Criminal justice programs explore major themes in law enforcement, court procedures, and corrections. Professionals with criminal justice degrees work as police officers, FBI agents, probation officers, emergency management specialists, and forensic science technicians. Many of these fields offer above–average compensation. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that police and detectives draw median annual salaries of more than $63,000.
However, many federal law enforcement agencies prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree. Along with greater job responsibilities and more career opportunities, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice often leads to increased earning potential.
Students pursuing an online criminal justice degree examine topics related to homeland security, forensic science, and criminology, acquiring fundamental knowledge along with specialized skills. Online criminal justice programs feature flexible schedules, making them ideal for working professionals seeking career advancement. Other candidates earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice before enrolling in law school.
This article helps prospective criminal justice students find an online program that fits their interests, career goals, and budgets. Read on to learn more about employment and salary opportunities for graduates, common course offerings, and the country’s best online bachelor’s programs in criminal justice.
Serving over 41,000 students, Florida State University offers 300 programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. FSU’s college of criminology and criminal justice offers anonline bachelor’s degree in criminology for nontraditional students who need to balance other responsibilities with their studies. This online criminal justice degree prepares students for a variety of employment opportunities in law enforcement, security, and social work. It also provides a strong foundation for graduate work and law school.
Applicants must have completed FSU’s liberal studies requirements or have already earned an associate degree from an accredited Florida college or university. This flexible, part–time program allows students to take courses asynchronously through the Blackboard learning management system. The program takes 3–4 years to complete and offers start dates every fall, spring, and summer semester. Distance learners must complete 36 credits of criminology–related courses. The degree also requires students to complete an internship, minor, or second major.
Criminology and criminal justice programs at FSU focus on research and policy. In addition, the college maintains a strong commitment to training law enforcement professionals through its association with the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy. This partnership enables students to earn their college degrees and state officer certifications simultaneously. Students also gain access to an academic advisor, technological support, and tutoring help.
Some online courses require students to purchase a course packet, which includes study guides, instructional media, and textbooks and other reading materials. Learners planning to enroll in this online program may not use independent living waivers, employee tuition waivers, or funds from the Florida Prepaid College Plan to cover tuition.
The University of South Florida — with a main campus in the Tampa Bay area — serves over 50,000 students across 14 colleges. The school offers 80 undergraduate majors and 130 master’s and doctoral programs. A 2019 U.S. News & World Reportranked USF among the nation’s top public institutions.
USF established its bachelor of science in applied science (BSAS) with a concentration in criminal justice as a degree completion program for students who have finished an associate of science degree at a Florida community college or state school. This program, designed to maximize the number of transferable credits for associate degree holders, allows students to bring in up to 60 credits. Participants must complete 60 additional credits to graduate with a four–year degree, including 24 in the criminal justice major.
The BSAS degree prepares graduates to enter positions in the court system, law enforcement, corrections, and probation and parole. Students must complete two required courses — theories of criminal behavior and survey of the criminal justice system — plus a senior capstone and 15 upper–division elective credits in areas such as critical issues in policing, domestic violence, and forensic psychology.
USF accepts applications on a rolling basis, allowing students to begin the program in the fall, spring, or summer semesters. Program applicants must hold a minimum 2.0 GPA and college–level courses must be completed with a C– or higher to qualify for transfer. Faculty use the Canvas learning management system to deliver fully online, asynchronous courses. Distance learners gain access many technological and tutoring support services.
Established in 1968, the University of Central Florida now boasts a total enrollment of over 63,000 students across more than 200 undergraduate and graduate programs. Over 80% of the student body enrolls in at least one online or blended–learning course. UCF ranked 14th in a recent list published by U.S. News & World Reportranking the best online bachelor’s programming.
Students interested in criminal justice may choose from two online options:a BA or a BS. Online learners enrolled in either option must complete 120 credits, including 30 credits of criminal justice foundational courses and a senior capstone course in ethics. Students must also complete 30 credits of restricted electives that cover many aspects of the contemporary criminal justice system, including:
Crime Mapping and Pattern Analysis
Cultural Diversity in Criminal Justice
Drugs and Crime
Human Trafficking and Criminal Justice
Students may substitute an internship or independent directed study for up to six credits of upper–division electives.
The program offers both fully online asynchronous courses and courses with synchronous formats. UCF uses the Canvas learning management system, with most courses designed and taught by full–time faculty. Online learners gain full access to the same support services as campus–based students, including tutoring and writing assistance, library resources, career planning, and peer–assisted learning.
Program applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores, and transfer students must demonstrate a GPA of 2.0 or higher at previous institutions. Students may enroll full or part time and can start in the fall, spring, or summer term.
With an enrollment of over 54,000 undergraduate and graduate students in 11 schools and colleges, Florida International University ranks among the largest universities in the U.S. and boasts over 20 years of experience in online learning. About half of its current student body take at least one online course each year.
FIU’s online bachelor of science in criminal justice prepares students for a variety careers in local law enforcement and government services, including homeland security, immigration and customs, the FBI, and the CIA. Graduates of this program also gain a strong foundation, suitable for attending law school or graduate programs in criminal justice.
The 120–credit BS in criminal justice requires foundational courses in the following areas:
Comparative Criminal Justice Systems
Criminal Justice and Public Policy
Criminal Justice and the Constitution
Measurement and Analysis in Criminal Justice
The program features a synchronous format delivered through the Blackboard learning management system. Students log in for real–time instruction with faculty and students at specific times but can usually access course materials and assignments at their convenience. Each online learner partners with a personal success coach for academic support. Distance students can also access library resources, tutoring, and career guidance. Additionally, FIU provides 24/7 technological assistance, software resources, reading and learning support, and financial aid assistance.