What are the best traditional criminal justice schools? Looking for a degree that will open doors to criminal justice careers? Whether you want to go to the police academy or explore other criminal justice jobs, criminal justice degrees will open doors to careers in criminal justice.
1. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is the most selective university on this list and is an Ivy League school. Both its graduate and undergraduate programs in criminal justice are highly rated. The undergraduate program is interdisciplinary, with coursework in theory and methods from the social and behavioral sciences that apply to crime and social control. Students become knowledgeable in the “functional aspects of controlling crime, the structure of the courts, and the evidentiary basis for public policy decisions in crime control.”
2. Pennsylvania State University
The Department of Sociology & Crime, Law, and Justice at Penn State offers both graduate and undergraduate degrees. The department emphasizes social science methods used to study and understand the criminal justice system, promoting “an understanding of crime and justice and how they are related to human behavior, social environments, and government policy.”
3. Michigan State University
The School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University has a top-ranked PhD program, which makes the undergraduate programs better. The college is the oldest program in criminal justice in the U.S., with degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. In addition to straight criminal justice programs, they have programs in judicial administration, law enforcement intelligence and analysis, and forensic science. They also offer an online Criminal Justice Masters’s degree.
4. University of California – Irvine
Housing another top-ranked PhD program, UCI’s Department of Criminology, Law, and Society combine criminal justice and socio-legal studies (law and society) into one interdisciplinary program. They have both a traditional undergraduate program and an online master’s program for professionals working in jobs in criminal justice and law.
5. Temple University
The Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University offers undergraduate, master’s, and PhD programs in criminal justice. Undergraduate programs focus on students’ “understanding of the nature of the crime, criminals and criminal law; the goals, organizations, occupations, and rules that make up the criminal justice system” and the research methods of the field.
Other highly rated schools
- American University
- Florida State University
- George Mason University
- Northeastern University
- Rutgers University (Newark)
- State University of New York—Albany
- University of Cincinnati
- University of Delaware
- University of Florida
- University of California-Berkeley
- University of Maryland
- University of Missouri—St. Louis
- University of Nebraska
- Western Michigan University
Criminal justice schools were selected for this list based on the following:
- All colleges offer both undergraduate and graduate programs in criminal justice, and rankings favor programs with top-ranked graduate programs and high faculty productivity
- All colleges are accredited, and those with an accredited criminal justice major were given a higher rating
- Institutional strength is taken into account through acceptance selectivity, institutional rankings, and high undergraduate graduation rates.
These are all traditional schools that are primarily on-ground, but some offer online degrees. That combination ensures that the criminal justice degree you receive is more credible in the workplace than those from purely online colleges.