The field of criminal justice encompasses thousands of professionals working at the local, state, and federal levels. Breaking into this field is relatively easy; aspiring police officers can compete for jobs with only a high school diploma and academy training. Earning an advanced college degree, however, can expand your opportunities far beyond the local law enforcement office.

Below, discover the top 10 online master's degrees in criminal justice, get an in-depth look at curriculum and admission requirements, and explore career options.

What Are the Best Criminal Justice Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 10:

  1. Northeastern University - Boston, MA
  2. Boston University - Boston, MA
  3. Colorado State University - Greenwood Village, CO
  4. University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee - Sarasota, FL
  5. University of San Diego - San Diego, CA
  6. Florida State University - Tallahassee, FL
  7. Arizona State University - Scottsdale, AZ
  8. University of Central Florida - Orlando, FL
  9. Michigan State University - East Lansing, MI
  10. Florida International University - Miami, FL

While a high school diploma, associate, or bachelor's degree satisfies minimum education requirements for many entry-level law enforcement and corrections careers, a master's program allows professionals to pursue advanced jobs and higher salaries.

For example, graduates may pursue work as criminologists, a specialized type of sociologist who researches the causes and effects of crime. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), sociologists earn a median annual wage of $82,050.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students. Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read more about our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Criminal Justice Programs

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

Northeastern University

Boston, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 88%

Northeastern University delivers over 70 flexible graduate programs through its Lifelong Learning Network, including an online master of science in criminal justice. Candidates can choose a fully online curriculum or pursue hybrid learning by mixing in classes at the campus in Charlotte, Massachusetts.

The master's in criminal justice degree plan includes required coursework in administration of justice; legal decision-making and leadership; and GIS, evidence-based learning, and policy. Students take advanced classes in one of six concentrations. For example, the security track covers topics like domestic/international terrorism and organizational crisis admnistration, preparing learners for careers in emergency management and homeland security.

Applicants must submit a professional resume, two recommendation letters, and a 500-word personal statement. By enrolling at Northwestern, students receive support from a global network of 255,000 alumni and 3,350 employer partners.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Community and family justice; corrections; global criminal justice; policing; leadership; security
Tuition: $32,700 total
Credit Requirements: 45 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and/or asynchronous

Contact

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

2

Boston University

Boston, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 88%

Offering distance education opportunities since 2002, Boston University provides more than 50 online degrees and certificates, including a master of science in criminal justice with three concentration options. Through a career-focused degree plan, students develop the abilities to analyze criminal behavior and apply leadership principles in diverse organizational settings.

Foundational coursework covers topics like criminal justice administration and ethics, advanced analytical methods, and criminology and crime policy. Concentration options include criminal analysis and strategic management. Students may also choose the cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity track, learning how to develop IT security policies for private companies and government agencies.

Applicants must furnish a personal statement, an up-to-date resume, and three recommendation letters. BU offers six start dates each year. The university provides merit scholarships specifically for students pursuing an online master's degree in criminal justice.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Crime analysis; cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity; strategic management
Tuition: $27,360/semester
Credit Requirements: 32 credits
Program Length: 16-18 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Contact

Phone: (617) 358-1960
Email: disted@bu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

3

Colorado State University

Greenwood Village, CO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

Colorado State University Global Campus uses the Canvas platform to offer 20 graduate certificates and degrees, including an online master of criminal justice. This program helps students gain the skills needed to address cyberterrorism, implement community-based justice strategies to prevent crime, and occupy leadership positions.

Master's in criminal justice candidates take core classes in criminological theory; ethics, justice, and social control; and restorative justice. They also learn to administer and manage criminal justice organizations, including correctional facilities and nonprofits. Students choose from two specialization options, including fraud management, which covers data analysis and contemporary legal concepts.

Applicants with a GPA below 3.0 can apply for provisional admission if they demonstrate other indicators of academic success, such as high GRE scores. All prospective students must submit a detailed resume and a 500-word statement of purpose with their application.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Fraud management; information technology
Tuition: $500/credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 1-2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 preferred

Contact

Phone: (720) 279-0159
Email: enroll@csuglobal.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

4

University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee

Sarasota, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee enrolls over 2,000 students, many of whom pursue remote learning opportunities via the Blackboard platform. The graduate catalog includes a fully online master of criminal justice that prepares candidates for careers as police officers, crime analysts, and fraud investigators.

The research-based curriculum integrates theory with practical skills for examining a variety of criminal justice issues. Students complete core classes in organizational administration and quantitative analysis. They can personalize their education through five advanced electives, choosing from options like minorities and crime, terrorism/homeland security, and current challenges in corrections.

Applicants must submit two recommendation letters and a written statement of purpose. Candidates with a GPA below 3.0 may qualify for enrollment if they hold a GRE score of 300 or higher.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Tuition: $418/credit in-state; $864/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and/or asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (941) 359-4331
Email: admissions@sar.usf.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

5

University of San Diego

San Diego, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

With a total enrollment of over 9,000 students, the University of San Diego offers 34 master's degrees, including five online master's programs. The school's online master of science in law enforcement and public safety leadership provides a career-focused curriculum where students develop the knowledge and skills needed to manage law enforcement teams and oversee organizational budgets.

USD collaborates with law enforcement agencies to regularly update its coursework. Students take classes like conflict resolution and decision-making, public safety law, and community assessment practices. They round out their graduate training with an integrative capstone experience.

Prospective students with a GPA below 2.75 may apply, but these applicants must furnish a graduate-level essay. USD accepts applications on a rolling basis for fall, spring, and summer enrollment. The university grants transfer credit for relevant professional experience, such as training with the FBI National Academy.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership
School Status: Private
Tuition: $699/unit
Credit Requirements: 31 units
Program Length: 20 months

Delivery

Format: 100% 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: grads@sandiego.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

6

Florida State University

Tallahassee, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 83%

With an enrollment of over 41,000 students, Tallahassee-based Florida State University delivers more than 50 online academic programs through the Canvas platform. Distance learners can earn a master's in criminal justice studies that focuses on research design and its applications for organizational management and ethical decision-making.

Required coursework consists of applied statistics in criminology and advanced computer applications. Students personalize their degree plan by choosing from electives like penology, prevention and treatment of delinquency, and crime policy evaluation. As an alternative to a coursework-only track, learners can pursue a thesis option leading to scholarly publication and presentation.

While FSU does not maintain strict GPA requirements, master's in criminal justice applicants must demonstrate strong academic abilities. Students with five or more years of relevant professional experience receive GRE exemption. FSU accepts up to six transfer credits, enabling some candidates to graduate in 18 months.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master's in Criminal Justice Studies
School Status: Public
Tuition: $554/credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact

Phone: (850) 645-9169
Email: crimgradprogram@fsu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

7

Arizona State University

Scottsdale, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 48%

Arizona State University provides more than 200 online undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a fully online master of arts in criminal justice program delivered through accelerated, 7.5-week classes. Candidates cultivate the policy analysis and program management skills needed to work for corrections facilities, the court system, and private security firms.

This online master's degree in criminal justice enables students to individualize their curriculum through guided electives. Options include classes in forensic mental health, juvenile delinquency, and etiology of martyrdom. The program culminates with a capstone course that requires candidates to produce a comprehensive research paper on a specific practice or policy.

Applicants need to hold a regionally accredited bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field. They also must submit two recommendation letters and a written statement describing long-term professional goals and development strategies.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Tuition: $709/credit
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 18 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

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

8

University of Central Florida

Orlando, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

As one of the largest higher education institutions in the state, the University of Central Florida enrolls about 68,000 students in 200 academic programs. Learners can access over 90 fully online degree offerings, including a master of science in criminal justice. This comprehensive program teaches students to leverage the dynamic forces of the criminal justice field to ensure law enforcement, court, and corrections systems are fair and progressive.

The master's in criminal justice curriculum covers topics like the nature of crime, applied research methods, and organizational administration. Candidates complete five elective classes, covering the juvenile justice system, American criminal courts, and other topics. They may pursue a thesis option, working with a faculty advisor to investigate a current challenge in the field.

UCF maintains fall, spring, and summer admission dates. Application materials include a resume, two recommendation letters, and a written statement of career goals.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Tuition: $327/credit in-state; $1,152/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact

Phone: (855) 903-8576
Email: online@ucf.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

9

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

Michigan State University serves approximately 50,000 students and delivers more than 200 academic programs. MSU's graduate offerings include a fully online master of science in criminal justice powered by the Desire2Learn platform. Through a 10-course degree plan, learners gain the leadership skills needed to occupy executive-level positions in emergency management, national security, and criminal investigation.

Students in the program complete courses like research design/analysis and policy analysis under conditions of change. They can also take elective courses or earn a security management specialization. This program also enables candidates to gain hands-on experience through internships and independent research.

Prospective learners can enroll in the fall, spring, or summer. MSU provides over $1 billion in financial aid each year. The university automatically considers admitted students for scholarships, grants, and fellowships.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Security management
Tuition: $745/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE for applicants with a GPA below 3.2

Contact

Phone: (833) 725-1354
Email: cjweb@msu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

10

Florida International University

Miami, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 58%

Through its School of International and Public Affairs, Florida International University delivers a research-centered online master of science in criminal justice. Students can complete the program through a fully remote curriculum or engage in hybrid learning by integrating flexible classes at the school's Miami campus.

Required coursework covers topics like policy analysis, applied research methodologies, and transnational crime. Master's in criminal justice candidates fill out remaining credits with electives, which can include internships and independent research projects. Students who wish to teach should complete relevant practica and obtain credentials from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Application materials include two recommendation letters and a statement of purpose detailing a student's career plans and research interests. Applicants also must submit a research paper that demonstrates their academic writing capabilities.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Tuition: $4,310/semester in-state; $9,224/semester out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and/or asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.2 minimum

Contact

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

11

University of Colorado Denver

Denver, CO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 48%

The University of Colorado offered its first distance learning course in 1996. Today, the institution provides more than 50 online degrees and certificates. Among these is a master of criminal justice — with four concentration options — delivered through the school's Anschutz Medical Campus. Designed as an interdisciplinary program, the curriculum prepares students for careers in policy reform, crime data analysis, victim advocacy and support, and law enforcement.

Distance learners take asynchronous coursework through Canvas. In addition to completing advanced classes within their chosen concentration, students round out their graduate training with a capstone seminar or thesis research. Candidates without at least one year of professional experience must also engage in an internship or practicum.

To enroll in this master's in criminal justice program, applicants must submit three recommendation letters and a resume. Admitted students can apply for a variety of scholarships, which include awards based on academic merit, community service, and work history.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Crime analyst; nonprofit organizations; emergency management and homeland security; disasters, hazards, and emergency management
Tuition: $526/credits in-state; $631/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2.5 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (303) 315-3000
Email: cuonline@ucdenver.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

12

Trine University

Fort Wayne, IN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 50%

Headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Trine University delivers 35 online associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees through Moodle, including a fully remote master of science in criminal justice program. The flexible curriculum provides candidates with the program planning and policy analysis skills needed to effect change in the criminal justice system.

Required coursework covers topics like professional writing and the American system of justice. Students select from elective options like victimology and conflict resolution for leaders. This online master's degree in criminal justice culminates with a capstone experience centered on law, law enforcement, or forensic psychology.

Applicants must submit official academic transcripts, a resume, and an essay detailing their career endeavors and plans for graduate success. Trine offers ample financial aid opportunities. Graduate students may apply for state grants, institutional scholarships, and work-study awards.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Private
Tuition: $565/credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 12 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact

Phone: (877) 701-3343
Email: online@trine.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

13

California State University - San Bernardino

San Bernardino, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 57%

Serving over 20,000 students each year, California State University, San Bernardino delivers 10 remote academic programs through Blackboard. The college's fully online master of arts in criminal justice includes two tracks: a traditional thesis option or a professional focus for individuals planning to immediately enter the field after graduation.

The master's in criminal justice degree plan includes coursework like criminological theory and advanced social network analysis. As an elective, students can delve into the history, development, and current functions of juvenile corrections. Thesis candidates round out their studies by defending their research, while learners who choose the professional option complete the program by taking a comprehensive exam.

Applicants must possess baccalaureate credentials in criminal justice, sociology, criminology, or a related field. They must also submit three recommendation letters and pass the graduate entrance writing requirement.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Tuition: $2,392/semester in-state; $4,768/semester out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 45 quarter credits
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

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

14

Georgia College & State University

Milledgeville, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 64%

Located in Milledgeville, Georgia College and State University enrolls over 1,100 students in its comprehensive graduate programs, including a master of science in criminal justice track that is designed for working professionals. The program's flexible curriculum enables full-time candidates to earn their credentials in four semesters.

This online master's degree in criminal justice centers on legal policy analysis and ethical issues. Through core classes, students examine contemporary challenges facing U.S. law enforcement and the judicial system. Elective options include organizational theory and management, international terrorism, and the psychology of criminal behaviors.

To help students gain practical skills, Georgia College facilitates optional internships and cooperative research projects. Applicants must hold a regionally accredited bachelor's degree and submit a resume detailing relevant work experience. Students can transfer in up to nine credits toward program completion.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Tuition: $288/credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 18 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and/or asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE for applicants with a GPA between 2.75 and 2.99

Contact

Phone: (478) 445-4257
Email: sara.doude@gcsu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

15

California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 69%

Founded in 1949, California State University, Long Beach is part of the largest public higher education system in the world. The school maintains 70 graduate degree programs, including a fully online master of science in criminology and criminal justice that prepares students to occupy administrative positions in corrections, the courts, and law enforcement. The research-focused curriculum also prepares candidates to pursue doctoral academics and research careers.

Required coursework covers topics like criminal justice policy and professional ethics and values. Students who pick the crime and intelligence analysis concentration learn to implement mapping techniques and social network analysis using geographic information science. This master's in criminal justice program culminates with a comprehensive exam or thesis research and defense.

Applicants can forgo standardized testing by submitting one or two writing samples that provide evidence of their academic research and critical thinking abilities. Additional application materials include a resume, two recommendation letters, and a statement of intent.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Crime and intelligence analysis
Tuition: $575/unit
Credit Requirements: 36 units
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and/or asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 preferred
Standardized Tests: GRE or LSAT

Contact

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

16

University of West Florida

Pensacola, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 43%

The University of West Florida is based in Pensacola and facilitates its distance education offerings through Canvas. Students choose from over 15 online degree options, including a master of science in criminal justice. Designed to fit the busy schedules of working professionals, this program offers fully asynchronous and blended classes, as well as evening courses on campus.

To earn their online master's degree in criminal justice, students take required coursework in research methodology, quantitative and qualitative analysis, and criminological theory. Degree candidates may pursue one of four concentration certificates, such as homeland security, which prepares students for emergency management and counterterrorism careers.

UWF allows learners to round out their graduate training by completing a research paper or taking a comprehensive exam. The university facilitates fall, spring, and summer admission. Students may access assistantships, grants, and funding for research and travel.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Social work; public administration; homeland security; education
Tuition: $378/credit in-state; $483/credit Alabama resident; $1,037/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 18 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and/or asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact

Phone: (850) 474-2336
Email: justice@uwf.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

17

University of Louisville

Louisville, KY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 57%

The University of Louisville enrolls over 22,000 students annually, many of whom earn their certificates and degrees remotely. The school's career-focused master of science in criminal justice allows candidates to graduate in three semesters by taking a series of accelerated eight-week courses.

Distance learners complete five core classes covering topics like theories of crime/delinquency and advanced research methodologies. They also choose eight electives, with options such as capital punishment, economic analysis of crime, and international perspetives on violence. The program culminates with a professional research paper.

This master's in criminal justice program admits students on a rolling basis. Applicants must submit two recommendation letters and a personal statement detailing their professional goals and academic potential. The program accepts up to six transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Tuition: $764/credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 12 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact

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

18

Texas A&M International University

Laredo, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 46%

Texas A&M International University delivers 15 online graduate programs, with degree options that include an accelerated master of science in criminal justice. Students can complete this degree in one year through a series of seven-week classes. The curriculum does not require a thesis, focusing instead on advanced electives that allow candidates to pursue distinct academic interests and career goals.

Master's in criminal justice coursework includes social research methods and criminological theory. Candidates pick from elective options like cybercrime, police practices, and comparative criminal justice systems. They finish the program with a capstone project, conducting in-depth analysis and developing solutions to a mounting challenge in the field.

TAMIU provides six entry dates every year. Applicants with a GPA below 2.8 must possess three or more years of relevant work experience or submit a 200-word personal statement explaining why they are a good fit for the program.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Tuition: $336/credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 12 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.8 preferred

Contact

Phone: (844) 872-8712
Email: graduateschool@tamiu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

19

East Carolina University

Greenville, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 65%

Based in Greenville, North Carolina, East Carolina University offers over 35 fully remote graduate degrees. Programs include a master of science in criminal justice that prepares students to teach at the community college level or advance into leadership positions within government agencies and private security organizations. ECU uses Canvas and Blackboard to facilitate distance education.

This online master's degree in criminal justice requires candidates to take core classes in criminal behavior, statistical evaluation, and organizational management. Students personalize their curriculum through 18 elective credits and round out their education by writing a comprehensive research paper. In lieu of individual electives, distance learners may pursue one of three graduate certificates.

Applicants must furnish three reference letters and a 500-750-word statement of purpose. The Department of Criminal Justice also interviews some candidates. ECU provides scholarships and grants for online students.


Program Overview

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

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and/or asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.7 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact

Phone: (252) 328-4192
Email: just@ecu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

20

Lincoln Memorial University

Harrogate, TN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 57%

Based in Harrogate, Tennessee, Lincoln Memorial University serves over 4,800 students each year. The school facilitates remote learning through Blackboard and offers an entirely online master of science in criminal justice. Through a comprehensive curriculum, candidates develop the leadership and scientific research competencies necessary to pursue careers as program administrators, public servants, and policy analysts.

In addition to completing three required courses, students take electives in areas like rural criminal justice and community corrections/offender reentry. They align their degree plan with career objectives by choosing one of three program tracks. For example, the applied professional option covers the juvenile justice system and pertinent issues related to race, gender, and social class.

This master's in criminal justice program requires learners to submit applications 3-4 weeks before the start of a semester. Application materials include a personal statement and two letters of reference. This program accepts up to nine transfer credits.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Research; administrative; applied professional
Tuition: $500/credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.7 minimum

Contact

Phone: (865) 545-5334
Email: mscj.info@lmunet.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

21

University of Oklahoma

Norman, OK Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 67%

The University of Oklahoma offers 12 graduate degrees to distance learners, including an online master of science in criminal justice. This program is designed to help law enforcement officials, community builders, and policy researchers advance their careers. Candidates can pursue a fully remote curriculum or opt for hybrid learning, taking some classes at the Norman campus.

The online master's degree in criminal justice includes core classes in mediation and conflict resolution, ethical decision-making, and policy development. Students also take advanced topics in one of three concentration options, all of which lead to graduate certification. As an example, the restorative justice track centers on community-oriented approaches to crime prevention, preparing candidates to manage victim and offender service programs.

OU may award transfer credit based on prior academic work as well as military and law enforcement experience. Applicants must submit three recommendation letters, a resume or CV, and a 300-500-word personal statement.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Corrections management certificate; restorative justice certificate; organizational leadership certificate
Tuition: $274/credit in-state; $885/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and/or asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (405) 325-3266
Email: pacsinfo@ou.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

22

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

New York, NY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 46%

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice operates as part of the City University of New York system, serving over 15,000 students annually. Distance learners can earn a master of arts in criminal justice in under one year by completing a series of accelerated, eight-week classes. This program limits class sizes to 20 students, which strengthens peer collaboration and faculty engagement.

Core classes include research design and methods, policing and corrections, and policy analysis. Based on their chosen specialization, candidates may take advanced courses like white collar crime, crime scene investigation, and homeland security and terrorism.

Prospective students need to hold a regionally accredited baccalaureate credential. John Jay provides a variety of financial aid, such as graduate scholarships based on leadership qualities and academic excellence. The university powers distance education with Blackboard.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Criminology and deviance; criminal law and procedure; policing; terrorism studies
Tuition: $470/credit in-state; $875/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 12 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (212) 393-6342
Email: syu@jjay.cuny.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

23

Johnson & Wales University

Providence, RI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 46%

Located in Providence, Rhode Island, Johnson & Wales University delivers 15 online graduate degrees through Blackboard. JWU Online's academic catalog includes a master of science in criminal justice that teaches students to apply leadership skills to solve organizational challenges and address diversity issues faced by government agencies, nonprofits, and private companies. Candidates also learn to conduct and evaluate research, preparing them for doctoral academics and teaching careers.

The master's in criminal justice degree plan covers core topics in crime prevention and ethics in a global environment. Students individualize their curriculum by selecting five electives from options like juvenile justice issues; GIS technology; and social, community, and restorative justice. The program culminates with an integrative capstone project.

Prospective learners with a GPA from 2.40-2.84 can apply for conditional admission. All candidates must submit two recommendation letters and an essay explaining their motivation and aptitude for graduate study.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Private
Tuition: $786/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.85 minimum

Contact

Phone: (401) 598-4400 ext. 5248
Email: abigail.cogan@jwu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

24

Sam Houston State University

Huntsville, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 52%

Sam Houston State University maintains its flagship campus in Huntsville, Texas, and facilitates remote learning with Blackboard. Students enjoy over 50 online degree options, including a master of science in criminal justice. After completing this career-focused program, graduates can go on to successful careers as federal law enforcement agents, victim advocates, and chief probation officers.

Coursework covers computer applications for criminal justice, emergent leadership issues, and research methods and quantitative analysis. Remaining credits are fulfilled through electives, which cover topics like penalty of death and American policing. Students can also use their elective credits to strengthen skills for research design and implementation.

This master's in criminal justice program accepts students who do not meet GPA requirements if they display strong GRE performance. Students can begin taking classes in the fall or spring. The university provides scholarships and grants specifically for distance learners.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Public
Tuition: $4,944/semester
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

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

25

Mercer University

Macon, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 66%

Based in Macon, Georgia, Mercer University offers 36 online academic programs powered by Canvas. Its graduate catalog includes a fully remote master of science in criminal justice and public safety leadership. Students gain the skills needed to work as emergency response directors, chief deputy sheriffs, and private security firm managers.

This online master's degree in criminal justice covers core areas like public safety ethics, organizational communication, and domestic and international terrorism. Elective options include forensic psychology and deviant behavior. Candidates complete their graduate education by writing a research report and taking a comprehensive exam.

Applicants need not submit standardized test scores if they possess a minimum 3.0 GPA or at least five years of relevant career experience. However, all candidates must submit to an interview. On top of university awards, graduate students may access private scholarships and fellowships through partner organizations.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Public Safety Leadership
School Status: Private
Tuition: $600/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credit
Program Length: 16 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT

Contact

Phone: (678) 547-6417
Email: copa.admissions@mercer.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

Online Master's in Criminal Justice Program Overview

The primary objective of an online master's degree in criminal justice is to provide students with the knowledge and skills required for advancement within the criminal justice field. Students also gain an understanding of complex criminal justice issues, theories, and system organization.

Common curriculum subjects include crime causation, prevention, and control; design and analysis of criminal justice research; and policymaking and policy analysis in criminal justice. Elective and specialization options allow students to take courses in popular topics such as victimology, ethics, emergency management, and cybercrime.

Whether or not graduates choose to pursue doctoral education in this field depends largely on their goals. Many professionals immediately apply their master's degree to opportunities in the workforce, seeking advancement in local, state, or federal law enforcement; courts; and corrections. Others who desire opportunities in forensic psychology or scientific research may decide to pursue a Ph.D.

Common Master's in Criminal Justice Degree Courses

Criminal Justice Policy

Graduate-level courses on criminal justice policy typically take one of two approaches: focusing on contemporary issues or examining the policymaking process. The former helps students understand the complexities of community policing, racial profiling, and use of deadly force. The latter provides a solid foundation and prepares students for further policy inquiry and analysis.

Criminal Justice Administration

In this course, students learn about theories of organizational behavior and management and apply these concepts to the criminal justice system. Coursework and class discussions examine the challenges faced by criminal justice leaders, including employee management, resources, and the responsibility of maintaining public safety.

Criminological Theory

Typically structured as a survey course, this class gives students a deeper understanding of the major schools of thought relating to crime causation and criminal behavior: sociological, psychological, physiological, and genetic theory. Students critically examine and discuss how these theoretical perspectives play a role in crime research and policy development.

Research Methods

Required by a majority of online master's degrees in criminal justice, this course introduces students to methods and techniques used in research and evaluation of sources. Topics may include analyzing archival data, surveying and data collection, measuring validity and reliability, and experimenting. Ethical problems in research design may also be discussed.

Capstone

The culminating experience of a master's degree requires students to synthesize and apply the knowledge and skills they gained throughout the program. Capstone experiences vary by school and may involve the creation of a professional portfolio, completion of a research project, or production of a master's thesis.

Related Master's in Criminal Justice Degree Concentrations

Crime and Intelligence Analysis

This concentration trains graduates to use, analyze, and incorporate data from various sources in order to inform criminal justice investigations, strategies, and policy decisions. Courses may cover crime mapping, social networks, spatial analysis, and other criminology-related subjects. Relevant ethical and legal rules are also discussed.

Criminal Justice Education

A concentration in criminal justice education provides graduates with knowledge of foundational and contemporary criminal justice issues such as juvenile justice, diversity, terrorism, and crime control. Students learn how to deliver instruction effectively, preparing them for criminal justice teaching careers at community and vocational colleges.

Corrections

This concentration helps prepare graduates for advanced positions in corrections, such as prison warden, chief probation officer, or director of corrections. Courses typically cover adult and juvenile correctional systems administration, probation and parole, and communities and crime. Students may integrate course knowledge by completing an experiential learning project.

Homeland Security

A concentration in homeland security provides students with an understanding of national and international threats. Coursework may cover topics including terrorism, human trafficking, emergency and crisis management, and information security. Graduates are prepared to help meet the challenges posed by various threats and a changing security landscape.

Leadership

A concentration in leadership provides the knowledge and skills required for graduates to secure professional advancement in a number of criminal justice fields upon graduation. Courses commonly cover organizational leadership, ethics, and strategy development. Through assessments and self-reflection, students develop their own personal leadership capabilities.

Online Master's in Criminal Justice Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor's Degree

    A completed bachelor's degree serves as the primary admission requirement for any master's program. Prospective students must provide transcripts showing proof of graduation from an accredited college or university. Depending on the school, program admission may be limited to applicants who majored in criminal justice or a closely related field.

  • Minimum GPA

    Universities want students who are likely to succeed. For this reason, most graduate schools limit admission to individuals who demonstrate a minimum undergraduate GPA. The specific qualifying number varies by program and school. Online master's degrees in criminal justice typically seek applicants with a minimum GPA between 2.75 and 3.0.

  • Standardized Test Scores

    Another way graduate schools can evaluate an applicant's likelihood for success is through standardized testing, such as the GRE, MAT, or LSAT. Not every school requires submission of test scores, and those that do may waive this requirement for individual applicants who meet a minimum GPA or work experience threshold.

  • Relevant Experience

    While this requirement is not always explicitly stated, many online master's degrees in criminal justice look for prospective students with documented work experience in law enforcement, military service, public safety, or a closely related field. Some programs require relevant work experience only from applicants with lower GPAs.

  • Additional Materials

    To better evaluate the academic, professional, and personal potential of each applicant, a majority of universities require the submission of additional materials. Requirements differ from school to school, but the most commonly requested documents include professional resumes, essays, personal statements, and letters of recommendation.


Online Master's in Criminal Justice Career Paths

After completing an online master's degree in criminal justice, professionals commonly pursue careers in law enforcement or corrections, criminology, and postsecondary education. While supervisors working in law enforcement or corrections generally do not need additional education for upward mobility, postgraduate credentials are often required to secure advanced positions in criminology research and higher education.

Other fields for the criminal justice graduate student to consider include forensic psychology, federal law enforcement, and emergency management. Some states require emergency management directors to obtain certification. Positions in forensic psychology often require a Ph.D. and licensure.


Related Careers

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do with a master's degree in criminal justice?

One of the best features of an online master's degree in criminal justice is the flexibility it provides job-seekers. Professionals can use this credential to pursue advancement in their current workplace or as a springboard in pursuit of a new career.

How long is a master's degree in criminal justice?

Master's programs are typically structured for completion in two years of full-time study. Your online master's in criminal justice may take more or less time depending on your scheduling preferences. Accelerated options allow for completion in as little as 12 months. If you would rather attend part time, expect to graduate in 2.5-3 years.

How much can you make with a master's in criminal justice?

The salary potential for graduates of a master's in criminal justice varies depending on a number of factors, including chosen field, employer, geographic location, and years of experience. The BLS provides the following median salaries for popular career options: criminal justice teacher, $61,900; federal law enforcement, $87,130; criminologist, $82,050.

Can you teach with a master's in criminal justice?

Professionals with a master's in criminal justice can work as lecturers and instructors at community colleges and technical schools. Positions are often part-time, adjunct opportunities. Upward mobility may be limited in this field, as a Ph.D. is typically required to teach at the university level.

What careers are in criminal justice?

The criminal justice sector encompasses hundreds of careers at the local, state, and federal levels. Jobs are available in security and loss prevention, law enforcement, corrections, criminal investigation, scientific research, homeland security, and higher education. Master's program graduates can pursue advanced positions in many of these fields.

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