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Online Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice

Online bachelors in criminal justice programs cover both the theories of law enforcement and also the practical skills you need to protect your community from crime. Classes teach the scientific and analytical skills to collect and analyze evidence, in the service of solving crimes. Students learn the ins and outs of the criminal justice system, including the challenges you may face in the field. Classes explore the creative thinking and empathy that are required to solve problems and help serve your community.

Why Pursue a Bachelors in Criminal Justice?

Earning an online bachelors in criminal justice could be an advantageous choice to support your fledgling criminal justice career. Whether you’re looking to enter the workforce for the first time or switch careers, or have some educational or professional criminal justice background already, online bachelors programs could be out there personalized to your needs.

In fact, when it comes to the ways your selected program could be tailored to your interests, that’s only the start. Some programs might offer credit for prior experience in the field as well as for credits earned in an associates degree program. Some programs may even offer unique approaches, or allow students to choose a concentration to focus on.

Why Earn Your Criminal Justice Bachelors Degree Online

One perk to online bachelors in criminal justice programs is that you could continue your work. If you’ve already launched your career in law enforcement or a related field, that could be a major consideration. After all, you want to earn your criminal justice bachelors to support exactly that career, right?

But even if you’re not already working in the field, this level of flexibility could be helpful. Because it means that your program could work for you and support your life, instead of forcing you to compromise on your obligations.

3 Criminal Justice Program Terms to Know

When looking into online bachelors in criminal justice programs, you might have come across a few similar-sounding terms describing some of your options.

Criminology, criminalistics, criminal justice… how do you know which one most closely describes what you’re actually looking for? Below are some basic descriptions to help you keep these terms straight.

  1. Criminal Justice: This term refers primarily to the study of law enforcement systems and practices. This includes studying the process of investigating crimes, how police departments function, the court system, and approaches to correction. When applied to academic programs, this can sometimes also be an umbrella term referring to a variety of related topics that all contribute to law enforcement.
  2. Criminalistics: Related to forensic science, criminalistics focuses on the identification, collection, processing and interpretation of evidence at a crime scene. Criminalistics focuses on applying scientific processes to criminal justice, and may touch on chemistry, biology, physics, and analytics.
  3. Criminology: Where criminalistics uses the physical sciences toward understanding crime, criminology examines the psychological underpinnings. Using psychology and sociology, criminology examines what moves people to commit crime, why people repeat offend, and the effect those crimes have on the perpetrator, the victim, families, and the community as a whole.

Criminal Justice Bachelors Degree Focus Areas

Criminal justice, as a topic, is as diverse as the communities it serves. So it’s no wonder that there’s such a wide range of options when it comes to studying it in an online bachelors in criminal justice program. While not all programs focus on one issue, or offer options for concentration, many do. These could focus on building specific skills, working in certain parts of the community, or certain types of crime.

6 examples of criminal justice concentrations

  1. Juvenile Criminal Justice
  2. Cybercrime and Cyber Security
  3. Forensic Psychology
  4. Criminal Justice Administration
  5. Corrections
  6. Homeland Security

The above topics are only a few examples. Depending on the programs you choose to apply to, you may find a range of options not listed here—or no concentration options at all. For more information about what options may be available to you, reach out to the programs you’re considering attending.

2 Types of Online Bachelors in Criminal Justice Programs

Generally, when attending an online criminal justice bachelors program, you might earn one of two degrees: a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS) in criminal justice. These two degrees have a lot in common—and in some cases, the degree type might only be nominal, affecting the curriculum in few or no significant ways. However, most of the time, what degree you’re earning would reflect the types of skills emphasized in your online criminal justice program.

  1. Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice: Criminal Justice BA programs emphasize non-technical skills and knowledge like effective communication, history, and developing a more thorough understanding of people and communities.
  2. Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice: Criminal Justice BS programs may focus more on technical skills like scientific and quantitative analysis, as they would apply to the criminal investigation and the administration of justice.

Remember, while broadly applicable, individual programs may stray from the above descriptions. If you’re interested in a specific approach to criminal justice, or just want to learn more about how the degree type offered at a certain school impacts the approach to your course material, get in touch with that school with any of your questions.

Online Bachelors in Criminal Justice Example Curriculum

Your curriculum may depend on a number of factors. There’s the question of whether your program was designed to accommodate experienced professionals versus students totally new to the field. Or if you selected a program concentration. Then there’s just the preferences of that school and how they chose to design their program.

Here’s a list of example course topics you might encounter in the program you select.

  • Criminal Justice Basics: This type of course might go by a variety of names. It covers the essentials of how the criminal justice system works on an organizational level. It could also touch on basic criminology.
  • Juvenile Criminal Justice: The criminal justice system is complex already. Applying it to minors brings additional concerns. Juvenile criminal justice courses look at the unique legal issues and processes regarding juvenile criminal justice, as well as components of developmental psychology, and ethical concerns.
  • Administration in Law Enforcement: Administration courses aim to prepare students for their potential leadership roles in the field. This could be in the police force, on individual cases or projects, or in any number of other settings. These courses develop organizational skills, personnel management, problem solving, and more.
  • Criminalistics: As defined above, criminalistics courses look at identifying, collecting and preserving evidence in crime scenes, and in some cases, processing them in a laboratory setting. If your selected program concentration is criminalistics, rather than one course, you may attend several related ones covering this topic in detail.
  • Criminal Investigation: Somewhat broader in scope than criminology, criminal investigations refers to courses that examine the full scope of the investigation process. This could include the components of an investigation, methodologies for conducting one, and the different types of professionals that work together to solve it.
  • Victimology: Related to behavioral psychology and sociology, this type of course examines how crime impacts the lives of victims and their families. It also may discuss the ways in which the criminal justice system can help victims, and the ethical considerations in interacting with victims of crimes.
  • Drugs and Crime: Substance abuse is a major concern in cities and towns across the country. Many criminal justice systems include components to address this, from drug-related crimes to the role substance abuse plays in perpetrating crimes, and how communities can act to mitigate this issue.
  • Ethics: Ethical considerations are a huge component of law enforcement. From the ethical underpinnings of the legal systems and the laws being enforced, to ensuring that you act in an ethical way on the job every day

Since these are examples, keep in mind that whatever program you choose, you might not encounter every one of these course topics in the form described above. You might also find other new ones not mentioned here. If you’re particularly interested in certain course topics, or want more information, reach out to your selected program.

The Next Steps

Once you’ve earned your online bachelors degree in criminology, you may have a few different options available to you. You could:

  • Enter the field, or continue progressing in your ongoing criminal justice career
  • Continue your education in online graduate programs in criminal justice
  • Seek professional credentials

Each of these could be a positive choice, depending on your interests and circumstances. If you are new to criminal justice, you might need to undergo additional mentorship or on-the-job training when you start. As for the third point, professional credentials may not be a requirement to work in your desired criminal justice position, but can in some cases be an advantage.

The specific licensure and certification requirements tend to vary by jurisdiction. They may also vary by discipline or work area. As such, make sure you follow up with your program or the jurisdictions in your area to find out any necessary steps you might need to take.

What Can You Do With A Criminal Justice Degree?

With an online criminal justice degree, you could pursue a variety of potential careers in law enforcement. Entry level requirements may vary by position and jurisdiction. However, a variety of positions may be available with a high school diploma and additional training, while specialist positions may require at least a criminal justice bachelors degree, or a bachelors degree in criminology. Specific responsibilities and necessary skills may vary considerably, depending on the role in question, and could span from working with the community in the field to laboratory work or even data analytics.

5 careers with a criminal justice degree

  1. Forensic Science Technicians: $56,750 2016 Median Payi
  2. Private Investigators: $48,190 2016 Median Payii
  3. Police and Detectives: $61,600 2016 Median Payiii
  4. Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: $50,160 2016 Median Payiv
  5. Correctional Officers and Bailiffs: $42,820 2016 Median Payv

Find Online Bachelors in Criminal Justice Programs

Take the first step toward earning your online bachelors in criminal justice! First, think about exactly what you’re looking for, the experience you bring to the table, and what interests you most about criminal justice. Then start read about each of the sponsored program listings here. When you find one you think you might want to look into, click on “request info.” Then follow the instructions on that page to get in touch, learn more, and get started.


[i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm [ii] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/private-detectives-and-investigators.htm [iii] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm [iv] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm [v] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm

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