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The 10 Best Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

In a time of increasing threats- from identity theft to terrorism- criminal justice professionals more essential than ever to a safe society.


The growing attention on homeland security has created a new demand for criminal justice, security, and forensic professionals. In fact, according to a recent poll by USA Today the field of criminal justice and corrections is among the top 10 popular college majors among undergraduates in the U.S. With the convenience of online learning, it is possible for you to earn a college degree while you juggle work and family. Earning a college degree online has become a great way to advance your career and increase your earning potential, so more people are opting to enroll in online colleges and universities than ever before.

The curriculum typically focuses on the core elements of the Criminal Justice system–the police, courts, and corrections–so it includes coursework in criminal law and ethics, criminal investigation, corrections procedures, juvenile justice, and homeland security. Other essential courses may include constitutional law, victimology, and counseling.

A comprehensive curriculum will ensure that the coursework is not only relevant to the fast-changing demands of today’s job markets but also bridges the traditional gap between academia and practical skills. Another way students receive training from experienced professionals is through an internship. Indeed, more and more programs offer students the opportunity to complete intensive internships that count for credit and enable them to apply the skills and knowledge they have gained to a real-world work setting. Additionally, the curriculum must keep pace with continuously evolving content to meet industry needs and to provide learning outcomes that keep graduates relevant in a real-time professional landscape and real-world demands and innovation.

As the field of criminal justice experiences sustained growth, graduates of the criminology and criminal justice program find a strong job market in the public and private sectors and, thus, have various options of career paths to pursue. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for professionals with a specialty in Criminal Justice will lead to at least 33,000 new jobs in the next few years. Employment opportunities exist in the fields of Law Enforcement, Homeland Security, Federal Agencies, Domestic terrorism, and higher education. Potential job titles include: Police Officer, Corrections Officer, Crime Scene, Investigator, FBI Agent, Homicide Detective, Immigration And Customs Enforcement Agent, Law Enforcement Officer, Criminal analyst, Security Manager, and College Professor to name a few. In terms of job growth and salaries, a Store Security/Compliance Managers earn an average of $105,060 and the demand is expected to go up by 3.9%. In contrast, Intelligence Analysts respectively earn $78,120 while Forensic Specialists, Custom Officers, and Detectives earn an average of $79,870. Crime Scene Investigators earn $55,360 but the expected growth for the profession is 26.6%, which is way above the national average. Criminal Justice professionals take leadership roles with the goal to serve the common good and make positive changes in their communities. In order to be successful in the field of Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement, one must be reliable and thorough with the ability to remain calm under high-pressure situations, communicate clearly, and the willingness to take on challenges.

If this sounds like the career for you, you may want to check out the 10 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in Criminal Justice highlighted below. For your convenience, we have rated them according to the factors of affordability, flexibility, and prestige.

1. Colorado State University–Global Campus

Colorado State University-Global Campus (CSU-Global), founded in 2007, is a not-for-profit state school with administrative offices in Greenwood Village, CO–a suburb of Denver. Although the university has brick-and-mortar offices, CSU-Global is the first and only 100% online state university in the United States. Accredited by The Higher Learning Commission–the regional accrediting body for the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools–CSU-Global Campus ranks #15 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S.News & World Report for 2018. The university promises flexibility with monthly start dates and 8-week course lengths. Tuition is very competitive and guaranteed, which means the rate is locked and will not increase so long as students remain enrolled and in good academic standing. Military scholarships and tuition discounts are also offered. CSU-G enrolls approximately 10,700 undergraduates and 3,700 graduate students annually.

Colorado State University–Global Campus’ Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration is CSU-Global’s accredited, exclusively-online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement administration. The program teaches managerial skills along with a basic knowledge of law enforcement to ensure the optimal performance of law enforcement organizations. Students will learn how to run an effective criminal justice system, develop a complex understanding of the ethical issues and controversial policies facing criminal justice departments and agencies, and get an overview of the theories and practices of law enforcement. Some of the responsibilities that criminal justice administration professionals assume are: developing policies, managing records, providing law updates, advising crisis responses, and more. Program coursework is designed to provide students with practical knowledge of the law enforcement field, corrections, and the law; students will also learn how to use data analytics tools that are used to protect people and deter criminal activities. Graduates are expected to combine their managerial skills with their knowledge of law enforcement to ensure that departments and agencies continue to run smoothly and efficiently. The program consists of ten 3-credit core courses as part of a full 120-credit bachelor’s degree. Students may customize their degree with many specializations such as criminology, business administration, or forensics for a total of 15 credit hours. Finally, students complete an in-depth capstone course titled Application of Criminal Justice Knowledge and Skills with a focus on a criminal justice issues. The program offers prestige because CSU-Global ranks within the Top 25 of Online Master’s of Criminal Justice Programs nation-wide by TheBestSchools.org, and many of these graduate faculty teach undergraduate courses. Moreover, the program provides affordability thanks to a $350 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program provides flexibility because of several specializations.

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  • Affordability: $350
  • Flexibility Enhancing Components: Several Specializations

2. University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida (UCF), founded in 1963, is a public, research university and one of the largest universities in the U.S. with 20 years of excellence in online education. UCF is an academic, partnership, and research leader in fields such as engineering, computer science, business administration, and many other fields. UCF also provides innovative education for high-demand fields such as digital media and health information technology. Notably, in the Fall of 2016, the school produced 289 National Merit Scholars. The school occupies a large suburban 1,415-acre campus in metropolitan Orlando, FL–with many regional campuses located in Central Florida, including Daytona Beach. Accredited by the Southern Association Of Colleges And Schools Commission On Colleges (SACSCOC), UCF ranks #171 National Universities and #25 Most Innovative Schools for 2018 by U.S. News & World Report. University of Central Florida matriculates roughly 55,776, undergraduate students, provides a student-faculty ratio of 30:1, and 26.7% of classes cater to less than than 20 students.

University of Central Florida’s Criminal Justice BA/BS offers a curriculum designed for working professionals seeking positions in the field of criminal justice in local, county, state/federal, and private security organizations. The program prepares students for graduate work in criminal justice or related disciplines with a primary focus on the deep understanding of the police, court, and correctional institutions. The program also provides a comprehensive view of law and law enforcement and an excellent knowledge base in the field of Criminal Justice. The curriculum is designed to provide students with a broad foundation in the integral concepts of criminology, and the program blends core course structure with a rich variety of upper-division electives. The program provides prestige because the Criminal Justice academic department is one of the largest and most regarded in the nation, and the faculty is comprised of national researchers and professional experts who are recognized by the Academy of Scientists and the Society of Criminology for their outstanding contributions to the field. Additionally, the program provides affordability because The Princeton Review, Kiplinger’s, and Forbe’s rank UCF as one of the nation’s most affordable colleges. Furthermore, 44% of graduates have no educational debt and the program has a very affordable $385 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program promises flexibility due to offering a BA and a BS.

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  • Affordability: $385
  • Flexibility Enhancing Components: BA/BS Option

3. University of Nebraska–Kearney

The University of Nebraska–Kearney, founded in 1903, is a public, residential institution that promotes experiential learning and strong values. The establishment can be found on an urban 515-acre campus where old world charm meets modern and progressive architecture in middle of Kearney, NE–a vibrant, progressive, and growing community in the heart of the Midwest. In fact, Kearney often makes national surveys of the “top places to live for quality of life”. Also accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, Nebraska–Kearney is ranked #64 Regional Universities Midwest and #12 Top Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report for 2018. University of Nebraska-Kearney registers roughly 5,000 undergraduate students, promises a student-faculty ratio of 14:1, and 50% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.

University of Nebraska–Kearney’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice is taught through the e-campus and reflects the current trends in justice by offering 2 options: a Criminal Justice Comprehensive and a Criminal Justice Major. Options differ in length and course flexibility, but both equip you with knowledge of criminal justice, correctional, and police systems; theories of crime and criminal law; criminal evidence and procedure; and the courts. Moreover, students will learn about professional ethics, career development, and fundamentals of research methods. In addition to general core coursework, both the Criminal Justice Comprehensive and Major curriculums require 28 credit-hours of major-specific core coursework and an intensive internship that provides hands-on fieldwork experience. The only difference between the two tracks is that the Comprehensive track requires 21 credit-hours of major-specific elective coursework while the Major track requires only 9. Although the program is offered primarily online, internships may be taken at convenient physical locations for the student. The program promises prestige because of a highly credentialed faculty with doctoral degrees who are committed to quality teaching–faculty are both practitioners and research experts in their field. Furthermore, the program provides affordability thanks to a $264 credit-hour cost and #46 Best Value Schools ranking by U.S.News & World Report. Finally, the program provides flexibility with 2 major options.

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  • Affordability: $264
  • Flexibility Enhancing Components: 2 Major Tracks

4. Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays State University (FHSU), founded in 1902, is the leading progressive and entrepreneurial university of the Midwest focused on professional skills. The school can be found on a rural, cozy, tree-filled 200-acre campus that also hosts a 3,825 acre University Farm in Hays, Kansas–in the heart of historic Hays. Hays is a welcoming community and bustling town filled with coffee shops, restaurants, shopping, and a dynamic art scene. Also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, FHSU ranks Tier 2 Regional Universities Midwest by U.S. News & World Report for 2018. Fort Hays State University matriculates about 12,045 undergraduate students, guarantees a student-faculty ratio of 16:1, and 46.5% of classes cater to less than than 20 students.

Fort Hays State University’s Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice (BA/BS) is completely online; this in-depth program is for individuals with busy schedules who want to advance their career in several fields including criminal justice research, law enforcement, the courts, corrections, private enterprise, and education. Many recent graduates work for federal agencies while others have joined police departments. Two types of bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice are available–a BA or BS in Criminal Justice. Core curriculum focuses on the main theories in criminal justice after which students are offered specializations in law enforcement, corrections, law and the courts, or “create your own”. The standard 120-credit-hour curriculum requires 24 and 21 major-specific core and elective credit-hours, respectively. Apart from that, the only difference between the 2 bachelor’s degrees is that the BA requires 10 credit-hours of general electives and foreign language each while the BS simply requires 20 hours of general electives. In terms of major-specific elective work, students must choose at least 1 elective from the following subdivisions: Policing, Offenders & Victims, or criminology. The program guarantees prestige thanks to the fact that over 95% of FHSU students find a job or placement in graduate school upon graduation. Furthermore, the program offers affordability with a $207 credit-hour cost and FHSU earned a spot on the Best Buy list for online criminal justice degrees by Get Educated. Finally, the program provides flexibility with a generous transfer-credit policy, job placement assistance, a minor option, and 5 certificate options.

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  • Affordability: $207
  • Flexibility Enhancing Components: Transfer Credits, Minor + Certificate Options

5. Arizona State University

Arizona State University (ASU), founded in 1885, is one of the largest public research universities in the United States and one of the most name-worthy university on our list. Based in Tempe, ASU has a massive, state-of-the-art campus and sponsors an extensive fraternity and sorority system while ASU Online is headquartered at ASU’s SkySong campus in Scottsdale, Arizona. ASU Online was ranked in the Top 10 for Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News & World Report. ASU also ranked best in the nation for “Innovation” in US News National Best College List for 2016, 2017, and 2018 and currently ranks #115 National Universities U.S. News & World Report. Programs are geared towards improving the life of diverse groups represented on campus regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. The student-faculty ratio at Arizona State University–Tempe is 23:1, and the school has 40.9 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students. The university enrolls approximately 98,000 students.

Arizona State University’s Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice is a 100% online program particularly suited for individuals seeking positions in the criminal justice system and corporate security or for those interested in pursuing advanced degrees in law, criminology, and criminal justice. Students will explore policies and practices of criminal justice system components including law enforcement, corrections, and the courts while conducting an in-depth study of crime and effective approaches to reduce it at the local, state, and federal level. The program offers 2 Fast Track Options that require 2.5 Years or 3 Years, but, of course, ASU also offers a traditional 4-year program. The standard 120-credit-hour curriculum requires 45-credit-hours of major-specific coursework where, aside from looking at just the theories and current practices of the criminal justice system and the roles of law enforcement agencies, courts, and correctional agencies, the program covers domestic violence, gangs, and white collar crime. The program promises prestige thanks to being a nationally recognized leader in higher education that is highly regarded for its top-notch faculty and cutting-edge research activity. Finally, the program guarantees affordability thanks to a $517 credit-hour cost.

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  • Affordability: $517
  • Flexibility Enhancing Components: N/A

6. University of Massachusetts

The University Of Massachusetts–Lowell (UMass-L), started in 1894, is a nonprofit research university that has been recognized by Forbes and Payscale for offering a great value education and a high ROI. The establishment can be found on an urban 142-acre campus in heart of Lowell, MA–just 30 miles from Boston–on the Merrimack river. Accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)–the regional authority of all levels of educational quality–UMass-L currently ranks #152 National Universities and #78 Top Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report. University Of Massachusetts enrolls approximately 13,266 undergraduate students, guarantees a student-faculty ratio of 17:1, and 59.4% of classes cater to less than than 20 students.

University of Massachusetts–Lowell’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice is an entirely online, highly ranked program that focuses on the history, structure, and analysis of law-enforcement and corrections while also exploring the factors of diversity and cultural awareness. The program provides an overview of the American correctional system as well as criminology, criminal statistics, theories of crime causation, and the origin and development of Criminal Law. The program also introduces students to the latest technological innovations in the criminal justice system. The standard 120-credit-hour program requires 5 major-specific core courses and 19 well-rounded elective courses rooted in a liberal arts framework with a strong concentration on professional courses. Core coursework includes: The Criminal Justice System, Policing, Corrections, Criminology, and Criminal Law. Some of the elective courses offered include: Homeland Security, Terrorism, Criminal Profiling, Emergency Management, Hate Crime, Substance Abuse & Crime, and many more. The program provides prestige thanks to being ranked one of the Best Online Criminal Justice Programs by BestColleges.com and one of the Best Online Bachelor’s Criminal Justice Program for 2016 by onlinecolleges.net. Finally, the program guarantees affordability thanks to a $375 credit-hour cost.

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  • Affordability: $375
  • Flexibility Enhancing Components: N/A

7. Loyola University–Chicago

Loyola University–Chicago, started in 1870, is a private, Roman Catholic-affiliated university and one of the largest Jesuit institutions in the country. The school occupies a 105-acre campus in the heart of downtown Chicago, IL, which means students have access to everything the city has to offer: Bulls games, Chicago’s extensive nightlife, great restaurants, and more. Also accredited by The Higher Learning Commission–even since 1921–Loyola–Chicago is ranked #103 National Universities and #58 Best Value Schools for 2018 by U.S. News & World Report. Loyola University–Chicago enrolls roughly 11,129 undergraduate students, guarantees a student-faculty ratio of 14:1, and 41.9% of classes cater to less than than 20 students.

Loyola University–Chicago’s B.A. in Applied Criminal Justice Leadership is a contemporary and comprehensive curriculum designed to develop leadership skills and promote knowledge of criminal justice practice and theory. The standard 120-credit-hour program is delivered in 8-week sessions and requires 30 major-specific credit-hours. Some of the core courses include: Organizational Leadership in Criminal Justice; Ethics, Justice, & Leadership; Cyber-Crime Detection & Investigation; Crime Analysis; Conflict Management & Communications; and more. Students must also take 9 credit-hours from the School of Continuing & Professional Studies (SCPS) to develop a professional identity profile and define a personal set of career goals. Finally, students will synthesize and apply knowledge with a comprehensive senior capstone. The program guarantees affordability with a $655 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program provides flexibility because of an up to 15 transfer-credit policy and an accelerated option.

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  • Affordability: $655
  • Flexibility Enhancing Components: Accelerated Option, Transfer Credits

8. Florida International University

Florida International University (FIU), founded in 1972, is a public, research institution and the second-largest public university in the state of Florida. As a pioneer in online learning since 1998, FIU is committed to preparing students for the global market by fostering learning, research, entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity. The school occupies an urban 344-acre campus in Miami, FL (main campus), maintains a secondary campus in University Park, FL, and also offers a regional campus in Biscayne Bay, FL. Also accredited by the Southern Association Of Colleges And Schools Commission On Colleges (SACSCOC), FIU is ranked #216 National Universities and #122 Top Public Schools for 2018 by U.S. News & World Report. Florida International University registers approximately 45,813 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 26:1, and 21.1% of classes cater to less than than 20 students.

Florida International University’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice is designed for individuals seeking careers in law enforcement, private security, or corrections. The program offers a solid foundation in core issues related to crime and justice and analysis of the criminal justice system across the world including police, courts, and corrections. The standard 120-credit-hour program requires only 4 major-specific core courses: Comparative Criminal Justice Systems, Criminal Justice & Public Policy, Criminological Theory, and Global Terrorism. Also required are 4 major-specific Criminal Justice Upper Division Electives. The program guarantees prestige due to being among the 16 research universities in the country with the most faculty and administrators who are Fulbright Scholars (2015-2016) and a #30 Best Online Graduate Criminal Justice Programs ranking from U.S. News & World Report. Finally, the program offers affordability with a $329 credit-hour cost.

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  • Affordability: $329
  • Flexibility Enhancing Components: N/A

9. Drexel University

Drexel University, founded in 1891, is a private research institution with an interdisciplinary and global perspective on education that operates 3 campuses in Philadelphia. Drexel focuses on experiential learning and operates one of the country’s oldest, largest, and most renowned cooperative education programs. Students have the opportunity to network with more than 1,600 employers worldwide–including industry leaders like Amazon, Google, etc.–and may earn up to 18 months of paid, full-time work experience in their chosen field. The school sits on a lively, urban 96-acre campus in Philadelphia, PA–just minutes from the downtown Center City district–conveniently located between New York City and Washington, D.C. Fully accredited by the Middle States Commission On Higher Education, Drexel currently ranks #96 National Universities and #65 Best Value Schools by U.S. News & World Report. Drexel University registers approximately 14,138 undergraduate students, and 57.8% of classes cater to less than than 20 students.

Drexel University’s BS in Criminology and Justice Studies is a fully-online program that prepares students for careers in criminal justice, private security, the legal profession, or for graduate study in criminal justice including forensic science and computer science. Students will gain a sound educational foundation in criminology and the study of crime and criminal behavior, as well as an understanding of the history, structure, administration, policies, and procedures of the agencies of crime control and criminal justice. Notably, this program is only available on a part-time basis. The 184-quarter-credit-hour curriculum (1 semester credit = 1.5 quarter credits) requires 10 major-specific core courses organized into four 10-week quarters per year. The curriculum borrows from philosophy to sociology, psychology, legal studies, political science, information science, chemistry, and computer science, including the computer-based skills, technological expertise, and biochemical/biotechnological knowledge that is relevant to the functioning of the agencies of the criminal justice system of the 21 st century. Core courses include: Criminology, Race, Crime & Justice, Sentencing, Ethics, among others. In addition, students will take Criminal Justice Thematic Concentration track on Crime Prevention Planning, Computer Crime, Law Enforcement, to name a few. Students also choose 10 elective courses from a wide selection including: Terrorism; Domestic Violence; Sex, Violence & Crime on the Internet; and much more. The program promises prestige with a #110 Best Online Bachelor’s Program ranking for 2018 from US News & World Report. Additionally, the program promises affordability with a $489 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program provides flexibility with an up to 90 quarter-credit-hour transfer policy.

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  • Affordability: $489
  • Flexibility Enhancing Components: Generous Transfer Policy

10. Florida Gulf Coast University

Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), founded in 1991, is a public university, a catalyst for the area’s economy, and a cultural hub for the community. Notably, FGCU boasts one of the highest graduate employment rates among the state’s universities. The establishment occupies a suburban, modern, and lush 400-acre campus that houses state-of-the-art facilities on restored and preserved wetlands–the campus also maintains 15-acre solar field. Also accredited by the Southern Association Of Colleges And Schools Commission On Colleges (SACSCOC), FGCU ranks #73 in Regional Universities South and #27 Top Public Schools for 2018 by U.S. News & World Report. Florida Gulf Coast University enrolls about 13,711 undergraduate students, guarantees a student-faculty ratio of 21:1, and 18.9% of classes cater to less than 20 students.

Florida Gulf Coast University’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice will help students develop the leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills required to be successful within various criminal justice-related agencies. The program offers a broad foundation in the criminal justice system including law enforcement, corrections, the judiciary, juvenile justice, probation & parole, and international justice with an emphasis on the victim, the offender, the criminal justice system, and society. This BS program offers a perspective rooted in the liberal arts with the opportunity to specialize in law enforcement, corrections, legal studies, juvenile justice, international justice, or management in criminal justice. Notably, students are expected to participate in hybrid-style courses that meet both on campus and virtually. Additionally, one of the most rewarding aspects of the program is an internship–there is a 3 credit-hour minimum and a 6 credit-hour maximum where each credit-hour requires completion of 75 internship hours. The program provides prestige because 80% of classes taught by full-time faculty. Finally, the program provides affordability thanks to a $178 credit-hour cost.

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  • Affordability: $178
  • Flexibility Enhancing Components: N/A