Most Affordable Online Criminal Justice Programs

If you want to be a police officer, detective, or investigator, you need a degree. Find out more about the cheapest online criminal justice degrees.
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Criminal justice professionals help keep people safe, ensure justice, and promote peaceful and equitable solutions among neighbors. A degree in criminal justice can get you started in this rewarding public service career.

A two-year associate degree program prepares aspiring police and corrections officers, and a bachelor's degree can set up graduates for careers as probation officers or detectives. Going to graduate school for criminal justice can even lead to leadership roles or college professorships.

As society's emphasis on security and justice persists, public agencies increasingly need criminal justice professionals who can help make communities safer.

How Much Does a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Cost?

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that in 2020-2021, the average net price for first-time, full-time undergraduate students attending college was $14,700 at public institutions and $28,400 at private nonprofit institutions. These figures do not include living costs such as housing, groceries, transportation, utilities, and insurance.

In-state students at public institutions or community colleges typically pay the lowest tuition. Online learners may pay less, more, or the same cost per credit as their on-campus counterparts.

What Can I Expect From An Online Bachelor's In Criminal Justice Program?

In general, an online bachelor's in criminal justice features about 120 credits and takes four years to complete. The program attracts problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and students who use ethics and morals to guide their decision-making. The training starts with general education and criminal justice foundations and progresses into advanced criminology courses and practical experiences.

Learners may earn a BA or a BS in criminal justice. These degree types can differ in many ways. For example, a BS tends to offer training more focused on protective services, whereas a BA provides more interdisciplinary training.

When students decide to earn an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice, they should also think about their intended focus. Possible options include forensic science, criminal justice technology, homeland security, and juvenile justice. Concentrations offer targeted training and can lead to more career opportunities after graduation.

All Other Types of Degrees

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

A criminal justice associate degree provides graduates with the leadership and critical thinking skills they need to serve as police officers, security guards, or correctional officers. In this degree program, students explore topics related to law enforcement, social services, and the court system.

A two-year degree can serve as a starting point for further education or specialization in criminal justice or law. While roles with more complex responsibilities might require higher degrees, can enable graduates to enter the field.

Featured Associate Degrees in Criminal Justice

Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice lays a solid foundation for entry-level roles in law enforcement, security, or social services. This degree prepares graduates to assume roles as police officers, correctional officers, or private security personnel. Students learn key theories and skills in criminology, juvenile justice, and the judicial process.

Aspiring federal agents and detectives can use the degree as a stepping stone to gain valuable experience before pursuing further specialization or advancement in their careers.

Featured Bachelor's Degrees in Criminal Justice

Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice

A master's degree in criminal justice equips students with advanced knowledge and skills in the administration of justice, corrections program evaluation, and leadership and management in the field.

Graduates can land jobs as criminal investigators, probation officers, or corrections administrators, benefiting from a deeper understanding of criminal behavior and justice systems. This degree can also open doors to policy analysis, consulting, and management positions within government agencies, nonprofits, and private security firms.

Featured Master's Degrees in Criminal Justice

Doctorate Degree in Criminal Justice

In a doctoral program in criminal justice, students sharpen their analytical and research skills, preparing them to make distinctive contributions to the field. The professional doctorate emphasizes practical application, while the Ph.D. focuses on criminal justice theory.

Graduates with a doctoral degree can excel as university professors, shaping the next generation of criminal justice professionals while conducting groundbreaking research. Additionally, they can influence policy and practice by assuming leadership roles in government agencies, think tanks, or nonprofit organizations.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in an Online Criminal Justice Program?

  • Minus

    Criminal Justice Ethics

    This course explores the most common ethical issues in the criminal justice system. Students examine the professional code of ethics in place and how ethical decision models can be applied in protective services.
  • Minus

    Criminal Investigations

    In this course, students learn about the criminal investigation process. The training can cover topics in collecting and preserving evidence, crime scene investigations, and interviews and interrogations.
  • Minus

    Corrections in the U.S.

    Students in this course learn about the country's corrections system. They examine the evolution of the system, along with its structures and practices.
  • Minus

    Criminology

    This course looks at criminal behavior and the causes for it. Learners study the sources of and reactions to crime, along with leading criminal justice system theories.
  • Minus

    Correctional Rehabilitation

    In this course, students examine the process and system in place for correctional rehabilitation. They evaluate this system's effectiveness and study leading theories on the topic.

What Can I Do With An Online Bachelor's In Criminal Justice Degree?

Career Outlook

Although the industry is growing slower than average, the demand for public safety officers remains high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that there will be little to no change in the number of protective services jobs between 2022 and 2032.

However, many local police departments are waging aggressive recruitment campaigns to fill open positions. Even the cheapest online criminal justice degree can qualify you to compete for one of those posts and possibly command a wage in the upper part of the salary band.

Career Paths

Police and Detective


Police and detectives protect the people and property within their communities. They investigate crimes, patrol their jurisdictions, and respond to emergency and non-emergency calls. These professionals typically must complete a training academy program offered by their specific agency.

Police Median Annual Salary (May 2023): $72,280

Detective Median Annual Salary (May 2023): $91,100

Correctional Officers


Correctional officers work in the prison and jail system. They enforce rules, supervise inmates, and protect visitors and property. These officers use their observation skills and routine inspections to prevent criminal behavior and write reports. Correctional officers typically must complete a training academy program.

Median Annual Salary (May 2023): $53,300

Probation Officers


Probation officers assist in the rehabilitation process of law offenders. They meet with probationers, guide and direct their treatment, and help them access the appropriate resources. They also write and submit reports to the courts. Probation officers may need to complete a state-sponsored training program and certification test.

Median Annual Salary (May 2023): $61,800

Paralegal or Legal Assistant


Paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in several ways, specifically with research and paperwork. They often prepare documents, exhibits, and transcripts for cases. They may perform specific investigative duties. Employers might require paralegal candidates to pass a certification exam.

Median Annual Salary (May 2023): $60,970

Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators


Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help facilitate disputes and negotiations outside of court. They meet with and interview all parties, evaluate the information and documents provided, and draft settlement agreements. Employers may require candidates to complete a training program.

Median Annual Salary (May 2023): $71,540

How Do I Pay for An Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice?

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

One of the first steps in the financial aid process should include completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In general, financial aid and the FAFSA are closely linked, as a completed application can help candidates qualify for scholarships and financial aid programs.

Loans

As per our guide to college loans, students can access federal and private loans. Students can receive subsidized or unsubsidized federal loans. Private loans can come from financial institutions or private organizations.

Grants

Grants offer one of the most desirable types of financial aid. These awards do not require repayment. Grants and scholarships typically differ in that the former are need-based, and the latter are merit-based.

Work-Study Programs

Federal work-study programs provide students with paid work placements while they study. Compared to traditional part-time jobs, federal work-study jobs may be more accommodating for study schedules and more closely related to desired training.

Scholarships

Scholarships come in many sizes and do not require repayment. These awards usually reward academic merit and achievements and come from governments, schools, and private organizations. There are numerous resources available for finding scholarships for college students, including several online scholarship databases.

Most Affordable Accredited Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Programs

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Most Affordable Online Criminal Justice Programs

  1. University of South Florida
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $10460

    The University of South Florida maintains its flagship campus in Tampa and serves over 50,000 students annually. USF delivers a comprehensive array of academic programs, including an online bachelor of science in applied science with a criminal justice concentration. Distance learners may complete an entirely remote degree plan or create a hybrid experience by taking some classes in person.

    Coursework comprises 120 credits and covers topics like theories of criminal behavior and a survey of the criminal justice system. Bachelor's candidates personalize their undergraduate education with 31 elective credits and can use this opportunity to pursue field work or engage in a mentored research project.

    USF requires first-year applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores. The university uses the Canvas platform to serve its distance learners.

  2. California State University, Stanislaus
    Location

    Turlock, CA

    Tuition

    $6930

    California State University, Stanislaus offers more than 60 academic programs. Its undergraduate catalog contains a hybrid bachelor of arts in criminal justice program that prepares students for careers as court administrators, lawn enforcement officers, and crime scene investigators.

    The curriculum includes classes like causes of crime, juvenile justice, and criminal procedures. Students also delve into police ethics and civil liability with regards to issues of race and ethnicity. Students also complete an internship, and the program culminates with a research-focused capstone experience.

    As a degree completion option, Stan State's online bachelor's in criminal justice program requires applicants to have at least 60 transferable credits and a minimum 2.0 GPA. This accelerated track follows a hybrid format that requires candidates to meet on campus one night per week.

  3. Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    Tuition

    $9180

    Based in Miami, Florida International University has offered accessible and career-focused distance education opportunities since 2000. Degree options include an online bachelor of science in crime science where students learn to combine computer science and forensic tools with traditional concepts in criminology and criminal justice.

    Required coursework covers topics like statistics for behavioral and social science, crime prevention, and terrorism and homeland security. Students also examine cybersecurity issues, like the causes of cybercrime and the usage of ethical hacking as a countermeasure. FIU partners with the Law Enforcement Apprenticeship Program, giving candidates the option to earn college credits while they train to become police officers.

    FIU provides fall, spring, and summer start dates. Applicants to this program must submit ACT or SAT scores. Online students pay tuition based on residency status.

  4. Florida State University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $13318

    Headquartered in Tallahassee, Florida State University is a comprehensive public institution offering more than 200 academic programs. Its catalog includes many remote options, such as an online bachelor's degree in criminology that teaches students the research and analysis skills needed to work as fraud investigators, parole/probation officers, and corporate security specialists.

    Required courses include criminal justice administration and victimology. Students also explore pertinent issues like the social reality of black males, crime victimization and the media, and violence in America. Junior and senior candidates may strengthen classroom knowledge by completing an internship with a local, state, or federal government agency.

    Applicants to this program should submit ACT/SAT scores, a personal statement, and a current resume. Distance learners do not need to visit campus.

  5. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $13016

    The University of Central Florida is a longtime leader in distance education, providing over 90 remote academic programs. Students can pursue an online bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science in criminal justice. Graduates are prepared to work as FBI agents, crime scene investigators, and corrections officers.

    Core requirements include classes in crime in America and prosecution/adjudication. BA candidates must demonstrate foreign language proficiency equal to one year of college education. All students round out degree work with a capstone ethics seminar that focuses on the moral dilemmas of the U.S. criminal justice system and the need for humane policies and procedures.

    This online bachelor's in criminal justice program uses a holistic evaluation process that considers an applicant's GPA, ACT/SAT performance, and professional experience. UCF powers distance education with Canvas.

  6. California State University, San Bernardino
    Location

    San Bernardino, CA

    Tuition

    $8586

    California State University, San Bernardino enrolls approximately 20,000 students each year, many of whom earn their credentials remotely through Blackboard. The school's undergraduate offerings include an online bachelor of arts in criminal justice. This degree completion track allows candidates to maintain full-time jobs and graduate in two years.

    The bachelor's in criminal justice curriculum features required classes like criminal law and correctional theories/institutions. Students gain practical skills in applied research and statistical analysis and may pursue individual interests and goals through six electives, choosing from options like community corrections, forensic profiling, and transnational organized crime.

    Applicants need at least 60 transferable credits (satisfying all state-mandated general education requirements) and a minimum 2.7 GPA. CSUSB provides a variety of financial aid, including institutional scholarships based on academic achievement.

  7. California State University, Sacramento
    Location

    Sacramento, CA

    Tuition

    $9885

    California State University, Sacramento offers an array of flexible certificates and degrees through its College of Continuing Studies. Distance learners enrolled in the school's fully online bachelor of science in criminal justice program take asynchronous courses through Canvas and develop the management and communication skills needed to work in law enforcement agencies, parole and probation systems, and the courts.

    Candidates complete core classes like general investigation techniques, law of crimes, and fundamentals of corrections. They also delve into research methodologies, applying these concepts and tools in a capstone seminar that examines pertinent challenges in the criminal justice field.

    As a degree completion pathway, this online bachelor's in criminal justice program requires applicants to have an associate degree or at least 60 transferable credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Sacramento State maintains fall and spring entry dates.

  8. Florida Gulf Coast University
    Location

    Fort Myers, FL

    Tuition

    $11716

    Located in Fort Myers, Florida Gulf Coast University provides remote learning opportunities through Canvas. Undergraduates can earn a bachelor of science in criminal justice, completing all upper-division requirements (60 credits of classes) remotely.

    Coursework includes theories of criminal behavior, juvenile justice system, and constitutional criminal procedures. Students also examine leadership and management strategies for local, state, and federal agencies. To obtain their bachelor's degree in criminal justice, learners must complete an internship.

    The average incoming first-year student at FGCU boasts a 3.87 GPA, and applicants must send in ACT or SAT scores. The university offers ample financial aid opportunities, including merit scholarships, tuition waivers for out-of-state residents, and awards specifically for military personnel and international students.

  9. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
    Location

    New Brunswick, NJ

    Tuition

    $16295

    Rutgers is a renowned public research institution that enrolls over 71,000 students annually. Distance learners can pursue a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science in criminal justice fully online or through a hybrid program.

    The bachelor's in criminal justice curriculum covers topics like police and society, case processing in the courts system, and delinquency and juvenile justice. Candidates learn how to reduce local crime through problem-oriented policing and community corrections. Participants also develop crucial research skills, including the ability to use data analysis as a tool for policy development.

    The application materials for first-year applicants include ACT/SAT scores and a personal essay that responds to a designated prompt. Online students access asynchronous classes through Blackboard.

  10. Missouri State University
    Location

    Springfield, MO

    Tuition

    $10235

    MSU uses Blackboard Learn to deliver over 50 remote certificates and degrees. These offerings include an online bachelor of science in criminology that offers a customizable curriculum with courses that support students' distinct academic interests and career goals. Graduates may pursue master's-level education or obtain jobs as U.S. marshals and police officers.

    Required classes include institutional/community-based corrections and juvenile justice. Unlike many other bachelor's in criminal justice programs, this track allows students to further augment their training by completing a specialized certificate in criminal investigation, terrorism and national security, or conservation law enforcement.

    Applicants must submit adequate ACT or SAT scores with minimum requirements scaling based on their GPA. For candidates who do not meet these criteria, MSU offers an alternative admissions process that may include an individual review and summer enrollment.

Featured Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's In Criminal Justice Programs

Is a bachelor's in criminal justice worth it?

Criminal justice training paves a path for students to help others and prepares graduates to enter fields with strong growth. Distance education students can benefit from the additional value of an online degree, such as increased accessibility and flexibility.

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

Graduates can pursue entry-level careers in law or protective services, although they may need to complete additional training, such as an academy program. People with a bachelor's degree can also pursue an advanced degree in criminal justice, criminology, or legal studies.

Are criminal justice majors in demand?

The BLS projects little to no change in the number of protective service job openings between 2022 and 2032, including 3% for police and detectives and 6% for private detectives and investigators. The BLS also projects faster-than-average growth for legal occupations between 2022 and 2032.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in criminal justice?

As of May 2023, the BLS reports that the median annual wage for protective services careers stands at $47,760. Some professionals in the industry can earn even more. For example, the top 10% of detectives earned $154,360 as of 2023.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in criminal justice?

The BLS reports that police and detectives earned median annual salaries of $72,280 and $91,100, respectively, as of May 2023. Payscale data shows that security managers earn an average of $79,480 and fraud investigators bring in $68,280.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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