Thinking about enrolling in one of the top criminal justice graduate schools to further your education? You’re in good company. Many people who choose to apply to top criminal justice masters programs are working professionals who want to advance their career while still working in the field. Choosing to apply to one of the best criminal justice masters programs means that you’re dedicated to becoming a top professional in the criminal justice field.

When you apply to criminal justice graduate schools, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to add credentials to your resume, showing your employer that you’re serious about moving forward in your career. Top criminal justice masters programs are a great option for people who need flexibility in your education. You’ll be able to get the courses you need without ever having to set foot in a classroom. There are many options for the best criminal justice masters programs in the United States, and it’s important to do your research to find a school that meets your needs.

Methodology: Ranking the Best Master’s in Criminal Justice Online

The editors of Best Master’s Programs know that working professionals and other students seeking out online criminal justice master’s programs need a degree that will return their investment. That’s why we ranked best criminal justice master’s programs online with four criteria: Cost, Reputation, Salary Potential, and Student Satisfaction. We used data from College Scorecard, IPEDS, Niche, and U.S. News & World Report. Only accredited, legitimate programs were considered.

1. Colorado State University-Global Campus

Colorado State University Global offers a cutting-edge master’s in criminal justice online. This program prepares students to be leaders in criminal justice, creating new and better systems and processes in the field. Students learn to evaluate the effectiveness of community programs in preventing crime, protect against fraud, find ways to use technology in fighting crime, and respond to terrorism and cybercrime. The program teaches decision-making and ethics in addition to practical tools and techniques for fighting crime.

CSU Global is dedicated to making education accessible to everyone, regardless of what else they need to fit into their schedules. The school offers online degrees that are completely flexible. Students can log in and complete the work whenever it is convenient. Courses start every month, and there are accelerated courses available. CSU Global strives to make education affordable. The tuition rate is locked in when you enroll, so you don’t have to worry about rate increases. Students can choose to specialize in information technology or fraud management.

Degree: Master’s in Criminal Justice

2. University of California, Irvine

The Masters of Advanced Study in Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine is one of the best criminal justice masters programs online. This program provides a quality education for students who wish to obtain leadership positions in the criminal justice field, whether in law enforcement, corrections, probation/parole, social services, or administration. Instead of a thesis, students complete a capstone course that requires the completion of a research paper.

The School of Social Ecology at the University of California—Irvine focuses on research to find solutions for environmental and social problems through science. Crime prevention and social justice has its own research hub within the university. One of the things they are working on is learning from past mistakes in order to prevent false convictions of innocent people. Although the program is mostly online, student must take a 5-day “Introduction to Criminology, Law, and Society” course on campus before the beginning of the fall term.

Degree: Masters of Advanced Study (MAS) in Criminology, Law and Society

3. University of Oklahoma

The Extended Campus at the University of Oklahoma offers a Master of Science in Criminal Justice that is one of the best criminal justice graduate programs online. The program prepares students to be good communicators, problem solvers, and analytical thinkers who can build communities, keep up with new technologies, and apply their knowledge of the criminal justice system to keep us all safe. Students learn decision-making, ethics, and leadership skills to help them excel in leadership positions in the field.

The University of Oklahoma’s Extended Campus offers accelerated 16-week courses that are easy for most adult students to fit into their schedules. The college uses a holistic approach to education that emphasizes the ability for students to apply what they are learning to their lives and careers right away. The MS in Criminal Justice program is flexible and affordable in order to be accessible to criminal justice professionals who want to accelerate their career growth.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

4. Michigan State University

Michigan State University offers a master’s in criminal justice online that is ranked as one of the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report. The program offers students the analytical skills and interdisciplinary knowledge they need to succeed in the field of criminal justice. Students learn about current practices and public policy as well as law enforcement intelligence, counterterrorism, and crime control strategies.

Michigan State University has been offering criminal justice education for 80 years and incorporates its decades of experience into a highly-respected degree program that helps its students qualify for executive-level positions in criminal justice. The school also has a wide network of employers that are looking for employees in the field. The school offers internships that provide students with practical experience that looks great on students’ resumes.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

5. Florida State University

The online master’s program offered by the College of Criminology & Criminal Justice at Florida State University is also one of the top criminal justice masters programs online. The program provides a thorough understanding of the physiological, psychological, genetic, and psychiatric theories regarding criminal behavior. Students also learn about the technological tools, research methods, and other strategies used in the criminal justice field.

At Florida State University’s College of Criminology & Criminal Justice, students learn from the best professors in the nation. The school is known for its challenging curriculum and innovative research. The school’s faculty members have engaged in research on the role race plays in the criminal justice system and whether immigrants are more or less likely to become repeat offenders, among other things. The school’s top priority is to ensure that students are equipped with strong critical thinking skills. Florida State University’s criminal justice and criminology faculty are ranked #1 in scholarly research.

Degree: Master’s in Criminal Justice

6. Arizona State University

The MA in Criminal Justice from Arizona State University Online is one of the many criminal justice graduate programs online that help prepare students for a leadership career in the criminal justice field. The program teaches students about the impact of crime on society and helps them gain a thorough understanding of how criminal justice works. Students in the MA Criminal Justice program learn from recognized and respected scholars with experience in fraud, gangs, corrections, police work, and the court system.

Arizona State University is ranked #1 for innovation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers more than 200 degrees online through ASU Online and works to ensure that courses are designed to fit into any student’s schedule. ASU is one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and online classes are taught by the same outstanding faculty that teaches the school’s on-campus classes. The program consists of 11 classes, each of which are 7.5 weeks long.

Degree: MA in Criminal Justice

7. University of Colorado Denver

The University of Colorado Denver now offers their master’s in criminal justice online. This is the same program that was founded in 1972 to help the brightest criminal justice minds understand the system even better. Students who complete the program learn how to make a bigger difference by applying what they have learned in the real world. The program focuses on the judiciary, law enforcement, juvenile justice, correctional systems, and how laws and codes are implemented.

CU Online provides the same quality education as the brick and mortar campuses at Colorado University. The only difference is that each online degree provides flexibility that allows working professionals to continue working while pursuing their degrees online. A degree from Colorado University is respected by employers and will help students move ahead in their careers as criminal justice professionals. There are four concentrations available: crime analyst; disasters, hazards and emergency management; emergency management and homeland security; and nonprofit organizations.

Degree: Master of Criminal Justice

8. University of San Diego

The University of San Diego offers one of the best criminal justice masters programs online. Their online masters in law enforcement and public safety leadership helps professionals in the field accelerate their career trajectories. The program is designed for future leaders in the criminal justice field. Some of the topics covered include analytical and critical thinking skills, organizational leadership, legal issues, communication skills, and finance.

The University of San Diego has experienced professionals teaching their criminal justice program. Faculty members have served in roles such as chief of police and Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines. Students can practice what they learn through skills-based learning. The school strives to create an environment that encourages students to form relationships with their faculty members and peers. The program was created by working with law enforcement professionals to determine what skills and knowledge are most needed.

Degree: MS in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership

9. University of Nebraska-Omaha

The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska-Omaha offers one of the best criminal justice graduate programs online. In fact, the school claims the program is #1 in the United States. This program is perfect for anyone who wants to improve their skills and advance their career without the hassle of attending an in-person program. The MS in criminology and criminal justice can be completed 100% online and is perfect for anyone who needs a flexible schedule.

The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is a national leader in criminal justice education. The school’s faculty is engaged in groundbreaking research in the field and helps to develop new policies and procedures. Some of the areas where the school is performing research include corrections, victimology, biosocial criminology, terrorism, and police work. Graduate students have the opportunity to work on research alongside their professors. This program is ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report.

Degree: MS in Criminology and Criminal Justice

10. Boston University

Boston University’s Metropolitan College offers a master’s in criminal justice online that provides students with legal, sociological, practical, and theoretical insight into the policies and procedures used in the criminal justice system. The program is intended for students who want to advance in their careers and learn more about the field. Students learn about leadership principles, social control theories, and understanding criminal behavior. This program was the first online program offered by Boston University and is one of the top five in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report.

Boston University prides itself on innovation in online education. The school’s online programs enroll students from 76 countries around the world and help students gain a global perspective by interacting with their peers in other geographic areas. All online programs are taught by BU’s respected faculty members, and graduates join an alumni network more than 370,000 strong. There are three concentrations available: cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity, crime analysis, and strategic management.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

11. Saint Joseph’s University

Saint Joseph’s University offers an online master’s in criminal justice that focuses on producing graduates who understand the most recent research and are able to apply it in real-world situations in the criminal justice field. Students can complete a general criminal justice track or choose from one of five concentrations: behavior management, federal law enforcement, behavior analysis, homeland security, or intelligence and crime analysis.

The MS in Criminal Justice from Saint Joseph’s University is one of the best criminal justice masters programs online providing a Jesuit education. The school’s strong Catholic history makes it a great choice for students who want to feed their spirit and intellect at the same time. Saint Joseph’s University provides a liberal arts curriculum paired with the practical skills students need to succeed in the field. The program teaches communication and leadership skill as well as ethics and the importance of a fair criminal justice system.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

12. Sam Houston State University

The MS in Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University blends the reputation of SHSU with the convenience of an online degree. Graduates will be prepared to serve in leadership positions in security, corrections, law enforcement, and social services. The program is designed for working professionals and can be completed in two years. Some of the careers obtained by graduates include chief probation officer, victim advocate, judge, federal law enforcement officer, and police administrator.

SHSU Online provides flexible degrees to enable anyone, anywhere to be prepared for a future job market where most jobs will require a college degree. Sam Houston’s dedication to outstanding teaching and academic excellence make its MS in Criminal Justice one of the best criminal justice graduate programs online. SHSU Online provides 24-hour support to ensure that its online students have the resources they need to succeed.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

13. University of Massachusetts-Lowell

The University of Massachusetts—Lowell offers a masters in criminal justice online that is made up of just eleven courses and can be completed in as little as 18 months. Adults students with careers and families can easily schedule their online masters program to fit around their lives. The program teaches student about the latest issues in criminal justice while preparing them for leadership roles in criminal justice. Students learn about criminal profiling, crisis management, forensic psychology, public policy, sex crimes, crime analysis, victimology, and terrorism.

Faculty members at the School of Criminology and Justice Studies have a wide range of experience in the field, including experience victim concerns, transnational crime, offender re-entry, weapons of mass destruction, and how mental health is dealt with in the criminal justice system. The program is data driven and based on real-world experience and results. The program is ranked #5 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

Degree: MA in Criminal Justice

14. University of Houston-Downtown

The College of Public Service at the University of Houston Downtown offers a masters in criminal justice online. This MS program teaches the theory of criminology, procedures for the administration of criminal justice, and more. In addition to job-related skills in the area of criminal justice, students develop their leadership and critical thinking skills. Statistical analysis and research are core components of the curriculum.

The University of Houston Downtown’s College of Public Service seeks to use research to make improvements in local schools, social service agencies, and criminal justice institutions. The school values integrity, scholarship, and responsibility. CPS views public service as a calling, not just a job or career. CPS students are passionate about serving the communities in which they work. The school works to keep its programs current so that students can be assured that they will be able to find work in their chosen career following graduation. Students can choose from a thesis or a capstone project.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

15. University of Cincinnati

The MS in Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati Online is one of the best criminal justice masters programs online. This program combines the disciplines of criminology, sociology, law, and psychology into an interdisciplinary criminal justice program. Graduates of the program are ready to be leaders in the field of criminal justice. The program focuses on best practices in criminal justice, experience-based learning, and collaborative hands-on field experience.

The University of Cincinnati Online offers students a flexible way to pursue their degrees. Graduates receive the same degree whether attending online or on campus. The degree will be issued by the University of Cincinnati. The University of Cincinnati is a leader in innovation and is dedicated to helping busy professionals complete their education. This program is ranked #8 of its kind by U.S. News & World Report.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

16. University of North Texas

Another of the best criminal justice graduate programs online is the MS in Criminal Justice from the University of North Texas Toulousse Graduate School. This program trains students to become thoughtful and competent police officers, administrators, researchers, scholars, caseworkers, or probation officers. The curriculum provides students with a thorough understanding of the problems caused by crime and the way the criminal justice system works. Students can customize their programs by choosing electives that align with their career goals.

Faculty members at the University of North Texas are constantly working to try to improve the criminal justice system by participating in research projects in the field. Some areas that are currently the focus of research include homeland security, police tactics and operations, victimization, capital punishment, juvenile delinquency, prison violence, and white collar crime. The Toulousse Graduate School at the University of North Texas is a leader in diversity.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

17. University of Central Florida

The College of Community Innovation and Education at the University of Central Florida Online offers a masters in criminal justice online. This program equips students to be leaders and innovators in the field of criminal justice, creating changes that will improve the way the system functions. Students learn to solve criminal justice problems, speak up for policies that improve public safety, and work to ensure that the criminal justice system is fair.

The University of Central Florida Online provides an exceptional learning experience that is both convenient and flexible. Demonstrating its commitment to online education, the school offers more than 90 programs that are available completely online. UCF’s online programs allow students to pursue their education regardless of what they have going on in their lives—without having to drive to school and search for a parking spot. Students enrolled in the online MS program in criminal justice have the support of a success coach who will help them navigate their educational journeys.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

18. Florida International University

The Master of Science in Criminal Justice from Florida International University is one of the best criminal justice masters programs online for students with a high GPA. Students must have earned a GPA of 3.2 or higher on their upper-division coursework in order to be accepted into the program. This research-based program is intended for students who wish to pursue a career in research or academia, or who plan to continue their education further and earn their doctorates.

Florida International University is one of the ten largest universities in the United States. The school has been offering online education for twenty years and has more than 200,000 alumni around the world. FIU has earned the highest designation available from the Carnegie Foundation and prides itself on its use of innovation and technology in education. Students must earn a minimum GPA of 3.0 in order to graduate from the program.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

19. University of Louisville

The College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Louisville offers one of the best criminal justice graduate programs online. The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice was created for criminal justice professionals who wish to move ahead in their careers. The program provides an innovative curriculum that turns students into resolute crime fighters and advocates for justice. Students are taught by award-winning professors who have spent many years working in the criminal justice system.

The University of Louisville is recognized for its research. The school offers more than 40 online programs, and students who earn their degrees online earn the same degrees as traditional students. The only difference is that online students enjoy more flexibility, and the opportunities for social interaction are not less, but different. The course is divided into 8-week terms and can be completed 100% online.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

20. East Carolina University

East Carolina University offers a master’s in criminal justice online through the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. The program strives to create leaders in the field of criminal justice. Graduates are prepared to advance in their careers or to pursue further education at the doctoral level. ECU offers three graduate certificates that students can complete while working on their master’s degrees if they choose. The certificate options are criminal justice education, public management and leadership, and security studies.

The Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences was named for a Renaissance scholar who served as surveyor, cartographer, and historian for Sir Walter Raleigh’s second voyage to Virginia. Harriot was known for being a man of action as well as intellect. Today, students attending the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences expand their knowledge, so they are prepared to jump into action upon entering the workforce after graduation. This program does not require a thesis.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

21. Bowling Green State University

Ranked in the top 20 nationally by U.S. News and World Report, the MS in Criminal Justice from Bowling Green State University’s eCampus is another of the top criminal justice masters programs online. This is a top-quality program that prepares students for leadership in the field of criminal justice. Graduates are also qualified to pursue a doctoral degree if they choose. The program offers small class sizes to enable students to interact and engage with their professors and peers. The program is divided into 7-week courses and there are six start dates to choose from.

The Wall Street Journal ranks Bowling Green University #1 for student satisfaction in the Midwest and #3 for quality of instruction. BGSU has a 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio, and the school’s results are spectacular: 97% of students report that they are either in graduate school, employed, or starting a business within six months after graduating. Faculty members of Bowling Green University consult with the Department of Justice, the National Institute of Justice, and the FBI.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

22. Texas Christian University

The Department of Criminal Justice in the AddRan College of Liberal Arts at Texas Christian University also has one of the top criminal justice graduate programs online. Texas Christian’s MS in Criminal Justice & Criminology is suitable for any graduate student who wants to advance their criminal justice career, pursue a doctoral degree, or just learn more about criminology. Students learn to analyze problems in criminal justice, examine research, and make policy recommendations.

Texas Christian University is priced competitively and has scholarships available to help with the cost. The school has a 91% freshman retention rate and is rated #2 for student engagement by the Wall Street Journal. The student to faculty ratio is 13 to 1. Students are required to attend a two-day orientation on campus.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

23. California State University, San Bernardino

The Department of Criminal Justice at California State University San Bernardino offers a master’s in criminal justice online. Their MA in Criminal Justice is geared toward students who wish to pursue more education or advance their careers in the field of criminal justice. Students with degrees in administration, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and more are welcome to apply to the program. Scheduling is flexible to accommodate the needs of students, but some electives do require classroom participation.

California State University San Bernardino holds several top rankings from U.S. News & World Report and other ranking organizations. The school has top-notch faculty members who hold doctorates and publish research regularly in leading scientific journals. Faculty members work closely with local and national criminal justice organizations such as the San Bernardino Police Department and the Riverside Probation Department. Students can choose between a thesis or a comprehensive exam at the end of the program.

Degree: MA in Criminal Justice

24. University of Colorado Colorado Springs

The Master of Criminal Justice from the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs is another of the top criminal justice masters programs online. The program is designed to help students gain a firm grounding in many areas of criminal justice and enable them to take on many different specializations in the field. Students are trained to be leaders, not just following what they are taught but able to come up with new and different ways to improve the system they’re working in.

The School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado—Colorado Springs is committed to improving lives throughout the world by producing leaders who are strong critical thinkers and are prepared to help improve the quality of criminal justice systems around the world. The MCJ program offers an interdisciplinary look at criminal justice that gives students a thorough understanding of criminal justice theory and applications.

Degree: Master of Criminal Justice

25. University of Wisconsin-Platteville

The Master of Science in Criminal Justice at the University of Wisconsin—Platteville is another of the top criminal justice graduate programs online. This program is designed for students who are preparing to work in the field of criminal science as well as those who want to further their education to advance their careers. Students learn about criminal justice operations, systems, and law. They also strengthen their communications, problem solving, and research skills. There are three concentrations to choose from: criminal justice theory, criminal justice management, and victim and offender services.

The University of Wisconsin—Platteville offers world-class instructors and a challenging curriculum. The school is affordable, and beginning in Fall 2020, all students who are eligible for a Pell Grant and live in Wisconsin will have any tuition and fees exceeding their grant covered by the Pioneer Pledge program. Students can work at their own pace to earn their masters in criminal justice.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice

What Will I Learn in a Criminal Justice Master’s Program?

If you’re thinking about enrolling in one of the many criminal justice graduate programs available online, you may be curious about what you’ll learn in a master’s program. This depends greatly on which of the many types of criminal justice degrees you choose to pursue. Some criminal justice graduate programs focus on applying the law to criminal behavior, while others focus more heavily in investigative work and police forensics.

Graduate programs for criminal justice majors are numerous, and it can be tough to figure out which one makes the most sense for you. Depending on the types of criminal justice degrees that interest you, your masters in criminal justice requirements may include studies in criminology, forensics, technology studies, and restorative justice. Graduate programs for criminal justice majors typically cater to a specific area of study, and the masters in criminal justice requirements make that clear.

Will Employers Trust an Online Master’s in Criminal Justice?

If you’re new to the world of online education, you may be curious about whether the best online criminal justice schools are trusted by employers. Good news: when you earn a criminal justice degree online accredited by a recognized school, employers will trust your degree. When employers see that you’ve completed one of the best online criminal justice masters programs, they’ll know that you’re capable of balancing a tough workload with classes, showing your time management skills. The best online masters in criminal justice programs allow students to continue working while furthering their education.

When you get a criminal justice degree online accredited, you’re showing future employers that you care about protecting the public by justly punishing criminals. The best online criminal justice masters programs will help you get the best online masters in criminal justice, helping you propel your career forward. The best online criminal justice schools will provide you with the credentials you need to take your career in criminal justice to the next level.

Will I Make More Money with a Master’s in Criminal Justice?

When you’re interested in increasing your criminology jobs salary, it’s important that you further your education. Many people who are curious about the masters in criminal justice jobs salary are interested in furthering their education both to be able to contribute more to their departments and to make more money. When you get your degree at the bachelor’s or master’s level, your criminology degree jobs salary will increase. Depending on your personal career path, getting your masters in criminal justice salary can create an increase of thousands of dollars in your yearly criminology jobs salary.

When it comes to understanding what your criminology degree jobs salary, it’s important to consider a few different factors. Your level of degree matters. People who have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will not make as much as a criminal justice master’s salary. If you’re getting your masters in criminal justice salary can go up to $72,000 per year or more. This is especially true if you’re looking for a criminal justice management salary.

Your level of experience can also influence how much money you make. If you’re working in an entry-level position, it’s likely that you won’t make as much as someone who is in a supervisory position. People who have their degree in criminal justice management salary tends to be higher than those who have their degree in an area that does not include a supervisory role. Your criminal justice masters salary may also depend on the cost of living in your area, as well as the budget of your organization. Your masters in criminal justice jobs salary can also depend on your performance level and yearly review from your supervisor.

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