Given the seemingly endless number of police and legal dramas on TV, criminal justice is a topic of great popularity to Americans, at least in a broad sense. For those of you actually interested in a career in Criminal Justice, know that there are three main job categories: law enforcement, legal, corrections — each leading to many career possibilities, depending on the aspect that interests you.
In this college rankings list of online bachelors degree in criminal justice, we look at primarily the law enforcement aspect. Programs in, or careers for, the other two categories might be mentioned below in passing. The categories in NCES (http://nces.ed.gov/) that we have used for the bachelors ranking are Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration, Criminal Justice/Police Science and Criminal Justice/Safety Studies.
In this top-20 colleges ranking list, we look at online Criminal Justice degrees at the baccalaureate level. Programs ranked here are either 100% online or in a hybrid mode that requires some on-campus presence.
Careers in Criminal Justice Studies
The following scrolling list shows the very wide range of occupations to which a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice-related topics could lead. This is just a partial list, and it includes organizations/ industries that have shown a need for such skills, as indicated in the Web pages of the 20 colleges ranked in this article. Additional careers not listed include consultant, writer, scriptwriter, screenwriter, etc. Note that some of these occupations require graduate studies and/or professional certification.
- air/sky marshal
- airline/ airport security officer
- animal control officer
- animal cruelty investigator
- ATF agent/ inspector
- attorney (defense or prosecutor)
- ballistics expert
- bodyguard/ personal security specialist
- border patrol agent/ officer
- bounty hunter
- business intelligence analyst
- capitol police officer
- case manager
- child support agency worker
- children’s advocate
- CIA agent
- community police officer
- community relations officer
- community service coordinator
- computer forensics specialist
- conservation officer
- correctional facilities administrator
- corrections facilities manager
- corrections officer
- court administrator
- court bailiff
- court clerk
- court coordinator
- court reporter
- crime scene analyst
- crime scene investigator
- criminal justice program designer
- criminal profiler
- customs agent
- DEA agent
- deportation officer
- deputy sheriff
- detective agencies
- diplomatic security special agent
- director of state DEA
- director of state gaming board
- district attorney
- drug enforcement administration agent
- education coordinator
- educator/ professor/ teacher
- emergency dispatcher
- environmental conservation officer
- family court counselor
- FBI agent/ special agent
- federal arson investigator
- federal criminal investigator
- federal intelligence officer
- federal law enforcement agent
- federal special agent
- fish and game warden
- fish and wildlife service special agent
- forensic evidence technician
- forensic science technician
- fraud investigator
- gaming investigators
- gaming surveillance officer
- group home manager
- highway patrol officer
- homeland security officer
- human resources
- immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) officer
- immigration/customs agent
- insurance investigator
- intelligence analysis
- investigative agencies
- IRS special agent
- juvenile court counselor
- juvenile probation case worker
- juvenile probation officer
- law clerk
- law enforcement agent/ officer
- law librarian
- legal assistant
- legislative assistant
- litigation manager
- market research
- media criminologist
- medical facilities
- military intelligence officer
- municipal police chief
- naval investigator
- non-profit organization advocate
- park police officer
- park ranger
- parole officer
- police detective
- police officer
- polygraph examiner
- postal inspector
- postal service investigator
- pre-sentence coordinator
- pretrial services officer
- private detective
- private investigator
- probation officer
- retail loss prevention specialist
- secret service agent
- security consultant
- security firm manager
- security guard/ officer
- social worker
- state highway patrol officer
- state trooper
- substance abuse counselor
- substance abuse specialist
- TSA agent/ officer
- victim witness officer
- victim’s advocate
- victim/ witness assistant
As for jobs growth, check the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (BLS OOH; http://bls.gov/ooh) for job role profiles. One of the jobs with high demand is Forensic Science Technicians, with a predicted 27% increase in positions (between 2014 and 2024). See the BLS OOH for other criminal justice occupations.
If you are interested in a career in criminal justice and closely-related fields, start with an affordable online bachelor’s degree using the ranked colleges below as a starting point to find your ideal program. Check the NOTES section at the end of this article, after the college rankings, if you need info on the ranking process, selecting colleges, etc.
Rankings: Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice Studies
Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University (source)
Wichita State University (WSU) is a public research university established in 1895 as Fairmount College. Its main campus and building complexes are located in Wichita, Kansas, about 160 miles north of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
WSU offers two online Criminal Justice programs, both Bachelor’s degrees. The Bachelor of Arts (BA) Field Major in Criminal Justice (CJ) requires at least 124 credit-hours, with 36 for the major. The Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) with an Emphasis in CJ, meanwhile, also requires at least 124 credit hours, but with 33 for the emphasis. Both are interdisciplinary, liberal arts degree completion programs that allow students to create their own curriculum and finish off prior college experience. One key difference between the two is that the BA Field Major has a foreign language requirement. (WSU’s BS in CJ may also now be available for online study; check with the school for details.) WSU provides a number of supports for online students, including a retention specialist who proactively monitors student progress and helps anyone who may be struggling. To improve affordability and help students progress more quickly through their studies, WSU has its Credit for Prior Learning program. Tuition-wise, all online students pay the same rate, there are no out of state fees.
Sample courses: Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice; Courts and Judicial Systems; Crime Causation and Criminal Justice Policy; Criminalistics; Homicide Investigations; Law Enforcement; Management of the Criminal Justice Agency; Organized and White Collar Crime; Profiling; Special Investigations
Student Center, Louisiana State University at Alexandria (source)
Louisiana State University at Alexandria (LSUA) is a public university established in 1959. LSUA is part of the Louisiana State University (LSU) System and is located in Alexandria, Louisiana, about 135 miles southeast of Shreveport, LA, and around 190 miles northwest of New Orleans, LA.
LSUA has one online Criminal Justice program — its Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice. This BS requires 120 credit-hours with 30 for the major and 42 for approved electives (primarily in criminal justice, but also some philosophy, psychology, and sociology course options). The degree combines an extensive criminal justice foundation with a broad liberal arts education providing students with practical and theoretical knowledge in all aspects of their chosen field, plus collaborative work skills, effective communication skills, and problem-solving abilities. This prepares them for careers in corrections, industrial security, juvenile justice administration, law enforcement, private security, or probation and parole; or for graduate studies or law school. To help with affordability and accelerate a student’s progress, LSUA provides credit for military service and training, and police academy training. Credit for other acquired knowledge or experience is possible, as well.
Sample courses: Administration of Criminal Justice; Constitutional Law and Criminal Justice; Correctional Institutions and Management; Ethical Leadership in Criminal Justice; Forensic Science Applications; Industrial and Business Security; Juvenile Delinquency; Probation and Parole; The Judicial Process; The U.S. Prison System
North Carolina Central University (source)
North Carolina Central University (NCCU) is a public HBCU (Historically Black College/ University) that was established in 1909 as the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua. NCCU is part of the University of North Carolina (UNC) System and is located in Durham, North Carolina, some 145 miles northeast of Charlotte, NC, and about 150 miles southwest of Richmond, Virginia.
NCCU offers one online Criminal Justice program — its Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice (CJ). This BS requires 124 semester credit hours in total, with 47 for the major: 35 for the CJ core and 12 for one of three concentration options (Corrections, Homeland Security, or Law Enforcement). This is a degree completion program that requires students to have already earned an appropriate associate’s degree or at least completed two years of college coursework. The degree provides students with not only a full understanding of the criminal justice system, but the analytical and critical thinking skills required to administer justice and prevent and control crime in today’s global society. The BS is suitable for both traditional students looking to start their careers, and as a career/ workforce development tool for those already working in corrections, the courts, customs and immigration, emergency management, homeland security, law enforcement, private security, or risk management.
Sample courses: Correctional Counseling; Criminal Justice Practicum; Criminal Justice Theory; Criminal Law, Procedure and Court Processes; Ethics and Diversity in Criminal Justice; Juvenile Justice; Police Management Theory; Research Methods in Criminal Justice with Lab; Senior Seminar; Statistical Methods in Criminal Justice with Lab
American Public University System (source)
American Public University System (APUS) — which includes APU (American Public University) and AMU (American Military University) — is a private, for-profit system of universities founded in 1991 and is based in Charles Town, West Virginia, about 65 miles northwest of Washington, DC. APUS is organized as an entirely online learning institution and has no campus.
APUS has seven online Criminal Justice (CJ) related programs: three Bachelors, one minor, three certificates. The Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminal Justice requires 121 semester-hours, with 48 for the major: 30 for core requirements; 3 for a capstone/ final program requirement; and 15 for the chosen concentration (General, Maritime Law Enforcement, or Organizational Law Enforcement Leadership). The BA is suitable for those starting their careers and those looking to further existing careers. Students interested in the forensic side of CJ can take APUS’s 121-hour Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice with a 24-hour Concentration in Forensics. For those interested in national, organizational, or private security, APUS has its 121-hour BA in Security Management with four 15-hour concentration options. Finally, APUS also has an 18-hour Minor in Security Management and three 18-hour Certificates: Corrections Management, Law Enforcement Leadership, and Security Management. (For related programs that don’t fit this list’s parameters, check APUS’s websites.)
Sample courses: Constitutional Law; Corrections and Incarceration; Crime Analysis; Criminalistics; Criminal Profiling; Human Trafficking; Law Enforcement Intelligence Applications; Patrol Methodologies and Community Policing; Stress Management in Law Enforcement; U.S. Law Enforcement
Main entrance, Northwestern State University of Louisiana (source)
Northwestern State University of Louisiana (NSU) is a public university established in 1884 as Louisiana State Normal School. NSU is part of the University of Louisiana System and its main campus is in Natchitoches, Louisiana, about 75 miles southeast of Shreveport, LA, and some 230 miles northeast of Houston, Texas.
NSU offers two online Criminal Justice-related programs, both Bachelor’s degrees. The Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminal Justice requires 120 credit hours, with about 44 for the major. The degree combines a comprehensive study of criminal justice with courses in politics, psychology, and sociology. This provides students with a complete perspective on the nature of crime and its causes, and how society does and should enact punishment and rehabilitation. (A 21-hour Minor in Criminal Justice may also be available online; check with NSU for details.) Students who want to focus on the legal aspects of criminal justice can use their electives to add a 21-hour Concentration in Prelaw and Paralegal Studies to the BA. Those who want to pursue management or administrative roles in the system have NSU’s 123-hour Bachelor of Science (BS) in Unified Public Safety Administration with a 21-hour Concentration in Law Enforcement Administration.
Sample courses: Adjudication Process; Analysis of Police Operations; Community Based Corrections; Criminal Evidence and Procedure; Criminal Investigation; Criminal Justice Ethics; Criminology, Foundations, and Punishment; Drug Use in Modern Society; Juvenile Delinquency and Justice; Senior Seminar in Criminal Justice
15: Park University
Park University, Mackay Hall (source)
Park University is a private, non-profit university established in 1875. Its main campus is located in Parkville, Missouri — a suburb of Kansas City, MO, which is about 10 miles southeast of Parkville.
Park has one main and one secondary online Criminal Justice (CJ) program. The main program is the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice Administration (CJA). This BS requires a minimum of 120 credit hours, with 42 for the major: 24 for CJ core courses, 12 for CJ electives, and 6 for a chosen concentration (Corrections, Law Enforcement, or Security). The degree provides students with a detailed philosophical, practical, and theoretical understanding of the American criminal justice system. This prepares them for careers in the private or public sector, with local, national, or even international organizations. Park’s secondary online CJ program is its 120-hour Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA); to which a 12-hour Area of Emphasis in Criminal Justice can be added. Park may also have an 18-hour CJA Minor available for online study. If so, that minor can be combined with another online minor to form a major within the 120-hour BS in Interdisciplinary Studies (check with Park for details on both possibilities).
Sample courses: Agency Administration; Criminal Investigation; Criminal Law; Criminal Procedure; Internship in Criminal Justice; Probation, Parole, and Community Corrections; Research in Criminal Justice; Security Administration; Senior Seminar in Criminal Justice; Senior Writing Project
14: Peirce College
Peirce College (source)
Peirce College is a private, not-for-profit college established in 1865 as Union Business College, one of the few post-secondary schools of the time to also offer career education to women. Its main campus is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Peirce offers one online Criminal Justice program — its Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice Studies (CJS). This BS requires at least 121 credits, with 51 for CJS courses and electives. The degree provides students with the criminal justice and liberal arts foundation needed to deal with the legal, policy, social, and technological aspects of crime, protection, punishment, and rehabilitation. Students will be able to pursue direct or theoretical applications of criminal justice within corrections, criminal investigations, juvenile justice, law enforcement, or private security. The BS is an online program but has a fully flexible delivery format/ interchangeable classroom attendance requirement (i.e., online students can freely attend classes on-campus anytime they like; on-campus students can take online classes anytime they need to). Most classes are taught in either an accelerated 7 or 8-week format, or traditional 14 or 15-week format; some classes can be taken in an intensive 3-week format.
Sample courses: Advanced Criminal Law and Procedure; Advanced Research Methods for Criminal Justice Studies; Cooperative Work Experience; Criminal Court System; Criminal Justice Capstone I and II; Criminology; Ethics in Criminal Justice; Law Enforcement and Police in Society; The Correctional System; Victims and Victimization
Bookstore, University of Maine at Augusta (source)
The University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) is a public university established in 1965. It is part of the University of Maine System and its main campus is located in Augusta, Maine, about 60 miles northeast of Portland, ME, and some 170 miles northeast of Boston, Massachusetts.
UMA offers five online Criminal Justice-related programs: three Bachelors, one post Bachelor’s, one minor. The Bachelor of Science (BS) in Justice Studies with a Criminal Justice Concentration requires 121 semester/ credit hours, with 33 for the major: 15 for core requirements and 18 for the concentration. The degree prepares students for corrections, law enforcement, or security-related careers. Students who want to design their own program can take UMA’s 121-123 hour Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Interdisciplinary Studies, which can be taken with a 36-hour Justice Studies Emphasis, or 15-hour Justice Studies Concentration. Students who already have an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) or Applied Arts (AAA) and want to advance or transition their careers can take UMA’s 121-hour Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) with an 18-hour Minor in Justice Studies. Students in other majors can also take this Justice Studies Minor. Those who already have a Bachelors in another discipline can take the 30-hour Post Baccalaureate of Science (PBS) in Justice Studies.
Sample courses: Community Policing; Comparative International Justice Issues; Counter-Terrorism; Due Process in Criminal Justice; Introduction to Forensic Science; Issues of Police Civil Liability; Judicial Processes; Principles of Investigations; Senior Seminar; The Law of Criminal Evidence
McNeese State University (source)
McNeese State University (MSU) is a public university established in 1939 as a division of Louisiana State University. Today it is part of the University of Louisiana System and is located in Lake Charles, Louisiana, some 210 miles west and somewhat north of New Orleans, LA, and about 145 miles east and somewhat north of Houston, Texas. Original name: Lake Charles Junior College.
MSU has one online Criminal Justice program — its Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice. The BS requires 120 credit-hours, with 30 for criminal justice courses and 3 for a capstone experience. This is a multidisciplinary degree that combines a diverse liberal arts education with a broad but in-depth exploration of the criminal justice system in the U.S. It prepares students for careers in corrections; in the courts or with related agencies; or in municipal, state, or federal law enforcement. Students will also have the foundation to continue on to graduate studies in criminal justice or criminology. The BS is an online degree completion program, but students can complete the entire degree online if they choose the 2+2 option and take the first two years of study through one of two program partners: Louisiana State University Eunice (LSU Eunice) or SOWELA Technical Community College. Finally, MSU also has an 18-hour Minor in Criminal Justice that should be available for online study (please check with the university to confirm).
Sample courses: Crime and Jurisdiction; Criminal Investigation; Criminalistics; Criminology; Deviance and Social Control; Judicial Systems/ Court Administration; Loss Prevention and Management; Police and Policing; Serial Murders; The U. S. Correctional System
Downtown Joplin, Missouri; aerial view (source)
Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) is a public university that was established in 1937 as Joplin Junior College. MSSU is located in Joplin, Missouri, some 155 miles south of Kansas City, MO, and about 120 miles northeast of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
MSSU offers four online Criminal Justice-related programs: one Bachelors, three minors. The Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice Administration (CJA) requires 124 semester hours, with 51 for the major: 39 for required CJA courses and 12 for CJA/ law enforcement electives. The BS teaches students the totality of the criminal justice system, giving them the foundation to pursue a range of CJ positions, or open their own private security firm. For students who are interested in becoming corrections officers or caseworkers, detentions officers, or trial investigators — and are majoring in CJA, psychology, or sociology — MSSU has its 24-hour Corrections Minor. Students in these same majors who want to work in child protection or with juvenile offenders have the 24-hour Juvenile Justice Minor. Finally, students in other majors who want to work in/ with criminal justice organizations (e.g., police officers, prosecutors, psychologists, security firm owners) can take MSSU’s 24-hour CJA Minor.
Sample courses: Asset Protection; Comparative Criminal Justice Systems and Cultures; Criminal Procedure; Fish and Game Enforcement; Homicide Investigation; International Justice Systems; Juvenile Procedures; Probation and Parole; Professional Writing in Criminal Justice; Traffic Accident Investigation and Control
Texas A & M University-Commerce (source)
Texas A&M University-Commerce (A&M-Commerce) is a public university established in 1889 as East Texas Normal College. It is part of the Texas A&M University System and its main campus is in Commerce, Texas, about 65 miles northeast of Dallas, TX.
A&M-Commerce has two online Criminal Justice programs, both Bachelor’s degrees. The Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice both require 120 semester hours, with 36 for the major (24 for core courses, 12 for electives) and 19-22 for support courses. The degree combines a detailed perspective on the three main areas of the criminal justice system — corrections, the courts, and law enforcement — with a social science-focused, liberal arts foundation. This allows students to address both criminal justice and social justice. The BA and BS are not fully online programs, but A&M-Commerce states that over 50% of their courses are available for online study. This includes being able to take all of the major’s upper-level courses and electives online, and most of the support courses. The degrees differ primarily in the BS requiring an additional math or science course, while the BA requires an additional course in one of the other core curriculum component areas.
Sample courses: Community-Based Corrections; Courts and Criminal Procedure; Crime and Criminology; Criminal Investigation; Criminal Law; Juvenile Delinquency; Ethics in Criminal Justice; Mass Media and Crime; Senior Seminar in Criminal Justice; Special Topics (in Criminal Justice)
Aerial view of Ellsworth AFB (source)
National American University-Ellsworth AFB Extension (NAU-Ellsworth, est. 1974) is a campus of National American University, a private, for-profit university established in 1941 in Rapid City, South Dakota. This branch is based in Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, some 10 miles northeast of Rapid City, SD. Several other NAU campuses also offer economical online Criminal Justice programs (please check with NAU or its website to determine what offerings are available at locations in your state of residence).
NAU-Ellsworth offers one online Criminal Justice program — its Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice. This BS requires 180 credits for graduation, with 88.5 for the major. The degree provides students with a liberal arts education combined with an extensive foundation in criminal justice to help them develop contextual skills in analytical thinking, effective communication, ethical decision-making, and leadership and management. This gives students the ability to not only pursue a variety of entry-level criminal justice positions (including in one of the field’s three main areas: corrections, the courts, or law enforcement), but the opportunity to progress toward administrative or supervisory positions. The program is designed to be completed in 3.75 years, but students who already have an Associate’s degree can qualify for the intensive format, allowing them to complete the BS in only 12 to 18 months.
Sample courses: Constitutional Law; Criminal Justice Capstone; Criminal Justice Planning and Innovation; Drugs and Alcohol in Criminal Justice; Homeland Security and Terrorism; Law and Public Policy; Management Topics in Criminal Justice; Police Issues and Practices; Professionalism and Ethics in Criminal Justice; Report Writing in Criminal Justice
Northern Kentucky University lake (source)
Northern Kentucky University (NKU) is a public university that was established in 1968 (but has roots that go back to 1946). NKU is located in Highland Heights, Kentucky, less than 10 miles southeast of Cincinnati, Ohio. Original name: Northern Kentucky State College.
NKU has three online Criminal Justice programs: two Bachelors, one minor. The Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminal Justice (CJ) requires 120 credits, with 48 for the major (24 for CJ core requirements, 24 for CJ electives). This BA provides students with a detailed perspective on crime and punishment, criminal law, criminal justice institutions, and ethics, along with improved skills in analytical and critical thinking, and personal and professional communication. This prepares them for a variety of career options, including working in corrections, the courts, dispute resolution, evidence preparation, investigations, or prisoners’ rights. Students in other majors who want to study criminal justice can take NKU’s 21-credit minor in Criminal Justice. For students who want to design their own interdisciplinary or trans-disciplinary degree program, NKU has the Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Studies (BAIS), which can be taken with the CJ Minor or a CJ Area of Focus (along with two other minors/ focus areas).
Sample courses: Advanced Crime Scene Technology and Criminalistics; Alternatives to Incarceration; Criminal Justice Research Methods; Ethics in Criminal Justice; Financial Investigations; Institutional Corrections; Perspectives on Crime; Police Management; Rights of the Convicted; The Criminal Court Systems
University of Louisiana at Monroe Library and Conference Center (source)
The University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) is a public university established in 1931 as Ouachita Parish Junior College. It is part of the University of Louisiana System and its main campus is in Monroe, Louisiana, about 270 miles northwest of New Orleans, LA, and 290 miles roughly east of Dallas, Texas.
ULM offers one online Criminal Justice program — its Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminal Justice. The BA requires 120 credit hours, with 42-45 for the major. The degree arms students with the knowledge they’ll need to pursue a variety of criminal justice careers, including in corrections (adult community, juvenile, or institutional), the courts, or law enforcement (municipal, state, or federal). A number of students also continue on to graduate studies or law school. Students in either the on-campus or online Criminal Justice program have historically done well in their careers: 88% are working in criminal justice within six months of graduation and over one-third receive promotions in their first five years of work. (ULM also has an 18-hour Minor in Criminal Justice that may be available online; check with the university for details.) To help students accelerate their studies, and to increase overall affordability, ULM offers a number of prior learning assessment (PLA) options.
Sample courses: Community-Based Corrections; Constitutional Law and Criminal Justice; Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice; Criminal Justice Procedure and Evidence; Criminal Law; Forensics; Management of Criminal Justice Agencies; Senior Seminar in Criminal Justice; Theories of Crime and Delinquency; Victimology
U of Texas-Permian, Parker Ranch House building (source)
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) is a public university that was established in 1973. UTPB is part of the University of Texas System and is located in Odessa, Texas, about 350 miles roughly southwest of Dallas, TX, and about 280 miles roughly east of El Paso, TX.
UTPB has one online Criminal Justice program — its Bachelor’s Completion Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice Online (CCJO), which leads to a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice. The BS requires at least 120 credit-hours for graduation, with about 66 for the CCJO. This is a collaborative program offered through the University of Texas System’s Online Consortium (UTOC) and utilizes courses from each participating institution. As a degree completion program, students are required to have already earned an appropriate Associate’s degree or completed at least 54 hours of lower-level coursework. While the degree suits students looking to start their careers in criminal justice (corrections, juvenile justice, law enforcement, parole, probation), it has primarily been designed for those who currently work in criminal justice and are looking to advance their careers (while being able to continue working).
Sample courses: Correctional Casework and Counseling; Criminal Careers and Behavior Systems; Criminal Evidence and Proof; Juvenile Delinquency and Justice; Legal Aspects of Corrections; Principles of Law Enforcement Supervision; Probation and Parole; Race, Crime, and Justice; The American Judicial System; Theories of Criminal Behavior
Indiana University East (source)
Indiana University East (IUE or IU East) is a public university established in 1971. IU East is part of the Indiana University System and its main campus is in Richmond, Indiana, some 70 miles east and slightly north of Indianapolis, IN, and about 70 miles northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio.
IU East offers three online Criminal Justice Bachelor’s degrees. The Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice (CJ) requires a minimum of 120 credit-hours, with about 42 for CJ courses. It is a degree completion program that requires students to have already earned an Associate’s degree or at least 60 transferrable hours of course credits. This BS provides students with the foundation required to not only understand crime (its causes, extent, and prevention), but also assess and improve the state of the criminal justice system. For students who may already be working in the criminal justice field and are looking to advance their careers, IU East has its 120-hour Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) with an Individualized Track in CJ. The BAS is also a degree completion program and requires students to have an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree. Finally, for students who want a 4-year online program, with academic flexibility, IU East has its Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) with a CJ Concentration.
Sample courses: Courts and Criminal Justice; Crime in the Mass Media; Criminal Justice Management; Foundations of Criminal Investigation; Legal Aspects of Criminal Justice; Police in Contemporary Society; Procedural Criminal Law; Senior Seminar in Criminal Justice; Theories of Crime and Deviance; Wrongful Conviction
University of Houston-Downtown Commerce building (source)
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is a public university originally established in 1974 as the University of Houston-Downtown College. UHD became a standalone institution and a member of the University of Houston System in 1979. The university currently has four campuses, with the main one located in downtown Houston, Texas.
UHD’s has two online Criminal Justice programs, both of which are Bachelor’s degrees and degree completion programs. The Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice (CJ) requires at least 120 semester credit hours in total, including 42 for the major (21 for CJ core courses and 21 for CJ electives); 3-12 for additional CJ requirements (application and enhancement courses); and 12 for a supplemental, non-CJ concentration. The BS provides students with the foundation needed to pursue managerial or professional careers in criminal justice, public service, or security management. For students who already work in criminal justice and want to advance their careers, or those transitioning to a CJ career, UHD has its Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (BAAS) with a Major in Criminal Justice. It also requires a minimum of 120 hours, with 30 for the major — 12 for required, upper-division CJ courses and 18 for prescribed, upper-division CJ electives — and 36 transferred from an existing Associate’s degree in AAS (or equivalent).
Sample courses: Community Oriented Policing; Crime, Law, and Society; Criminal Justice Ethics; Organized Crime; Security Management; Senior Seminar in Criminal Justice; Sex Crimes; The Criminal Court System; The Police System; Women and the Criminal Justice System
Downtown Fayetteville, North Carolina (source)
Third on our list of America’s most affordable online Criminal Justice Bachelor’s degrees is a program from Fayetteville State University (FSU), a public HBCU (Historically Black College/ University) established in 1867 as the Howard School. FSU is part of the University of North Carolina (UNC) System and is located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, about 60 miles southwest of Raleigh, NC, and some 130 miles east and slightly south of Charlotte, NC.
FSU’s online Criminal Justice program offering is its Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice. This BS requires 120 credits with 82 for program requirements, including 48 for criminal justice courses and electives. The degree not only prepares students for criminal justice careers, but also provides the foundation for them to continue on to law school or graduate studies (incl. FSU’s Master of Science/ MS in Criminal Justice). As this is a degree completion program, students must have already completed core curriculum courses, program prerequisites, and lower-division Criminal Justice courses in order to gain admission/ declare the online major. All lower-division courses can be taken on campus at FSU, online with the North Carolina Community College System (through a cooperative arrangement), or online/ on-campus at those other community colleges with which FSU has a dual enrollment agreement (which allows students to first earn an Associate’s degree).
Sample courses: Criminal Justice, Organization, Management, and Administration; Criminal Justice Research; Criminal Justice Statistics; Criminal Law; Criminological Theory; Police and Society; Prisons and Society; Race, Class, and Gender in Criminal Justice; Seminar in Criminal Justice; White Collar Crime
Dalton State College campus (source)
Second on our list of the most economical online Criminal Justice Bachelor’s degrees is an offering from Dalton State College (DSC), a public college established in 1963 as Dalton Junior College. DSC is part of the University System of Georgia (USG) and is located in Dalton, Georgia, about 90 miles northwest of Atlanta, GA, and some 30 miles southeast of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
DSC’s offers an online Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice. This BS requires 121-122 semester hours in total, with 60 for the Criminal Justice major: 18 for upper-division (UD) core courses, 9 for UD electives, and 33 for the Law Enforcement Concentration. The degree prepares students for careers in the correctional, juvenile justice, or probation system, or in law enforcement on the local, state, or federal level. Students will also be able to pursue graduate studies or law school. The BS is offered as part of the collaborative eMajor program designed to allow students at participating USG institutions to complete their degrees online. To complete lower-division courses required for the BS, students can utilize USG’s eCore and DSC’s eLearning online offerings (some electives, if chosen, may require on-campus study). To help with affordability, tuition for eMajor courses has been reduced by 20% for the Fall 2016 semester. Tuition for eMajor and eCore courses is the same for both state residents and non-residents.
Sample courses: Community Corrections; Criminal Investigation I and II; Criminal Law; Criminal Procedure; Drugs in America; Race, Ethnicity and Criminal Justice; Internship in Criminal Justice; Management of Forensics; Profiling the Serial Offender; Terrorism and Criminal Justice System
University of Texas at El Paso (source)
The most affordable online Bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice in the U.S. are offered by the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), a public university established in 1914 as the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy. Today, UTEP is part of the University of Texas System and is located in El Paso, Texas, some 550 miles northwest of San Antonio, TX, and about 270 miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
UTEP has three online Criminal Justice Bachelor’s degrees. The Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminal Justice requires 120 credit hours, with 36 for the major. This BA prepares students for careers in corrections, the court system, federal security, homeland security, law enforcement, or the legal field. The program also provides a special understanding into U.S.-Mexico border crime issues. For students who want to design their own course of study and/ or have already taken some college, UTEP has its Bachelor of Multidisciplinary Studies (BMS) with an Area of Concentration/ Interest in Criminal Justice. The BMS also requires 120 hours, with 45 (15 each) for three selected concentrations. For students with a particular interest in national or international security, UTEP has its new 120-hour BA in Security Studies (which received development funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/ DHS). Finally, UTEP also has an 18-hour Minor in Criminal Justice that may be available online (check with the school for details).
Sample courses: Applied Research Methods in Criminal Justice; Correctional Systems and Practices; Court Systems and Practices; Criminal Justice on US-Mexico Border; Criminal Justice Organizations and Management; Criminology; Cyber Crime; Immigration Law and Administration; Juvenile Justice; Police Systems and Practices
- In terms of topic categories searched in the NCES.ed.gov database, we queried only for programs in three “Criminal Justice” subcategories (Law Enforcement Administration, Police Science, Safety Studies). However, if the final 20 colleges in this rankings article have interdisciplinary programs, they might be mentioned in a school’s ranking.
- For online degree rankings, if a college does not report graduation rate, it is shown as 0% for that institution, for the purposes of charting and statistical summaries.
- A college’s tuition for online programs may differ than that quoted for the on-campus program. This could be due to either or both of technology fees and out-of-state-portion waivers. Check with a college if you’re unsure. We have listed the tuition and net price values recorded in the NCES.ed.gov database.
- As accreditation can change or only be valid regionally, please verify accreditation of any college to which you are planning to apply.
- NCES data is subject to change and some of these “affordable degrees” guides may use more recent data than described in the Methodology.
- For the full list of programs covered to date, please check our School Rankings page.
- Online programs are strongly self-directed and recommended only for students who are self-driven when it comes to studying and researching.
- Some online program selection tips:
- Spend the time to carefully read the degree requirements.
- Browse the course curriculum and make notes of the courses that interest you most.
- Consider creating a spreadsheet to compare summaries of course/ programs across the schools referenced here. If you are looking for a minimum set of courses, make a list of those courses, one per column. Then list ranked schools vertically in the spreadsheet, one per row. Color code or make an annotation for each course offered by a given school.
- Add other columns to record information about tuition, net price, #credits/ courses required, etc., and color code their cells as suitable.
- This visual approach to online program selection can be quite effective compared to staring at bare numbers.
- The methodology for this series on online bachelor’s degrees is essentially the same as for our 15-school college rankings list. For example, see the “Methodology” section of the ranking list article 15 of the Most Affordable Bachelor’s Degrees in Marketing for an explanation of the process we use to rank colleges in each topical bachelor’s list.