The 24 Best Bachelors in Criminal Justice Degree Programs for 2017-2018

BCR_4_CriminalJustice_Bach_badgeThe criminal justice sector is typically among the bellwethers of employment, for obvious reasons. However, in the modern world, the job is increasingly complex, nuanced, and challenging. Need for trained, knowledgeable experts both in theory and practice is therefore in critical demand at present. With a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, the opportunities are as varied as they are integral to society: law enforcement, probation officers, institutional counselors, correction officers, victim or witness advocates, intelligence and security agents, crime scene investigators – the list goes on.

Featured Bachelors in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

That said, many looking to earn a degree are working professionals, sometimes already in the field. As a result, an increasing number of schools are offering flexible online options to draw students. Here’s a look at our top 25 bachelors in criminal justice degree programs. For more information about online learning please see our ranking of the best colleges online.

1. Colorado State University – Global Campus

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Online

Online BS in Criminal Justice

Colorado State University – Global Campus is one of three campuses of the Colorado State University System. The university holds the distinction of being the first and only 100% online, independently accredited, state, nonprofit university. CSU – Global offers a BS in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration that requires students to complete 30 major credits out of the 120-credit undergraduate degree. In order to promote a specific area of study, 15 out of the 30 credits must be directed to a particular area of specialization, of which CSU offers a generous variety: Business, Criminal Forensics, Intelligence and Homeland Security, Public Administration, and Strategic Communications. In total, there are 20 specializations to choose from – an impressive array. CSU-Global also offers a unique degree optimization program, which rewards students for completing specific sets of coursework that are directly applicable skill-sets for their future careers. Students may then add CSU’s Awards of Completion and Skills Endorsements to their resumes for prospective employers. Other benefits of the program include alternative credit options and life experience credits.

2. Portland State University

BS in Criminology and Criminal Justice Online

Portland State online BS in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Portland State University offers an online BS in Criminology & Criminal Justice that 72/180 credits dedicated to the major. Also, students must complete a 12 credit advanced cluster and a capstone project. Core classes include Policing in America, American Courts, Theories of Crime, Crime Control Strategies, and Criminal Law and Reasoning, among others. With 24 credits of required electives, students also have the opportunity to specialize their degrees. For interested students and working professionals, four certificates are available as well: Advanced Crime Analysis Certificate, Criminal Behavior Certificate, Leadership in Criminal Justice Certificate, and Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Criminology & Criminal Justice. An online professional development track is available for students wishing to align their curriculum toward a specific career goal. Please also note that prior work experience and transferable credits may allow students to accelerate coursework.

3. Capella University

Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice


Capella University offers a BS in Criminal Justice consisting of 102 major credits out of the required 180 to graduate. Among the core classes include Ethics of Criminal Justice, Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure and Evidence, and Criminal Psychology and Behavior, in addition to others. With 45 elective credits to fulfill, students can specialize their coursework. Capella’s program also has seven concentrations: Law Enforcement Leadership, Emergency Management, Accounting, Business Intelligence, Health Care Management, Management and Leadership, and Human Resource Management. Courses are offered in 5- or 10-week formats and numerous acceleration paths are available, including a generous 135-transferrable credit policy and the Sophia Pathway, a flexible, low-cost track that allows working professionals to progress through coursework according to their own schedules. Previous work experience and industry certifications can also accelerate students’ degrees.

4. Florida State University

Bachelor of Science in Criminology Online

Florida State

FSU’s online BS in Criminology requires 36 major credits, in addition to the general education core. Students are also required to earn a minor in a separate field of study, though a full-time internship may be substituted to fulfill the requirement. Some example classes include White Collar Crime, Victimology, Comparative Criminology and Criminal Justice, Introduction to Research Methods in Criminology, and Criminal Justice and Public Policy, among others. As one of the highest ranked public universities in the country, FSU online graduates are given the same benefits and prestige as on-campus graduates, including a large and loyal alumni base to kickstart careers and professional networks. In particular, the SeminoleLink is an excellent resource for students looking to connect with alumni and employers from around the country.

5. Drexel University Online

BS in Criminology and Justice Studies Online

14. Drexel Online Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Justice Studies

Drexel University’s online BS in Criminology and Justice Studies is an 85-credit track out of the required 183-credit undergraduate degree. Core classes include Criminology, Race, Crime, and Justice, Crime and the City, Criminal Procedure, and Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice, among others. To promote a tailored curriculum, students also choose 30 elective credits. While Drexel places the necessary emphasis on practical “police science” and career skill-sets, students also learn important facets of history, structure, administration, policies, and agency procedures to build a broad, well-balanced knowledge base for future endeavors. Students are also given control over their schedules and can complete coursework on their own time. Up to 135 quarter credits are transferable, allowing eligible students to accelerate their degrees significantly.

6. Sam Houston State University

Online BS in Criminal Justice

6. Sam Houston State BS in Criminal Justice online

Sam Houston State University offers an online BS in Criminal Justice that consists of 36-45 major credits out of the 120 undergraduate required. Among the most popular courses include Cyber Crime, Global Terrorism, Forensic Science, Victimology, Violent Offenders, Child Abuse and Neglect, White Collar Crime, and Criminal Investigation. Unlike the BA (which is only available on-campus), the BS track emphasizes a social sciences framework, i.e., psychology, sociology, political science, and others. SHSU’s online learning format gives students maximum schedule flexibility and offers many of the same resources on-campus students receive, including technical help, library services, writing center tutorials, and more. As one of the largest universities in one of the largest states – with more than 18,400 students across over 80 undergraduate, 54 masters’, and six doctoral degree programs – graduates enjoy a stable and loyal alumni network, facilitating employment opportunities.

7. Penn State World Campus

Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

Penn State World Campus’s BS in Criminal Justice requires 39-40 major credits out of the 120-credit undergraduate degree. Curriculum breaks down as follows: 24 core courses, 3-4 additional major requirements (dependent upon the student taking Statistical Analysis for the Social Sciences or Elementary Statistics), and additional upper-level courses. Core classes include Policing in America, Courts and the Prosecution Process, Corrections in America, and Ethics in Criminal Justice, among others. Related programs include a minor in Homeland Security and BA in Law and Society. Students with previous work experience may transfer some credits to accelerate degrees. Founded in 1998, Penn State’s World Campus is one the longest-established online programs in the country, and as such boasts a robust alumni network, in addition to its already huge on-campus alumni presence. Current undergraduate and graduate student numbers total more than 6,000.

8. Florida International University

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Online

florida-international-univ online BSc in Criminal Justice

Florida International’s BS in Criminal Justice requires 36 credits out of a total of 120 for the undergraduate degree. Of the 24 core courses include Comparative Criminal Justice Systems, Criminal Justice, and Public Policy, Global Terrorism, Measurement and Analysis in Criminal Justice, and Research Methods in Criminal Justice. Students also select 12 credits of electives from a wide variety to customize their studies. For students’ convenience and direction, each online student is paired with a success coach to strategize about coursework and discuss career goals. Moreover, new programs begin in the Fall, Spring, and Summer, allowing students’ maximum schedule flexibility. Perhaps surprisingly, FIU is the 4th largest university in the US, and this allows graduates to immediately enter an extensive, well-connected alumni network ready to facilitate any employment opportunities.

9 (tied). Norwich University

Online BS in Criminal Justice

8. Norwich Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Online

Norwich University’s online BS in Criminal Justice requires 45 credits to the major and 123 credits for the undergraduate degree. That said, up to 84 credits are transferable, of which most students take advantage: average graduation time is just 18-24 months. The curriculum breaks down as 15 core credits, 18 electives, six in-field study, and a capstone. A wide variety of electives allows students to tailor their degrees, and minors are available in Intelligence and Security Management as well as Public Safety. Some sample classes include Immigration Law and Policy, Domestic Terrorism, Drugs and Gangs, and Security Coordination and Collaboration, among others. Three entry dates per year (January, May, and September) and a self-paced format give students the opportunity to pursue studies according to their own schedules.

9 (tied). Columbia Southern University

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Online

22. Columbia Southern University online BS in Criminal Justice

Columbia Southern University offers several relevant online degrees: an associate’s in Criminal Justice, a bachelor’s, and a master’s, for those interested. The 120-credit BS curriculum breaks down as follows: 36 general education core, 36 major requirements, and 48 electives. Example classes in the Criminal Justice BS include Theory and Practices of Law Enforcement, Judicial Process, Constitutional Law for Criminal Justice, Supervision of Criminal Justice Personnel, and Police and Community Relations. CSU also offers an Arson Investigation specialization. The estimated time of completion is five years, though CSU has accelerated track opportunities that many students choose to pursue. With flexible scheduling, Columbia Southern works well for working professionals, part-time students, or students looking for self-paced coursework.

11 (tied). Eastern Kentucky University

Online BS in Corrections and Juvenile Justice Studies

Eastern Kentucky Bachelor of Science in Corrections and Juvenile Justice Studies Online

Eastern Kentucky University offers a BS in Corrections & Juvenile Justice Studies, one of the few such programs in the United States. 120 total credits are required, 45 of which are devoted to the major. Core classes are Introduction to Corrections, Juvenile Justice System, Rehabilitation Strategies for Adult and Juvenile Offenders, Criminal Justice Ethics, Perspectives on Crime and Delinquency, Criminal Justice Research, and Applied Criminal Justice Analysis. With 18 credits of electives, students can customize their degrees to fit their needs and interests. All students must also complete a capstone project. In addition to the BS, EKU offers certificates in Correctional Intervention Strategies and Youth Services. Each student is also assigned a personal advisor to guide them in their studies.

11 (tied). Liberty University

Online BS in Criminal Justice

15. Liberty University Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice online

Liberty University’s BS in Criminal Justice requires 45 credits to the major, out of a total of 120 hours. Core classes include Criminal Justice Research & Writing, Administration of Justice Organizations, Juvenile Justice, Criminal Law, Criminal Investigations, and Terrorism, among others. Students also take nine hours of electives. Liberty offers a generous selection of seven specializations: Business Administration and Management, Criminal Psychology, Crime Scene Investigation, Homeland Security, Public Administration, Strategic Intelligence, and Juvenile Justice. There are numerous opportunities to accelerate coursework, as well, from intensive classes, transferrable life experience, and credit transfers (up to 90). As Liberty is a Christian university, note that the curriculum will incorporate religious values where applicable. For those interested, Liberty has associate’s, master’s, and certificate programs in the field, too.

11 (tied). Kaplan University

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Online

19. KaplanOnline BS in Criminal Justice

Kaplan University’s online BS in Criminal Justice consists of 88 major credits out of a total of 180. For eligible students with transferable credits, the advanced start track cuts those numbers down to 48 and 90, respectively. Core major classes include Criminal Procedure, Applied Criminal Justice Ethics, Criminal Law, and a capstone project, among others. The program’s 59 electives encourage a highly customizable curriculum, and Kaplan offers six emphases: Corrections, Crime Scene Investigation, Forensic Psychology, Homeland Security, Juvenile Justice, and Law Enforcement. Master’s and associate’s degrees are also available. With new start dates once a month, students are afforded nearly unparalleled schedule flexibility, and as such Kaplan is specifically geared toward working professionals and part-time students. At 43,000 online and on-campus students, Kaplan’s resources are extensive, including a large alumni network.

15. Tiffin University

Online Bachelor of Criminal Justice

Tiffin University Bachelor of Criminal Justice Online

Depending on the student’s concentration, Tiffin University’s BCJ is a 51-54 credit track, out of the 121 required undergraduate credits. Of the four concentrations, students choose between Corrections, Homeland Security and Terrorism, Justice Administration, and Law Enforcement. Online classes have six entry points throughout the year – January, March, May, July, August, and October – and are offered in 7-week formats. While teaching students the necessary skill-sets for their professional criminal justice careers, Tiffin also emphasizes a broad-based, interdisciplinary educational approach that includes psychology, history, public administration, social sciences, and more. Tiffin is specifically designed for working professionals and part-time students, so course schedules are flexible. Of Tiffin’s overall online offerings, the BCJ is among the most robust and popular programs.

16. Saint Leo University

Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice Online

12. Saint Leo Online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice

Saint Leo University’s BA in Criminal Justice is a 39-credit track out of the 120-credit undergraduate degree. In addition to a core and elective major requirement, all students must also complete a capstone and pass a comprehensive exam. Core classes include Survey of the Criminal Justice System, Survey of the Criminal Justice System, Law of Criminal Procedure, Police Organization, and Administration, and Theories of Criminal Behavior, among others. For interested students, Saint Leo also has master’s, associate’s, and certificate programs in the field. With a total enrollment of over 15,000, Saint Leo has all the resources of a large university, while still maintaining an intimate, collaborative learning environment. As a Catholic university, note that a majority of the general education foundation is grounded in religious values and ethics.

17. University of Memphis

BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice Online

memphis online BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice

The University of Memphis offers a BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice. In particular, recognizing the nuances and complexities of the field, Memphis stresses an approach that incorporates instruction on the causes of crime, intervention strategies, program evaluation, and social justice issues. The program’s faculty are all nationally recognized leaders in the field, received numerous research grants, and won awards for their work in the field. Most classes are asynchronous, allowing students maximum flexibility and the freedom to take on coursework at their own pace. Moreover, online students have access to many of the same benefits as those on campus, including library services, financial aid, career advising, disability resources, and veteran programs. An extensive and hands-on alumni network helps students find quick and quality employment upon graduation.

18 (tied). Fort Hays State University

Online BA or BS in Criminal Justice

8. Fort Hays State University BA or BS in Criminal Justice

Fort Hays State University offers a BA and BS in Criminal Justice, consisting of 42 major credits out of a required 124 undergraduate credits. With an interdisciplinary curriculum, FHSU primarily emphasizes the cause of and response to crime. Most students are working professionals currently in the field or professionals looking for a career change. With this in mind, FHSU has a generous transfer policy which may accelerate coursework. As an added benefit, the Department of Justice Studies provides job placement assistance. For interested students, a minor is also available, as well as five related certificates: Victim Advocacy, Law Enforcement, Corrections, Law and the Courts, and Justice Networking. With a total student body around 11,000 (4,000 undergrads), FHSU can operate both as a large university with unique resources and a smaller school with a hands-on learning environment.

18 (tied). University of Phoenix

BS in Criminal Justice Administration Online

The University of Phoenix’s BS in Criminal Justice Administration includes 45 major credits out of the required 120 undergraduate credits. (An associate’s degree is also offered.) Transfer credit and work experience may accelerate graduation. Core classes include Cultural Diversity In Criminal Justice, Juvenile Justice Systems And Processes, Criminal Law, Research Methods And Evaluation, Interagency Communication, and others. A nice perk of the program is the ability for students to accumulate certificates while working toward the final degree. In all, four are available: Criminal Justice Management, Criminal Justice Security, Cybercrimes, and Human Services and the Criminal Justice System. By earning certificates concurrent with studies, students can bolster their resumes for current or prospective employers. Phoenix’s students come from a diverse background, but most are working professionals and part-time students looking to advance or switch careers, so an emphasis is placed on schedule flexibility.

21. University of Nebraska – Kearney

BS in Criminal Justice Online

University_of_Nebraska_at_Kearney Online BS in Criminal Justice

At just a few years old, the University of Nebraska – Kearney’s online BS in Criminal Justice is a collaborative degree program offered by the University of Nebraska at Kearney, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. The program is particularly geared toward working professionals and part-time students who have already completed some undergraduate work, and most students transfer credits to accelerate coursework, which totals 120 credits. The 36-credit major curriculum is divided between core classes (27 credits) and electives (9 credits). Some core classes include The Police Service, Theories of Crime and Criminal Law, Criminal Justice Research Methods, and Correctional Services and Systems, among others. For their electives, students may choose from a selection of more than 25 classes, allowing for highly customizable curriculums according to students’ interests and career goals.

22. Arizona State University

Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies Online

2. Arizona State Online BS in Justice Studies

Arizona State University offers a BS in Justice Studies which emphasizes five major areas of study: citizenship, migration, and human rights; globalization, sustainability, and economic justice; law, policy and social change; media, technology and culture; and social identities and communities. A broad-based and interdisciplinary curriculum, students must also complete 12 credits of upper-level classes in the field with the consultation and approval of their student advisor. For those interested, ASU also offers several related graduate certificates, including in Corrections Management and Criminal Sentencing and Advocacy. As the largest public university in the country with nearly 70,000 enrolled undergraduates, all ASU graduates – online or otherwise – benefit from an enormous alumni network that acts as an excellent bridge to employment opportunities.

23. Strayer University

Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

Strayer BS in Criminal Justice Online

Strayer University’s BS in Criminal Justice includes the opportunity to specialize the degree with one of six offered concentrations: Criminal Justice Administration, Computer Security And Forensics, Crime Mapping and Data Analysis, Homeland Security And Emergency Management, Crime and Criminal Behavior, and Cyber Security Management. Each concentration requires completing a selection of 40 courses. Core classes include Information Technology in Criminal Justice, Juvenile Delinquency and Justice, Ethics and Leadership in Criminal Justice, Criminal Procedure, and Society, Law, and Government, among others. With accelerated options, including competency exams, transferred credits, and work experience, most students graduate in less than four years. As a university primarily aimed at providing practical professional degrees, students are typically part-time and complete coursework according to their own schedules. With over 40,000 online students, Strayer is one of the largest online universities in the world.

24. Ball State University

BS in Criminal Justice and Criminology Online

16. Ball State Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Ball State University offers a BS in Criminal Justice and Criminology, which consists of 48 major credits out of the required 120 for an undergraduate degree. Of these, 21 are foundational, and 27 are upper-level, including Juvenile Justice and Delinquency, Institutional Corrections, Current Topics in Criminology, Current Topics in Policing, and a practicum. Ball State differentiates its curriculum from the typical BCJ in emphasizing practice and data-driven decision-making, ethics, and cultural competency for graduates to enter the workforce with the most up-to-date skill-set. Most students are working professionals and part-time students either currently in the field or looking to switch careers. Several accelerated options are available to accommodate students, including a generous transfer policy and competency tests which may waive the general education requirements outside of the major.

Methodology:

  • Affordability (1/3): the average out-of-state tuition per credit hour
  • Flexibility (1/3): if the program offers additional specializations and/or an accelerated track
  • Academic Reputation (1/3): the rank of the school’s parent institution according to US News

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