Best Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice 2020

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An associate degree in criminal justice provides learners with a solid foundation in a promising, rewarding field. Students seeking entry-level positions in law enforcement or to advance their education can benefit from an associate degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for police and detectives to grow on par with the national average for all occupations from 2018-2028, but these professionals earn nearly twice the national median annual salary.

The criminal justice field ranks among the most popular for associate degree students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. As a result, learners enjoy extensive program options. To help students identify the right program, we ranked the top 20 online criminal justice programs across the country. We also outline degree and career information and answer some frequently asked questions.

Top 10 Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs

Rank School Location
1 Peirce College Philadelphia, PA
2 Trine University Angola, IN
3 LeTourneau University Longview, TX
4 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL
5 Chaminade University of Honolulu Honolulu, HI
6 Ashland University Ashland, OH
7 Campbell University Buies Creek, NC
8 Maranatha Baptist University Watertown, WI
9 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
10 Shoreline Community College Shoreline, WA

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Top 20 Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs for 2020

  1. Peirce College
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1865, Peirce College began by providing business training to returning soldiers. Since 2000, Peirce has grown its fully online degree options to more than 10, including an online associate degree in criminal justice. The 61-credit program includes courses like ethics in criminal justice, juvenile justice, and the criminal court system.

    At Peirce, online students take asynchronous classes throughout the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Applicants must submit a high school diploma or GED. Transfer applicants may receive up to 30 credits for previous training, including credits for formal law enforcement training. Candidates with grades below a C average in college-level English and mathematics may need to complete a placement exam. All online students pay the same tuition, regardless of where they live.

  2. Trine University
    Location

    Angola, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Trine University, founded in 1884, offers more than 75 programs across a variety of levels and disciplines. The school offers more than 20 online degrees, including an online associate degree in criminal justice. The 60-credit program includes general education, elective, and core courses. Classes include forensic psychology, criminal procedures, and criminal justice report writing. To graduate, students must maintain a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA.

    Trine's online classes run asynchronously in two eight-week sessions during the fall and spring semesters and two six-week sessions in the summer. The university offers several start dates, and learners can take one or two classes per session. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma or GED. Transfer students may earn credit for prior training or military experience. All online students pay the same tuition rate.

  3. LeTourneau University
    Location

    Longview, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1946, LeTourneau University has offered nontraditional programs for working professionals since 1989. The school has since expanded its offerings to include online programs in eight schools, including an online associate degree in criminal justice. Learners pursuing the 63-credit AS in criminal justice complete courses in justice and human rights, homeland security, and terrorism and counterterrorism.

    Online classes run in three accelerated, five-week sessions each semester. Classes typically follow an asynchronous format, though some require synchronous sessions. To graduate from the program, students must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma demonstrating a minimum 2.0 GPA or the GED equivalent. Admission may also require SAT or ACT scores. Transfer applicants can receive credit for previous courses with a minimum 2.0 GPA.

  4. Saint Leo University
    Location

    Saint Leo, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Established in 1889, Saint Leo University is Florida's oldest Catholic university that enrolls more than 13,000 students. Saint Leo features more than 10 online degrees, including an online associate degree in criminal justice. During the 60-credit AA in criminal justice, enrollees complete courses including introduction to homeland defense, crime scene investigation, and criminal procedure.

    At Saint Leo, online classes may run asynchronously or synchronously during the fall and spring semesters. The school offers up to six start dates per year. To graduate, learners must maintain a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA. Applicants must submit a high school diploma or GED, and they may need to complete a placement test. Transfer applicants can transfer up to 75% of the degree's credit requirements.

  5. Chaminade University of Honolulu
    Location

    Honolulu, HI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1955 and Hawaii's only Catholic university, Chaminade University of Honolulu enrolls more than 1,000 students in over 25 programs. To extend its reach, the school introduced online programs, including an online associate degree in criminal justice. Students pursuing the 60-credit AS in criminology and criminal justice complete courses on topics like criminal justice systems and supervision and management.

    Chaminade's online classes follow an asynchronous format. Programs start in the fall and spring, and full-time students can graduate in less than two years. To graduate, learners must maintain a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA. For admission, applicants must submit a high school diploma or GED, and they may need to submit SAT or ACT scores. Transfer applicants may transfer up to 45 credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA.

  6. Ashland University
    Location

    Ashland, OH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Ashland University was founded in 1878 and enrolls more than 6,500 students in over 70 programs. The school offers more than 15 online programs, including three at the associate level. The online associate degree in criminal justice requires 60-63 credits, including 24-27 credits in the criminal justice concentration, which features courses like courts and justice, corrections, and policing in the United States.

    Most of AU's online classes run asynchronously, with some requiring synchronous sessions. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED. They may also need to submit SAT or ACT scores. Transfer applicants can receive up to 30 transfer credits for previous training. To graduate, learners must maintain a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA, and all online students pay the same tuition.

  7. Campbell University
    Location

    Buies Creek, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1887, Campbell University enrolls more than 6,800 students, making it one of the state's largest private universities. The school offers more than 100 concentrations for undergraduate students, including over 25 available online. The 62-credit online associate degree in criminal justice covers topics like government and correctional philosophies and issues. To graduate, learners must maintain a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA.

    Campbell's online classes run asynchronously in eight-week sessions each semester, and enrollees enjoy five start dates per year. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma or GED. Transfer students can receive credit for previous training with a minimum 2.0 GPA, but they must complete at least 15.5 semester hours at Campbell to graduate. Online students can access student support resources and academic advising.

  8. Maranatha Baptist University
    Location

    Watertown, WI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Opening in 1968 with fewer than 200 students, Maranatha Baptist University now offers more than 40 programs, including a variety of online options. Learners pursuing the 64-credit online associate degree in criminal justice take courses in psychology, sociology, nature of crime, and policing and criminal investigation. The program also includes classes in biblical studies and liberal arts, along with a variety of electives.

    MBU's online classes follow eight-week sessions in the fall and spring semesters, and summer courses last 6-7 weeks. Most classes run asynchronously, with real-time sessions sometimes available. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma or GED. Transfer applicants can receive credit for previous training. Candidates may also need to submit SAT or ACT scores.

  9. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Since its founding in 1971, Liberty University has grown from approximately 150 students to more than 15,000. In 1985, the school introduced a distance education model that evolved into the online programs it offers today. The 60-credit online associate degree in criminal justice comprises courses in three core areas: law enforcement, court system, and corrections system.

    Liberty's online classes run asynchronously throughout eight-week sessions. Enrollees can start during any of the semesters and complete the program in as few as 18 months. To graduate, learners need to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 2.0 or the GED equivalent. Transfer applicants can receive up to 75% of the required credits via transfer.

  10. Shoreline Community College
    Location

    Shoreline, WA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Since its 1964 founding, Shoreline Community College has grown to offer more than 100 programs to over 10,000 students. Shoreline offers more than 30 online programs, including five degrees. The 90-quarter-credit online associate degree in criminal justice requires courses in administration of justice, constitutional law, and principles of investigation. It also features an internship, only available during some terms.

    Shoreline's online classes run asynchronously in the fall, winter, spring, and summer terms. The college prefers applicants to start in the fall, but it also offers winter and spring start dates. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma or GED, along with placement test scores. To graduate, they must demonstrate a minimum 2.0 GPA. Non-resident online students pay higher tuition rates than state residents, but online tuition rates cost less than on-campus rates. Distance learners can access academic and career support services.

  11. Pamlico Community College
    Location

    Grantsboro, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Established in 1962, Pamlico Community College offers more than 15 programs, including a variety of online options. The 67-credit online associate degree in criminal justice features courses on topics like writing and inquiry, law enforcement operations, and victimology.

    PCC's online classes run mostly asynchronously during the fall and spring semesters. Program applicants need a high school diploma or GED, and they may also need to complete a placement test. Online learners can access the school's career, student, and academic support services.

  12. Concordia University-Wisconsin
    Location

    Mequon, WI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1881, Concordia University-Wisconsin enrolls more than 8,000 students in over 70 programs. To accommodate working professionals and distance learners, the school offers online programs, including an online associate degree in criminal justice. This 64-credit AA in criminal justice includes general education, elective, and major courses. The major covers topics including constitutional law, forensic investigation, and procedural criminal law.

    Online programs at CUW run asynchronously for the most part, with some requiring synchronous sessions. Classes typically follow eight-week sessions in the fall and spring semesters, but summer courses last 3-6 weeks. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma or GED. Transfer applicants must demonstrate a minimum 2.0 GPA. All online students pay the same tuition, no matter where they live.

  13. Eastern Kentucky University
    Location

    Richmond, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1906, Eastern Kentucky University offers a variety of programs and delivery methods to more than 16,000 students each year. The school features over 25 online degrees, including an online associate degree in criminal justice. Learners in this 64-credit program take courses in contemporary police strategies, social forces and policing society, and ethical decisions. The degree also includes professional preparation training.

    Online classes at EKU run in eight-week sessions, featuring six start dates each year. Online classes follow an asynchronous format, and students can complete their degrees entirely online. For admission, applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED and submit SAT or ACT scores. Transfer applicants may receive up to 49 credits for prior undergraduate training or formal law enforcement training. Online learners benefit from a flat tuition rate, and military professionals receive tuition discounts.

  14. Roger Williams University
    Location

    Bristol, RI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1956, Roger Williams University enrolls approximately 4,000 undergraduates across more than 45 programs, including an online associate degree in criminal justice. The 60-credit AS in criminal justice includes core courses in constitutional law, juvenile justice, and policing in America. RWU also offers add-on certificate options to complement the degree.

    Most online classes run asynchronously, with some synchronous sessions available. Courses take place during the fall and spring semesters. In the summer, classes may run for three, five, or 10 weeks. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma or GED. Transfer applicants can receive credit for prior undergraduate courses and assessments, plus up to 26.5 credits for prior police academy training. All online students pay a flat tuition rate.

  15. Bismarck State College
    Location

    Bismarck, ND

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1939 with just over 100 students, Bismarck State College now enrolls more than 4,000 students in over 90 academic disciplines. Bismarck's online associate degree in criminal justice prepares learners for entry-level criminal justice careers. The 60-61-credit program allows students to customize their degree based on their interests, choosing from concentration options in courts, law enforcement, and corrections and security.

    BSC's online courses may run asynchronously or synchronously in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Some classes run only during specific semesters. For admission, applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED and submit SAT, ACT, or placement test results. Transfer applicants can receive credit for previous training.

  16. Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale
    Location

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1977 as a school for nontraditional learners, Keiser University has grown into one of the state's largest nonprofit universities, educating approximately 20,000 students. The university now offers more than 100 programs at various levels, including an online associate degree in criminal justice. Learners pursuing this 60-credit AA in criminal justice complete core courses in corrections, criminal investigations, and writing and communications for criminal justice professionals.

    At Keiser, online students take one course at a time every four weeks. Classes typically run asynchronously. Learners can start classes in the fall, winter, or summer semester. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED. Transfer applicants must demonstrate a minimum 2.0 GPA for general admission and transfer credits. Online learners enjoy access to the school's career services and academic support resources.

  17. Endicott College
    Location

    Beverly, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1939, Endicott College offers more than 80 programs to over 5,000 students. Nontraditional students can choose from more than 35 online programs, including an online associate degree in criminal justice. The 66-credit AS in criminal justice includes courses in police process, career foundations, and technology applications in criminal justice.

    Online classes at Endicott may run asynchronously or synchronously. Learners can study full- or part-time to accommodate their schedules. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma or GED. Transfer applicants can receive credit for previous courses demonstrating a minimum 2.0 GPA. Online students gain access to career services, academic advising, and tutoring services.

  18. White Mountains Community College
    Location

    Berlin, NH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    White Mountains Community College offers 48 undergraduate programs, including certificates and associate degrees. The online associate degree in criminal justice combines the flexibility of online courses with on-campus sessions every other week. The 62-credit AS in criminal justice and homeland security features courses on topics like law and forensic science.

    Most of WMCC's online courses run asynchronously, but some feature synchronous sessions. Classes run during the spring and fall semesters. Program applicants need a high school diploma or GED. Transfer applicants may receive credit for previous courses. Learners who wish to pursue bachelor's degrees may opt for WMCC's dual-degree pathway.

  19. Shorter University
    Location

    Rome, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1873, Shorter University offers five online associate programs. The online associate degree in criminal justice features foundation courses, electives, and a criminal justice core. The 60-credit AS in criminal justice includes core courses in police systems, judicial systems, and procedural law. To graduate, learners must maintain a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA.

    At Shorter, online courses run asynchronously in eight-week terms. Enrollees can choose from six start dates each calendar year. Flexible course schedules allow students to customize their course loads based on their schedules. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma or GED. They may also need to submit SAT or ACT scores. Transfer applicants must demonstrate a minimum 2.0 GPA to receive transfer credit.

  20. Regent University
    Location

    Virginia Beach, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Established in 1978, Regent University offers more than 135 study areas. The school's online associate degree in criminal justice requires at least 64 credits. Learners take classes on topics like homeland security, criminal procedure, and criminal justice systems. To complete the AS in criminal justice, students must maintain a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA.

    Online courses run in eight-week sessions during the fall, spring, and summer terms. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma or GED. Transfer applicants may receive credit for previous undergraduate education. Online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of location, and they enjoy less expensive tuition than on-campus learners.

What Is a Criminal Justice Associate Degree?

In addition to providing students with a general education foundation, associate degrees in criminal justice typically cover foundational criminal justice topics, such as the basics of law, procedure, and criminal investigation. Some programs offer career-specific training in areas such as corrections, law enforcement, or forensics.

In general, most associate degrees require approximately 60 credits and take students two years of full-time study to complete. Many programs allow learners to concentrate their studies through electives or specializations. Some degrees offer internship opportunities, enabling learners to put their training to practice.

Online learning often allows students to take more courses at once or finish each course more quickly than a traditional program, expediting graduation. Online study also impacts tuition rates, since many schools offer online discounts. Additionally, online study expands program availability, reducing location-related limitations.

What Can I Do With a Criminal Justice Degree?

The flexibility of a criminal justice associate degree is part of what makes it so desirable for students. These programs prepare graduates for a variety of careers related to law enforcement. Below, we outline some popular careers for graduates.


  • Police Officer

    Police officers perform general law enforcement duties, such as patrolling, responding to emergency calls, and supporting their communities whenever and wherever needed. Officers know how to identify signs of criminal activity, secure situations, and make safe arrests. These professionals may also attend court, write reports, and use computers and other technology to perform their duties.

    Most local and state police departments require candidates to hold at least a high school diploma, though many prefer or require some college training. Eligible candidates typically attend training academy programs. The next step calls for on-the-job training. Associate degree graduates demonstrate their commitment to the field and gain a solid foundation for police academy training.


  • Correctional Officer or Bailiff

    Correctional officers enforce the rules in a jail or prison, supervising inmates and their conduct, and protecting staff and other inmates. These officers also oversee the prison or jail facilities, write reports on inmates and activities, and transport inmates. Bailiffs work in the courts to oversee people awaiting trial and sentencing. Both officers and bailiffs must identify signs of disturbance and maintain order in their respective facilities.

    Employment requirements for these positions vary by state and employer, but most mandate at least a high school diploma. Some facilities, like federal prisons, may require candidates to hold bachelor’s degrees. Like police departments, many correctional facilities and courts look to hire applicants who attended training academy programs.


  • Private Detective

    Private detectives work for people and organizations to search for information, find missing persons, and investigate crimes. On a day-to-day basis, these investigators may conduct interviews, perform surveillance, and look for evidence. Private detectives must understand the law and their legal restrictions. Without police authority, investigators must conduct their operations as private citizens.

    In many states, private detectives need licensure to perform their duties. Most licenses and many employers require candidates to possess high school diplomas at minimum, and some seek candidates with college training. Many private detective positions also require applicants to undergo on-the-job training. An associate degree in criminal justice provides a valuable first step for aspiring investigators.


  • Security Guard

    Security guards oversee facilities or locations to protect against vandalism, theft, and other illegal activities. Security professionals are tasked with protecting the people and property within their assigned location, calling in the support of police officers and emergency personnel when needed. Security guards may patrol areas or maintain stationary positions while looking for suspicious activity.

    Most security guards need at least a high school diploma and on-the-job training from their organization. Depending on the tasks of their job, some security professionals must register with their state. With an associate degree in criminal justice, graduates demonstrate a competitive advantage for these positions, particularly for specialized security positions, like gaming surveillance.


  • Paralegal

    Paralegals support lawyers in a variety of ways, including performing research, writing reports and completing documents, and updating and maintaining files. These professionals may investigate the specific aspects of a case, perform administrative duties for their employers, and offer general support during trials and court cases. Paralegals should also understand technology and computer software to some extent.

    Paralegals must demonstrate a solid grasp of the law, the legal system, and court processes. An associate degree in criminal justice can provide a strong foundation for this profession. Some employers may require candidates to hold bachelor’s degrees, to which criminal justice associate degrees can lead. Some employers also call for candidates to complete paralegal certification programs.


Salary Potential

The BLS projects a strong career outlook for criminal justice graduates and law enforcement professionals, estimating growth rates on par with the national average for all occupations from 2018-2028. The top 10% of criminal justice earners make median annual wages that exceed $100,000.

As a career starting point, an associate degree in criminal justice provides a solid foundation. The degree meets the minimum requirements for many entry-level law enforcement positions. Graduates with an associate degree can often obtain a bachelor’s degree with just two additional years of study.

FAQs


  • Is a degree in criminal justice an AA or AS?

    Students can pursue an AA or AS in criminal justice. An AA focuses more on humanities, while an AS focuses on math and science.


  • What is an associate degree in criminal justice?

    An associate degree in criminal justice provides students with about two years’ worth of criminal justice undergraduate study.


  • What can you do with an associate degree in criminal justice?

    Graduates with an associate degree in criminal justice can enter the criminal justice or law enforcement fields or pursue further study.


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