Top Online Criminal Justice Master’s Degrees in 2020
While there are many online master’s programs in criminal justice, some regularly deliver superior educational experiences. We selected 25 master’s degree-granting programs in criminal justice that offer academic rigor and access to field-knowledgeable faculty in an online format—as remote learning and schedule flexibility are extremely important factors for working professionals returning to studies.
Learn more about how we found and ranked schools.
* Indicates that multiple schools tied for these ranks.
Columbia College is a private, nonprofit college that’s home to more than 18,000 students. The university offers a variety of associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees online and on-campus, including several degrees in the criminal justice field.
Columbia College’s online Master of Science in criminal justice program is aimed at helping working adults further their criminal justice careers with flexible course options. The program emphasizes the analytical skills students need to pursue doctorates or law degrees. Their master’s program focuses on the foundations of criminal justice, including trends, policy development, research design, and ethics.
Courses are designed to be as hands-on as possible to encourage the development of practical skills while balancing the needs of busy, working professionals. Students can choose to specialize in law enforcement management or corrections administration.
Classes can be taken online, in-person at one of the school’s several locations, or a hybrid of both. Some sites may require a combination of on-campus and online course work.
Arizona State University is a public university with a student body of more than 50,000 students. The school’s criminal justice program is ranked #6 in the nation by US News & World Report as of 2020.
The school’s online M.A. in criminal justice provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to further their careers in the criminal justice field. Courses are taught by prestigious criminal justice professors with expertise in many areas of criminal justice, including gangs, fraud, courts, and corrections. Courses include Criminal Justice Planning and Program Evaluation, Applied Data Analysis in Criminal Justice, and a capstone project in Theory and Practice in criminal justice.
The 33-hour program can be finished in as little as 18 months, though students can enroll full- or part-time. Applications require a 3.0 GPA or higher but not GRE test scores. Once completed, students may pursue a career as police chiefs, US Marshals, corrections officers, detectives, or secret service agents.
Sam Houston State University is a public university named after Sam Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas, who attempted to keep the state out of the Confederacy. Today, the historic school is home to 20,000 students and offers more than 60 master’s degrees, including an award-winning criminal justice program that’s available online.
Sam Houston State University’s online M.S. in criminal justice is ranked #2 in the nation by US News & World Report. The program seeks to combine the convenience of online education with the quality of instruction Sam Houston State University is known for. The master’s program includes a total of 36 credit hours and can be completed in two years.
In addition to highly skilled faculty and staff, the criminal justice program boasts strong relationships with local, state, and national agencies. These relationships have led many graduates of the program to coveted post-graduation positions as judges, police administrators, and federal law enforcement agents.
Boston University is a private research university that has more than 30,000 students. The school offers a range of degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Current and previous faculty of BU include eight Nobel prize winners and 23 Pulitzer prize winners.
Boston University’s Master of Science in criminal justice program, offered through its Metropolitan College, helps students advance their careers in the criminal justice field or pursue further education in areas such as law. Students of the program learn to analyze criminal behavior, apply leadership principles, understand theories of social control, research data related to criminal justice practices, and gain informed perspectives of the entire judicial system.
BU’s program allows students to focus on the criminal justice topics they’re most passionate about by selecting courses based on their concentration or interests.
Areas of concentration include:
- Crime Analysis
- Cybercrime Investigation and Cybersecurity
- Strategic Management
Most students complete the 32-credit program in 16 to 18 months.
Florida State University is a well-respected research university made up of 16 separate colleges, including the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Students can pursue a range of criminal justice degrees, both online and on campus.
FSU’s online criminal justice master’s program emphasizes the importance of rigorous research in the criminal justice field. Students who complete the program are better prepared for an advanced career in the field or continuing their education in law schools or doctoral programs.
Courses include Criminology Theories, Victimology, Research Methodologies, Applied Statistics, and Race, Ethnicity, Crime, and Social Justice.
Students must complete a total of 36 credit hours, including 15 core criminal justice courses and 21 elective courses. Up to six transfer credit hours may be applied towards the degree. Students should also have access to a TV and VCR, as some courses use videotapes in instruction.
Michigan State University is a public research university that was founded in 1855. Today, the school is one of the largest universities in the United States, with more than 50,000 students and over a hundred distinct degrees, including several in criminal justice.
Students interested in pursuing an online master’s degree in criminal justice at MSU gain access to an 80 year old program designed to help them better understand their communities and the entire criminal justice system. Students often enter careers in criminal investigation, cyber or national security, and emergency management.
MSU’s online criminal justice master’s program is a two-year program in which students learn critical research techniques, analyze current challenges in the criminal justice system, and develop communication and technology skills. Students learn from highly-skilled faculty members with decades of experience in the US Secret Service, local police departments, and international criminal justice practices research.
Known as BGSU, Bowling Green State University is a public research school. The school is recognized as one of the top research facilities in the country and is home to more than 40,000 students across all campuses. The school’s online criminal justice master’s program ranked #17 in the nation by US News & World Report.
BSGU’s program is designed to give criminal justice students a competitive edge no matter where their education takes them. Whether you’re looking to change careers, secure a promotion, or continue your education at the doctorate level, BSGU’s will equip you for a bright future in the criminal justice field.
The 100% online master’s in criminal justice is designed specifically for the busy lives of working professionals. The 11-course program allows students to focus on one class at a time for seven weeks, then move on to the next course. During your time at BGSU, you will collaborate with highly-skilled faculty in group conferences, live chats, and phone calls.
Faculty at BSGU hold doctorates and have real-world experience working for and consulting with top organizations, including the FBI and the National Institute of Justice.
The University of Colorado-Denver is a public research university that’s home to more than 4,000 graduate students. The school offers more than 130 different programs, including a well-regarded online master’s in criminal justice and law enforcement. The degree can be completed 100% online, allowing students to complete their education while working or juggling the challenges of family life.
Students can choose from a variety of specializations, including:
- Applied Business Management
- Business Intelligence
- Fraud Management
- Healthcare Administration
- Human Resource Management
- Human Resource Performance
- Information Technology
- International Management
- Organizational Leadership and Change Management
- Organizational Learning and Performance
- Project Management
- Strategic Innovation and Change Management
The program focuses largely on theory and research. Students take courses in ethics, policy development, and restorative justice, among others. Each learner is expected to complete an internship and capstone project.
CSU’s tuition rates are fixed from enrollment to graduation, which means your tuition costs will never increase. Discounts are available for military students.
East Carolina University, a public research university with more than 29,000 students, was originally a teacher training school. Today, ECU offers a range of programs, including an online bachelor’s and master’s in criminal justice.
ECU’s Master of Science in criminal justice courses are taught by a diverse faculty with experience in research, teaching, and working in law enforcement. Alumni from ECU’s program have taken high-ranking positions as judges, federal agency directors, correctional administrators, and chiefs of police.
Students must hold a bachelor’s degree and may be required to submit GRE scores to qualify for the program. Students with significant relevant professional experience may be exempt from the GRE requirement.
The program consists of 36 credit hours that are designed for the working professional. Students take a range of courses on critical topics in the criminal justice field, including criminal behavior, research methods, and criminal justice principles. A professional paper is required to complete the program.
Several criminal justice certificates are also available in criminal justice education, public management and leadership, and security studies.
Founded over 200 years ago, the University of Louisville is one of the first chartered universities west of the Allegheny Mountains. Today, the public research university is home to more than 20,000 students and offers more than 150 distinct degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level.
The University of Louisville’s M.S. in criminal justice and law enforcement administration is designed to help students understand how criminal justice organizations work, how to manage the people and situations law enforcement officials face, and how to help build successful programs through community collaboration.
GRE testing scores aren’t required to apply for the University of Louisville’s program. Students can transfer a maximum of six graduate credit hours from other regionally accredited schools.
Courses criminal justice master’s students take at the University of Louisville include Crime Analysis, International Terrorism, Domestic and Family Violence, White Collar Crime, Capital Punishment, and Criminal Justice History.
Completion of the 36-hour program requires 15 hours in core criminal justice classes, 18 hours in electives, and a professional research paper. Classes are 100% online, and the program can be completed in three intensive semesters of full-time course work.
The University of Cincinnati is a public research school with an annual enrollment of 44,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Founded in 1819, the school is one of the oldest schools in the state of Ohio. The institution has three physical campuses and a robust program of online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs.
The University of Cincinnati’s online M.S. in criminal justice degree is a 33-credit hour program preparing students for leadership positions in the criminal justice field. Students learn about criminal justice from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing insights from other areas, such as sociology, psychology, and law, and best practices and approaches.
Three criminal justice concentrations are available:
- Analysis of Criminal Behavior
- Corrections and Offender Rehabilitation
- Law Enforcement & Crime Prevention
Students can expect to take courses on research methods, crime mapping, homeland security, technology, crime prevention, statistics, and police effectiveness. Graduates often pursue careers in research or assume leadership roles in the criminal justice and legal system. The degree can be earned in one to two years.
The University of the Cumberlands is a private Baptist university with a small student body of just over 13,000 students. The school began awarding graduate degrees in 1988 and offers a range of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees.
The University of the Cumberlands’ online master’s in justice administration was designed by law enforcement professionals for law enforcement professionals. The program was developed to help current professionals or pre-professional students gain the training and skills they need to succeed in the criminal justice field. By offering the degree online, the program allows working students the flexibility they need to succeed at work and school.
Students can choose from a variety of criminal justice specialization tracks, including:
- Addiction Studies
- Criminal Justice Education
- Digital Forensics
- Homeland Security
- Juvenile Justice
- KLEC or equivalent
- Law Enforcement
To apply, students must have a completed bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5, documentation of language fluency (for non-native speakers), and successfully complete an interview with the program director.
The Indiana University of Pennsylvania is a public research university located 55 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1875, today IUP is a small school with just over 10,000 students, including both graduate and undergraduate students.
The Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s online Master of Arts in criminology and criminal justice is designed to prepare students for advanced careers in administration and research, including positions in local, state, and federal law enforcement and corrections. The curriculum includes topics such as research methods, statistics, and cybercrime. A required synthesis or thesis project helps students put their new skills to work.
The school offers a 4+1 program, which allows qualified high-school seniors to earn their bachelor’s and master’s in a total of five years. They begin master’s courses during their senior year of the bachelor’s program.
Full-time online students can complete the program in one year, including two summer classes. Part-time learners taking just one class a semester can complete the program in two years.
The University of Wisconsin-Platteville is a public university offering a wide selection of online and in-person courses. Founded in 1866, the school grew to its current size following a merger of Wisconsin State College Platteville, and Wisconsin Institute of Technology. Today, the school is home to nearly 9,000 students and has a student-to-faculty ration of 20:1.
The school’s online Master of Science in criminal justice is a 30-credit graduate program designed to teach students skills and knowledge to move their careers forward, either in research or in the criminal justice system. The program provides students with foundational knowledge in areas like organizational management, problem-solving, communication, and research.
Students in the University of Wisconsin Platteville’s online criminal justice mater’s program can also choose three areas of emphasis:
- Criminal Justice Theory
- Criminal Justice Management
- Victim and Offender Services
The program’s curriculum includes courses in psychology, youth services, criminal law, cybercrime, crisis intervention, victimology, and policing in the criminal justice system. Students must complete a seminar research paper and a thesis.
Every applicant must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally or nationally accredited institution with a final GPA of 2.75. GRE or GMAT scores aren’t required for admission to the program.
Nova Southeastern University is a private university offering professional degrees through 18 total colleges. Founded in 1964, the school is currently home to more than 20,000 students, mostly at the graduate level.
NSU allows students to pursue several degrees 100% online, including an M.S. in criminal justice. Designed for busy or working students, this interdisciplinary-focused program enables students to advance their careers without disrupting their daily lives.
Concentration tracks for NSU’s online criminal justice program include:
- Behavioral Science
- Business Administration
- Child Protection and Juvenile Justice
- Conflict & Crisis Management
- Emergency Preparedness Leadership
- Information Security
- Information Systems
- Investigative Forensic Technology
- Legal Perspective in Criminal Justice
- Public Administration
- Strategic Community Planning
- Substance Abuse
The 30-credit M.S. program includes 15 core credits, 12 specialization credits, and three elective credits. The curriculum allows students to focus on the topics most important to them, including investigative processes, criminal evidence, legal research and writing, issues in forensic and social sciences, law enforcement and the mentally disordered, and substance abuse treatment in the community.
Rowan University is a public research university that was founded in 1923 as the Glassboro Normal School. Today, the growing university is home to more than 18,000 students and offers over 100 distinct degrees at undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels, including an online criminal justice master’s program.
Rowan University’s Master of Arts in criminal justice prepares students for futures as leaders or researchers in the criminal justice field. Students learn how to research the effectiveness of current programs aimed at preventing crime, recognize the core causes of crime, and gain a deeper understanding of how the law impacts society and policing.
The program is a part-time, accelerated program that can be completed in five consecutive semesters. The curriculum includes courses such as Administrative Law and Ethics, Research Methods, Courts and Supporting Agencies, Prevention and Rehabilitation, White Collar Crime, and Race, Ethnicity, Class, and Justice.
Admission into the online criminal justice master’s program requires completion of a bachelor’s degree, a GPA of 2.5, a professional resume, a statement of professional objectives, and two letters of recommendation. GRE scores aren’t required but are encouraged.
The University of California-Irvine is a public research university and one of 10 campuses in the University of California school system. The school is considered one of the “public Ivies,” meaning it’s a respected public school thought to offer a similar level of education to Ivy League schools.
UCI offers more than 200 distinct degrees, including two primarily online master’s in criminal justice. These programs are designed for professionals or recent graduates who wish to gain further insight into how the law and criminal justice impact the community and policy.
Students at UCI can choose from two programs:
The Master of Advanced Study in criminology, law, and society prepares students for advanced or leadership positions in criminal justice and the legal profession. The curriculum focuses on crime, social policy, and law. Graduates of the program have gone on to take positions in the FBI, homeland security, police departments, law, and social work.
The Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology teaches students to use physiologic principles and theories to better understand the legal system. The curriculum covers many topics, including testing theories, advancing scholarship, and engaging in public services. Graduates of the program have gone on to enjoy career opportunities in academics, research, government agencies.
The University of Nebraska-Omaha is a public research university that was initially known as the University of Omaha. Since 2000, the school has grown rapidly and is currently home to more than 15,00 students pursuing a wide range of degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. The school offers a well-regarded online master’s program in criminal justice.
UNO’s M.S. in criminology and criminal justice allows students to complete their classes online, in person, or both. The 36-hour program requires 11 courses and one capstone project. Full-time students can finish the program in 18 months. Students can also choose to attend part-time.
The program’s curriculum covers a range of criminal justice topics, including statistical applications, women and criminal justice, mental health in schools, ethical issues, career development and lifestyle, counseling techniques, and the public economy. A capstone project is required to complete the program.
Admission to the program requires a bachelor’s degree and a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the final two years of undergraduate course work. Students who don’t meet the GPA standard may be eligible for provisional admission. GRE scores aren’t required.
Colorado State University-Global Campus is an online-only school providing students with a data-driven approach to online learning. The school is a nonprofit state school accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is part of the Colorado State University System.
CSU Global’s online criminal justice program provides students with an advanced understanding of criminal justice in areas such as ethics, decision-making, and the impact of crime in society. The program offers 16 specializations, with the most popular being:
- Human Resource Management
- Organizational Leadership and Change Management
- Organizational Learning and Performance
- Project Management
- Strategic Digital Information Marketing
While other schools seek to transform their on-campus programs into an online format, all SDU Global’s programs were designed specifically for online learners. Courses are optimized to provide a flexible and interactive online learning experience.
The criminal justice master’s programs at Colorado State University-Global campus require 36 credits in areas like research and writing, ethics, restorative justice, and applied research. Programs are revised every 12 to 18 months to ensure students have access to a high-quality, technology-driven education that works with their schedule. Most programs can be completed in 18 months.
Florida International University has offered distance learning options for more than 20 years, meaning its students benefit from years of experience in this type of education.
The master’s in criminal justice program is divided into two fields: M.S. in criminal justice and M.A. in global affairs with a focus on international crime and justice. The criminal justice track is a research-based degree for students considering pursuing a doctoral degree, hoping to work in academia or research. The global affairs program is for professional students looking to further their careers in both domestic and international law enforcement. Courses include criminology theory, data analysis, and transnational crime.
FIU also a related degree, a Professional Master of Science in forensic science. This degree, however, is offered in a hybrid format due to the laboratory practice requirements.
Lamar University, also called LU, is a public university with a student body of just over 15,000 students. The university offers a variety of degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels, including a fully-online Master of Science in criminal justice.
The 30-credit degree gives students a deeper understanding of theories learned at the B.S. level and helps them develop the administrative skills needed for an advanced legal or law enforcement career. The program is particularly beneficial for students looking to advance their careers in law enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels.
Courses in the program include Theoretical Foundations, Planning and Evaluation, Criminal Justice Leadership, and two thesis courses. Students can choose four elective courses from topics related to criminal justice such as business, counseling, education, political science, and psychology.
Lamar University’s program is 100% online, features multiple start dates, and takes as few as 12 months to complete. Unconditional acceptance to the program requires a 3.0 GPA and official transcripts from all colleges or universities. GRE scores aren’t required.
Pace University has been in operation since 1906 and is considered the best private university for upward economic mobility by Harvard’s Opportunity Insights. Their graduate programs consist of just under 5,000 students and the school has a student to teacher ratio of 16:1, so you can expect a personalized experience.
Their M.A. in homeland security prepares students for careers in disaster management—both man-made and natural—and to deal with terrorist attacks. The curriculum includes courses in public health, public sector management and planning, and human rights. This program is part of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security University Agency and Partnership Initiative, and professors include FBI and FEMA agents, among other experts.
The M.S. in information technology focuses on mitigating threats to the nation’s digital security. You can expect to learn about computer programming, digital forensics, and cybersecurity policy. This program is considered a leader in cybersecurity education by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
Western Kentucky University is a public university offering 80 undergraduate, 10 master’s, and several doctoral degrees. WKU offers a range of online degrees that are ideal for working students who wish to balance higher education with a busy life.
WKU’s online Master of Arts in criminology degree gives students the tools necessary to research and evaluate the impact of crime patterns in society using a social-scientific approach. In addition to the emphasis on research and analytics, the program also focuses on the etiology of offending individuals.
Courses focus on topics like crime correlations, quantitative methods of social research, the penal system, family violence, and rehabilitation and recidivism. Several courses are offered “on-demand,” meaning they can be completed at any time.
To complete the 30-credit program, students must complete a criminology research project by submitting a peer-reviewed journal article and pass an oral exam.
Admission requirements include transcripts from previous universities and a GAP score of at least 600 (or 2200 for students who took the GRE before 2011). Students who don’t meet admission requirements may be offered conditional admission.
The Saint Elizabeth University is a private Roman Catholic college founded in 1899. The school offers more than 20 undergraduate, 14 master’s, and three doctoral programs, including a master’s in the criminal justice field.
Saint Elizabeth’s online M.A. in justice administration and public service program is designed to give students an in-depth understanding of the social, ethical, and political issues that impact the criminal justice system. The program is for students interested in law, law enforcement, corrections, or victim advocacy.
Curriculum for the online master’s program includes Community Policing, Women and the Law, Victimization and Justice, Cybercrime, Investigation and Digital Evidence, Research Methods in Justice Studies, and Homeland Security. Students must also complete a capstone seminar.
In addition to the online master’s program, the school also offers a combined B.A. in criminal justice and M.A. in justice administration and public service. Certificate programs in counter-terrorism, cybersecurity investigation, and community leadership are also available.
Application requirements include a bachelor’s from a regionally accredited university or evidence of equivalent degree from an international institution, and a B average in undergraduate studies.
New Mexico State University, often called NMSU or NM State, is a public research university established in 1888. The school is home to a diverse student body of more than 24,000 students pursuing a range of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees.
NMSU’s online criminal justice program is intended for students who are unable to attend in-person classes due to work, location, or other obligations. No blended or hybrid option is available; students must complete their degree entirely online or in person.
Online courses use the same faculty and content as on-campus courses. Classes focus on topics like juvenile justice, policy, and human trafficking. Assignments may include a mix of assigned readings, critical discussions, exams, quizzes, real-time chats, and research papers.
Application to the program requires a cumulative GPA of 3.0, three letters of recommendation from professors, a personal statement, and a sample writing about a topic related to criminal justice. Unlike the on-campus program, students don’t typically complete a thesis. Applications must be submitted in the spring for fall admission to the online program.
Faulkner University is a private Christian university that focuses not just on academia, but service and character development. The school is home to more than 5,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Faulkner offers a range of graduate programs, including 27 online degrees.
The school offers a fully-online Master of Justice Administration program designed for self-motivated students looking to continue their education in the criminal justice field. The degree helps prepare students for career advancement at the state and federal level by providing practical skills needed for advanced positions.
This master’s program can be completed in as few as 14 months, and Faulkner offers year-round enrollment every six weeks. Courses cover a wide range of topics, including criminal justice writing, policing in America, ethics, courts, and research methods. A final research project is required for graduation.
To enroll, students must have a bachelor’s degree, minimum GPA of 2.5, three letters of recommendation, letter of intent, and a resume of work and education experience. MAT scores may be required for students that don’t meet the GPA requirement.
There are many rankings published every year about criminal justice programs and schools. In researching the best criminal justice programs, you might spend a lot of time combing through scores of rankings before insights emerge about certain programs you are interested in.
CriminalJusticeDegrees.com has reviewed multiple rankings across different publishers and combined them into an overall aggregate ranking. To appear on the CriminalJusticeDegrees.com ranking, a criminal justice program must be ranked on one of many popular rankings we compiled. The more times a school’s criminal justice program appears on these rankings, the higher it ranks in the aggregate ranking. A school’s program also ranks higher if its average rank among the source rankings is higher.