2020 Most Affordable Online Criminal Justice Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 9/27/2021
2020 Most Affordable Criminal Justice Bachelors Degrees Badge
By the OnlineU team | Updated 9/27/2021

Online criminal justice bachelor's programs are available for students looking to study the law and role of legal institutions in society. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, graduates may pursue a wide range of careers, such as police officers, detectives, correctional/probationary officers, FBI agents, or counselors, to name a few.

Our list below highlights the 24 most affordable online criminal justice programs offered by accredited colleges and universities, with annual tuition rates under $8,000. We also provide information for those pursuing an online program in this subject, including common courses, financial aid options, and whether this degree will be worth it in the long run.

You can read more about our ranked schools below or browse our rankings of the most affordable online master's in criminal justice. View our methodology or learn more about OnlineU.

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Metropolitan State University $4,037
# 2 #2 California Coast University $4,725
# 3 #3 Fort Valley State University $5,363
# 4 #4 Clayton State University $5,490
# 5 #5 Western Carolina University $5,670
# 6 #6 Georgia Southern University $5,766
# 7 (tie) #7 (tie) Georgia Highlands College $5,970
# 7 (tie) #7 (tie) Georgia Southwestern State University $5,970
# 7 (tie) #7 (tie) University of the Cumberlands $5,970
# 10 #10 Tarleton State University $6,044
# 11 #11 Valdosta State University $6,060
# 12 #12 Kennesaw State University $6,180
# 13 #13 Fort Hays State University $6,560
# 14 #14 Wichita State University $6,708
# 15 #15 Columbia Southern University $6,900
# 16 #16 University of North Carolina at Pembroke $6,977
# 17 #17 Ohio University-Main Campus $7,290
# 18 #18 Lamar University $7,440
# 19 #19 Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus $7,492
# 20 (tie) #20 (tie) Abraham Lincoln University $7,500
# 20 (tie) #20 (tie) Louisiana State University-Alexandria $7,500
# 20 (tie) #20 (tie) Minot State University $7,500
# 23 #23 Fayetteville State University $7,556
# 24 #24 Arkansas State University $7,740
#1
#1
Annual Tuition: $4,037
Annual Tuition: $4,037
Annual Tuition: $4,037

Metropolitan State University (MSU) offers two online criminal justice degrees: a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Science in Law Enforcement for Licensed Peace Officers- Track Three. The criminal justice degree provides opportunities for leadership, networking, and real-world experience, and gives students a foundation in criminal justice institutions and procedures. The program requires a 4-credit capstone internship or research. The law enforcement degree was designed to... enhance law enforcement careers through a combination of academic and hands-on work. Track three is intended for those who are already police officers and want to earn a bachelor’s degree. Both programs require a total of 120 credits.

Metropolitan State uses the D2L Brightspace learning platform and Zoom to deliver course content. Students can access coursework at their convenience. Transfer credits are accepted, but students must earn a minimum of 30 credits at MSU. Online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of their state of residency, and financial aid is available. Distance learners have access to an Online Learning Success Guide, technical support, academic advising, and library resources.

Students can apply online, and once admitted, they will need to complete 30 credits with a minimum GPA of 2.25 before enrolling in their major. A pre-major advising workshop is also required.

  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 34%
  • Acceptance Rate: 56%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,352
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 165
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Citizenship: Community Involvement, Sexual Violence and Child Exploitation, Technology and Modern Policing, Terrorism and Counterterrorism, The U.S. Intelligence Community, Women and Crime

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Law Enforcement for Licensed Peace Officers Track 3
#2
#2
Annual Tuition: $4,725
Annual Tuition: $4,725
Annual Tuition: $4,725

California Coast University's (CCU) Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice is a self-paced, online degree that requires 42 courses for a total of 126-semester units. The program includes core courses, general education courses, and electives. It is designed to provide students with an overview of the criminal justice and court system.

Classes are completed entirely online through CCU's digital platform. Students can transfer credits from another institution or take challenge exams to earn credits... by demonstrating their prior knowledge in a subject area. Tuition rates (which haven't risen since 2010) are frozen upon admission. Interest-free payment plans are also available. Online resources available to students include a Strategies for Success and Action Planning Guide, a writing lab, a digital library, and a resource page dedicated to criminal justice students.

To apply to this online criminal justice degree, students have to be at least 18 and have their high school diploma, GED, or equivalent. Prospective students need to submit a detailed resume with their application that lists their occupational, volunteer, and academic experience. Official transcripts are also required.

  • Online Degrees: 1
  • School Accreditation: DEAC

Example Classes: Criminal Behavior, Domestic Violence, Forensic Science, Research Methods in Criminal Justice and Criminology, Theory and Practices of Corrections, Theory and Practices of Law Enforcement

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • B.S. Criminal Justice
#3
#3

Fort Valley State University

Fort Valley (GA)
Annual Tuition: $5,363
Annual Tuition: $5,363
Annual Tuition: $5,363

Fort Valley State University offers a 123-credit hour Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. For a full-time student, this degree will take four years to complete. The curriculum includes courses such as Criminal Investigation, Research Methods in Criminal Justice, and Domestic and International Terrorism. It provides students with an understanding of the court and criminal justice systems and theories and research related to the field. A practicum or internship is required.

Coursework for this online... criminal justice bachelor's degree is delivered asynchronously through the D2L Brightspace learning management platform. It includes reading, assignments, and participation in online discussion boards. Financial aid is available, and online students receive a discounted tuition rate.

Prospective students need to submit an application, transcripts, and standardized test scores. There is no fee to apply. Applicants need a minimum GPA of 2.4 to be admitted without consideration of test scores. Students with a minimum GPA of 2.25 will be considered with satisfactory test scores. Applications are accepted in the fall, spring, and summer.

  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 35%
  • Acceptance Rate: 44%
  • Average SATs: 850 -960
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 40
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 68
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (478) 825-6211

Example Classes: Alternatives to Incarceration, Minorities, Crime and Social Policy, Mock Court, Private Security, Theories & Development of Juvenile Gangs, Women in the Criminal Justice System

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
#4
#4
Annual Tuition: $5,490
Annual Tuition: $5,490
Annual Tuition: $5,490
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 30%
  • Acceptance Rate: 42%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,153
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 275
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (678) 466-4000

Example Classes: Capital Punishment, Corrections, Courts in the United States, Crime as Entertainment, Domestic Security, Judicial Process

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Administrative Management - Criminal Justice
#5
#5
Annual Tuition: $5,670
Annual Tuition: $5,670
Annual Tuition: $5,670
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 62%
  • Acceptance Rate: 39%
  • Average SATs: 1020 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,691
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 704
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (828) 227-7100

Example Classes: Cyber Crime, Geographic Information Systems and Criminal Justice, Issues in Correctional Treatment, Legal Liability in Criminal Justice Personnel, Minorities, Crime, and Social Policy, Stress Management in Criminal Justice

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Administration of Justice
#6
#6

Georgia Southern University

Statesboro (GA)
Annual Tuition: $5,766
Annual Tuition: $5,766
Annual Tuition: $5,766
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
  • Graduation Rate: 50%
  • Acceptance Rate: 68%
  • Average SATs: 1050 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,088
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,619
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (912) 478-5391

Example Classes: Comparative World Justice Systems, Crime and Justice in Public Policy, Crimes Against Vulnerable Populations, Gangs and Society, Justice Studies Research Methods, Organized Crime in a Global Society

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies - Justice Studies
#7
#7
Annual Tuition: $5,970
Annual Tuition: $5,970
Annual Tuition: $5,970
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 79%
  • Graduation Rate: 12%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,032
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (800) 332-2406

Example Classes: Courts and Basic Criminal Procedure, Crime and Media, Minorities in United States History, Profiling of Serial Offenders, Terrorism and the Criminal Justice System, The American Police System

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
#7
#7
Annual Tuition: $5,970
Annual Tuition: $5,970
Annual Tuition: $5,970
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 38%
  • Acceptance Rate: 67%
  • Average SATs: 940 -1120
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 604
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 208
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Crime and Media, Drugs in America, Family Violence, Juvenile Delinquency & Justice, Police Problems and Practices, Profiling Serial Offenders

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
#7
#7

University of the Cumberlands

Williamsburg (KY)
Annual Tuition: $5,970
Annual Tuition: $5,970
Annual Tuition: $5,970
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Acceptance Rate: 74%
  • Average SATs: 930 -1140
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,640
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 7,852
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (606) 549-2200

Example Classes: Child Abuse Investigation, Death Investigation, Deviance and Society, Homeland Security, Society and Criminal Law

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
#10
#10

Tarleton State University

Stephenville (TX)
Annual Tuition: $6,044
Annual Tuition: $6,044
Annual Tuition: $6,044
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 87%
  • Graduation Rate: 49%
  • Acceptance Rate: 50%
  • Average SATs: 950 -1140
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,700
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,033
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (254) 968-9000

Example Classes: Criminal Justice Supervision and Management, Professional Writings in Criminal Justice, Rules of Criminal Evidence

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BAAS in Criminal Justice Administration
#11
#11
Annual Tuition: $6,060
Annual Tuition: $6,060
Annual Tuition: $6,060
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 40%
  • Acceptance Rate: 74%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1140
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,107
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,886
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (229) 333-5800

Example Classes: Classification of Criminal Behavior, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, Issues in Cybercrime, Organized Crime, Seminar in Law Enforcement, Terrorism

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
#12
#12
Annual Tuition: $6,180
Annual Tuition: $6,180
Annual Tuition: $6,180
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 46%
  • Acceptance Rate: 61%
  • Average SATs: 1050 -1230
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,315
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,792
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (470) 578-6000

Example Classes: Corrections, Criminal Investigation, Juvenile Justice, Legal Analysis, Police Administration, Technology and Criminal Justice, Technology and Cyber Crime

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
#13
#13
Annual Tuition: $6,560
Annual Tuition: $6,560
Annual Tuition: $6,560
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Acceptance Rate: 89%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 4,411
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,453
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (785) 628-4000

Example Classes: Corporate Crime and Deviance, Criminal Law and Procedure, Criminal Profiling, Introduction to Private Security/Crime Prevention, Law of Cyberspace

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
#14
#14
Annual Tuition: $6,708
Annual Tuition: $6,708
Annual Tuition: $6,708
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 50%
  • Acceptance Rate: 94%
  • Average SATs: 1030 -1270
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,272
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 632
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (316) 978-3456

Example Classes: Corrections, Courts & Judicial Systems, Crime Causation and Criminal Justice Policy, Spanish for Law Enforcement

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of General Studies - Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
#15
#15

Columbia Southern University

Orange Beach (AL)
Annual Tuition: $6,900
Annual Tuition: $6,900
Annual Tuition: $6,900
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 22%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 14,364
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 5,670
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: DEAC
  • Phone #: (251) 981-3771 x1278

Example Classes: Police and Community Relations, Probation and Parole, Procedures in the Justice System, Race and Ethnic Relations, Supervision of Criminal Justice Personnel, Workplace Security

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • B.S. Criminal Justice Administration
  • B.S. Criminal Justice Administration-Arson Investigation
  • B.S. Criminal Justice Administration-Forensics
#16
#16
Annual Tuition: $6,977
Annual Tuition: $6,977
Annual Tuition: $6,977
  • Online Degrees: 5
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 41%
  • Acceptance Rate: 81%
  • Average SATs: 930 -1080
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,435
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 853
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (910) 521-6000

Example Classes: Addiction and Women, Criminal Justice Writing/Rhetoric, Drugs, Society, and Behavior, Offender Rehabilitation, Social Research, Sociology of Mental Disorders

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Criminal Justice Studies
  • Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Criminal Justice Studies - Applied Organization Management
  • Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Criminal Justice Studies - Sociology
  • Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Criminal Justice Studies - Substance Abuse
#17
#17
Annual Tuition: $7,290
Annual Tuition: $7,290
Annual Tuition: $7,290
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 65%
  • Acceptance Rate: 74%
  • Average SATs: 1050 -1260
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 4,926
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,892
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (740) 593-1000

Example Classes: Civil Liberties, Corporate and Governmental Crime, Gender and Justice, Social Psychology of Justice, Sociology of Masculinity, Violence Against Women

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Criminal Justice
#18
#18

Lamar University

Beaumont (TX)
Annual Tuition: $7,440
Annual Tuition: $7,440
Annual Tuition: $7,440
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 34%
  • Acceptance Rate: 82%
  • Average SATs: 960 -1140
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,222
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 6,150
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (409) 880-7011

Example Classes: Correctional Administration, Crime and Criminals, Organized Crime, Police Problems, Quantitative Methods in Criminology, Responses to Crime

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
#19
#19
Annual Tuition: $7,492
Annual Tuition: $7,492
Annual Tuition: $7,492
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 36%
  • Acceptance Rate: 60%
  • Average SATs: 900 -1110
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,514
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 917
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (575) 562-1011

Example Classes: Criminal Law and the Courts, Deviant Behavior, Race, Ethnicity, and Gender, Sociology of Law

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Applied Arts and Science in Criminal Justice/Sociology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
#20
#20

Abraham Lincoln University

Los Angeles (CA)
Annual Tuition: $7,500
Annual Tuition: $7,500
Annual Tuition: $7,500
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 67%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 54
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 171
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: DEAC
  • Phone #: (213) 252-5100

Example Classes: Criminal Investigations, Criminal Procedure, Criminalistics, Juvenile Justice, Technology in Criminal Justice

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Criminal Justice - BS
#20
#20
Annual Tuition: $7,500
Annual Tuition: $7,500
Annual Tuition: $7,500
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Graduation Rate: 28%
  • Acceptance Rate: 31%
  • Average SATs: 940 -1050
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,035
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Constitutional Law and Criminal Justice, Ethical Leadership in Criminal Justice, Juvenile Delinquency, Police Process, Professional Writing in Criminal Justice

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
#20
#20
Annual Tuition: $7,500
Annual Tuition: $7,500
Annual Tuition: $7,500
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 45%
  • Acceptance Rate: 69%
  • Average SATs: 910 -1140
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 374
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 178
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (701) 858-3000

Example Classes: Campus Crime, International Crime, Interviewing and Interrogation, Offender Risk Assessment and Typology, Punishment-From Corporal to Capital, Use of Force in Policing

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - CCAF AU-ABC
#23
#23

Fayetteville State University

Fayetteville (NC)
Annual Tuition: $7,556
Annual Tuition: $7,556
Annual Tuition: $7,556
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 34%
  • Acceptance Rate: 68%
  • Average SATs: 870 -1010
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,714
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 603
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (910) 672-1111

Example Classes: Drugs and Crime, Media and Crime, Race, Class, and Gender in Criminal Justice, Restorative Justice, Sex, Sexuality and the Law, White Collar Crime

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice (Degree Completion)
#24
#24

Arkansas State University

Jonesboro (AR)
Annual Tuition: $7,740
Annual Tuition: $7,740
Annual Tuition: $7,740
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Acceptance Rate: 66%
  • Average SATs: 1013 -1220
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,064
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,414
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (870) 972-2100

Example Classes: Criminal Law and the Constitution, History of Law Enforcement, Perspectives on Death and Dying, Serial Homicide, Sociology of Family Violence, Sociology of Youth Subcultures

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BA in Criminology

Overview of Affordable Online Criminal Justice Programs

Studying criminal justice may be an appropriate first step for those who want to build their careers around public safety. Students can choose from a broad selection of criminal justice programs that fit their circumstances and career goals, and many of these programs are available completely online. Some schools also offer specializations in cybersecurity, homeland security, or emergency management, which can help students further refine their skills in a specific niche of interest.

Cost is often a major consideration in prospective students' college decision process, with the student debt crisis impacting many college graduates. Some online programs may offer more affordable alternatives to earning a traditional degree.


We studied a sample of online criminal justice programs at 51 schools and found that the median annual tuition was $13,503. Tuition rates range from $4,037 to $7,740 a year among the 24 most affordable schools.


Online bachelor's programs typically require the completion of 120-126 college credit hours to graduate. While most full-time students need four years to complete an online or on-campus program, some may be able to finish in less time.


How Difficult Are Online Degrees in This Subject?

The difficulty level of a criminal justice degree depends on each student's interests and abilities. The coursework pushes students to sharpen their analytical and critical thinking skills in particular. Specifically, criminal justice — a liberal arts program — often requires a great deal of independent reading, research, and writing, but it also involves group collaboration on projects.

Students may wonder whether a criminal justice program will be more difficult online or in person. However, online programs are comparable to in-person programs. To maintain accreditation, schools typically design the curriculum for their online criminal justice programs to be the same as — or very similar — to their on-campus counterparts. Courses generally cover the same materials and meet the same objectives, and they are often taught by the same faculty members. Whether students follow a traditional path or pursue distance education, they must fulfill a standardized set of graduation requirements to earn their degrees.


Common Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Courses

Students pursuing bachelor's degrees in criminal justice learn about the underlying issues that drive crime as well as the process involved in identifying, apprehending, prosecuting, incarcerating, and rehabilitating those accused of criminal behavior. Students are likely to take online courses covering the three pillars of crime and justice: law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. The topics of diversity and ethics are often interwoven throughout the course material as well. The following presents a list of common courses in this field:

  • Constitutional Law: With coursework emphasizing the protection of citizens' rights, this course provides an in-depth look at the Constitution and amendments governing criminal justice procedures as well as the overall legal system.
  • Corrections: This course looks at the historical and contemporary practices in the U.S. correctional system. Students delve into punishment’s legal and philosophical foundations while discussing important issues, such as prisoners' rights, prison life, rehabilitation, capital punishment, and juvenile justice.
  • Criminal Courts and the Judicial System: The criminal court system bridges law enforcement and the correctional system. The coursework provides an overview of relevant legal procedures, from the rules governing police investigation and apprehension to trial court procedures and sentencing. Students also review the roles of local, state, and federal courts.
  • Criminal Investigation: This class introduces students to fundamental crime scene investigation practices and procedures, and it may involve some experiential learning or case studies. Students learn about the various tools and methods used to scrutinize different types of crimes, crime scenes, and the investigative processes used in laboratories.
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice: Typically, this course is one of the first classes in a criminal justice program, as it explores the criminal justice process from beginning to end. The course material often addresses essential trends and issues, such as due process, community policing, rehabilitation theories, the juvenile justice system, and individual rights.
  • Policing and Law Enforcement: This course introduces law enforcement operations, strategies, and procedures at the federal, state, and local levels. The coursework also addresses critical contemporary issues confronting law enforcement agencies, such as officer selection and training, multi-jurisdictional cooperation, and police misconduct.
  • Emergency Management: The faculty's goal in this class is to teach students how to oversee emergency responses to natural and manmade disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires. The coursework provides a broad overview of managerial functions, including emergency management planning, crisis communication methods, resource allocation, mitigation tactics, and risk assessment.

Accreditation

A school's accreditation status is not only a requirement for students to qualify for financial aid and transfer credits between schools, it’s also necessary for acceptance into most graduate programs. Accreditation also ensures a credible, quality online degree. For a list of accredited schools, students can visit CHEA’s database. Verifying a school's accreditation is an important step that students should take before enrolling in their program.

Verifying a school's accreditation is an important step that students should take before enrolling in their program.

For a college or university to earn accreditation, an independent agency authorized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education must evaluate the school's programs, facilities, faculty, and other resources. They determine whether a school meets the national standards for quality and academic rigor. In addition to institution-level accreditation, some individual criminal justice programs may be certified by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences to provide an extra level of quality assurance.


Funding an Online Criminal Justice Degree

By filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), students — whether they are pursuing a criminal justice degree online or in-person — can qualify for federal student aid, including grants, loans, and work-study funds. Federal work-study programs, for example, allow students to gain work experience at participating organizations while earning income to help pay for higher education costs. Grants are a form of financial aid that students do not need to repay in most circumstances. Federal loans, on the other hand, must be paid back with interest. While private loans are available to students through banks, this is often considered a last resort. Private loans traditionally have higher interest rates and less flexible repayment options than federal loans.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program offered by the U.S. Department of Education is an alternative aid option for graduates entering public service careers. Individuals must be employed by a non-profit organization or federal, state, local, or tribal government agency to qualify. They also need to make 120 monthly payments toward their federal student loans before being eligible for loan forgiveness.


Scholarships

To help with affordability, many private and public universities, associations, and institutions offer scholarships, which do not require repayment. Although there are relatively few scholarships specific to criminal justice majors, students may be interested in some of the following options.

My Alarm Center Scholarship

Three $1,000 scholarships are awarded to the winners of this essay contest. Only high school seniors or first-/second-year college students can enter.

Alpha Phi Sigma Scholarships

Alpha Phi Sigma, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society, offers scholarships to members ranging from $125-$1,000.

Pursuing A Positive Impact Scholarship

The Commonwealth Law Group awards a $3,000 scholarship to a high school or undergraduate student with at least a 3.0 GPA who submits an essay detailing how they volunteer in their community.

For additional information, students can check out our resources about paying for a college degree, which include details about the popular college savings plans, financial mistakes to avoid, and more.


Are There Tuition Discounts for Active Military or Law Enforcement Personnel?

Active military, veterans, and members of law enforcement may be able to reduce the cost of their college degrees through tuition discounts and other special offers. Many schools — such as Western Carolina University and Georgia Southern University — offer military tuition assistance to active military members and veterans pursuing in-person or online education in criminal justice. Valdosta State University, also featured on our list of affordable online criminal justice degrees, covers 100% of tuition costs for active-duty personnel. To compare military or veteran benefits by school, students can use the GI Bill Comparison Tool.

At some schools, law enforcement personnel may also be eligible for tuition discounts. Columbia Southern University, for example, offers a 10% tuition discount and no application fee for members of the National Sheriff's Association.


Criminal Justice Career Options

Graduates of online criminal justice programs typically follow one of three major career paths: (1) Many go into law enforcement, serving as police officers, detectives, or criminal investigators. (2) Others move into the corrections system, working as probation officers and correctional treatment officers. (3) In the third path, graduates may find work in the court system as criminal law paralegals or bailiffs.

In the private sector, there are additional career opportunities for bachelor's degree holders. For example, criminal justice majors can become information security analysts or private investigators. Students can also choose to pursue advanced degrees, like a master's degree in this subject or a J.D., that open up the door to specialized career options. Below is a list of potential careers for criminal justice majors, including salary and job outlook data from the BLS:

Criminal Law Paralegals

  • Median Annual Salary: $52,920
  • Job Growth Rate: 12%

Criminal Law Paralegals work within the legal system to support attorneys in case proceedings by drafting motions and pleadings, interviewing witnesses, and conducting research. They may work for lawyers in private practices or within government agencies. Paralegals typically need an associate degree to enter the criminal justice field. However, many employers prefer or require that applicants hold a bachelor's degree. In 2020, paralegals earned a median salary of $52,920. The job outlook for paralegals is expected to grow at a rate of 12%, which is faster than average.

Law Enforcement Officers

  • Median Annual Salary: $67,290
  • Job Growth Rate: 7%

Law Enforcement Officers work for governmental agencies at the local, state, or federal levels. In general, police officers are responsible for protecting lives and property, while detectives collect evidence and solve crimes. Police officers can work in patrol, transit and railroad, or fish and wildlife services at the state level. The BLS reports that the 2020 median annual pay for police officers or detectives was $67,290 per year, and the occupation is projected to grow 7% through 2030. While all officers need to pass examinations and attend a training academy in order to work in police departments, the requirements for these positions can range from a high school diploma for local officers to an undergraduate degree for state/federal agents.

Private Detectives/Criminal Investigators

  • Median Annual Salary: $53,320
  • Job Growth Rate: 13%

Private Detectives/Criminal Investigators are full-time professionals who generally have previous work experience and a license in addition to a high school diploma or college degree. Individuals, attorneys, and businesses may hire these professionals to gather information, collect evidence from a crime scene, and perform surveillance. Private detectives earned a median annual salary of $53,320 in 2020, and the job outlook is projected to grow 13% by 2030.

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

  • Median Annual Salary: $55,690
  • Job Growth Rate: 4%

Probation Officers work with people on parole or probation, while correctional treatment specialists — also known as corrections officers — work with people who are currently incarcerated. The roles are similar, and both involve assisting individuals in rehabilitation. Some duties include conducting evaluations, administering drug tests, and providing job training or other support services. Probationary officers and correctional treatment specialists earned a median annual salary of $55,690 in 2020. The demand for these jobs is expected to grow 4%, which is lower than the national average. Workers in this field must hold a bachelor's degree and may be required to pass additional exams.

Substance Use and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

  • Median Annual Salary: $47,660
  • Job Growth Rate: 23%

Substance Use and Behavioral Disorder Counselors may work in community health centers or prisons to help those suffering from mental health problems or addiction. Most counselors in this category need at least a bachelor's degree to enter the field. Recent data from the BLS indicates that this job is in high demand, with an expected growth rate of 23% through 2030. The median annual salary was $47,660 for substance abuse or behavioral disorder counselors in 2020.


Is an Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Worth It?

A bachelor's degree in criminal justice can open the gateway for graduates to enter the three sectors of law: enforcement, courts, and corrections. Like any degree, it requires a significant investment of time and money, so prospective students should consider their personal circumstances along with other potential pros and cons.

Potential Benefits

  • Criminal justice degrees can be versatile. This bachelor's degree can help secure employment in a number of jobs across all three areas of the law. Many programs offer concentrations, such as administration, management, and cybersecurity.
  • A degree may facilitate career advancement. Entry-level jobs in law enforcement and corrections don't always require a bachelor's degree, but a degree can help officers earn promotions.
  • Jobs as federal agents usually require a bachelor's degree. Individuals who aspire to careers in federal law enforcement may want to enroll in an undergraduate program.

Potential Drawbacks

  • If the goal is to take the LSAT and pursue law school, other majors may help students develop more relevant skills. Alumni of other college majors, such as economics and philosophy, score higher on the LSAT.
  • Criminal justice professionals may experience higher unemployment than other majors. A 2021 survey of labor market outcomes showed that graduates with criminal justice degrees saw higher levels of unemployment rates than those with degrees in psychology and economics but lower rates than those majoring in math, physics, or ethnic studies degrees.

An online program in criminal justice allows students the flexibility to work on assignments, watch lectures, and post to discussion forums on their own time as long as they respect due dates. Also, students don't need to uproot their lives and move closer to their chosen school, even if their ideal program is on the other side of the country. Generally, a downside to online education is potentially foregoing some informal networking opportunities that may be helpful. Additionally, not everyone's ideal learning style is suited to the online format. Some students prefer live interactions with professors and classmates.