The best criminal justice schools don’t get the same kind of name-brand recognition or international attention as the top medical schools and business schools, which can often become household names. But the job they do is critical. The best colleges for criminal justice and law enforcement are working to make sure that professionals in the criminal justice system are well-educated not only in skills and technique, but in the deeper issues of justice: ethics, responsibility, diversity, and service.
While online criminal justice degrees have become increasingly common – especially for working adults who are already in the field, and need a degree to advance in their career – in a field like criminal justice and law enforcement face-to-face, collaborative learning is still extremely important. Law enforcement is a career of human interaction and teamwork, and a traditional, on-campus program makes the best criminology colleges a place where future and current criminal justice professionals practice being the public servants and protectors we need.
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Methodology: Ranking the Best Criminal Justice Schools in the US
To rank the Best Traditional Criminal Justice schools in the nation, Criminal Justice Degree Hub editors focused their research specifically on criminal justice schools that remain dedicated to on-campus, face-to-face instruction. Of the top accredited criminal justice schools in the US, we ranked programs based on 3 factors:
- Cost (IPEDS data)
- Reputation (Niche student reviews)
- Return (College Scorecard alumni salary data)
All of the programs ranked by CJDH are regionally accredited and have earned a reputation for the quality of their undergraduate education. For this ranking, Criminal Justice Degree Hub is focusing exclusively on bachelor’s degrees.
1. Rutgers University-Newark
The Rutgers University-Newark BS in Criminal Justice program is designed to help the student grasp the inner workings of the criminal justice system. After completing the degree program, the student will be able to apply the acquired knowledge and skills required to launch a career in any of the many areas of criminal justice. Rutgers University-Newark is one of the best criminology colleges in the nation when it comes to affordability and job market reputation.
Rutgers University-Newark is one of the is one of three regional campuses of Rutgers University, New Jersey’s flagship public research institution. This public university offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the state, largely focused on professional careers like business and urban policy. The School of Criminal Justice is the highest ranked department at Rutgers Newark according to the U.S. News & World Report. With accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), Rutgers University-Newark is one of the best criminology colleges in the nation.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice
2. CSU Long Beach
The CSU Long Beach BS in Criminology & Criminal Justice program prepares the student for entry-level positions in the field of criminal justice. It takes at least 120 academic credits to successfully complete the program after which the student can become police officers, detectives, security consultants, legal professionals, etc. Due to the low tuition, high ROI, and a proven job market reputation, CSU Long Beach is one of the best criminal justice schools in California.
Founded in 1949, the California State University – Long Beach is a public university in Long Beach, California. The CSU Long Beach BS in Criminology & Criminal Justice program is offered via the School of Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Emergency Management. Located at the CSU Long Beach campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean, CSUL offers students a healthy mix of academic and outdoor life. CSU Long Beach ranks among the best colleges for criminal justice and law enforcement, and one of the best criminal justice colleges in California.
Degree: BS in Criminology & Criminal Justice
3. University of Iowa
The University of Iowa criminal justice program is one of the most sought-after in the US. Students looking to pursue a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at the University of Iowa get to choose between a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Criminology, Law, and Justice. The core major courses in the criminal justice programs are substantive criminal law, constitutional criminal procedure, and criminal justice research methods. University of Iowa criminal justice programs offers low tuition, high ROI, and a proven job market reputation from one of the best criminal justice schools in the nation.
The University of Iowa was established in 1847. It’s the oldest and one of the largest public universities in the US state of Iowa. The University of Iowa ranks among the best colleges in the region according to U.S. News & World Report. The university’s criminal justice program is one of the best in the state. The University of Iowa has regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and has earned national recognition as one of the best criminology colleges
Degree: BA or BS in Criminology, Law, and Justice
4. West Virginia University
The West Virginia University Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.S.) Criminal Justice equips the students with the skills and knowledge required to launch a career in the field of criminal justice. Students are required to complete an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree program to enroll. Upon completion, students can apply for entry-level positions in various criminal justice areas such as law enforcement, legal services, and private security. This degree program offers a high ROI and is one of the best criminal justice schools in the region.
Founded in 1867, West Virginia University is a public research university in Morgantown, WV. West Virginia University offers various undergraduate and graduate degree programs and is known for its research-intensive approach to education. The university’s criminal justice program is one of the best in the country. WVU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission guarantees the delivery of quality education in all academic programs offered by the university, especially as one of the best colleges for criminal justice and law enforcement.
Degree: BAS in Criminal Justice
5. George Mason University
The George Mason University BS in Criminology, Law, and Society presents the ideal opportunity for those looking to enter the field of criminal justice as professionals. To successfully complete the program, students are required to have a minimum of 120 credit hours. Upon completion, one can apply for entry-level positions in the field of criminal justice. George Mason University has the best college of criminology and criminal justice program in the state in terms of ROI, and job market reputation.
George Mason University was established on October 1, 1949, as a branch of the University of Virginia and became an independent institution in 1972. This public research university offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs. George Mason University’s BS in Criminology, Law, and Society is one of highest ranked and best criminal justice schools in the state. The university’s academic programs are is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).
Degree: BS in Criminology, Law, and Society
6. San Diego State University
The San Diego State University BS in Criminal Justice program is designed to provide the students with the skills and knowledge required to launch and advance a career in the criminal justice field. Upon completion, the student can work in law enforcement, law, corrections, and other areas in the criminal justice. Due to its low tuition and proven job market reputation, San Diego State one of the best criminology colleges in the country, and one of the criminal justice colleges in California.
Founded on March 13, 1897, San Diego State University (SDSU) is a is a public research university based in San Diego, California. SDSU’s BS in Criminal Justice program is offered via the School of Public Affairs and is one of the best colleges for criminal justice and law enforcement in the region. San Diego State University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), a regional accrediting body in California, Hawaii, and the Pacific. Among the best criminal justice schools in California, SDSU stands out for diversity.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice
7. Texas State University
One of the best criminal justice schools in Texas, Texas State University BS in Criminal Justice program provides students with an opportunity to build a career in the vast field of criminal justice. Texas State’s BS in Criminal Justice program is offered in three paths, namely: Law Enforcement, Corrections, and General/Criminal Justice. Students get to choose their major among the three. The Texas State University BS in Criminal Justice program quite affordable and highly sought after, which makes Texas State one of best colleges for criminal justice and law enforcement in the nation.
Established in 1899, Texas State University is a public research university based in San Marcos, TX. The university offers a wide variety of courses and programs leading to officially recognized higher education degrees. Texas State appeared in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities. The university’s BS in Criminal Justice Program is highly rated, giving Texas State a reputation as one of the best criminal justice schools in the nation. Texas State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – 3 concentrations
8. CSU Chico
The CSU Chico BA in Criminal Justice presents students with a unique opportunity to launch a career in the criminal justice field. The curriculum puts emphasis on critical thinking, effective communication, knowledge acquisition in the field of criminal justice. The goal of the program is to turn students into inquisitive and open-minded professionals. Those looking for a low-tuition, high ROI, and proven job market reputation should consider the CSU Chico criminal justice program, one of the criminal justice colleges in California.
CSU Chico is part of the California State University system based in Chico, California. It’s the second oldest of all the 23 campuses of the California State University. CSU Chico offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs. The university’s BA in Criminal Justice is offered via the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice. CSU Chico is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, a regional accrediting agency recognized nationally. A history of excellence sets Chico among the best criminal justice schools in California.
Degree: BA in Criminal Justice
9. SUNY Brockport
The SUNY Brockport BS in Criminal Justice gives students an opportunity to enter the field of criminal justice as a profession. Students are taught creative thinking, critical, and analytical skills and how to apply them in the field. Upon completion, students can secure employment in areas such as law enforcement, social services, corrections, and judiciary. Proven job market reputation, affordability, and high ROI are some of the factors that make SUNY Brockport one of the best criminal justice college in New York.
Founded in 1835, SUNY Brockport (State University of New York) is located in Brockport, New York. SUNY Brockport offers a variety of graduate and undergraduate degree programs. It’s one of the best colleges to pursue a BS in Criminal Justice. SUNY Brockport has appeared in Kiplinger’s top 100 “Best Value” public colleges and universities. SUNY Brockport is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and stands as one of the best criminal justice colleges in NY.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice
10. Westfield State University
The Westfield State University BS in Criminal Justice is designed to help the student acquire the skills and knowledge required to start a successful career in the field of criminal justice. Due to strong connections with the federal government and various agencies throughout the state, the Westfield State University criminal justice program has a proven job market reputation and is one of the best colleges for criminal justice and law enforcement in the state.
Westfield State University was established on December 28, 1838. It is located in Westfield, MA. The university offers a variety of graduate and undergraduate degree programs. Westfield State’s BS in Criminal Justice program is one of the university’s best-ranked programs. Westfield State University is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice
What Sets the Best Criminal Justice Schools Apart?
The first thing to look for when searching for the best criminal justice school is accreditation. Accreditation is a rigorous process accrediting agencies use to determine whether a school or program meets the minimum standards set forth by the accreditation board. This process can sometimes take years.
Criminal Justice Accreditation
The closest thing to criminal justice accreditation is the certification offered by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). There are currently only 15 criminal justice programs that are ACJS certified, so while it is a plus if your school is certified, it is certainly not necessary.
However, it is a good idea to ensure that you attend a school that is certified by one of the regional accreditation organizations. The accrediting body for your school will depend on its location. If your school is not regionally accredited, it may be difficult to transfer credits or get into graduate school later.
Student Services at the Best Criminology Colleges
The best colleges for criminal justice and law enforcement provide services that help students transition into the workplace easily. Job placement services help connect graduates with work opportunities that align with their degrees. Many schools also offer mentorship programs. These programs match students with experienced mentors who can help guide them as they pursue their careers. Mentors help students avoid common mistakes and pitfalls so they can experience success more quickly in their new careers.
What About Criminal Justice Schools Near Me?
You may be wondering, “Are there criminal justice schools near me?” No matter where you are, the answer is yes! There are criminal justice programs at colleges and universities across the United States and around the world. Check with the regionally accredited colleges and universities in your state. You may find that some of the best colleges for criminal justice and law enforcement are right in your backyard.
Is Criminal Justice a Good Major?
Your question may really be, “Is criminal justice a hard major?” You may already know that criminal justice is a hard career. There are many challenges that need to be addressed, such as rampant drug use in society, too many juveniles entering the criminal justice system, high incarceration rates, violence against women, and the “three strikes” legislation that has been passed in many states.
In addition to challenges like these, criminal science careers often involve high levels of emotional stress, especially for those who work directly with criminals, such as police officers and prison guards.
Even though criminal justice is a hard major with many challenges, working to solve those challenges can be incredibly rewarding. So is criminal justice a good major for you? Only you can decide. If you feel that your calling in life is in this field, then a criminal justice degree is definitely the right choice for you.
Is Criminal Justice a BA or BS?
Are you wondering is criminal justice a BA or BS? Both degrees are available. Criminal justice is a highly diverse field – really many fields brought under one umbrella – and different careers in criminal justice will emphasize different skills. Many of the best criminology colleges offer two versions of the criminal justice degree, as well as numerous criminal justice specializations.
What’s the Difference between a BA or BS in Criminal Justice?
The general education requirements for a bachelor of arts (BA) degree contain more courses in the arts and humanities, whereas a bachelor of science (BA) degree contains more math and science courses in the general education section of the program. BS degrees often contain more courses in the major of study as well. With its greater emphasis on the “soft” sciences, a BA may be the better choice for future administrators and managers, while a BS works more effectively for professionals on the technical side of criminal justice, like forensics and security.
Is Criminal Justice a Social Science?
Yes, criminal justice is a social science. Social sciences are those that focus on human behavior. Social science seeks to explain how society works and why people do the things they do. The criminal justice field provides plenty of opportunity to examine people’s motives for engaging in risky and illicit behaviors.
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