One of the fastest-growing career fields, along with health care, is criminal justice, and online criminal justice degree programs have made it easier than ever for criminal justice professionals to earn their higher degrees. While most people would only think of the obvious jobs, such as police officers, probation officers, and lawyers, the criminal justice field is actually expanding rapidly in many directions, due to the war on terror and the rise of the digital age. Criminal justice includes everything from cybersecurity and cyberforensics to homeland security, border patrol, and counter-terrorism.
Why Get an Online Criminal Justice Bachelor Degree?
Because it has so many facets, criminal justice education covers many disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, information technology, and more. Students learn how to analyze human behavior, study rehabilitation and punishment, and discover how to uncover social and cultural patterns that endanger us and that keep us safe. A strong legal grounding can prepare students for a paralegal career.
Criminal justice degrees are very well-suited to online learning for several reasons. Since many criminal justice jobs are office work or technically oriented, on-campus classes aren’t a priority. And a large proportion of people seeking bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice are already working in the field, so they have experience. Online degrees are flexible, convenient, fast, and – depending on the source – pretty darn affordable. But affordable doesn’t always mean good. That’s why Value Colleges has put together this short list of the most affordable and reputable Criminal Justice bachelor degrees online.
Methodology: How We Selected the Most Affordable Criminal Justice Degree Online Programs
For the order of the ranking, only one factor matters – cost. However, for the Most Affordable ranking, VC considered only regionally accredited programs that have established a reputation for quality and return on investment. With some of the cheapest criminal justice degrees online, that ROI is incredible.
Fayetteville State University
Fayetteville State University’s online Criminal Justice degree is offered as both a BS and a minor. Courses dive deeply into statistics, theories, and research for a thorough understanding not only of criminal justice policy, but of the underlying concepts. They also teach students how to handle crime in a practical and real way. This program helps students get ready for a variety of different jobs, and it comes with a very affordable price tag. FSU is widely known for their affordability, providing opportunity for students of all backgrounds.
A celebrated public HBCU, FSU promotes excellence in education for African-American and other minority students. Students at FSU frequently become leaders in their communities. This school helps its students make a difference in the classroom and beyond. As a research institution, FSU creates change and improvement in lots of different sectors. If you want the historically black college experience, and an affordable criminal justice degree online, then FSU may be the school for you.
Sam Houston State University
Sam Houston State University’s online criminal justice degree program offers lots of options. Students can earn a BA or BS, both offered fully online. Either way, students learn how to prevent crime, care for victims, approach forensics, and more. With this degree, graduates can become a counselor or social worker, or take other routes into the police force, become a lawyer, or get a career in investigation. As a public regional institution, SHSU is also very affordable, offering low tuition rates for Texas residents.
One of the oldest schools west of the Mississippi, and Texas’ first teacher’s college, Sam Houston State helped shape higher education in Texas. Today, SHSU continues to lead with a wide selection of different online options. Online students get exactly what they need at SHSU, from support and mentorship to low costs – one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs anywhere. They get all the resources and attention necessary for a full education, living up to their motto: “The measure of a life is its service.”
Portland State University
Portland State University’s online Criminal Justice degree program is designed for students who want to create a long-term career. The program helps its students build a solid foundation of knowledge, with a deep understanding of theory and history in criminal justice. Then, they combine that understanding with practical application. A student can also add a specialization to his or her degree with fully online certificate programs in Advanced Crime Analysis, Criminal Behavior, or Leadership. For an affordable criminal justice degree online, Portland State delivers.
Portland State offers so many benefits to its students. As a large public research institution in one of the top cities in America, students can take advantage of lots of resources and opportunities. Even online students can make the most of these resources in their studies. The on-campus vibrancy can be felt even in the online classes. With a diverse student body, cutting-edge research, and a commitment to serving the community, PSU is one of the most innovative colleges for criminal justice in the nation.
Columbia College (MO)
Columbia College’s online criminal justice degree program leads to all kinds of opportunities for students and graduates. Internship and practicum opportunities give students hands-on experience. Columbia’s Criminal Justice Administration program offers a BA or a BS option, depending on whether students have experience are just beginning their criminal justice careers. BA students often go to grad school after finishing the program. Likewise, the BA option works well for those who are already in the field. BS students generally go straight into the field after graduation. Low tuition rates make Columbia College one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs in the nation.
As a small private school, Columbia College has small class sizes and lots of individualized experiences. Faculty and staff are committed to enriching academics. Though Columbia is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), it is a non-sectarian school; students come from all faith backgrounds. In particular, Columbia’s online programs have earned high marks from a variety of sources in recent years, making it an emerging leader in online education and one of the best online criminal justice programs in the world.
University of Nebraska at Omaha
The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s online criminal justice degree program gives students control over their schedules, making it ideal for working criminal justice professionals. Courses in the BS in Criminology and Criminal Justice program are divided into two segments. In the first, students learn basic principles. They get a firm footing before moving on to more advanced topics in the second segment. For those who want to dive deeply into their topics, this online Criminal Justice Bachelor degree will provide the right education.
UNO equips its students to change lives. The university has a powerful impact in its own community. Students address real issues that face Omaha and Nebraska as a whole. Even online students will notice Omaha’s diverse and energetic impact on their classes. They’ll also notice that their classes emphasize serving the community; offering one of the nation’s most affordable criminal justice degree online programs is just part of that commitment.
University of Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma’s online Criminal Justice degree program is designed to help students become leaders, helpers, and community builders. The degree empowers those who want any sort of job in criminal justice, from active duty law enforcement to administration. As an accelerated program, OU’s online bachelor’s completion program gives students the chance to earn their degree in just 18 months, if they already have an associate’s.
The University of Oklahoma has always done its best to meet diverse student needs. Its Extended Campus (i.e. online school) is no exception. The University of Oklahoma brings its on-campus standards and resources to online students everywhere. Faculty and staff here will take your goals seriously and make you a priority. The program does its best to meet your needs as a student. University of Oklahoma’s online classes routinely rank in US News and World Report’s top ten, and their low tuition make OU’s affordable criminal justice degree online program a great investment.
Youngstown State University
Youngstown State University’s online criminal justice degree offers working criminal justice professionals a BS in Applied Science with a concentration in Criminal Justice. Designed with an intensive focus on the legal aspect of criminal justice, the BSAS program effectively prepares online students for law school as well as going straight into a criminal justice career. If you already have some general courses under your belt and want a flexible program, check out Youngstown State’s affordable criminal justice degree online.
Nestled halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, YSU combines the job market opportunity of the big city with a small town feel. YSU attracts lots of ambitious, career-focused students. These students want to brighten their futures, and YSU helps them do just that. As a medium-sized college, it gives students plenty of resources. However, class sizes also stay relatively small. Combining research with robust academics, OSU helps students reach their fullest potential.
Lamar University’s online Criminal Justice degree is a bachelor’s degree completion option for students who already have their criminal justice associate’s degree. The program has several start dates, so working students can set flexible schedules. Whether you pursue administration, law enforcement, courtroom justice, or another path, Lamar University can help you find your way. This is one of the best online criminal justice programs for working adults who know what they want from their career.
Lamar University is one of the fastest growing universities in Texas. It boasts of high-quality academics all across the board. In spite of its fast growth, it has a small student to teacher ratio. Its faculty members care about helping each student succeed, including the online students. Along with its quality academics, Lamar is known for reasonable tuition costs, offering one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs in the Southwest.
Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University’s online Criminal Justice degree program will give you lots of options. First, you can choose between a BA and a BS. Second, you can tailor your degree to your career goals with 5 fully online certificates: Corrections, Justice Networking, Law Enforcement, Law and the Courts, or Victim Advocacy. All classes are available completely online, so students can learn from anywhere and work around their current schedules. On the whole, this online criminal justice degree works well for those who need flexibility and options, on top of one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs.
Fort Hays State University is dedicated to helping its students. As a public regional institution, FHSU has long focused on the needs of working adults and local people, and online programs just mean reaching more. Programs are designed to help students succeed, both in their careers and outside of them. Students get all the support that they need from their teachers. Online students are no exception. With advanced opportunities and dedication to leadership, this school forges new pathways every day.
West Texas A&M University
West Texas A&M’S online Criminal Justice degree program lets you choose between a BA or a BS in Criminal Justice Administration. Either way, you can earn your degree 100% online. Both programs prepare working professionals in the criminal justice field for leadership positions. West Texas A&M offers one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs in the nation, and has been widely cited as a leader in affordable online education.
As part of the Texas A&M system, West Texas provides lots of resources and opportunities. As a student, you’ll always be able to find what you need. This teaching institution encourages creativity through study. Students learn how to think outside the box and come up with new solutions to old problems. This school appeals to hardworking and dedicated students. It’s no wonder that West Texas A&M has won awards from all across the country, including their online criminal justice bachelor degree.
Monroe College’s online Criminal Justice degree program is designed to prepare students for the three sectors of criminal justice: law enforcement, courts, or corrections. Monroe recognizes that the Criminal Justice field offers all sorts of jobs. The BS in Criminal Justice degree builds on a foundation in skills and knowledge to prepare leaders for the field. Monroe was rated as one of the most affordable private schools in New York, and its online criminal justice bachelor degree is one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs in the nation.
A private, regionally-accredited school, Monroe College prepares students for their careers. While it originated as a business school, Monroe helps students find success in areas ranging from healthcare to criminal justice. That’s why this school combines real-world experience with classroom experience. In fact, teachers here have lots of field experience to back up their classroom applications. As a Monroe criminal justice student, you’ll learn from former law enforcement officers, courtroom administrators, and more.
Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University’s online criminal justice degree program recognizes the need for criminal justice professionals. It also sees the importance of sensitivity and respect within the system. In this program, you’ll get tons of flexibility. The program has a generous policy for transferring credits. It also has 6 different start dates, personalized graduation plans, and several fully online certificates to specialize in areas like Corrections and Youth Services. If you need lots of flexibility and one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs, EKU will provide.
Eastern Kentucky University combines academics with opportunity. As a regional institution, EKU has long served the people of Eastern Kentucky, but it’s reach has extended much farther with its widely-praised online education. EKU’s online programs provide the exact same courses that students get inside the classroom, including one of the best online criminal justice programs in the world.
Southern University and A&M College
Southern University’s online criminal justice degree program trains students in research, prevention, ethics, and the practicalities of criminal justice. Some students from this program go on to grad school, while others go straight into the workforce. Southern provides numerous opportunities for credit transfers, including credit for police academy, home schooling, and work experience. This online criminal justice bachelor degree will prepare you for your next steps, whatever those steps may be.
Southern University and A&M College is a dynamic school with a diverse student body. As a historically Black college, this school provides lots of opportunities for students of color. Southern U’s faculty participate in groundbreaking research. Students here go on to amazing careers after graduation. Southern is also well known for their reasonable tuition and student support, including one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs anywhere.
University of Maryland University College
UMUC’s online Criminal Justice degree program is one of the best opportunity for working professionals in the field. With its proximity to Washington, DC, UMUC has strong ties to the FBI, CIA, and NSA. Students, therefore, can get plenty of help from real industry leaders. This online program helps students better understand crime and how to respond to it. UMUC offers all of their criminal justice courses online. However, if you want to take some hybrid courses, you have that option too. If you want an education that balances theory and practice, then UMUC has one of the best online criminal justice programs you can find.
UMUC was a groundbreaking institution for adult education, dating back to UM’s evening classes in the 1920s. As such, it doesn’t treat online learning as an afterthought; UMUC was an early adopter and one of the first public institutions to make online learning a priority. Students have no shortage of resources here. Almost every course has no-cost digital materials, for example. Geared toward military members, working adults, and other busy people, UMUC also offers one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs out there.
Florida International University
Florida International University’s online criminal justice program recognizes the growing need for security professionals. This school’s program empowers students to meet that need. With FIU’a BS in Criminal Justice, students get everything they need to step into this important field. Students can also choose a combined BS/MS program to complete their master’s faster. FIU is a nationally recognized leader in online education, and one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs in the US.
FIU began in 1965 to provide an affordable, public higher education to metropolitan Miami, and FIU Online has provided innovation for more than 20 years. As one of the largest universities in America, this school has all the resources a student could need. FIU meets worldwide problems, and it challenges its students to do the same. That’s why each program is deep, innovative, and ambitious.
Arizona State University
Arizona State University’s online criminal justice degree program provides a fast-track opportunity for working adults to earn a bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. ASU prepares students for all areas of criminal justice, including law enforcement, corrections, and court, but with a foundation of analysis and communication for advancement and promotion to leadership. For an affordable criminal justice degree online that offers the big picture, check out Arizona State.
Arizona State is a large and quickly-growing school. It provides cutting-edge research, and students often participate in that research. As an ASU student, you’ll get real results from your studies. You’ll learn from some of the most qualified people, and your studies could even make a big difference in your field for years to come. This school counts innovation as one of its core values. In fact, according the US News and World Report, it’s the #1 most innovative university.
University of Wyoming
The University of Wyoming’s online Criminal Justice degree program starts with a foundation of core classes. Students then learn the basics of criminal justice. Then, they study more specialized knowledge. As a BA, this program provides a well-rounded education in the liberal arts in addition to professional skills. As a student, you’ll learn about research and practical application. Whether you want to go straight to your career or move on to grad school, this program will prepare you. For a wide-reaching online criminal justice degree, look into the University of Wyoming.
The University of Wyoming is Wyoming’s flagship public research university – and the state’s only public research university. As such, UW is critical to professional education, especially criminal justice. Small class sizes and one-on-one help make UW one of the best online criminal justice bachelor degree programs in the nation, while reasonable tuition costs make it one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs anywhere.
University of West Georgia
University of West Georgia’s online Criminal Justice degree program combines research with practical service. Students at UWG study crime from a theoretical and scientific perspective, but they also learn the best practices for stopping and preventing it. Some students may finish the program in as few as three years. This completely online program offers quality instruction from highly experienced faculty members. UWG’s BS in Criminology is one of the best online criminal justice programs the South has to offer.
Flexible and affordable, UWG Online helps all sorts of busy people earn their degrees. This school values growth at all levels. It encourages students to ask questions and look at their studies from new angles. As a result, students here learn how to deal with all types of challenges in their careers. A highly diverse institution, UWG provides opportunity for all, including its affordable criminal justice degree online program.
Valdosta State University
Valdosta State University’s online Criminal Justice degree program balances theory with application, giving students a full educational experience. Faculty members in this program have worked in the criminal justice field. The courses prepare students for a range of careers, from courtroom advocates to police officers. The school does require students to complete an online orientation before started classes, but otherwise all courses are entirely online.
Based in one of the largest cities in Georgia, VU is vibrant and thriving. This culture permeates even the online classes. For southern residents who want an affordable criminal justice degree online, Valdosta State offers in-state tuition for people from Florida, Alabama, and several other southern states. The school emphasizes hands-on training. It combines the resources of a big school with the “feel” of a small college.
Bethel University (TN)
Bethel University’s online Criminal Justice degree program empowers students. Faculty designed this program for students who already have about 30 hours of college credit. For those who meet the criteria, the program has a lot of flexibility. The program works well for career-focused adults. Along with legal concepts, students learn about the technology and skills of law enforcement. Overall, Bethel offers one of the best online criminal justice programs.
Bethel University is a Christian school beginning as a seminary in 1842, and courses are still designed around a Christian worldview. These days, Bethel offers classes all across Tennessee and around the US through its highly-regarded online classes. The online community here thrives. If you want a Christian perspective with your online classes, look into Bethel. Likewise, if you want an academic challenge, this school will deliver.
University of Nebraska at Kearney
The University of Nebraska at Kearney’s online Criminal Justice degree program teaches students about current law enforcement trends and prepares them to deal with real-world situations. Classes are taught by faculty who have real criminal justice experience, allowing students to connect theory and practice easily. They’ll get practical advice for a range of career paths. While coursework is all online, the program does require an internship; however, students can do their internships in a location that works for them.
As a public university, UNK works well for those who want an affordable criminal justice degree online. Beyond criminal justice, this school provides great opportunities. Dating back to 1905, when it was founded as a teacher’s college, UNK has been dedicated to providing opportunity for Nebraskans for more than a century. With small class sizes and personalized attention, UNK is one of the best online criminal justice programs in the nation.
University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida’s online Criminal Justice degree program offers either a BA and a BS. Either choice will do great things for your career. Students get a complete background in crime knowledge. They learn the history and psychology of crime. However, they also learn all about practicalities. They learn how to stop crime and maintain order. As a result, students can prevent crime, both on a small scale and on a larger scale. Whether you go to grad school or go straight into your career, you’ll have the skills you need. This online criminal justice degree will help you get there.
The founders of UCF Online want everyone to have access to education. They created their online programs to help people with jobs and other responsibilities get that education. Students here often work full time while pursuing their degrees. This school provides excellent programs, and US News and World Report agrees. That’s why they rated this school as one of the top ten most innovative schools and one of the top fifteen best online Bachelor’s programs in the nation.
Westfield State University
Westfield State University’s online criminal justice degree program is designed for those who have graduated from Massachusetts community colleges. This degree completion program allows students to get their BS in Criminal Justice entirely online. The expert faculty and staff members will help you expand your career, and fall, spring, summer, and accelerated winter terms provide flexibility and speed. It’s also one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs in New England.
Westfield State University is deeply rooted in social justice. It was the first co-ed college to admit students without regard for race, religion, or economic background. Westfield still holds onto its social justice traditions today. It empowers students to succeed in whatever they do after college. Providing both knowledge and experience, this school helps students reach their potential with one of the best online criminal justice programs.
University of Toledo
The University of Toledo online criminal justice degree will teach students everything they need to know about crime and law enforcement, from why people commit crimes to the foundations of the law. With UT’s focus on service, students also learn how to use the law to make a difference in their community. This program takes a multi-tiered approach. You’ll use academics, service, and research to round out your education. UT offers one of the best online criminal justice programs for those who want a practical approach.
UT blends academics and problem-solving. Students here enjoy finding unique approaches to the issues in their fields. This large public school always puts its students first. Students often participate in this school’s groundbreaking research. It has several nationally-ranked programs. For those who want a distinguished and innovative education at a reasonable cost, Toledo delivers with one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs in the Midwest.
University of Louisville
The University of Louisville’s online criminal justice degree is intended for future leaders. The program provides practical education at every step. Students start with a background in theory and ideas. Then, they move on to more specific practices. The students who thrive best in this program are the ones who have a deep desire to help and serve other people. The online Criminal Justice degree at UL fosters that desire and gives it an outlet.
The University of Louisville invites students to “go beyond the books.” It values academics, of course, but it also encourages students to take their educations beyond the classroom. These ideals work really well for online learners. This energizing and affordable university also provides flexibility in learning, and one of the most affordable criminal justice degree online programs from an institution of Louisville’s stature.
What Degree Do You Need for Criminal Justice?
The type of degree needed for a career in law enforcement depends on the students’ career goals. Entry-level positions are available in many administrative-type position and even in law enforcement for those who only have a high school diploma; it’s the fastest way to get into the criminal justice field. But those who want to advance will need a higher-level degree. What degree do you need for criminal justice leadership? At least a bachelor’s degree. The best online colleges for law enforcement help working criminal justice professionals complete their bachelor’s while still working. And the cheapest criminal justice degree programs practically pay for themselves with the enhanced opportunity they offer.
Earning an associate’s degree from a community college provides students with an opportunity to get a job as a crime scene investigator, for example, or to work in lower-level administrative positions. Earning bachelor’s degree in criminal justice opens more doors, such as probation officer, corrections officer, police officer, crime scene investigator, and computer forensics investigator, and management just to name a few. The best online colleges for law enforcement offer completely online, or hybrid, criminal justice programs designed specifically for working adults. Many, in fact, also offer a fast-track to a master’s degree in criminal justice.
Will Employers Trust an Online Criminal Justice Degree?
According to US News and World Report, employers in state and local law enforcement agencies are more concerned that a degree is from institutions with criminal justice accreditation than whether they are online degrees. Accreditation is important when it comes to a school and the reputation of the degree from that school. Even the cheapest criminal justice degree is entirely legit if it’s accredited. Accredited criminal justice schools meet standards of quality and job opportunity that make employers trust the degrees.
Students should verify that their online criminal justice degree is coming from accredited criminal justice schools. To be accredited, the school must be evaluated by a third-party agency that has no tie to the school. The agency determines if the school meets that standard of education that have been established. This process provides students with the assurance that their school is giving them a quality education – even for the cheapest criminal justice degree. In addition to regional accreditation, some criminal justice accreditation includes certification from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. To verify that a school has criminal justice accreditation, check the US Department of Education database where a student can verify their institution’s accreditation.
Can I Get an Online Criminal Justice Degree Free?
Getting an online criminal justice degree free is not impossible, but it’s not going to be easy. Even the cheapest criminal justice degree still isn’t free. Each school has a different criminal justice degree online cost ranging from reasonable to incredibly expensive. The cost of the program is not necessarily indicative of the type of education the school provides. Many schools offer financial assistance or tuition reduction based on need, while some employers will pay for employees to go back to school. There are also federal programs available to students that offer grants, scholarships, and loans, so the cheapest criminal justice degree programs may end up essentially free. These programs are available for online degree programs, as well as traditional programs.
While you may not get a full degree for free, there are numerous criminal justice online courses free and available to students. These courses won’t get the student a degree but does offer the ability for additional free education. Criminal justice online courses free of charge will probably not carry degree credit, but may help students determine whether they want to pursue a degree, or provide valuable continuing education. Some major schools, like UC Irvine and MIT, that offers courses in topics like white collar and corporate crimes, as well as hate crimes. They are self paced courses that have lectures and reading assignments attached. Other types of free courses that are available are reading seminars and some schools offer an open courses website.