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The 20 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Crime doesn’t pay- criminal justice professionals make sure of that.

Since 9/11, nations have seen rapid growth in homeland security and related jobs. Such growth has resulted in a demand for more college graduates with degrees in criminal justice, security, and forensics. Indeed, not only have more criminal justice degree holders become necessary for new areas of security like homeland security or cyber crime, but many professionals already in the field have gone back to school to obtain special qualifications in criminal justice. This is often so that they can better understand and be better equipped to handle technological changes in how we fight crime locally, as well as globally, especially when considering the threat posed by international terrorism. To meet the needs of this growing professional class that seeks graduate education in criminal justice, many colleges and universities have begun making their criminal justice graduate programs available in fully online formats.

For this ranking, we narrowed our focus for to online degree programs because many graduate students in Criminal Justice already work full time in their field. Our results are the culmination of a multi-dimensional metric system, which uses data compiled from individual program sites and national higher education data collection platforms. With that information, we focused on three major objectives. First, we wanted to know whether or not the school’s tuition made it a viable choice for online students. Second, we looked at whether the school offered flexible options to accommodate student needs, like fast-track options or multiple specialities. And finally, we wanted to determine the academic quality of the institutions we sampled. You can find a more detailed explanation of the methodology we used below.

Methodology:

  • Affordability (1/3): the estimated out-of-state tuition for students living on campus
  • Academic Quality (1/3): a set measurement based on library services, technical support, and student-to-faculty ratio
  • Flexibility (1/3): based on the estimated time-to-degree

1. University of Houston – Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown is a four year state university in Houston, Texas. Founded in 1974, UHD today is the second largest university in Houston with over 14,000 students. With over 50 graduate and undergraduate degree programs, those students have a lot of options to choose from to explore their interests. UHD is also designated as a Hispanic-serving institution, meaning that not only does UHD have a majority Hispanic students, but also actively works to continually improve their commitment to diversity. Part of UHD’s increased diversity comes from offering a variety of instructional methods, from fate-to-face classes, multiple campuses, and completely online degrees.

One of UHD’s online degree programs is a Master’s in Criminal Justice. This fully online program is designed for working students, including those who already work in the criminal justice field. The program includes coursework on theoretical and practical aspects of crime control in both adult and juvenile justice systems. Students take courses in advanced criminology, administration in criminal justice, policy analysis, and a capstone project. UHD’s criminal justice program offers a variety of flexible options, including multiple start dates and a short time-to-degree of only a year and a half.

2. Western Illinois University

Western Illinois University is a public university in Macomb, Illinois. WIU was founded in 1899 as a teacher training school. Over the years, the university has expanded their offerings to span 4 academic colleges, including 50 undergraduate degree programs and 42 graduate or certificate programs. WIU is well known for its Cost Guarantee Plan. That means students have a four-year fixed rate for tuition, fees, room and board, so long as they remain continuously enrolled. In other words, WIU is committed to ensuring students have more financial security as they pursue their education.

WIU offers a variety of online degrees, one of which is their Master’s in Law Enforcement and Justice Administration. This 100% online program blends theoretical, administrative, legal, and practical knowledge in addition to research skills. The program is designed for students already in the criminal justice field wanting to advance their careers. Criminal justice students take courses in criminological theory, administration, civil and criminal liability, and research skills. Students can also take additional coursework in focus areas like policing, corrections, security, and multiculturalism in criminal justice. Students also have the option of gaining an additional certification in Police Executive Administration.

3. Saint Leo University

Founded in 1889, Saint Leo University is a private Roman Catholic liberal arts university in St. Leo, Florida. Saint Leo was the first Catholic college in Florida and today is one of the five largest Catholic colleges in the nation. Saint Leo is also well known for being a leader in distance learning. The university first began distance learning programs in 1973, and maintains that dedication to distance and online learning through many of their degree programs today. That means that Saint Leo’s nearly 13,000 students have a lot of flexible course options to choose from.

One of Saint Leo’s flexible course options is a 100% online Master’s in Criminal Justice. This master’s program is designed to meet the needs of students already employed in the criminal justice field or professionals looking to enter the field. The program is run by experts in criminal justice, who have served in local and state law enforcement bodies, like the Florida Department of Environmental Protections. Criminal justice students take courses in criminal justice administration, public policy, leadership, offender treatment methodology, human resources, hostage negations, forensic science, terrorism information resource systems, and personnel law. With a lot of electives to choose from, students can design a degree that best suits their career goals.

4. Midwestern State University

Midwestern State University is a public liberal arts school in Wichita Falls, Texas. The school was founded in 1922 as a junior college. Eventually it expanded to a four year school, that offered a wider range of degree programs. With a small student body of 6,000, Midwestern students can be confident that they are getting individualized educational experiences. They also have a lot of choices. Midwestern offers 43 undergraduate majors and 9 graduate programs across 7 colleges. That means students have a lot of options to choose from, including several online degree programs.

One of MWSU’s online degree programs is a Master’s in Criminal justice. The online program prepares students for careers based on criminological theory, crime control, and correctional and police administration. The criminal justice program is designed for students wishing to gain a deeper understanding of criminal justice and who already work within the criminal justice field. Online students take courses in global terrorism, legal research, criminal justice ethics, and police in society. MWSU also offer a wide range of electives, like juvenile offenders, community based corrections, international criminal justice, and deviant behavior, so that online students can best choose additional courses to suit their career needs.

5. Liberty University

Founded in 1971 as Lynchburg Baptist College, Liberty University is a private, Christian university in Virginia. In all of its degree programs, Liberty follows its core mission of promoting a Christian academic community that emphasizes both the intellectual and spiritual development of its students. Today, Liberty is the largest evangelical Christian university in the world with more than 15,000 students at its Virginia campus and over 100,000 students through its online programs. Liberty’s online programs range from the Associates level to the Doctorate and offer flexible options like either 8 or 16-week courses.

One of Liberty’s online degree programs includes a Master’s in Criminal Justice. This 100% online program focuses on advanced training in criminal justice and professional administration, including written and verbal communication, criminal justice management, and ethics. Liberty offers a range of flexible options for their online master’s programs including multiple start dates, a short time-to-degree, and allowing up to 50% of transfer hours. Criminal justice students can also choose between 4 speciality areas including: general criminal justice, forensic psychology, homeland security, and public administration. Each specialty area has its own coursework that better prepares students to enter or advance along identifiable career paths.

6. Jacksonville State University

Jacksonville State University is a public university in Jacksonville, Alabama. Founded in 1883, JSU offers over 40 academic programs from the bachelor’s to the doctorate level. That means JSU’s over 8,500 students have a lot of options to explore. JSU also works hard to make sure that all of their students can get the degree they want. Part of that work comes from the fact that nearly 80% of JSU students receive some form of financial aid. That means that not only do students have the freedom to explore their interests, including through the added flexibility of online degree programs, but they can do so with a little more financial security.

One of JSU’s fully online degree programs includes a Master’s in Criminal Justice. Students in the criminal justice program take courses in subjects like applied data analysis for criminal justice, law enforcement, legal issues, juvenile justice, and correctional counseling. Master’s students also choose between 3 specializations: forensic investigations, law enforcement, and corrections. Criminal justice students also get to choose between writing a thesis or written exam option for their degree capstone. That means students get to best design a degree that includes coursework that most aligns with their career and a capstone that best fits their educational style.

7. University of Louisville

The University of Louisville is a public university in Louisville, Kentucky. When the university was founded in 1798, it was the first city-owned public university in the nation. In 1970, UL became part of the Kentucky state university system. Today, UofL has nearly 23,000 students and offers 70 programs at the bachelor’s level, 78 master’s programs, and 22 doctorate degrees. That means UofL students have the freedom to explore their interests at a school large enough to have a lot of available resources. For instance, students might explore one of UL’s 15 online degree programs.

One of UL’s online degree programs is a Master’s in Criminal Justice. The criminal justice program focuses on the criminal justice system, justice administration, theories of crime and delinquency, legal issues, and advanced statistics or research methods. Students can also choose electives that will give them additional insight into topics like emergency management, computer applications, capital punishment, and homeland security. That means students can design a degree plan that best suits their career goals. UL also offers a lot of flexible components. Online master’s degrees have an accelerated format of 6 week courses that drastically shorten time-to-degree, multiple year-round start dates, and options to complete coursework in only 3 semesters.

8. University of Central Missouri

The University of Central Missouri is a public university in Warrensburg, Missouri. Founded in 1871, UCM started as a teachers school. Over time, it expanded its offers to become a comprehensive university. Today, UCM has more than 14,000 students. With over 150 programs of study include 37 graduate programs, UCM students have a lot of options to explore. Not only do students get to explore their interests, but many UCM students quickly find employment after finishing their degrees. For instance, a recent university survey showed that 92% of UCM graduates were employed within 6 months of graduation.

UMC offers a range of online degree programs. One such program is their Master’s in Criminal Justice. Online students in the criminal justice program take classes in group behavior, comparative criminal justice systems, criminal justice administration, legal students, statistics, and criminal justice research methods. Students may also choose between a thesis and non-thesis capstone option to further tailor their degree plan. That means students get to best design a degree that includes coursework that most aligns with their career and a capstone that best fits their educational style.

9. Boston University

Boston University is a private research university in Boston, Massachusetts. While historically the university was associated with the United Methodist Church, today it is not affiliated with any religious group or organizations. BU has nearly 33,000 students. With that kind of size, BU has a lot of resources to support its students. That includes a full range of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees across BU’s 17 schools and colleges. A number of those degree options also include fully online degree programs.

One such online program is BU’s Master’s of Criminal Justice. Online students choose between 3 concentrations: cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity, or strategic management. Regardless of concentration, all criminal justice students take courses in criminal behavior analysis, criminal justice leadership, social control theory, law enforcement, the judicial system, and corrections. BU students also have several flexibility enhancing components, including a short time-to-degree of less than 2 years. That means students get to design a degree that works best for their current schedules and for their chosen careers.

10. University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati is a comprehensive public research university in Cincinnati, Ohio. Founded in 1819 as Cincinnati College, UC is the oldest institution of higher education in Cincinnati. Today, UC has an enrollment of over 44,000 students, making it the second largest university in Ohio and one of the top 50 largest schools in the country. UC offers over 100 bachelor’s degrees, over 300 degree-granting programs, and over 600 total programs of study from the bachelors to doctoral levels. That means UC students have a lot of options to choose from as they explore their career interests.

UC offers a variety of fully online degree programs, including a Master’s in Criminal Justice. Students in this degree program take courses in criminology, social control, corrections, law enforcement, and juvenile justice. Criminal justice master’s students also choose between 4 concentrations: general criminal justice, analysis of criminal behavior, law enforcement and crime prevention, or corrections and offender rehabilitation. Each concentration comes with specific coursework designed to help advance a student’s career. UC students also have several flexibility enhancing components including multiple start dates and a time-to-degree of only 1 year.

11. Point Park University

Point Park University is a liberal arts university in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Point Park has a small student body with 3,800 students across 82 undergraduate and 18 graduate programs. That means students get individualized educational experiences while still having a wide variety of degree options to choose from. Not only do Point Park students have a lot of degree options, including online degrees, but they also have some job security once they graduate. For instance, a recent university survey found that 91% of Point Park graduates gain employment upon finishing their degrees.

One of Point Park’s fully online degree programs is a Masters in Intelligence and Global Security. The degree is designed by Point Park’s renowned Criminal Justice and Intelligence Studies department. Online criminal justice students take courses in topics like strategic intelligence, threat analysis, cyber crime analysis, international terrorism, and homeland security. Point Park students also have flexible options including multiple start dates, accelerated semesters, and a shortened time-to-degree. That means students can design a degree plan that works best for their busy schedules.

12. Concordia University – Saint Paul

Concordia University, St. Paul is a liberal arts university in St. Paul, Minnesota. Founded in 1893, the university was started to provide a Christian learning environment for students wishing to enter professional ministries in the Lutheran Church. Today, Concordia is still affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod but has expanded its degree programs and mission to include many other educational paths. With a student body of 4,500, Concordia can offer individualized education while still having the same variety of degree programs as a larger university. That includes offering a variety of online degree programs from the associate’s to doctoral level.

One of Concordia’s online degree programs includes a Master’s in Criminal Justice Leadership. Criminal justice students take courses in criminal justice resources, criminal justice research methods, administration, correctional design, legal issues, and criminal justice ethics. Concordia online students also get to take advantage of several flexible components, including accelerated 7 week semesters. Most Concordia criminal justice graduates advance their careers into positions like criminal profiler, corrections supervisor, forensic psychologist, emergency management director, or police and detective supervisor.

13. Washburn University

Washburn University is a public university in Topeka, Kansas. Founded in 1865 as Lincoln College, the school was renamed several years later after a sizeable donation from a local church deacon. Today, Washburn maintains a small student body with nearly 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students. That means students can be sure that they get individualized educational experiences. One way Washburn works hard to meet students needs is also through its reciprocal tuition program. Under this program, students from Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas all pay in-state tuition.

Washburn offers a number of degree programs in fully online formats. One such program is their Master’s in Criminal Justice. Washburn’s online criminal justice program is designed to meet the needs of working criminal justice professionals looking to advance their careers. Criminal justice students take courses in criminal justice theory and research, law enforcement, the judicial system, corrections, and criminal justice administration. Online students also learn skills needed to design policies, manage criminal justice programs, teaching in criminal justice programs, and conduct scholarly research. Students also take advantage of flexible components lik condensed 8 week semesters that can help shorten their time-to-degree.

14. McNeese State University

McNeese State University is a public university in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Founded in 1939 as a junior college, McNeese slowly began adding more degree offerings, eventually becoming a 4 year institution. Today, it is part of the University of Louisiana System and a top tier university in the South. McNeese consists of 7 colleges and a graduate school, offering over 80 degree programs. That means that McNeese students get the flexibility of a large school, while maintaining the individualized educational experiences that come with a small student body.

McNeese State also offers a variety of fully online degree programs, including a Master’s in Criminal Justice. The criminal justice master’s program is designed for working professionals with experience in law enforcement, judicial systems, or corrections looking to advance into administrative roles. In this 100% online master’s program, students take courses in police justice administration, court justice administration, criminological theory, correctional justice administration, and research methods. Students also have a wide variety of elective courses to take, which means they can design a degree that best suits their career goals.

15. Albany State University

Albany State University is a state-supported, historically black university (HBCU) in Albany, Georgia. It is one of three HBCU’s in the University System of Georgia and a member of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Albany State was founded in 1903 by Joseph Winthrop Holley as the Albany Bible and Manual Training Institute. While Albany quickly became known as a teachers college, over the years it has expanded its offerings, especially once it became part of the Georgia State system in 1943. Today, Albany State offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degrees across 5 colleges. The university is also widely recognized for its online degree programs.

One of Albany’s online degree programs includes a Master’s in Criminal Justice. This fully online master’s program includes coursework on criminal justice theory, criminal justice administration, and research methods and statistics. Albany students also choose between 2 specialities: law enforcement or corrections. Each speciality area has its own curriculum that works to improve student knowledge and prepare them for advanced careers in either law enforcement or corrections. All Albany students also complete a master’s thesis and pass comprehensive examinations in order to complete their degrees.

16. Radford University

Radford University is a public university in Radford, Viriginia. Founded in 1910 as a women’s college, Radford eventually merged with other schools in Virginia and expanded its course offerings. Today, it is one of only 8 doctorate-granting institutions in the United States. Radford’s 9,400 students can choose from undergraduate and graduate degree programs across 7 different colleges. Some of those degree options include a range of fully online degree programs.

One of Radford’s online degree programs includes a Master’s in Criminal Justice. The online master’s program is designed for working students who are already employed in the criminal justice field. All criminal justice students take courses in constitutional law, criminal justice research methods, criminological theory, and public policy. Online students also choose between a variety of electives that let them further customize their degree, including courses like crime mapping, judicial behavior, corrections, social awareness, and environmental criminology. Radford online students can also take advantage of several flexibility enhancing components including a time to degree of 2 years or less.

17. McKendree University

McKendree University is a private liberal arts university in Lebanon, Illinois. Founded in 1828 as Lebanon Seminary, McKendree is the oldest college in Illinois. Today, it maintains its affiliation with the United Methodist Church. McKendree has nearly 3,000 students across its 4 colleges and schools. That small size means students ensure they get individualized education in each of their classes. Due to its location in the Greater St. Louis area, McKendree students can take advantage of the intimate setting of a liberal arts school while still gaining the diverse experiences found in a major metropolitan area.

McKendree offers a variety of degree programs in fully online formats, including a Master’s in Criminal Justice. All criminal justice students take courses in criminological theory, criminal justice research methods, data analysis, and criminal justice ethics. Students also have a lot of electives to choose from in order to further customize their degree including: police management, terrorism, corrections, philosophy of punishment, and class, race, and gender in criminal justice. McKendree online masters students can also take advantage of several flexibility enhancing components including accelerated semesters that shorten your time to degree to as little as 18 months.

18. Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University is a private university in Davie, Florida. NSU was founded in 1964 as a graduate institution focused on social and physical sciences. Eventually, the university expanded to offer humanities, law, and medicine degrees. Today, NSU consists of 18 colleges and schools offering over 175 programs of study. The majority of those programs and of NSU’s nearly 25,000 students are at the graduate level. That means that while NSU has certainly expanded its undergraduate programs, its maintained its original focus on provided quality graduate education.

NSU offers a wide variety of fully online degree programs. One such program is their Master’s in Criminal Justice. All online master’s students in NSU’s criminal justice program take courses in issues in criminal justice, social administration, legal issues, program evaluation, and investigative processes. Criminal Justice students also choose between 12 concentrations like behavioral science, substance abuse, strategic community planning, crisis management, and child protection among many others. With so many concentrations to choose from, students can really cater their degree to the type of career they want. Students can also choose multiple concentrations while still having a time-to-degree of 2 years or less.

19. University of Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma is a public research university in Norman, Oklahoma. Founded in 1890, OU was an institute of higher education 17 years before Oklahoma became a state. Today, the university boasts over 31,000 students, with 152 bachelor’s programs, 160 master’s programs, 75 doctorate programs, and another 20 majors at the professional level. That means OU students not only enjoy the resources available at a major research university, but also have a wide variety of degree options available to them. OU is also well known for its academic merit. It is first in public universities for National Merit Scholars, in the top 10 for Rhodes Scholars, and ranks in the top 50 public universities in the nation.

OU offers a lot of fully online degree programs, including a Master’s in Criminal Justice. Criminal Justice master’s students choose between several tracks, including: corrections management, restorative justice, and administration and leadership. That means students can pick a track that best suits their career goals. While each track has a specific curriculum, criminal justice master’s students typically take classes in theoretical foundations of criminal justice, policy development, restorative justice, drug abuse policy and ethical decision making. OU graduates typically go on to careers in restorative justice, corrections management, police administration, crime prevention, drug enforcement, victim advocacy, and mediation.

20. Mount Mercy University

Mount Mercy University is a Catholic liberal arts university in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The university was founded in 1928 by the Sisters of Mercy. Mount Mercy continues its focus on its five critical concerns: earth, immigration, nonviolence, racism and women. Mount Mercy works to address each of these concerns through their mission of reflective judgement, strategic communication, and serving the common good. Today, Mount Mercy maintains a small student body of nearly 2,000 students. That means each student gets an individual educational experience, while also choosing between more than 45 programs of study. That rich educational environment proves fruitful, with nearly 96% of alumni employed within 9 months of graduation.

Mount Mercy offers a couple of fully online degree programs including a Master’s in Criminal Justice. All criminal justice master’s students are required to take courses in human rights and social inequities, civil liability, international policing, victimology, homeland security, and criminal justice ethics. Online students also take electives in a variety of subjects like legal environments, family systems, micro-counselling, psychopathology. These electives are designed to meet their career needs Mount Mercy students take advantage of several flexibility enhancing programs, including reduced tuition, credit for work experience, accelerated course formats, and a short time-to-degree of 12 to 15 months.