Best Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

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Contributor, Benzinga
March 31, 2020

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Do you dream of working as a police officer, detective or crime scene investigator? Maybe you want to learn more about criminal justice before you apply for law school. 

Consider an online criminal justice degree to learn the fundamentals of the criminal justice system. 

Why Choose an Online Criminal Justice Degree?

If you want to work in the criminal justice field, a degree can give you a competitive advantage. Even if a degree is not required for the role you’re seeking, it could be the difference between getting the job or being turned away because the other candidate was just as qualified. 

You must also consider the variety of jobs in criminal justice. The list is endless, so there’s a lot of wiggle room for new professionals trying to find their way, and you won’t get stuck in a role that doesn’t suit you. 

Criminal justice is a field that’s always hiring. You’ll also be paid a decent wage with benefits in just about every role. Entry-level positions aren’t as lucrative, but hard work pays off as you climb the ladder. 

How to Choose an Online Criminal Justice Degree

Wondering what to look for in an online criminal justice degree programs? Here are some ideas.

Reputable Institution 

An online degree may not hold much weight if it’s not from a reputable institution. Before you enroll, research the college or university’s history. Has the school received any special recognition from other entities? Does it offer accredited programs?

Can you attract employers when you graduate? A lot of responsibility falls on you to do the work and go the extra mile to stand out. Dig a little deeper to learn more about past graduates. Are they working in roles you dream of having? 

Experienced Instructors

There are several facets to criminal justice. Each has its own unique perspectives, hot topics and challenges. You want instructors who have industry experience and higher-level expertise. They should also be able to convey this information to you in a way that’s easy to comprehend. 

If you choose a program with inexperienced instructors, they can share overarching concepts. You’ll miss out on pertinent information and insights that could help you soar in your career and overcome challenges as they surface. 

Competitive Tuition Rates 

Tuition rates for online criminal justice degree programs vary drastically. Compare the cost per credit hour and fee for each program and only consider reasonably-priced options. 

Also, take a look at the cost of attendance for the past 5 years. If you notice steep increases each year, it may be best to look elsewhere to avoid spending a hefty sum for the program. 

Jobs Waiting for You with a Criminal Justice Degree

A criminal justice degree paves the way to multiple career opportunities. Here are a few of the most popular picks amongst graduates. 


Detectives gather and compile detailed records to help solve crimes. They also collect data that can be used in the court of law. Most detectives work in homicide or fraud and focus on a few cases at a time until they are solved. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for detectives is $63,380 annually. 

Forensic Science Technicians 

Intrigued by investigations and crime scenes? A career as a forensic science technician may be a good fit. You’ll be tasked with collecting evidence and preparing it for analysis at crime labs. In some instances, you may also be asked to reconstruct or make sketches of crime scenes. 

On average, forensic science technicians earn $58,230 per year, notes 

Private Investigator 

You can work alone or with an agency to uncover mysteries as a private investigator. You’ll also conduct interviews and surveillance, check background data and collect evidence to aid in the investigation of cases and help locate missing persons.

The median pay for 2018 was $50,090, which equates to $24.08 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Best Online Colleges for a Criminal Justice Degree

Here are Benzinga’s top picks for criminal justice programs and the tuition rate to help you make an informed decision. 

1. Southern New Hampshire University 


You’ll gain real-world perspectives on criminology theories with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from Southern New Hampshire University. The program also focuses on emerging national and global trends and teaches you how to communicate effectively and use decision-making discretion. 

When you enroll, you can choose from this list of concentration options: 

  • Corrections
  • Criminology
  • Homeland security and counterterrorism
  • Police administration and operations
  • Human services and advocacy
  • Substance abuse 

You can also join its online Criminal Justice Club to connect with other students and attend virtual events. 

Upon completion, you’ll have the necessary skills to analyze the impact of trends and technologies on criminal justice agencies, promote partnerships and community relations, communicate to diverse audiences and examine human behavior and motivation. You’ll also know how to apply regulations, laws and ethical standards to decision-making and devise research-backed solutions to challenges.

Tuition is $320 per credit hour and you’ll need 120 credit hours to earn your degree. Up to 12 credits from basic police, corrections, probation and parole academy training can be counted toward your degree. 

Enroll now

2. Arizona State University


Earn a criminal justice degree from Arizona State University — it offers a Bachelor of Science in criminology and criminal justice and a Master of Arts in criminal justice to help you land a rewarding role or advance your career. Courses span 7.5 weeks, so you can make more progress in less time and reach the finish line faster. 

The Bachelor of Science in criminology and criminal justice is ideal for individuals who aspire to work in challenging criminal justice occupations. You’ll learn from industry professionals with extensive knowledge of crime, fraud, gangs, policing and the court system. 

The Online Master of Arts in criminal justice caters to criminal justice professionals and scholars seeking advanced knowledge of criminology, program planning and management, policy analysis, research methods and statistics and program evaluation. It’s available for both part-time and full-time students. 

Tuition ranges from $530 to $728 per credit hour. 

Enroll now

3. Loyola University Chicago 


Seeking a leadership role in criminal justice? The B.A. in applied criminal justice leadership will help you polish your managerial skills. It’s offered online through the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at Loyola University Chicago. 

Courses are delivered in 8-week increments to accelerate the time to completion. They’re designed to boost your criminal justice practice and theory expertise while morphing you into an effective leader. You’ll also learn to collaborate with other leaders in the field. 

Tuition is $693 per credit hour for online students. 

Enroll now

4. Florida State University 


Earn a bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice online with Florida State University. This program caters to nontraditional students with busy schedules that prefer to learn when it’s convenient for them. 

You’ll be equipped with the knowledge to pursue a rewarding career in the field. In fact, many graduates have gone on to work as crime intelligence analysts, caseworkers, private investigators, victim advocates and corporate security specialists. 

Some additional benefits of enrolling in the program: 

  • Schedules can be customized to work around your personal and career obligations.
  • Extensive support from the institution to help you stay on track. 
  • Instructors are industry leaders with extensive experience. 

The cost per credit hour for distance learning is only $180.49 for in-state students. If you live out of state, the fee is $686.04. 

Enroll now

5. University of Central Florida


The University of Central Florida also offers Bachelor of Arts and Science degrees in criminal justice online through the College of Community Innovation and Education. 

You can complete a series of courses to enhance your knowledge of core concepts in the field. These include, but are not limited to:  

  • Careers in Criminal Justice
  • Crime in America
  • Research Methods in Criminal Justice 
  • Data Analysis in Criminal Justice
  • Corrections and Penology
  • Police and Society 

Online students who are Florida residents can take advantage of extremely affordable tuition. The in-state tuition is only $212.28 per credit hour. The rate is $748.89 per credit hour if you live out of state. 

Enroll now.

6. Florida International University 


Prepare for a rewarding career in criminal justice by enrolling at Florida International University (FIU) online. This is a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from the School of International and Public Affairs. 

You will complete the following core courses: 

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Criminological Theory 
  • Research Methods and Analysis
  • Professional Development in Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Justice and the Constitution
  • Senior Capstone in Criminal Justice 

The program also requires you to complete 6 criminal justice electives to enhance your knowledge. 

Tuition is $205.57 and $618.87 per credit hour for Florida residents and out-of-state students, respectively. 

Enroll now.

7. Missouri State University


Interested in finding solutions to modern crime problems or learning more about the cause and impact of crime? Or maybe you want to land a role in the criminal justice field? Either way, a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Missouri State University may be worth considering. 

Courses cover a host of topics, including crime prevention, forensic science, investigation and global criminology. You’ll also learn about serial killers, terrorism and victimology. 

The degree is available 100% online, or you can take some courses in the classroom if you live nearby. You also can earn specialized certificates or graduate hours if you opt in to the accelerated program that puts you on the path toward a master’s degree.

Alumni are child abuse investigators, family and drug court administrators, FBI agents, probation and parole supervisors, U.S. Marshals and youth counselors. 

The cost of attendance for internet-based instruction is $295 per credit hour for both in-state and out-of-state students. 

Enroll now.

8. Washington State University 


Washington State University’s criminal justice program takes you from a novice to a leader in local, state, federal or private law enforcement. You can unlock the door to endless opportunities in the field and land a lucrative role that makes you excited to go to work each day. 

Instructors are from various criminal justice agencies and have the expertise to prepare you for the challenges you will face in the field. They provide invaluable nuggets of wisdom on several subjects, like research methods for criminal justice, criminal law, quantitative methods for criminal justice, crime control policies and so much more. 

Many graduates now hold prestigious positions in corrections courts and law enforcement organizations throughout the U.S. 

The cost per credit hour to attend WSU’s Global Campus is $518 per credit hour. 

Enroll now.

9. Colorado State University 


Colorado State University (CSU) Global features an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. This program dives into the intricacies of corrections, law enforcement and the legal system. 

You’ll also develop managerial skills that allow you to help law enforcement agencies and departments operate more efficiently. This includes developing policies, managing records, advising on crisis responses and providing law updates. 

Tuition is $476 per credit hour and you need 120 credits to reach the finish line. Be sure to inquire about the 10% discount offered to employees of select organizations. 

Enroll now.

Find the Best Online Criminal Justice Degree for You 

When you’re ready to continue your education, consider an online criminal justice degree program from our list of recommendations. It’s an investment in your future that will pay dividends if you commit to working hard and capitalizing on networking opportunities presented to you.

Southern New Hampshire University Online

SNHU Online Offers:

  1. Flexible schedules
  2. Affordable tuition
  3. Online tutoring
  4. Access to electronic research materials
  5. Specialized academic advising
  6. Supportive online community

Learn more at SNHU.