Guide to Online Criminal Justice Degrees: Accreditation, Costs, and Careers

Pursuing an online degree in criminal justice offers flexibility and opens the door to careers in law enforcement, corrections, and forensic science. This guide explores key aspects such as accreditation, costs, and career paths to help you navigate your educational journey effectively.

Accreditation: Why It Matters

When exploring online criminal justice degrees, accreditation stands as the foremost factor to consider. Accredited criminal justice schools have met rigorous standards set by recognized accrediting agencies, ensuring that the education provided is of high quality. Accreditation affects the transferability of credits, eligibility for federal financial aid, and even job prospects after graduation. For instance, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) offers specific accreditation for criminal justice programs, which is a seal of quality for prospective employers.

Costs: Navigating Expenses

The cost of obtaining an online criminal justice degree varies widely depending on the institution. While some programs might offer tuition rates as low as $300 per credit, others may charge up to $500 or more. The cheapest online criminal justice degree programs typically come from public universities with in-state tuition rates. However, many online programs offer tuition discounts to out-of-state students, making them comparably affordable.

For those seeking financial aid, fully funded scholarships and grants can significantly reduce the financial burden. Federal and state grants, institutional scholarships, and private scholarships specifically for criminal justice students are available. It’s crucial to apply early for financial aid and scholarships to maximize your funding opportunities.

Criminal Justice Bachelor Degree Online: Coursework and Specializations

Online criminal justice degree programs offer a comprehensive curriculum designed to provide students with a thorough understanding of the justice system, criminological theory, and practical skills. Courses typically cover topics such as criminal law, corrections, policing, ethics in criminal justice, and contemporary issues in the field.

Many programs also offer specializations in areas such as forensic psychology, juvenile justice, homeland security, and cybercrime. These specializations can tailor your education to specific career goals and make you a more competitive candidate in those areas.

Career Opportunities: What Can You Do with Your Degree?

Graduates with an online criminal justice degree have a broad range of career options. Here are some common paths:

  • Law Enforcement: Positions such as police officer, federal agent, or detective.
  • Corrections: Roles include correctional officer, probation officer, or correctional treatment specialist.
  • Legal and Court Services: Opportunities such as court clerk, legal assistant, or victim advocate.
  • Private Security: Jobs in corporate security, private investigation, or loss prevention.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police and detectives have a median annual wage of $67,290, with expected job growth of about 5% from 2020 to 2030. Correctional officers and bailiffs earn a median annual wage of $47,440, with the field expected to experience a decline due to changes in criminal justice policies.

How To Become A Criminal Justice Professional: Steps to Take

To become a criminal justice professional, follow these steps:

  1. Earn Your Degree: Complete an accredited online criminal justice bachelor’s degree. Focus on building a solid foundation of knowledge and skills in criminal justice.
  2. Gain Experience: Internships or part-time jobs in related fields can provide valuable experience and networking opportunities.
  3. Specialize: Consider pursuing a specialization through additional courses or certifications, depending on your career interests.
  4. Stay Informed: The field of criminal justice is continually evolving, so ongoing education and professional development are key.


An online degree in criminal justice can be a flexible and cost-effective way to enter a field dedicated to upholding and enforcing the law. By choosing an accredited program, exploring financial aid options, and focusing on career-oriented education, you can maximize the value of your degree and prepare for a successful career in criminal justice.