Best Online Bachelors in Criminal Justice Degrees for 2023

Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice Career Options & Salary

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Overview of a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice & Law

The world needs people who can fight crime and ensure that justice is served. It also needs people who care about others and who are willing to help those people who have made mistakes turn their lives around. There are many professions where one can do one or the other, but after completing an online or on-campus bachelor's in criminal justice degree program, a person is trained to do both.

Criminal justice sounds like “lock up the bad guys”, but there is much more to it than that. Those who work in the criminal justice system also have a sense of duty to help those who have made mistakes rectify the situation and improve their own lives to ensure they don’t end up on the wrong side of the law again. Criminal justice majors work with both the “law” and the “order” side of the justice system in a variety of ways.

An online, on-campus, or hybrid (online and in-person) bachelor’s degree in criminal justice prepares students to work in a variety of positions. Criminal justice majors are not pigeonholed into work as law enforcement officials or correction officers, they can work in a variety of fields and in many circumstances. Criminal justice professionals can help prevent crime and illegal activities just as easily as they can investigate after the criminal act has happened or find themselves working as forensic science technicians far from any crime scene. Here are just a few of the role options for criminal justice graduates once they join the criminal justice system and enter a career in law enforcement:

  • Probation Officers
  • Correctional Officers
  • Correctional Treatment Specialists
  • Juvenile Justice Probation Officers
  • Local, State, and Federal Law Enforcement or criminal justice agencies, such as with the FBI or Department of Homeland Security
  • Police Officers
  • Private Detective and Investigators
  • Private Security
  • Forensic Science Technicians
  • Crime Scene Investigators or Technicians
  • Emergency Management Professionals
  • Or criminal justice professionals may opt for further criminal justice education, such as in law school or to gain leadership or policy-creation positions in the criminal justice field at the national level with a master's degree

All degrees have their pros and cons, even bachelor's degrees. Prospective students must take everything into consideration and determine if going back to school (or spending their free time off work taking online courses) and studying criminal justice is the right path for them. Here are some things for you to consider.


  • A bachelor’s degree in a criminal justice program will make you more marketable when it’s time to search for jobs. People with degrees are often hired over those without degrees, and those completing bachelor's degree programs (even online programs) will be hired over those with an associate degree. If you can combine an online degree with experience, even better.
  • Higher salary. Not only are those with degrees often picked over those without a formal education, but they can also command a higher salary.
  • These days, a Bachelor of Science or Arts is usually considered an entry-level degree in most fields.
  • More room for advancement and job growth. With a degree, advancement opportunities into management, administrative positions, or higher ranks become available.


  • The Expense - College tuition is not cheap. Whether you take out student loans or not, college is a serious financial commitment.
  • Time Considerations - Although most programs are designed to last four years, if you are saving up to take classes so you won’t have student loans, this could extend the amount of time you need to complete your degree.
  • It’s a balancing act - If you have a job, a family, or other obligations, finding the time to attend classes, do required reading, complete assignments and take exams could be challenging, though some students try to solve this by earning online degrees.

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What are the Best Online Bachelors in Criminal Justice College Programs?


San Diego State University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,720
    • Out-of-State: $19,600
  • Net Price: $13,192
  • Retention Rate: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 76%
  • Total Enrollment: 36,334
  • Undergrad Students: 31,491
  • Graduate Students: 4,843
  • Diplomas Awarded: NA
  • Grads Salary: $76,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 27:1
  • San Diego State University

University of Massachusetts-Lowell

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $15,698
    • Out-of-State: $33,624
  • Net Price: $19,147
  • Retention Rate: 84%
  • Graduation Rate: 69%
  • Total Enrollment: 18,150
  • Undergrad Students: 13,813
  • Graduate Students: 4,337
  • Diplomas Awarded: 196
  • Grads Salary: $78,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 19:1
  • University of Massachusetts

University of Central Florida

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $6,368
    • Out-of-State: $22,467
  • Net Price: $11,108
  • Retention Rate: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 74%
  • Total Enrollment: 71,881
  • Undergrad Students: 61,401
  • Graduate Students: 10,480
  • Diplomas Awarded: NA
  • Grads Salary: $67,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 31:1
  • University of Central Florida

The Pennsylvania State University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $18,450
    • Out-of-State: $35,514
  • Net Price: $25,548
  • Retention Rate: 87%
  • Graduation Rate: 73%
  • Total Enrollment: 89,816
  • Undergrad Students: 74,446
  • Graduate Students: 15,370
  • Diplomas Awarded: 218
  • Grads Salary: $77,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 15:1
  • The Pennsylvania State University

Arizona State University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $11,338
    • Out-of-State: $29,428
  • Net Price: $14,653
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Total Enrollment: 74,795
  • Undergrad Students: 63,124
  • Graduate Students: 11,671
  • Diplomas Awarded: 372
  • Grads Salary: $73,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Arizona State University

University of Washington

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $11,889
    • Out-of-State: $39,258
  • Net Price: $10,113
  • Retention Rate: 80%
  • Graduation Rate: 60%
  • Total Enrollment: 5,364
  • Undergrad Students: 4,567
  • Graduate Students: 797
  • Diplomas Awarded: 84
  • Grads Salary: $74,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 14:1
  • University of Washington

Florida International University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $6,565
    • Out-of-State: $18,963
  • Net Price: $8,988
  • Retention Rate: 91%
  • Graduation Rate: 67%
  • Total Enrollment: 58,836
  • Undergrad Students: 49,049
  • Graduate Students: 9,787
  • Diplomas Awarded: NA
  • Grads Salary: $66,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 25:1
  • Florida International University

University of Cincinnati

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $12,138
    • Out-of-State: $27,472
  • Net Price: $22,767
  • Retention Rate: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 73%
  • Total Enrollment: 40,826
  • Undergrad Students: 29,933
  • Graduate Students: 10,893
  • Diplomas Awarded: NA
  • Grads Salary: $72,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 19:1
  • University of Cincinnati

St. Joseph's College-New York

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $29,200
    • Out-of-State: $29,200
  • Net Price: $16,290
  • Retention Rate: 84%
  • Graduation Rate: 70%
  • Total Enrollment: 5,012
  • Undergrad Students: 3,903
  • Graduate Students: 1,109
  • Diplomas Awarded: 51
  • Grads Salary: $69,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 12:1
  • St. Joseph's College-New York

University of Oklahoma

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $11,688
    • Out-of-State: $27,069
  • Net Price: $21,836
  • Retention Rate: 87%
  • Graduation Rate: 72%
  • Total Enrollment: 27,772
  • Undergrad Students: 21,383
  • Graduate Students: 6,389
  • Diplomas Awarded: 58
  • Grads Salary: $70,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 20:1
  • University of Oklahoma-Norman
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Certificate vs. Bachelor's

What Online Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degrees are Available?

There are two types of online bachelor degrees a person studying criminal justice and law might attain: A Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science.

  • A Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree is focused on social services and sciences. Students will study criminology, but also social science classes such as psychology, sociology, and communications. Those considering counseling or social work could attain a BA in Criminal Justice. These degrees should be easy to complete online, since there is little hands-on learning.
  • A Bachelor of Science (BS) degree is more scientifically based. Students will take forensics and other science classes along with the law enforcement and criminology courses. Investigators and analysts would benefit from a BS in Criminal Justice. These degrees might be easier to complete through a hybrid program rather than an online-only program because of hands-on science requirements.

Whether you attain a BA or BS may also be dictated by the type of college you attend. Liberal Arts colleges tend to award more BA degrees, while traditional colleges and universities often focus on BS degrees.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements can vary from one school to the next, but most schools, online and traditional, will require the following:

  • High school diploma or GED completion
  • An acceptable score for either the ACT or SAT - The required exam and acceptable score are set by each school. If you have specific schools in mind, go over their admission requirements carefully
  • Transcripts from high school/GED or any college courses you’ve taken
  • Application

How long does it take to earn an Online Criminal Justice & Law Bachelor's?

An online bachelor’s degree is designed to take four years to complete. The first two years are usually general requirement courses that every college student takes, such as freshman English, biology, a foreign language, and physical education classes. The last two years are when you take the bulk of your major courses and complete any internships that might be required. Some students can finish in less than four years, by going to summer school, getting credit for work and life experience, or taking extra online or hybrid (online and in-person) courses. On the other hand, some students need more time to finish because of work or family obligations.

Potential Careers in Criminal Justice & Law with a Bachelor’s

There’s a lot you can do with a criminal justice degree. From working in corrections and law enforcement, to investigating abuse or fraud; you can discover many career options that match your education.

  • Corrections Officer
    Correction officers ensure the safe and efficient management of jail and prison populations. They are often the point of contact between prisoners and the administration They are also responsible for moving and transferring prisoners. Corrections officers can work in prisons of all kinds, from maximum security down to jails or detention centers.
    Average Salary: $40,600
  • Fraud Investigator
    Fraud investigators determine whether deception has taken place in a given situation. They investigate embezzlement cases, insurance fraud, and identity theft to determine if there is a problem, and if so who is responsible. Investigators often travel, and sometimes their work takes them out of the country.
    Average Salary: $61,900
  • Social Worker
    Social workers are trained to investigate human interactions and determine if they’re normal or if there’s an issue that needs addressed. Social workers help people in sometimes bad situations improve their lives by offering guidance and programs. Social workers work for social service organizations, schools, and law enforcement agencies.
    Average Salary: $48,000
  • Intelligence Analyst
    Analysts work for government agencies and for companies with contracts looking for data breaches and investigating security threats. Most of the time, an analyst works from their own office, but there are times when going to a site for investigative purposes is required.
    Average Salary: $70,600

Options to Advance

Once you’ve attained an online or traditional bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, advancing in your career depends on your career. For law enforcement officials, earning online certifications to move up in rank is common. Getting an online master’s in criminal justice is also an option for those who want to move into the administrative ranks. For those in the social service fields, getting a social worker’s license or a teaching certification is an option, and for those who want to either prosecute or defend, going to law school and becoming a lawyer is a goal to consider.

Choosing your path when it comes to a criminal justice major depends on a couple of factors. Do you want to help catch the bad guys, piece together the evidence used to find out the person who committed the illegal act, or do you want to work behind the scenes and make sure those who are fighting crime are doing so fairly and safely? These are things you need to consider, and all of them are viable options when it comes to a career in criminal justice.

Or maybe you want to go the social services route and help those who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law correct their actions and get back on track. People are needed in both camps. Your assistance will be appreciated, however you choose to use your bachelors in criminal justice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a criminal justice degree hard?

A criminal justice degree will require rigor, just like any other undergraduate degree. However, it will likely have nothing on any future field training you will need to complete if you wish to become a police officer or FBI agent. Most criminal justice degree courses are focused on ensuring that you understand the history of the criminal justice system in America and the concepts that undergird our current court and penal systems. This means a lot of reading, discussing, and writing about those topics, with little to no time spent on lab work or hands-on experiences until you choose which part of the field you are going to enter. So, if you are worried about needing to memorize details, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. If, instead, you are concerned about having to write papers on a myriad of subjects related to criminal justice, then you might want to take some time to brush up on your writing skills.

What majors other than criminal justice specifically might I be able to take and move into the criminal justice field?

While you could take a general criminal justice program and be ready to enter that field, you could choose instead to take a more focused degree that will provide you with more knowledge in a particular field, helping you to move into a higher level of that area within criminal justice right away. Some of your options include corrections, criminology, and police science, which will prepare you for roles in law enforcement and corrections before you ever step foot in the field. However, other options such as forensic science, pre-law or legal studies, and criminal psychology will put you on the path toward careers which fall into the realm of criminal justice but require much more base knowledge for you to find success.

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