Last Updated on August 28, 2023
There are a number of reasons you might want to get an online criminal justice degree. Perhaps you want to advance in your career, and think that an online criminal justice degree would give you the advantage. Maybe you’re interested in going into law enforcements, but can’t afford to quit your job and go back to school full time. The first step is to answer a critical question: How Long Does It Take To Get A Criminal Justice Degree Online?
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How Long Does It Take To Get A Criminal Justice Degree Online
about four years
Typically, it takes a full-time student with no prior college
education about four years
to complete an online criminal justice bachelor’s degree. While requirements
vary across programs, most require 120-125 credits.
Online Criminal Justice Degree: An Overview
What do police officers, probation officers and paralegals have in common?
They all work in the interdisciplinary field of criminal justice. Offering a
mix of sociology, psychology and law, criminal justice degree programs prepare
students for careers focused on keeping people, neighborhoods and nations safe.
An increasing number of colleges and universities now offer online criminal
justice degrees. Students choose to earn an online bachelor’s degree for many
reasons, including the ability to study from home while maintaining full-time
work or family obligations.
Those who study criminal justice tend to feel rewarded by the work they do
after graduation. A high percentage of workers in occupations that are popular
among criminal justice graduates – such as police and probation officers –
report that they feel their jobs have high meaning, according to PayScale.com,
which collects career data.
Prospective students should be aware of the median starting salary for
graduates with a bachelor’s in criminal justice. A PayScale College Salary
Report estimates that criminal justice bachelor’s recipients earn a median
annual salary of $37,000 during the first five years of their career. The same
report estimates a midcareer median salary of $59,100 for professionals who hold
Typically, it takes a full-time student with no prior college education
about four years to complete an online criminal justice bachelor’s degree.
While requirements vary across programs, most require 120-125 credits.
Thanks to more flexible scheduling, a student enrolled in an online criminal
justice degree program may have the option to take more or fewer credits at a
time to fit his or her schedule.
Students with previous educational or professional experience may be able to
finish their online criminal justice degree in less time than other classmates.
Most accredited online schools allow students to transfer previously earned
In addition, some online criminal justice degree programs offer credit for
prior experience in the field, which may make them attractive options for
professionals already working in law enforcement or related areas, such as
private security. Students should speak to admissions counselors before
applying to see if they qualify for these credits.
Online criminal justice degree admissions requirements
Admissions requirements for different online criminal justice programs vary
across schools, but most require students to have a high school diploma or GED
certificate and to submit official transcripts as proof. Some schools also
require a minimum GPA in previous coursework.
Prospective students must submit an application, which usually has an
associated fee, as well as any required test scores. In addition, international
students must usually demonstrate their English proficiency by submitting TOEFL
or IELTS scores.
Transfer students are also required to submit official transcripts for any
college coursework they have already completed.
How much does a criminal justice degree cost?
Tuition for online criminal justice degrees can range widely from around
$100 per credit hour to about $500 per credit hour. Multiple factors can affect
the total program cost, including whether a student has transferrable credits,
the cost of textbooks and other program supplies and how much financial aid he
or she qualifies for.
Students researching online criminal justice degrees should ask admissions
counselors if they qualify for in-state tuition, as some public colleges and
universities offer this benefit regardless of where the applicant resides.
Choosing an accredited online criminal justice bachelor’s degree program
Accreditation status is one of the most important considerations for
prospective students. Colleges and universities in the U.S. receive
accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; the
accreditation process involves an extensive review of a school’s educational
programs and student services.
A school’s accreditation will affect course credit transferability, as well
as student eligibility for federal financial aid, so applicants should ensure
the school offering the program has earned national or regional accreditation.
Online Criminal Justice Degrees
Prospective students with a passion for ensuring justice and gathering facts
should consider majoring in criminal justice. With this degree, graduates careers
can lead to advanced federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation
or rise as leaders in local police departments.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for police and detectives
to grow 5% between 2019 and 2029, faster than the average for all other
occupations. These professionals earned a median income of $65,170 in 2019.
They typically spend their days responding to calls, patrolling areas, and
collecting evidence from crime scenes.
A bachelor’s degree takes about four years to complete, and busy learners
can earn a criminal justice degree online. Keep reading to learn about the top
criminal justice programs, common courses, and scholarships for aspiring law
Top 10 Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Programs
University of Central Missouri
Arizona State University
University of Louisville
Washington State University
East Central University
University of North Alabama
Boca Raton, FL
Eastern Kentucky University
2021 Online Bachelor’s Programs in Criminal Justice
University Location Ashland, OH View School Profile Founded in 1878, AU is
a comprehensive college located in Ohio. AU manages a strong online and
adult studies program that includes a 120-credit bachelor’s in criminal
justice. Designed by criminal justice experts, the online program provides
students and those already working in law enforcement with necessary
training for career success. The curriculum covers core topics such as
criminology, victimology, and policing in the United States. Students can
choose from a generalist track or four other specialized tracks to tailor
the degree to their interests. The options include legal studies,
correctional administration, and law enforcement administration.
Participants build hands-on expertise during field experiences with
professionals. Enrollees receive credit for professional training in
corrections and law enforcement. All students pay the same affordable
tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires a minimum 2.70 high
school GPA and a 2.25 GPA on transfer credits.
of Central Missouri Location Warrensburg, MO View School Profile UCM
offers 150 programs, including an online bachelor’s in criminal justice
and criminology completion program. The school offers nontraditional
learners an innovative curriculum that blends theoretical learning, field
experience, and the use of state-of-the-art technology. Students complete
the bachelor’s entirely online or in a hybrid format with some classes
taken in Warrensburg. The 120-credit curriculum explores topics such as
corrections, criminal law and procedure, juvenile justice, and policing a
democratic society. Enrollees use real data to investigate research
questions in the program. They complete FEMA independent study coursework
that provides hands-on experience in incident command and use of the
National Incident Management System. The program exposes students to
ArcGIS software for crime mapping. Learners can also get experience at a
site within UCM’s network of local, state, and federal partners through
internships. Online and hybrid learners pay the same affordable tuition.
Admission requires a minimum 2.0 transfer GPA.
State University Location Scottsdale, AZ View School Profile ASU operates
one of the nation’s largest virtual colleges. ASU Online’s bachelor’s in
criminology and criminal justice explores the causes and consequences of
crime and how criminal justice agencies address criminality. The degree
requires general education courses that students may transfer from prior
college education. The criminal justice curriculum explores concepts such
as corrections, policing, criminology, and courts and sentencing. All
students complete a course that teaches them how to apply descriptive and
inferential statistics. Elective credits allow students to explore
complementary criminal justice issues such as terrorism, sex crimes, and
police accountability. Participants can also use elective credits to
pursue a supervised internship at a law enforcement agency. Students hone
their skills when they collaborate with peers on projects and analyze case
studies. Out-of-state students pay modestly more tuition than their
in-state peers. Admission requires SAT or ACT scores for freshmen and a
minimum 2.5 GPA for transfer students.
of Louisville Location Louisville, KY View School Profile Located in
Kentucky, UofL’s bachelor’s in criminal justice program gives students a
strong foundation in adult and juvenile justice. The 54-credit curriculum
requires completion and transfer of general education credits prior to
enrollment. Alternatively, students may opt to complete two years of
general education credits online at UofL. Learners pursuing a degree in
criminal justice explore core topics such as criminal behavior, criminal
procedure, juvenile justice, and criminal law and evidence. Students learn
how to use quantitative research methods to analyze criminal justice data.
Various electives give learners flexibility to explore subjects in
criminal justice and related departments. UofL’s criminal justice
organizations — Lambda Alpha Epsilon and Alpha Phi Sigma — stream
meetings and other events so that online learners can network with
on-campus peers. Enrollees receive transfer credit for military and law
enforcement/correction academy training. All online students pay the same
affordable tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires an
associate degree or equivalent credits.
State University Location Pullman, WA View School Profile WSU manages one
of the nation’s oldest criminal justice programs. WSU’s Global Campus
offers a bachelor’s in criminal justice and criminology, a policy-based
curriculum influenced by psychology, sociology, and political science. The
120-credit curriculum includes general education requirements that
students can meet by transferring an associate degree or significant
credit. The criminal justice curriculum explores fundamental topics such
as criminal law, criminological theory, and administration of criminal
justice. Students take electives to explore complementary topics such as
crime control policies or policing and society. They may also opt to learn
about issues that affect specific populations, such as violence toward
women or juvenile justice and corrections. An optional internship gives
learners hands-on experience working in a law enforcement setting.
Out-of-state students pay modestly more tuition that their in-state peers.
Admission requires SAT or ACT scores for freshmen and a minimum 2.5 GPA on
Central University Location Ada, OK View School Profile ECU offers the
only program in Oklahoma dedicated to criminal justice policy. Faculty
design the bachelor’s in criminal justice policy program especially for
professionals working in criminal justice who want to finish a degree. The
124-credit curriculum includes general education courses and other
requirements that students can fulfill by transferring credits. The
criminal justice core courses explore criminal behavior, civil rights and
civil liberties, public policymaking, and the legal aspects of the
criminal justice process.
Electives examine complementary issues such as juvenile justice or
addictions and society. Participants may also use elective credit to
pursue a human resources practicum within a law enforcement agency.
Students can transfer up to 94 credits to finish the degree sooner. ECU
offers competitive tuition rates and provides a nonresident tuition waiver
in some instances. Admission requires SAT or ACT scores for freshmen and
at least 24 credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA for transfer students.
of North Alabama Location Florence, AL View School Profile UNA is the
state’s oldest public four-year college. The university’s online programs
include the bachelor’s in criminal justice. Students complete general
education courses and other requirements before completing the 45-credit
major. The curriculum includes introductory coursework on the U.S.
government, current social problems, and criminal justice. Courses also
cover advanced topics such as criminology and research methods in criminal
justice. Criminal justice majors use 21 elective credits to complete a
minor or second major. One option, the crime scene investigator minor,
develops students’ proficiencies in evidence management, forensic
investigation, and crime scene reconstruction. Some enrollees may prefer
the security and emergency management minor or another alternative. All
students complete a research practicum in criminal justice. UNA offers
affordable tuition and scholarships for eligible transfer students.
Admission requires SAT or ACT scores for freshmen and college transcripts
for transfer students.
University Location Boca Raton, FL View School Profile Located in Boca
Raton, Florida, Lynn enrolls about 3,200 students in programs administered
by six colleges. The bachelor’s in criminal justice program enrolls
students new to criminal justice and professionals. The curriculum blends
theoretical knowledge and field-based exercises that give students
practical experience. The 120-credit program includes a core curriculum
that develops learners’ skills in critical thinking and writing, personal
finance/statistical analysis, and ethical decision-making. The criminal
justice major delves into concepts such as criminal law, policing in
America, victimology, and law and courts. The program features a unique
opportunity for full-time students to participate in a semester-long
internship in Washington, D.C. Lynn issues iPads for undergraduate
academic programs. Online students in the criminal justice program pay a
low flat tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires a high school
or GED diploma for freshmen and official transcripts for transfer
Kentucky University Location Richmond, KY View School Profile A leader in
distance education, EKU offers a bachelor’s in criminal justice degree
online. The 120-credit program provides a comprehensive overview of the
justice system and societal problems. The curriculum’s core explores six
topics, including crime and delinquency and applied criminal justice
analysis. Students use 27 elective credits to build knowledge and
expertise in areas such as the judicial process, the juvenile justice
system, and living and working in prison. Students can also use elective
credits to earn certificates in correctional intervention strategies or
intelligence studies. EKU’s support services include free online tutoring
and career services. Learners can transfer up to 90 credits toward the
degree in criminal justice. Online students pay the same tuition
regardless of residency. Active-duty military personnel enjoy a steep
Online Criminal Justice Degree Coursework
Core courses for an online criminal justice degree
Students who want to earn a criminal justice degree online study a wide
range of subjects, including:
CorrectionsCriminologyThe justice systemResearch methodsLaw enforcement
Each of these courses cover key subjects related to a wide variety of criminal
justice careers. In a criminology course, for example, students analyze
criminal behaviors and theories about what drives those behaviors. A
corrections course focuses on rehabilitation and punishment, as well as issues
affecting the correctional system.
In courses relating to the justice system, students learn how the police,
courts and corrections systems work together and about victims’ rights.
Research methods are another key component of study for anyone earning a
criminal justice degree online. Knowing how evidence is collected and how to
build a strong case based on data is important for any career path in this
Law enforcement courses are also crucial. Even for students interested in
careers other than law enforcement, such as a paralegal or corrections officer,
they must understand the systems and operations of law enforcement to do their
Many schools allow students to pursue criminal justice degrees online
without ever having to visit campus – but keep in mind that some programs
require the completion of some offline work, such as an internship or lab.
Online criminal justice degree specializations
Criminal justice is a field of study that covers a wide variety of subjects.
Some programs allow students to specialize in specific areas, such as:
Homeland securityCybercrimeLegal studies and advocacyCriminologyHuman
Specializations can prepare students studying the broader discipline of criminal
justice for more specific career paths.
For example, students who want to work for federal criminal justice
organizations can study terrorism and national defense through a homeland
security specialization. Example courses include legal issues in counterterrorism
and behavioral dimensions of disaster.
In a cybercrime specialization, students earning their criminal justice
degree online not only learn the general framework of the justice system and
investigation of physical crimes, but also gain the basic skills needed to
detect and investigate digital crimes. Courses may include cyberforensics and
network security fundamentals. As cybercrime has increased, some colleges have
also begun to offer online cybersecurity degrees.
Students who choose to specialize in human services can prepare for a career
in social work or advocacy while earning their criminal justice degree. To
become a licensed social worker, students are usually required to earn a master’s
degree in social work as well.
- Drugs and
in the family
Job Outlook and Salary for Criminal Justice Students
Statistics show the rates of violent crimes, such as murder, rape and
assault, and property crimes, including burglary and car theft, are declining.
However, cybercrime is on the rise, according to a report from Verizon, a
This means students with prior experience in computer science or information
technology can position themselves for cybersecurity roles in the Federal
Bureau of Investigation or the Department of Homeland Security by supplementing
their experience with a criminal justice degree.
Because a criminal justice degree can prepare individuals for a wide variety
of jobs, from local and national law enforcement to legal and social services
professions, prospective online students should carefully research their
potential career paths. Jobs in this field vary widely in educational
requirements, pay and growth potential.
To work at the federal level, graduates generally need to have a clean
criminal record – no felony or drug convictions. Defaulting on a federal
student loan can also disqualify graduates from working for a government
What can you do with a criminal justice degree?
Some of the most popular jobs for criminal justice graduates are in private
security or public law enforcement, but graduates in this field hold a variety
of positions, including:
Local law enforcement (police, detectives)Correctional officers (probation officers,
correctional treatment specialists)Private detectives and
investigatorsParalegalsForensic science technicians
Police and detectives enforce laws locally, work to preserve public safety, and
in the case of detectives, investigate crimes. A bachelor’s is not always
required to enter the field, but those with the credential usually earn more
than their peers without a college degree or only an associate degree.
Correctional officers work with individuals who have been detained by the
criminal justice system. This includes correctional treatment specialists, who
work within jails and prisons, and probation officers, who work with
individuals found guilty of crimes to help them reintegrate into society.
Private detectives and investigators search for and analyze information
related to financial, legal and personal matters. They may conduct background
checks, for example. Finding a job can be competitive, and detective agencies
will likely offer the best opportunities for entry-level positions, according to
the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, most states require private
detectives and investigators to hold a license.
Paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers with various tasks, such as
preparing for trial. Employment of these professionals is expected to grow 8
percent through 2024, faster than most other legal professions, according to
the BLS. However, some additional education or certification may be required.
Forensic science technicians help solve crimes by collecting and analyzing
different types of evidence. Some online criminal justice degree programs offer
specializations in forensic science and some colleges offer specific online
forensic science degree programs.
What are entry-level jobs for criminal justice majors?
Many criminal justice jobs can be obtained with little to no experience;
some don’t require a bachelor’s to qualify, such as:
Security guards and gaming surveillance officersCorrectional officers and
bailiffsPolice officersLegal assistants
Federal law enforcement job requirements
In addition to the careers described above, earning a criminal justice
degree online can be the first step to a job in the federal government. This
can include jobs in emergency management, federal law enforcement and
immigration and travel security.
But to work at the federal level, graduates must also meet other
requirements, such as a physical exam and additional background checks. Most
candidates must have additional work experience, and a master’s degree in
criminal justice is often required as well.
Professional associations for online criminal justice degree students
Students and graduates working in the field can look to professional
organizations for networking and career development opportunities, including
those that online schools for criminal justice may not provide as part of their
curricula. Some of the most well-known professional organizations in this field
American Criminal Justice Association: A national organization with local
college chapters aimed at promoting better relationships between criminal
justice graduates and encouraging learning in the subject.Academy of Criminal
Justice Sciences: An international association that promotes criminal justice education,
research and policy analysis for educators and professionals.American Society
of Criminology: A group created to share scholarly, scientific and professional
knowledge of criminal justice.International Police Association: Originally
founded in England in 1950, the IPA has had American chapters since 1962, and
the organization strives to build relationships between police officers across
the world.American Correctional Association: The oldest professional group for
correctional officers in the world.
Professional Organizations for Criminal Justice Students
Professionals can commit to
lifelong learning by joining professional organizations. These groups publish
informative newsletters and scholarly journals, host conferences, and connect
criminal justice professionals from varying backgrounds and experience levels.
Some criminal justice organizations allow students to join. See below for a few
of the many professional organizations for criminal justice degree-seekers.
- Academy of
Criminal Justice Sciences ACJS promotes scholarly activities within the
criminal justice field. More than 1,800 members benefit from an
educational annual meeting, access to four scholarly journals, and a job
board. This organization also offers research grants to advance the field.
Academy of Forensic Sciences This professional organization invites anyone
working in the U.S. legal system to get involved. AAFS allows members to
join a specialized section, such as the toxicology or pathology section.
The organization hosts meetings, offers education training, and publishes
a reference library.
Correctional Association ACA aims to advance correctional effectiveness.
The organization formed in 1870 and now connects thousands of criminal
justice professionals across the world. To join, ACA charges $35-$150
depending on the member’s years of experience. Members gain access to
online training discounts and exclusive industry publications.
Society of Criminology This organization helps its members pursue
scholarly information on how to control and prevent crime. Members can
join specialized ASC divisions that focus on one topic, like corrections
or cybercrime. ASC provides three annual publications to its members that
discuss current criminal justice topics.
Scholarships for Criminal Justice Students
Degree-seekers can avoid large student loan payments by applying for
scholarships. Private companies, foundations, nonprofits, and educational
institutions all offer this type of financial aid. Most scholarships require a
short essay, recommendation letters, and official transcripts. See below for
three scholarships reserved for criminal justice students.
Alpha Phi Sigma Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Each year, this criminal justice
honor organization offers three scholarships to students in the field. A
scholarship committee selects the recipients based on an essay submission. The
essay must include academic sources and total no more than 15 pages. Alpha Phi
Sigma also offers scholarships for students who wish to attend the
organization’s annual conference.
Melissa Linville Criminal Justice Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students pursuing a degree in
criminal justice with at least a 3.0 GPA qualify. Applicants must write an
essay (1-2 pages) about their ambition and goals in the criminal justice field.
This scholarship honors the memory of a former Crimcheck employee.
My Alarm Center Student Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Students majoring in criminal
justice or a similar field like law enforcement can apply. Applicants must write
500-1,000 words about the current relationship between law enforcement officers
and the community, and why they wish to pursue this career.
Median salaries for criminal justice degree holders
Earning an online criminal justice bachelor’s degree prepares students for a
wide variety of related careers. While many of the jobs commonly held by
workers with a bachelor’s in this field do not require a college education,
those with a degree tend to earn more than colleagues with less education.
- What kinds
of jobs can you get with a criminal justice degree? After completing a
criminal justice program, graduates can apply for law enforcement
positions, become private investigators, or work as bailiffs.
- How many
years does it take to get a criminal justice degree? A bachelor’s degree
in criminal justice takes full-time enrollees about four years to earn.
Some colleges offer accelerated programs that may only take three years.
- What is
the highest-paying job in criminal justice? The BLS offers salary
information for criminal justice positions. By earning a doctorate,
criminal justice majors can work as lawyers, who earned a median income of
$122,960 in 2019.
criminal justice degree requirements
Between analyzing evidence and investigating criminal data, mathematics and science are essential for much of the work done in the criminal justice system. Requirements for the major include courses in psychology, sociology and the theory and practice of the criminal justice system.