Hero Image The 25 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Programs of 2021

The 25 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Programs of 2021

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With a degree in criminal justice, you can pursue a variety of careers in this field. Two of the more popular jobs for graduates in this field include police officer and private investigator, both of which allow you to use the skills you learn in a criminal justice program to keep communities safe. 

And, the opportunity to help your community isn’t the only benefit. The salary could be, tool. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for police officers and detectives was about $67,290 as of 2020, which is higher than the national average for all careers. The average salary for private investigators was about $53,320 as of 2020, and the projected job growth through 2029 for both of these criminal justice careers is expected to be much faster than the national average.


If you’re interested in pursuing a job in this field, an online criminal justice bachelor degree can help prepare you for an entry-level position in criminal justice. After gaining your criminal justice degree and a few years of experience, you’ll be able to work toward more advanced roles in the field. And, if you’re worried about the high cost of a degree in this field, you may want to start by looking at the cheapest online criminal justice degrees, which will prepare you for a career in criminal justice while saving you money on tuition.

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Have Questions About Criminal Justice Programs? We Have Answers.


  • What job can I get with a bachelor’s in criminal justice?

    There is a wide range of jobs you can pursue with this type of degree. Earning a degree in this field won’t necessarily be easy, but 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 does not require that you have a specific degree in order to get hired. According to the agency’s career portal, the government agency offers “a wide variety of career paths for individuals from all backgrounds and experiences.” However, a criminal justice degree is certainly one of many degrees that could help you land a job with the agency. 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?

    Whether a BA or a BS in criminal justice is right for you will depend on your goals and the types of courses you want to focus on while earning your degree. 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.


The Top 10 Most Affordable Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Humphreys University Stockton, CA
2 Peirce College Philadelphia, PA
3 Trine University Angola, IN
4 Oakland City University Oakland City, IN
5 Averett University Danville, VA
6 Northern Kentucky University Highland Heights, KY
7 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
8 Amridge University Montgomery, AL
9 Drury University Springfield, MO
10 Mississippi College Clinton, MS

  • Methodology: Here's How We Rank Schools


    At Best Value Schools, we help students of all ages get the best possible value for their education. When choosing the best schools and programs, we prioritize tuition rates, student debt, financial aid opportunities, graduation rates, and the availability of online programs.
    We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.































    Metric Data Used Percentage
    Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 25%
    Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 35%
    Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 15%
    Program Offerings Number of program options 10%
    Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 15%

    You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.

Degree Overview

When you pursue a degree in criminal justice, you will gain a comprehensive foundation for understanding of the criminal justice system. In this type of program, you will learn about the local legislature, research methodology, critical reasoning, and field applications — all of which are pertinent to a career in criminal justice.

While each program differs, most criminal justice programs will include courses in three main areas: courts, police, and corrections. That said, you may be able to specialize in a subset of criminal justice by the focus and the classes you take. For example, you may have an opportunity to take an independent study course that is focused on working with victims of crimes. Some programs even offer courses on issues that exist exclusively within particular areas of the legal and criminal justice systems or issues that exist within a particular jurisdiction.

Degree Requirements

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. Many schools will accept incoming high school students with SAT test scores of 1050 or higher, though more competitive schools will require scores of at least 1400.  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. You’ll typically need at least 120 credits to graduate from a bachelor’s in criminal justice program. You may also be required to have a GPA of at least 2.0, though this requirement varies based on the program and school you enroll in.

Criminal Justice Courses



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


Criminal justice curriculum often includes 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
You’ll 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. You 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 you develop foundational knowledge you can build on throughout your program and career.
Inequality and Crime
Criminal justice jobs require field-specific skills and an understanding of the challenges the criminal justice field faces. You’ll 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. You’ll 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. You’ll 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 you to investigative methods and explores the legal definitions of and restrictions on investigations. You’ll 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. You’ll explore how the judiciary system influences police departments and how judges at various levels ensure the lawfulness of police officers’ activities. You’ll 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.

Career Path

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.

An affordable online 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.

Job Outlook & Salary

Once you’ve completed your criminal justice program, you may find you have opportunities to pursue a wide range of occupations. The public sectors — law enforcement agencies and other government entities — typically employ more graduates with criminal justice degrees than the private sector. 

For example, law enforcement positions are quite common, especially in correctional facilities, federal agencies, or police departments. Court positions are generally available as well, and can include positions such as court reporters, court administrators, or even criminal justice educators. Some graduates may be drawn toward career pathways for correctional administrators, probation officers, or even social workers, though qualifications for these types of positions vary by state and county. Some jurisdictions require more advanced degrees or licensure for social work or other mental health-related positions

Some of the more common careers you can pursue with a criminal justice degree, as well as the average salaries for each position, include:

CareerAverage Salary
Police officer$67,290
Court reporter$61,660
Probation officer$55,690
Private detective$53,320
Social workers$51,760
Correctional officer/bailiff$47,440

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.

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.

Even students attending the most affordable criminal justice programs often need financial assistance to avoid significant student debt. You can apply for criminal justice scholarships from private organizations to help cover the cost of your education. These options include:

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Criminal Justice Students

Even students attending the most affordable criminal justice programs often need financial assistance to avoid significant student debt. You can apply for criminal justice scholarships from private organizations to help cover the cost of your education. These options include:

Alpha Phi Sigma Best Paper Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Alpha Phi Sigma awards four scholarships each year to criminology undergrad and graduate students who submit an essay on a criminal justice topic: the V.A. Leonard Scholarship, the Regina B. Sheard Scholarship, the Nay-Latocki Military Veteran Scholarship, and the Best Paper Scholarships. Essays should incorporate external research and use MLA or APA format. You’ll also need to submit your transcript and letters of recommendation. Applicants should submit their essay by March 1.
Amount: $500-$2,000
Deadline:March 1

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: $1000
Deadline: July 1

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 must be in at least 12th grade and 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
Deadline: March 31

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 a 1-2 page essay. The scholarship committee prefers applicants who demonstrate knowledge of and passion for the criminal justice field.
Amount: $500
Deadline: August 1

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
Deadline: May 31

The Top 25 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Programs of 2021



  1. Humphreys University
    Location

    Stockton, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located 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. Students can complete the degree fully online or follow a hybrid format.

    • Graduation rate: 44%
    • School status: Private 
    • Tuition cost: $14,580
    • Number of programs offered: 14
    • City location: Stockton, California
    • Admission requirements: NA
    • Contact: (209) 478-0800
    • Program Website
  2. Peirce College
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Pierce's online degree in criminal justice confers a bachelor of science and includes 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 also complete a two-part capstone project. All general education courses are completed entirely online.

    • Graduation rate: 42%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $15,060
    • Number of programs offered: 17 
    • City location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
    • Admission requirements: NA
    • Contact: (888) 467-3472
    • Program Website
  3. Trine University
    Location

    Angola, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

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

    • Graduation rate: 63%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $33,490
    • Number of programs offered: 47
    • City location: Angola, Indiana
    • Admission requirements: GPA of 3.53; 1130 on SAT
    • Contact: (260) 665-4100
    • Program Website
  4. Oakland City University
    Location

    Oakland City, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Aspiring criminal justice professionals may want to 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 while enrolled in the program.

    • Graduation rate: 52%
    • School status: Private 
    • Tuition cost: $24,990
    • Number of programs offered: 27
    • City location: Oakland City, Indiana
    • Admission requirements: 3.29 GPA; 1016 SAT
    • Contact: (800) 737-5125
    • Program Website
  5. Averett University
    Location

    Danville, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Averett University’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 program by choosing one of four minors, such as leadership or homeland security.

    • Graduation rate: 42%
    • School status: Private 
    • Tuition cost: $36,670
    • Number of programs offered: 65
    • City location: Danville, Virginia
    • Admission requirements: 3.26 GPA; 995 SAT
    • Contact: (434) 791-5600
    • Program Website
  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 fully online program requires courses in police in America, perspectives on crime, and the criminal court system. The 120-credit program also requires 23 elective credits, allowing students to pursue a minor or take additional criminal justice courses.

    • Graduation rate: 46%
    • School status: Public 
    • Tuition cost: $10,296 (in-state); $20,256 (out-of-state)
    • Number of programs offered: 104
    • City location: Highland Heights, Kentucky
    • Admission requirements: 3.48 GPA; 1110 SAT
    • Contact: (859) 572-5100
    • Program Website
  7. Florida State University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    FSU’s criminal justice majors enroll in the university's bachelor's in criminology program. Working students can enroll part-time and stay in good academic standing by maintaining a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. Enrollees can also complete an optional minor.

    • Graduation rate: 83%
    • School status: Public 
    • Tuition cost: $5,656 (in-state); $18,786 (out-of-state)
    • Number of programs offered: 157
    • City location: Tallahassee, Florida
    • Admission requirements: 4.07 GPA; 1270 SAT
    • Contact: (850) 644-2525
    • Program Website
  8. Amridge University
    Location

    Montgomery, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Amridge's criminal justice program provides students 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 elective options, such as comparative criminal justice systems and terrorism today. Enrollees must stay in good academic standing by maintaining a minimum 2.0 GPA.

    • Graduation rate: 50%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $6,950
    • Number of programs offered: 18
    • City location: Montgomery, Alabama
    • Admission requirements: NA
    • Contact: (334) 387-3877
    • Program Website
  9. Drury University
    Location

    Springfield, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    DU's degree in criminal justice typically 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.

    • Graduation rate: 58%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $31,215
    • Number of programs offered: 75
    • City location: Springfield, Missouri
    • Admission requirements: 3.83 GPA; 1190 SAT
    • Contact: (417) 873-7879
    • Program Website
  10. Mississippi College
    Location

    Clinton, MS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

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

    • Graduation rate: 57% 
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $19,308
    • Number of programs offered: 103
    • City location: Clinton, Mississippi
    • Admission requirements: 3.56 GPA; 1170 SAT
    • Contact: (601) 925-3000
    • Program Website  

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Amanda Push

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Amanda Push is a freelance writer who covers education topics for Best Value Schools, Grad School Hub, and Criminal Justice Degree Schools, and others. Her writing has also been featured at TheSimpleDollar.com, Interest.com, MyMove.com, and Safety.com.

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Angelica Leicht

SCHOOLS EDITOR

Angelica Leicht is the schools editor at Best Value Schools who oversees our college rankings, school profiles, and other higher education coverage. She previously served as an education reporter at Kearney Hub, and an editor at the Dallas Observer and Houston Press. Her writing has appeared in Affordable Colleges Online, Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and elsewhere.

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