The broad, interdisciplinary field of criminal justice explores laws, law enforcement and the justice system. Corrections is a niche area of criminal justice dedicated to the punishment, treatment, supervision and rehabilitation of individuals who have been convicted of different crimes. Specifically, corrections personnel oversee and assist criminal offenders during three key phases: incarceration, or imprisonment; parole, or conditional release from prison once a sentence has been completed or commuted; and probation, a period of close supervision usually granted to a convicted criminal in lieu of actual jail time. Some correctional employees serve as guards and attendants at prisons (which are also known as correctional institutions), while others work with released offenders as parole or probation officers.

What are the best corrections programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 Southeast Missouri State University Cape Girardeau, MO
2 West Texas A&M University Canyon, TX
3 North Carolina Central University Durham, NC
4 Bemidji State University Bemidji, MN
5 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY
6 Washburn University Topeka, KS
7 Baker College Flint, MI
8 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH
9 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA
10 Brandman University Irvine, CA

Many corrections professionals begin their careers at the collegiate level by earning an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. In most cases, this will take the form of a bachelor's in criminal science with a concentration in corrections. These programs will introduce students to the laws, ethics and most popular strategies guiding today's corrections field. Corrections bachelor's pathways often include internships or practicum courses, which allow students to receive hands-on training from experienced professionals. Many of today's students are choosing to earn their corrections bachelor's degree online, rather than in a classroom. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to a comparable number of post-graduation job opportunities. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule of most online corrections degree programs is also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other commitments that may conflict with campus-based learning.

Learn more about what you can do with a bachelor's degree in corrections and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

Choosing a Program


A bachelor's degree in corrections will prepare students for this demanding -- yet equally rewarding -- profession. The coursework will cover legal protocols and procedures for the incarceration, parole and probation of convicted offenders, as well as some best-practice approaches to communicating and interacting with these individuals. The curriculum will also incorporate history, anthropology, sociology, psychology and other social sciences that have bearing in the criminal justice field. Internships and practicum courses also enable students to apply the knowledge and skills they have gained in a real-world correctional setting.


Online bachelor's degree programs in corrections offer a flexible alternative to traditional college learning. Students can access lectures and other course materials, participate in virtual discussions with fellow students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors on their own time from their home computer. Current educational technology also allows them to study away from their desk using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices. For added convenience, online students can typically coordinate internships at sites that are reasonably close to their current residence.


Many careers in corrections are attainable with an associate degree -- and in some cases, a high school diploma -- so those with a bachelor's degree will be well-positioned to enter the job market. Common professional titles for corrections degree-holders include correctional officers and jailers, parole and probation officers, bailiffs and correctional treatment specialists. The bachelor's degree may also serve as a stepping-stone for those who wish to advance to graduate school and study to become criminal justice teachers at the collegiate level.


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 bachelor's in corrections programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online bachelor's in corrections, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific bachelor's degree requirements and offerings.

2020 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Corrections Programs

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Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

Southeast Missouri State University

Cape Girardeau, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 49%

SEMO occupies a campus in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and features an online division. The university enrolls nearly 12,000 students and offers more than 200 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs; many of these programs are also available through distance learning.

Its online bachelor's in criminal justice offers an academic/university track and a law enforcement academy track. The academic/university track emphasizes theoretical criminality and the criminal justice system, while the law enforcement academy program provides 760 hours of training for aspiring law enforcement officers.

All students must complete 120 credits to earn their online BS in criminal justice. SEMO delivers online courses over eight weeks, with offerings in the fall, winter intersession, spring, and summer terms. Enrollees may participate in an optional internship in criminal justice.


West Texas A&M University

Canyon, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

WTAMU serves the uppermost counties of the Panhandle and West Texas through its physical campus. The university enrolls more than 10,000 students and offers nearly 100 graduate and undergraduate programs on campus and online.

WTAMU offers students the choice of a BA or BS in criminal justice, with concentrations in administration, policing, and corrections. The BS curriculum includes more math or science coursework, while the BA includes a foreign language component. Students pursuing the corrections concentration take 27 credits in their emphasis, including classes like writing and research for criminal justice and law of corrections.

This bachelor's in corrections also requires an internship at a criminal justice organization. WTAMU admits students five times per year. Each applicant must have a minimum 2.0 GPA and meet SAT or ACT minimum score requirements.


North Carolina Central University

Durham, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 46%

Among the nation's premier HBCUs, NCCU enrolls more than 8,000 students on campus in Durham and online. Enrollees may choose from more than 25 online and hybrid graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs.

The university's online BS in criminal justice features a concentration in corrections. This program comprises 120 credits, including core criminal justice classes and concentration coursework covering introduction to law enforcement, criminal law, and ethics and diversity. This bachelor's in corrections culminates in a criminal justice practice and senior seminar requirement.

The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences certifies this online program. Each distance learner must complete an introductory course in online learning before continuing on to core coursework. NCCU provides support through library, tutoring, and career services.


Bemidji State University

Bemidji, MN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 46%

BSU enrolls nearly 5,500 students from around the world. The university offers more than 75 graduate and undergraduate programs at its campus in Minnesota — a historic site founded by the Chippewa tribe — and online.

The university's online BS in criminal justice features an optional emphasis in corrections. This degree completion program requires students to transfer in at least 24 credits. Students complete 48 major-related credits to earn their bachelor's in corrections online.

The curriculum explores topics including corrections and penology, social psychology, and intercultural communication. Each enrollee must also complete a directed group study course. BSU offers support through tutoring, technology, and career services.


Eastern Kentucky University

Richmond, KY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 47%

With a 22-county service region and a comprehensive online division, EKU enrolls nearly 15,000 students. The university offers more than 100 traditional and online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs.

Its online bachelor's in corrections and juvenile justice studies comprises 120 credits and explores areas like criminal justice research and rehabilitation strategies. In addition to core coursework, each student must complete upper-division electives in areas like homeland security, police studies, and psychology. The program culminates with a capstone course in criminal justice.

EKU charges a set, per-credit tuition rate for online bachelor's coursework, regardless of a student's state of residence. Learners can select from six start dates each year. The university delivers online bachelor's coursework in an accelerated, eight-week format.


Washburn University

Topeka, KS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

WU oversees a main campus in Topeka, a tech campus in Huntoon, and an online division. The university enrolls roughly 7,000 total students. Learners may choose from over 200 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across five academic schools.

The university offers a bachelor's in criminal justice with four concentration options, including corrections. This program serves as a degree completion pathway, and the curriculum emphasizes institutional and community-based corrections. Students must also complete a criminal justice internship.

Students who have already earned an associate degree can complete their bachelor's in criminal justice online through the Partnership for Learning And Networking. Each applicant must meet general education requirements in humanities, social science, and natural sciences coursework.


Baker College

Flint, MI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 19%

As Michigan's largest nonprofit higher learning institution, Baker enrolls more than 43,000 students at 11 learning centers across the state and online. Enrollees may choose from dozens of graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across six academic schools, including more than 50 online programs.

Baker offers an online BS in criminal justice through its college of social science. Learners can customize their degrees with a concentration in criminal justice studies. The 120-credit program explores criminal law, social psychology, and community corrections. It also includes a criminal justice work experience.

Applicants must submit official transcripts, and they may opt to include SAT or ACT scores for admission consideration. Baker charges online students a set, per-credit tuition rate for undergraduate coursework, regardless of their state of residence.


Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, NH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

SNHU has long been a leader in distance education, launching its first distance program in 1995. Today, the university enrolls more than 135,000 students and offers more than 250 online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs.

The university's online BS in criminal justice features a concentration in corrections. The 120-credit program explores topics like the American correctional system, offender rehabilitation, and correctional administration. The curriculum also includes an embedded communications certificate.

SNHU offers multiple start dates throughout the year. Students complete online courses asynchronously. SNHU froze tuition in 2012, and all online undergraduate learners pay the same rate, regardless of their state of residence.


Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

Among the nation's fastest-growing private colleges, Regent enrolls more than 10,000 students from around the world. The university offers more than 135 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs on campus and online — all from a Christian perspective.

Regent's online BS in criminal justice features a concentration in corrections. The 120-credit program emphasizes critical thinking and ethics in the context of criminal justice. Each enrollee must complete a senior research project, and they may also opt to pursue an internship in criminal justice.

Online courses take place over eight weeks. Regent offers multiple start dates throughout the year. Learners pay per-credit tuition rates based on the length and type of their program. Online applicants must submit transcripts, an admissions questionnaire, and proof of a government-issued ID.


Brandman University

Irvine, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: N/A

With more than 25 physical locations throughout California and Washington, as well as an online division, Brandman enrolls more than 13,000 students each year. The university offers more than 90 traditional and online programs across five academic schools and colleges.

Brandman's BA in criminal justice emphasizes critical coursework in subjects like corrections; forensics; and local, state, and federal law enforcement. The program culminates in a criminal justice capstone requirement.

Applicants must have earned at least 12 transferable credits from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 2.0 GPA for admission consideration. Brandman offers multiple start dates annually. All online undergraduates pay the same per-credit tuition rate, regardless of where they live.

What Else Can I Expect from an Online Bachelor's in Corrections Program?

Timeline 4 to 5 years
Program Costs $35,000 to $55,000 for full tuition
Concentrations Criminal Justice, Law, Criminology, Forensic Science, Public Administration, Social Work, Psychology, Sociology, Emergency Management, Leadership
Accreditation There is no programmatic accreditation for this major field of study. Students should defer to the regional/national accreditation of their four-year college or university.

Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Corrections Graduates

The job outlook for corrections bachelor's degree-holders is somewhat mixed. On one hand, their strong academic background will allow them to compete for top jobs against candidates who complete their education with associates degrees or high school diplomas. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals with a bachelor's degree face an unemployment of 2.8%; by comparison, associate degree- and high school diploma-holders face unemployment rates of 3.8% and 5.0%, respectively. The unemployment rate for bachelor's recipients is also much lower than the national average for all occupations, which currently sits at 4.7%.

However, the BLS projects below-average job growth in the coming years for some of the most prominent correctional occupations. The following table looks at job growth estimates for some of these professions.

Job Placement

Occupation Projected Job Growth (2014-24) Projected Change in Number of Jobs (2014-24)
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 4% +3,300
Correctional Officers and Bailiffs 4% +17,900
Police and Detectives 4% +33,100
National Average 7% --

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Earning a Living

Students who earn a bachelor's degree in corrections and other criminal justice fields enjoy higher earning potential than those who complete their education with an associate degree in criminal justice. Using data from the 2016-17 PayScale College Salary Report, the table below looks at earning expectations for both of these degree-holders at two career benchmarks.

Degree Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)
Associate Degree in Criminal Justice $31,100 $46,000
Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice $37,000 $59,100

Source: 2016-17 PayScale College Salary Report

As the table indicates, those with a bachelor's in criminal justice outearn their associate-holding counterparts by roughly 19% at the entry-level mark and 28.5% at the mid-career mark. However, salary expectations for employees with a bachelor's degree in corrections will also depend on their specific job title, as well as their experience level and their city/state of employment. The next table looks at career salary growth rates for five of the most popular corrections career pathways.

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)
Correctional Officer $32,388 $36,512 $40,095 $48,129
Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist $36,000 $50,000 $52,000 $64,000
Bailiff $36,000 $31,000 $37,000 $52,000
Parole Officer $40,000 $40,000 $48,000 $61,000
Juvenile Probation Officer $35,000 $42,000 $45,000 $45,000

Source: PayScale

All five occupations listed reported 20-year salary growth of at least 28.6%. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists experience the highest growth rate: a 77.8% earnings increase between the entry-level and late-career stages. Parole officers placed second with 52.5% career growth, followed by correctional officers with 48.6% growth.

Career and Further Education Opportunities

Students who graduate with an online corrections bachelor's degree will be qualified for dozens of positions dealing with the incarceration, parole and probation of convicted criminals. Four common career paths are outlined below.

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: Probation officers work with probationers, or convicted criminals who are allowed to remain out of jail but must be closely supervised. Probationers are legally required to meet with their assigned officers to go over the conditions of their sentencing and receive evaluations. Correctional treatment specialists (also known as case managers) provide the same service for inmates at prisons who plan to be paroled.

Correctional Officers and Jailers: Correctional officers and jailers supervise inmates at jails and prisons, and enforce rules and regulations. They are also responsible for ensuring that all inmates remain safe and secure for the duration of their incarceration. Most correctional officers and jailers receive academy-based training that follows guidelines from the American Correctional Association.

Bailiffs: Bailiffs maintain order, safety and security in courtrooms during trials, sentencing and other legal proceedings. They typically have a background in law enforcement, and as part of their job, they must be trained to subdue, disarm and arrest individuals if the need arises.

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary: These educators lead courses in criminal justice and law enforcement at colleges, universities and other postsecondary learning institutions. Most collegiate teaching positions are attainable with a master's degree or higher.

Occupation Median Annual Salary
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $49,360
Correctional Officers and Jailers $45,320
Bailiffs $44,900
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary $64,460

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Many criminal justice bachelor's degree recipients choose to continue their education with a master's program. For more information on this option, please visit our Online Master's in Criminal Justice Guide.

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to corrections 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 corrections professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.

  • American Correctional Association: Founded as the National Prison Association in 1870, the ACA is today one of the leading voices in the training and professional development of corrections professionals. Perks for members include complimentary magazine and newsletter subscriptions, invitations to networking opportunities and discounts on continuing ed courses and other programs.
  • Correctional Peace Officers Association: This nonprofit created in 1984 is dedicated to the spouses, children and other family members of correctional officers who lose their lives in the line of duty. CPOAs programs include an annual charity golf tournament and a scholarship program for children of slain officers who plan to attend college.
  • 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 Bachelor's in Corrections

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.


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