Earning a criminal justice degree can lead to a lucrative career in law enforcement, public safety, and other law-related fields. Criminal justice majors may seek entry-level employment as police officers or probation officers. They may also aspire to careers as detectives, judges, and lawyers.

Like most college students, criminal justice majors typically require financial aid to help fund their education. Many schools, organizations, and individuals offer criminal justice scholarships, especially to students who commit to working in underserved areas after graduation.

This comprehensive guide covers criminal justice scholarships.

A photograph centers a police car's sirens while a group of uniformed officers stand off-focus in the background.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you pay for a degree in criminal justice?

Most students apply for several types of financial aid, often from multiple sources. Students typically begin by applying for need-based federal financial aid by submitting their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). They can supplement this type of federal aid with scholarships, grants, and loans. Merit-based scholarships, which do not require repayment, are especially desirable.

Are there many scholarships available for criminal justice students?

Yes. Students may pursue criminal justice scholarships through their school. Many scholarships in the field serve students who commit to work within their local community after graduation.

Where can I find scholarships for criminal justice degrees?

In addition to scholarships awarded by colleges and universities, many businesses, individuals, and private/nonprofit organizations offer criminal justice scholarships. This collection of resources cover financial aid for criminal justice students.

Are there grants for criminal justice students?

Yes. Federal government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, offer various grants to encourage higher education and community outreach initiatives in specialized areas of criminal justice.

How do I qualify for a criminal justice scholarship?

Scholarship criteria vary but may include financial need, academic merit, state residency, ethnicity, gender, and school/program specifications.

Financial Assistance for Criminal Justice Students

Beyond scholarships, other forms of financial aid include grants, fellowships, loans, and work-study programs. Most students pursue grants, scholarships, and fellowship opportunities first, as none of these types of aid require repayment. Learners may also pursue work-study jobs to earn income while completing their degree.

Most students approach loans as a last resort; loans contractually obligate students to pay back what they borrowed, as well as interest and fees.

As their first step, students should complete the FAFSA to determine their financial aid eligibility.

Some organizations and schools award criminal justice scholarships based on a student's demonstrated financial need. The majority of grants are also intended for students with financial need; however, in addition to need, many grants also include merit-based criteria.

Fellowships are most commonly awarded to students pursuing graduate-level research or field experience. These awards are rarely based on financial need. Recipients must use scholarships, grants, and fellowships to cover educational costs. None of these types of aid require repayment.

Work-study is a popular form of financial aid for on-campus learners. Prospective students must complete the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for work-study programs. Many schools — especially those with comprehensive public safety training programs or forensic science labs — can offer field-specific work-study jobs to criminal justice majors.

As their first step, students should complete the FAFSA to determine their financial aid eligibility.

Criminal Justice Loan Repayment and Forgiveness

Several loan forgiveness plans exist to help criminal justice graduates, including the following:


Criminal Justice Scholarships

As technology-driven industry expands, STEM education is crucial to the growth of the U.S. economy. The high demand for trained criminal justice and information technology experts has driven organizations to offer attractive criminal justice scholarships and education funding options, especially for students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Below is a list of the best scholarships for criminal justice majors and criminal justice grants.

Featured Criminal Justice Scholarships

A career in criminal justice offers several opportunities for specialization. Many scholarships serve students aspiring to a particular career, while others apply to interdisciplinary programs with broader career applications. Below are just some of the field's many criminal justice scholarships.

COAG Scholarships

Who's Eligible? The Constitutional Officers Association of Georgia (COAG) offers these scholarships to support students seeking an undergraduate degree in a variety of fields including law enforcement. Applicants must be high school seniors or college students in Georgia.

Award Amount: $500-$1,500

Deadline: Varies

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Brian Terry Scholarships

Who's Eligible? The Brian Terry Foundation offers scholarships in honor of the memory of a border patrolman killed in the line of duty. The scholarships support students studying criminal justice at the undergraduate level who plan on pursuing careers in law enforcement.

Award Amount: Varies

Deadline: May

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Anderson Criminal Justice Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The Washington State Fair offers the Anderson Criminal Justice Scholarship to criminal justice students who are Washington residents, with preference given to students pursuing a career in law enforcement.

Award Amount: $5,000 (payable over 2 years)

Deadline: February

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Alpha Phi Sigma Best Paper Scholarships

Who's Eligible? Alpha Phi Sigma presents three scholarship awards to undergraduate students who win the Best Paper Scholarship competition. Students must write a paper on the designated topic in criminal justice and be members of Alpha Phi Sigma.

Award Amount: $500 to $1,000

Deadline: January

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Robert Bobby Decker Memorial Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The SAISD Foundation awards this scholarship to high school seniors from Highlands High School in San Antonio in the Police Explorers and Criminal Justice course. Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA, be committed to a career in criminal justice, participate in extracurricular activities, and have 20 hours of community service.

Award Amount: $1,000

Deadline: Varies

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Virginia Sheriffs' Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The Virginia Sheriff's Office awards this scholarship to Virginia students majoring in criminal justice. Students must attend college in Virginia, be registered voters, and have a letter of recommendation from a local Virginia Resident Sheriff.

Award Amount: Varies

Deadline: May

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My Alarm Center Student Scholarships

Who's Eligible? My Alarm Center provides this scholarship to students currently studying law enforcement, law, criminal justice, or a related field. Applicants must submit an essay and be a graduating high school senior or a freshman or sophomore in college.

Award Amount: $1,000

Deadline: July

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Paul Janosky Criminal Justice Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The Police Officer Assistance Trust provides this award to a high school senior or college student in Miami-Dade, Broward, or Monroe County enrolled in or planning to enroll in a criminal justice program. Applicants must be the son or daughter of a law enforcement officer working in Miami-Dade County and have a 2.5 GPA.

Award Amount: $2,000 (prior recipients can reapply)

Deadline: May

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Sheryl A. Horak Law Enforcement Explorer Memorial Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The Sheryl A. Horak Law Enforcement Explorer Memorial Scholarship is a merit-based award given to a law enforcement Explorer who is at least a high school senior. Candidates are chosen based on academic record, leadership ability, extracurricular activities, and their personal statement.

Award Amount: $1,000

Deadline: March

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Lionel J. Neiman Scholarship

Who's Eligible? This scholarship is offered to criminal justice students at Ball State University entering their senior year. Applicants must be planning to complete an internship and have a 3.0 GPA. Participation in community service activities and financial need are considered.

Award Amount: Varies

Deadline: March

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Ronnie Williams Foundation Criminal Justice Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The Ronnie Williams Foundation grants this award to high school seniors from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania who have at least a 2.5 GPA and plan on majoring in criminal justice.

Award Amount: $1,000

Deadline: May

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Wade and Alice Knapp Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The University of Nebraska at Lincoln offers this scholarship to undergraduate students in its School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Financial need is considered.

Award Amount: $2,000

Deadline: February

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John Jay College of Criminal Justice Scholarships

Who's Eligible? The John Jay College of Criminal Justice offers a multitude of scholarships for criminal justice students with various backgrounds and needs

Award Amount: Varies

Deadline: Varies

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Criminal Justice Scholarship

Who's Eligible? Crimcheck.net offers this scholarship to a high school senior or undergraduate enrolled in a criminal justice program. Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA and demonstrate leadership.

Award Amount: $500

Deadline: August

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Captain Jim Unterwagner Scholarship

Who's Eligible? Slippery Rock University awards this scholarship to a criminology student at SRU who has completed 64 credits, has financial need, and has done well academically.

Award Amount: $500

Deadline: March

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Wyoming Peace Officers Association Scholarship

Who's Eligible? WPOA provides this scholarship to a Wyoming resident majoring in a law enforcement program at the University of Wyoming or Wyoming Community College. Applicants must have a C average and be enrolled full-time.

Award Amount: $500 to $1,000 (per year)

Deadline: July 3

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Criminal Justice Scholarships for Minorities and Women

Female students and learners who belong to a historically disenfranchised group may qualify for criminal justice scholarships for minorities and women. This classification usually includes — but is not limited to — female students and learners who belong to a cultural, racial, ethnic, or religious minority group.

Ruth D. Peterson Fellowship for Racial and Ethnic Diversity

Who's Eligible? The American Society of Criminology presents three fellowship awards annually to encourage students of color to enter criminal justice. Applicants must be from racial groups underrepresented in the field and be accepted into a doctoral program.

Award Amount: $6,000

Deadline: March

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Irlet Anderson Scholarship Award

Who's Eligible? Awarded by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, this scholarship provides funding to an African American high school senior committed to a career in law enforcement or criminal justice. Applicants must have financial need and a GPA of 3.8.

Award Amount: $2,500

Deadline: April

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Dorothy Bracey/Janice Joseph Minority and Women New Scholar Award

Who's Eligible? The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences gives this award to recognize outstanding minority and female students. Students must be a woman or minority, a member of ACJS, have received a Ph.D. in the past 7 years, and have a strong record as a new scholar in research, teaching, and service.

Award Amount: $1,000

Deadline: August

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Charles Fonseca Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives awards this scholarship to an African American high school senior who commits to a career in law enforcement or criminal justice. Applicants must have financial need and a GPA of 3.8 or higher.

Award Amount: $2,000

Deadline: April

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Out to Protect Scholarship Award

Who's Eligible? Out to Protect Inc. offers this scholarship to support members of the LGBT pursuing a career in law enforcement who are willing to be visible role models. Applicants must identify as LGBT, be enrolled in a law enforcement training program, and demonstrate the ability to be a positive role model for law enforcement.

Award Amount: $500 to $1,000

Deadline: November

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Alphonso Deal Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The National Black Police Association offers this scholarship to high school seniors of "good character," who have been accepted to college and want to pursue a career in law enforcement. Applicants must have a letter of recommendation, write an essay, and be a U.S. citizen.

Award Amount: Varies

Deadline: May 2

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WIFLE Members-Only Annual Scholarship

Who's Eligible? Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) offers an annual "members-only" scholarship to WIFLE members majoring in criminal justice. Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA, be a full-time student of criminal justice (or a related field), have completed at least one year of college, and provide a letter of recommendation.

Award Amount: $1,500 (automatically renews for one year)

Deadline: May

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Edna R. Anthony Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The Women of BECA offer this scholarship to outstanding high school seniors who are females of color. Applicants must have a GPA of 2.5, attend a historically black college or university, and declare a major in criminal justice, journalism, or nursing.

Award Amount: $1,000

Deadline: April

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O.B. Ellis and Philip Gibbs, M.D. Memorial Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University offers this scholarship to female criminal justice majors (age 21-45) at SHSU. Applicants must be juniors or graduate students and have a 3.0 GPA. Preference is given to those with experience in the profession.

Award Amount: Varies

Deadline: November

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WIFLE Annual Scholarship

Who's Eligible? Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) offers an annual scholarship to a student majoring in criminal justice. Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA, be a full-time student of criminal justice, have completed at least one year of college, submit an essay, and be sponsored by at least one community leader.

Award Amount: $2,500 (may be renewable)

Deadline: May

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Michelle A. Edwards Memorial Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University offers this scholarship to full-time junior or senior female students majoring in victim studies at SHSU. Financial need will be considered. Applicants must have a 3.0 overall GPA and 3.25 in their major.

Award Amount: Varies

Deadline: November

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Criminal Justice Scholarships for Graduate Students

Earning a graduate degree can qualify students for senior positions in criminal justice. Criminal justice scholarships for graduate students can help offset the costs of an advanced education.

ACJS Student Scholarship Award

Who's Eligible? The Academy of Criminal Justice Studies awards funding for two students (one master's and one PhD) to travel to the annual ACJS conference. Students must present a paper at the conference.

Award Amount: $600

Deadline: August

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Pi Gamma Mu Scholarship

Who's Eligible? Pi Gamma Mu offers this scholarship to its members studying criminal justice. The award supports 11 students each year who are in their first or second year of graduate work.

Award Amount: $1,000-$2,000

Deadline: February

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Regina B. Shearn Scholarship

Who's Eligible? Alpha Phi Sigma presents this scholarship to one undergraduate and one graduate criminal justice student each year based on academic achievement, leadership, and service. Applicants must submit a personal statement and evaluation reports from three individuals familiar with their performance and character and be Alpha Phi Sigma members.

Award Amount: $2,000

Deadline: January

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Gene Carte Student Paper Award

Who's Eligible? The American Society of Criminology presents these awards to recognize outstanding scholarly work of criminal justice students. Undergraduate or graduate students may enter the competition by submitting a scholarly paper.

Award Amount: $200-$500

Deadline: April

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Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners offers this scholarship to students majoring in criminal justice, accounting, business administration, or finance. Undergraduate and graduate students qualify for the award. Students must have fraud-related interests and activities.

Award Amount: $1,000-$10,000

Deadline: January

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Rolando del Carmen Criminal Justice Endowed Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University offers this scholarship to a full-time graduate student majoring in criminal justice at SHSU. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and have a 3.5 GPA.

Award Amount: Varies

Deadline: November

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UNO/UNL Criminal Justice Education Fund Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the Board of the Criminal Justice Education Fund present this award to an undergraduate or graduate in the school's criminology department with high scholastic achievement.

Award Amount: Up to $1,000

Deadline: February

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ACJA/Lambda Delta Epsilon Scholarship

Who's Eligible? The American Criminal Justice Association offers this scholarship to undergraduate & graduate students currently studying criminal justice. Students must be ACJA/LAE members, or submit an application upon submission of scholarship application. Students must have a 3.0 GPA.

Award Amount: $100-$400

Deadline: December

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V.A. Leonard Scholarship

Who's Eligible? Alpha Phi Sigma presents this scholarship to one undergraduate and one graduate criminal justice student each year based on academic achievement, professional recommendations, and extracurricular activities. Applicants must be Alpha Phi Sigma members. To apply, they must submit an essay and three letters of recommendation.

Award Amount: $2,000

Deadline: January

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Additional Financial Aid Resources

An Overview of Financial Aid

This comprehensive overview includes a variety of financial aid resources, including a step-by-step guide to help students manage financial aid throughout the application process and enrollment. The guide includes information about filling out the FAFSA and how to find other types of financial aid while earning a degree.

Financial Aid for Online Students

With the growth of distance learning, online financial aid resources for criminal justice students have become increasingly relevant. This comprehensive guide helps students find online criminal justice scholarships, grants, and loans to help pay for their degree.

Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities

Criminal justice students with disabilities should not be disadvantaged when it comes to securing financial aid to help fund their education. This guide provides an overview of financial aid for students with disabilities.

Scholarships for Single Parents

Many single parents rely on criminal justice scholarships to help fund their degree. This resource highlights scholarships for single parents and explains methods to expand financial aid opportunities.

Financial Aid for Veterans and Active Military

Many schools and programs offer generous tuition discounts, criminal justice scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities for veterans and active-duty military students. This resource walks veteran and military students through the process of pursuing financial aid for criminal justice programs.


Explore More Criminal Justice Pages