Most Affordable Online Criminal Justice Programs

Learn more about the most affordable Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice programs. With tuition on the rise, a good value is important.

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by Doug Wintemute

Updated July 29, 2022

Edited by Taylor Gadsden
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Despite the country's crime rates dropping since the 1990s, the justice system remains the largest in the world and one with significant disparities. In a bachelor's in criminal justice program, you learn how the criminal justice system works and examine the reasons why crimes occur. You acquire the skills and training to enter numerous roles in this ever-changing environment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the addition of over 285,000 new protective service positions and over 115,000 legal positions between 2020 and 2030. Among the roles available to graduates with an online bachelor's in criminal justice, the median annual salaries ranged between $47,440-$67,290 in May 2020.

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Here, we look at the online criminal justice degree in more detail and showcase the most affordable options from the top online schools. We also highlight application considerations and possible career paths to help you make the best decision for your future.

How Much Does an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Cost?

Public schools typically offer the most affordable online bachelor's in criminal justice programs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average annual cost for an undergraduate program at a public four-year institution was $9,400 in 2019-20. Private four-year schools charged $36,700 on average for tuition the same year.

While these numbers include tuition, fees, and room and board costs, students can get the most accurate price information by calculating the true program cost. This cost includes lost income as a result of the training. Online learners may pay the same tuition rates as on-campus learners. But virtual students can access more programs with flexible schedules, which might lead to savings and more sustainable work income.

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 encounter 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 service occupations, 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.

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Popular Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Programs

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

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

Criminal Justice Ethics

This course explores the most common ethics 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.

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.

Corrections in America

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

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.

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.

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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Program?

Prospective students may encounter various admission requirements depending on the program and school to which they apply. Typically, they need a high school diploma or its equivalent for entry. Programs may set grade minimums, and online learners might also need to meet technological requirements.

Application

The typical college application includes the applicant's personal information and indicates the program to which they are applying. As per our undergraduate application guide, prospective students can apply directly to a program or use an application system like the Common Application. These systems can allow learners to easily apply to multiple programs at once.

Test Scores

Many schools include college entrance exams as part of their applications. Standardized tests like the SAT and ACT provide schools and programs with greater insight into an applicant's educational aptitude. As a result of COVID-19, prospective students may receive a test waiver.

Letters of Recommendation

Most college applications require applicants to submit letters of recommendation. These letters should come from former teachers or employers who can highlight why the applicant is well-suited for a program. Students should help prepare their referrals with information about their prospective program and the deadlines.

Essays

While many programs require college application essays, they can vary in focus. At the undergraduate level, these essays usually explore the prospective student's personal journey. Programs may also pose a specific question for applicants to answer in their writing.

Official Transcripts

Official transcripts almost always accompany college applications. These records provide details on the applicant's former training, including all prerequisite and grade information. For prospective students transferring from community college to a university, transcripts may lead to transfer credits.

What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Degree?

Career Outlook

Due to the importance of the criminal justice field, the demand for graduates with a bachelor's in criminal justice remains relatively consistent year over year. Learners also benefit from the discipline's flexibility, allowing them to specialize and explore diverse career paths. This consistency and flexibility help make the discipline one of the most popular college majors.

The BLS projects 8% growth for protective service occupations and 9% growth for legal occupations between 2020 and 2030. Bachelor's graduates have access to most careers in protective services, along with higher-paying positions like police and correctional officers. In the legal field, the push for more affordable legal services may drive demand for paralegals and arbitrators.

Check out the professional opportunities a bachelor's in criminal justice can provide.

Learn more about criminal justice careers

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.

Median Annual Salary: $67,290

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 on their activities and findings. Correctional officers typically must complete a training academy program.

Median Annual Salary: $47,440

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: $55,690

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: $52,920

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: $66,130

Criminal Justice Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

After graduating with a bachelor's in criminal justice, learners can often choose from several continuing education options. For most career paths, students must complete an additional training program, such as a police or corrections academy program. They could also pursue an advanced degree, which could lead to management positions or careers in a more desirable organization.

Some related graduate programs include a master's in criminal justice, master's in criminology, master's in criminal investigation, and a master's in legal studies. Students could also pursue specialized training to expand their employment opportunities, such as a paralegal graduate certificate.

How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Program?

Cost

When evaluating prices, learners must consider all school-related costs, including travel, fees, and room and board. They also need to think about how their training might impact their income. Students can also compare online and on-campus costs, public and private school costs, and in-state and out-of-state costs.

Program Format

Prospective students should think about their ideal program format when choosing a program. Compare, for example, synchronous vs. asynchronous training and full-time vs. part-time studies. Learners might also explore the top online schools with accelerated bachelor's degrees if their schedule can accommodate the fast-tracked training.

Location

Regardless of their choice between online and on-campus training, students should consider location. For on-campus programs, location impacts travel and living arrangements. Online programs may feature on-campus residencies, so students should choose an online school location that allows them to complete those requirements.

Accreditation

Students should always look for a school and program with the appropriate accreditations. According to our online college accreditation guide, schools need institutional accreditation to offer federal financial aid to students. While not mandatory, programmatic accreditation from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences may improve postgraduate options.

Student Support

Many factors can impact the educational experience, but available student services and online student services may play a role. Education focused programs, like academic support and college mentorships, can improve student success. Furthermore, career services and internships and practicums can enhance postgraduate opportunities.

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 needs-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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Programs

Is a bachelor's in criminal justice worth it?

Yes. An online bachelor's in criminal justice can be very worthwhile for graduates. Criminal justice training paves a path for students to help others and their communities. The training also prepares graduates to enter fields for which the BLS projects strong growth, including protective services and legal occupations.

Furthermore, students can benefit from the additional value of an online degree. Online training offers increased accessibility and flexibility. Prospective students can choose from more programs and find a schedule that best accommodates their needs.

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

A bachelor's in criminal justice opens the door to many postgraduate opportunities. Graduates can pursue entry-level careers in the protective services and legal fields, including the policing and paralegal professions. They may need to complete additional training to qualify, such as an academy program.

Graduates can also continue their training in many ways. They may pursue a certificate program to specialize or advance their knowledge. They can also complete an advanced degree in criminal justice, criminology, or legal studies.

Are criminal justice majors in demand?

There is average to slightly above average demand for criminal justice majors compared to the national median for other industries. The BLS projects 8% growth in protective service occupations between 2020 and 2030, including 7% for police and detectives and 13% for private detectives and investigators.

The BLS also projects 9% growth for legal occupations between 2020 and 2030. This includes 10% projected growth for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators, along with 12% projected growth for paralegals and legal assistants.

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

Salaries for graduates with a bachelor's in criminal justice depend on many factors. In protective services, correctional officers made median annual wages of $47,440 in May 2020. Private detectives and investigators earned median annual wages of $53,320. Police and detectives earned $67,290.

Among the legal occupations, paralegals and legal assistants made median annual salaries of $52,920 in May 2020. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators made $66,130 in that same period.

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

The highest-paying job for bachelor's in criminal justice graduates is police and detectives. According to the BLS, the top 10% of professionals in this field earned more than $113,860 per year.

Salaries vary by job title and industry. For example, detectives earned median annual wages of $86,940 in May 2020, and transit and railroad police earned $72,580. Federal government law enforcement earned $92,080, state government law enforcement earned $70,280, and local government law enforcement earned $65,850.

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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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