Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice

Updated on: 11/24/18

The field of criminal justice is in constant motion as it changes in response to technical and digital advances in the field. One way to obtain the skills for a leadership role in this rapidly changing field is to earn a master’s degree in criminal justice. It can pave the way for a public service position while deepening your knowledge of societal and criminal behavior and the correctional system. Find out what you’ll learn in an online master’s in criminal justice program, which careers it can lead to, and which schools offer the top programs.

The Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs of 2019

2-Year Colleges

Selecting an online master’s in criminal justice program can be highly personal, depending on whether candidates seek a general or specialized degree. However, all good programs should meet certain standards. Below, we’ve identified the top online criminal justice master’s degree programs using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the U.S. Department of Education and published materials from universities. All schools in this list have been accredited.

Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 Morehead State University $8,496 3 86% 49% 67% Yes Yes Yes

At Morehead State University, online students can complete a Bachelor of Science in Imaging Sciences with a concentration in Leadership in Medical Imaging. You will focus on topics such as fiscal management, program planning, healthcare law and policy and patient evaluation. This is a competitive application process with limited space. Prospective students should already have training and certification in a radiologic sciences field in an accredited program with a 2.5 GPA or higher. You should also have completed at least 15 credit hours of prerequisite courses in computer literacy, speech communications, English and mathematics before applying. MSU graduates typically move on to careers in imaging sciences administration or management positions.

2 Clarion University $7,238 2 94% 51% 41% Yes Yes Yes

Distance learners at Clarion University can earn a Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging Sciences online. This is a 120-credit program that offers two concentrations: radiologic technology or ultrasound. Graduates are proficient in performing all types of imaging exams to meet ARRT requirements. The hybrid version of the program only accepts students who are already credentialed radiologic technologists, sonographers, nuclear medicine technologists, radiation therapists or medical dosimetrists. Clinical requirements must be completed in-person. Most students in this program transfer in 60 credits from another accredited program and complete the remaining major core requirements at Clarion. Applicants must submit their high school GPA and SAT or ACT scores.

3 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse $7,585 3 74% 69% 24% No Yes Yes

Students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse can earn their Bachelor of Science in Radiation Therapy in a blended format in approximately 4 years. WIth courses such as Radiation Physics, Pathophysiology, Patient Care and Medical Imagine, UWL will train you to administer radiation therapy and conduct x-rays for a variety of patients. Of the 120 required credits, a minimum of 30 semester hours must be complete in residence at UWL for graduation. Applicants should have at least a 2.75 GPA and 40 hours of observation in a radiation therapy department. Prospective students who need help accessing facilities to complete the observation requirements may contact the department for assistance or to schedule a visit.

4 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $6,881 1 27% 91% 41% No Yes Yes

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a blended Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science option for distance learners. In this medical imaging-driven program, you will focus on the administration of radiation and x-rays for disease diagnosis and injury evaluation. You will explore several main areas of the practice such as orthopedics, pediatrics and mammography, vascular imaging and computerized tomography. Graduates are prepared to sit for the ARRT national certification exam in radiologic technology. UNC requires a host of general education requirements and radiologic science pre-admission courses. Applicant must also have a 2.5 GPA or higher.

5 Weber State University $4,611 4 - 50% 58% Yes Yes Yes

Weber State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences entirely online. Courses are self-paced and take about 4 weeks to complete, although you may take longer if you wish. As a distance learner, you will receive training in advanced radiologic sciences specialties, sonography, nuclear medicine and radiation therapy. To enroll in this program, students must be certified in medical imaging and/or therapeutic radiation before enrolling. Incoming students must submit their official high school transcripts or GED documentation. ACT and SAT scores are not mandatory and no clinicals are required for graduation. At Weber, distance learners also pay a flat in-state tuition rate.

6 Ohio State University-Main Campus $9,168 1 54% 85% 80% No Yes Yes

Students can pursue 3 specialty areas in a Bachelor of Science Radiologic Science and Therapy degree program at Ohio State University. You can choose from a major in Radiography, Radiation Therapy or Sonography/Vascular Therapy, all of which can be completed in a blended format. In any track, you will be prepared for professional careers in clinical practice, administration, education and research. Whether you are treating diseases with radiation, conducting x-rays and CT scans or diagnosing a medical condition using sonography, OSU teaches you the essential critical thinking and technological skills to make the best evidence-based decisions for patients. Applicants must have a 2.5 GPA or higher and 8 hours of documented patient contact experience.

7 Mitchell Technical Institute $3,488 1 - 70% 26% Yes Yes Yes

Online students at Mitchell Technical Institute can earn certificates in Advanced Medical Imaging (AVI). You may choose from programs in Computer Tomography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging or Advanced Medical Imaging. Each certificate requires 10, 12 or 18 credits to complete, respectively. The AVI certificate is a combination of the Computer Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging tracks. Upon completion of the program, you will be eligible to apply for licensure. This program is only open to ARRT-registered technologists in Radiography, Nuclear Medicine Technology, Nuclear Medicine or Radiation Therapy. Applicants must complete an online or paper application and submit their ACT, Accuplacer, SAT or Compass scores.

8 Armstrong State University $3,886 2 80% 35% 8% Yes Yes Yes

The Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences at Georgia Southern University-Armstrong teaches online learners how to administer radiation, ultrasound, and magnetism to treat diseases and injuries. Students choose between 5 career specialties: Cardiovascular/Interventional Science, Nuclear Medicine, Radiation Therapy, Radiography or Sonography. This is a hybrid program consisting of 5-10 online courses over the course of 5 semesters, depending on chosen specialty. Graduates can sit for the national certification exam. Applicants must have a 2.5 GPA or higher, and should have 50 semester hours of general education requirements completed. Students with lab experience in a radiologic field are more likely to be admitted to this program.

9 Misericordia University $29,150 1 74% 72% 100% Yes Yes Yes

Distance learners can take advantage of Misericordia University's online Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography program. In this hybrid program, you will complete a curriculum that balances sonography education and liberal arts courses. The core curriculum is on-campus every other weekend with a few courses online. Approximately 110 credits are needed for graduation. All applicants should have a minimum GPA of 3.0 or be in the top half of their high school graduating class. Students should also have taken 3 years of mathematics and 2 years of science before applying. ACT or SAT scores are required. Graduates are prepared to sit for the ARRT Sonography exam.

10 Siena Heights University $24,390 2 72% 53% 99% Yes Yes Yes

Siena Heights University offers distance learners the chance to earn an Associate of Applied Science in Radiologic Technology through its Adrian and Southfield campuses. Students must complete a minimum of 60 credit hours while maintaining a 2.0 GPA. To satisfy graduation requirements, students complete a minimum of 18 credits through SHU. A maximum of 9 credit hours of prior learning credit, including CLEP, Excelsior College Exams, Michigan Occupational Competency Exams and military and police academy certification, can be counted toward the associate degree. SHU subscribes to a rolling admission policy and requires applicants to submit only an online undergraduate application and high school transcripts. Online students pay $530 per tuition credit regardless of their location.

11 St Catherine University $31,042 1 91% 61% 98% Yes Yes Yes
12 Baptist College of Health Sciences $9,864 1 54% 51% 83% Yes Yes Yes
13 Southern Illinois University-Carbondale $8,691 5 77% 46% 74% Yes Yes Yes
14 Minot State University $5,192 1 60% 42% 70% Yes Yes Yes
15 Carolinas College of Health Sciences $11,086 1 31% 33% 25% Yes Yes Yes
16 Bellarmine University $37,850 1 82% 68% 100% Yes Yes Yes
17 University of St Francis $30,520 1 49% 57% 100% Yes Yes Yes
18 Boise State University $4,872 3 82% 44% 41% Yes Yes Yes
19 Ball State University $8,992 1 62% 62% 40% Yes Yes Yes
20 University of Washington-Seattle Campus $9,694 1 45% 86% 38% No Yes Yes
21 Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania $7,238 1 78% 66% 6% Yes Yes Yes
22 University of Vermont $15,096 1 69% 76% 92% No Yes Yes
23 Texas State University $7,234 1 71% 59% 12% Yes Yes Yes
24 University of Missouri $8,286 1 75% 71% 64% No Yes Yes
25 Concordia University-Wisconsin $27,640 1 63% 62% 98% Yes Yes Yes
26 University of Sioux Falls $27,160 2 91% 54% 100% Yes Yes Yes
27 Saint Cloud State University $6,820 1 85% 48% 41% Yes Yes Yes
28 Notre Dame of Maryland University $33,785 1 59% 60% 98% Yes Yes Yes
29 Ferris State University $11,144 1 78% 51% 69% Yes Yes Yes
30 Clarkson College $11,976 5 52% 17% 58% Yes Yes Yes
31 Pennsylvania State University-Worldwide $12,718 1 83% 49% 56% Yes Yes Yes
32 Newman University $26,416 1 58% 47% 100% Yes Yes Yes
33 University of Charleston $20,564 2 52% 37% 94% Yes Yes Yes
34 National University $13,016 1 - 50% 4% Yes Yes Yes
35 Drury University $24,750 2 70% 64% 83% No Yes Yes
36 Missouri Southern State University $5,311 1 94% 39% 69% Yes Yes Yes
37 Lakeshore Technical College $3,910 1 - 58% 6% Yes Yes Yes
38 Washburn University $7,644 2 - 38% 64% Yes Yes Yes
39 Oregon Institute of Technology $8,110 1 73% 50% 60% Yes Yes Yes
40 Northeast Community College $2,700 1 - 48% 40% Yes Yes Yes
41 Briar Cliff University $27,684 1 - 48% 98% Yes Yes Yes
42 Northern Kentucky University $9,000 1 91% 40% 61% Yes Yes Yes
43 Southwestern Oklahoma State University $5,295 1 91% 38% 65% Yes Yes Yes
44 Drexel University $48,660 1 75% 68% 97% Yes Yes Yes
45 University of Hartford $35,036 2 72% 56% 98% Yes Yes Yes
46 Saint Louis University $40,100 2 65% 72% 91% No Yes Yes
47 University of Akron Main Campus $8,618 1 96% 45% 62% Yes Yes Yes
48 Fort Hays State University $3,789 1 91% 44% 73% No Yes Yes
49 Arkansas State University $6,060 2 70% 41% 70% No Yes Yes
50 Emory University $47,300 1 25% 91% 48% No Yes Yes

What to Know About Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Coursework

Students in a master’s in criminal justice program can expect to spend up to two years taking 33-40 credits with possible additional credits for specializations. Most programs include core courses, as well as electives that focus on areas of concentration. Students will select a concentration area for their capstone project or thesis paper, depending on the school and specialization.

Before entering the program, students should look to see if internships, cooperative projects with local agencies, and job placements are included in the online program. Online and on-site programs generally are similar in a master’s in criminal justice, although online students have the additional challenge to communicate well with instructors and other students.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master’s in Criminal Justice Program?

Each master’s in criminal justice program offers courses specific to their school as well as specializations, however, the following courses are usually found in each program.


A master’s in criminal justice program will include a course or seminar in criminology, the scientific study of crime as a social phenomenon and the foundation of criminal justice study. Students study theories that explain crime, consequences of and reactions to criminal acts.

Data Analysis and Research

Students who complete a master’s in criminal justice will be expected to be ready for leadership positions, which will require them to analyze and understand data. Most programs require some kind of course in statistics or data analysis, in which they collect, analyze and record data and study a variety of research methods.

Criminal Investigation

Students study the general theories of criminal procedure, including due process, search and seizure, and the study of evidence.


Forensic science courses focus on the methods and technology used during a criminal investigation, including the reliability of techniques, and proper collection and storage of evidence.


Students investigate this relatively new field of study, including technical, social and legal aspects, theories and tools to collect evidence in cyberspace. Students will study the role of hackers and apply criminological theories.

What Specializations Are Available in a Master’s in Criminal Justice Program?

Specializations vary widely from program to program. Some of the more common specializations include:

Law Enforcement and Crime Prevention

Students deepen their knowledge of law enforcement with a focus on the study of legal institutions and social issues, such as race and class, as well as applied crime prevention and the effectiveness of police policy and strategies.

Criminal Behavior

Depending on the school, students will focus on special areas of crime, including cyber, white-collar and juvenile crime. Some schools break out each concentration into its own specialty; others include them under a single specialization.

Homeland Security

Students with a Homeland Security specialization focus on response to terrorism and natural disasters as well as policy issues surrounding national security and the interaction of federal and other agencies. Graduates work in a variety of fields, including immigration and disaster preparedness as well as research.


Students in the field of corrections focus on the theories and philosophies of corrections, rehabilitation and treatment of criminal offenders. They will study current issues dealing with specific populations, including youth and the mentally ill.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Most master’s in criminal justice programs require a thesis paper or capstone project in which students demonstrate competency in synthesizing and applying criminal justice knowledge and skills. Some programs require completion of an internship.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Program?

When selecting a school for an online master’s in criminal justice, look for one whose faculty includes former and current officers of the American Society of Criminologists. Some of the best programs also have established research projects and publications, cooperative agreements with local agencies, and opportunities to interact with instructors and other students. Before selecting a master’s in criminal justice program, candidates should discuss career outcomes with school officials. The U.S. Department of Education provides a list of accredited universities and programs. The Academy of Criminal Justice Services has certified a handful of criminal justice programs, but beyond that, regional school accreditation is considered acceptable.

Career Opportunities with a Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree

A master’s in criminal justice degree can be a stepping-stone to a lucrative and influential career. Unlike many other fields, a master’s in criminal justice does not necessarily mean a management role. Most public service careers in criminal justice are in the federal or local government.

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts are charged with monitoring the networks of their business or organization for breaches in security and investigating violations. Analysts must stay current on software, including data protection programs, and research the latest trends in information technology security. Demand for information security analysts is expected to be high as financial institutions and other corporations need to increase security in the face of growing threats in cyberspace. A master’s in criminal justice with a concentration in cybersecurity or cybercrime is suggested for advancement in this field.

Median Salary: $95,510 per year

Currently Employed: 100,000

Expected Job Growth (2016-2026): +28%

Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors oversee the planning and response to natural disasters and other emergencies. Directors must understand and coordinate with public safety agencies to develop effective plans. Following disasters, directors must identify and assess damage as well as follow a plan for community recovery. A master’s in criminal justice degree with a concentration in homeland security would be an ideal stepping-stone for public service advancement.

Median Salary: $72,760 per year

Currently Employed: 10,100

Expected Job Growth (2016-2026): +8%

Probation Officer/Correctional Treatment Specialists

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists help with the rehabilitation of inmates and those who have been released from prison so that offenders can successfully re-enter society. Officers maintain contact with the offender’s support team, keep and maintain records, and monitor the offender’s progress. Job growth varies because it is based on state and local funding. Candidates can often become a probation officer with a bachelor’s degree, but advancement often depends of holding an advanced degree. A master’s in criminal justice degree with a concentration in corrections would be the preferred step toward career advancement.

Median Salary: $51,410 per year

Currently Employed: 91,300

Expected Job Growth (2016-2026): +6%


A criminologist, an expert in the study of crime and criminals, is a type of sociologist and analyzes criminal behavior. Some criminologists work with law enforcement agencies while others perform academic research and policy analysis in the court system. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not break out the jobs outlook for criminologists, it does account for sociologists, of which crime is a specialty. Because criminology is a science, an advanced degree, such as a master’s in criminal justice with a concentration in criminology, is preferred.

Median Salary: $79,650 * per year

Currently Employed: 3,500*

Expected Job Growth (2016-2026): +1%*

(*for all sociologists)

Detective or Criminal Investigator

Although the minimum requirement for some law enforcement positions is a high school diploma and completion of police academy training, a degree in criminology can be beneficial for those hoping to work in higher level positions or within the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI.

Median Salary: $79,970 per year

Currently Employed: 807,000*

Expected Job Growth (2016-2026): +7%*

(*for all police and detective positions)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

What’s the Expected Job Outlook for Criminal Justice Careers?

The versatile master’s in criminal justice degree opens doors to a variety of careers, from state and local agencies to the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector. Job growth varies between career tracks. Law enforcement, such as police and detective positions, is expected to grow about 7 percent, which is about average job growth. However, the fields of forensics and cyber security are expected to grow 17 and 28 percent, respectively, which is quite a bit faster than average.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Criminal Justice

The breadth of the criminal justice field is evident in the number of professional organizations available for membership. Some associations are specific to a topic; others are multi-disciplinary and appeal to a broad range of professionals and scholars. Following are a few of the professional organizations in criminal justice.

  • National Criminal Justice Association

    This nonprofit represents the concerns of state, tribal and local justice systems to the federal government and also provides support for criminal and juvenile justice policy development to states and tribes. Membership includes access to newsletters, webinars, conferences and other training that assists members in staying current and having a voice to shape justice policy.

  • Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences

    This international organization supports the interaction of criminal justice scholars, professionals and students in the pursuit of education and research. Members develop and share ideas about crime, criminals and social justice. Membership includes journal and newsletter subscriptions, professional growth and networking opportunities, and employment information.

  • American Society of Criminology

    The society fosters the pursuit of scholarly, scientific and professional knowledge of criminology, particularly the measurement, prevention and treatment of crime and delinquency. Membership includes journal and newsletter subscriptions and an employment listing at the annual meeting.

  • American Academy of Forensic Science

    The academy seeks to provide leadership to the study of the investigative sciences and their application to the legal system. Members in the multi-disciplinary organization include attorneys, dentists, toxicologists, physical anthropologists, chemists, criminalists and psychiatrists.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Criminal Justice Degree

Graduate students looking for help paying for an online master’s in criminal justice degree have a variety of options to choose from.

Federal Financial Aid

Student’s first step should be to fill out the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA). Learn more from our guide to the FAFSA.


Many colleges and universities offer scholarships both general and specific to criminal justice. Often, students will be automatically considered for merit scholarships when they apply for a master’s degree program. But students should refer to the prospective school’s financial aid website or department for more information.

In addition, certain organizations offer scholarships specific to the field of criminal justice, including:

  • The American Criminal Justice Association awards a variety of scholarships and grants to students who are seeking their master’s in criminal justice.
  • Pi Gamma Mu, an international honor society for the social sciences, awards several graduate school scholarships for $1,000 or $2,000.