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Tennessee Criminal Justice Schools

Tennessee’s colleges and universities offer a number of criminal justice degree programs, from the associate’s through to the PhD level. Many schools also offer undergraduate and graduate certificates in criminal justice. Available programs include focuses on emergency services management, law enforcement, criminology, and forensics. Select schools, such as Bethel University, King University, and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga also offer online criminal justice programs.

Quick Facts

  • There are 36 schools offering criminal justice degrees in Tennessee (see below).1
  • 15 colleges and universities offer associate’s degrees in criminal justice.*1
  • 23 colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice.*1
  • 9 colleges and universities offer master’s or doctoral degrees in criminal justice.*1
  • 11 colleges and universities offer criminal justice degree programs online.*1
  • 1 school ranked in Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges in 2018.2
  • No schools ranked in College Factual’s Best Criminal Justice & Corrections Colleges in 2018.3
  • No schools ranked in Criminal Justice Degree Schools Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2018.4
  • 1 school ranked in US News Best Online Graduate Criminal Justice Programs in 2018.5

*For not-for-profit colleges and universities with criminal justice degree programs.

Criminal Justice Degree Programs in Tennesee

There are many criminal justice programs in Tennessee from which to choose, with options at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree levels. Earning a criminal justice degree in Tennessee can position you for a variety of exciting careers, including police work, forensic and criminal psychology, and corrections. Earning an education in criminal justice or related fields can provide applicants with a competitive edge in pursuing these positions and can translate to higher starting pay. For example, in Nashville, police officers with either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree receive additional educational incentive pay. In addition to potentially increased salary levels, holding a criminal justice degree can qualify you for promotional opportunities and provide you with a strong foundation for success in on-the-job training.

Top-Ranked Schools with Criminal Justice Programs in Tennessee

Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges 2018*

  • University of Tennessee (#85 in-state, #76 out-of-state)

US News Best Online Graduate Criminal Justice Programs 2018

  • University of Memphis (#51-#67)

Profiles of Well-Known Schools in Tennessee

Middle Tennessee State University: Students at Middle Tennessee State University can pursue a Criminal Justice Administration major or a Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) through the Department of Criminal Justice Administration. Alpha Phi Sigma and Delta Omicron Alpha are criminal justice organizations that students can join for networking and extracurricular learning. Senior students can earn credit hours through one of more than 30 different internship opportunities available within local government agencies and correctional facilities. Eight full-time faculty work within the MTSU Department of Criminal Justice Administration, many of whom are former or current federal investigators, law clerks, or law enforcement professionals.

Tennessee State University: The Department of Criminal Justice at Tennessee State University has both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Criminal Justice in which about 650 students are enrolled, making it one of the largest criminal justice programs in the United States. Undergraduate students take a variety of social science courses with a strong emphasis in psychology outside of the criminal justice core. Faculty are experts in courtroom and prison operations. The department has two scholarships available specifically for criminal justice students.

Notable Alumni from Tennessee Universities

  • Shelby County, TN Sheriff William Oldham – Memphis State University
  • Hamilton County, TN Sheriff James W. Hammond – University of Tennessee
  • Nashville, TN Police Chief Steve Anderson – Nashville School of Law
Police Quote: “Integrity, honesty and fairness is the key to good law enforcement and career growth. Within the department or dealing with the public.” -Chief Fabian Blache, Jr.

Tennessee Criminal Justice Careers

Tennessee is home to major police departments in Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville. With higher volumes of applicants for law enforcement and public safety positions, some departments have adopted a progressive hiring policy based on educational attainment to ensure that the best candidates are accepted.

In addition to local law and public safety jobs, the Tennessee Department of Human Resources and the US federal government are among the largest employers in the state. Many graduates of criminal justice programs in Tennessee find employment with state and federal government agencies, including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Public Safety, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and others. Salaries and benefits for these positions are competitive and most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to interesting work environments, criminal justice jobs offer competitive pay and attractive benefits. Police officers earn an average annual salary of $43,090 in Tennessee and first-line supervisors earn an average of $58,690.6,8 Professionals working in corrections as correctional officers earn an average of $31,250.5 Detectives and criminal investigators earn an average of $62,510 per year in the state.7 Law firms in the state employ thousands of paralegals, who earn an average salary of $48,590 per year in Tennessee.9

Tennessee Criminal Justice Salary and Jobs

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Correctional Officers and Jailers9,420$31,250
First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives3,480$58,690
Detectives and Criminal Investigators1,510$62,510
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers12,860$43,090

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2015.5,6,7,8

Tennessee’s Criminal Justice Employment Outlook

Tennessee’s May 2016 unemployment rate was 4.1%, which was below the national average of 4.7% and much lower than the state’s 10-year unemployment rate peak of 10.8% seen in August 2009.10 Government employment is a good indicator of criminal justice job opportunities in Tennessee. According to Projections Central, the following criminal justice job openings are estimated through 2024:

  • Police and Sheriff Patrol: 500 annual openings; 46% in these positions report completing at least some college, with 24% holding an associate’s degree.11,12
  • Correctional Officers: 110 annual openings; 37% in these positions report completing at least some college, with 15% holding a post-secondary certificate.11,13
  • Detectives and Criminal Investigators: 40 annual openings; 37% in these positions report completing at least some college, with 21% holding an associate’s degree.11,14
  • Security Guards: 880 annual openings; 4% in these positions report completing at least some college.11,15
  • Paralegals and Legal Assistants: 170 annual openings; 86% in these positions report completing at least some college, with 30% holding an associate’s degree and 44% holding a bachelor’s degree.11,16

These positions are estimated from both projected replacements and employment growth.

The Mercatus Center is a conservative think tank that rated and analyzed the long-term solvency of each state government. After analyzing Tennessee’s budgeting process, cash and tax collection, and pensions, the state was ranked 9th in the nation.17 This is an indicator of sound employment practices, and new hires can be confident that the state will likely fulfill its pension obligations.

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Directory of Not-for-Profit Tennessee Universities Offering Campus-based and Online Criminal Justice Degrees

We recommend finding an accredited campus-based or online criminal justice program for those interested in pursuing an associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree in the growing field of criminal justice.

Tip: If you don’t live near a campus-based school that offers a program of interest, consider an online degree or a university in an adjacent state (Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, or Mississippi).

Schools with Online and On-Campus Criminal Justice Programs

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.

Austin Peay State University (Clarksville)
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice: Homeland Security Concentration (online or on-campus)
Bachelor of Science | Computer Science & Information Systems: Information Assurance and Security (online or on-campus)
Bachelor of Science | Public Management: Criminal Justice Concentration (online or on-campus)
Minor | Public Management (online or on-campus)
Minor | Global Security Studies (online or on-campus)
Minor | Emergency Management (online or on-campus)
Minor | Criminal Justice (online or on-campus)

Bethel University (McKenzie; Satellite Locations)
Associate of Applied Science | Criminal Justice (online)
Associate of Arts | Criminal Justice
Bachelor Degree | Criminal Justice
Bachelor of Science | Emergency Services Management
Master of Science | Criminal Justice (online)
Master of Arts | Conflict Resolution
College Start Program | Criminal Justice

East Tennessee State University (Johnson City)
Bachelor of Arts | Social & Behavioral Science
Bachelor of Science | Social & Behavioral Science
Master of Arts | Social & Behavioral Science
Minor | Criminal Justice and Criminology
Minor | Emergency/Disaster Response Management
Minor | Safety
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate | Forensic Document Examination (online)

Hiwassee College (Madisonville)
Associate of Applied Science | Criminal Justice & Homeland Security (online)

King University (Bristol)
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice (online or on-campus)
Bachelor of Science | Security and Intelligence Studies
Minor | Security and Intelligence Studies

Lincoln Memorial University (Harrogate)
Bachelor of Science | Criminology and Criminal Justice
Master of Science | Criminal Justice (online or on-campus)

Martin Methodist College (Pulaski)
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice (online)
Bachelor of Science | Forensic Psychology
Minor | Criminal Justice

Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro)
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement (online or on-campus)
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice: Homeland Security (online or on-campus)
Bachelor of Science | Forensic Science
Master of Criminal Justice (online or on-campus)
Minor | Criminal Justice Administration
Minor | Homeland Security

Student Review: “Middle Tennessee State University is the biggest university in the state of Tennessee. It is made up of over 25,000 students. Even though it is a rather large school, there are so many organizations and clubs that a student can get involved with to make them feel more at home. Not one of my classes in my major has more than 30 students in the class, with an average of about 15 students a class. There are two concerns I have about the campus and that is the dining options on campus and the school spirit because there is none.” -Chassidy J., student at Middle Tennessee State University
stars-3
Student Review: “Criminal Justice was and always will be a captivating subject. It intrigued me from a young age and I knew I wanted to study it. My education was thorough and well-rounded. I learned all aspects of Criminal Justice. From the prison to the courtroom and everything in between. I will say that my experience in the actual field and the study of criminal justice is two different things. What they teach us in the classroom and what happens in the actual system is night and day. I do wish the subject was taught with a more realistic approach on what to expect when you get in the field, not the fairy tale they teach you in school. Some of the classes were redundant such as Prison Security, Yet constitutional issues gave me a run for my money, I never studied so hard before. Police Seminar was taught by a great professor and former police officer, he was probably the most realistic and what he taught me is what I used to keep me alive on the street. All in all, if you are interested in the subject of the justice system every class is interesting in its own accord.” – Student at Middle Tennessee State University
stars-3
Student Review: “MTSU’s Criminal Justice program was both fulfilling and challenging. I was able to gain experiences in that program that I know I wouldn’t have been able to get had I been at another university. All of the professors were not only knowledgeable about the field, they all worked in the field in some form or fashion. I had a current presiding judge as a professor for two of my courses, I had a former detective as another professor. I feel there is no replacement for real-world experience. That is why I felt very prepared to enter the field by the time I earned my degree. On top of all of that, the courses that were offered for the major were all diverse, so you weren’t getting “Criminal Justice 1, Criminal Justice 2”. You were getting “Criminal Justice 3020 – Probation/Parole”, “Criminal Justice 3250 – Juvenile Justice”. There was a lot of opportunity to learn so much. If I decide to go back to school for my Master’s in Criminal Justice, MTSU is on the top of my list.” – Student at Middle Tennessee State University
stars-5
Student Review: “The Criminal Justice department at Middle Tennessee State University was a wonderful experience for me. The professors in the Criminal Justice department were some of the best in their fields, many who were still actively employed in their specific area of study. Learning from them was an invaluable life lesson that I can utilize in any job in the field of Criminal Justice. Even with a majority of them still actively working in the Criminal Justice field as lawyers, experts in terrorism prevention, police officers, and more, all of the professors were excellent at maintaining office hours to aid struggling students and answer questions. One law professor was strictly against the use of cell phones even in his personal use but still was reachable at all hours, including giving out his home number for use if students had questions on assignments outside of his office hours and could not reach him by email. The workload was a lot to handle but the department did their best to prepare you for the workforce post-graduation. The only dislike I have would be a result of one of the required classes on Probation where the professor, a retired probation worker, informed us that at a majority of the students in the program would be probation workers or police officers. The truth hurts to hear when you are spending so much on the education you are studying and want to be more than those two jobs. This was my only real dislike. I was thankful for the up-frontness of his comments but it was very off-putting and in my opinion, in a lower level class caused students to worry they were not good enough for their dream jobs causing them to switch out of the program before even getting to the classes that would help them reach their goals. Overall, I loved being a Criminal Justice student at MTSU and studying under the professors in their Criminal Justice Department.” – Student at Middle Tennessee State University
stars-4
Student Review: “Middle Tennessee State University’s criminal justice program was an outstanding experience and was the perfect program for me. The curriculum was interesting and challenging but was taught in a simple and practical way by the professors so it was easy to understand. The professors are passionate about the subject matter and have plenty of real-life experiences that they discuss in class. They are also approachable and easy to develop valuable connections with. The program included excellent opportunities to experience what it would be like in the field by allowing students to go to listen to juvenile court proceedings, ride-a-longs, and guest speakers. One professor, in particular, helped me obtain an excellent internship with a federal agency and without his help, I never would have been aware of this particular internship.” -Student at Middle Tennessee State University
stars-4

Northeast State Community College (Blountville)
Associate of Science | Criminal Justice
Associate of Arts | Criminal Justice
Associate of Applied Science | Criminal Justice (online)

University of Memphis (Memphis)
Bachelor of Arts | Criminology and Criminal Justice
Master of Arts | Criminology and Criminal Justice (online or on-campus)
Minor | Criminology and Criminal Justice

University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (Chattanooga)
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice (online or on-campus)
Master of Science | Criminal Justice
Minor | Criminal Justice

Student Review: “I would say that the criminal justice program at UT was, in a nutshell, quite rewarding. The professors were always exceptionally kind, to say nothing of their knowledgeability in the field, and in general it felt as though there was always something new to learn. In addition, I believe that the classes always felt engaging and allowed for new ideas to be brought to the discussion that some courses may not have allowed.” -Student at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga
stars-4

Schools with On-Campus Criminal Justice Programs Only

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.

Bryan College (Dayton)
Bachelor of Arts | Criminal Justice
Minor | Criminal Justice
Minor | Human Trafficking

Chattanooga State Community College (Chattanooga)
Associate of Science | Criminal Justice (Tennessee Transfer Pathway)
Associate of Applied Science | Criminal Justice

Christian Brothers University (Memphis)
Bachelor of Science | Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics

Cleveland State Community College (Cleveland, TN)
Associate in Science | Criminal Justice Emphasis: General Transfer Major
Technical Certificate | Law Enforcement Training

Columbia State Community College (Columbia)
Associate of Applied Science | Criminal Justice (transfer degree)
Associate of Science | Criminal Justice (transfer degree)
Associate of Arts | Criminal Justice

Cumberland University (Lebanon)
Associate of Arts | Criminal Justice
Bachelor of Arts | Criminal Justice & Public Administration
Bachelor of Science | Forensic and Criminal Justice Sciences
Minor | Criminal Justice

Dyersburg State Community College (Dyersburg)
Associate of Science | Criminal Justice
Associate of Arts | Criminal Justice
Associate of Applied Science | Criminal Justice
Certificate | Corrections and Law Enforcement

Freed-Hardeman University (Henderson)
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice

Lane College (Jackson)
Bachelor of Arts | Criminal Justice
Minor | Criminal Justice

LeMoyne-Owen College (Memphis)
Bachelor of Arts | Criminal Justice

Lipscomb University (Nashville)
Bachelor of Arts | Government and Public Administration
Bachelor of Science | Information Security
Bachelor of Arts | Restorative Criminal Justice
Bachelor of Arts | Law, Justice, and Society
Bachelor of Science | Law, Justice, and Society
Master of Arts | Conflict Management
Graduate Certificate | Conflict Management

Nashville State Community College (Nashville)
Associate of Science | Criminal Justice
Associate of Arts | Criminal Justice
Associate of Applied Science | Law Enforcement: Crime Scene Investigation
Associate of Applied Science | Law Enforcement: Police Administration
Technical Certificate | Law Enforcement

Roane State Community College (Harriman)
Associate of Science | Criminal Justice
Associate of Applied Science | Criminal Justice

Southwest Tennessee Community College (Memphis)
Associate of Arts | Criminal Justice
Associate of Science | Criminal Justice
Associate of Applied Science | Criminal Justice

Tennessee State University (Nashville)
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice
Master of Science | Criminal Justice

Tennessee Wesleyan College (Athens)
Bachelor of Arts | Criminal Justice

Tusculum College (Greeneville)
Bachelor of Arts | Criminal Justice

University of Tennessee-Martin (Martin)
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice: Corrections
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice: Courts and Law
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice: Forensics
Minor | Criminal Justice
Collegiate Program | National Forensic Academy

Volunteer State Community College (Gallatin)
Associate of Science | Criminal Justice
Associate of Applied Science | Criminal Justice
Bachelor of Science | Criminal Justice (2+2 program with Tennessee State University)
Technical Certificate | Criminal Justice

Student Review: “I loved Vol State because they gave great options for people with little money (i.e. me). They offered several reasonable options for financial aid that could be paid back through a payment plan, or they offered grants and helped you apply for scholarships. They had a great library where you could even check out textbooks for your current course, and they even let you check out laptops to do homework on. They had a workout room so students could stay in shape, and even get credit for doing so. The professors were cool because they actually cared if you passed or failed; some even gave extra credit when needed. Vol state was an amazing school and I would recommend to even the biggest college skeptic.” -Shelbi S., student at Volunteer State Community College
stars-5

Walters State Community College (Morristown)
Associate of Science | Criminal Justice
Associate of Applied Science | Law Enforcement
Associate of Arts | Criminal Justice
Technical Certificate | Public Safety – Basic Law Enforcement Officer Education

References:
1. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges: https://www.kiplinger.com/tool/college/T014-S001-kiplinger-s-best-values-in-public-colleges/index.php
3. College Factual Best Criminal Justice & Corrections Colleges: https://www.collegefactual.com/majors/protective-security-safety-services/criminal-justice-and-corrections/rankings/top-ranked/
4. US News Best Online Graduate Criminal Justice Programs: https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/criminal-justice/rankings
5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 Occupational Employment and Wages, Correctional Officers and Jailers https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333012.htm
6. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 Occupational Employment and Wages, First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes331012.htm
7. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 Occupational Employment and Wages, Detectives and Criminal Investigators: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333021.htm
8. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 Occupational Employment and Wages, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm
9. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
10. Y Charts 10 Year Unemployment Chart: http://https://ycharts.com/indicators/tennessee_unemployment_rate
11. Projections Central Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
12. O*Net OnLine, Police Patrol Officers: https://www.onetonline.org/link/details/33-3051.01
13. O*Net OnLine, Correctional Officers and Jailers: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3012.00
14. O*Net OnLine, Police Detectives: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3021.01
15. O*Net OnLine, Security Guards: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-9032.00
16. O*Net OnLine, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/23-2011.00
17. Mercatus Center, George Mason University, Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition 2016 Edition: https://www.mercatus.org/statefiscalrankings