing. The course also teaches students how to evaluate and assess criminal justice policies and published research studies.
  • Policing in Society: Policing refers to all the activities performed by law enforcement officers. Intended for students entering law enforcement careers, this course examines the current structure of police organizations. It frames policing as a structure of social control and police as agents of social control, with emphasis on multicultural settings, community-based policing, and current controversies in police practice.
  • Correctional Systems: This courses addresses key areas for correctional professionals, including correctional law and policies, probation, and parole; treatment models and juvenile and adult detention; and correctional facilities management. Students learn the foundational theories of retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation and apply them to cases that illustrate punishment, control, treatment, and prevention.
  • Cybercrime: Students examine the detection and prevention of criminal activity in which a computer is the object of the crime or is used as a tool to commit the crime. Topics include electronic surveillance, encryption, network security, malware, hacking, and phishing, with an emphasis on practical skills and technological tools needed for employment in cybersecurity positions.
  • Race, Crime, and Criminal Justice: This course emphasizes the ways that structural inequality and implicit and overt biases create and reinforce discriminatory law enforcement practices. Students examine theoretical perspectives and contemporary research dealing with racial differences in crime rates, arrests, sentencing, and incarceration. The course includes practical applications for those planning careers in law enforcement, public policy, and education.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master's in Criminal Justice?

Most online master's degrees in criminal justice require between 30-40 credits and may be completed within 18-24 months of full-time study. Some accelerated degrees may be completed in nine months to a year. Individually paced programs offer students the flexibility to take courses at their own convenience, in contrast to more structured, cohort-based formats. Cohort models of learning place beginning students together in groups where they take classes in sequence throughout the entire program.

Several factors affect the length of time needed to finish a master's degree. The length of a program ultimately depends on the graduation requirements and the number of courses completed each term. Some students can handle a full-time course schedule, maintaining continuous enrollment. Others who have work or family responsibilities may choose to attend part time or take off a semester or two, prolonging the time needed to complete the degree. A thesis requirement or fieldwork may also lengthen the amount of time needed to graduate.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Criminal Justice Prepares For

  • Crime Scene Technician Certification: Some professional organizations offer voluntary certifications that provide training in procedures for the collection, handling, and storage of evidence from crime sites. For example, the forensic crime scene investigator certification through the International Crime Scene Investigators Association requires at least 50 hours of crime scene processing courses and a minimum of two years of crime scene experience in law enforcement.
  • Certified Criminal Justice Professional Certification: The certified criminal justice addiction professional certification provides advanced training for criminal justice professionals, especially probation and corrections officers, to work with drug offenders. While state requirements vary, certification usually requires 6,000 hours of work experience in criminal justice or drug rehabilitation fields, 270 hours of coursework, and a supervised practicum or internship.
  • Private Investigator Certification: Private investigators must hold a valid license to practice in most states, certifying their expertise in interview and surveillance techniques and familiarity with legal guidelines governing the profession. Licensing typically requires five years of job experience, a background check, and a written examination. Several organizations offer private investigator certification, including the National Association of Legal Investigators and ASIS International.
  • Professional Peace Officer Certification: This certification, also known as peace officer skills training (POST), may be required by law enforcement agencies to work as a police officer at the local or state level. While specific requirements vary by state, the POST certification requires a high school diploma, criminal justice and police academy coursework, and passing grades on written, verbal, and physical examinations.

Accreditation is one of the most important considerations when selecting a criminal justice graduate program. Independent agencies review nationally and regionally accredited schools across the U.S., validating their overall academic integrity. Vocational, technical, and for-profit schools typically hold national accreditation. These career-oriented schools often offer less rigorous admissions requirements and inexpensive tuition. The more popular, regional accreditation designation, usually awarded to four-year schools and those that offer graduate degrees, requires stricter admissions and academic standards.

In addition to regional or national accreditation, some academic programs obtain specialized accreditation. For example, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) awards programmatic accreditation to a small group of high-quality master's in criminal justice programs. Generally acknowledged as an especially prestigious credential, few master's programs hold this ACJS designation; the absence of this accreditation, however, should not deter students from considering a school's program.

Schools receive regional and national accreditation from independent accreditation agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The ED establishes national educational policy and administers federal assistance programs, while the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) promotes academic quality and coordinates postsecondary accreditation. The accreditation process considers many variables, including faculty expertise, curriculum quality, student services, and financial stability. Accreditation can affect federal financial aid eligibility and the ability to transfer credits to and from other schools. Employers often look for job applicants with degrees from accredited institutions. Prospective students can find current directories of all accredited schools on the ED's and CHEA's websites.

Master's in Criminal Justice Salary

A master's in criminal justice provides a competitive advantage for several careers and may also result in a significant salary bump. This chart shows salary ranges and median annual income data for common careers pursued by graduates with an online master's degree in criminal justice. In general, the data support the added value of a master's degree, indicating higher salary ranges for careers that require advanced training and/or statistical and research skills.

The BLS projects employment opportunities in information security and forensic technology to grow much faster than the national average for all other occupations. The demand for highly-skilled criminal justice professionals also fuels the need for postsecondary educators to teach them. Projections for protective services positions continue to remain fairly stable.

Median Salaries, Salary Ranges, and Job Growth for Criminal Justice Careers
Job Title Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Information Security Analysts Less than $55,560 $95,510 More than $153,090 28%
Postsecondary Teachers Less than $39,040 $76,000 More than $170,160 15%
Forensic Science Technicians Less than $33,880 $57,850 More than $95,600 17%
Police and Detectives Less than $35,780 $62,960 More than $105,230 7%
Probations Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists Less than $33,920 $51,410 More than $90,880 6%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Master's in Criminal Justice Careers

Many criminal justice positions require the specialized research and technological training obtained through a master's degree. Generally, criminal justice professionals must be analytical and detail oriented. Federal agencies like the FBI, CIA, and the Drug Enforcement Agency increasingly employ graduate-trained recruits. The Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have opened up positions at all levels, especially for patrol officers and security analysts. Additionally, the law enforcement industry boasts more positions for forensic analysts, fraud examiners, and cybercrime specialists.

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary: Postsecondary educators in this field prepare and teach courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in criminal justice and legal studies departments. These teachers may find employment at community colleges, public and private four-year institutions, and professional schools. While educational requirements vary by program and school, most postsecondary teachers must hold a master's degree; college and university faculty typically hold doctoral degrees.


Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: These professionals facilitate the rehabilitation of individuals released into the community on probation or parole, assisting criminal offenders to fulfill the conditions of their release and avoid repeat incarceration. They also connect their clients with services, such as job training and drug counseling. Although most positions only call for a bachelor's degree, a master's can lead to expanded career opportunities.


Police and Detectives: While specific duties differ for each state and local law enforcement agency, these professionals conduct surveillance and collect evidence for criminal investigations related to suspected violations of federal, state, and local laws. Many police officers with undergraduate degrees earn a master's to pursue promotions and higher salaries. Detectives and federal agents often obtain graduate degrees to move into supervisory roles.

Position Median Annual Salary
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary $68,980
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $51,410
Police and Detectives $62,960

Networking and continuing education resources provide opportunities for career growth and development. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below, you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for criminal justice professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • National Association of Police Organizations: Founded in 1978, NAPO now represents roughly 241,000 officers and detectives in more than 1,000 law enforcement units. Members receive invitations to three annual conferences and continuing education opportunities.
  • National Association of Legal Assistants: A nonprofit organization, NALA represents more than 18,000 paralegals, who are individual members and employees of member affiliates. The association offers two certifications for paralegals, as well as online webinars, job leads, and complementary issues of the Facts & Findings academic journal.
  • American Probation and Parole Association: APPA represents probation and parole personnel working with criminals and juvenile offenders. The organization's website features an extensive online resource library and links to online and onsite training programs.

Despite the relative affordability of online criminal justice master's programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place and the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and education. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Rankings Archive

Best Online Master's in Criminal Justice Programs of 2018
Ranking School Location
1 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
2 Boston University Boston, MA
3 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
4 Colorado State University Greenwood Village, CO
5 Florida International University Miami, FL
6 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
7 Northeastern University Global Network Boston, MA
8 California State University - Long Beach Long Beach, CA
9 Adler University Chicago, IL
10 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
11 University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Denver, CO
12 The University of West Florida Pensacola, FL
13 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
14 Johnson & Wales University Providence, RI
15 San Diego State University San Diego, CA
16 Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL
17 Saint Joseph's University Philadelphia, PA
18 Webster University Saint Louis, MO
19 Lincoln Memorial University Harrogate, TN
20 East Carolina University Greenville, NC
21 Excelsior College Albany, NY
22 Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX
23 University of Oklahoma - Norman Campus Norman, OK
24 University of Louisville Louisville, KY
25 Texas Christian University Fort Worth, TX
26 University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH
27 Tarleton State University Stephenville, TX
28 Concordia University - Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
29 California State University - San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA
30 University of North Texas Denton, TX
31 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania Slippery Rock, PA
32 CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York, NY
33 Lewis University Romeoville, IL
34 University of Massachusetts - Lowell Lowell, MA
35 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX
36 Missouri State University - Springfield Springfield, MO
37 Columbus State University Columbus, GA
38 Xavier University Cincinnati, OH
39 Mercer University Macon, GA
40 Jacksonville State University Jacksonville, AL
41 New Mexico State University Las Cruces, NM
42 Georgia College and State University Milledgeville, GA
43 Chaminade University of Honolulu Honolulu, HI
44 St John's University - New York Queens, NY
45 University of Central Missouri Warrensburg, MO
46 University of Wisconsin-Platteville Platteville, WI
47 DeSales University Center Valley, PA
48 Rowan University Glassboro, NJ
49 University of Michigan-Dearborn Dearborn, MI
50 Washington State University Pullman, WA
Best Online Master's in Criminal Justice Programs of 2017
Rank School Location
1 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
2 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
3 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
4 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
5 Rowan University Glassboro, NJ
6 University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Denver, CO
7 Troy University Troy, AL
8 University of Massachusetts-Lowell Lowell, MA
9 University of Louisville Louisville, KY
10 East Carolina University Greenville, NC
11 Mississippi College Clinton, MS
12 University of San Diego San Diego, CA
13 University of Memphis Memphis, TN
14 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX
15 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati, OH
16 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
17 Lewis University Romeoville, IL
18 Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
19 University of North Texas Denton, TX
20 Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX
21 University of Wisconsin-Platteville Platteville, WI
22 University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus Norman, OK
23 Arizona State University-Skysong Scottsdale, AZ
24 Colorado State University-Global Campus Greenwood Village, CO
25 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania Slippery Rock, PA
Best Online Master's in Criminal Justice Programs of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
2 Northeastern University Global Network Boston, MA
3 Arizona State University - Skysong Scottsdale, AZ
4 Sam Houston University Huntsville, TX
5 Cocordia University - Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
6 Lewis University Romeoville, IL
7 Sul Ross State University Alpine, TX
8 Tiffin University Tiffin, OH
9 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
10 Troy University Troy, AL
11 Bethell University McKenzie, TN
12 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL
13 University of Massachusetts - Lowell Lowell, MA
14 University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY
15 Albany State University Albany, GA
16 Michigan State University East Landsing, MI
17 University of Cincinnati Cincinatti, OH
18 Tarleton State University Stephenville, TX
19 National University La Jolla, CA
20 Texas A & M University - Central Texas Central Texas
21 University of Colorado - Denver Denver, CO
22 University of New Haven West Haven, CT
23 University of Central Missouri Warrensburg, MO
24 East Carolina University Greenville, NC
25 Fayetteville State University Fayetteville, NC