The 5 Best Master’s In Criminal Justice Online

Updated October 21, 2021 | Staff

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The world seems to be getting a little bit darker every day but earning an online master's in criminal justice could give you the opportunity to add one more glimmer of light in that darkness. Many people have questions about the nature of the criminal justice system and the career options it offers. This short examination of the subject is designed to help resolve your doubts and decide if a career in criminal just is for you! Put simply, criminal justice can be defined as the system through which crimes and criminals are identified, apprehended, judged, and punished. The criminal justice system is comprised of three parts:

  1.  Law Enforcement: Law enforcement can be seen as the front lines of the criminal justice system.
  2.  The Courts: The courts can be thought of as the part of the criminal justice system where guilt or innocence of a suspect is assessed at trial.
  3.  Corrections: Corrections can be referred to as the administrative part of the criminal justice system due to its application of sentences and enforcement of punishments.

Featured Online Degree Programs

In this ranking, our editors examine our picks of the top 5 Online Master's for Criminal Justice programs. For more generalized information regarding distance learning visit our ranking of the top online colleges.

Rating and Ranking Methodology
Tuition Points:

  • Under $45,000—1 point
  • Under $40,000—2 points
  • Under $35,000—3 points
  • Under $30,000—4 points
  • Under $25,000—5 points
  • Under $20,000—6 points
  • Under $15,000—7 points
  • Under $10,000—8 points
  • Under $5,000—9 points

US News and World Report Recognition as a Top Online School for Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs

  • Top 5— 5 points
  • Top 10— 4 points
  • Top 25 —3 points
  • Top 50 —2 points
  • Top 75 —1 point

Customization Options

  • Format Customizations (e.g. Hybrid/Online, Full-time/Part-Time, Accelerated, Degree Completion, etc.)—1 Point Per Customization Option
  • Content Customizations (e.g. Minors, Concentrations, Specializations, etc.)—1 Point Per Customization Option (5-point cap)

Wow Factor

  • 1 point awarded for each unique feature or program that “wowed” us

Our editor started with a list of 35 colleges and then used our customized ranking methodology to shortlist the TOP 25. We were able to narrow these initial findings by applying a few factors such as affordability (average net price is capped at $35,000), program customization, return-on-investment, and career prospects. Finally, we used information from U.S. News & World Report as well as from each school’s website to apply the rating and ranking methodology above. In the event of a tie in points, the school with the lower tuition receives the higher ranking.

Check them out below!

Featured Online Schools

#1 – Michigan State University

Online Master’s in Criminal Justice



The program is designed to add new dimensions to the skills of career people in various areas of criminal justice and security. A number of online support services are available to assist students as they progress through the program.

Students enrolled in the program may choose to follow the general requirements for the Masters in Criminal Justice, specializing in Security Management or follow an international focus. Please see Program Requirements for more information. Courses are offered entirely online and are taught by the same faculty members who are involved in the on-campus program.

Students generally complete the required thirty credit hours in eighteen months to three years and can opt for a general track or one of two specializations – Security Management or Judicial Administration. Some of the required courses cut across the different tracks, such as Crime Causation, Prevention, and Control, Policy Analysis under Conditions of Change, and Proseminar in Criminal Justice. Depending on the track, students take one to three elective classes, and those topics are wide and varied–for example, Osteology and Forensic Anthropology, Essential Components of Courts, or Special Studies in Food Safety are just a few of the options.

Tuition Fee: $716 per credit hour

#2 – University of California, Irvine

Online Master’s in Criminal Justice



The University of California, Irvine offers two online master’s degree programs that support professionals and recent graduates in criminal justice and related fields. The first is a Master of Advanced Study (MAS) in Criminology, Law, and Society, while the other is a Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology (MLFP).

The MAS program consists of two years’ worth of online courses, covering topics like errors in justice and hate crimes. While all coursework can be completed online, students must complete an accelerated five-day residency on campus at the start of the program. Graduates from this program have moved into many law enforcement and justice organizations, including intelligence organizations, police departments, and district attorney’s offices.

The MLFP program sees the school’s criminal justice faculty partner with its psychology and social behavior faculty, and covers intersections of crime and psychology. Students learn how to use psychology as part of the forensic toolbox as well as about legal systems and processes. Students in this program tend to seek academic or public policy positions after graduation.

Tuition Fee:$13,974 for the academic year

#3 – Florida State University

Online Master’s in Criminal Justice



The Florida State University master’s degree program in criminal justice includes 36 hours of graduate credit, split between core coursework and electives. The core coursework covers basic concepts and research methods for criminal justice, as well as computer programs commonly used in the field. The electives, meanwhile, cover more specific topics within criminal justice. Students must earn a grade of C or better in all courses within the program.

Students who have a research or professional interest beyond the scope of the program’s electives can supplement their learning in multiple ways. Some choose to pursue independent study on a topic of their choice, with the approval of an instructor, which can be repeated for up to six semester hours of credit. Others can pursue up to nine hours of coursework from disciplines outside criminal justice and criminology, shoring up knowledge in fields like political science, law, or public policy.

Tuition Fee:$553.70 per credit hour

#4 – Arizona State University

MA in Criminal Justice Online



The Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MACJ) provides you with the knowledge and skills to advance your criminal justice career. You will study the larger context of crime, why it exists and its impact on society, as well as gain a detailed understanding of the concept of justice and how it’s applied.

Eleven classes make up the thirty-three credit hour program, and each class is presented in seven-and-a-half week sessions. For the student who wants to understand what motivates people to commit crimes and how it affects the larger community, students take twelve credit hours of core courses such asCriminal Justice Planning and Program EvaluationandApplied Data Analysis in Criminal Justice. Eighteen hours of electives plus a three-hour Capstone course culminate the degree.

Tuition Fee: $686 per credit hour

#5 – Boston University

Online Master’s in Criminal Justice



Boston University’s Master of Criminal Justice program helps those interested in taking on leadership positions in criminal justice organizations or those who want to prepare themselves for a legal education. Students in this program learn about leadership, law enforcement, and social control, as well as the ethical issues surrounding law and its enforcement. This program requires 40 credits of study, and can be completed in about two years.

Students can choose one of two concentrations to further specialize within the program. The first, cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity, looks at the ways crime has evolved in the digital age. This program equips students to protect organizations from potential digital intrusions and investigate digital crimes. The second, strategic management, deals with the skills necessary to lead in a criminal justice organization. The understanding of organization management and systems analysis this program imparts gets students ready to serve in policy-making or upper management positions.

Tuition Fee: $860 per credit hour

This concludes our ranking of the Top 5 Online Master's in Criminal Justice. Thanks for reading!


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