Online Criminal Justice Degrees

Many online schools offer criminal justice degrees programs that focus on pressing issues. Like guns, gangs, terrorism and trafficking. These programs prep criminal justice pros to enforce laws, solve crimes and protect the nation. So, if you like to investigate, there’s no time like now to earn a criminal justice degree online. An online criminal justice degree studies crime, the law, and the justice system. It uses this info to make sense of why criminals act the way they do. And to inform policing styles, and corrections.  

You may find online criminal justice degrees at all levels. Bachelors, masters and PhD. At each of these levels you study the system of law as it applies to crime. At the bachelor’s level, a criminal justice degree is broad and basic. This helps you gain a solid grasp of the US justice system. As well as a handle on key issues. Like drugs, human trafficking and homeland security. Master’s in criminal justice programs go deeper. And aim to prep you for a manager role. So, the classes often touch on how to lead, hire staff and budget. PhD in criminal justice programs focus on research. They may be ideal for you if you want to set policy. As opposed to follow it.  

Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice

Most schools award one of two degrees. A Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in criminal justice. Either a BA or BS may serve as the entry point for many careers in criminal justice. As such, most programs arm you with theories, tools and skills. Many online BSCJ programs also feature a choice of focus.  Like cyber security, terrorism or emergency handling. They often do this in 120 credits. 

If you study full time, earning a BSCJ online may take four years. During this time, you may take part in an internship too. To get into any program, you need to meet your online school’s standards. These do vary from one school to the next. Most colleges ask that you have at least a high school diploma or GED. They may also look at your GPA and SAT scores. Your references and personal goals as well. You do not need a military background to enroll. The same goes for law enforcement training. But some schools do award credit for these experiences. So, you might have fewer credits to fulfill and pay for. 

Another thing that varies is tuition. But the NCES compiles this data to come up with norms. They found, it cost an average of $5,953 to earn a criminal justice degree. If you study in state. It tends to cost more ($24,100) at an out of state college. That said, many online schools and private sources offer scholarships. So, you can look into ways to reduce expenses.  

Master’s in Criminal Justice

Most online schools award a Master of Science (MS) or MBA in criminal justice. These are professional degrees. And aim to nurture skills for career advancement. As such, a Master’s in CJ may stress the managerial side of law enforcement. Things like basic leadership, analysis and decision skills. 

You may also study the causes of crime through research. Then learn how to interpret this data. And to use it to assess and form policy and strategy. While covering core topics, you may also focus on an area in more detail. Fraud investigation and criminology are a few. Many programs cover these areas in about 30 to 36 credits. This may take from 18 months to 2 years if you take a full course load. 

To apply into an online MSCJ program you need a bachelor’s degree. You must also meet any school standards. These include GPA and GRE scores in some cases. References, goals and job experience too. As with admissions, tuition varies too. Recent data points to an average cost of $11,617 if you study at a public college.   

PhD in Criminal Justice

A PhD in criminal justice is a research degree. It is the highest level of degree in this field. Many people enroll in a PhD for one of two reasons. To teach and to research. About 26% of criminal justice professors have a doctorate. Their classes cover many areas. Including defensive policing, digital forensics and criminal law. 

As educators, PhD holders often continue to research and publish. Their valuable insights may inform public policy, law enforcement administration and more. To this end, PhD classes aim to help you gain quality research skills. Like how to form a query, gather data, make sense of findings and present them.  

Other ones may cover global issues. Violent crimes, drug trafficking and terrorism are a few. Plus, how to respond through a cohesive strategy. Applicants to most online PhD in CJ programs must have a master’s degree. And may need a GPA of at least 3.0. But some schools may allow you to sub a J.D. degree and a background in criminal justice for the master’s.  

Going for a PhD online, you may still need to visit your campus. These brief residencies help you learn from mentors and student teach. With all these moving parts, the time it takes to earn a PhD varies. Many programs include between 40 and 60 credits. So, from two to five years of full time study. 

What can I do with an Online Criminal Justice Degree?

An online criminal justice degree may be a pathway to many jobs. Some are current roles in corrections, law enforcement and investigation. Others are in emerging areas. Like cyber security, counter terrorism and forensics. 

For each job, you need certain skills and education. In most cases though, entry level roles call for a bachelor’s degree. So, if you want to solve crimes or enforce the law you may need one. A grad degree (master’s or PhD) may help you land an admin role. This includes jobs where you are in charge of people, policies, finance and tactics. Many people also use their knowledge to teach, consult and research. 

1. Private Detectives  

Private detectives do paid work for firms and clients. They look into unlawful acts and infractions. And may run background checks, obtain evidence for child custody and expose fraud. Doing this work may call for an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.  

2. FBI Agent 

An FBI agent works for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These special agents look into alleged and suspected violations of laws. Federal, state and local. If cracking cases interests you, this line of work calls for a bachelor’s degree.   

3. Crime Scene Investigators 

Crime scene investigators often have two degrees. A bachelor’s in a natural science and master’s in forensic science. These pros collect, ID and analyze all kinds of evidence. From DNA to digital records. As such, they often play a key role in solving crimes.  

4. Corrections Managers 

Corrections managers are supervisors. They work on the front lines to keep order, discipline, and security. Both with regard to officers and inmates. Many have a bachelor’s degree and / or academy training.  

5. Emergency Management Directors 

Emergency managers plan and prep for crises of all types. Including natural disasters, bomb threats and disease outbreaks. These roles call for a level head, strong decision skills and a bachelor’s degree to start out.  

6. Forensic Psychologists 

Forensic psychs study the mind and actions of criminals. Then apply these skills within the legal and criminal justice system. Often this means working with attorneys or judges. And usually calls for a PhD or PsyD degree.  

Is an Online Degree in Criminal Justice worth it?

There are about 1.08 million people working in criminal justice. Many are in law enforcement admin and other evolving roles. Expertise in CJ often involves an ability to solve complex problems. This skill is useful across many industries with high growth and salary potential.  

Salaries across these industries average about $62,487 per year. But this figure is going up by 2.05%. Some jobs pay up to 6 figures too. It is natural to wonder what roles will be around when you graduate. You may have heard that crime rates in some areas are falling. But crime is still a constant. And the need for people trained in public safety is on the rise. Reports also say that most crimes go unreported. And, that most reported crimes go unsolved.  

So it is no surprise then that the need for investigators is rising by 8% to 2028. For detectives and police officers, the outlook is about 5% more jobs to 2028. There is also a demand for people who work the science side of crime, or forensics. The field expects competition and a 14% increase in jobs. So, experts say having a master’s degree may help. 

Then there is the issue of cyber security. Cyber attacks are alarming high. Yet there are not enough skilled info sec pros to combat them. As a result, demand is off the charts. If you have a strong tech side, the field is growing by 32%, again to 2028. And salaries can range from $56,750 to over $156,580

Criminal Justice Degree Jobs & Salary

OccupationAverage SalaryJobs
Police Officers and Detectives$65,170808,700
Correctional Officers and Bailiffs$45,300453,900
Private Detectives and Investigators$50,51033,000
Forensic Science Technicians$59,15016,700

Top States for Jobs as a Detective and Criminal Investigator

State Jobs Annual Mean Wage
TX 16,810 $79,490
CA 11,810 $107,760
NY 9,010 $92,600
FL 6,890 $76,220
AZ 5,690 $83,650

What classes will I take with an Online Criminal Justice Degree?

The classes you take in an online criminal justice degree program depend on two things. Any added focal point and your degree level.  

Bachelor’s Degree Courses

Most online bachelor’s programs cover main themes in criminal justice. One relates to laws and the legal system. This means enforcement as well as the process of writing and legislating law. Other aspects focus on corrections. This topic may span other subjects. Like the courts and juvenile justice. Points of view on rehab too. These are some classes you may take.  

Criminal Law

Criminal law is an intro type of course often discussing the basics of legal principles. It may also cover how criminal law functions and how it impacts modern society. The topics in this course may be numerous but may include public order crimes, property crimes, and public mortality related crimes. Legal issues may also be discussed. Punishment related to crime is sometimes covered.

Ethics in Criminal Justice

An ethics course in criminal justice often focuses on professional responsibility in this area. It may cover topics like ethical dilemmas and community relations. Some courses also may include insight into criminal justice laws and methods. Some may discuss civil responsibility of those working in this profession. Students may learn about how agencies are run, too. They often discuss important ethical issues in the industry.

Criminology

A criminology course may focus on what causes a person to engage in criminal acts. It may include some theory on why this happens. It may also introduce criminal methods and various types of crime. The goal here is to provide students with an understanding of why crime often happens. Many will learn public policy in this area as well.

Intro to Criminal Court Systems

This type of course focuses on an intro to the legal system. It may discuss the participants in the system. It may also include processes in a courtroom. There may be some discussion about post conviction processes. It also may discuss how various people in the system relate to each other. And, it may also include a history of the court system. Some classes teach about both state and federal courts.

And while studying theory, you may also learn to apply it. So, expect some type of capstone project.  

Graduate Degree Courses

Online master’s in criminal justice programs often revolve around core topics. Criminal actions, ethics and decision making, and theories of crime and justice. You may also take these classes.

Criminological Theory

This is a theory course. It may talk about various reasons for crime and what causes it. This may touch on a variety of topics. That could include biological and classical causes. It may also include areas of sociological and psychological causes. There may also be a part to focus on victimology. Some classes could offer insight into preventing victimization. Others will talk about how victimology happens.

Legal Issues in Justice and Society

This type of course may focus on legal and social issues that may not always align. Students may talk about topics related to security personnel, as they compare to private citizens and public officials. They may learn about safety and law enforcement as it applies here. They may also learn about the conflicts between policies in place and the rights of people.

Forensics Science and Psychological Profiling

Many masters students may wish to take this course. It aims to teach about the basics of forensic science and tech. It may offer some insight into psychological profiling. Many students will learn how to apply various methods to learn about a case. They may go on to use these in the investigation process. An understanding of scientific methods applicable is often a component here.

Survey of Justice and Security

This type of course is often a survey that looks at various areas of the city. It may include the courts or private security. It may study policing. Also, it may discuss how each of these various branches work with each other. This is often a type of discussion course where ethics are brought up. Insight into the challenges in relationships may also be discussed here.

Many programs also train you in professional data analysis methods. And, usually allow you to choose a focal point. One that lines up with your career path. Most online PhD – CJ programs include core work in criminal justice theory. These courses show how to apply theory. Both to law enforcement and criminal investigations. 

Extra courses take a close look at certain sides of the justice system. Like criminal law, civil rights and the role of police in society. Since research plays a key role at this level, many other courses prep you to do it.

7 Common Concentrations in Criminal Justice  

There are many ways to make an online criminal justice degree more personal. Here are a few common anchor points to look for when searching for a program. 

1. White Collar Crime 

An area that comes with its own laws, white collar crime studies fraud. As such a main focal point is forensic accounting. You may also study prosecution and sentencing. 

2. Corrections 

This area is about the practices that rehab and treat offenders. Studying it may help you grasp policy and factors that influence criminal acts.  

3. Crime Scene Investigation 

In this area, you may take courses in chemistry and biology. Along with forensics, key areas look at ways to get and preserve evidence.  

4. Criminal Psychology 

A focus in this area looks at criminal acts. And may do so through the lens of mental health and counseling. You may also study violence and victimology. 

5. Criminology 

Here you study the causes, consequences and costs of crime. Still, the aim is to thwart crime as it is with CJ as a whole. 

6. Criminal Justice (General) 

CJ refers to the systems in place that deal with crime. For instance, how to detect it, detain and deal with criminals.  

7. Homeland Security  

Also called national security, it covers more than terrorism. You also study natural and manmade threats to society. Plus, a fair bit on policies and plans at all levels of gov’t. 

How long does it take to get an Online Criminal Justice Degree?

How long it takes to earn a criminal justice degree online depend on two things. The level and your course load. Most bachelors in CJ programs take a full time student four years. But if you have transfer credits it may take fewer. Master’s in CJ programs range from 18 months to 2 years. Some schools also offer part time formats if you need extra time. For a PhD or Doctor of CJ, expect it to take from 2 to 5 years. But many students need more time to finish their dissertation.  

University Level of Degree # of Credits Required Starts Per Year Minimum Months to Complete
University of Central Florida Bachelors 120 3 48
Southern New Hampshire University Bachelors 120 6 48
Devry University Bachelors 120 3 32
Xavier University Masters 36 6 12
California State-Long Beach Masters 36 3 24
Michigan State University Masters 30 3 18
Capella University PhD 96QC Multiple 36
Walden University PhD 78 Multiple 30
Northcentral University PhD 54 Weekly 45

15 Online Criminal Justice Degrees

Many online schools offer criminal justice degrees. And room to select an area of focus. Here are 15 schools with online degrees in criminal justice at all levels.  

  1. University of Central Florida 
  2. Southern New Hampshire University
  3. DeVry University
  4. Ball State University
  5. Utica College
  6. Xavier University
  7. California State – Long Beach
  8. Michigan State University
  9. Northeastern University
  10. Saint Leo University
  11. Capella University
  12. Walden University
  13. Northcentral University
  14. California University of Pennsylvania
  15. Nova Southeastern University

FIND AN ONLINE CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE

Let’s take a closer look at the online criminal justice degrees that these 15 schools have to offer. 

1

University of Central Florida

BA or BS in Criminal Justice 

Fully Online


At UCF, you can earn a BA or BS in criminal justice. In both, you study the history of crime in America. As well as how to conduct research and analyze data. You also choose two kinds of electives. Restricted ones focus on CJ. While supportive ones may include statistics, psych and legal studies.

Sample courses include:

  • Careers in criminal justice 
  • Prosecution and sentencing 
  • Police and society 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $22,467
Grad $27,715

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$6,638

Average Net Price:
$13,016

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

2

Southern New Hampshire University

BS in Criminal Justice 

Fully Online


SNHU offers a BS in CJ with a choice of 6 anchor points. These range from homeland security to substance abuse. You also take a series of core courses which walk you through basics. Like criminology theories, community relations and  

Sample Courses include:

  • Intro to criminal justice 
  • Technology in criminal justice 
  • Policing in the US 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $31,136
Grad $18,810
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,888

Average Net Price:
$39,071

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
New England Commission of Higher Education


At DeVry you can study criminal justice through the lens of management. The program focuses on a business core. But also covers investigations. So, expect to study the law and ways to uphold it. You also study ways to promote social control and stability. And deter and reduce crime.  

Sample classes include:

  • Juvenile justice 
  • Public safety 
  • Criminology 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $18,139
Grad $167,552
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$6,336

Average Net Price:
$21,634

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

4

Ball State University

BA or BS in Criminal Justice and Criminology 

Fully Online


You may tailor Ball State’s degree in criminal justice and criminology to your goals. One reason is a shorter list of core courses which means more choice of electives. So, you can point your degree plan to many areas. Policing, courts, victimology, corrections, or special populations. 

Sample courses include:

  • Race, Gender and Crime 
  • Criminal law 
  • Intro to criminal justice 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $26,800
Grad $22,616

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$10,960

Average Net Price:
$13,642

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC

5

Utica College

BS in Criminal Intelligence Analysis 

Fully Online


There are a few goals of Utica’s very focused online BS. One is to help you gain skills in criminal intelligence analysis. While doing so, it also serves as a study guide. For the Certified Crime Analyst exam in New York. Or the Certified Law Enforcement Analyst through IACA. Also the Criminal Intelligence Certified Analyst through IALEIA.  

Courses may include:

  • Justice studies 
  • Corruption and organized crime 
  • Homeland security and counter terrorism 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $22,110
Grad $22,030
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$9,464

Average Net Price:
$22,991

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education 

6

Xavier University

MS in Criminal Justice 

Fully Online


Xavier’s MSCJ program covers theories and practices. It also gets into law enforcement, courts, corrections and security in the private sector. And, aims to shed light on administration and human resources for CJ too.  

Classes may include:

  • Law and justice 
  • Crime and delinquency 
  • Correctional counseling 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $40,450
Grad $12,076
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$20,749

Average Net Price:
$31,240

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC

7

California State – Long Beach

MS in Criminology and Criminal Justice 

Fully Online


CSU’s online MSCCJ program features a focus in crime and intelligence analysis. It also aims to prep you for administrative jobs. So, works to balance theory with practical uses. To help you mature your thinking, it also entails an Analyst Portfolio.  

Sample courses include:

  • Crime mapping 
  • GIS technology 
  • Social network and intelligence analysis 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $18,714
Grad $17,772
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$8,560

Average Net Price:
$9,477

Military Programs:
Credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
WASC Senior College and University Commission

8

Michigan State University

MS in Criminal Justice 

Fully Online


MSU’s School of Criminal Justice is one of the oldest in the nation (since 1935). But the classes explore current theories and concerns. And, you can add a security management focus. This explores policy and research while also getting into core CJ areas. Like the causes of crime and how to prevent it.

Classes may include:

  • Crime causation, prevention and control 
  • Design and analysis in CJ research 
  • CJ management 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $39,766
Grad $37,056
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$11,564

Average Net Price:
$16,227

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC

9

Northeastern University

MS in Criminal Justice 

Fully Online


One feature of the online MSCJ at Northeastern is a choice of 6 focal areas. It also takes a deep look at criminal behavior trends. Like street violence, gangs, guns, drugs, human trafficking, terrorism, and cyber crime. While studying these issues, you also learn about anticrime tactics. For instance, community policing and intelligence. 

Classes may include:

  • Legal decision making 
  • Criminology theories 
  • CJ policy 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $53,506
Grad $25,085
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$28,199

Average Net Price:
$34,245

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
New England Commission of Higher Education

10

Saint Leo University

MS in Criminal Justice 

Fully Online


Saint Leo is an approved partner with the FBI National Academy Associates. And their online MSCJ program aims to prep you for a managerial role. So, some of the courses you take cover business topics. Like finances, policy making, leadership and human resources. Yet other ones go into civil liability, procedural law and info systems.  

Sample classes:

  • Correctional leadership 
  • Ethics in CJ administration 
  • Criminal sexual behaviors 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $23,750
Grad $7,296
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$10,869

Average Net Price:
$20,036

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

11

Capella University 

PhD in Criminal Justice 

Fully Online


Capella is a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense (CAE IA/CD). A status that both NSA and DHS confer. Their online PhD CJ  focuses on research. And aims to foster skills in analysis and strategy. Both which may help you assess and apply theory as a leader. While you conduct original research, you also explore current issues and systems.  

Learning topics may include:

  • Criminal justice policy and administration 
  • Justice, security and democracy 
  • Transnational crimes 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $14,540
Grad $15,233
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$5,051

Average Net Price:
$13,387

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC

12

Walden University 

PhD in Criminal Justice 

Fully Online


Walden offers a general PhD in criminal justice. This one allows you to tailor classes to your interests and goals. But you can also choose a focal area. There are 6 options with choices such as teaching or global leadership. These programs also cover many other key points. Like criminal behavior, leadership theory and human services.  

Classes may include:

  • Policy and analysis in CJ systems 
  • Nature of crime and criminology 
  • Tech solutions for 21st century crime 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $12,150
Grad $12,539
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,885

Average Net Price:
$21,276

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC

13

Northcentral University

Doctor of Criminal Justice  

Fully Online


NCU’s online DCJ program aims to foster leader and manager skills. As such, it may help you deepen your grasp of criminal justice problems. And how to solve them. You can also tailor the program through a focal point. Either homeland security, white collar crime or policing.  

Classes may include:

  • Drugs, values and society 
  • Juvenile offender 
  • Public policy and criminal justice 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $12,474
Grad $18,095
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,239

Average Net Price:
N/A

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC, WASC Senior College and University Commission  

14

California University of Pennsylvania

Doctor of Criminal Justice 

Fully Online


Cal U Cal U is a member of the Association of Doctoral Programs in Criminology & Criminal Justice. Their 

online DCJ speaks to the need for CJ pros who can respond. Both to current issues and policy changes. As such, it aims to nurture skills in policy analysis. And a deep grasp of societal concerns. Like police use of force, civil liability and wrongful convictions. Plus, it allows you to earn your degree in 2 years.   

Sample courses include:

  • Modern forensic science 
  • Advanced criminal law 
  • Corrections: crisis and management  

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $15,726
Grad $17,563
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$6,626

Average Net Price:
$18,780

Military Programs:
Credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education 

15

Nova Southeastern University 

PhD in Criminal Justice 

Fully Online


NSU’s online PhD in criminal justice draws from many disciplines. And all students take 11 core courses. These discuss theories of crime, policing, criminal law and statistics. From there, one selects an area to anchor research. There are three choices. Leadership, behavioral science and juvenile justice. 

Classes may include:

  • Criminal law, procedure and individual rights 
  • Applied statistics 
  • Police and society 

Tuition and Fees: 
Undergrad $32,110
Grad $21,206

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$17,005

Average Net Price:
$25,867

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student veteran organization, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)  

*Unemployment Earnings.  Sources for school stats and data include the NCES and IPEDS.