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WHAT IS AN ONLINE CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE?

An online criminal justice degree consists of interdisciplinary coursework. You’ll study subjects like psychology, sociology, and criminology. You could also study law enforcement and how to keep communities safe.

Since criminal justice is a broad field, you might want to narrow your focus. Interested in crimes that take place online? You could choose a concentration in cybercrimes. Want to keep your nation safe from threats? A concentration in homeland security might interest you.

And, your program could help you pursue career paths in several growing industries. These include protective services and community & social services.

Criminal Justice Degree online information

ASSOCIATE DEGREES

Associate of Science in Criminal Justice


This program introduces students to theory, practice, and trends in the field of criminal justice. It covers three main areas: law enforcement, victim advocacy, and corrections.


  • Law Enforcement Operations
  • Investigative Techniques
  • Court Procedure/Evidence

BACHELOR’s DEGREES

B.S. in Criminal Justice


The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice covers foundational knowledge in the field, from criminal law to abnormal psychology. Choose concentrations like forensic psychology, crime scene investigation, and more.


  • Applied Criminal Justice Ethics
  • Crime Prevention
  • Supervisory Practices in Criminal Justice

MASTER’s DEGREES

Master of Science in Criminal Justice


The M.S. program covers advanced areas like policy development and decision-making. You’ll analyze topics like homeland security to victimology. And, you’ll devise strategies to solve criminal justice challenges.


  • Advanced Review of Criminal Justice
  • Criminology and Public Policy
  • Corrections Management

CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE ONLINE PROGRAMS

You could earn an online criminal justice degree at the undergraduate or graduate levels. What most programs have in common is that they span many disciplines. You’ll study obvious subjects, like criminal law and the court system. But, you’ll also explore topics like psychology and public policy.

ONLINE ASSOCIATE’S DEGREE IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE

An online Associate’s degree in criminal justice covers foundations in the field, including the principles of the U.S. criminal justice system. This program could be ideal for those new to criminal justice. It could also be a great path for current professionals who want to understand the theory behind law enforcement and the court system.

Common programs include:

  • Associate of Science (AS) in Criminal Justice  
  • Associate of Arts (AA) in Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Criminal Justice

Associate’s in criminal justice programs include courses like:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Juvenile Justice System
  • Judicial Process
  • Criminal Law
  • Corrections
  • Criminology

You’ll also take general education courses, like psychology, writing, and math. Some programs require a capstone project, a practicum, or even an internship.

ONLINE BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE

An online Bachelor of Criminal Justice program takes a broad look at theory and practice. You’ll study interconnected systems that administer justice and keep communities safe. And, you’ll explore everything from the philosophy of criminal justice to research methods used in the field.

Common programs include:

  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminal Justice

Some students also choose a concentration, depending on their career goals. For example, a concentration in crime scene investigation covers techniques for collecting and using evidence. A homeland security concentration covers causes and responses to threats, like terrorism.

Criminal Justice Bachelor’s programs include courses like:

  • Criminal Procedure
  • Crisis Negotiation
  • Policing in America
  • Courts and the Prosecution Process
  • Research Methods in Criminal Justice
  • Computers, Technology, and Criminal Justice Information Systems

You’ll also take general education coursework. That may include courses in the social sciences, like psychology, sociology, and American government. And, many programs have a final research project or capstone.

ONLINE GRADUATE DEGREE PROGRAMS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Online Master’s degree programs in criminal justice could be ideal for those pursuing administrative or leadership career paths. You could learn about developments in law, technology, and other corners of the changing criminal justice field. And, you may study skill areas like communication and management.

Online doctoral programs in criminal justice might be perfect for those pursuing roles in research or academia. Beyond studying criminal justice theory, you could contribute to the field by researching new solutions. Earning a doctorate usually requires writing an original dissertation.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO COMPLETE AN ONLINE CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE PROGRAM?

Associate’s in Criminal Justice programs call for 60 to 65 credits of coursework. They can usually be earned in under three years.

Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice programs may be earned in about four years. On average, they require 120 to 125 credits.

Master’s in Criminal Justice programs usually take two to three years of study. Doctorate programs may take anywhere from two to five years.

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CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE PROGRAMS THAT COULD BE COMPLETED IN 24 MONTHS OR LESS

School# of Credits RequiredStart DatesMinimum Months to Complete
Northcentral University3052 (weekly)16
Rasmussen College91 to 93Multiple18
Regent University30Multiple18

THE AVERAGE COST OF AN ONLINE CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE PROGRAM

According to the most recent data, Criminal Justice & Corrections students paid median in-state public tuition of $5,936 per year. Out-of-state private tuition was $27,100 per year.

Many online universities charge by the credit. Compare cost per credit for these institutions that offer master’s in criminal justice programs.

School# of Credits RequiredCost Per CreditTotal Tuition Cost
Purdue University Global55$420$23,100
Norwich University30 to 90$375$11,250 to $33,750
University of Louisville36$714$25,704

TOP SCHOOLS FOR ONLINE CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE PROGRAMS

Last check, there were 2,047 schools offering Criminal Justice & Corrections programs. From those schools, 131,999 degrees were awarded to students. The majority (57.6%) were Bachelor’s degrees.

SCHOOL2016 DEGREES AWARDED2018/19 TUITION* (OUT OF STATE UNLESS **)
University of Phoenix – Arizona2,687$9,552**
American River College2,063$8,712
Rio Salado College2,050$7,854
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice1,683$14,940
East Los Angeles College1,307$7,746
Santa Rosa Junior College1,186$8,174
American Public University System960$6,880**
Kaplan University-Davenport Campus914N/A
Sam Houston State University845$18,256
Ashford University815$12,160**

*Estimated for full-time, beginning undergraduate students

CHOOSING A CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE ONLINE ACCREDITED PROGRAM

According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), there are no specific program accreditations for criminal justice education.

But that doesn’t mean accreditation isn’t important. You’ll need to attend an accredited college or university if you hope to be eligible for federal financial aid. (Financial aid may be available for those who qualify.)

Choosing an accredited school can help ensure the quality of your education. You may also have an easier time transferring credits to other programs or qualifying to pursue further study. So, make sure to look for criminal justice degree programs from accredited schools.

GETTING A JOB WITH A CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE

As of 2016, there were about one million Criminal Justice & Corrections graduates in the workforce. This number showed one-year growth of 5.42%. The largest share of graduates (11.3%) worked as Police Officers.

So, what do you have in common with the average Criminal Justice degree-holder? Slightly more men than women (53.8%) earned this degree. The average age of a degree-holder in the field is 39.2 years old. 

TOP SALARIES BY STATE FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE HOLDERS

The following information is for Detectives and Criminal Investigators. Salary and employment numbers will differ for other criminal justice career paths.

StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Alaska100$116,130
California11,700$103,810
New Jersey3,090$100,980
Maryland950$99,880
Virginia3,360$94,800

CRIMINAL JUSTICE CAREER PATHS AND POTENTIAL SALARIES

Maintaining security, upholding the law, and investigating criminal acts may require specialized expertise. Earning an online criminal justice degree may help you pursue a career in one of these areas of the criminal justice field. Because there are many branches of the justice and law enforcement sectors, the salary and growth projection in this list of criminal justice jobs broadly range from a prisoner-guarding corrections officer to a bar-passing lawyer.

POLICE OFFICERS AND DETECTIVES

Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators, who are sometimes called agents or special agents, gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.

Median Salary: $62,960 per year
Job growth through 2026: 7% (As fast as average)
Typical Entry-level education: Police and detective applicants must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, although many federal agencies and some police departments require some college coursework or a bachelor’s degree.

CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS AND BAILIFFS

Correctional Officers oversee suspects awaiting trial, or prisoners who are serving time. They may escort, supervise, and search inmates. Bailiffs provide security and maintain order in courtrooms. They may guard and escort court personnel, jurors, and prisoners.

Median Salary: $43,510 per year
Job Growth Through 2026: -7%
Typical Entry-level Education: High school diploma or equivalent (a Bachelor’s degree may be required for employment at federal prisons)

PRIVATE DETECTIVES AND INVESTIGATORS

These professionals investigate legal, financial, and personal concerns. For instance, they could help prove spousal infidelity or even find a missing person. They use a variety of methods, from interviewing subjects to searching public records. Many Private Detectives and Investigators are self-employed.

Median Salary: $50,700 per year
Job Growth Through 2026: 11% (faster than average)
Typical Entry-level Education: High school diploma, but some jobs require a 2- or 4-year degree

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EducationDynamics maintains business relationships with the schools it features.

This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.