Online Criminal Justice Degrees

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With the flexibility of online classes and exciting courses that can be tailored to suit your interests, it is no wonder that online criminal justice degrees continue to be one of the most popular majors for students.

Online Criminal Justice Degrees

The criminal justice field is far-reaching, and graduates may be able to find career opportunities ranging from homeland security to forensics.

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Do you believe in justice and have a desire to help bring peace and security to your community? Then working toward one of many available online criminal justice degrees is the perfect place to start.

Careers in Criminal Justice

Whether you have dreams of working in law enforcement or in the legal realm, there are several career paths available once you have completed your criminal justice degree.

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To help give you an idea of the occupations associated with the various subfields of this degree program, we have put together a list of popular careers and their mid-career salaries based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Criminal Defense Lawyers $127,990
Detectives / Criminal Investigators $66,020
Police Officers $66,020
Fraud Investigators $59,380
Security Guards $31,470

As is common with many degree programs, the more education you have, the better your chances are of landing a job that pays a high salary. The numbers listed above can help give you an idea of what you may be able to earn after working 10 years within your chosen profession.

Types of Online Criminal Justice Degrees

detective working on a case

There are several top online colleges that offer degrees in criminal justice, but there are also closely related fields that merit consideration as well. A few of the common degrees available related to the field include:

  • Public safety and security
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Cyber security
  • Homeland security
  • Paralegal
  • Law enforcement administration
  • General legal studies

If you have a specific career goal in mind, then one of these specialized online degrees may be a good fit for you.

Online Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice

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Earning an online associate’s degree in criminal justice will open the door to a variety of entry-level career opportunities, including law enforcement, security, and correctional or probation officers.

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It is also a great starting point when planning to continue your education with an advanced degree program. Common curricula in these fields include:

  • Corrections
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Law and law enforcement
  • Criminology and investigations
  • Concentration-specific courses in your desired subfield

While some schools offer an online certificate program in criminal justice as well, working towards your associate’s degree will provide you with a higher-level skill set to help you reach your goals.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Female manager working in notary public office

Earning an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will give you the opportunity to pursue more specialized jobs within the field.

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There are several career paths that you can take once you complete this educational level or you can move on to graduate programs to learn high-level skills within a concentration of your choice. Many universities offer criminal justice bachelor’s degrees that focus on a specific specialization. Some of the common options that you may find include:

  • Crime scene investigation
  • Homeland security
  • Corrections
  • Juvenile justice
  • Law enforcement

Whether you are interested in applying for entry-level employment after graduation or plan on taking specific courses to qualify for a job with the FBI or CIA, a bachelor’s degree is a necessary step to achieve your goals.

Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Female lawyer working with laptop

An online master’s degree in criminal justice will help prepare you to be an agent of change in the legal system. Throughout the course of your studies, you should expect to gain the necessary knowledge and expertise to advance your career into a position in management.

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As part of your degree program, you will likely be required to write a thesis or complete a comprehensive project. After graduation, a few of the career opportunities available to you may include:

  • Political positions
  • Social service work
  • Teaching within your specialization
  • Management opportunities
  • Upper-level law enforcement

Although earning a master’s degree in criminal justice involves a rigorous course of study, with determination and hard work, it can pay off with stable career options and higher salary ranges.

Online Doctorate Degree in Criminal Justice

male lawyer working on legal papers online

If you are interested in teaching, research, or top-level positions, then earning a doctorate in criminal justice is an option to consider.

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Several universities offer online doctorate degree programs in specialized criminal justice fields, making it easier than ever for career professionals and adult students to complete their education.

There are several steps to earning a doctorate in criminal justice, and you may have to complete the following during the course of your program:

  • In-depth theory and research courses
  • Highly-specialized courses in your concentration
  • Research project as a basis for your dissertation
  • Comprehensive examinations prior to graduation

Having a doctorate in criminal justice can open up the door to several high-paying career choices, such as post-secondary faculty, commander or chief in law enforcement, or a consultant to the justice system.

Criminal Justice Career Outlook and Salary Information

justice Lawyer discussing contract documents in the office

There is a fair bit of variation in the career outlook and salary potential within the subfields of criminal justice. As you continue your research, it is helpful to look at valuable resources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to gather more information about your desired career.

The fastest growing professions in the world of criminal justice center on science and developing technologies.  For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 13% growth in career opportunities for private detectives and investigators through the next 10 years.

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To earn top salaries within the criminal justice field, it pays to put in the time to earn advanced degrees in your specialization. There is a wide variation in the salaries for occupations in criminal justice based on your expertise.

View our list of the top 40 Criminal Justice careers to compare jobs and salaries in this field.

Is an Online Degree in Criminal Justice Right for You?

Young lawyer working in notary office

Over recent decades, the number of students enrolled in online degree programs has soared to new heights. Earning an online degree is an excellent choice for those who don’t have the time to attend on-campus classes due to busy work or family schedules.

Luckily, there are several advantages that criminal justice majors experience, including:

  • Interactive, virtual connection with top criminal justice faculty and experts
  • Opportunity to strengthen motivational and leadership skills necessary in the field
  • Exposure to immersive simulations that highlight real-world situations
  • Flexibility to earn your degree faster than traditional students

From basic certificate programs to reputable doctorate degrees, there is a wide range of options available to customize your online criminal justice degree to suit your goals and interests.

Comparing Top Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Criminal justice is a diverse field, and it is important that you are enrolled at a college that has a positive image and reputation within the industry. Below are several key factors to help you avoid getting caught up in a “degree mill” program when earning your online degree.


university campus offering Criminal Justice Degree Programs

When a college is accredited, it shows that they place an emphasis on ensuring that their educational programs are of the best quality. This is important when earning your criminal justice degree, as the career paths you will embark on require specialized skills and preparation in order to be successful.

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For a list of reputable agencies, take a look at the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

Student to Faculty Ratio

Qualified professors and low student-to-faculty ratios are both essential ingredients in individualized education.

When researching your prospective universities, take a look at the class sizes for your criminal justice courses. If the student-to-faculty ratio is too high, chances are that the professor will not be able to provide a high level of individual student support, making your online degree program a more difficult undertaking.

Academic Advising and Student Services

Male lawyer working with client in office

Online student support goes far beyond a comprehensive curriculum and small class sizes. Top online universities also offer a variety of advising and student services to their non-traditional students that give them the additional support that they need to succeed in the field of criminal justice.

A few of the services that you may encounter during your educational journey include:

  • Virtual mentoring and tutoring programs for specialized courses
  • Job shadowing options in a variety of careers
  • Advisement services to help you choose the classes that best support your goals
  • Flexibility to plan your degree program around your schedule

If you have a desire to turn your passion for helping others into an exciting, fast-paced career, earning your online degree in criminal justice could be the ticket to reaching your future goals. With occupations that range from legal and administrative work to in-the-field law enforcement and investigation, the career options are endless in the diverse world of criminal justice.

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Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.