2024 Affordable Criminal Justice Degrees

Scroll down to see the most affordable criminal justice degrees, as well as info on the different types of criminal justice degrees and criminal justice program accreditation.

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The field of criminal justice encompasses law enforcement, the courts and the penal system. Police officers, FBI agents, crime scene investigators, parole officers, lawyers, business intelligence analysts – these are just a few of the jobs that graduates with affordable justice degrees can choose to pursue. You might earn a degree in order to fulfill college credit requirements for law enforcement agencies, advance to higher level positions or expand your career opportunities.

Wondering which program is right for your goals? In our guide to criminal justice degrees, you’ll find fluff-free information on every level of education. For each degree, we outline your options (e.g. BA vs. BS), common coursework and career opportunities. Then we discuss the importance of attending an accredited school and the difference between regional and national accreditation.

School Selections

Texas A & M University-College Station

The Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Texas A&M University Commerce offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, and a Master of Science in Applied Criminology. The program is meant to provide students with a comprehensive knowledge of law enforcement, corrections, and the courts. Students in the criminal justice program may participate in organizations such as the Sociology and Criminal Justice Society and Alpha Phi Sigma, the honors society for criminal justice majors.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

63,813 Students

Rutgers University

Undergrads seeking a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University can add to their education through extracurricular activities such as the Criminal Justice Organization, which sponsors professional speakers and networking events. The New Brunswick campus also has a chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma criminal justice honor society. Many internships are available with state, local, and federal agencies. At the graduate level, a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice is available at all three campuses, and a Ph.D. program is housed on the Newark campus. The Camden and Newark campuses also offer a dual bachelor's/master's program that allows students to earn the two degrees in a faster format.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

11,720 Students

University of Illinois at Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago has a BA, MA and PhD in Criminology, Law and Justice. Baccalaureate-seekers have access to several college-level initiatives. The Liberal Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Initiative (LASURI), for instance, pairs students with faculty for hands-on projects; recipients earn $2,500 for their work. Like other UIC programs, the MA and PhD programs hire student assistants to fill research and teaching positions. And the university's Center for Research in Law and Justice gives $500 grants to help PhD candidates conduct studies and get published.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

29,048 Students

University of Minnesota-Crookston

The Department of Liberal Arts and Education at the University of Minnesota-Crookston offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and an undergraduate minor in criminal justice. The B.S. in Criminal Justice is available in two concentrations: law enforcement or corrections. The B.S. curriculum includes 35 credits of program core requirements, including courses in criminology, corrections, policing, judicial process, criminal justice ethics and criminal law. Program core courses also include a three-credit internship. Additionally, students in the law enforcement concentration are required to complete at least 24 credits of specialization courses, while students in the corrections concentration are required to complete at least 18 credits of concentration courses. UMC's criminal justice program has been approved for certification by the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

2,823 Students

Rutgers University

The Criminal Justice Department at Rutgers University offers an undergraduate major in criminal justice that teaches students about the criminal justice system, crime prevention and how criminal behavior is dealt with in both the public and corporate world. The criminal justice major requires the completion of at least 36 major credits, including 18 credits of general coursework in subjects like criminology, police and prisons. Students are also required to complete nine credits of thematic coursework in at least two different thematic areas from the following three options: human behavior, deviance and crime; social control institutions; and law and ethics. Additionally, students complete nine credits of electives, which can include a three-credit internship. Criminal justice majors can also choose to complete an independent study or an honors research thesis.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

6,408 Students

Buffalo State SUNY

The criminal justice program at Buffalo State takes a multi-disciplinary approach, looking at criminal justice from both theoretical and real-world perspectives. Students seeking a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice can concentrate in Policing, Corrections, or Intelligence Analysis. To earn the degree, students must earn at least 42 credits in major classes, including courses in criminal law, the police process, the correctional process, and criminal justice theory. Students are also required to take a statistics course and at least two courses selected from a list of relevant professional, behavioral, and social science electives. The Master of Science in Criminal Justice is a 36-credit program that allows students to choose either a master's project or a comprehensive exam.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

10,330 Students

SUNY College at Oswego

The Department of Public Justice at SUNY Oswego's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences has a Bachelor of Arts in Pubic Justice program. This is one of only three programs that the college offers as an Evening Program. Students pursuing this degree can take a minor in Forensic Science through a program developed by the Public Justice Department and the Chemistry Department. The interdisciplinary course of Pre-Law study in Public Justice is an excellent option for students planning to attend law school after graduation. Admitted students may be eligible for the following Criminal Justice scholarships: Raymond Joseph Stastny Memorial Scholarship ($500), Luciano j. Iorizzo Scholarship Award ($400.00) and the David A. Ingram, Esq. Memorial Scholarship ($500).

  • Advanced Placement Credit

7,937 Students

Westfield State University

Over 10 percent of Westfield's student body is enrolled in the Criminal Justice program, making it one of the school's most popular majors. In fact, alumni created a Criminal Justice Alumni Hall of Fame in 2016, which raises money for the department. Not that it lacked adequate support from graduates before. The Kareta, Nolan and Audette Scholarships from the Westfield State Foundation all go exclusively to Criminal Justice majors. Seniors can complete a 120 hour or 240 hour internship at a government agency during the winter or summer session, respectively. At the graduate level, students can pursue an MS in Criminal Justice, and some graduates may be interested in the Homeland Security Studies certificate.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

6,496 Students

SUNY College at Oneonta

Criminal justice majors at SUNY Oneonta take a criminological approach to the subject, with classes concentrating on the causes and effects of crime, as well as analyzing criminal justice policy. To earn the bachelor's degree, students must complete 42 credits in major classes, including courses in sociology, psychology, and ethics. The program is housed in the Department of Sociology, which gives students the flexibility to easily transition to a sociology major track if they change career plans, such as deciding to prepare for law school instead of a career in law enforcement. Criminal justice majors must complete an internship. The department also allows students to achieve a minor in criminal justice.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

6,119 Students

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University's Department of Government and Justice Studies offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, as well as a Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology. The BS in Criminal Justice requires 64 major credits and is offered in an international studies concentration. The graduate Criminal Justice and Criminology program is offered in coordination with the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program. The MPA's administration of justice track requires 15 credit hours of concentration-specific coursework and a six-credit internship, which involves full-time work at a criminal justice agency. The Department of Government and Justice Studies offers need-based scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students, including the Andy Nobles Scholarship in Criminal Justice and the North Carolina Sheriff's Association Scholarship in Criminal Justice.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

17,932 Students

Saint Cloud State University

Saint Cloud State University's Department of Criminal Justice provides degree programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. The department's Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice requires a minimum of 45 credits of major coursework and also requires that students research, write and orally defend a senior thesis. The department's Master of Science in Criminal Justice is a 36- to 42-credit degree program offered in a criminal justice administration track, a criminal justice counseling track and an elective track. Both the BA and MS program can be completed through in-person or online learning. Criminal justice students are eligible for several major-specific scholarships, including the $2,000 Joseph Plant Living the Dream Scholarship in Criminal Justice and the $1,000 Caldecott Family Scholarship in Criminal Justice.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

16,096 Students

Wayne State College

The School of Natural and Social Sciences at Wayne State College has a Criminal Justice program that is offered through the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Criminal Science. Students have the option of pursuing either a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. The program is offered in cooperation with the Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska. Criminal Justice majors (full-time juniors or seniors) may be eligible for the Brad Bigelow Criminal Justice Scholarship. Active members of the Wayne State Criminal Justice Association (WSCJA) and/or the Alpha Phi Sigma can apply for the Criminal Justice Alumni Scholarship.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

3,431 Students

Farmingdale State College

Farmingdale State College's Department of Criminal Justice offers an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice. The criminal justice curriculum includes 30 credits of major coursework that helps students cultivate technical competencies related to criminal justice and law enforcement. Students can choose from a full-time day program or a part-time evening program. Additionally, the school's Department of Security Systems/Law Enforcement Technology offers a BS in Criminal Justice with a concentration in law enforcement technology. This program includes coursework in computers, forensics, crime prevention and technology and prepares students to study digital evidence and investigate crimes committed on a computer.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

8,648 Students

California State University-Long Beach

The Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice at CSU Long Beach is offered through the College of Health and Human Services. The curriculum includes required courses such as criminal courts and judicial processes, policing, criminological theory, criminal justice ethics, values and diversity and constitutional criminal procedure. There is also a Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice program available with two format options: a full-time, on-campus, two-year option, or a fully on-line, accelerated option (beginning fall 2016). Scholarships for undergraduates include the Dr. Judy Hails Criminal Justice Student Award and the George M. Montoya Memorial Scholarship ($1,000-$3,000 each). Graduate students can apply for the Dr. Libby Deschenes Memorial Scholarship ($2,000-$3,000) and the Kay Holloway Memorial Scholarship (half-tuition).

  • Advanced Placement Credit

37,446 Students

Western Illinois University

The School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration (SLEJA) runs both an undergraduate LEJA degree and a graduate one at the Macomb and Quad Cities campuses, not to mention a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Police Executive Administration. With over 2,000 students enrolled, it is the fourth-largest law enforcement program in the US. That translates to plenty of resources to run the Center for Applied Criminal Justice, publish the Western Journal of Criminal Justice and hand out at least 10 annual scholarships worth between $150 and $1,500 per year. Students can join multiple campus organizations, including the Investigator's Club, Minorities in Blue and the student chapter of the American Society for Industrial Security.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

11,094 Students

Winona State University

The criminal justice program offered by WSU's College of Liberal Arts has two tracks - a Corrections Track and a Law Enforcement Track. This provides students with the chance to pursue a career in law enforcement or correctional agencies. WSU's criminal justice program is a professional peace officer education program certified by the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). An internship of 12 semester credit hours is an integral part of the criminal justice program for both Tracks. All students admitted to the program are required to complete the internship.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

8,490 Students

SUNY at Albany

The School of Criminal Justice at SUNY University at Albany grants degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and PH.D. level. The undergraduate program accepts UAlbany students after they have reached sophomore status. During their senior year, students perform a one-semester internship so they learn to apply their knowledge in a professional setting. At the master's level, criminal justice students can combine the degree with a Master of Social Work or a law degree. The Master of Arts in Criminal Justice is a 33-credit program that has four elective tracks and requires a capstone experience. All doctoral students are funded for three years and usually work a research or teaching assistantship. The Ph.D. requires 60 credits of coursework and a dissertation.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

17,178 Students

Lake Area Technical Institute

Lake Area Tech has an Associate of Applied Science in Law Enforcement that prepares students for law enforcement jobs with local, state, tribal, and federal agencies. This 18-month, four-semester program requires a practicum. The college also offers a hybrid program for officers who are already serving to earn an AAS in Law Enforcement. Officers who have completed the South Dakota Basic Officer Certificate can finish the degree in nine months with a mix of online and on-campus classes. The college gives prior learning credits for all the classes completed at the state's police academy. Lake Area Tech won the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, besting more than 1,000 schools around the nation.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

1,846 Students

Castleton University

Criminal justice students can earn an associate degree or bachelor's degree in the field through Castleton University. Students in either degree program gain field experience in their sophomore year when they observe local agencies and interact with criminal justice professionals. Upper-level bachelor's students can also intern with a local criminal justice agency, such as the county public defender's office or the probation office. Scholarships available specifically for criminal justice majors include the Christopher M. Moquin Memorial Scholarship, awarded to a student from Vermont with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

2,246 Students

Bethel College-Indiana

Bethel College Indiana has an Associate of Arts and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. All students in this track complete an internship, and some Bethel students have interned with the FBI or the U.S. Marshals Service. Criminal justice students earning the bachelor's degree take 120 credits, including 38 credits in core classes in the major. The degree also requires them to take nine credits in cognate classes such as crisis intervention or sociology of aging. The curriculum for the associate degree requires 63 credits, and a criminal justice minor requires 18 credits. The chairman of the department is a former Indiana county prosecutor.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

1,719 Students

Ferris State University

Undergraduate students studying criminal justice at Ferris State University's School of Criminal Justice can earn a bachelor's degree in three concentrations: criminal justice law enforcement, criminal justice corrections and criminal justice generalist. The school also offers a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration, which is a 30-semester-hour program that emphasizes four core areas: administrative and leadership skills, personnel and budgeting management, research and evaluation, and crime and violence. The master's curriculum combines coursework in criminal justice with coursework in administration to prepare students to act as managers and administrators of criminal justice institutions. Several scholarships are reserved specifically for criminal justice students, including the Martin J. Wozniak Scholarship for a student enrolled in the criminal justice law enforcement track.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

14,715 Students

Midwestern State University

The Department of Criminal Justice at Midwestern State University grants both a bachelor's and master's degree in criminal justice. Undergrads can get real-world experience by performing an internship, for which they will earn a stipend. The department works with local agencies such as the police, sheriff, and district attorney to place interns. Students can also become active in Alpha Phi Sigma, the national criminal justice honor society, which has a branch on campus. Undergrads are eligible for scholarships such as the Wichita Falls Police Officer's Association Scholarship. The master's program includes 12 credits in electives that students can use to tailor the program to their career goals.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

6,043 Students

University of Florida

University of Florida's Criminology degrees are affordable for multiple reasons. For starters, juniors with one eye on an advanced credential can enroll in the combined degree; there, they'll polish off a BA in Criminology and an MA in Criminology, Law and Society in fewer than the standard six years. Furthermore, the university guarantees graduate funding to students pursuing the MA or PhD. In exchange for assistantships or fellowships, students are required to teach or conduct research in coordination with faculty. The department also divvies out funds for travel, the best graduate student paper, and outstanding quantitative research.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

50,645 Students

Alfred University

The Social Sciences Division at Alfred University offers an undergraduate major and minor in criminal justice studies. The major in criminal justice studies requires 24 credits of core courses and 20 credits of electives. Core courses cover subjects like penology, criminal behavior, judicial processes, abnormal psychology, crime and social deviance. Criminal justice majors are also required to attend at least two institutes, which are half-day sessions that deal with specific issues in the criminal justice profession. The criminal justice minor requires 22 credits of coursework.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

2,286 Students

SUNY at Fredonia

SUNY Fredonia grants a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice to students who complete at least 42 credits of classes in the major. Students are required to take six core classes, two classes in statistics and research methods, three criminal justice electives, and three interdisciplinary electives from a long list of classes offered by other departments. For instance, criminal justice majors could take a computer science class on computer security and ethics or a sociology class covering deviant behavior. Departmental scholarships include the Steven C. Croglio Scholarship, given to a senior based on academic performance and commitment to a career in law enforcement, and the University Police Scholarship, awarded to a junior.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

4,842 Students

North Dakota State University-Main Campus

North Dakota State University grants criminal just degrees at all levels from bachelor's to Ph.D. Undergrads must enroll as pre-professional students and meet GPA and course requirements to enter the criminal justice program, which has an interdisciplinary focus. Students typically complete an internship with an agency in North Dakota or Minnesota during their junior or senior year to gain practical experience. The Master of Science in Criminal Justice has two tracks: applied criminal justice and criminology. The Ph.D. program is one of only 40 in the United States preparing candidates for criminal justice policy and research jobs. The Criminal Justice Department administers five endowed scholarships.

Michigan State University

Michigan State University's School of Criminal Justice offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice that requires major coursework in criminology, criminal procedure, policing, corrections, juvenile justice and private security and can be completed with an optional concentration in security management. The school also offers a master's degree in criminal justice, a master's degree in forensic science, a PhD in Criminal Justice, as well as three online master's programs. Graduate and undergraduate criminal justice students are eligible for several scholarships through the School of Criminal Justice, including the Diane M. Diponio Memorial Scholarship for women entering the field of law enforcement and the Louis A. Radelet Graduate Diversity Scholarship Fund, which provides assistantship and fellowship funding to minority criminal justice graduate students.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

50,538 Students

Minnesota State University-Mankato

Minnesota State University-Mankato's College of Social and Behavioral Science is home to the university's Department of Sociology and Corrections, which houses its Corrections program, and its Department of Government, which houses the Law Enforcement program. The Department of Sociology and Corrections offers a Bachelor of Science in Corrections, a corrections minor and a graduate degree in corrections. The Department of Government's Law Enforcement program offers a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Law Enforcement. The Department of Sociology and Corrections awards $1,000 scholarships each year to academically outstanding students. Additionally, five separate scholarships are reserved specifically for law enforcement majors, including the Frank A. and Marolin P. Korth Law Enforcement Scholarship and John Liebenstein Memorial Law Enforcement Scholarship.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

15,313 Students

University of Colorado Colorado Springs

The School of Public Affairs at UCCS offers the following undergraduate Criminal Justice programs: Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, a Minor in Criminal Justice, and an Undergraduate Certificate in Homeland Security. The BA in Criminal Justice has the following option areas: Corrections, Family Violence, Forensic Studies, Law Enforcement, Law, and Public Policy. The school has a Master of Criminal Justice program. Undergraduate students can pursue an accelerated Bachelor of Arts/Master of Criminal Justice degree, while graduate students can earn Dual Masters in Public Administration/Criminal Justice. There are also graduate certificates available in Criminal Justice, Homeland Defense, and Security Intelligence. The School of Public Affairs is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

11,988 Students

Towson University

Through its Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice, Towson University offers an undergraduate major in sociology-anthropology with a concentration in criminal justice. The criminal justice concentration requires a minimum of 45 credits of major coursework, including upper-level courses in the broad subject areas of social control, criminology and criminal justice practice. Students are also required to complete nine credits electives with the option to undertake an advanced learning experience in the form of a seminar, internship, honors thesis or another upper-level course. Criminal justice students also have the opportunity to participate in the Criminal Justice Student Association, the Forensic Science Student Organization or the National Criminal Justice Honor Society Alpha Phi Sigma.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

22,284 Students

Truman State University

The Bachelor of Science in Justice Systems degree at Truman State University is offered through the School of Social and Cultural Studies. Students accepted to the program learn about the various components of the criminal justice system (law enforcement, the courts, corrections, etc.) and how to navigate each field effectively. The curriculum consists of coursework in topics such as juvenile delinquency, the rehabilitative system, criminology, the enforcement system, and the legal system. Students have access to a functional crime lab equipped with modern instruments for microscopic examination, chemical analyses, and latent print work. Students are required to complete an internship experience in order to graduate from the program. The school also offers minors in justice systems and in forensic science.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

6,208 Students

University of Nebraska at Omaha

At the University of Nebraska Omaha, the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is located within the College of Public Affairs and Community Service (CPACS). The school offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice that prepares students for a career as a DEA agent, a police or probation officer or a correctional counselor. There are three graduate programs available: Master of Arts and a Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice and a Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology and Criminal Justice. There is also a Graduate Certificate in Managing Juvenile and Adult Populations program available. Students have the option to pursue the Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice/Master of Social Work (MS/MSW) Dual Degree Program.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

15,526 Students

California State University-Fullerton

Cal State Fullerton offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice degree through the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS). The program draws from different disciplines (psychology, public administration, law, etc.) and familiarizes students with various subsystems of the American criminal justice system, such as law enforcement and corrections. The curriculum covers diverse topics including crime and delinquency, criminal justice research methodology, and public management and policy. Full-time criminal justice majors who plan to pursue a career in law enforcement after graduation can apply for the Dan Byrnes Scholarship ($500 to $1,000). Continuing upper-division students pursuing a CHSS major (such as criminal justice) can apply for the Don A. Schweitzer Memorial Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences ($800).

  • Advanced Placement Credit

38,948 Students

Northwest Missouri State University

The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Northwest Missouri State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminology degree with the following areas of emphasis: diversity within the criminal justice system, the juvenile justice system, and the adult justice system. The curriculum includes courses in abnormal psychology, police and society, courts and the rights of the accused, and the juvenile justice system in America. There is also a minor in criminal justice available. Although internships are not required, students are encouraged to seek internship opportunities that support their academic and future career goals. Students with financial need can apply to a number of university-wide scholarships such as the Carrick Lee Scholarship ($1,000) and the Harvey and Joyce While Scholarship ($1,000).

  • Advanced Placement Credit

6,593 Students

Saint Joseph's College-New York

Students accepted to the Bachelor of Science program at St. Joseph's College can choose from five tracks of study: law and justice, juvenile justice, mental health, community corrections, and technology and the criminal justice system. The completion of an internship program is required in order to earn the degree. In addition, the college offers a BS in Criminal Justice Practice and Policy that can be completed entirely online. An 18-credit minor in the discipline is available for non-criminal justice majors enrolled at the college. St. Joseph's also offers a 24-credit Criminology/Criminal Justice Certificate. Students are required to take courses that cover topics such as criminal justice administration, political and civil rights, criminology, corrections, social theory, and research methods in criminal justice.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

4,749 Students

Texas Woman's University

At Texas Woman's University, the Department of Sociology and Social Work is part of the College of Arts & Sciences. The department has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program. Students can complete the requirements for this degree entirely on campus, 100% online or through a combination of online and classroom-based courses. The program includes an internship, which can be taken in such locations as the Denton County District Attorney's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Dallas), or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

15,286 Students

West Virginia University

West Virginia University's Department of Sociology and Anthropology offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology degree. Students follow a curriculum that include courses in deviant behavior, police culture and socialization, punishment and social control, organized crime, terrorism, and victimology. On the graduate level, the department offers a Master of Arts in Sociology with a specialization in crime, social control and violence. Beginning in fall 2016, there will also be a Doctor of Philosophy degree in sociology offered with a specialization in crime. Students will have the option of earning their MA degree as part of the department's doctoral program. The MA thesis requirement may be waived for students who already have their MA in Sociology or in a related field of study.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

28,776 Students

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

UNC Charlotte offers bachelor and master's programs in criminal justice. To enter the Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice program, students must first pass an introductory class in criminal justice and a statistics class. They also must take a research methods class. Majors are required to take at least one class each in law enforcement, corrections, and the legal area. The Master of Science in Criminal Justice requires 25 credits of coursework plus a thesis, or 31 credits of coursework and passing a comprehensive exam. The department offers a variety of opportunities for criminal justice students, including several named scholarships and a campus chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, the national criminal justice honor society.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

27,983 Students

University of Georgia

The Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Public and International Affairs have been jointly administering UGA's Criminal Justice program since 1977. Students who complete this program graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. A semester-long internship in a criminal justice agency is part of the program. Eligible students can apply for the following scholarships created specifically for Criminal Justice majors at UGA: Sherry Lyons-Williams Scholarship, Kenneth M. McCarthy Scholarship and the James T. "Tommy" Morris Scholarship. Additional sources of funding include the Will Bush Student Professional Development Fund, the Susette M. Talarico Fund, and the Criminal Justice Studies Discretionary Fund.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

36,130 Students

SUNY College at Plattsburgh

The School of Arts and Sciences at SUNY Plattsburgh offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice program that gives students the opportunity to explore crucial social problem areas such as crime, delinquency and violence. Completion of this degree qualifies graduates for federal employment at the GS 7-8 level. Criminal Justice can also be pursued as a minor for students majoring in areas such as psychology, public administration, or social services. SUNY Plattsburgh's BA in Criminal Justice program requires an internship, which can be completed with any government agency, community service organization or local business.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

5,718 Students

University of North Texas

The University of North Texas offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice. The Master's degree can be completed entirely online. Graduates of these programs may become police officers, federal or state law enforcement officers, probation or parole officers, detention or custodial officers, victim's advocates, and many more. Students will take courses on subjects such as criminal justice and public policy, criminological theory, criminal law and procedure, ethical and diversity issues in criminal justice, police and correctional systems, and research methods. Criminal justice students may qualify for scholarships such as the Jacob Andrew Fritsch Memorial Scholarship, the J. Edgar Hoover Scholarship, and the Tory J. Caeti Memorial Scholarship.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

37,299 Students

California State University-Stanislaus

Students admitted to the Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice program at Stanislaus State University can choose from the following areas of concentration: law enforcement, corrections, forensic science, juvenile justice, and criminal legal studies. The BA in Criminal Justice program is the only program in the state (and one of only a handful throughout the country) to offer a concentration in juvenile justice. The program includes courses in criminal procedures, causes of crime, juvenile justice, and the historical and contemporary aspects of criminal justice. There is also a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice degree available. The Cecil Rhodes Scholarship supports academically qualified part-time or full-time Criminal Justice students with demonstrable financial need. Only one award is given each year.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

9,282 Students

University of South Florida-Main Campus

At the University of South Florida, the Bachelor of Arts in Criminology degree is offered through the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences. The curriculum includes coursework that cover topics such as the theories of criminal behavior, environmental law and crime, forensic psychology, race and crime, the juvenile justice system, and criminal investigations. The BA in Criminology degree can be pursued entirely online as long as students choose electives that are offered online. Master of Arts degrees are available in criminology and in criminal justice administration, in addition to a Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology degree. MA and PhD criminology students are considered for Criminology Graduate Assistantships, which award $6,000 and $15,000 yearly stipends for Master's and doctoral students respectively.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

42,067 Students

Gogebic Community College

Gogebic Community College offers an associate degree program in criminal justice that prepares students for careers in various areas of the criminal justice field, including roles as police officers, detectives, sheriffs, FBI agents, special agents and drug enforcement agents. The criminal justice degree program requires 63 to 65 credits of coursework, including courses in corrections, juvenile corrections, community-based corrections, legal issues in corrections and first aid. Students are also required to complete three to four credits of psychology electives and nine to ten credits of humanities electives. Additionally, students have the option to tailor their coursework to include the 15 credits required by the State of Michigan to become a corrections officer in the Michigan Department of Corrections.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

1,112 Students

Types of Criminal Justice Degrees

Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice

An associate’s degree in criminal justice is a 2-year undergraduate program that provides a thorough overview of the criminal justice system. Although 2 years is the norm, you may find programs that take less time. Many community colleges and junior colleges offer associate’s degrees.

A high school diploma or GED is required before you can apply to an associate’s program. Certificates and/or military experience can often count as credits.

Degree Options

  • Associate of Arts (AA) in Criminal Justice: Incorporates humanities courses. A common choice for students interested in transferring their credits to a BA degree.
  • Associate of Science (AS) in Criminal Justice: Incorporates science and technical courses. A common choice for students interested in transferring their credits to a BS degree.
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Criminal Justice: Focuses on practical coursework. A popular choice for students who are interested in beginning work straight after graduation.


No matter which degree you choose (AA, AS or AAS), a good program will provide you with broad expertise in every aspect of criminal justice. Core courses often cover the criminal justice system, corrections, law enforcement, ethics, criminal law, crime scene investigation and so on. Many AA and AS degree programs also incorporate electives in science, humanities and sociology/psychology.

Career Opportunities

You could consider an associate’s degree if you wish to:

  • Qualify for an entry-level job with the police, courts, corrections and private security
  • Earn credit hours for a bachelor’s degree further in your career
  • Add an extra qualification to your résumé

Common job titles for graduates with an associate’s degree in criminal justice include:

  • Police Officer
  • Security Guard
  • Corrections Officer
  • Legal Assistant
  • Youth Caseworker
  • Private Investigator
  • Court Reporter/Administrator

To become a police officer, you may only need a high school diploma or GED. On the flip side, some law enforcement agencies specify that you must hold a bachelor’s degree or above for certain jobs. When in doubt, ask your potential employer for precise education requirements.

Note: If you’re interested in a bachelor’s degree further down the track, make sure your credits will be transferable – attend an accredited program.

Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is a 4-year undergraduate program that provides students with a solid grounding in both the theory and practice of criminal justice. Some federal, state and corporate employers will require you to hold a bachelor’s degree before they’ll consider you for the job.

A high school diploma or GED is required before you can apply to a bachelor’s program. Certificates and/or military experience can often count as credits.

Degree Options

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminal Justice: Incorporates humanities courses (e.g. foreign language, English, etc.). Graduates with a BA might consider graduate work in law or a career in social services.
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice: Incorporates science and technical courses (e.g. forensic science, IT and math). This is a good choice for students thinking about a science-based career (e.g. CSI).


Most bachelor’s programs require you to take general humanities and science courses on top of a criminal justice “core”. General courses are intended to provide you with a wide-ranging perspective on the world; the core is focused on training you in all elements of criminal justice. Some curricula will include psychology or sociology.

Core coursework usually covers a swath of criminal justice topics, including the law, policing, courts, criminology, ethics, corrections and criminal evidence. Once you reach your 3rd and 4th years, universities will give you the option to specialize in a particular area of study (e.g. family law, forensic science, paralegal studies, etc.). You may also be required to complete an internship.

Career Opportunities

You could consider earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in order to:

  • Apply for jobs in sheriff offices, courts, prisons, the FBI, social service agencies and parole offices
  • Find work as a police officer, detective, criminal investigator, forensic science technician, etc.
  • Build on your associate’s degree or certificate credits
  • Prep for a master’s degree or a JD

Look for bachelor’s programs that focus on real-world experience and provide useful internships. Employers will want to see proof of practical skills.

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Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice

A master’s degree in criminal justice is a 2-year graduate program that gives students the chance to specialize in a particular area of criminal justice.

A bachelor’s degree is usually required before you can attend a master’s program. Many candidates are working professionals who already have on-the-job experience.

Degree Options

  • Master of Arts (MA) in Criminal Justice: Often focuses on humanities areas (e.g. law enforcement administration, legal studies, public policy, etc.).
  • Master of Science (MS) of Criminal Justice: Often focuses on science and technical areas (e.g. cyber crime, forensics, crime science investigation, etc.).
  • Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ): Tries to find a balance between the MS and the MA by mixing humanities and science courses.


The curriculum for your master’s program will depend on which degree (MA, MS or MCJ) you pick. On the whole, most schools require students to take core courses and electives.

  • Core courses cover key criminal justice issues (e.g. criminological theory, criminal profiling, policing, correctional leadership, legal issues, IT, policy development, budgeting/planning, etc.).
  • Electives allow you dig deep into an area of special interest (e.g. white collar crime, terrorism, forensic psychology, etc.).

To test your research skills, good graduate programs will often incorporate a practicum and/or final thesis into the curriculum.

Career Opportunities

You may wish to earn a master’s because you’re training for a specific career, preparing for law school, working towards a PhD or interested in a career change. A master’s degree is often useful for jobs in management, government policy and specialized units in law enforcement.

Leadership positions for master’s degree holders include:

  • Police Captain
  • Police Chief
  • Corporate Security Manager
  • Critical Incident Manager

Specific positions for master’s degree holders include:

  • Criminologist
  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Criminal Profiler

You don’t need a master’s degree to become a police officer, detective or special agent in an organization like the FBI or DEA. But you may need it in order to become a police captain or police chief.

Doctoral Degree in Criminal Justice

A DCJ or PhD in criminal justice is an intense 3-5 year research-based program. It is the highest educational qualification you can achieve.

Degree Options

  • Doctor of Criminal Justice (DCJ): Rarer than the more established (and sometimes more respected) PhD. Instead of original research, a DCJ focuses on the application of existing research to real-world problems.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Criminal Justice: The most well-known doctoral qualification in criminal justice. In a PhD, students are required to write a lengthy dissertation based on original research.


The PhD curriculum is made up of 3 parts:

  • Core courses
  • Concentration courses
  • Dissertation

In core courses, you will often tackle advanced research and theory (e.g. applied statistics, contemporary policy, quantitative and qualitative research methods, etc.). In concentration courses, you will be allowed to focus on your specific discipline (e.g. juvenile justice, corrections, etc.). Your final hurdle is a dissertation based on original research.

Career Opportunities

With a PhD in hand, graduates can:

  • Teach at university
  • Conduct high-level research
  • Work as a government administrator
  • Advise on policy
  • Ascend to corporate management
  • Serve as a consultant or expert criminologist

Above all, pick a PhD program with an excellent reputation. Tenured faculty with real-world experience, well-respected research centers, strong funding numbers, high program rankings – these are markers of overall quality.

Certificate in Criminal Justice

A certificate in criminal justice is a short, non-degree program that typically lasts anywhere from 6 months to one year. Since certificates don’t often require students to participate in internships or practicums, online offerings are particularly common.

Certificate Options

  • Undergraduate Certificate: Available to high school and GED graduates. An undergraduate certificate in criminal justice covers basic aspects of criminal law, criminal behavior and policing.
  • Graduate Certificate: Designed for baccalaureate graduates who have specific career goals in mind. Graduate certificates are often highly specialized (e.g. homeland security, conservation criminology, security management, etc.).

Career Opportunities

A certificate can be helpful if you would like to:

  • Build up credit hours
  • Pursue a degree later on
  • Earn an extra qualification while you are working on a degree in a related field (e.g. social work)
  • Expand your opportunities in your existing job (e.g. IT, security education, social services, etc.)
  • Start transitioning into the field of criminal justice
Note: If you’re interested in a bachelor’s degree further down the track, make sure your credits will be transferable – attend an accredited program.

Important Accreditations

Regional vs. National Accreditation

Before you choose a program, we recommend you ask if the college or university has regional accreditation. This is a mark of quality granted to institutions by one of six regional accrediting bodies (e.g. New England Association of Schools and Colleges).

Schools with national accreditation are not “bad” – in fact, they’re usually cheaper and easier to get into – but they’re rarely looked upon with the same respect as regional institutions.

You can learn more about the accreditation debate in Accreditation: Understanding the Difference Between Real Schools and Diploma Mills.

Benefits of Regional Accreditation

Attending a regionally accredited school will make it easier for you to:

  • Transfer credits (many regionally accredited schools will not accept credits from nationally accredited schools)
  • Apply for funding, student loans, scholarships and tuition reimbursement
  • Gain acceptance into graduate school
  • Look good in the eyes of recruiters and HR managers

Program Accreditations

There is no specialized accrediting agency for criminal justice programs. When schools and employers talk about accreditation, they are usually discussing institutional accreditation.

However, there are organizations that offer criminal justice program certification. Like accrediting bodies, these organizations assess degree programs using a set of rigorous standards.

One such body is the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). ACJS certifies associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in criminal justice. This is a “boutique” qualification and not many programs have it.

Find an ACJS Certified Program.

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