If you’ve ever wanted to give back to your community and enjoy a career in a fast-growing industry that’s both stimulating and rewarding, you may be interested in a criminal justice degree. The study of criminal justice focuses on the history and social impact of our laws, and how we can use them to continue to protect the innocent and vulnerable.

A career in criminal justice typically begins with a bachelor’s degree since it’s the baseline for entry in most criminal justice careers. After that, students can choose to head to a post-graduate program immediately, where they can further refine their specialty, or they can enter the industry on the ground floor. People working in criminal justice work in policing, the court system, forensic science, or even corrections. The median annual salary for those at the ground level was around $62,000 as of 2017. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is the first step on your journey towards a rewarding and fulfilling career.

Many students are choosing to pursue their degree online, so they can maintain their career path and save money for the future. Online degrees are often cheaper. Plus, they offer students the freedom to study at their own pace and take classes whenever is convenient for them. When you’re looking at schools, make sure you get a feel for their teaching style, and ensure their class structure works for you.

After looking through some of the best options in the country, we’re profiling 10 of the best online criminal justice degree programs.

1. University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida offers either a Bachelor of Arts or Science through their online Center for Distributed Learning. Students are taught a comprehensive curriculum of their core courses but are also given space for electives that can further refine their specialty. For students thinking about further education, these electives can help guide their future choices as their curriculum is designed to support all prerequisites for criminal justice graduate degrees.

In-state tuition is only $179 per credit hour, while out-of-state tuition is $383, totaling either $21,480 or $45,960 for the full degree.

After graduation, many students go on to careers in law, immigration and customs enforcement, corrections, or become FBI detectives.

2. Purdue Global University

Purdue Global University offers two online criminal justice degree programs — a Bachelor of Science in either Corrections or Criminal Justice. Both of these degrees are designed to teach students about the criminal justice system, but the corrections degree takes it further by incorporating specialized corrections knowledge through courses like rehabilitation and offender treatment. Plus, useful educational tools like online discussion boards allow students to engage with their peers, and internships help them gain real-world experience.

Within the B.S. in Corrections, there’s an accelerated bachelor to master’s option available, which helps shorten your time in school. This program is tuition-capped at only $45,000, which is a major saving and can translate into a real boost in your earning potential once you’re in the field.

After graduation, many students find that it’s easier to break into the corrections industry or work in related fields like child protection services. 

3. Florida International University

With a campus in Miami and more than 200,000 online alumni, Florida International University is one of the largest online schools in the country. Considering all classes require that students log in at the same time, and complete assignments by specific due dates, their courses are great for students who want to keep pace with regular classes but don’t necessarily want to relocate to Florida.

The University’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice is administered through their School of International and Public Affairs and helps keep students abreast of the most current trends in the industry through classes like global terrorism, research methods in criminal justice, and criminological theory. Once students complete two-thirds of their online bachelor’s degree, they can apply for admission to the combined bachelor and master’s degree program, which helps accelerate their higher education. Tuition is typically $4,060 per semester.

After graduation, many students go on to work in local, state, and federal agencies like Homeland Security or Corrections.

4. Capella University

Capella University offers a wide variety of criminal justice and public safety-related degrees, including a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with the ability to major in corrections, emergency management, or forensic psychology. They also offer post-graduate programs in Emergency Management, Criminal Justice, and Public Administration. Some of the classes students take include introductions to criminal procedure, multi-agency investigations, and police administration. Capella has many partnerships with national institutions like the Secret Service and National Sheriffs’ Association, which give students valuable hands-on learning opportunities. Typically, doing your B.S at Capella will cost around $32,439. After graduation, many students work for law enforcement, government agencies, or private security.

5. Florida State University

Florida State University’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminology is designed specifically for the non-traditional student. Every aspect of their class work can be tailored to your schedule, and their state-of-the-art technology makes it easy to keep up with lectures and do coursework online. Most of the courses that students complete will be in criminology, but they’ll also be asked to complete a minor in another social science or an internship in a related field.

The school offers scholarships for current police officers. If you’re not eligible for financial assistance, tuition is either $180 or $686 per credit hour, depending on your residence.

In the past, students from FSU have been hired by the FBI and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

6. Walden University

Walden University offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, with several concentrations designed to teach valuable skills that are vital to the industry. Their concentrations in Homeland Security, Computer Information Systems, and Human Services for Criminal Justice equip students with the most up-to-date knowledge and give them access to specializations that will bolster their future career.

Students who are motivated to succeed can graduate in as little as 30 months, and their program allows for the transfer of up to 75 percent of the credits for each degree, so you can apply credits earned in other programs. The estimated cost of one year of schooling is around $11,700.

After graduation, many of Walden’s 127,000 alumni have gone on to work in the criminal justice field.

7. Rutgers University

Rutgers University offers both a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Criminal Justice, so students can choose which approach they’d like to take. These programs have been specially designed for students who already have an associate degree and want to apply their credits to a bachelor’s degree. Before graduation, all students must first master the core curriculum, which covers subjects like quantitative reasoning, and natural and social sciences. After getting through the basics, students move on to their criminal justice classes. Students can also enroll in internship or fieldwork courses, which are great stepping-stones to a future career opportunity.

Tuition for one semester costs between $1,950 and $5,850, depending on your course load.

8. St. Leo University

Although St. Leo University is a private Catholic institution, it offers a great Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice to students of all faiths. They have two streams of specialization within their Criminal Justice program: Criminalistics and Homeland Security. Students can also choose to do a broader Criminal Justice degree by taking more general classes like criminal procedure, introduction to homeland defense, and forensic science. Some of the St. Leo instructors have served more than 25 years in the field and are able to equip students for jobs in the Coast Guard, CIA, FBI, and state police.

Tuition costs $360 per credit hour, but they offer substantial discounts for military families.

9. Colorado Technical University

Studying at Colorado Technical University gives students the option to choose the direction of their career. Their Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice is available with several unique concentrations, like Cybersecurity, Homeland Security, and Emergency Management; all of which have been created in response to pressing needs in the field. Every student takes 50 percent core courses, like criminology and public administration, and 50 percent concentration courses.

CTU makes it easy to go back to school as they offer Fast Track exams, which give students the opportunity to earn college credits for information they already know. Also, they offer flexible course schedules, to suit students who are working full-time. Tuition starts around $15,000 per year for non-residents and 50 percent of graduates go on to a job in their field.

10. University of South Florida

At the University of South Florida, students can choose between a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology or a Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice.

The BSAS program was designed for students who have already completed an associate degree and want to apply their credits to a bachelor’s degree. It’s a streamlined process that can be completed in as little as 60 credit hours and is designed to quickly teach students all they need to know about the modern criminal justice system. Students must finish a capstone project before graduation, which demonstrates their ability to apply their knowledge to the realities of the industry today. After completing their BSAS degree, many students pursue research opportunities which could lead to employment after graduation.

Tuition at USF costs either $211 or $575 per credit hour, depending on residency status.

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