Where to Earn a Criminal Justice Degree

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Online criminal justice degree programs are available at the associate, bachelors, masters, doctoral, and certificate level.

Within these courses, you could study topics in behavioral psychology, ethics, policing tactics, and law enforcement administration. What can you do with a criminal justice degree?  So many things! Browse the criminal justice programs on this page to read more about their popular degree options.

Online Criminal Justice Degree & Career Information

Students who earn an online criminal justice degree use that knowledge to help them pursue a career in law enforcement. Commonly, these same students work towards positions as police officers or detectives.

Police officer’s daily routine usually takes them out in the field to the protect the property and lives of people within their district. Duties may include:i

  • enforcing federal and local laws
  • responding to emergency calls
  • issuing citations
  • making arrests

These roles earned a median salary of $61,600 in 2016.ii

Applicants for entry-level police and detective roles may be required to have taken some college courses.iii Students could do this by earning a certificate, associate, or bachelors in criminal justice. These degree programs may cover police work fundamentals. You could study techniques to handle potential suspects and preserve evidence. Bachelors programs may take a more advanced look at these topics and include things such as studying human behavior and sociology.

Online Associate Degrees in Criminal Justice

An online associates degree in criminal justice could typically be completed in two years, depending upon enrollment. The curriculum usually made up of around 60 to 90 credit hours’ worth of classes. Program length may differ between schools. While academic requirements vary, schools often request students to posess a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent.

The associates in criminal justice programs tend to focus on law enforcement essentials. They aim to establish a firm foundation of rigorous study, from which one could launch a new career, continue their study, or progress in their current professional role. Common courses include an introduction to court systems, crime theory, and forensic psychology.

Earning an associates degree in criminal psychology could help you pursue careers as a police officeriv, correction officerv, or security guard.vi These positions usually require applicants to have a high school diploma or to have taken some college courses. Earning an associates in criminal justice degree could develop your knowledge of the necessary basics to work towards these positions.

Associate of Science in Criminal Justice Degree at American Intercontinental University

American Intercontinental University’s associate of science (AS) in criminal science

focuses its courses on covering knowledge needed to enter the competitive law enforcement field.

Classes aim to develop students’ understanding of the criminal justice system to better serve a community.

As a whole, the AS in criminal justice program is comprised of 90 credit hours. As part of this, you may have the chance to take some of the following courses.

  • Intro to the American Court System
  • Theories of Crime Causation
  • Foundations of Criminal Justice Systems

Students could potentially earn their AS in criminal justice in 18 months depending upon enrollment. American Intercontinental University offers several start dates throughout the year. You could conveniently apply to the program as your own schedule allows.

Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice & Criminology at Kaplan University

The associate of applied science (AAS) in criminal justice and criminology program at Kaplan University

promotes a practical skillset for students to bring with them into the professional sphere.

The following could be some of the main pillars of your Kaplan curriculum.

  • Intro to Crime Analysis
  • Intro to Forensic Psychology
  • Deviance & Violence
  • Psychological Profiling

The entire curriculum including core classes and electives comes to 90 credit hours. In two years, students could potentially earn the AAS in criminal justice and criminology and perhaps move on to a higher level online criminal justice degree.  Graduation times may vary from school to school.

Kaplan offers multiple start dates each semester. Because of this, you could take your time collecting your application materials and apply once you feel confident and ready.

Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice at Saint Leo University

The associate of arts in criminal justice at Saint Leo University combines law enforcement specific material with general academic enhancement. By doing so, students could develop their writing, math, and other knowledge as well as their law enforcement. Due to this, students may be able to better address the needs of a law enforcement career path that are overlooked. This could include things such as accurately writing and filing reports, analyzing crime statistics, and more.

As part of the AA in criminal justice at Saint Leo, you could take some of the following courses.

  • Academic Writing
  • Computer Skills
  • Criminal Investigation
  • Criminal Law Procedure

Saint Leo’s online criminal justice degree program is made up of 60 credit hours’ worth of classes. This could translate to potentially earning an associate degree in under 2 years. Your planned graduation time may depend upon your enrollment in the online criminal justice degree.

Online Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice

An online bachelor degree in criminal justice program

could be completed anywhere from two to four years’ time. This period is dependent on whether a student has already earned an associate degree and could transfer credits, whether the program grants credits for professional experience, and other factors. The bachelors curriculum is usually made up of around 120 credit hours prior to deducting and exemptions.

In addition to the basics of the criminal justice system, many bachelors programs aim to develop students' organizational and leadership knowledge that they might need to lead a team. Classes could include subjects like criminal justice research, crisis intervention, criminal justice ethics, and more.

Earning a bachelors in criminal justice degree could help your pursue advanced law enforcement positions. Namely, the knowledge you gained in this program may help you jumpstart a career in federal law enforcement, such as the FBI, DEA, and United States Secret Service, which all fall under this heading. These special agencies may require students to hold a bachelors degree in criminal justice prior to applying.vii

Bachelor of Science in Criminology at Regis University           

Regis University’s bachelor of science in criminology

program focuses on techniques and methods to reduce and deter crime in communities. This particular program may stand out from the rest because it is highly customizable to address the law enforcement aspects that interest you. For instance, you could choose to focus your studies on specific crimes like homicide, terrorism, or juvenile delinquency.

Of course, the bachelors in criminology also offer cores classes that tackle the fundamentals of criminology. Some of these classes could include the following.

  • Computer Forensics & Cyber Crime
  • Professional Ethics in Criminology
  • Psychology of Crime
  • Criminal Profiling

The classes in the program add up to around 45 credit hours. This program is drastically shorter than others on this page because it’s part of a bachelors to masters program. That means that the bachelors curriculum feeds directly into Regis’s masters in criminology program. And, some of the curriculum that would normally be covered in a bachelors program is relegated to the graduate courses. This accelerated learning style could be great for students interested in studying advanced criminal justice techniques.

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at Salem International University

The bachelor of science in Criminal Justice at Salem International University aims to cast a wide net to cover a broad set of a criminal justice issues. By working with varied crime scenarios, students could see the different methods used to effectively address and solve challenges in the field.

While many concentrations may be available in this online criminal justice degree program, the following are a few of Salem International’s core curriculum.

  • Criminal Law
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Domestic Violence
  • Criminal Justice Statistics

It should be noted that SIU’s criminal justice program is designed with working professionals in mind. Class schedules and formats are created to possibly have minimum impact on your professional routine. Admissions counselors may be able to provide more details about this aspect of the course.

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University’s bachelor of science in criminal justice program combines general education with criminal justice elements. That way, you could further develop your writing and comprehension knowledge while diving deeper into law enforcement techniques. The holistic curriculum could help students effectively function with a potential future career.

Within this program, you could have the opportunity to take the following classes.

  • Criminal Law
  • Criminology
  • Criminal Procedure
  • The Laws of Evidence
  • Social Psychology

Colorado Tech’s program is comprised of 183 credit hours. Students could potentially earn their bachelor of science in criminal justice in 4 years depending on their course load.

Online Masters in Criminal Justice

Online masters in criminal justice programs

are sometimes referred to as an MCJ or Master of Criminal Justice. The amount of time required to complete a masters in criminal justice may vary depending on your concentration. It often takes around two years to complete. This translates to around 36 credit hours.

These programs take an advanced look at the criminal justice world, often focusing specifically on a certain topic or discipline within the broader subject. Whether that’s a focus on leadership in law enforcement settings, advanced criminology, cybercrime, or something else entirely.

Students who have earned a masters degree in criminal justice go on to pursue advanced positions in a slew of different fields. Some of them may even be unrelated to law enforcement. While many do on to enhance their police careers, others choose to pursue positions in social work and non-profits.viii

Masters of Science in Criminal Justice at Lasell College        

Lasell’s masters of science (MS) in criminal justice places

heavy emphasis on homeland security and global justice. Courses are designed to educate students about ongoing international threats as well as ways to address them. While this does include subjects in terrorism, courses may also focus on international policies, cyber security, and more.

As part of their masters in criminal justice program, you could take the following classes in an online criminal justice degree.

  • Terrorism & Homeland Security
  • Transnational Crime
  • Cybercrime & Data Security
  • Criminal Justice Leadership
  • Global Justice Systems

In total, Lasell’s criminal justice masters programs is made up of 36 credit hours. Students could potentially complete coursework and earn a masters in criminal justice degree in 2 years. This timeline is dependent upon your enrollment status in the program.

Masters in Public Administration in Criminal Justice at Anna Maria College

Anna Maria College’s masters in public administration (MPA) degree

offers a criminal justice specialization. This means that the bulk of your curriculum could focus on public administration. But, an additional set of courses could take a more in-depth look at advanced criminal justice topics.

Combining the two sets of courses could help students create and effectively implement policies to potentially reduce crime rates. Or, ensure more support for victims and rehabilitation centers.

As part of this dual curriculum, you might be able to take the following courses.

  • Executive Leadership
  • Managerial Statistic for Public Managers
  • Public Policy
  • Justice Administration
  • Justice & Public Policy

This program is comprised of 12 courses. 8 core public administration courses and 4 criminal justice courses. Students could possibly complete their required courses and earn an MPA degree in 2 years. Graduation times may vary depending if you’re a full time or part-time student.

The masters in public administration might be a perfect fit for students who want to take on an administrative role in law enforcement. The curriculum addresses leadership techniques to manage an office. And, it also teaches criminal justice topics to potentially help you become knowledgeable in the admin tactics used in that field.

Master of Science in Criminal Justice at Tiffin University

Tiffin’s MS in criminal jusitice program

program places its emphasis on the psychology behind the crime. Courses teach prediction methods to better estimate when crimes could occur and how to prevent them. To do this, many classes rely heavily on statistical research.

As part of this program, you could have the chance to take some of the following courses.

  • Contemporary Criminal Justice
  • Statistical Applications of Criminal Justice
  • Mental Health Law
  • Criminogenic Psychopathology

In total, you may be asked to complete 33 credit hours’ worth of classes as part of the masters program. Doing so, and earning a MS in criminal justice, may take you around 1.5 years. This timeline may be dependent on your chosen course load and pace.

Tiffin’s program has several start dates available throughout the semester. Each semester is also made up of two 7-week long terms. These shorter classes could help speed up your program and help your earn a degree faster.

Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice

Online criminal justice PhD programs build on the expertise students have gained throughout their studies and use it to forward new research in the field. Some doctoral programs may focus on conducting experiments in areas like criminology, forensic science, or justice systems. Others might look at applying that research in the real world, such as implementing policy to crime predicting strategies.

The length of PhD in criminal justice programs vary due to class work and the dissertation process. While you may only be required to take 6 to 10 courses, you may have to spend entire semesters researching, writing, and editing your dissertation. Students could potentially earn their PhD in criminal justice in 3 to 5 years. Students applying to these programs may generally be asked to have completed a masters program in a related field first. But, in some cases, students may only need a bachelors degree to apply.

Earning this degree might help prepare you to take on a postsecondary teaching position within the criminal justice field. Many university faculty positions require applicants to hold a doctoral degree in their desired field. Students who have previous law enforcement experience in the field and a doctoral research degree in criminal justice could potentially offer your students valuable insight into the field.ix

Doctor of Psychology, Criminology & Justice Studies at University of the Rockies

The doctor of psychology program with a concentration in criminology and justice studies at the University of the Rockies is a

research-based program. Courses analyze psychological signs people exhibit before committing a crime. By researching trends in these areas, students may be able to better predict potential events.

As part of the class portion of your doctoral program, you could take some of the following courses.

  • Biological Bases for Behavior
  • Adult Psychopathology
  • Advanced Research Methods
  • Advanced Analysis of Criminal Justice Processes

During the dissertation portion of this program, students could then conduct their own human behavior studies under the supervision of their adviser.

Overall, the criminology program at the University of the Rockies consists of 62 credit hours. Students could potentially earn their doctorate in psychology with a criminology concentration in 3 to 5 years. Program length may vary due to enrollment or dissertation research.

PhD in Criminal Justice at Northcentral University

Northcentral University’s PhD in criminal justice program is designed for current law enforcement professionals who are seeking to enhance their current career. Courses in this program cover ways to coordinate efforts and teams to address crime. This could include tackling challenges like organized criminal gangs, delinquency, and institutional corrections.

As part of the PhD program, you might be required to take some of the following classes.

  • Illegal Maritime Narcotics & Migrant Smuggling
  • Delinquency and Criminal Justice
  • Effective Police Tactics, Techniques, and Methodologies

In addition, students may be tasked with completing a dissertation that analyzes certain law enforcement management strategies. Topics could include field tactics, human resource management, and rehabilitation practices.

As per the curriculum, students may be required to complete 75 credit hours’ worth of courses. Students typically earn their PhD in criminal justice at Northcentral University in 7 years.

PhD in Criminal Justice at Walden University

Walden University offers a PhD in criminal justice that could further be concentrated into several different degrees. For instance, you could concentrate your doctoral studies into the following fields.

  • Emergency Management
  • Global Leadership
  • Homeland Security Policy & Coordination
  • Justice Administration
  • Law & Public Policy
  • Public Management and Leadership

But, Walden also offers a general criminal justice doctoral program. Within this program, students could study research methods to analyze criminal justice policies. By doing so, they could then suggest improvements based on hard, criminal data.

Please note that Walden University does offer PhD academic tracks for students who have a masters degree in an unrelated field. In this program, you may be asked to take additional fundamental courses prior to diving into the doctoral coursework.

Online Certificate in Criminal Justice

Online criminal justice certificate programs might be offered at both the undergraduate and graduate level. In both cases, these are shorter, non-degree programs that usually center on specific topics like juvenile corrections, victim services, or even criminal justice fundamentals.

Options might range from undergraduate certificates requiring little or no prior education, to graduate certificates requiring a masters degree and a resume. Earning a prior degree in criminal justice might not be required to apply.

Criminal justice certificate programs might be suited for those looking to jumpstart a new career in the criminal justice field. Since many programs cover the basics of law enforcement, it could be a quick way for you to jump into a new industry no matter your previous education.

Criminal Justice Certificate at Colorado Christian University

The criminal justice certificate at Colorado Christian University is an undergraduate program.

In this program, students could study the basics of law enforcement. Many students choose to earn this degree out of high school to pursue law enforcement positions.

In this program, you could take some of the following fundamental courses.

  • Intro to Criminal Justice
  • Criminology
  • Intro to Policing
  • Criminal Justice Ethics

CCU’s certificate program is made up of 12 credit hours’ worth of classes. Students could possibly complete this curriculum and earn a certificate in as little as 1 year.

You could also potentially put credits earned in your certificate programs towards and associate of bachelors degree. Depending on the school, you may be able to transfer these credits to reduce the time it takes to earn a postsecondary degree.

Criminal Justice Studies Certificate at University of Massachusetts

UMass’s criminal justice studies certificate is an undergraduate program that looks at the sociological aspects of crime.

Classes investigate societal causes of crime and how to negate them in a community.

The curriculum itself looks into different aspects that could influence crime rates. For example, you could take some of the following classes.

  • Drugs & Society
  • Hate Crime
  • Gender and Crime
  • Corporate Crime
  • White Collar Crime

This program may be a great way for students to concentrate their studies on a specific aspect of crime. Especially if they’re interested in a pursuing a law enforcement career in that field.

Students in this program may be required to take 7 courses. 3 of which could be electives in your chosen concentration. Knowing this, you could potentially earn your criminal justice studies certificate in less than 1 year.

Certificate in Criminal Justice at Indiana Wesleyan University

Indian Wesleyan University offers a graduate certificate in criminal justice. Instead of covering fundamentals, this program emphasizes

alcohol, drug, and substance abuse education and correction. Classes take a look at recent drug epidemics, substance abuse counseling options, and reduction methods.

As part of this program, you could have the chance to take some of the following classes.

  • Addiction Theory
  • Development Psychology
  • Public and Community Health

Students who are currently working in a law enforcement career may use this degree to expand their knowledge. By doing so, they may be better equipped to handle drug related challenges in their district.

The criminal justice certificate curriculum consists of 5 classes. This means that students could potentially earn their criminal justice certificate from Indiana Wesleyan University in under 1 year.

Criminal Justice Accreditation

There are currently no agencies that specifically accredit online criminal justice degree programs. That being said, schools themselves may be generally accredited. Below are a few ways schools could apply for accreditation.

  • State
  • Region
  • Online Programs

By being accredited, schools may commit to constantly evaluation their courses materials to ensure they contain current information. This could include things like technology, findings in the field, and teaching strategies.

Reach out to schools’ admissions teams for more details about their accreditation status.


[i] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-2 | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-1 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-4 | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm | [v] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/security-guards.htm | [vii] bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-4 | [viii] datausa.io/profile/cip/430111/#employment | [ix] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm

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