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Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Programs 2021

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Most Affordable Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice badge

Professionals who prevent and solve crimes must understand how the criminal justice system works. They also need the ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds. Successful criminal justice professionals are lifelong learners who complete professional development courses and stay current with the latest trends.

A criminal justice degree prepares individuals for entry-level positions in the field. After gaining experience, professionals often work toward more advanced roles. Applicants to bachelor’s programs typically need a high school or GED diploma. Students pursuing a criminal justice degree generally spend about four years mastering fundamental concepts and honing transferable skills.

Individuals with a degree in criminal justice can pursue a variety of careers. Popular jobs for graduates include police officer and private investigator. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these positions offer median annual salaries of $65,170 and $50,510, respectively. The BLS projects faster-than-average employment growth for both careers from 2019-2029.

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FAQ

Question Answer
What job can I get with a bachelor’s in criminal justice? Graduates with a bachelor’s in criminal justice can pursue careers as correctional officers, probation and pretrial services officers, and insurance criminal investigators. Police officers and detectives may also need a criminal justice degree.
Is criminal justice a good major for the FBI? The FBI hires applicants who possess a degree in criminal justice or a related field. Other majors that can lead to a career with the FBI include cybersecurity, forensic accounting, and international studies.
Which is better, a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS) in criminal justice? A BS program typically involves more upper-division criminal justice coursework in policing in the U.S., while BA programs are focused on more liberal arts courses. Either degree can qualify holders for criminal justice jobs.
How long does it take to get a BS in criminal justice? Full-time students typically earn their BS in criminal justice in about four years. Learners in accelerated programs often graduate sooner, while part-time students may require more than four years.

What Can I Do With a Criminal Justice Degree?

Students earning a degree in criminal justice explore social change and theoretical analysis. Major courses focus on criminal justice topics, and learners develop skills in critical thinking, conflict resolution, and enhanced communication. These transferable skills can help criminal justice professionals switch careers and advance to high-level roles.

In addition to positions in law enforcement, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can become emergency management directors. These professionals help communities prepare for and respond to disasters, including natural disasters and technological emergencies.

A criminal justice degree can also appeal to mid-career professionals in the field. Police officers, firefighters, and corrections officers can obtain a bachelor’s degree to qualify for promotions and raises. Additionally, some employers offer tuition reimbursement programs to encourage workers to earn higher degrees. These tuition reimbursement programs typically require recipients to continue working for the employer for a certain amount of time after graduation.

Accreditation for a Criminal Justice Degree



Prospective students researching criminal justice degrees should ensure that each prospective school holds regional accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) charters six regional accreditation agencies to evaluate postsecondary schools. To receive regional accreditation, colleges and universities must meet high standards for academic quality. Many employers and graduate schools only recognize degrees earned from regionally accredited schools.

Colleges and universities that offer online programs should also hold national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). DEAC compares a school’s online and on-campus programs to ensure that the institution’s online programs deliver the same rigorous education and learning outcomes.

To verify the accreditation status of any U.S. institution, learners can search the ED’s online database.

What Are the Requirements for a Criminal Justice Degree?

Admission requirements for criminal justice programs vary by school. However, applicants must typically submit high school or GED transcripts, placement test scores, and FAFSA results. New students may also need to meet with a counselor before registering for courses.

In addition to coursework, criminal justice students may need to complete a capstone course. During the capstone course, degree-seekers synthesize the knowledge and skills they learned throughout the program by conducting original research, creating an academic portfolio, or giving a presentation.

Courses in a Criminal Justice Program



Four-year criminal justice programs typically require general education courses, major coursework, and electives. While completing coursework, students hone transferable skills and develop skills necessary for criminal justice jobs. They may also specialize in an area of the field to become competitive for high-level positions.

Criminal justice curricula often include the following courses. However, academic requirements and course titles vary by school, so students should contact their prospective institution to learn about course availability and program requirements.

Introduction to Criminal Justice Concepts
Students typically take this course during the first or second year of their program. Topics may include crime prevention methods and the impact of criminal justice professionals on society. Learners may also examine criminal justice institutions at the local, state, and federal levels. Students analyze how these institutions interact and the roles they play in solving crimes. This course helps students develop foundational knowledge they can build on throughout their program and career.
Inequality and Crime
Criminal justice jobs require field-specific skills and an understanding of the challenges the criminal justice field faces. Learners explore how gender, race, and class influence how the criminal justice system treats Americans. Students examine the disparity between sentences for white Americans and those for offenders who belong to minority groups. Learners also analyze why individuals without financial resources often struggle to prove their innocence.
Victimology
Professionals in the criminal justice field must understand victimization and its effect on individuals. This course explores various forms of crime, such as robbery, burglary, and sexual abuse. Students analyze short-term and long-term emotional and physical effects, secondary traumas, and community responses. Degree-seekers also examine how resources such as counseling can help victims recover. Coursework may also cover common motivations for committing crimes, including offenders’ relationships with victims.
Principles of Investigation
Police officers and detectives follow systematic procedures for examining crime scenes, interviewing witnesses, and collecting evidence. This class introduces students to investigative methods and explores the legal definitions of and restrictions on investigations. Learners prepare to apply the most effective investigative techniques for various situations. Students typically complete this course early in their criminal justice program.
Police Administration
This course focuses on police department operations and the role of police within the criminal justice system. Learners explore how the judiciary system influences police departments and how judges at various levels ensure the lawfulness of police officers’ activities. Students also analyze the history of policing in the United States and explore how citizen oversight helps prevent corruption. This course helps aspiring police officers understand their future work environment.

Certifications and Licensure for Criminal Justice Majors



Criminal justice professionals often need a state-issued license, depending on their position. Some careers also require certification. Private organizations grant certifications to individuals who meet specific academic and experience requirements. Licensure or certification requirements may also include membership with a professional organization, passing scores on one or more exams, and a fee.

Certified Criminal Justice Addiction Professional


This certification is designed for professionals who work with incarcerated individuals struggling with drug addiction. Candidates must have completed coursework in addiction and a 300-hour supervised practicum. Candidates must also pass the Certified Criminal Justice Professional Exam. Bachelor’s degree-holders need fewer hours of experience than candidates with only an associate degree or high school diploma.

Certified Financial Crime Specialist


The Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists awards this credential to members and nonmembers who meet experience and education requirements. Candidates must pass a comprehensive exam, which covers topics including human trafficking and internal fraud. Members of the association, government workers, and students pay a discounted certification fee.

Firearm License


Requirements for possessing and carrying a firearm vary by state. However, candidates for a firearm license must typically take a course, pass an exam, and demonstrate proficiency with specific guns. A firearm license is valid 5-10 years, depending on the state, and renewal generally involves paying a fee and submitting paperwork.

Professional Organizations for Criminal Justice Majors



In addition to certifications, professional organizations often provide members with networking opportunities, professional development courses, and information regarding the latest criminal justice jobs. Some organizations also run mentorship programs and award scholarships. Undergraduate criminal justice students can explore the professional organizations below.


  • Alpha Phi Sigma This national honor society for criminal justice students offers membership to students in the field who excel academically. Members benefit from networking opportunities, an invitation to the annual conference, and exclusive scholarships. Membership applicants must attend a school with an Alpha Phi Sigma chapter and pay a fee. They need a minimum 3.2 GPA.

  • American Correctional Association ACA offers discounted membership rates for undergraduate students. Members receive a discount on ACA publications, along with access to professional development courses and networking events. The association maintains student chapters on more than two dozen college campuses, allowing students to build professional relationships with future colleagues.

  • American Society of Criminology Founded in the 1940s, ASC advocates for research to create better public policy. Members receive three industry publications, and student members receive a reduced annual rate. Learners can also join one of the organization's subdivisions, which focus on disciplines including international criminology and victimology.

  • International Association of Women Police The IAWP advocates for the advancement of women's role in law enforcement and policies to protect women officers from harassment. Prospective members can join for free for 90 days, and student benefits include a subscription to the organization's quarterly WomenPolice Magazine. After becoming officers, members can join one of the IAWP's chapters.

Scholarships for Criminal Justice Students

Even students attending the most affordable criminal justice prgrams often need financial assistance to avoid significant student debt. Learners can apply for scholarships from private organizations to help cover the cost of their education. The scholarships below are a sampling of the awards available to criminal justice majors.

Alpha Phi Sigma Best Paper Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Alpha Phi Sigma awards two scholarships each year to criminology students who submit an essay on a criminal justice topic. Essays should incorporate external research, use MLA or APA format, and not exceed 15 pages. Applicants should submit their essay by January 15.
Amount: $500-$1,000

My Alarm Center Student Scholarship

Who Can Apply: High school seniors and college underclassmen can apply. Applicants must not have a parent who works for My Alarm Center. Candidates must submit two brief essays and their contact information. Applicants must apply by July 1, and My Alarm Center notifies recipients on August 1. Scholarship recipients cannot reapply.
Amount: $1,000

Sheryl A. Horak Law Enforcement Explorer Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This one-time scholarship supports learners who are preparing for a law enforcement career. Applicants submit three recommendation letters, a 500-word essay, a recent photograph, and high school or college transcripts. Students should apply by March 31, and scholarship winners receive recognition at a conference or local ceremony.
Amount: $1,000

Melissa Linville Criminal Justice Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Crimcheck offers this scholarship to high school seniors and college students. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 high school or undergraduate GPA, must be enrolled full time, and must submit an essay. The scholarship committee prefers applicants who demonstrate knowledge of and passion for the criminal justice field.
Amount: $500

Brian Terry Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Brian Terry Foundation awards this scholarship to high school seniors and college students who are studying criminal justice. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must submit two recommendation letters, official transcripts, and a personal statement. In addition to funding, scholarship winners receive leadership development training.
Amount: Varies

Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Programs 2021



  1. Humphreys University
    Location

    Stockton, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Situated in Stockton and Modesto, California, Humphreys University offers a criminal justice degree that teaches students how to apply ethical behavior and best practices on the job. The 181-unit curriculum emphasizes contemporary issues in criminal justice and the field's history. Learners can complete the degree fully online or follow a hybrid format.

    Career Services (CS) advisors offer resume critiques, practice interviews, and interest assessments. Students can access video resources covering LinkedIn and typical interview questions. CS resources also help learners apply to graduate school.

    Freshman applicants must submit an online application, FAFSA results, and high school or college transcripts. All new learners take reading and writing placement exams. Full-time degree-seekers pay a flat per-semester tuition rate. Humphreys University considers all new students for institutional financial aid programs.

  2. Peirce College
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Peirce's online degree in criminal justice confers a bachelor of science and features courses in criminal law, juvenile justice, and victims and victimization. Students customize the program by selecting 10 criminal justice electives or completing a minor in a related field. Enrollees must complete a two-part capstone experience. All general education courses run entirely online.

    Online learners can find ample resources on Peirce's Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) website, including a resume and cover letter guide, career planning advice, and contact information for partner employers. Students can call CCPD to make a virtual counseling appointment. Alumni can view a career video describing how to attain career advancement.

    Peirce accepts up to 90 transfer credits, meaning that some students can graduate in just one year. Freshman admission requirements include high school or GED transcripts. Students without prior college experience take a placement test. Institutional scholarships require recommendation letters and an essay.

  3. Trine University
    Location

    Angola, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Although located in Angola, Indiana, Trine offers its online criminal justice degree to learners all over the world. Major coursework covers state and local government, American constitutional development, and juvenile justice. Learners also complete a law enforcement internship and deliver a criminal justice capstone demonstration.

    Online learners can use the Career Center's interest inventories and job boards to choose an appropriate career path. Learners can also explore internships, co-ops, and other resources by creating a Handshake account.

    Trine's simple application process involves submitting a government-issued ID and high school or college transcripts. An advisor then helps applicants complete the process. A private university, Trine charges the same per-credit tuition rate to all learners regardless of residency. New students can apply for financial aid by submitting FAFSA results.

  4. Oakland City University
    Location

    Oakland City, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Aspiring criminal justice professionals should consider OCU's criminal justice generalist program. Curriculum objectives include analyzing the criminal justice system, demonstrating competency of criminal justice procedures, and applying correct investigative techniques. All coursework runs asynchronously, allowing working students to continue with their jobs.

    New students can turn to OCU Career Services (CS) to learn more about industry-specific career fairs, receive personalized advice, and enroll in a mentor program. CS also hosts virtual workshops and resume reviews. Learners can access these and other CS resources by creating an online account.

    OCU accepts both freshman and transfer applicants. Prospective students who passed the GED can also apply. Learners interested in financial aid should submit FAFSA results by April 15. Institutional scholarships consider high school GPA and standardized test scores. Active-duty service members receive an automatic tuition discount.

  5. Averett University
    Location

    Danville, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Averett's degree in criminal justice emphasizes criminal justice and sociology. Students take core courses in society and the individual, research methods, and courts and trials. Degree-seekers can customize the educational experience by choosing one of four minors, such as leadership or homeland security.

    The Career Development (CD) website offers students and alumni resume assistance, interviewing practice, and a private job board. CD also runs a website tailored specifically to alumni. Learners can contact the CD director to learn more about these and other helpful services.

    Averett accepts up to 30 transfer credits from accredited schools. Learners with military experience can receive up to six additional transfer credits. Applicants must submit transcripts and a government-issued identification. Institutional scholarships do not require an additional application.

  6. Northern Kentucky University
    Location

    Highland Heights, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Professors working on NKU's Highland Heights campus developed the school's criminal justice degree curriculum. The entirely online program requires courses in police in America, perspectives on crime, and the criminal court system. The 120-credit program allows for 23 elective credits, allowing learners to pursue a minor or take additional criminal justice courses.

    NKU's Career Services (CS) helps students and alumni draft resumes, create career development timelines, and explore career opportunities. CS also provides online resources such as Going Global, an online job board that highlights open positions in different countries.

    NKU prefers applicants with at least 24 college credits and a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. New learners who do not submit ACT or SAT scores take the ACCUPLACER to determine initial English and mathematics course placement. Freshman and transfer students may qualify for institutional aid. NKU requires a separate financial aid application.

  7. Florida State University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    FSU degree-seekers studying for a criminal justice job major in the university's bachelor's in criminology program. Working students can learn part time and stay in good academic standing by maintaining a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. Enrollees can complete an optional minor.

    The Career Center (CC) offers one-on-one assistance for students who need help choosing a criminal justice career. Other helpful CC services include the NoleNetwork, a software suite that allows users to sign up for counseling appointments, schedule mock interviews, and research full-time jobs.

    FSU accepts new learners at three points throughout the year. Applicants need an associate degree from a Florida public college or must take all general education courses at FSU. Out-of-state students pay approximately 350% more in tuition at this public school. Members of Phi Theta Kappa may qualify for up to $4,000 in institutional scholarships.

  8. Amridge University
    Location

    Montgomery, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Amridge's criminal justice program provides learners a Christ-centered education that prepares them for a career or graduate-level study. Required courses include criminal procedures, constitutional law, and interview and interrogation. The program features numerous unique electives such as comparative criminal justice systems and terrorism today. Enrollees stay in good academic standing by maintaining a minimum 2.0 GPA.

    Criminal justice degree-seekers can start their job hunt early by using the Career Services job board, resource library, and resume builder. Students create an online account to watch informational videos and submit a resume for review. Prospective and current students can take a personality test for free.

    Amridge's five-step application process requires creating an online account and submitting high school or college transcripts. First-time college students also provide ACT or SAT scores. The university's 10 institutional scholarships do not require a separate application, and award amounts vary.

  9. Drury University
    Location

    Springfield, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    DU's degree in criminal justice attracts aspiring police officers and community organizers. The 42-credit program requires courses in victimology, the principles of forensic science, and the judicial process. For their senior capstone, students write an extended essay that incorporates original research and the principal theories they learned throughout the program.

    DU's Career Planning and Development (CPD) experts provide numerous virtual career support tools, including a job board and mock interview training. Students create a Handshake account to use these and other CPD services.

    Applicants complete an online application and submit official undergraduate transcripts. Online DU students pay the same per-credit tuition as on-campus learners, but the university charges them a small student technology fee for each credit they attempt. Degree-seekers can lower their tuition burden by applying for a $250-$500 institutional scholarship.

  10. Mississippi College
    Location

    Clinton, MS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A Christian college located in Clinton, MC offers a criminal justice degree to transfer students who already possess an associate degree or adequate transfer credit. The 36-credit program features courses in special issues in homeland security, domestic terrorism, and abnormal psychology. The program runs asynchronously, enabling working students to continue their careers.

    Career Services (CS) uses Careerlink and Big Interview software to bring career advice and job-hunting strategies to online and on-campus learners. Students can download the CS Job Prep Toolkit, a collection of resume samples, a LinkedIn guide, and articles covering different job-searching best practices.

    Applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts showing at least a 2.0 GPA. Full-time degree-seekers save money on tuition by paying a flat per-semester tuition rate. MC's Transfer Scholarship Interview Competition awards institutional aid to students who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

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