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Best Criminal Justice Schools of 2018

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.

Top Ranked US Criminal Justice Schools

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

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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 hold 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

The list below profiles traditional, not-for-profit schools that have extended criminal justice programs online. The list is not a ranking, so the schools are presented alphabetically.

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.

Los Angeles Pacific University (f.k.a. 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.

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.

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.

George Washington University: 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. The 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.

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.

University of Massachusetts: 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Tuition and Cost

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

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.

Note: Student Reviews are based on the experiences of a few individuals and it is unlikely that you will have similar results. Please review the “Data, Student Reviews and Other Information” section in our Terms of Use and Disclaimers.
Student Review: “During my time at Michigan State University, I had my share of ups and downs. For the most part, it was a positive experience. I did not know exactly what I wanted to study when I came to the university but I found my niche within the criminal justice department. Michigan State is such an enormous school that if you are unable to find a place to mesh, you may be lost in the numbers. My first couple semesters I felt like I was just my student ID number and I had no identity to any of the professors. Luckily, when I began taking classes within my major, I felt the unity I had been missing.” -Student at Michigan State University
Student Review: “When I started the criminology program I was excited to learn that the major was 5th best in the United States for graduate school. I knew from that the classes will be highly informative and professors will be well trained in what they teach. In the course catalog the program offers a wide variety of interesting classes that I wanted to take. Unfortunately, a lot of those classes that I wanted were not offered during the time I was there. I was hoping the program would offer more hand on experience classes, instead of just reading different theories in a book. Each class got highly repetitive which was good and bad. It was beneficial as I would not lose the information after the class was over, but bad because it became boring to sit through lectures. My experience was not all bad though. A lot of my professors were really entertaining and had a lot of knowledge in the field. Some professors had guest lecturers that had careers in law enforcement and they shared their insights into it. My dream job is to be a juvenile probation officer. I feel well prepared after graduating from UCI.” -Danielle A., student at University of California, Irvine
Student Review: “My experience at SUNY Albany was definitely a positive one. I transferred into UAlbany junior year from a very large public university in Florida and the staff helped me transfer in easily. The main uptown campus is beautiful in the spring and fall months. Winters in Albany can definitely be harsh at times but the tunnels in the podium help keep the students out of the weather. I studied Criminal Justice, which is one of the best programs in the country. My classes averaged at 30 students so it was easy to make friends and get personal time with the professor if needed. Many of my professors were very helpful and always available to meet if needed. Social life at UAlbany is definitely one of the highlights; there are so many different clubs and organizations to join. I pledged a sorority while I was there and it was one of the best decisions of my life. One major complaint I had was the food. The food in the cafeterias are not great at all and the hours do not accommodate students well.” -Gina P., student at SUNY-Albany
Student Review: “I am a criminal justice major and currently attend Rutgers through their communiversity program. This program has been very beneficial. The main perk is the class size is small, about 39 students per class as compared to big lecture halls. The communiversity program that I go to is located off the main campus at a building much smaller then a big campus. They have many night classes which is great for me because I work during the day. The main thing that I disliked is that there are not many online classes offered for criminal justice. I feel that every other major is online except criminal justice. Another thing I really like about my program is the consistency of professors. You see the same professors throughout your entire program while bigger campuses have many professors. I like to know what to expect from my professors and I find comfort in that consistency.” -Beth P., student at Rutgers University
Student Review: “John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC was almost everything I could hope for. I majored in Criminal Justice and minored in Law. I found that the teachers were great with many of them challenging me a great deal. However, along with those challenges came reward. I was able to learn many things. I was also able to view actual court cases in my studies and take part in many mock trials. The school’s online classes were a huge plus, especially for those who worked. Though my teachers went above the normal for a teacher there were definitely draw backs. The personnel at the school were rather disorganized.”-Student at John Jay College Criminal Justice
Student Review: “Western Carolina University was a great experience that is largely tailored to students working full time and seeking to further their education. While they also offer a traditional and residential setting, the online program is largely what sets them apart from other universities. Their Forensic Science course is cutting edge and also offer many options from a social perspective. Many students who graduated from the criminal justice program with me were already employed in law enforcement, but were seeking a career change in the same field and gained valuable experience and job related skills. Western Carolina also spares no expense in ensuring that they keep up with this constantly changing field as new technology comes available. The advisors are also rated very high and keep every student up to date with graduation requirements, which most people with any experience in college understand can be a hassle. I would not recommend the online program to anyone who has novice computer skills. Regular communication is required including: sending and receiving emails several times daily, replying to message boards, using several microsoft programs, blackboard, and occasional installation of codecs or java for viewing streaming seminars and classes.” – student at Western Carolina 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 & World Report: https://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-fees
3. John Jay College of Criminal of Justice: Graduate Tuition and Fees: http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/graduate-tuition-fees
4. University of Cincinnati, Tuition and Fees: https://cjonline.uc.edu/