The interdisciplinary field of criminal justice encompasses a network of government programs and agencies designed to deter criminal activities, prosecute criminal offenders and maintain social order and public safety nationwide. The components of criminal justice include law and law enforcement, fire protection, emergency management, information security and ethics. Criminal justice is one of the most popular fields of academic study; a recent poll by USA Today noted that 'criminal justice and corrections' is the sixth most common college major among U.S. undergraduates.
An associate degree in criminal justice will prepare students to succeed in this exciting, often challenging field. The curriculum typically includes coursework in law and ethics, criminal investigation, corrections and probation, juvenile justice and homeland security. A large number of programs also require students to complete an internship course, in which they will receive supervised onsite training from experienced professionals. Many of today's students are choosing to earn their associate degree in criminal justice online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities after graduation. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule and study-from-home format are also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other responsibilities that could possibly interfere with campus-based learning.
Learn more about what you can do with an online associate in criminal justice and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
Accredited Online Associate in Criminal Justice Programs
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
Liberty University, a Christian liberal arts institution established in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1971, offers over 400 online programs, including a fully online criminal justice associate degree. The 60-credit program provides students with the foundational knowledge and skills they need to enter careers in law enforcement, corrections, and the court system.
Core general education requirements include training in instructional technology for online learning and information literacy. All students must complete 12 credits of coursework in Christian life and thought. Online learners take 21 credits of major courses, including a course on criminal justice research and writing.
Online students progress through asynchronous courses in eight-week terms using the Blackboard learning management system. This self-paced format appeals to working professionals in law enforcement and related fields whose busy schedules and personal responsibilities keep them from enrolling in a traditional campus-based program. Students may transfer up to 45 credits toward the AA degree, but they must complete at least 15 credits through Liberty.
The online criminal justice associate degree permits students to enroll on eight start dates throughout the year. Liberty has not increased its tuition in three years, and it offers flexible payment plans and free electronic textbooks for all undergraduate courses. The university grants tuition discounts to military personnel, veterans, and their spouses; law enforcement professionals; and first responders. Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Stanly Community College
|Albemarle, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
Stanly Community College, a public two-year school based in North Carolina, hosts over 10,000 students and offers associate, diploma, certificate, and continuing education programs. As one of SCC's 10 online degree programs, the associate of applied science in criminal justice technology introduces students to constitutional and criminal law, criminal procedures and investigations, ethics, and community relations. Graduates of the online criminal justice associate degree pursue careers as law enforcement and correctional officers, state troopers, probation and parole officers, and loss prevention specialists. Many graduates also pursue a bachelor's degree.
This online associate degree requires 65-66 credits, including a college success seminar that introduces new students to the college environment and the skills necessary for academic success and personal well-being. Coursework in the major emphasizes quantitative literacy, research, and reporting. Students may choose from a variety of criminal justice electives, including substance abuse, juvenile justice, terrorism, and crisis intervention.
Distance learners progress through the online program at their own pace, completing asynchronous courses using the Canvas learning management system. Students may also access online programs through apps for Apple and Android devices. Over half of SCC's enrollment consists of online students. Stanly Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Saint Leo University
|Saint Leo, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
Saint Leo University is a private Catholic liberal arts institution located 40 miles north of Tampa, Florida. Since introducing distance learning courses in 1973, the university offers 72 online programs in several disciplines, including a criminal justice associate degree. In addition to courses in the criminal justice major, this 60-credit fully online program requires students to complete the University Explorations general education curriculum emphasizing critical thinking, technological skills, and an understanding of contemporary moral challenges.
The criminal justice program covers criminal law, criminal investigations and procedures, crime scene analysis, and homeland defense. Coursework provides students with training in nonverbal communication, interrogation, interviewing, and hostage negotiation. The curriculum also exposes learners to current issues in criminal justice work, such as immigration, racial and ethnic diversity, and sex and organ trafficking.
Saint Leo offers six start dates throughout the year. Courses run on convenient eight-week terms, with two terms scheduled each fall, spring, and summer session. In-state and out-of-state residents pay the same tuition rate. Several professional development opportunities distinguish this online criminal justice associate degree from other programs. Online learners may participate in hands-on learning experiences, such as mock courtroom simulations and visits to correctional facilities and forensic laboratories.
The program also offers internships with government agencies, such as the Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The FBI National Academy Associates approves Saint Leo as an educational partner. Saint Leo University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Montgomery Community College
|Troy, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 34%||
Chartered in 1967 as Montgomery Technical Institute, this state-supported two-year school officially changed its name to Montgomery Community College in 1987. The college offers 89 campus-based and distance learning programs, including an associate of applied science in criminal justice technology. This online criminal justice associate degree leads to career opportunities in law enforcement, corrections, and security.
The fully online degree requires 66-68 credits. In the first semester of the program, all students must complete a one-credit orientation that introduces them to campus resources and emphasizes study skills for academic success. Coursework in the major provides a foundation in law enforcement, criminal law, criminal investigations, and court procedures and evidence.
The curriculum encourages learners to explore themes such as ethics in community relations, civil liability, and crisis intervention. The program also emphasizes training in professional writing, research, and reporting. A distinctive feature of the associate degree is the three-credit requirement in Spanish for the workplace that teaches basic oral communication and career-specific vocabulary.
Online learners receive ample technological support through the MCC Distance Learning Office and the CATS lab. The Blackboard Learn Help Desk offers 24/7 assistance. MCC provides students with the Blackboard Mobile Learn app and Microsoft Office at no charge for multiple devices. Montgomery Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Southern New Hampshire University
|Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University serves over 3,000 campus students and more than 90,000 online students. A national leader in distance learning, SNHU hosts more than 200 web-based programs, including an entirely online associate of science in criminal justice.
Designed for learners entering or advancing criminal justice careers, the degree requires 60 credits, including 24 credits of general education courses that provide a strong foundation in the liberal arts and sciences. Required major courses provide students with a background in criminal justice systems, policing, and corrections while emphasizing professional writing and research skills.
Students complete all coursework asynchronously, progressing through degree requirements at their own pace during six, eight-week terms per year. Distance learners can access the same support services as campus-based students, including advising, tutoring, and career assistance. The university also provides around-the-clock technology help. New students may begin the program on any of the multiple start dates throughout the year and transfer up to 45 credits toward the degree. Law enforcement personnel who completed academy training receive up to 12 credits toward the 60 credits required for graduation.
Distance learners, regardless of residency, pay a flat tuition rate. SNHU offers a 30% tuition discount to military service members and their spouses. Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.
Lanier Technical College
|Oakwood, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
Lanier Technical College serves residents in a seven-county region surrounding its main campus in Oakwood, Georgia. Part of the state's 22-member technical two-year college system, LTC offers diplomas, certificates, and associate degrees on five campuses across Georgia and online. The associate degree in criminal justice technology provides opportunities for career entry and advancement.
This fully online criminal justice associate degree requires 60 credits, including 30 credits of general education core courses in the liberal arts and sciences. The remaining 30 credits focus on criminal justice coursework, combining theoretical approaches in criminal justice with applied areas, such as criminal investigation, community policing, and emergency management. Occupation-related electives allow learners to explore topics such as principles of management, business regulations, and Spanish for law enforcement personnel. The curriculum also requires a criminal justice practicum.
The program accepts new students each semester based on availability. Students access courses through the Blackboard learning system and can take advantage of many support services, including technical assistance and tutoring through a virtual help desk. LTC provides Microsoft Office to every student free of charge. Lanier Technical College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|Amarillo, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
Amarillo College, a public two-year institution located in Amarillo, Texas, serves over 10,000 students on six campuses and more than 20,000 students in online, continuing education, and training courses. Recognized for practical, career-oriented education, the most popular programs focus on health, business, marketing, and management.
The college's inexpensive tuition and open admission policy make it a desirable option for students looking to acquire skills prior to entering the workplace or those seeking a smooth transition into a four-year institution. The college encourages newly enrolled distance learners to participate in an online new student orientation that introduces students to essential support services and teaches study skills and strategies for academic success.
Amarillo College developed 14 online certificate and associate programs that permit students to earn their diploma entirely online. The online associate of science degree in criminal justice prepares graduates for rewarding career possibilities in fields such as local, state, and federal law enforcement; corrections; probation and parole; criminal investigations; and security.
The fully online program requires 60 credits and typically takes two years to complete. The 42-credit general education core gives students a foundation in the liberal arts and sciences, including courses in composition and technical and business writing. Coursework in the criminal justice major covers the U.S. court system, criminal law and investigations, and police and correctional systems. Amarillo College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Florida Institute of Technology
|Melbourne, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 60%||
Florida Institute of Technology offers degrees and certificates on its Melbourne, Florida campus, at other regional sites, and online. Established in 1958 to provide educational options for professionals working on the Space Coast, Florida Tech now provides programs in a variety of disciplines, including business, psychology, and criminal justice.
Florida Tech's fully online, 61-credit associate of arts in criminal justice prepares graduates for careers in law enforcement and corrections, criminal investigations, court administration, and homeland security. Asynchronous courses allow students to complete the degree at their own pace. Some students complete the degree in 20 months, although most students take two years to graduate.
Coursework combines general education requirements in math, writing, and the natural and social sciences with criminology and criminal justice topics. Courses in the major cover topics such as criminal law and investigations, the U.S. legal and correctional systems, victimology, and delinquency and prevention. The multidisciplinary curriculum also emphasizes analytical skills in computer applications and statistics.
Florida Tech offers an open admission policy with no application fee. It awards transfer credit for military training and accepts employer tuition assistance. Online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. Distance learners may access a variety of different support services, including tutoring, academic and career advisers, and technological help. Florida Institute of Technology is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|Albany, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
A nonprofit online institution, Excelsior College provides web-based programs with an emphasis on historically underrepresented groups in higher education. Its associate of science in criminal justice requires 60 credits of general education, major, and elective courses. This entirely online degree provides a career-enhancing credential for professionals already working in criminal justice fields. It also prepares students to pursue a bachelor's degree. Graduates pursue careers in law enforcement, corrections, juvenile justice, security, and fraud detection.
Major courses cover law enforcement and corrections, criminal justice administration, and criminal procedures and evidence. All students must complete a culminating capstone seminar, synthesizing and applying the knowledge they acquired through coursework. The capstone also focuses on professional ethics and career paths for associate degree holders.
Courses are delivered asynchronously in eight-week sessions throughout the year. Excelsior College offers an open admissions policy, accepting up to 57 transfer credits of the 60 required for the degree from any regionally accredited university.
Excelsior College maintains its commitment to affordability for nontraditional learners. All students pay a flat tuition rate and may participate in an interest-free monthly payment plan. The college awards credit for military service and police academy training. Active-duty military and their families receive tuition discounts. Excelsior College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
South Texas College
|McAllen, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 15%||
South Texas College provides undergraduate and certificate programs to over 34,000 students on several campuses across southern Texas and online. STC operates one of the largest dual enrollment programs in the state, enabling 11,000 students to pursue a college degree while completing their high school diploma. STC maintains articulation agreements with several Texas colleges and universities to facilitate transfer into bachelor's programs.
STC offers 33 distance learning programs, including the associate of arts in criminal justice. Students complete this 60-credit fully online degree at their own pace, typically within two years. The general education core comprises 42 credits, including courses in the social/behavioral sciences and ethics.
The remaining credits cover major topics, such as the court system, law, criminal investigation, and police and correctional systems and practices. STC's online criminal justice associate degree provides career opportunities in local, state, and federal law enforcement; correctional facilities; social and community services; and private security. Many graduates continue to four-year institutions to complete a bachelor's degree
STC maintains an open-door admissions policy. The school offers flexible scheduling, tuition payment plans, financial assistance, and specialized services for military service personnel. Distance learners receive personal attention from an online adviser to assist them with course selection and career advising, and they may also take advantage of the online self-advising tool, DegreeWorks. South Texas College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
Keiser University is a nonprofit career-focused institution with regional sites throughout Florida. It serves a student body of over 20,000 through more than 100 programs from the associate to doctoral levels. The Fort Lauderdale campus administers several online programs, including an associate of arts degree in criminal justice.
This 60-credit degree requires students to complete 36 credits of general education courses and 24 credits that cover criminal justice systems, principles, and practices. The curriculum emphasizes writing and communication skills for professionals in addition to courses in law enforcement and corrections, juvenile procedures, criminal law, and criminal investigations.
Distance learners can take courses entirely online at their own pace through the Blackboard learning management system. The online criminal justice associate degree prepares graduates for entry-level positions in law enforcement, corrections, and other related fields, and for admission into a bachelor's program.
Online students may begin their studies on any of the monthly start dates. Keiser admits students with a U.S. high school diploma, GED, or international equivalent. The university maintains articulation agreements with several regionally accredited Florida universities that enable students to easily transfer to a bachelor’s program. Keiser awards college credit for military training and experience. Keiser University is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
St Petersburg College
|Clearwater, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
Florida-based St. Petersburg College serves 53,000 students in over 100 career-focused degree and certificate programs. SPC delivers web-based education to more than 20,000 students, including a completely online associate of science in criminal justice technology. This degree provides a career-enhancing credential for professionals already working in criminal justice. Students who completed one of the SPC public safety training academies for law enforcement and corrections officers may receive academic credit toward the degree.
This online criminal justice associate degree requires 60 credits. Students acquire a strong foundation in the liberal arts and sciences through the general education core and an introduction to computer and information literacy. Criminal justice majors must take 15 major credits that cover criminal justice systems, research methods, crime and delinquency, investigative trends, and law and rules of evidence. Students choose from three specialized subplans, taking 24 credits in criminal justice, law enforcement, or corrections.
The fully online curriculum uses an asynchronous format, although students must respect fixed deadlines and assignment due dates. Online students can access a full array of support services, including advising, interactive tutorials, and a technical help desk. SPC maintains an open-door admissions policy and charges the same tuition rate for online and campus-based classes. Saint Petersburg College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Richmond Community College
|Hamlet, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 25%||
Richmond Community College is a small, public two-year school serving residents of Richmond and Scotland counties in North Carolina. RCC works with community partners in this economically challenged region to address unemployment by providing training opportunities and career-focused degree programs.
The college offers over 25 associate degrees that address the employment needs of the surrounding community. Students pursuing the associate of applied science in criminal justice gain the skills needed to enter the criminal justice workforce or pursue a bachelor's degree. Graduates find employment as police officers, deputy sheriffs, detention officers, and state troopers. Some degree holders pursue opportunities in the private sector in fields such as fraud, security, and loss prevention.
Students typically complete this 65-credit online degree in two years. The curriculum features courses in professional writing and research, computer technology, and quantitative literacy. Criminal justice coursework covers topics such as local, state, and federal law enforcement; corrections; the court system; and ethics and community relations. Although distance learners complete coursework entirely online, the program includes several opportunities for hands-on activities, such as crime scene investigations, blood spatter analysis, and fingerprinting.
RCC offers open enrollment. Incoming students who complete North Carolina basic law enforcement training earn four hours of college credit toward the degree. The college also awards three credits for completion of the Department of Public Safety's basic correctional training program. Richmond Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Surry Community College
|Dobson, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 31%||
Surry Community College offers academic programs on its main campus in Dobson, North Carolina; at satellite sites in Mount Airy, Yadkinville, Pilot Mountain, and Elkin; and online. One of North Carolina's 58 community colleges, SCC maintains an open-door admission policy serving a student body of over 18,000. The college offers 60 two-year degree and certificate programs, including eight online associate programs.
SCC's online associate of applied science degree in criminal justice requires students to complete 68 credits and follows the same program of study as the on-campus degree. The curriculum explores law enforcement and corrections, constitutional and criminal law, and ethics and community relations. Students also complete general education core requirements that include courses in mathematical literacy, writing and research, and oral communication and public speaking.
Distance learners progress through the completely online program using the Moodle learning platform. Students must complete an online orientation before starting coursework. Online students can take advantage of support services, such as tutoring, academic advising, library access, and technical help through the online learning portal.
SCC participates in several articulation agreements to facilitate credit transfers to bachelor's programs. The school also offers a tuition payment plan that allows students to divide their tuition bill over three monthly installments. Students who successfully complete the basic law enforcement training course receive academic credit for four courses toward the AAS degree.
Surry Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|Virginia Beach, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
Established in 1978, Regent University is a private interdenominational, Christian institution located in Virginia Beach. It offers campus-based and distance learning programs in over 130 areas of study at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Regent's 21 associate programs include an online associate of arts in criminal justice. The program provides a flexible option for students balancing busy work schedules and family responsibilities with school.
Online learners complete 64 credits in eight-week course sections. The curriculum combines a general education core with criminal justice coursework. Courses in the major cover topics such as criminal law, criminal investigation, criminology, and theories of criminal justice. Reflecting the university's mission of "Christian leadership to change the world," degree requirements include religious-themed courses, such as the introduction to Christian history and thought, the making of a Christian mind, and Old and New Testament studies.
Graduates enter positions in law enforcement and corrections, probation and parole, the court and legal systems, and other criminal justice-related areas. Completion of the AA degree fulfills the entrance requirements for Regent's bachelor of science program in criminal justice or similar baccalaureate programs at other schools.
Regent offers generous tuition discounts to military service personnel, veterans, and their families. Spouses of active-duty military, National Guard, and Reserves may qualify for up to $4,000 in financial aid for an associate degree or certificate in a high-growth, high-demand field.
Regent University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Thomas Edison State University
|Trenton, NJ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
Thomas Edison State University, one of New Jersey's 11 senior public institutions, exclusively serves the educational needs of adult learners. TESU offers an online associate of applied science in criminal justice that requires 60 credits.
The university offers several options to reduce the time needed to complete the degree. Students may test out of courses through the Thomas Edison Credit-by-Examination exam, CLEP, or other exams. TESU also awards transfer credit for military experience, workforce development programs, and training completed for professional licenses and certifications. Additionally, students can petition to receive credit for college-level knowledge acquired through life experience by submitting a Prior Learning Assessment portfolio.
TESU's online criminal justice associate degree offers an interdisciplinary approach to meet the needs of adult learners seeking positions in law enforcement, corrections, security, and emergency response services. Distance learners take 12-week courses, guided by mentors.
The general education core provides a foundation in the liberal arts while emphasizing communication skills and quantitative and information literacy. The major requires courses in law enforcement and corrections, criminology, and forensic science. Students take 12 credits of electives that address contemporary criminal justice concerns, such as gang violence, white collar crime, terrorism, and homeland security.
Thomas Edison State University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Trident Technical College
|Charleston, SC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 16%||
Trident Technical College, a public, two-year institution, serves over 15,000 students on eight campus sites in South Carolina and online. TTC offers more than 150 programs of study, including a fully online associate of applied science degree in criminal justice. The college offers affordable tuition and does not charge additional fees for online classes
The degree provides a useful credential for students new to the field and those already working in criminal justice positions seeking career advancement. The program also provides an academic background for students who intend to pursue a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field.
The 60-credit degree, delivered in a compressed seven-week course format, requires students to complete 15 general education core requirements, 33 credits in criminal justice major courses, and 12 elective credits. The general education core includes a first-year experience seminar that develops study skills and connects students to available resources. The major courses cover fundamentals of criminal justice, criminal law, criminal investigation, law enforcement and correctional systems, and ethics. Students may choose electives in topics such as cybercrime, criminal profiling, white collar crime, and terrorism.
Distance learners may take advantage of support services, including online tutoring through the TTC Learning Center. The college provides Microsoft Office 365 free of charge to students, allowing them to install it on up to five devices.
Trident Technical College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.
Florida State College at Jacksonville
|Jacksonville, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 35%||
Florida State College at Jacksonville began as a two-year community college in 1965. FSCJ became a state school within the Florida College System in 2009, offering associate and bachelor's degrees to over 52,000 students in campus-based programs and online. FSCJ's online associate of science in criminal justice provides comprehensive professional training for students seeking employment or career advancement in policing and corrections, courts, juvenile justice, and victim services. Graduates work as police officers, corrections specialists, security managers, detectives, and emergency management supervisors.
Students can complete the 60-credit accelerated degree in 18-24 months. Students must complete 15 general education requirements in composition, mathematics, humanities, and social and natural science. Professional coursework requires 36 credits in policing, corrections, criminal law and procedure, and criminal justice management. The remaining nine hours include elective courses in areas such as victim services, probation and parole, and technical writing. The program allows students to earn a criminal justice technology or crime scene technician certification while working towards their AS degree.
Applicants to the online AS program in criminal justice need a high school diploma or equivalent. FSCJ does not require SAT or ACT scores. Distance learners may access the same student support services as campus-based students, including peer tutoring, academic advising, counseling, and career placement assistance.
Florida State College at Jacksonville is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Chaminade University of Honolulu
|Honolulu, HI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
Chaminade University of Honolulu, the only Catholic University in Hawai'i, offers liberal arts learning, professional career preparation, and a commitment to public service and community engagement. It provides several evening and online accelerated programs to fit the needs of nontraditional students, including an online associate of science degree in criminology and criminal justice.
Students may choose from multiple start dates throughout the year. Online students access courses through the Canvas learning platform. Each course comprises three credits, with full-time students enrolled in at least nine credits each term. Graduates find employment in law enforcement, public safety, and other criminal justice-related fields. Many graduates continue their studies with a bachelor's degree.
This online criminal justice associate degree requires students to complete 60 credits, including 34 credits of general education courses. Major courses introduce students to criminology and criminal justice systems, law, supervision and management, criminal investigation, and juvenile justice. Students must complete at least 15 of the 60 credits required for graduation through Chaminade.
The university provides distance learners with full access to technological help, online tutoring, digital library resources, and career planning services. Chaminade offers a flat tuition rate to online students regardless of residency. Active-duty, National Guard, and reservist military members receive a significant tuition discount.
Chaminade University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Rowan College at Burlington County
|Pemberton, NJ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 24%||
New Jersey-based Rowan College at Burlington County serves over 8,000 students through campus-based and online associate degrees, certificates, and non-degree programs. RCBC introduced distance learning courses in 1978. Currently, students may enroll in over 100 online courses, 14 online associate degrees, and four certificate programs. Between 30-40% of all RCBC students enroll in online classes each term.
The online associate of science degree in criminal justice prepares graduates to continue their education in four-year baccalaureate programs and for entry-level employment in criminal justice settings. The program also introduces students to career options in expanding fields such as private security and investigative services.
The 61-credit AS degree provides distance learners with a foundation in the liberal arts and sciences and criminal justice. Students complete four core courses in police operations and procedures, criminal justice, court, and correctional systems. Students may choose from electives that cover topics like criminalistics, crime investigation, juvenile justice, and organized crime.
Online learners may access the same student services and resources as on-campus students, including 24/7 technical support for the Blackboard Learn platform. RCBC charges the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state online learners. The college welcomes adult learners, granting transfer credits for college courses and work and life experiences.
Rowan College at Burlington County is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Walters State Community College
|Morristown, TN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
Walters State Community College serves residents of 10 rural counties in East Tennessee, offering more than 150 associate degrees and technical certificates through its eight academic divisions. The college participates in the Tennessee Pathway program that facilitates credit transfers to four-year institutions.
WSCC offers three online associate degrees in criminal justice. The 60-credit programs vary by emphasis but share some general education and criminal justice requirements. The associate of applied science in criminal justice prepares students to immediately enter the criminal justice workforce without earning a bachelor's degree. The degree requires students to complete 44-45 credits of criminal justice courses.
The associate of science option is ideal for students planning to earn a bachelor's degree. AS students take 41 credits of general education coursework and 19 credits in criminal justice. The associate of arts degree, also appropriate for students who want to transfer to a four-year program, requires 41 general education credits, 12 credits in criminal justice, and six in a foreign language. Students should check with the Division of Public Safety for information about online course availability.
Most online classes do not require on-campus components. Students use the eLearn platform to complete courses and access support services, such as tutoring and technological help.
Walters State Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
West Kentucky Community and Technical College
|Paducah, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 43%||
West Kentucky Community and Technical College is one of 16 two-year, open-admissions colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Recognized by the Aspen Institute as one of the nation's best community colleges, WKCTC serves over 8,500 students in 50 certificate and associate programs across five academic divisions.
A leader in distance education for over 20 years, WKCTC offers an associate of applied science degree in criminal justice that students can complete entirely online in a little as 16 months. Graduates pursue entry-level positions in law enforcement, corrections, and related criminal justice settings. Professionals already working in the field can use the degree to advance into supervisory or administrative roles. Many students continue their studies and earn a bachelor's degree.
This online criminal justice associate degree requires 36 credits of general education coursework in the liberal arts and sciences and communication. Students complete 16-19 credits in the criminal justice technical core and the remaining credits in one of four tracks: corrections, criminal justice, law enforcement, or security and loss prevention. Online learners may also earn technical certificates while completing course requirements.
WKCTC's Learn on Demand format uses the Blackboard course management system for course delivery. The college offers customizable start tests for new students and charges in-state and out-of-state distance learners the same flat tuition rate
Western Kentucky Community and Technical College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|Columbia, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
Established in 1851 in Columbia, Missouri, as a school for Christian women, Columbia College became a private, four-year coeducational institution in 1970. One of the first schools in Missouri to introduce distance learning, CC offers 27 online degrees at the associate, bachelor's, and graduate levels. Approximately 65% of CC students take online classes.
CC's fully online associate of science in criminal justice administration features the same curriculum and instructors as the campus-based program. Online learners take courses in eight-week terms offered in six sessions each year, with the option to take breaks between sessions. Online students access classes, discussion boards, and other instructional materials through the Desire2Learn course management system. Students can complete the program in 20 months.
This 60-credit online criminal justice associate degree provides students with a comprehensive liberal arts and science foundation, specialized knowledge in criminal justice, and interdisciplinary perspectives in sociology and psychology. Students must complete three credits in composition and 21 general education requirements. The remaining coursework includes criminal justice requirements and electives and three credits of open electives. Learners study topics such as criminal procedures, corrections and penology, drug abuse and crime control, and management of criminal justice agencies.
CC maintains its commitment to affordable education by charging the same tuition for in-state and out-of-state online students with no extra fees or book costs. Active-duty military personnel receive a tuition discount.
Columbia College is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Ocean County College
|Toms River, NJ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 35%||
Ocean County College, New Jersey's first public county community college, has offered two-year degrees and vocational training since 1966. With the recent addition of online programs, OCC now features approximately 50 online associate degrees and certificate programs.
Primarily for students who plan to earn their bachelor's degree after graduation, OCC's associate of science degree in criminal justice allows students to easily transfer credits to a four-year institution. OCC participates in direct transfer agreements with 28 colleges and universities.
The fully online 64-65-credit associate degree takes two years of full-time study to complete. Students take general education core credits; foundational criminal justice requirements; and electives on topics such as criminal investigation, police organization and administration, constitutional law, and forensics. The curriculum also includes political science and sociological perspectives on government, race and ethnicity, and contemporary social problems.
OCC's online courses follow the same academic calendar as on-campus courses. Distance learners complete courses through OCC's e-learning platform, Ocean Connect, that provides access to library resources, academic advising, and career placement services. OCC offers a 24/7 technology help desk accessible through chat and email.
OCC maintains an open enrollment policy, admitting students 18 years old and over who demonstrate the ability to benefit from postsecondary education. The college accepts applications on a rolling basis, with start dates in the fall and spring semesters. All online students, regardless of residency, pay the same tuition rate.
Ocean Community College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Bismarck State College
|Bismarck, ND||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 44%||
Bismarck State College, a comprehensive postsecondary institution located in North Dakota's state capital, serves approximately 4,000 students. Established in 1939, BSC offers two-year and four-year degrees, including 20 online programs. Over 40% of BSC students participate exclusively in distance learning courses.
BSC offers an online associate of applied science degree in criminal justice that prepares graduates to transfer into a bachelor’s program. The college participates in cooperative transfer agreements with Dickinson State University, Minot State University, and several other state institutions. A technical degree option emphasizing career readiness appeals to students who plan to enter the workforce immediately after graduating. Both 60-credit online criminal justice associate degrees consist of professional and general education courses that prepare graduates for employment opportunities in law enforcement and other criminal justice-related fields.
Distance learners progress through courses using the Blackboard learning management system. BSC accepts applications throughout the year, allowing new students to choose any of 58 online start dates. Distance learners may access a variety of student support services, including a 24/7 technology help desk and online training in over 250 software applications, such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud.
The college offers affordable tuition rates for North Dakota residents compared to other state schools. Active-duty military, veterans, and their families may qualify for tuition discounts. BSC offers college credit for knowledge and competencies gained outside of the classroom through the Prior Learning Assessment program.
Bismarck State College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Choosing a Program
Will An Online Associate In Criminal Justice Provide Me With The Skills I Need To Advance My Career?
Online associate in criminal justice programs usually offer a broad overview of law and law enforcement, the justice system and principles of forensics and detection. This comprehensive curriculum will prepare students for different career paths, and also introduce them to the realities of working for a bureaucratic government agency. Internships and other onsite trainings are also useful; these courses enable students to apply the skills and knowledge they have gained in a real-world work setting.
Will An Online Associate In Criminal Justice Work With My Schedule?
Associate online degrees in criminal justice offer a flexible alternative to traditional higher learning. Students can download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors from the comfort of their home computer. Current educational technology also allows them to study on the move using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices. For added convenience, online criminal justice students will usually be able to coordinate internships at locations within a reasonable commuting distance of their current residence.
What Jobs Can I Get With My Associate In Criminal Justice?
Job availability for criminal justice associate degree recipients will vary by their specific career goals. Many roles in law enforcement are attainable with an associate; however, these positions may require on-the-job training in firearm safety, CPR/first aid and other competency areas. Paralegals and legal assistants, on the other hand, are often hired with only an associate degree and certification is not normally required. Other professions in criminal justice include information security and cybersecurity specialists, forensic investigators and technicians, court reporters and probation officers.
What Are The Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Programs?
Choosing a 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 associate in criminal justice programs in the United States. If you are considering an online associate in criminal justice, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Degree?
Some online criminal justice associate degree programs allow students to develop a concentration in a specialized area. While course and curriculum details tend to differ between schools, there are several educational tracks commonly offered through criminal justice programs across the United States. Most are designed to prepare students for specific careers while others are tailored to prepare learners for further education.
Concentrations Offered For An Online Associate Degree In Criminal Justice
|Concentration||Description||Careers this concentration prepares for|
|Corrections||This concentration focuses on the role of the correctional system in relation to the criminal justice system as a whole. Coursework covers topics such as incarceration, probation, and parole, along with courtroom procedures and recent innovations in crime prevention and personal security.||Corrections Officer; Corrections Dispatcher; Parole Officer|
|Law enforcement||Coursework focuses on criminal law and procedures, investigations, and constitutional law. Students learn the fundamentals of criminology, and how these concepts can be applied in the community to prevent crime. Curricula may address topics related to homeland security, cybercrime, and forensic detection. Some programs may include a weapons training component.||Law Enforcement Officer; Security Officer; Loss Prevention Expert; Statistic Researcher in criminal justice fields|
|Forensic science||Students on a forensic science track gain the knowledge necessary to assess and process crime scenes. In addition to courses like crime scene photography and accident investigation, students learn the basic scientific skills required to succeed in a forensic laboratory setting. Students may be expected to complete an internship or work-study program.||Forensic Science Technician; Crime Scene Investigator/Photographer; Records Officer|
Curriculum For An Online Associate Degree In Criminal Justice
Although course selections vary from school to school, some subjects are integral to the study of criminal justice. Variations on the following courses are frequently offered by online criminal justice associate degree programs.
- Quantitative methods in criminal justice: This course provides an overview of common methods used by criminologists to research the causes and distribution of crime. Lectures cover primary methods of data acquisition and analysis, as well as challenges introduced by social relations and economic factors.
- Criminological theory: Designed to provide students with a broad foundation in the integral concepts of criminology, this course describes the various schools of thought that have contributed to modern criminological theory. Topics covered in this course are crucial for anyone pursuing a career in law enforcement or forensic science.
- Criminal justice ethics: A must for future law enforcement officers, students can expect to learn the code of ethics that defines the behavior of all police professionals. Coursework details ethical methods of problem solving and conflict resolution, stressing the importance of honor and integrity in the field.
How Long Does It Take To Get An Online Associate Degree In Criminal Justice?
While it takes most learners around two years to complete their criminal justice associate degree online, several factors can affect program length and completion time. Many schools provide the option of studying part-time, for example, which may extend the duration of a course or program. However, the biggest factor influencing degree length is program pacing.
Featuring accelerated courses and lenient deadlines, self-paced, or asynchronous programs allow students to study and complete assignments without requiring their online presence at specific times. Ideal for busy individuals, self-paced courses can be completed quickly. Online criminal justice associate degree students in cohort programs begin and end classes with the same group of people. Students may be expected to log on at designated times, and deadlines are typically stricter. Assignments and projects often require collaboration between group members. Following a precise schedule, cohort programs often take more time to complete.
Accreditation for Online Associate in Criminal Justice Degrees
Not all criminal justice online associate degree programs are created equal. To ensure that you receive the highest quality education possible, it's important to seek programs from accredited schools. The accreditation process ensures that a school is operating according to standards set by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Institutions may be regionally or nationally accredited, depending on the body evaluating them. Regional accreditation is generally applied to nonprofit, academically oriented colleges, while for-profit vocational schools are often nationally accredited.
For students who are interested in entering a bachelor's program after earning their criminal justice associate degree online, finding a regionally accredited school is crucial. While nationally accredited schools will accept credits from regionally accredited ones, the opposite is generally not true. Most graduate programs follow similar practices. A degree from a regionally accredited institution provides many more opportunities for further education than its national counterpart.
That doesn't mean that you can't get a quality associate degree in criminal justice online from a nationally accredited institution. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes all accredited schools as legitimate. While the DOE doesn't accredit institutions, it reviews accrediting agencies to ensure that they meet federal standards. All agencies are monitored by the DOE, and undergo review periodically. CHEA also oversees accrediting organizations from a non-governmental perspective, and provides the public with information about accreditation's role in protecting students. You can find a list of accredited institutions on the DOE's website, or search for schools on CHEA's extensive database.
Employment Outlook for Associate in Criminal Justice Graduates
Job Placement: Associate in Criminal Justice
The demand for qualified professionals is quite high in law and law enforcement, emergency management, homeland security and other criminal justice-related fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that most legal occupations for associate degree-holders — including police officers and detectives, paralegals, legal assistants, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists — will grow by 4% to 8% between 2014 and 2024. This industry growth will result in thousands of new jobs. Additionally, jobs in the cutting-edge field of forensics are also on the rise. The number of forensic science technicians, for example, is expected to increase 27% over the next decade.
Unemployment rates in criminal justice are linked to areas of specialization. The following table features five criminal justice professions that were included in the 'Best Jobs' ranking published by U.S. News & World Report in 2016.
|Information Security Analyst||3.9%|
Source: U.S. News & World Report
Generally speaking, most jobs in law and law enforcement, information security and other criminal justice fields have unemployment rates lower than 4.0%. Comparatively, the national unemployment rate for all occupations currently sits at 4.7%.
Earning a Living
According to the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report, students who earn an associate degree in criminal justice earn median annual salaries of $31,100 during the first five years of their career and $46,000 after a decade on the job. This represents a 10-year growth rate of nearly 48%. The report also found that those with an associate in criminal justice administration earn median salaries of $36,800 and $50,200 at the five- and 10-year marks, respectively.
How do these two fields stack up against other areas of study in terms of earning potential for new graduates? The table below features projected earnings for six related academic fields.
|Associate Degree Field of Study||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)|
|Criminal Justice Administration||$36,800||$50,200|
|Legal Assistant Studies||$33,400||$46,300|
Another important consideration for criminal justice degree-holders is specific job title. Salary expectations will strongly vary between different positions; other potential factors include employer size, certification level, experience and city/state of employment. The next table looks at salary projections for five of the most common occupations in criminal justice.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)||Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)|
All five occupations listed in the table experience salary growth of at least 37% after 20 years in the workforce. Probation officers reported the highest growth rate: a 67.1% increase in earnings between the entry-level and late-career phases. Forensic scientists placed second with a 20-year growth rate of 46.8%, followed by police officers with 41.9% growth.
Students who graduate with an associate in criminal justice will be qualified for dozens of entry-level positions, although individual eligibility will also depend on their areas of specialization. Four of the most popular careers in criminal justice are outlined below.
Police and Detectives: Police officers and detectives safeguard public safety. Officers are primarily responsible for protecting human lives, property and natural resources through active patrolling and law enforcement practices. Detectives are mid- to top-level law enforcement officials who investigate different crimes and, in many cases, arrest the perpetrators. These professionals also collect evidence, interview people linked to crimes that have been committed, write police reports and testify during trials and other criminal proceedings.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants: Paralegals and legal assistants provide supportive services for practicing attorneys. Their day-to-day duties include researching case studies, composing legal documents, formally requesting affidavits and other legal forms, preparing lawyers for court appearances and organizing client records.
Forensic Science Technicians: Forensic science technicians collect material evidence at crime scenes, and then perform a series of tests and analyses on each piece of evidence to help investigators apprehend guilty parties. Their time is neatly divided between crime scenes and laboratories, and they must be skilled at using different lab tools and equipment.
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work directly with probationers, or individuals who have been convicted of criminal offenses. They monitor their clients to ensure they do not reoffend, and may also meet with them to discuss employment opportunities and rehabilitation programs.
|Profession||Median Annual Salary||Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)|
|Police and Detectives||$60,270||4% (33,100 jobs)|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants||$48,810||8% (21,200 jobs)|
|Forensic Science Technicians||$56,320||27% (3,800 jobs)|
|Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists||$49,360||4% (3,300 jobs)|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to criminal justice is crucial to your success. 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: NAPO was founded in 1978, and today represents roughly 241,000 officers and detectives in more than 1,000 law enforcement units. Members receive invitations to three annual conferences, as well as continuing education opportunities.
- National Association of Legal Assistants: NALA is a nonprofit organization representing more than 18,000 paralegals, both individual members and employees of member affiliates. The association offers two certifications for paralegals, as well as online webinars, job leads and complimentary 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, as well as links to online and onsite training programs.
Financing Your Online Associate in Criminal Justice Program
Despite the relative affordability of online 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.
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.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (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 to several frequently asked questions.
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, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
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.
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