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If you’re looking for a career in the criminal justice field, an online degree in criminal justice can open up a wide range of opportunities. From law enforcement and corrections to forensic science and social services, this degree program covers diverse subjects like law and court procedures, forensic science, and the policies and practices of criminal justice systems. By earning an online criminal justice degree, you can prepare yourself for a rewarding career in a growing job market, with opportunities to specialize in areas like cyber crimes, homeland security, and protective services.



Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

By enrolling in an Associate’s degree program in criminal justice, students can acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to secure various entry-level jobs in the field. This program covers diverse subjects like corrections, criminal law, and social science, providing students with a comprehensive understanding of the theory, practice, and current trends in the industry. Furthermore, students can easily transfer their credits earned in the program towards a Bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice, providing them with further opportunities for career growth and advancement.

Course Examples:

B.S. in Criminal Justice

A Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program offers students a comprehensive understanding of the criminal justice system, covering a broad range of courses related to police, courts, and corrections systems. With a focus on all aspects of the criminal justice system, this program provides students with an in-depth knowledge of the industry. Additionally, students can choose to specialize in areas like forensic psychology, crime scene investigation (CSI), and other related fields, opening up new opportunities for career growth and development.

Course Examples:

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

The Master of Science program in Criminal Justice delves into advanced areas like policy design and decision-making, equipping students with the skills and knowledge to become ethical and proficient decision-makers in various criminal justice sectors. This program enables students to devise effective strategies to solve complex problems within the industry. Graduating with an M.S. degree in criminal justice not only increases the likelihood of securing better jobs, but it also opens up doors to advanced degree programs for career advancement.

Course Examples:


By pursuing a degree in criminal justice, you can enhance your skills and expand your career opportunities. With this degree, you can qualify for various entry-level positions, and with experience, you can aim for higher-level roles with better pay. This degree opens up numerous career paths, including positions as FBI agents or teachers, among others. Since criminal justice is a diverse field, you can find a job that matches your interests, skills, and income goals.

Online criminal justice degree programs, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level, cover a wide range of topics related to the field. Beyond the basics of criminal law and the court system, students also delve into social science and public policy. In addition to coursework, many programs offer opportunities for real-world experience through internships. With the flexibility of online learning, students may also be able to specialize in a particular area of interest.

Before starting your search for criminal justice programs, it’s important to consider your career goals. If you plan to pursue doctoral studies in areas such as teaching or research, you should avoid practice-based programs.

An online associate’s degree in criminal justice can usually be earned in two years. And some schools offer faster paced programs that allow students to finish their degree in as few as 18 months. This program will prepare you to enter the field with the skill that is needed to excel in your career.

These degree programs covers the basis of the field, including the U.S. criminal justice system and may be ideal for you if you are new to the criminal justice field. It could also be a great path for you if you are a current working professional who wants to be able to better understand the theory behind law enforcement and the court system. Many times, the credits that are earned in these programs can be transferred to a bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice.

There are two types of degrees that can be earned when going for your associate’s degree in a criminal justice program. These are the Associates of Arts (A.A.) and Associates of Science (A.S.). For the most part, both degrees should get you ready for careers in the field of criminal justice. However, there are some differences to be noted about each degree type. For example, an A.A. degree is less specialized than an A.S. degree. So, if you would like to study the criminal justice field more in depth and plan to enter into a career in an area like forensics, then an A.S. degree might be a better fit for you.

In general, however, criminal justice students will take many social science classes as well as classes that teach about the government and law. In total, students must complete 60 credit hours before they are able to graduate.

Common programs include:
  • Associate of Science (AS) in Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts (AA) in Criminal Justice
Associate’s in criminal justice programs include courses like:
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Juvenile Justice System
  • Corrections

You’ll also take general courses, like writing and math. Some programs require a capstone project or even an internship.

An online Bachelor of Criminal Justice program takes a broad look at theory and practice. A student enrolled in a 4 year program will learn about topics that range from forensic science to criminal justice to how the courts work with law enforcement. You’ll study the many systems that deal with justice and keep communities safe. And, you’ll explore everything from the theory of criminal justice to the methods that are used in the field.

A B.S. in Criminal Justice is designed to give students an in depth look at all of the different areas of criminal justice. The program prepares you to become a working professional in the field. Students may have the choice to select an area of specialty such as corrections or loss prevention. And students that graduate may choose to continue their studies to become lawyers or teachers.

Common programs include:
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminal Justice

Some students also choose a specialty, depending on their career goals. For example, a focus on CSI covers the ways to collect and use evidence.

Criminal Justice Bachelor’s programs include courses like:
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Policing in America
  • Research Methods in Criminal Justice

You’ll also take general courses. That may include courses in social science and U.S. government. And, many programs have a final research project or capstone.

Online Master’s degree programs in criminal justice could be a great choice for you if you are looking for a career in leadership. You could learn about new developments in law and other aspects of the changing field. And, you may study skill areas like how to better communicate and manage. Master’s programs also give you the chance to learn about the ways that policies are changed over time as well as the nature of a crime and the effects of crime on society.

Master’s degrees can help students to jump start or advance their careers. Many students that choose to pursue this degree will usually have some kind of work experience that they want to build on so that they can land a better position or earn more money. Students with a master’s degree may go on to get a job in research or in teaching. Most schools will give you with the choice to complete your master’s degree with a thesis or by completing a project, exam or taking an extra set of classes.

A master’s degree can also help to prepare students for doctoral level studies. An online PhD programs might be perfect for you if you are looking for a role in research or teaching. Beyond learning about criminal justice theory, you could contribute to the field by finding and doing research on new solutions to help improve the system. Earning a doctorate usually requires writing a dissertation.

For both a master’s and doctorate degree, you can choose to pursue a specific area of criminal justice which may allow you to keep working in your chosen field while you earn your degree.

Common programs include:
  • Master of Science (MS) in Criminal Justice
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Criminal Justice
  • PhD in Criminal Justice
Criminal Justice Master’s programs include courses like:
  • Issues in Policing
  • Criminal Mind and Behavior
  • Correctional Leadership
Criminal Justice Doctorate programs include courses like:
  • Race in Crime and Criminal Justice
  • Public Safety Leadership


A Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the justice system and its various components, including law enforcement, corrections, and the courts. During the four-year program, students are introduced to a wide range of topics, such as ethics, law, forensic science, and criminal justice theory. They will also gain an in-depth understanding of how the justice system operates and how its various components work together.

The objective of a bachelor’s degree is to provide you with a strong educational foundation. While it may not seem necessary to take classes in subjects like math or science for a criminal justice degree, these courses can introduce you to new concepts and ideas that can broaden your understanding. Even if you may not use everything you learned directly on the job, you may be surprised at how the knowledge and skills gained can be useful in unexpected ways.

The core classes in your college degree are designed to provide you with knowledge and skills in various areas of the criminal justice field. These typically include courses on ethics, law, and crime scenes. Acquiring experience in these subjects is crucial to your success in your criminal justice education.

While course offerings may differ among schools, a criminal justice degree program generally provides a comprehensive curriculum. In addition to core courses covering topics such as ethics, law, and crime scenes, students may have the opportunity to take elective courses in areas such as social science to gain important soft skills necessary for a career in criminal justice.

Some common courses include:

Introduction to Law Enforcement: The course "Introduction to Law Enforcement" provides students with an overview of policing, including its historical evolution and contemporary issues such as recruitment practices and use of force. The objective of this course is to equip students with a comprehensive understanding of the field of policing.

Criminal Law Procedure: The Criminal Law Procedure course provides an in-depth analysis of criminal law, including its history and nature. Students will study the general nature of crime, common law, and modern statutory criminal codes. The course will also teach students how to analyze and brief criminal cases, as well as identify and discuss criminal issues.

Criminal Investigation: A In a criminal investigation course, students will be introduced to the fundamentals of conducting a criminal investigation. The course covers topics such as interview techniques, evidence collection, and crime scene investigation (CSI). By the end of the course, students will have a solid understanding of how to manage a criminal investigation.

Current Issues in Criminal Justice: In the "Current Issues in Criminal Justice" course, students will explore and analyze various contemporary issues related to the criminal justice system, such as prison violence, gangs, societal changes, and the death penalty. Through studying these topics, students will gain a deeper understanding of the impact these issues have on the criminal justice system and the society at large.

Police and Society: Police and Courses on Police and Society explore the role of police in society and the challenges that arise in their interactions with citizens. Students will gain an understanding of how social changes can impact law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Data Analysis in Criminal Justice:Data Analysis in Criminal Justice courses are designed to provide students with an understanding of the different types of data used in the field and the basics of statistical analysis. Through these courses, students will learn how to collect data, interpret findings, and analyze data effectively.


Criminal justice degrees are offered at various levels, including certificates, undergraduate, graduate, and PhD. Certificates are the shortest program to complete and can be earned concurrently with a degree to enhance your education. Although undergraduate certificates can provide an introduction to the field, they are not sufficient to qualify you for work in the field. Typically, undergraduate certificates take 6 to 12 months to earn, while graduate certificates require approximately a year to complete.

Criminal justice associate’s degree programs come in three different types: A.A., A.S., or A.A.S. These programs usually require 60 to 65 credits of coursework and can be completed in under three years.

If you are interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you can choose between a B.A. or B.S. in Criminal Justice. These programs typically require 120 to 125 credits and can be completed in about four years. Alternatively, you can start with an associate’s degree and then transfer credits to a bachelor’s degree program later on, without having to start from scratch.

To obtain a Master’s degree in criminal justice, you will typically need to complete around 30 credit hours of coursework after obtaining your bachelor’s degree. Some students choose to work in the field while pursuing their Master’s degree. These programs usually take two to three years to complete. PhD programs, on the other hand, can take anywhere from two to five years.


Last check, there were 2,128 schools offering Criminal Justice & Corrections programs. From those schools, 129,022 degrees were awarded to students. The majority were Bachelor’s degrees.

School 2017 Degrees awarded 2019/20 Tuition (out of state unless *)
University of Phoenix  Arizona 2,147 $9,552**
American River College 2,054 $8,928
Rio Salado College 1,781 $7,854
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice 1,757 $15,420
East Los Angeles College 1,370 $8,110
San Antonio College 1,117 $14,220
Santa Rosa Junior College 1,069 $8,170
Sam Houston State University 907 $18,664
American Public University System 897 $7,324*
Liberty University 793 $22,747*

Estimated for full time, beginning undergrad students


Seeking accreditation is a priority for most students pursuing a degree program, as they are more likely to choose programs that prioritize student success and desired outcomes.

While there are no specific program accreditations for a degree in criminal justice as recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), it is still important to attend an accredited school. This is because being enrolled in an accredited school is necessary to be eligible for federal financial aid.

Opting for any of these types of schools can guarantee the standard of your education. Additionally, it may simplify the process of transferring credits to other programs or pursuing further study. Therefore, it is essential to seek out a degree program from an accredited institution.


As of the latest report, there were approximately 1.1 million individuals with degrees in Criminal Justice & Corrections employed in various fields. This number reflects a 1.78% increase from the previous year. The majority of degree holders are men, accounting for 54.1% of graduates. On average, the age of individuals with a degree in this field is 39.6 years old.


The following information is for Detectives and Criminal Investigators. Salary and employment numbers will differ for other criminal justice career paths.

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
Alaska  100 $113,420
Hawaii  450 $109,320
California  11,810 $107,760
New Jersey  3,440 $103,460
Massachusetts  1,390 $102,350


Unlike many other degree programs in related fields, a degree in criminal justice is focused on real-world application, which has led to a high demand for graduates by employers in both the public and private sectors. Criminal justice students gain both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, allowing them to be well-prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation.

A criminal justice degree can open up many career opportunities beyond the typical roles of police officers and correctional officers. With its intersection with fields like business and science, the criminal justice field offers a diverse range of career options. Pursuing an online criminal justice degree can prepare you for various positions in the justice and law enforcement sectors, with salaries and growth projections varying from corrections officers to licensed attorneys.


Police officers have the responsibility of safeguarding lives and property, while detectives and criminal investigators, also known as agents or special agents, are responsible for obtaining information and gathering evidence related to potential crimes.

According to 2020 BLS data:

Median Salary: $73,300 per year

Job growth through 2029: 7% (Much faster than average)

Entry level education: Bachelor’s Degree


Correctional officers are responsible for overseeing individuals who are awaiting trial or serving time in prison. They may be tasked with escorting and searching inmates. Bailiffs, on the other hand, provide security and ensure order in courtrooms. They may be responsible for guarding and escorting court personnel, jurors, and prisoners.

According to 2020 BLS data:

Median Salary: $47,480 per year

Job growth through 2029: 9% (Faster than average)

Entry level education: Post secondary non degree award


Private Detectives and Investigators use various methods, including interviewing subjects and searching public records, to investigate legal, financial, and personal concerns. Their work may involve proving spousal infidelity or finding missing persons. Many of these professionals work for themselves as self-employed individuals.

According to 2020 BLS data:

Median Salary: $115,800 per year

Job growth through 2029: 45% (Much faster than average)

Entry level education: Master’s Degree