An online criminal justice degree program is designed to provide you with expertise and tools to maintain public safety. Because of this, there are an abundance of careers you can pursue with a criminal justice degree online. According to Data USA, in 2018 alone, 132,021 criminal justice degrees were awarded to students around the country, making them eligible to join a diverse profession that is 1.08 million workers strong and growing.
In attending online schools for criminal justice you can study topics like the history of crime, juvenile delinquency and the policies and procedures used in the criminal justice system. Criminal justice colleges can offer specializations such as corrections and case management, forensic science, homeland security and crisis management and law enforcement. There are many options in an online criminal justice program that can match your desired career path.
If you think you may want to pursue an online criminal justice program, we've provided details on what it takes to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees. In addition, there's information on the jobs that are available to criminal justice graduates, the additional credentials you can earn and industry associations you can join to connect with other students and professionals.
Whether you want to earn an undergraduate degree, certificate or graduate degree, consider carefully which school you choose. The following rankings of the best criminal justice colleges online are designed to help you make an informed decision about what program you enroll in. In order to do this, we have compiled pertinent information about undergraduate and graduate online criminal justice programs, including what students can expect to study and what specializations are available. In addition, you can see other resources each school offers, such as internships, career services and networking opportunities.
Visit our methodologies page to learn more about how we use official data to evaluate schools.
American Public University System's Focus: Founded in 1991 as American Military University, this school is dedicated to providing quality distance education programs to those who want to advance their career potential by earning a degree. The school offers 8- and 16-week classes that begin every month throughout the year.
Featured Online Resource: The school's Richard G. Trefry Library is an electronic resource that has thousands of scholarly journals, books and videos that can aid students as they complete their coursework. This resource is available year round and is staffed by knowledgeable librarians who can help students conduct research on any subject matter.
Criminal Justice at American Public University System
Saint Leo University's Focus: For over one hundred years, Saint Leo University has been providing a liberal arts education that is rooted in the Benedictine tradition of valuing the dignity and unique talents of all people. As a result, courses are taught with the core values of community, excellence, respect, stewardship, integrity and personal development in mind.
Featured Online Resource: Saint Leo offers online students clubs they can participate in by attending meetings conducted in virtual rooms. Criminal justice students can join the school's online criminal justice association, as well as groups dedicated to psychology, liberal arts, and peer mentoring.
Criminal Justice at Saint Leo University
Master 's Degree
Park University's Focus: Founded in 1875, Park University offers education based on its school motto "Fides et Labor,"which means"Faith and Work" in Latin. As a result, online students take coursework designed to give them a broad perspective of the world based on the school's accountability, respect, integrity and inclusivity values. Also, Park promotes scholarship by offering small classes that allow students to get the support they need.
Featured Resource: Students who participate in Park's criminal justice club can discuss issues in the field with like-minded peers. In addition, students can visit police agencies, take tours of correctional facilities and participate in community service projects.
Criminal Justice at Park University
Associate of Science Degree
Bachelor of Science Degree
Criminal Justice Minor
Eastern Kentucky University's Focus: EKU's School of Justice Studies has faculty members who have extensive experience in fields such as social justice and environmental crimes, and have published many criminal justice and criminology books. The school's criminal justice programs are designed to hone students' critical reading and thinking skills.
Featured Resource: Their Project Graduate program provides special resources for adult learners who are going back to college after a hiatus. Through this program, students can get assistance with enrollment and course transfer, as well as individualized consulting services during their degree program.
Criminal Justice at Eastern Kentucky University
Bachelor 's Degree
Master 's Degree
Albany Technical College's Focus: ATC's mission is to help develop a strong workforce through a robust education that gives students the skills that employers expect. Whether students enroll in traditional or online degree programs, they have access to coursework that is industry driven and designed to give them an edge in their chosen field.
Featured Resource: The Career Development Center at Albany Technical College helps students augment their classroom studies with employment skills that can help them find a job after graduation. The Center provides career assessments, job fairs, portfolio development assistance and employment referrals.
Criminal Justice at Albany Technical College
Criminal Justice Technology Associate Degree
Criminal Justice Technology Diploma
Technical Certificate of Credit (TCC) in Criminal Justice
Sinclair Community College's Focus: Sinclair built its education programs on the motto "Find the need and endeavor to meet it" from the school's founder David A. Sinclair, who envisioned building a school that provides a high-quality education to prepare students for specialized jobs in the community. In order to accomplish this goal, the school leverages over a century of experience to offer hundreds of degree and certificate programs.
Featured Online Resource: eTutoring services are available to students who need extra help with their coursework. Some of the subjects that online students can get help with include mathematics, science and writing.
Criminal Justice at Sinclair Community College
Short - Term Technical Law Enforcement Certificate
Ogeechee Technical College's Focus: Since its founding in 1986, OTC has helped thousands of students prepare for rewarding careers through its strong education programs. Part of the Technical College System of Georgia, the school specializes in adult education and distance learning.
Featured Online Resource: The Academic Enrichment Center offers tutoring services to students 24 hours a day.
Criminal Justice at Ogeechee Technical College
Criminal Justice Technology Associate of Applied Science
Criminal Justice Technology Diploma
Criminal Justice Fundamentals Certificate
Criminal Justice Specialist Certificate
Liberty University's Focus: Liberty has built a reputation for providing quality distance education programs since the 1990s, when it began offering correspondence courses where students would receive VHS tapes of lectures and return their assignments through the mail. Today, the school offers over 500 online degree and certificate programs.
Featured Online Resource: The Online Writing Center provides services to help students improve their English writing proficiency. Students can get help with drafts of papers and citation formats.
Criminal Justice at Liberty University
Bachelor 's Degree
Master 's Degree
Sam Houston State University's Focus: Developed in 1879 as a teacher training school that held classes in one building, SHSU is the third oldest university in Texas. Since that time, the school has expanded its reach exponentially with both traditional and online degree programs that prepare students to enter careers in dozens of fields.
Featured Online Resource: Sam Houston State University offers a database that connects students with potential employers called JOBS for KATS.
Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University
Bachelor 's Degree
Master 's Degree
Rasmussen College-Minnesota's Focus: Founded in 1900 as Rasmussen Practical School of Business, Rasmussen has a long history of preparing students to enter the workplace through strong career-focused and general education. As the workforce has evolved over the years, the school has progressed in order to provide a student-centered education that helps them succeed in their careers.
Featured Online Resource: Rasmussen's Career Services offers advice on interviewing, resume writing and job search strategies. In addition, its mobile-friendly JobConnect allows students to search for employers that want to hire recent grads.
Criminal Justice at Rasmussen College - Minnesota
Criminal Justice Associate Degree
Criminal Justice Bachelor 's Degree
No matter which degree program level you may choose, the curriculum of a criminal justice program online is designed to give you the knowledge and skills you need to pursue a career in public safety. Whether you enroll in an associate or master's program, you can have the opportunity to obtain written and verbal communication, technology, critical thinking and problem-solving skills at online criminal justice colleges.
As you work toward higher-level degrees in criminal justice, much of the information you study is likely to become more complex. For example, in a master's degree program you may focus your studies on leadership skills in order to prepare for supervisory roles, or research skills that can give you the tools needed to advance the knowledge base of the field. Also, as you progress in your online criminal justice degree, you can choose a specialization in order to develop expertise in an area of the field that most interests you.
Continue reading for more about what you can learn in an online criminal justice programs on the associate and bachelor's level.
How Long Does an Online Associate Program in Criminal Justice Take?
Generally, full-time students who enroll in an online associate program in criminal justice can complete their studies in two years.
What Are the Requirements to Start an Online Associate Program in Criminal Justice?
Although each online criminal justice college has specific requirements for admission, generally those who want to enroll in an associate degree program are expected to have a high school diploma or its equivalent and at least a 2.0 grade point average. Also, students may be required to earn a high score on the SAT or ACT.
This degree level is for you if you want to enter the criminal justice field quickly. It can also be a way to prepare for a higher-level degree program. And if you are already in a public safety job - such as a position in law enforcement, the courts or corrections - you can earn this degree to increase your skills and other qualifications for career advancement.
The first year of a criminal justice degree program lays the framework for future coursework. During this time, you take classes that familiarize you with criminal justice concepts, the history of the field, processes of the legal system and how criminal justice-related government agencies work.
You can also expect to take general education classes to round out your criminal justice studies, such as coursework in English composition, mathematics, psychology and sociology.
Criminal justice electives:
As you learn about the field, you can explore your specific interests by taking electives offered in your program. Some of these courses may cover crime scene investigation, forensic psychology, domestic violence, delinquency and multicultural law enforcement.
How Long Does an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Take?
You usually complete an online bachelor's in criminal justice in about four years as a full-time student.
What Are the Requirements to Start a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice?
Applicants are generally expected to have a high school diploma or GED, a 2.0 grade point average and a certain score on the SAT or ACT. You may also be able to transfer into a four-year program if you've already earned an associate degree in criminal justice.
An online bachelor's in criminal justice can help you if you're new to the field and learning the fundamentals as well as the skills needed to land a job. In addition, a program at this degree level can allow you the opportunity to get more in-depth information than you could in an associate degree program. A bachelor's program can also give you the opportunity to choose a specialization in order to study a specific subsection of the field. This more advanced information can help current criminal justice professionals who are looking for career advancement.
Years One and Two
Introductory criminal justice coursework:
When you begin this program, you can expect to learn the basics of criminal justice, including criminal law and procedures, the causes of crime and how it can be prevented and the ethics that govern professionals in the field.
General education classes:
You can expect to take general education classes in areas such as mathematics, art, psychology, sociology and English.
To build on the content of required classes, you may choose electives that cover addiction, criminal justice research methods, white collar crime, computer criminology and victimology.
Years Three and Four
Exploring a specialization:
Once you have a basic understanding of criminal justice principles, you may select a specialization that can help you meet your education and career goals. Examples of these specializations are corrections, juvenile justice, forensic science, law enforcement and homeland security.
In order to apply what you have learned in the classroom to real-world criminal justice settings, you may have the opportunity to complete an internship. During this time, you may get hands-on experience in a variety of settings, including government agencies on the local, state and federal level.
Capstone course or project:
Some schools may require a capstone course or project that allows you to demonstrate your understanding of the course material throughout the program. In other programs, you may be required to take a comprehensive examination covering the department's curriculum.
In some cases, you may not be sure how a criminal justice degree program fits into your career goals, or you may want to combine criminal justice with another discipline in order to prepare for a specific type of job. Either way, there are similar degree programs that you can pursue as an alternative or complement to criminal justice, either as a minor or second major. Here are some common options.
These degree programs are designed to help you get a deep understanding of the human mind and the role that offenders' psychological makeup plays in the crimes they commit. From policing to probation, criminal justice professionals can benefit from understanding the psychology of criminals in order to more effectively do their jobs, so you may choose to enroll in one of these programs as a double major or a minor.
If you want to combine strong mathematics skills with interest in criminal justice, you can major or minor in forensic accounting to learn how accounting principles are used in order to detect fraud. Whether you want to prevent fraud within a private company or work for a government agency to help get evidence in white collar crime cases, people who earn forensic accounting degrees are taught the techniques for collecting and examining the proof of financial fraud.
People who work in criminal justice regularly deal with those from different backgrounds, so enrolling in an ethnic studies major or minor can help you learn how to effectively communicate with other cultures. This field of study can be especially useful for those who work in diverse areas, such as large cities, as it can provide an overview of the cultures and histories of different ethnicities as well as an opportunity to learn about unique issues that people in these communities face.
People who commit crimes, as well as the victims of crime, may come from families that are in crisis. If you combine a social work major or minor with criminal justice studies you can pursue a career as a criminal justice social worker, which allows you to provide help to offenders and their families in order to improve their lives and reduce the chance of recidivism.
With more crimes being committed by the click of a mouse, criminal justice students who are technologically adept may choose to also enroll in an information systems security program in order to learn the techniques for finding and interpreting evidence in computer-related crimes. After completing these studies, you can move on to become a cybersecurity analyst, fraud investigator and data analyst.
Criminal justice degrees can lead to a vast field of public safety career options in a number of different settings. People who earn these degrees may pursue employment in corrections, law enforcement, research, forensics and social service settings. The following are some examples of the jobs that you may work in after earning your criminal justice degree online.
Police detectives are charged with getting the facts about a criminal case and gathering evidence to help support it. Their work includes duties such as conducting surveillance, interviewing witnesses, arresting offenders and testifying in court.How do you become a police detective?
While some agencies hire workers who have a high school diploma, many employers require that candidates have a degree in criminal justice or law enforcement. In addition, you are expected to participate in a training academy to land this job.
These professionals collect and evaluate evidence in order to identify trends and predict possible crimes. To do this, criminal intelligence analysts should have strong technology skills that allow them to perform research on law enforcement databases, geographic information systems and intelligence networks, as well as analytical skills needed to interpret data and make assessments on how this information should be used.How do you become a criminal intelligence analyst?
Criminal intelligence analysts are required to have a bachelor's degree to get hired.
From finding proof of an extramarital affair for a distressed spouse to conducting surveillance to find evidence of workers' compensation fraud on behalf of an employer, private detectives apply their investigatory skills to a variety of situations. The daily work of these professionals can include conducting public records checks, interviews and surveillance, as well as writing reports and testifying in court.How do you become a private detective?
Depending on the employer, private detectives may be required to have a high school diploma or a two- or four-year college degree. In addition, these workers get on-the-job training.
If you pursue this career you are responsible for preventing crimes related to fish and game laws. In order to do this, you may patrol specific areas by car or boat, investigate hunting accidents and conduct search-and-rescue operations, as well as assist local law enforcement investigations as needed.How do you become a fish and game warden?
Generally, fish and game wardens need a bachelor's degree to enter the field.
Criminal justice professionals and students alike can reap numerous benefits from joining industry associations, including getting the opportunity to connect with each other at events and gaining access to the latest news and research. The following are examples of some professional organizations for those in the criminal justice field.