Responses from 50 departments

During our review process, we contacted 107 criminal justice departments and received completed surveys from 50 of them, a 47% completion rate. Our surveys consisted of 12 questions that were meant to help us better understand a department’s strengths and gauge its ability to accommodate prospective students. In some cases we even used this data to refine our methodology (we needed help picking between similar programs, for example). During the process we gained some very valuable insight from various professors, so we decided to share some of this wisdom below.

Q: Are all online classes taught by the same faculty as the campus classes?

  • Many professors said that some online courses are taught by their adjunct faculty, who do not necessarily teach their campus classes:

“Many of our professors are full time professors who currently teach for their specific departments in both online and on campus classes, however some of our Adjunct Professors are professors who teach specifically for online.” -Legare Price of Shorter University

“Not all but most.  We do hire sometimes an adjunct to teach a course but that adjunct is highly qualified AND closely monitored by a regular faculty member. But in the main most online courses are taught by regular faculty.”-Mike Daku of University of Alaska

“Our campus faculty does teach some of the online courses, but we also have other qualified professors who teach online exclusively.  Our online professors are held to the same standards as our campus professors and go through the same rigorous hiring processes.”-Professor Molseed of Upper Iowa University

“The departmental on-line classes are not all taught by our faculty who teach our campus classes.  Approximately 50% of the on-line classes are taught by our campus faculty.  The rest are taught by adjuncts.  Two of our adjuncts have PhD’s in Criminal Justice and are full-time professors at other universities” -Professor Witt from Limestone College

  • Other departments said the same faculty leads both campus and online classes:

“All the required courses in the CJ Major are available online and almost every course is also offered face to face, depending on the number of students that want to take the course face to face.  And they’re usually taught by the same Instructor also.” -Michael DiBrizzi from Montana State University 

“All classes, online and on-campus, are taught by the same faculty. Most times faculty teach the same course online in the same semester they teach it on campus. Most professors have taught the course on campus before transitioning to online” -Professor Keller from Florida Gulf Coast

Q: I’m interested in a few similar online programs along with yours; other than price, what sets your program apart from others?

We created this question to allow programs to inform us about details that we could not research off their department websites—is there something unique about their faculty? Is their program quicker than average? How do they treat students?

  • Faculty strength

“Our instructors are some of the best in the field. We have police chiefs, judges, etc.. Our curriculum is also excellent. We have advisory boards to keep it current and relevant.” -Tim Carlson from Judson College

  • Student Accommodation

“We are readily available to them. I have on-line students contacting me via telephone on a regular basis. Some of them even come to my office to speak to me.” -Professor Witt from Limestone College

  • Religious Focus

“The thing that sets Crown apart is our Christian focus. We offer a broad course offering that will prepare a graduate to enter various CJ disciplines.” -Fawn McCracken from Crown College

  • Specialities and Internships

“The UCF CJ BA/BS online program offers a wide variety of Criminal Justice electives that give students the opportunity to create a “specialty” within the major, or to explore a variety of interesting courses that the student might find appealing (Serial Murder, Terrorism, Domestic Violence, etc.).  Also, we have a very active internship program. We have an excellent internship coordinator, who will help you find a good internship and mentor you through your placement process.” -Professor Eastep from the University of Central Florida

  • Accelerated class formats

“Many of our classes are also available in 8 week online formats.” -Professor Gelardi from Peru State College

Q: Is there a way to compare online criminal justice curriculums versus others? What makes a good one versus a poor one?

We were looking to see if there was anything professors thought was necessary for a criminal justice education, such as a set of classes or a teaching style. The responses ranged from those who believed curriculum design is important to those who think the faculty behind the curriculum matters more than the design.

  • Design should allow for maximum diversity and flexibility

“A good curriculum is one that gives all students a solid foundation in Criminal Justice with an exposure to each aspect of the CJ System (police, courts, corrections), as well as an understanding of the nature and extent of crime, crime typologies, and an overview of crime causation theories.  In addition, a good curriculum helps Criminal Justice students understand how to research Criminal Justice questions; how to present Criminal Justice research; how to interpret the research of others; and how to be intelligent consumers of crime and justice statistics presented by the government and media. Finally, a good curriculum provides student the flexibility to explore specific areas of interest within the CJ realm, once they have this foundation.  One of the comments we consistently get from our graduates is that they were so happy to have had the opportunity to choose course work that fit their interests, once they had the core completed.” -Professor Eastep from the University of Central Florida

  • Experienced faculty will affect the curriculum

“There are lots of similarities and many good programs, but I would look at the faculty who are teaching the courses and find out if they are seasoned practitioners or “academics” with lots of theoretical knowledge but not much hands on experience.  Our faculty have lots of real life experience in the field (DEA agent, police officers, deputy sheriffs, attorneys, Forensics/Criminalistics experts, etc.  We offer undergraduate specializations in Criminalistics and Homeland Security.” -David Persky from Saint Leo

  • It’s up to the student

“It all depends on your interest and what area of Criminal Justice you want to pursue” -Professor Odo from Cameron University

  • They are going to be similar

“For the most part curriculums are going to be very similar with only a few exceptions mainly within the electives offered” -Chip Battle from Thomas University

Q: Other than tuition, how would I go about deciding between programs that all seem the same?

This is a challenge you are going to encounter as you decide on a school. If you look at our entire data set, you will see there are plenty of programs that cost around $300-$400/credit and appear very similar. Take for example Northern Kentucky and National University, which have similar graduation and retention rates and near identical tuition costs. The same goes for WSU and Penn State. We eventually found a winner by examining their reputations and talking to them. Here is what professors recommend you do:

  • Look at publications

“Look at the school’s academic ranking, professional success of the faculty members in regards to publications and research, and student satisfaction” -Professor Decker from ASU

  • Get a feel for the professors

“Look for faculty who have a genuine interest in you and your growth.” -Professor Fisher from Viterbo University

  • Choose the one that aligns with your career goals

“The BSU program leans toward a technical orientation for students primarily interested in working in Minnesota” -Professor Gilbertson from Bemidji State University

Q: Do you have examples of what jobs your recent graduates received? Testimonials would be great!

We were eager to see these responses because online programs can have a reputation of producing less than stellar employment prospects. Surprisingly, programs reported police chiefs and even directors of federal agencies and services as their alumni, and even more surprising, these were coming from schools you may have never heard about. Even though these notable alumni were not in the online program, they still came from the same department students can experience today. Most professors told us their graduates ended up in law enforcement and related local and federal agencies.

  • Notable alumni (not necessarily from the online program)

“Director, U.S. Secret Service, Director, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Glynco, Georgia, Chief Deputy, Administrative Services Bureau, Orange County” -Professor Eastep from University of Central Florida

“The current head of the DEA [Michele Leonhart] is a BSU grad.” -Professor Gilberston from Bemidji State University

  • Law enforcement

“Our students have gained employment with many law enforcement agencies throughout Louisiana and Texas.  We also have students working with the federal agencies, Border Patrol, Customs, U.S. Marshalls, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and private organizations.  We also have a significant number who go on to law school and the military.” -Joe Morris from Northwestern State University of Louisiana

“Deputy Sheriff, Police officer, Corrections Officer/Case manager, Probation officer, State Family Care case worker, Attendance at law school.” -Professor Galardi from Peru State College 

  • State and local service, as well as security positions

“Recent graduates have pursued graduate degrees and law school.  They are practitioners in many areas including federal, state and local service in policing, corrections (probation, parole and institutions), corporate security, teaching on both secondary and post-secondary levels (with the appropriate credentials).  These are only a few samples.  There are literally hundreds of possibilities.” -Professor Coleman from West Texas A&M University 

  • Social services

“A recent survey of alumni from our master program revealed 22% worked in social service agencies, 16% worked in corrections, 16% went on to Ph.D. studies, 11% became law enforcement officers, 9% worked in security / loss prevention, 3% worked in the courts, and 18% worked in a field unrelated to criminal justice. While we have not yet completed a similar survey of undergraduates the areas of employment are likely to be very much the same.” -Thomas Gutteridge from University of Toledo

Q: I know lots of criminal justice majors become police officers or paralegals, but what are less common professions that you would recommend?

We wanted to know what other professions are out there for graduates—surely not everyone goes into law enforcement. Professors were all in agreement about recommending a career as a probation officer and corrections. You can read more about these types of careers outside of law enforcement in our careers report.

  • Probation officer

“I am a retired corrections administrator with 32 years in probation, parole, adult institutions. In addition to these positions, I have also instructed court  diversion programs for drug, gang and domestic violence offenders. There are a number of professions in the field of corrections and the growth in community corrections (probation officer) is greater than ever” -Professor Decker from ASU

“Probation officer, juvenile probation officer, correctional officer at state-level. At Fed level, border patrol, all Fed law enforcement, Fed corrections. Also, CJA majors go on to law school, Masters in Forensic Science, Masters in Juvenile Justice.” -Professor Guffey from National University

  • Not-for-profit careers

“There are a number of not-for-profit organizations that work with victims, there are also private security jobs with major corporations such as Target that like our majors. Court designated workers are another example as are insurance fraud investigators.” -Professor Keeling from University of Louisville

  • Fish and wildlife

“We have students that work for not-for-profit agencies, but some also go into fish and wildlife (officer, but more for animal and wildlife enthusiasts), Coast Guard, and other things related to CJ, but not the “normal” path. I have one student looking into investigation for insurance claims.” -Professor Keller from Florida Gulf Coast University