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Best Criminal Justice Schools of 2016

Criminal Justice Degree Schools Welcomes You

CJDS’s goal is to be the most thorough and trusted career and education guide for those interested in exploring, entering or advancing in the criminal justice and paralegal fields. Here, you will find information and resources on the best criminal justice schools and associated degrees, as well as profiles on 80+ criminal justice careers. The site also contains information on paralegal careers and paralegal degrees.

Online & Campus Criminal Justice Schools by State

Many criminal justice schools offer a number of online degrees and training programs, with several of them designed specifically for working professionals. The online schools listed on our site provide specialized training and education at your fingertips — complete your classes online, at your own pace, and graduate with the knowledge you need to begin your job search or advance your career. We feature only accredited criminal justice colleges, schools and universities and have created helpful resource sections like paralegal schools by state.

US News’ Top Rated US Criminal Justice Schools

According to the US News, which ranks criminal justice programs based on a survey of faculty at 36 criminal justice schools 1, the top schools in the country are:

1. University of Maryland College Park – College Park, MD: The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland has one of the top graduate programs in the nation according to the US News and World Report. So sought after is this school that they have to enforce a cap on undergraduate enrollment. In addition to a bachelor’s program, the department has a Traditional Master’s (with the option of taking courses in China), a Joint Master of Arts/Juris Doctor, and a Doctor of Philosophy. The internationally known faculty are current and former officers of the American Society of Criminology as well as editors for almost every major related publication in the field. The department website has an updated list of various internships, fellowships and grant opportunities for both students and professors.

2. University at Albany SUNY – Albany, NY: The School of Criminal Justice at the University of Albany- SUNY has available a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, a Minor, a Master of Arts, and a Doctorate. The graduate program at this university ranks second in the nation among criminal justice/criminology education centers, according to the US News and World Report. Both the MA and PhD programs offer an Information Technology Concentration, a very useful tool for those who are wishing to further develop their expertise in quantitative research and data analysis. The superstar faculty are innovative researchers who supervise many collaborative projects within one or more of the current seven department research centers: Adolescent Work and Crime, Capital Jury Project, Capital Punishment Research Initiative, Incarceration and Life Outcomes, Rochester Youth Development Study (RYDS), Service Outcomes Action Research (SOAR), and Utilization of Criminal Justice Statistics.

3. University of Cincinnati – Cincinnati, OH: The School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati has one of the top graduate programs in the country according to the US News and World Report. Students can pursue a BS, and MS (with a fully-online option), and a PhD. The school has two centers, the Institute of Crime Science and the Center of Criminal Justice Research, where students and faculty pursue their own projects. There are also three journals published by the School of Criminal Justice; Policing: An International Journal of the Police Strategies & Management, the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, and Security Journal.

4. University of Missouri St. Louis – St. Louis, MO: The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri – St. Louis has a Bachelor of Science in Criminology, a Master’s in Criminology and Criminal Justice and a PhD program. This school currently has six grant funded research projects including “Understanding the Crime Drop in New York” and “A Multi-method, Multi-site Study of Gang Desistance.” Over two dozen part-time and full-time faculty teach within the department and research emphases in prisoner reentry, youth violence and gangs, terrorism, victimization, and crime control policy. UMLS hosts a guest speaker series every year for its students with guests coming from other universities and government agencies.

5. Pennsylvania State University University Park – University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University- University Park offers a Bachelor of Arts/Science, a Master of Arts, and a PhD in Crime, Law, and Justice through the Department of Sociology and Crime, Law, and Justice. The undergraduate program has over 650 majors and the graduate program has been ranked fifth in the nation among criminal justice/ criminology programs (tied with the University of California-Irvine) by the US News and World Report. The department has eight affiliate research programs and centers: the Population Research Institute, the Justice Center for Research, the Social Science Research Institute, the Center for Healthy Aging, the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission, the Social Thought Program, the Association of Religious Data Archives, and the World in Conservation Project. Numerous expert faculty members teach for the Crime, Law, and Justice programs, a large portion of which have research interests in how demographics relate to crime.

6. University of California Irvine – Irvine, CA: The Department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California-Irvine offers a Bachelor of Arts, a Master’s of Advanced Study, and a PhD in Criminology, Law and Society. The graduate program, according to the US News and World Report, is tied for fifth in the nation (with Pennsylvania State University-University Park) among criminology/criminal justice educational programs; and among the faculty are former presidents of the American Society of Criminology, the Law and Society Association, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the American Psychology-Law Society. There are six research centers with which the department is affiliated: the Center for Evidence-Based Corrections; Center for Inequality and Social Justice; the Center in Law, Society and Culture; the Center for Organizational Research; the Center for Psychology and Law, and the Newkirk Center for Science and Society. The Master of Advanced Study is an online graduate program that is designed for working and experienced legal and criminal justice professionals.

7. Florida State University – Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University has an entire College of Criminology and Criminal Justice where students can pursue anything from a certificate to a doctorate. Those who wish to jump straight from undergraduate to graduate study can enroll in the combined Bachelors-Masters Degree Program. FSU also offers fully online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for qualified students that are unable to attend the face-to-face classes. The college has three affiliated publications to which both faculty and students contribute articles; Criminology and Public Policy, Journal of Drug Issues, and Social Problems. Florida State is world-renowned for its criminal justice programs and was even ranked 7th by the US News and World Report for graduate study.

8. Michigan State University – East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University has the School of Criminal Justice, which is the oldest program of its kind in the United States. Degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels are available with a long list of specializations and tracks such as security management, judicial administration, and the CJ Master’s Online. The School of Criminal Justice also has a Forensic Science Master’s as well as a Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis Master’s Program. Seven different graduate certificate programs are currently active, with Conservation Criminology and Homeland Security being among the most sought after. The faculty are world renowned experts in a wide range of research focuses including corrections, policing, youth deviance, and victimization.

9. Rutgers – Newark, NJ: The Criminal Justice Program at Rutgers University- New Brunswick is an undergraduate course of study that draws courses from multiple departments. In addition to the core methodology courses, students fulfill their thematic requirements by completing courses within two of three of the following concentrations: Human Behavior, Deviance, and Crime; Social Control Institutions; and Law and Ethics. The internship program allows students to gain professional experience through involvement with one or more of many organizations and agencies, but the Surveillance Investigator Internship and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center continue to soar in popularity among students. The program also offers pre-law advising for majors who are considering advancing onto law school.

10. CUNY John Jay College – New York, NY: The John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York has two dozen undergraduate degree programs such as the BS in Forensic Science or the BA in Culture and Deviance Studies, as well as ten graduate programs including International Crime and Justice, Forensic Psychology, and Criminal Justice. Students and faculty pursue their individual research projects through one or more of the dozen centers, such as the Center on Terrorism or the Center of Cybercrime Studies, and the five different institutes such as the CUNY Justice Academy and the Homeland Security Network. The dozens of faculty are experts in their fields and supervise research in highly specialized areas such as Corrections, Media and Crime, Terrorism, and Urban Crime. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice also offers a PhD in Criminal Justice and a PhD in Psychology.

Profiles of Well-Known Online Criminal Justice Colleges

Arizona State University: Arizona State University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice program as well as an online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MACJ) program. The MACJ takes 33 credit hours to complete and emphasizes the context of crime and its impacts on society. A capstone course, Theory and Practice in Criminal Justice, requires students to professionally present a paper on policy and practice. The online BS in Criminology and Criminal Justice program includes the same courses that on-campus students take to meet degree requirements, affording working individuals the opportunity to graduate from one of the top criminal justice schools in the nation. ASU online students also have access to many different scholarships and grants that cater to those pursuing virtual instruction.

Penn State World Campus: Penn State World Campus, the online branch of Pennsylvania State University, offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice that teaches students theoretical and practical skills and knowledge in crime control. Online courses in the major mirror those that are taught on-campus and are led by the same faculty. In addition to learning the principles of law, policing, and corrections, students study incarceration alternatives and are introduced to the principles of social science research. An optional 18 credit-hour minor in Homeland Security is available to complement the degree. Penn State also offers an online Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security geared towards students interested in homeland security careers in the public and private sectors.

New England College: New England College (NEC) awards the Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice to students who complete its fully online criminal justice curriculum. Core courses in the major include Criminal Justice Ethics, Contemporary Law Enforcement, and Statistics for the Social Sciences. Students may also elect to complete a criminal justice internship in a local agency for course credit. NEC was founded in 1946 and holds regional accreditation through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. NEC’s online students receive the same diploma as traditional on-campus students. The school is a member of the University Alliance of traditional universities offering online programs, which facilitates e-learning and provides students with state-of-the-art online course technologies.

Azusa Pacific University: Azusa Pacific University has an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program that equips students with the professional knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the criminal justice field. In addition to emphasizing professional skills, the program provides students with academic learning from the practical and theoretical perspectives. Students may elect to choose an emphasis area to customize the learning experience and prepare for careers of interest; emphasis options include Clinical Psychology; Criminal Behavior; Cultural Psychology; Forensics; Human Services; Paralegal; or Public Administration. At least 60 credit hours of the program are devoted to criminal justice and emphasis-area topics, providing students with in-depth preparation for work in diverse areas of the criminal justice professions.

University of Maryland University College: University of Maryland University College (UMUC) maintains an online criminal justice bachelor’s degree program that prepares students for work in law enforcement and federal agencies. The core curriculum includes study in correctional administration, law enforcement administration, and victimology. Students may also earn a minor in a related field, such as Emergency Management, Forensics, or Homeland Security. Those who have earned an associate’s degree from a community college in Maryland may be eligible for guaranteed admission and the UMUC Completion Scholarship, which reduces tuition cost for state residents. UMUC also maintains online master’s degree programs in Cybersecurity, Digital Forensics, and Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Management.

Bellevue University: The online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program at Bellevue University emphasizes applied learning to help students develop career skills in public service, safety, and security in an accelerated learning format. Courses in the program examine contemporary issues, critical analysis, policy development, and strategic management of resources and issues in the criminal justice field. The program is open to those who have at least an associate’s degree or 60 credit hours of college coursework. Active duty military personnel are eligible for reduced tuition rates. Bellevue University also offers online Master of Science programs in Justice Administration and Crime Management; Cybersecurity; International Security and Intelligence Studies; and Security Management.

Wilmington University: Wilmington University offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program that can be completed as a stand-alone degree or as an accelerated bachelor’s plus Master of Science in Administration of Justice. The program is a completion degree designed for those who have previously earned an associate’s degree. Courses in the major include Principles of Criminology; Administration of Criminal Justice Organizations; Community Corrections; and Research Methods in Criminal Justice. Courses are taught by the same expert faculty who teach traditional face-to-face courses on campus. Graduates are prepared to assume positions of leadership in criminal justice and social service agencies. Wilmington University also maintains an online master’s degree program in Homeland Security.

Boston University: The online Master of Criminal Justice Program (MCJ) with a concentration in Cybercrime Investigation & Cybersecurity offered by Boston University encourages students to think critically and strategically in positions of leadership. The curriculum for this degree includes courses in White-Collar Crime; Victimology; Analytical Methods; and Criminal Justice Administration. The degree requires 40 credit hours to complete and can be pursued on a full- or part-time basis; with full-time study, students can graduate in as few as 20 months. The academically rigorous program requires students to maintain a 3.0 GPA to be eligible for degree conferral. Graduates are prepared to sit for the certified Forensic Examiner exam from EnCase.

Western Carolina University: Western Carolina University (WCU) offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice that includes a concentration in Administration of Justice. The focus of the program is on leadership, management, and human resources with special attention given to technology and organizational behavior. An optional minor in Emergency and Disaster Management is also offered. Admission to the program is competitive; prospective students must have at least one year of work experience in the criminal justice field or an associate’s degree. Those who do not meet these requirements may earn admission by completing the general education core courses at WCU or a North Carolina community college.

Oregon State University: The Oregon State University Ecampus offers a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology with a Crime and Justice Option. All students are required to complete Introduction to Criminal Justice and three of the following courses: Deviant Behavior and Social Control; Juvenile Delinquency; Criminology and Penology; and Sociology of Drug Use and Abuse. With rolling admissions and quarter-based courses, students have the option of enrolling in spring, summer, fall, or winter courses rather than adhering to the standard fall and spring semesters. Online students receive the same diploma as campus-based students and online courses are taught by the same faculty. The liberal-arts-based curriculum prepares students for entry-level careers as well as specialized graduate study in criminal justice topics of interest.

West Texas A&M University: The online criminal justice degree program at West Texas A&M University can be completed as either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice Administration. The core difference between the BA and BS options is that the BA requires additional humanities courses, including six hours of foreign language, whereas the BS requires additional science courses. Courses required in the major area of study are the same for both degree options and include such topics as Court Systems and Practices, Constitutional Rights of the Accused, and Public Personnel Administration. The degree can be earned completely online and does not require previous college credit for those who meet admissions requirements.

The George Washington University: The George Washington University (GWU) offers a fully online Master of Professional Studies in Security and Safety Leadership. This graduate degree focuses on homeland security and public safety and prepares students for management careers in the intelligence community. Courses are led by professional faculty who teach from real-world experience. The degree can be completed in as little as 16 months. Prospective students must have at least two years of experience working in security or safety. GWU also offers an online bachelor’s degree program in Police and Security Studies as well as online master’s degree programs in Cybersecurity Strategy and Information Management and Security Policy Studies.

University of Massacusetts: The University of Massachusetts Online campus (UMassOnline) offers numerous criminal justice programs: a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice, a Master of Science in Security Studies, a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, and undergraduate certificates in Security Management and Homeland Security; Domestic Violence Prevention; Forensic Criminology; and Criminal Justice Studies, among others. Graduate certificates in Security Studies and Victim Studies are also available. All of these programs can be completed at an accelerated pace with the flexibility of virtual instruction. UMassOnline first began providing distance education programs in 2001 and offers its online students the same world-class opportunities that its traditional campus-based students receive.

University of Cincinnati: The Master of Science in Criminal Justice offered by the University of Cincinnati Online is one of the top programs of its kind in the country. University of Cincinnati is regularly ranked as a top criminal justice school by US News and World Report, and its faculty are recognized for research productivity. Eleven courses (33 credit hours) are required to earn the master’s, which includes optional concentrations in Analysis of Criminal Behavior; Law Enforcement & Crime Prevention; or Corrections & Offender Rehabilitation. Students on the part-time track can complete the master’s degree in two years, while full-time students need only commit to one year provided all degree requirements are met.

Northern Kentucky University: Northern Kentucky University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with an optional minor in criminalistics. The focus of the program is to prepare students for a broad range of careers in the liberal arts by developing critical and creative thought as well as effective communication skills. In addition to traditional criminal justice career tracks, students are also prepared to pursue careers in international business or foreign service. Courses are led by the same faculty who teach on-campus courses, and online completion students receive preferred registration for distance courses. An Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice is also offered through online study.

University of Massachusetts Lowell: The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from University of Massachusetts Lowell is based on a core of professional courses comprising 36 to 48 credit hours. Course offerings in the major include Criminology, Criminal Justice Research Methods, and Criminal Law. To strengthen skills development and career readiness students must also fulfill a professional skills requirement by gaining proficiency in a foreign language or completing a series of courses in statistics, IT, or data analysis. Admitted students can complete the degree entirely online with no previous college credit. Graduates of the program may be interested in the university’s online master’s degrees in Criminal Justice or Security Studies.

University of Wisconsin-Platteville: The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice offered by the University of Wisconsin-Platteville is designed for law enforcement professionals looking to build upon their existing experience and move into leadership. Students develop an advanced understanding of theoretical and practical fundamentals of the criminal justice system. The curriculum includes the opportunity to specialize in either criminal justice theory, criminal justice management, or victim and offender services – or create an entirely unique course of study through a robust selection of electives. The program can be completed in just two years. Students can choose to pursue a specialized certificate in Child Advocacy Studies to prepare to defend the rights of at-risk children. UW-Platteville also offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.

Tuition and Costs

criminal justice schoolsTuition will vary depending on whether it is a bachelor’s or graduate degree, if you are in-state or out-of-state, if it is an online or on-campus program, and if it is a public or private school. An example is the John Jay College of Criminal of Justice at The City University in New York which has a tuition of $3,165 per semester for undergraduate students who are residents of New York.2 Out of state residents pay $560 per credit hour, or about twice as much tuition.2 Full-time graduate students will pay $5,065 per semester 3 for in-state tuition while out of state residents pay $780 per credit hour.3 The University of Cincinnati, ranked third in the country by US News, offers an online master’s in criminal justice with a tuition of $739 per credit hour for out of state residents.4 In addition to tuition, there are other costs such as textbooks, school fees, and travel or room and board.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements vary by school and may include a high school diploma and specified prerequisite college coursework for admission into an undergraduate program. Requirements for admission to a master’s program (MCJ) may include letters of recommendation, a strong undergraduate GPA, and sufficient GRE exam scores.

Typical Courses at Criminal Justice Schools

Some typical courses that can be found in the curriculum of a program include:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Introduction to Policing
  • Criminological Theory
  • Criminal Law
  • Sociology of Deviance
  • Drugs and Society
  • Community Policing
  • Sentencing and Punishment
  • Crime Prevention Planning
  • Principles of Criminal Investigation

Online Criminal Justice Schools

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Online Criminal Justice Degree Program Reviews

We have gathered over 200 school reviews from past students of criminal justice programs across the United States. You can read reviews of criminal justice programs in your state by clicking on your state on the map above.

Student Review: “As an adult working student (and parent) I appreciate the level of predictability of the University of Phoenix format. Everything is supplied (books, additional materials) so there is no need to hunt down the best deal for textbooks. I have had great experiences with enrollment, academic, and finance counselors who respond to any issues quickly and keep me informed of any requirements. The format allows me to complete assignments without monopolizing my whole week. This benefits me being employed full time. Some may feel like a number in this school, but the benefits of the program for those in my situation are invaluable.” -Jennifer V., student at University of Phoenix
Student Review: “I have been a student at University of Phoenix since June of 2013. I am taking online classes and I am working on my criminal justice major. Going back to school has been a challenge for me, but University of Phoenix has been there with anything I need. The criminal justice classes are extremely interesting and so far 90% of my instructors have been very helpful. Dedication, commitment and willpower play a major role in online college courses. With the support of the staff at University of Phoenix I will earn my AA degree in December of this year and two weeks later I will start working on my bachelor’s degree.” -Student at University of Phoenix
Student Review: “My experience with University of Phoenix was pleasant. The support staff and facilitators responded to my needs promptly and politely. The course load was easy enough to manage, as I was taking only 1-2 classes at a time. The material that I learned was very useful. The textbook literature was in-depth and provided up to date knowledge of the subject area. I enjoyed using the online learning format for taking college courses. I was mostly able to do my classes and independent assignments on my own schedule, since deadlines were always about a week after the assignment was given. The only issue that I ever had during my experience was with group or collaborative assignments. I felt that being paired with a weak team or partner was a disadvantage to a student who was performing highly.” -Katherine M., student at University of Phoenix
Student Review: “Taking online classes through Arizona State University was an important experience that shaped me as an adult and allowed me to build a foundation for a successful future. Online classes require you to stay on top of your schedule and use your time effectively because you do not meet with a professor regularly. However, you can request to meet with your professors during their regular offices hours and, in my experience, they are more than happy to help you cover material that you need extra time to understand. While ASU is one of the biggest public universities, the online community is much smaller at around 5000 students, which allows your professors to create a closer relationship and pay more attention to your needs. The online campus offers classes for almost every concentration, so you can earn credits toward just about any degree you desire.” -Katelyn P., student at Arizona State University Online
Student Review: “I have a 6-year old daughter and I have to do online classes. At Post so far, the professors have been great and 100% accessible. I am extremely happy with my financial aid and tuition planners. They are very quick to get my books to me with book vouchers through my financial aid because I just haven’t had the cash to buy all these expensive books. I am so excited to get my bachelor’s here and travel to Connecticut to get my diploma. I would love to meet some of my professors and staff I have been in contact with so far. While online school is more expensive, I love online learning more (I have done the classroom too) because I have to dedicate myself more and I feel that I learn more this way.” -Erin B., student at Post University
Student Review: “I am quite happy with my online studies at Ashford University. I had never taken any online classes before, so I was somewhat nervous about how my classes would be set up and if I would be able to figure it out. Thanks to Ashford and their concise walk through of the online classroom, I was able to quickly learn my way around the site. My instructors and teacher’s assistants have been wonderful as well as all of my advisers. I have not personally met any of them, but when talking to them on the phone or via email, I tend to forget that we have never met, because they act like they have known me for years. That is really a nice feeling. I would recommend Ashford University to anyone who is looking into online courses. I have had the best experience thus far and I know that it will only continue.” -Kimberlee B., student at Ashford University

Criminal Justice Employment Outlook By State

The CJDS Employment Outlook by state index has been moved to the Criminal Justice Careers page.

1. US News: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/social-sciences-and-humanities-schools-methodology
2. John Jay College of Criminal of Justice: Undergraduate Tuition and Fees http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/undergraduate-tuition-and-fees
3. John Jay College of Criminal of Justice: Graduate Tuition and Fees: http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/graduate-tuition-and-fees
4. University of Cincinnati: Tuition and Fees http://cjonline.uc.edu/