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Top 10 Online Masters in Criminal Justice Degree Programs 2019


There are many benefits to getting an online Masters in Criminal Justice. It is a great way to separate yourself in the field and enter supervisory, policy forming, and leadership roles in a range of government departments and agencies, businesses, universities, non-profits and more. Criminal justice is an incredibly diverse field, and a masters degree in it will expose you to all that you can do in it, plus give you the tools to execute on what you’ve learned.

The following programs are designed for students who:

  • Wish to further their criminal justice careers.
  • Are looking to enter the field upon graduating.
  • Want to do important research, teaching or advocacy within the field.
  • Are looking to eventually earn their doctorate in criminal justice.

Getting A Criminal Justice Degree Online

Online Criminal Justice Degree ProgramWhen getting an online criminal justice degree from a top ranking school, students can rest assured that their masters degree will be the same high-quality degree as one awarded to their on-campus peers. In fact, at many institutions, the courses online have the same instructor as those taken in person.

Online degree programs offer students much more flexibility so that they are able to balance their work and family life while expanding their education. Many of the programs are designed with working professionals in mind so that there is the least disruption to their work schedule as possible.

Not only is studying online convenient for a student’s schedule by allowing them to study when they have available time, but it saves them some time and money by simply eliminating travel to and from campus multiple times per week. While some online programs are 100% online, there are many that do have components which may require the student to visit campus. When looking for an online program to enroll in, students should be sure to examine all of the details and be sure that they will be able to participate in any on-campus requirements.

Criminal Justice Careers

The criminal justice field has rapidly changed in the digital era and with the expansion of law enforcement and anti-terrorism agencies at the federal, state and local level. A Masters in Criminal Justice can thrust you into the upper levels of the field by giving you cutting-edge information about how the field has changed alongside tried and true theories, methods and personal development that are highly demanded.

After earning your degree, you can be qualified to work in the following criminal justice careers:

  • Criminal Justice CareersForensic Science Technician
  • Corrections Officer and/or Bailiff
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Working for the CIA, FBI, or Departments of Defense or State, among other roles
  • Private Detective or Investigator
  • Probation Officer
  • Victim Advocate
  • Law Enforcement
  • Criminal Justice Educator
  • And many others within the criminal justice system.

Criminal Justice Salary

criminal justice salaryWhile working a criminal justice job can be a rewarding experience, allowing those who pursue these careers to feel as though they are making a real difference in the world. The monetary rewards for these jobs can vary a good deal. In most cases, the higher the degree held, a higher salary will generally follow.

A criminal justice salary can average between $12.04 per hour working as a Security Officer to a $24.54 hourly wage for a Private Investigator. Other criminal just careers and salaries reported include Police Officer at $20.53 per hour, a Victim Advocate at $15.63 per hour, and a Fraud Investigator can make an average of 18.23 per hour.

Public and Private not-for-profit institutions which offer online master’s programs in criminal justice were gathered and ranked for overall quality of the school. This was determined by looking at factors such as graduation rate and freshman retention rates, affordability, average career pay for graduates from the schools, and the opinions from the students who have attended. Sources for the data which was collected include the National Center for Education Statistics, CollegeData, Payscale, and Niche. Information was also obtained from the university websites.

The weight of these statistics used to create our ranking is as follows:

  • Graduation rates – 20%
  • Retention rates – 20%
  • Average cost of attendance – 20%
  • Average mid-career pay of graduates via Payscale – 20%
  • Overall Student Opinion via Niche – 20%

In some cases, adequate data may have been unable to be retrieved resulting in the exclusion of an institution from the ranking that it may have otherwise placed in. None of the institutions appearing in the ranking requested preferential treatment and none was given.

1) Florida State University


FSU logoFlorida State is a premier public school for sea-grant and space-grant research (Florida is a magnet for those fields) in Tallahassee. It was founded in 1851. The school is comprised of 16 colleges and over 360 programs of study that convey degree levels ranging from Associates through Doctorates. It’s known for its programs in criminal justice, law, business engineering, medicine, social policy, film, music, theater, dance, visual art, political science, psychology, social work, and more. U.S. News & World Report ranks FSU 70th among National Universities in its 2019 rankings. Over 41,300 students attend FSU, which has a 22:1 student-to-faculty ratio. FSU’s athletic teams are called the Seminoles and compete in NCAA Division I in the Atlantic Coast Conference in eight men’s sports and nine women’s. Notable FSU alumni include the NFL’s Deion Sanders and Jameis Winston, actor Burt Reynolds and actress Cheryl Hines, among many others.

FSU offers an online Master’s of Science in Criminal Justice Studies. The program is intended for students to achieve leadership positions from their current employer, teach criminal justice courses at Florida community colleges, and prepare for post-law enforcement careers. Students taking two courses per semester can expect to graduate in two years. The program requires 36 credit hours in total. Sample courses include Victimology, Research Methods in Criminology, Computer Applications in Criminal Justice, and Seminar in Theoretical Criminology. This program is especially valuable to students looking to take leadership positions in law enforcement, corrections, juvenile justice, and other criminal justice positions in Florida, the rest of the country, and overseas.

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2) Boston University

Massachusetts Admissions Center Boston University

Boston University is a private research university founded in 1839. It has become one of Boston’s largest schools and employers. Over 33,300 students currently attend BU, which maintains a very low 10:1 student to faculty ratio. BU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees through 17 schools and colleges. Its notable alumni include Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize, Academy Awards, Emmy and Tony winners. USNR ranks BU 42nd among National Universities for 2019. The Boston University Terriers compete in 14 women’s varsity sports and ten men’s in NCAA Division I.

BU offers an online (or on-campus) Master of Criminal Justice. Its curriculum helps students analyze criminal behavior, use leadership skills within complex organizations, use theories of social control, and gain an advanced understanding of law enforcement, the judicial system, and corrections. Graduates will be prepared to enter or advance their criminal justice career, teach, apply to law school, or earn their doctorate in criminal justice. Students can choose a concentration in Strategic Management or Cybercrime Investigation & Cybersecurity as part of this program. The program consists of ten courses (40 credits), broken down into six required courses and four electives.

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3) Arizona State University


Arizona State University LogoArizona State University is one of the largest public higher education institutions in the country. Over 51,100 students attend ASU, which has a 20:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It was founded in 1885. USNR’s 2019 rankings called ASU the number 1 school on its Most Innovative Schools in America ranking for the fourth year in a row. Some of ASU Online bachelor’s degrees include communications, art history, business, film, and justice studies. It also offers master’s degrees in criminal justice, nutrition, English, electrical engineering, as well as doctoral degrees in behavioral health and leadership and innovation. Its online resources include enrollment counselors, academic advisers, and success coaches. ASU Online lets students choose from six start dates each year. Its athletics teams, the Arizona State Sun Devils compete in 20 varsity sports in the Pac-12 Conference. Notable alumni include U.S. Senator Carl Hayden, the NFL’s Pat Tillman, Kate Spade, and many more.

ASU offers an online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice. It requires 33 credits and consists of 11 classes with a 7.5-week duration per class. In it, you’ll study crime, why it exists and how it affects society, and understand our conception of justice and its application. Sample courses include Applied Data Analysis in Criminal Justice, a Seminar in Policing, a Seminar on Courts and Sentencing, a Seminar on Women and Crime, and much more. Students choose six electives from a long list and have the opportunity to participate in an internship for credit. Graduates will be prepared to work as professors, wardens, parole officers, secret service agents, U.S. Marshals, and much more.

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4) University of Cincinnati


UC LogoThe University of Cincinnati is a public research university in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was founded in 1819 as Cincinnati College and is the first higher education institution in the vastly underrated city. UC serves over 37,100 students with a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It’s one of the 50 largest universities in the country. Students at UC can access 100 bachelor’s degrees, over 300 degree-granting programs, and over 600 total programs of study at all levels from certificates through doctoral degrees. USNR ranks UC 147th among National Universities in 2019, and 130th among Best Value Schools. The Cincinnati Bearcats compete in 19 Division I NCAA varsity sports. Notable alumni include the MLB’s Kevin Youkilis, The National’s Scott Devendorf, prima ballerina Suzanne Farrell, author Sandra Novack, and many others.

UC offers an online Master’s in Criminal Justice. It has graduated over 2,000 students in fourteen years of online delivery. Its faculty members are frequently published in the trade “Journal of Criminal Justice,” and it’s been ranked as a top Criminal Justice School by U.S. News & World Report. Students can choose from a General Track, Analysis of Criminal Behavior, Law Enforcement & Crime Prevention, and Corrections & Offender Rehabilitation as concentrations within this program. The program is completed in 15-week semesters and requires 11 courses. It can be completed in two years. In it, you’ll gain advanced skills and knowledge of justice policies, professional writing, research methods, criminal behavior analysis, and the application of them all within the field.

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5) University of Massachusetts-Lowell

UMass Lowell

UMass Lowell logoThe University of Massachusetts Lowell is a public research university in Lowell, Massachusetts. It serves over 18,300 students and offers a 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It’s the second largest public university in the state behind UMass Amherst. UMass-Lowell is known for its degrees in engineering, criminal justice, business, education, music, science and technology. USNR ranks Lowell 157th among National Universities in 2019. Lowell’s River Hawks compete in eight men’s and nine women’s varsity sports at the NCAA Division I level. UMass Lowell’s notable alumni include best-selling author Andre Dubus, NFL GM and coach Craig McTavish, former congressman Marty Meehan, among many others.

UMass Lowell offers an online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice. It requires 11 courses and was designed for working professionals. You’ll take courses in leadership, administrative and management skills in crisis and emergency management, public policy, crime analysis, forensic psychology and terrorism in this program, which requires 33 credits. The core courses deal with theory, research, scholarship, quantitative analysis and criminal justice administration. Sample electives include Victimology, Domestic Terrorism and Violent Extremism, Criminal Profiling, and much more.

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6) University of Louisville

University of Louisville

The image is courtesy of Ken Lund.

The University of Louisville (UofL) is a public university in Kentucky. It was established in 1798. Louisville is a member of the Kentucky state university system. When it was founded, it was the first city-owned public university in America. Louisville offers bachelor’s degrees in 70 fields, master’s degrees in 78, and doctorate degrees in 22 through 12 schools and colleges. Over 21,400 students attend UofL, and it has a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio. USNR ranks Louisville at 171st among National Universities. The Louisville Cardinals compete in NCAA Division I, offering 13 women’s and ten men’s varsity teams. Notable alumni include the NFL’s Johnny Unitas, Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman, the first female director of the CIA Gina Haspel, among many others.

Louisville offers a 100% online Master of Science in Criminal Justice. The program focuses on justice administration, theories of crime and delinquency, legal issues in criminal justice, and advanced statistics and research methods. You can also choose electives that help you specialize in emergency management, computer applications in criminal justice, capital punishment, and homeland security. The program is offered in 6-week accelerated terms, requires 36 credit hours (12 classes) and has classes offered year-round with six start dates each year. The program can be completed in three intensive enrollment semesters, or around two years.

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7) Sam Houston State University


SHSU is a public university in Huntsville, Texas. It was founded in 1879. It’s a member of the Texas State University System. The school offers 80 undergraduate, 59 master’s, and eight doctoral degree programs. Nearly 21,000 students attend SHSU, which has a 21:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It’s ranked in the 230-301 bracket among National Universities in USNR’s 2019 rankings. Its notable alumni include director Richard Linklater, activist Abby Johnson, noted film editor Mary DeChambres, and many others. Its athletic teams are known as the Bearkats and compete in 17 varsity sports in NCAA Division I. Its College of Criminal Justice is one of the largest and oldest in the nation, a co-headquarters of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the home of several prisons, including the Walls Unit, just two blocks north of campus.

SHSU offers an online Master of Science in Criminal Justice. In 2018 it was ranked first in the nation in USNR’s Best Online Graduate Criminal Justice Programs. Its faculty has been noted for their incredible research by the Journal of Criminal Justice Education, which ranks it first in the country. Graduates will be prepared to work as police administrators, victim advocates, judges, or many other important positions in criminal justice. The program requires 36 credits and can be completed in two years.

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8) New Mexico State University


NMSU LogoNMSU is a public research university in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It’s the flagship campus of the NMSU system. It was founded in 1888. Over 14,400 students attend the school, which has a 17:1 student to faculty ratio. U.S. News and World Report ranks it 221st on its list of Best National Universities in 2019. Students can access almost 90 bachelor’s degrees, over 50 master’s programs, and 28 doctoral degrees. The New Mexico State Aggies compete in NCAA Division I and offer 16 varsity teams, including six for men and 10 for women.

NMSU offers an online Master of Criminal Justice. It will prepare students to pursue a doctorate in criminal justice, or take on administrative or policy-making positions in law enforcement, courts, corrections, and more. The program requires 36 credit hours. Sample courses include Nature of Crime, Punishment, Advanced Issues in Criminal Justice, Research Methods in Criminal Justice, and much more. This program is designed for people looking to improve their current criminal justice career, those who want to teach and research in the field, and pre-service students who want to enter the six after earning their degree.

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9) St. John’s University-New York

St John's University New York

SJU NY LOGOSJU is a private, Roman Catholic research university in Queens, New York City. It also has campuses in Manhattan, Staten Island, Rome, Paris, and more. The school was founded in 1868 to serve underprivileged New Yorkers. The school offers over 100 bachelor, master, doctoral degree programs and professional certificates. Over 21,300 students attend St. John’s, which has a 17:1 student to faculty ratio. It’s ranked 152nd among National Universities in USNR’s 2019 rankings. Its Red Storm sports teams compete in NCAA Division I in over 15 varsity teams. Notable alumni include former Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, former police commissioner Raymond Kelly, the NBA’s Chris Mullin, and many more.

St. John’s offers an online Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Leadership. It requires 36 credits. Sample courses include Leadership in Media Relations, seminars in Stress Management and Global Terrorism, Methods of Research in Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice Policy Formation and Analysis, and much more. Students take 18 credits of core courses, six credits of research including an applied research project, and 12 elective credits. Students are prepared to work for the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, the NYPD, FBI, CIA, and much more. Students in this program are also granted a 33% Public Service Scholarship.

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10) Georgia College and State University

GCSU LogoGCSU is a public liberal arts university in Milledgeville, Georgia. It was founded in 1889 and is a member of the University System of Georgia. The school was founded as a women’s college but became coeducational in 1967. Just under 7,000 students attend the school, which has a 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It’s been ranked 10th in the region among top public schools by USNR, and 31st among Best Regional Universities in the South. Its athletic teams are known as the Georgia College Bobcats. GCSU is a member of NCAA Division II and the Peach Belt Conference. It currently offers varsity teams in baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, cheerleading, men’s and women’s cross country, golf, dance team, women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, volleyball, and collegiate bass fishing. Notable alumni include actress Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar, GEICO CEO Tony Nicely, writer and essayist Flannery O’Connor, among others.

GCSU offers an online Master of Science in Criminal Justice. It requires 36 credits and can be completed in four semesters of full-time attendance. Its curriculum focuses on criminal justice policy, policing, corrections, criminological theory, legal issues, research design and statistics and ethics. The program will give students the skills to work in social services, judiciary and law, law enforcement, education and in private business. The program culminates in a comprehensive exam. There are three deadlines for application: July 1st (for the Fall Semester) November 1st (Spring) and April 1st (Summer).

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What can you do with a criminal justice degree?

There are a wide variety of jobs that graduates of a criminal justice degree program are able to hold in areas such as law enforcement, security, corrections, and in the court system, and more. While the entry-level positions in many cases require an undergraduate degree, and with a Masters in Criminal Justice or doctoral degree, there are more advanced career options which become available. Just a few of the career options available with a criminal justice degree are:

  • Police Officer or Detective
  • Probation Officer
  • Correctional Counselor
  • security officer criminal justiceSecurity Officer
  • Custom Protection Officer
  • Field Investigator
  • Private Investigator
  • Case Manager
  • Loss Prevention Manager
  • Siu Investigator
  • Fraud Investigator
  • Social Worker
  • Paralegal
  • Victim Advocate
  • Records Coordinator
  • Criminal Justice Research Analyst
  • Criminal Justice Educator

As you can see from the list above of possible criminal justice jobs there are some vast differences. You can choose between jobs that are in the public sector or those in the private sector. While working in law enforcement, corrections, or the court system is what the average lay-person would think of when it comes to a criminal justice career, there are a lot of other options, such as working for insurance companies investigating claims to ensure against fraud, teaching criminal justice, or work with data as a research analyst. Working in the field of criminal justice can lead to a fulfilling career for those with a strong moral compass and strive to make a difference in the world.

How much does a police officer make with a masters degree?

In order to become a police officer, educational requirements can start with a high school diploma or equivalent. Some police departments may require some college experience or a degree. There is usually a period of training at the agency’s academy before being allowed to perform any on-the-job training.

police officer, masters in criminal justiceIt is usually required that candidates be at least 21 years old with no prior felonies. As with most employment, failure to pass a drug test will result in disqualification for the position.

$52,972 to $55,234 was the average salary reported for a Police Patrol Officer holding a masters degree or MBA according to $52,705 – $54,872 is the average salary reported for the same job for those who hold a bachelor’s degree, and $52,384 – 54,510 for those with an associate degree.

$62,960 per year or $30.27 per hour was the 2017 average annual pay for a police officer or detective according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It should be noted that while the rankings of police officers may change from one location to another, a detective position is considered to be higher than that of an officer. In some agencies, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to become a detective.

How much money do profilers make?

A criminal profiler generally works with law enforcement agencies or sometimes with agencies in the private sector to help solve crimes. Often they will review crime scene evidence, the case files, and suspect files so that they can create a criminal profile as well as create a theory on what they believe is likely to have happened during the crime.

criminal justice, criminology, criminal profilerThe profession was the object of Hollywood romanticism during the time where many crime dramas were popular across all networks, sparking the hit television show that ran from 1996 until 2000 by the name of “The Profiler.”

An FBI profiler is one of the most respected jobs as a profiler. In order to become an FBI profiler, the process can be quite long. To enter the FBI, you need to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, criminology, or psychology. The admissions process is extremely rigorous and difficult with both physical and intellectual testing. Then the prospective agents undergo the FBI training process in Quantico, Virginia at the end of which they will begin a field assignment.

After about 8 or 10 years of working in the field as an FBI agent, they may be eligible to switch to working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime, or NCAVC, which is where many of the criminal profilers work. A criminal profiler working with the FBI can expect to make about $48,289 to $62,787 per year.

What is the Difference Between Criminology and Criminal Justice?

While there are similarities and a degree of overlap between criminology and criminal justice studies, there are many differences between the two areas of study.

paralegal, lawyer, criminal justice, criminologyCriminology is sometimes considered to be a subset of sociology and literally means “the study of crime”. The three main subdivisions of criminology are biocriminology, feminist criminology, and penology. Students who study criminology often gain employment in the legal field or go on to law school.

When studying criminology, students gain knowledge in the areas of American history, law, political science, forensics, statistics, psychology, and communication skills. Students will also explore the different types of crime and their consequences, causes of crime, as well as the psychological and sociological nature of crime. Some positions a criminologist graduate may hold include a criminal psychologist; forensic, criminal, or medical investigator; criminal profiler; or private investigator.

Criminal justice studies are an excellent choice for those who want to go on to work in law enforcement or corrections. Students who study criminal justice will learn more about the administrative aspects of working in crime-related careers that strive to reduce crime rates or impose consequences on those who commit crimes.

Many criminal justice jobs deal with directly addressing crimes and criminal behavior. Those who are successful in the field generally are responsible and honest with excellent observational and analytical skills. A few examples of positions that might be held are a police officer, game warden, probation officer, bailiff, court clerk, or paralegal.

What can you do with a major in Criminology?

While criminal justice and criminology are related areas of study and some overlap does occur in what they study, they are different majors with different strengths. Criminology is very similar to sociology, in fact, the subject is considered to be a subset of sociology in which deviant or criminal behavior is studied.

Of course, different types of degrees and specializations can affect the job in which you are best qualified for to some extent. Generally, those who major in criminology are able to go on to become a:

  • Criminal psychologist
  • sociology, criminologyCriminal Profiler
  • Forensic psychology
  • Forensic science technician
  • Forensic or criminal investigator
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • Rehabilitation planner
  • Social worker
  • Youth worker
  • Community development worker
  • Community service officer

Like those who earn a criminal justice degree, students who major in criminology may go on to become paralegals, private investigators, or find work in law enforcement or corrections. Holding a degree in criminology can provide an insight into criminal behavior, allowing them to excel at any of these jobs.

Most all jobs encourage and reward additional education, whether it be a graduate certificate, or going on to earn a masters degree or doctorate. Also, depending on where you decide to go to college, you may even be able to get a dual degree in criminology and criminal justice, expanding your knowledge and career options.


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