There are other types of criminal justice degrees available online including certificates, associate, master's degrees, and in a few cases there are doctoral degrees. We have not, however, finished collecting data for the remaining levels. We expect this data and analysis to be completed soon. In the meantime, we will share recommendations based on the research we currently have.


Criminal Justice Certificate

Avoid these unless you are going to apply the credits to an associate or bachelor's degree: from our research of, we couldn't find any careers that required a certificate in criminal justice. Instead, the criminal justice jobs were requiring at minimum an associate degree to be eligible.

Many of the programs found off Google are for-profit (Capella, Ashworth, Walden), but since there are really no jobs requiring a criminal justice certificate, they don't offer students much in return. A certificate only makes sense if you plan to apply that towards completing a bachelor's degree and in that case, we recommend searching for nearby community colleges instead of for-profits.

Associate's in Criminal Justice

Enroll at a nearby community college: We found more than 100 2-year colleges from NCES that offer an online AA/AS in criminal justice. These community colleges are significantly less expensive than their 4-year counterparts, especially when you take advantage of in-state tuition. We recommend going this route for the associate's degree because your local community college could have ties to employment sources and you can take advantage of visiting the campus when necessary. This also means we don't recommend enrolling in a for-profit for your associate's degree when a community college is a smarter choice.

Working towards an associate's is an affordable option and can transfer into a bachelor's later on

Here's an example for a student in Washington state: Your three choices are Centralia College, Peninsula College, and Shoreline Community College. At Shoreline, you can pay a little more than $100/credit, compared to $395/credit at University of Phoenix and $371/credit at Kaplan University.

We recommend students utilize NCES College Navigator to search for nearby community colleges until we post our associate degree data set:

  1. Visit this link to NCES, where we have already plugged in the parameters so you will search for online programs in criminal justice from community colleges only.
  2. Select your state
  3. Click “Show Results”

If instead you are interested in receiving your associate degree from a university we have already reviewed for their bachelor's degree program, here are the top universities we found that have both:

  1. Roger Williams University – AS in Criminal Justice
  2. Drury University – AS in Criminal Justice
  3. Southern New Hampshire University – AS in Criminal Justice

Master's in Criminal Justice

Be aware of the admission requirements: Most online master's degree programs for criminal justice have a minimum GPA requirement. This ranges from 2.5 from a program like Bellevue University to 3.2 at Michigan State (if you did not take the GRE).

Pick a program from the schools that made our top bachelor's list: WSU, ASU, and Sam Houston all carry online master's programs for criminal justice. The same faculty that teaches the bachelor's curriculum teaches the graduate track at these schools, so we fully recommend these programs (read our descriptions of the top programs to learn why these were our favorites). Also, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, one of our honorable mentions, has a master's option. We would recommend avoiding master's degree programs from for-profits for this discipline.

Here are a few new programs that we looked into and can recommend:

  1. University of Cincinnati MS Criminal Justice: The department has a stellar reputation with US News. They ranked this department #3 in their Criminology Rankings.
  2. Michigan State MS Criminal Justice
  3. Northeastern University MS Criminal Justice

PhD in Criminal Justice

We can not yet fully recommend an online PhD in Criminal Justice: Off Google, we found three of the four online doctorate programs for criminal justice were from for-profit universities, which include the Capella PhD, Walden PhD, and North Central University PhD. However, the Capella program is actually a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Safety with a criminal justice specialization. And just like Capella's doctorate, North Central University's program is not truly a PhD in criminal justice, it is instead a Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration with a criminal justice specialization. We wouldn't recommend students enroll in a for-profit for their associate or bachelor's degree in criminal justice (read about why for-profits are not recommended) and feel the same about their graduate degrees.

Even though there are plenty of instances where people graduate from for-profit doctorate programs and end up as adjunct professors, there is more research we need to perform before we fully endorse any of them, especially since two of the programs are not real criminal justice doctoral degrees. If you are curious, this thread on DegreeInfo discusses Capella graduates who ended up with teaching positions at other for-profit universities and smaller local colleges.

The remaining option is Nova Southeastern University's PhD in criminal justice. This is the only non-profit university with a real criminal justice PhD, not a specialization of another degree. Another thread on DegreeInfo has one member vouching for the quality of the school because of its other programs and reputation in Florida, but we cannot conclude anything until we perform more research on whether online, non-residential programs are good choices for students seeking a PhD in Criminal Justice.