The criminal justice field has many moving parts from law to corrections to public policy. If you’re passionate about preventing crime, helping people, and making a difference, criminal justice may be the major for you.
A bachelor’s in criminal justice opens up the doors to a variety of careers. Some are obvious, like law enforcement and corrections, while others may surprise you. Criminal justice majors gain highly sought-after skills like critical thinking, communication, and analysis translating into dozens of career opportunities.
Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that careers in criminal justice are growing steadily, around 7%, and 51,700 new jobs are expected to open up from 2020-2030.
Related Resource: Colleges With Full Ride Scholarships
What is a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice?
A bachelor’s in criminal justice is a four-year degree that provides the academic background necessary to pursue careers in this field. Criminal justice degrees are offered as Bachelor of Science or Arts, and some include concentration areas such as forensic science or juvenile justice.
The requirements for a criminal justice degree programs are 120 credit hours and involve general education courses, major courses, and electives. The best colleges with a criminal justice bachelor’s degree require internships and hands-on experiences that reinforce content taught in the classroom.
If you’re concerned about flexibility and cost, many colleges offer online criminal justice bachelor’s degree programs. Taking criminal justice classes online allows you to work at your own pace while still pursuing a degree. Likewise, most online bachelor’s degrees in criminology and criminal justice are affordable.
While the requirements to apply for a criminal justice degree program vary per school, you will need at least a high school diploma or equivalent to apply. Some universities also require ACT/SAT scores, while others do not. The college admissions process can be found on each school site.
Related Resource: What is a Bachelor’s Degree?
Careers for a Criminal Justice Major
You will notice that many of the best bachelor’s in criminal justice describe the degree as “interdisciplinary” or “multidisciplinary.” With this said, a top bachelor’s in criminal justice will prepare students for careers in law enforcement, legal settings, and corrections. While there is no limit to what you can do with a criminal justice degree, most graduates pursue one of the following careers:
- Police officer
- Corrections officer
- Probation officer
- Correctional treatment specialist
- Paralegal/legal assistance
- Private investigator
- Social workers
While some criminal justice graduates begin working in the field immediately after graduation, others pursue advanced degrees in criminal justice, law, or research. For example, suppose you want to become an attorney. You could use a bachelor’s in criminal justice as a pathway to law school. Let’s say you want to become a criminology researcher. In that case, you could start with a bachelor’s in criminal justice and then pursue graduate school.
Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Salary Potential
Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will not only prepare students for entry-level jobs but boost your salary potential. While there are many careers in the criminal justice field, we will give you an idea of the salary potential for some of the common choices.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that police and detectives bring in a median yearly salary of just over $67,000. However, the salary potential of law enforcement officers will vary depending on where they serve. For example, if you are a police officer in New York City, you will make a lot more money than if you are a police officer in a rural town in Texas.
Some criminal justice graduates go into corrections. They become correctional officers or bailiffs. The median correctional officer salary is $47,440, but those with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn closer to $50K or more. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists also require a bachelor’s degree. These professionals earn close to $56,000 each year. Similarly, private detectives and investigators bring in around $53,000 each year.
What are the Best Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice?
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University of Maryland-College Park
Our top Bachelor of Criminal Justice degree program comes from the University of Maryland-College Park, home to nearly 41,000 students! UMD is the state’s flagship university and known as the nation’s first “Do Good” campus. Established in 1969, UMD’s Criminology and Criminal Justice Department offers a BA in criminology and criminal justice (CCJS) that is worth checking out!
Along with general education courses and electives, CCJS majors will complete 39 credits in courses such as:
- Statistics for Criminology & Criminal Justice
- Criminal Law in Action
- Courts and Sentencing
However, UMD’s criminal justice program is more than just courses. You also have opportunities to earn credits from independent study and internships.
UMD’s CCJS program offers endless ways to get involved through clubs and organizations like the Criminal Justice Student Association. If you want to study abroad, you can do that too through short-term trips to Italy, the United Kingdom, or Denmark. For more information about all UMD’s criminology and criminal justice program has to offer, check out this link.
Florida State University
Florida State University was founded in 1851 and is the oldest higher learning institution in the state! FSU is well respected and diverse, welcoming nearly 44,000 students from all over the United States and 130 other countries. At FSU, you have options. You can earn either a BS or a BA in criminology and criminal justice on campus or can be completed online.
CCJS majors must complete at least 36 credits in criminology courses while maintaining a 2.0 GPA. However, that’s just the most basic fact about this program. You can also earn a top value bachelor’s in criminal justice online at FSU. Online students do not pay out-of-state tuition, and they are not required to travel on campus ever!
Let’s say you’re interested in a master’s degree eventually. FSU also has you covered there with combined bachelor’s/master’s pathways. You can complete both degrees in just five years. Regardless of whether you want to earn a degree on campus or online, FSU’s criminology program and criminal justice programs are worth looking into. Check out more information here.
Washington State University
Founded in 1890, Washington State University is known as one of America’s top research universities. Washington State’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology traces back to 1935 and is currently one of the best in the nation. The Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice is an excellent choice if you are looking to work in the criminal justice system.
Washington State’s BA in criminal justice is policy-focused, and you will take plenty of social science courses. The program entails 30 hours in criminal justice, broken down into core classes, electives, and a senior capstone. Expect to take courses such as:
- Realizing Justice in a Multicultural Society
- Criminal Courts in America
- Crime and Justice in the Movies
Believe it or not, the national criminal justice honor society, Alpha Phi Sigma, was founded at Washington State University! Students have opportunities to get involved in this organization and other clubs. Students can also travel abroad to London and gain credits in this program.
Indiana University-Bloomington was born in 1820 and boasts a rich history of “innovation, creativity, and academic freedom.” Not only is IU-Bloomington the flagship campus of seven, but it holds many rankings, even the #2 Best College Campus in Indiana. IU-Bloomington offers a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice that you won’t want to miss.
IU-Bloomington’s BA in criminal justice is for you if you’re interested in how criminal justice connects with other fields like law, history, and sociology. This program allows you to combine criminal justice with other concentrations that match your goals and interests. The three concentration options include:
- Criminal Justice and Law
- Gender, Race, and Crime
- Criminal Justice and Psychology
As an IU-Bloomington criminal justice student, you will have plenty of opportunities to gain real world experience through internships, student groups, and volunteer engagement. While this program allows graduates to jump into many different law enforcement and criminal justice careers, roughly half of graduates continue their studies through graduate school.
Michigan State University
Michigan State University is a top global university with loads of opportunities. At MSU, you will find over 200 academic programs including many that are nationally ranked. You will also find a small student-faculty ratio of 16:1, which means more personalized attention. MSU’s BA in criminal justice focuses on four key areas:
- Juvenile justice
- Police administration
- Adult corrections
This program requires 30 credits in criminal justice courses like Criminal Procedure, Methods of Criminal Justice Research, and Race and Justice. You also have the option to minor in Security Management which entails 18 additional credits but will make you even more marketable.
Not only can undergraduate criminal justice students pursue research opportunities, but they can study abroad in Australia, Madagascar, the Caribbean, or the Philippines. MSU’s BA in criminal justice prepares students for entry-level jobs in public and private agencies. It also serves as an excellent pathway for further studies, as MSU offers a handful of master’s degrees in criminal justice.
University of Georgia
Chartered in 1785, the University of Georgia is known as “the birthplace of public higher education in America.” More than 38.000 current students and 335,000 alumni proudly call UGA home, and you could be one of them once you check out UGA’s Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice.
UGA’s AB in criminal justice is offered through both the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Public and International Affairs. It is an interdisciplinary degree with a strong liberal arts foundation and coursework in theory, research, and criminal justice. What sets this program apart is a required semester-long internship that is combined with a research project.
UGA’s BA in criminal justice prepares students for various career options. Many start criminal justice-related jobs right away, such as probation/parole or law enforcement officers. Others choose careers in social service agencies and pursue advanced degrees in law, counseling, or research. For more information about UGA’s CJ program and how to apply, check out this link.
University of California-Irvine
We can’t talk about the University of California-Irvine without mentioning its mascot: Peter, the Anteater. Now that we have your attention, UCI is ranked among the top ten best public universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. You will find 87 bachelor’s degrees at UCI, including a unique one: a BA in criminology, law, and society.
UCI’s BA in criminology, law, and society focuses on responding to crime through the American legal system. The problem of crime is viewed through various lenses: economic, historical, political, and sociological. In addition to general education courses, the program requires 44 units that are divided into categories:
- The Legal System, Law and Society
- Crime and Criminology
- Formal Institutions of Social Control
- Justice and Inequalities
Graduates are well prepared for careers in criminal justice and public policy fields. Many graduates also pursue further studies in law, sociology, or criminal justice. See this link for more information about UIC’s criminology program.
Sam Houston State University
For more than 140 years, Sam Houston State University has provided innovative academic programs. It is also the first in the nation to offer a PhD in forensic science! We know this ranking is about criminal justice, but that’s a cool fact to consider. However, the College of Criminal Justice at SHSU has its own distinction: it’s one of the oldest and most well-known in the country.
SHSU is all about accessibility which is why you can earn either a bachelor of art or science in criminal justice and victim studies. Even better, you can complete this program on campus or online. Expect to take a variety of courses like:
- Cyber Crime
- Violent Offenders
- Criminal Investigation
SHSU’s College of Criminal Justice partners with organizations (including INTERPOL and the FBI!) to provide internships for students. SHSU also consistently ranks as one of the country’s best value universities. If you’re looking for an inexpensive bachelor’s in criminal justice that doesn’t sacrifice quality, SHSU is for you. This information on this link will give you an idea of the cost breakdown per program.
In 1884, Temple University was originally founded as a night school. Today it’s known as an “international powerhouse in higher education” and serves approximately 40,000 students. Of more than 500 academic programs is our #9 ranking: a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice. This program is multidisciplinary and provides an excellent background for criminal justice careers.
TU’s BA in criminal justice is 123 credit hours and well-rounded. You will study a range of fields and their relation to criminal justice such as:
- Social work
- Public policy
Additionally, you can tailor this program even further by earning one or more of the 22 undergraduate certificate programs.
If you know that you eventually want to earn a master’s degree, TU lets you earn a bachelor’s and master’s together with the 4+1 BA/MA program. As a TU student, you can get involved through internships, experiential learning opportunities, and other organizations. For more information about this program, check out this link.
University of Cincinnati
U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Cincinnati “among the top tier of the Best National Universities.” With more than 46,000 current students and 300,000 alumni, UC has plenty to offer! Among the 414 degree programs at UC, you will find a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice that can be customized.
UC’s BS in criminal justice explores criminal justice as it relates to:
- Crime prevention
- Behavioral problems
- Juvenile delinquency
- Information technology
While you will gain a strong background in these concepts, you will also have opportunities to choose an additional minor or earn a certificate like the following:
- Correctional rehabilitation
- Crime and intelligence analysis
- Foundations of cybersecurity
- Forensics populations
You will gain hands-on experience through internships and learn from the best faculty in the field. In addition, UC offers its BS in criminal justice both on campus or online for extra flexibility. For more information about UC’s criminal justice programs (including a highly ranked master’s in criminal justice), check out this link.
Arizona State University
You will find Arizona State University on top rankings everywhere and for good reasons. One of its most notable rankings is #1 in the country for “Most Innovative” by U.S. News & World Report. If you are looking for an accelerated online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, ASU has you covered.
ASU is all about accessibility, which is why its BS in criminology and criminal justice is offered on multiple campuses and online. You also have the option to complete this program online with the “fast track” option—in just three years! Sample courses include:
- Courts and Sentencing
- Introduction to Policing
- Gender, Crime, and Criminal Justice
High-value online schools for criminal justice are hard to come by, but ASU is one of them if you are interested in an online degree. You will find many financial aid options, and ASU reports that 70% of its current students receive some form of financial assistance. Whether you plan to start as a freshman or a transfer student, see this link for information on how to apply to the most innovative school in the country!
University of Albany
Founded in 1844 as a school for future teachers, the University of Albany boasts a long history of greatness. Today, Albany is part of the State University of New York system and spans nine schools and colleges. Studying criminal justice in the capital of New York comes with many benefits.
UAlbany’s Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice is for students who want to pursue careers in law enforcement, government, or non-profit organizations. Equally, many criminal justice graduates attend law or graduate school. You will take courses in statistics, research, and of course, criminology to complete 120 credit hours.
Applied learning is also a perk of studying at UAlbany. Hands-on learning experiences around the state are available and reinforce what you learn in the classroom. Research and travel opportunities are also available for undergraduates. Additionally, UAlbany offers accelerated undergraduate/graduate degrees where you can earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in just five years.
U.S. News & World Report ranks Rutgers as the #1 university in New Jersey, and over 530,000 alumni around the globe agree! Don’t let the fact there are over 66,000 current students at Rutgers scare you away just yet—there’s something for everyone here. Rutgers School of Criminal Justice features a BS in criminal justice—one of the top programs in the nation.
Rutgers’ BS in criminal justice is a rich, multidisciplinary program that prepares students for employment for government and community-based crime and justice careers. The BS is also the perfect pathway to graduate school, and Rutgers conveniently offers an accelerated BS/MA criminal justice program. Criminal justice students complete 42 credits for this major, in addition to general education requirements.
Expect to take courses such as:
- Police and Society
- Reducing Local Crime
- Delinquency and Juvenile Justice
Students are also encouraged to include a minor or double major to further customize this program. Check out this link for more information about all Rutgers has to offer.
West Chester University of Pennsylvania
West Chester University of Pennsylvania has been around for a while—150 years, actually! This top-ranking public university started with 130 students back in 1871 and now serves over 17,700! Among the 118 undergraduate programs is one of the first criminal justice programs on the east coast. WCU’s BS in criminal justice is one of the best out there.
WCU’s criminal justice program covers everything involved in this field, including:
- Law enforcement
- Criminal prosecution
- Juvenile treatment
- Crime mapping
You will gain a strong background in not only the application of criminal justice but the “whys” behind it. You will have research, presentation, and conference opportunities as well as full-time summer internships.
If the thought of traveling across the globe excites you, you can get involved with study abroad program options. WCU also offers an accelerated BS/MS criminal justice program for those interested. WCU criminal justice graduates pursue careers in public and private agencies, like the following:
- Law offices
- Child welfare agencies
- Crime victims centers
- Probation/parole offices
- Correctional facilities
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
A college with the theme of justice as the backbone of every academic program? Why yes, there is one exactly like that, and it is John Jay College of Criminal Justice. John Jay was born in 1964 and is known as one of the nation’s most prestigious colleges. You can choose from 35 justice-oriented majors at John Jay.
John Jay offers several bachelor’s of criminal justice degrees, including this one: a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice (institutional theory and practice). The cornerstone of this program is responding to the issues of “diversity, innovations, and changes in the social and technological arenas.” Sample courses include a mix of social sciences and criminal justice such as:
- Police Science
- Constitutional Law
- Political Science
CJBS students have the advantage of studying criminal justice in New York City! John Jay also offers a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice (crime control and prevention) that is worth checking out. There’s a lot to explore at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, so check out this link for all the information you need before you apply!
University of Texas at Dallas
If you’re looking for an affordable criminal justice bachelor’s degree, check out what the University of Texas at Dallas has to offer. UT Dallas is a rapidly growing public research university ranked the #1 Best Value University in the state by Forbes. With 140+ academic programs to choose from, UT Dallas has it all, including a pretty great BA in criminology.
The BA in criminology at UT Dallas is interdisciplinary and examines the causes and effects of crime through multiple lenses. You will complete 120 credit hours that are broken down into:
- Core curriculum (42 credits)
- Major requirements (60 credits)
- Electives (18 credits)
A senior research seminar and statistics are also required courses.
Criminology is also offered as a minor at UT Dallas and requires 18 credit hours.
UT Dallas features a fast-track program that allows motivated and gifted students to include master’s level courses in their bachelor’s program. If you’re looking to earn a master’s degree too, check out this option.
East Carolina University
East Carolina University is a rapidly growing public research institution in Greenville, North Carolina. ECU holds many awards and rankings from Newsweek, Princeton Review, and Washington Monthly. ECU’s Department of Criminal Justice features bachelor’s, master’s, graduate certificates, and so much more. The Bachelor of Science in criminal justice is offered with minors in forensic science or criminal law and legal process.
Of the total 120 credit hours, you will take courses like the following:
- Crime and Criminality
- Police and Society
- Race, Gender, Special Population
A field education and seminar are required during the last year. Many ECU criminal justice students minor in forensic science—a fascinating, vibrant field that will open up more doors of opportunity!
While you will spend time in the classroom, much of your learning takes place outside the walls during opportunities like:
- Field experiences
- Study abroad programs
- Career fairs
- Agency visits
- Community engagement
- Faculty-student research
- Student organizations
ECU’s criminal justice program is one of the best. For more information, check out this link.
Located in central Virginia, Liberty University is a well-known Christian liberal arts institution. More than 100,000 students attend, either on campus or online, and Liberty is primarily known for serving over 30,000 military students. Liberty offers a residential B.S. in criminal justice from a biblical worldview that comes with six concentration options.
One of the perks of Liberty’s criminal justice program is that you can choose from the following six concentrations:
- Advanced investigative studies
- Crime scene investigation
- Homeland security
- Juvenile justice
- Public administration
- Strategic intelligence studies
Liberty’s program requires 120 credit hours divided into general education requirements, major foundational courses, and free electives.
Liberty students and alumni have interned and worked at notable organizations like the following:
- U.S. Marshals
- NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service)
- U.S. Secret Service
- Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice
- U.S. Department of Defense
Liberty accepts students based on GPA, test scores, and essay submissions. Those with prior military experience can get reduced tuition and transfer credit. Check out this link if you’re interested in applying to Liberty.
University of Missouri-St. Louis
The University of Missouri-St. Louis is ranked #1 in the state for affordability by Business Insider. In fact, more than 80% of UMSL Tritons receive financial aid, so if you’re concerned about cost, you won’t want to miss this one. UMSL’s Bachelor of Science in criminology and criminal justice is an excellent choice whether you want to work in the field right away or continue to graduate school.
UMSL’s criminology and criminal justice program requires 37 credit hours of major courses. Students will gain a thorough understanding of the three basic criminal justice areas: policing, courts, and corrections. Sample courses include:
- Theories of Crime
- Criminal Law
- Criminal Justice Policy
You will also take courses in research methods and statistical analysis. During your senior year, you will complete a criminology and criminal justice seminar.
Internships and service-learning experiences are available, and prepare graduates to begin working right away. This program is also a great pathway to law school or graduate school. UMSL also offers a Master of Arts and a PhD in criminology and criminal justice!
University of Nebraska
Over 15,000 Mavericks make up the University of Nebraska’s student body, and you will soon see why. UNO is a top-ranking university with a strong history anchored to relationships and community. UNO’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service features a B.S. in criminology and criminal justice on campus and online.
UNO’s criminal justice curriculum is noted to be challenging and laced with enhanced learning experiences. Of the 120 required credit hours, 43 are devoted to major CRCJ courses. Students can also choose a concentration in victimology and victim services. UNO criminal justice students have opportunities for internships and a study abroad trip to London.
You can also complete this program online! In fact, U.S. News & World Report ranks UNO’s online bachelor’s programs among the best. UNO reports that the job outlook for CRCJ graduates is promising. Many become police officers, DEA agents, or probation/correction officers. For more information on this program, including how to apply, check out this link.
University of Mississippi
Affectionately referred to as Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi is not only the state’s flagship university but included in the highest research activity by Carnegie Classification. UM offers a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice with three areas of emphasis: corrections, homeland security, or law enforcement.
Led by outstanding devoted faculty, UM’s BS in criminal justice has been “nationally recognized for student research and service.” The curriculum includes 42 credits in criminal justice courses like the following examples:
- Ethics in Legal Studies
- Theories of Criminal Behavior
- Criminal Justice Research
Additionally, all students are required to complete either an internship or colloquium in criminal justice.
Something that sets UM apart is that every student completes 130 service hours through agencies such as the county’s sheriff’s department, crime labs, and private and state probation/parole offices. Motivated students may pursue the BCJ/MCJ 4+1 program to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s in criminal justice in five years.
Since 1875, Park University, a private, nonprofit liberal arts school, has kept its core values close. Academic excellence, inclusivity, and social responsibility are at the forefront of every academic program. You can pursue Park’s bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration as either a bachelor of art or science and earn this degree on campus or online.
Park’s criminal justice administration program has three concentration options: corrections, law enforcement, or security. Sample courses include:
- Introduction to Criminal Justice Administration
- Agency Administration
- Criminal Law
Each concentration requires nine credits in that area. In addition, all students will complete an internship and a senior seminar in criminal justice. Park criminal justice students have completed internships with the FBI, U.S. Marshall’s Office, and numerous other criminal justice organizations.
Park is known for its commitment to military personnel and veterans. Military students are supported through reduced tuition, credits earned for service, and other personalized services. If you are interested in gaining more information about Park University and all it has to offer, check out this link.
George Washington University
Located in the heart of our nation’s capital, George Washington University is truly one-of-a-kind. Chartered in 1821, GW boasts a rich history of excellence and diversity. More than 26,000 students attend GW, and they come from all over the globe. Housed in the Department of Sociology is a dynamic BA in criminal justice.
GW’s BA in criminal justice is notable for its interdisciplinary curriculum, interactive classes, and practical seminars. Many students pair this major with another one like political science, psychology, or history. Others use it as a pathway to pursue a graduate or law degree.
A notable perk of GW’s criminal justice program is its required advanced seminar and internship. Imagine completing hands-on work experience in Washington D.C.! GW’s prime location is enough to draw many students there. At a 43% acceptance rate, GW is on the competitive side. If you’re looking for more information about admission requirements and how to apply, look no further than this link here!
Western Carolina University
Nestled in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, Western Carolina University is known for its nationally ranked programs and affordability. WCU is also notable for its 500-member Pride of the Mountains Marching Band at the Macy’s Day or Rose parade! (Have you seen it? If not, you’re missing out!)
The Bachelor of Science in criminal justice is one of the largest degree programs offered at WCU. The curriculum is from an interdisciplinary social science lens and emphasizes all things necessary for a strong background in criminal justice:
- Understanding crime
- Legal issues
- Research methodologies
- The justice system
- Criminological topics
You can pursue WCU’s criminal justice bachelor’s degree either on campus or online. In fact, among the low-cost online criminal justice bachelor’s degrees, WCU ranks high! WCU reports that online students pay only $13,937 for this program. Compare that number to the average costs of $44,799 at other institutions and $63,000 at for-profit universities, and you will see that WCU offers a top value bachelor’s in criminal justice online.
George College & State University
Founded in 1889, Georgia College and State University is known as a place “where a practical education meets transformational, real-world experiences.” With strong academics, affordable tuition, and more than 175 student organizations, what more could you ask for? Georgia College offers an affordable criminal justice bachelor’s degree that is worth checking out!
The BA in criminal justice is a liberal arts degree for students who are interested in careers revolving around criminal justice administration, law enforcement, policy making, and law. Emphasis is placed on:
- Principles of democracy
- Rule of law
- Equal rights
- Civil liberties
Among the 120 required credit hours, 30 are devoted to criminal justice courses. A senior capstone experience is also required.
Through this program, you will build a strong knowledge of criminal justice and gain analytical and critical thinking skills. While some George College criminal justice graduates begin careers right away, others pursue graduate school in criminal justice, political science, law, and related fields.
Florida A&M University
Founded in 1887, Florida A&M University is a historically black university in Tallahassee, Florida. Today, FAMU enrolls 10,000 students from all over the globe and is notable for providing quality, affordable academic programs. FAMU offers a top-ranking Bachelor of Criminal Justice (BCJ) that you won’t want to miss!
Aside from general education requirements, the BCJ program includes 30 credits of required courses that focus on theory, research, law enforcement, corrections, criminal law, and juvenile justice. You can also choose an area of concentration or a minor in any of the following:
- Legal studies
- Minority and gender
- Juvenile justice
Internships are optional but highly encouraged to gain hands-on experience in the criminal justice field. FAMU criminal justice graduates are ready to pursue entry-level positions in law enforcement. If you’re interested in studying criminal justice at Florida A&M University, this link tells you everything you need to know about how to apply!
University of Washington in Tacoma
Founded in 1990, UW Tacoma is among the three campuses of the University of Washington system. UW Tacoma is notable for its diverse student body from all over the country. The Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice is presented through a social justice lens and offered both on campus and online.
UW Tacoma’s criminal justice program emphasizes the following in every single course:
- Social justice
- Community partnerships
- Systems thinking
- Skill development
The curriculum consists of 45 credits of core classes in five content areas and 20 credits of core electives from multiple disciplines. Students must complete a minimum of 180 credits in order to graduate.
Not only is UW Tacoma the only UW campus to offer a criminal justice degree, but you can complete this program completely online. The online program is a cohort model that follows the on campus curriculum. UW Tacoma criminal justice graduates are armed with a social work background that allows them expertise in working with children, youth, families, and more.
Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research institution devoted to experiential learning. This translates into hands-on experience in every program, which sets Northeastern apart from others. Northeastern features an academic program with a versatile combination: criminal justice and psychology. Since these two fields go hand in hand anyway, this program is especially impactful.
The Bachelor of Science in criminal justice and psychology provides students with a foundation in the science of psychology. The entire program requires 128 credit hours and is divided into criminal justice, psychology, research, and experiential learning. Expect to explore topics like:
- Organized crime
- Global criminology
- Crime, media, and politics
- Biological psychology
- Social psychology
At the end of this program, you will understand the relationship between psychology and criminal justice and how they relate to best understand and address criminal behavior. Northeastern’s active learning approach leads to authentic experiences, and graduates are ready to pursue careers in the fields of criminal justice and psychology. For more information on the application process, check out this link.
Boston University’s Metropolitan College (BU MET) connects students who need flexible options to the notable Boston University. At BU MET, you can earn degrees on campus, online, and part time. BU MET offers a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice that is 128 credits and can be completed in just 24-36 months!
The BS in criminal justice is grounded in social science and develops clear understandings of the following areas:
- Criminal activity
- Criminal courts
- Social policy
- Crime control
This program is self-paced and can be completed in an accelerated format or part time. Evening classes and online classes are available. BU MET also offers a bachelor’s-to-master’s pathway with both a Master of Science in criminal justice and a graduate certificate in criminal justice.
BU MET is a private university, so some may think I can’t afford to go there. Yes, you can. Competitive tuition, scholarships, and financial aid assistance are all available for students to succeed. If you’re interested in Boston University’s criminal justice program, check out everything you need to know here.
Marist College is a private liberal arts school with campuses in Poughkeepsie, New York and Florence, Italy. Marist College is consistently ranked among the top schools in value from notable sources like The Princeton Review and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. The School of Social and Behavioral Sciences features one of the top bachelor’s of criminal justice.
Marist’s Bachelor of Science in criminal justice emphasizes both theory and practice. You will study areas such as:
- Law enforcement
While all students will take a sequence of required courses, you will choose your electives based on your interests. If you are interested in law, you can take courses like Criminal Law and Procedure. If you are interested in social issues, pursue courses like Race and Crime and Cross-Cultural Criminal Justice Systems.
Internships are required, which is also a perk of pursuing criminal justice at Marist. Previous students have interned at sites like the United States Secret Service and New York City Police Department. Check out this link for more information about Marist and all it has to offer.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is criminal justice?
Criminal justice is a general term that people throw around, but what does it actually mean? A concise definition from the University of Massachusetts Global says, “Criminal justice is the structure of laws, rules and agencies designed to hold criminals accountable for their misdeeds and help them to restore their victims as much as possible.”
Let’s break this down even more. Criminal justice in the United States includes various systems working together: city, county, state, federal, military, etc. Basically, criminal justice is broken down into three areas:
- Law enforcement
- The court system
While these three areas are separate, they work together to create the entire system. When pursuing a bachelor’s in criminal justice, look for emphasis and concentration options to customize your program. For example, someone who wants to be a police officer will take a different path from someone who wants to become a court clerk.
What can you do with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice?
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will not be one of those “so what?” degrees. Why? Because of the knowledge and skills gained—critical thinking, analysis, communication, research, and leadership to name a few.
Because criminal justice is a broad field, you can pick and choose what career you would specifically like to pursue. Criminal justice most often is broken down into law enforcement, corrections, forensic science, private security, and law. The most common entry-level positions with a bachelor’s in criminal justice are the following:
- Police officer
- Security manager
- Corrections officer
- Probation officer
- Detention facility coordinator
- Paralegal/legal assistant
- Victims advocate
- Private investigator
- Criminal investigator
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is also a step towards furthering your education. If you want to go law or graduate school, for example, you could apply after completing an undergraduate criminal justice degree.
How much can I make with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice?
With a bachelor’s in criminal justice, your salary potential will depend on your career choice, level of experience, and geographical location. The following is a list of the median annual salaries of common criminal justice careers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Police and detectives: $67,290
- Correctional officers and bailiffs: $47,440
- Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists: $55,690
- Private detectives and investigators: $53,320
- Paralegals and legal assistants: $52,920
- Forensic science technicians: $60,590
A top bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will allow you to bring in a good income. If you’re looking for how to make more money, you could pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice or a law degree.
Is a BA or BS better for a criminal justice degree?
Both a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) in criminal justice provide an in-depth curriculum to prepare for careers in this field. So, what are the differences?
A Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice is generally less specialized than a BS. A BA also requires more courses in the arts and humanities than a BS does. On the other hand, a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice is generally more specialized and less multidisciplinary. It requires more science, math, and technical courses.
So, should you choose a BA or BS for criminal justice? Both degrees will get you to careers in the field. However, if you’re interested in the theory of criminology and plan to go to graduate school, choose a Bachelor of Arts. If you’re looking to study the hands-on technical side of criminal justice, a Bachelor of Science may be the better option.
What is the best degree for a career in criminal justice?
You can’t go wrong with one of the top bachelor’s of criminal justice. Earning a bachelor’s in criminal justice is an excellent way to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for a career in this dynamic field.
You will also find other related bachelor’s degrees like the following:
- Bachelor’s of criminology
- Bachelor’s of law enforcement
- Bachelor’s of criminal law
The best degree for a career in criminal justice depends on the specific type of criminal justice you are interested in. There is no shortage of criminal justice programs from top ranking schools.
Is criminal justice an easy major?
No one but you can answer the question: is criminal justice an easy major? There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer when it comes to how easy or hard an academic major is. While criminal justice is a straightforward major, it may be easy for some and hard for others. The answer depends on your own abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and efforts.
Are there areas of concentration in a criminal justice degree?
Not all universities and colleges offer concentrations, but if you are interested in a certain type of criminal justice, look for specific concentrations that match your interests.
The following are examples of criminal justice concentrations:
- Forensic Science
- Homeland Security
- Juvenile and Family Justice
- Legal Studies
Where can I find the best bachelor of criminal justice online degree program?
Can a criminal justice degree program be completed online? Many of our top rankings of criminal justice programs include online degrees. When looking for an online undergraduate degree, make sure it comes from an accredited online college for criminal justice. The most common accreditations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the nonprofit Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
While you won’t find a cheap BA in criminal justice anywhere, the cheapest colleges for a bachelor’s in criminal justice are online. Online degrees generally charge in-state tuition regardless of the student’s geographical location and don’t charge other fees that are standard for an on-campus student.
Top Searched Programs:
We covered our top 30 best criminal justice degrees above, but we must mention the other top searched programs from the following top searched schools:
National University’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration is offered both on campus and online and includes four-week courses.
Southern New Hampshire University
The Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from SNHU is one of the most popular majors! You can earn this degree either online or on campus.
Monroe College’s School of Criminal and Social Justice offers criminal justice degrees, including a Bachelor of Science, completely online!
University of Maryland Global Campus
Through the University of Maryland’s global campus, you can earn an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Similarly, UMD Global also offers a Bachelor of Science in homeland security, legal studies, and public safety administration.
Thomas Edison State University
The Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice from Thomas Edison State University is a highly ranked program that prepares graduates for law enforcement careers.
Virginia Wesleyan University
Virginia Wesleyan University features a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice complete with real-world experiences like simulations and internships. Check this one out!
Southwestern College offers associate’s degrees in criminal justice, including two with transfer preparations that provide a strong background in this field.
St. Leo University
At St. Leo University you can earn a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice with concentration options in criminalistics and homeland security.
University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida has a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice that is available both on campus and online.
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