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30 Best Online Masters in Criminal Justice

criminal justice master's

Are you considering a career in law enforcement or public safety?

A Master’s degree in Criminal Justice can open the door to a wide variety of criminal justice careers.

Some common law enforcement careers enjoyed by graduates include basic and leadership positions. These include:

  • Roles in federal law enforcement and other government agencies
  • Work in the juvenile justice system
  • Criminal profilers
  • Probation officers
  • Criminal law 
  • Emergency management directors
  • Public administration
  • Work with homeland security and other national security organizations 
  • Police officers
  • Intelligence analysts
  • Private detectives
  • Public safety professionals
  • Forensic science technicians

See Also: 20 Best Affordable Master’s in Information Assurance

Completing a Master’s in Criminal Justice is smart. It can provide graduate students with key technical and conceptual foundations. This will allow you to pursue a career within criminal justice settings.

Graduate students will gain in-depth knowledge of contemporary issues, theories, and research. They will study topics related to crime, victimization, and justice administration.

These advanced programs help to shape a student’s understanding of the legal system. They delve into the complexities of:

  • various court decisions
  • alternative dispute resolution processes
  • security management
  • ethical considerations prevalent in the administration of justice

Having a Master’s in Criminal Justice gives graduates an array of opportunities. You can pursue satisfying careers as law enforcement officers and much more. 

Course options include:

  • Organizational theory
  • Transnational crime
  • Forensic science
  • State and federal crimes
  • Criminal investigations
  • Crime control strategies
  • Violent crime and dealing with violent offenders
  • Legal perspectives
  • Fraud management
  • Corporate crime
  • Social and behavioral science
  • Public safety and disaster management (including manmade and natural disasters)
  • Organizational theory
  • Forensic psychology 
  • Collecting evidence for crime analysis
  • Emergency management
  • Criminological theories
  • Criminal profiling
  • Technical applications of criminal justice information technology 

Quick Links

  1. Michigan State University
  2. Florida State University
  3. Sam Houston State University
  4. Arizona State University
  5. Boston University
  6. University of Nebraska Omaha
  7. Nova Southeastern University
  8. Regis University
  9. University of Cincinnati
  10. University of Colorado Denver


Are you curious about how we decided on the top master’s degree options in criminal justice to ensure student success?

How did we determine the best online Master in Criminal Justice degree programs for our ranking?

We looked at schools with regional accreditation from organizations such as:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission
  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Then, we gathered information to examine from public sources such as:

  • the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS)
  • the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • U.S. News and World Report
  • the school websites

From there, four points served as our guidelines for determining the best programs. In random order, the four guiding points were:

  • Affordability
  • School reputation
  • Availability of focus areas, concentrations or specializations
  • Program flexibility and accommodation

Other factors that influenced our decisions were the average tuition and retention rate. Both of these metrics can give you a good idea of a school’s return on investment. 

Ready to learn more about online masters degree programs criminal justice? Here are the 30 best criminal justice graduate programs online!

30 Best Online Masters in Criminal Justice Degrees

#30. Troy University

MS Criminal Justice Program


You will find one of the best online criminal justice programs at Troy University.

The MS in Criminal Justice provides both a thesis and a non-thesis option. The non-thesis online criminal justice degree requires thirty credit hours. The thesis option requires thirty-six.

Classes you will take for your online master’s in criminal justice include:

  • Emergency and Crisis Management
  • Cyber and Information Threat Management
  • Terrorism and Political Violence
  • Public Safety

TROY Online provides each prospective student with the “PREPARE Assessment” tool. This computer based test (not a paper based test) in your native language is to make sure online learning is a good fit. 

#29. University of North Texas

University of North Texas

This online master’s degree in criminal justice is through UNT’s Department of Criminal Justice (Department of CJUS). It takes 24 months to complete.

The curriculum that students take includes:

  • twelve hours of foundational courses
  • twenty-one hours of elective courses
  • a three-hour capstone course

Your core courses will cover everything from public safety to inequities in the criminal justice system to ensure you are prepared to meet any career goals.

#28. University of New Haven

University of New Haven

This master criminal justice online is at the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences. It has 36 credit hours. Students enrolled can complete the entire program in 24 months.

Foundational courses in topics like public safety and data analysis make up twelve of the credit hours. Elective courses make up the remaining twenty-four credits. 

Course options include:

  • Advanced Victimology
  • Problem Oriented Policing
  • Network Security, Data Protection And Telecommunications
  • Computer Crime: Legal Issues & Investigative Procedures

Admission requirements for these online criminal justice programs vary. Students may wish to consult with an admissions advisor. 

#27. Liberty University

MS Criminal Justice 

Liberty University

The Helms School of Government at Liberty University is outstanding. It offers a 100% online, 36-credit hour MS in Criminal Justice degree. This award-winning, thesis-optional master’s in criminal justice online also offers four cognate customizations:

  • General
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Homeland Security
  • Public Administration

Featured classes for this graduate degree include:

  • Rehabilitation & Reintegration of Offenders
  • Leadership, Ethics & Policing
  • Homeland Security Organization & Administration
  • Politics, Strategies & Initiatives of Com. Econ. Development

The online MSCJ at Liberty focuses on “best practices and trends” in higher education. Your courses will cover everything form data analysis to public safety to make sure you are prepared for all kinds of leadership roles in this evolving field.

Graduates leave equipped with the most recent data and most effective methods. The skills they gain in these master’s degrees can help them both achieve their careers goals.

#26. Xavier University

Xavier University

The online master’s degree criminal justice at Xavier provides a focus on administration in the justice system.

The master’s degree has six start dates a year. The curriculum covers everything from research methods in the field of criminal justice to public safety. You’ll be prepared to work at the federal levels and local levels and within a variety of criminal justice careers. These online master’s degree programs are about as well rounded as they get!

Topics covered in the thirty-credit hour criminal justice master’s degree online degree include:

  • Sociology of Crime & Delinquency
  • Forensics & White Collar Crime
  • Human Resources for Criminal Justice Administrators

You can take many courses with real world experience as well.

#25. Columbia College

MS Criminal Justice 

Columbia University in New York City

This master’s degree is an online MS in Criminal Justice Administration (MSCJ) degree program. It is through Columbia College’s Criminal Justice Administration and Human Services Department.

This master’s in criminal justice prepares students for a life of public service, either at the federal levels or local levels. The degree focuses on four specific areas:

  • trends in criminal justice
  • policy development and analysis
  • research design and research methods in the field of criminal justice
  • ethics in criminal justice
  • criminal justice theory
  • public policy

Distance learners have the option of pursuing management tracks. These are in Law Enforcement Administration or Corrections Administration. 

Course options in this master’s in criminal justice include:

  • Comparative Criminal Justice Systems
  • Seminar in Juvenile Justice
  • Law Enforcement and the Community
  • Community Corrections

#24. University of Wisconsin–Platteville

University of Wisconsin-Platteville

The MS in Criminal Justice (MSCJ) online program at UW-Platteville gives students three different emphasis areas.

The specializations from which students enrolled in this master in criminal justice online can choose are:

  • Criminal Justice Theory
  • Criminal Justice Management
  • Victim and Offender Services

There is a nine-credit hour certificate in Child Advocacy Studies available.

Some of the classes offered in this criminal law program include:

  • Perspectives on Child Maltreatment and Child Advocacy
  • Law as Social Control
  • Juvenile Delinquency & Justice: Race, Class, Gender, and Youth
  • Policing in a Democratic Society

This well-rounded master’s in criminal justice will prepare you for just about any career goals in the criminal justice system. Students will go beyond what you learned in your bachelor’s degree.

The curriculum is designed to provide students with real world experience and a solid understanding of criminal justice so they can pursue all kinds of criminal justice careers and leadership roles.

#23. California University of Pennsylvania

MS in Legal Studies

California University of Pennsylvania

This master’s degree is offered 100% online. The MS in Legal Studies with a Criminal Justice Concentration degree program at Cal U is outstanding.

Classes criminal justice majors will take include:

  • Financial Investigations
  • Law and Police Process
  • Polygraph and Lie Detection
  • Intelligence Practice in Homeland Security

You’ll study criminal justice theory, research method sin the field of criminal justice, and much more. This master’s degree in criminal justice will prepare you for all kinds of career goals in this rapidly evolving field.

#22. Western Kentucky University


WKU Online offers a thirty-credit hour degree. It is a Master of Arts in Criminology degree program. These master’s degrees are 100% online and do not have a thesis. The program requires fifteen hours of core courses.

Course options to prepare you for the criminal justice system include:

  • Advanced Social Statistics
  • Survey of Criminal Justice Studies

The remaining fifteen credit hours are chosen from electives. Distance learners must select at least two classes from within WKU’s Department of Sociology.

Criminal justice majors will take classes such as:

  • Neighborhoods and Crime
  • Family Violence

You will be prepared for a variety of positions in the criminal justice system.

#21. University of Louisville

MS Criminal Justice 

University of Louisville

U of L’s online MS in Criminal Justice (Justice Administration) (MSCJ) degree program claims a unique program.

This master’s degree is ideal for any role in the criminal justice system or in public safety.

The online master’s in criminal justice includes many networks and partnerships to prepare you for the realities of the criminal justice system.

Core coursework focuses on legal theory, statistics and research methods.

Core courses in the master’s in criminal justice include:

  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design
  • Serial Murder
  • Personnel Management in Criminal Justice System
  • Public Safety

With an emphasis on student success, this criminal justice master’s is one of the best.

#20. University of California, Irvine

University of California irvine

UCI’s Department of Criminology, Law and Society offers two distinct online programs. These explore the psychology behind crime.

First, there is a criminal justice master’s degree that focuses on “theoretical and practical applications central to crime and its control, social policy, and the law.” The Master of Advanced Study (MAS) in Criminology, Law and Society is a thirteen-course degree program. It takes two years. You can take up to 4 years if needed

The major includes classes like:

  • Hate Crimes
  • Crime Hotspots
  • Preventing Errors of Justice

The master’s in criminal justice classes are all delivered online. But there is one introductory accelerated five-day on-campus residency course required.

#19. Colorado State University-Global Campus

Master of Criminal Justice

Colorado State University Global

You’ll find one of the top programs at Colorado State University. The Master of Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration degree is through CSU-Global. It is a practical, foundational 36-credit hour program. It consists of 39 credit hours for students whose undergraduate GPA was less than 3.00. These students must take the graduate-basics “Fundamentals of Research and Writing” course.

Two specialization options await the CSU-Global online campus student. These are the options in Criminal Justice Leadership and Fraud Management.

The Criminal Justice Leadership specialization may need twelve credits of classes such as:

  • Criminological Theory
  • Working With Criminal Justice Agencies
  • Criminal Justice Systems 
  • Ethics, Justice, and Social Control

#18. Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana University Bloomington

These master’s degrees take a year of full time study! The online MA in Criminology leads to research or administrative positions in criminal justice.

Students complete 30 credit hours of study. This criminal justice master’s degree focuses on topics such as:

  • Criminological Theory
  • Ethical and Philosophical Issues in Criminology
  • Crime and Delinquency Prevention Strategies

You will get both a practical and stimulating online education. A final synthesis project culminates the degree. Average tuition is affordable for all online programs here.

#17. University of Massachusetts Lowell

MA in Criminal Justice


An online master’s degree at UMass Lowell includes eleven three-credit hour courses. 

This online master’s in criminal justice includes courses such as:

  • Managing Justice Organizations
  • Law and Public Policy
  • Crime Analysis and Mapping
  • Responding to Child Maltreatment
  • Violence in America
  • Mental Health & Criminal Justice

#16. Rowan University

Rowan University

The online MA in Criminal Justice is through Rowan University’s Rowan Global Learning & Partnerships. It is a good choice for students who have professional goals in career paths such as leadership roles or more higher learning. This online program is an accelerated program. The 30-credit hour degree takes five consecutive semesters. 

You’ll learn everything you need to know about the criminal justice system. You’ll also learn how to conduct criminal justice research.

Classes include:

  • Management Of Criminal Justice Organizations
  • Contemporary Developments In Theory
  • Law And Society

#15. University of Central Florida

MS Criminal Justice 


The online MS in Criminal Justice program at University of Central Florida “pushes boundaries and shifts paradigms.”

This program has all kinds of hands-on experiences.

This is done to create the criminal justice force of tomorrow. Online enrollees will study all aspects of how people come to commit crimes. Students complete classes in how punishment and retribution is shaped by the history of the U.S. criminal justice system. Students must take 36 credit hours to graduate.

Twenty-one hours consist of core coursework in this criminal justice program. You’ll take classes like:

  • The Nature of Crime
  • Criminal Justice Organizations

You can also take nine credit hours of electives. Plus, there is a Capstone or a thesis. 

#14. University of Oklahoma

University of Oklahoma

This MS in Criminal Justice program requires thirty-three credit hours to graduate. Each course is in asynchronous sixteen-week sessions. Three tracks are available online:

  • Corrections Management
  • Restorative Justice
  • Administration and Leadership

Online enrollees can opt to take six more credit hours to focus on whichever area they choose.

This online master’s in criminal justice has eighteen hours of prerequisite courses. These cover the basics of research methods and theory. There are nine hours of elective course topics such as:

  • Restorative Justice Programs for Drug Offenders
  • Penology
  • Global Drug Trafficking

This online criminal justice master’s degree program has a six credit hour thesis. You can also choose to complete one of the track areas with a comprehensive exam. 

#13. Bowling Green State University

MS Criminal Justice 

Bowling Green State

You’ll find one of the top programs at Bowling Green State University.

Eleven courses make up the masters of criminal justice online in the BGSU eCampus. There is rolling admission. There are six start dates a year, and two classes offered. That’s for each eight-week term. You can complete the thirty-three credit hour degree program in less than 24 months.

Classes exist in an asynchronous format. There may be some requirements to logon at the same time as the professor and classmates for live discussion.

In this criminal justice master’s degree, students take classes like:

  • The Nature of Crime
  • Criminal Justice Processes & Institutions

Students choose between a portfolio or final thesis to complete the degree. 

#12. University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands

The online MS in Justice Administration degree at UC is outstanding. It is a practical, experiential program.

It is ideal for students who want to move into or move up in a crime-fighting field. This is a thirty-one credit hour program that takes one year. That makes this one of the fastest criminal justice degree online options.

The master of criminal justice online program requires a one-credit hour Capstone Course in Justice Administration.  

You will learn everything you need to know about the criminal justice system in classes like:

  • Legal and Ethical Issues in Homeland Security
  • Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Crime
  • Sex Crimes: Myths & Motives

#11. East Carolina University

MS Criminal Justice 

East Carolina University

There are eighteen courses at the core of the 36-credit hour program at East Carolina University. This is a non-thesis online MS in Criminal Justice program. It is offered through the Department of Criminal Justice. Classes include:

  • Criminal Justice and Terrorism
  • Diversity Issues in Criminal Justice
  • Civil Liability in Criminal Justice

#10. University of Colorado Denver

University of Colorado Denver

The Master in Criminal Justice (MCJ) degree program at CU Denver is in the respected School of Public Affairs. It has 36-credit hours. The program consists of:

  • five core courses (focusing on policy, research and theory)
  • electives
  • either a three to six-hour thesis or three credit capstone project

#9. University of Cincinnati

MS Criminal Justice Program

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati has an eleven-course, thirty-three credit hour Master of Science Criminal Justice (MSCJ) degree. It is another one of the top master’s to know about. This criminal justice online master degree takes 24 months.

It includes a general track. Students also have choices between three specific concentrations. The Analysis of Criminal Behavior concentration focuses on what makes repeat offenders tick.

In this online criminal justice master’s, you will take classes like:

  • Biosocial Factors in Serial Offending
  • Computer Criminology: Cybercrime & Digital Security

Then there is the Law Enforcement & Crime Prevention concentration. This concentration examines “theories and practices” in such courses as:

  • Applied Crime Prevention
  • Seminar on Police Effectiveness

The last concentration option in the online criminal justice master’s is Corrections & Offender Rehabilitation. It offers such classes as “Correctional Theory and Policy”.

#8. Regis University

Regis University

Regis University’s College of Contemporary Liberal Studies offers a Master of Science in Criminology degree program.

It invites students to examine and research what factors may contribute to crime. Faculty members teach how to establish successful practices for reformation and prevention. The program requires 36 credit hours to graduate.

Three focus areas are available in this online criminal justice master’s. They are:

  • Leadership
  • Human Behavior
  • Cybercrime/Terrorism

You can replace nine credits of the general course with focus-specific classes.

The general curriculum of this master degree criminal justice online covers varied topics like:

  • Ethical Conduct and Positions of Power
  • Rapid Decision Making
  • Crime Prediction and Prevention
  • Animal Exploitation

You’ll be able to network with working professionals at the local and federal levels. This is to prepare you for a career in public service as part of this master’s degree in criminal justice.

#7. Nova Southeastern University

MS Criminal Justice

Nova Southeastern University

The College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at NSU provides an online, interdisciplinary MS in Criminal Justice program.

Students in the online master degrees in criminal justice take:

  • fifteen hours of required core coursework
  • twelve credit hours of a concentration
  • a choice between a practicum internship or a master’s thesis

There are twelve concentration options to customize the degree and prepare students for leadership positions. Some are interdisciplinary and in conjunction with another College within NSU. An example is the Emergency Preparedness Leadership concentration. This is through the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

#6. University of Nebraska Omaha

University of Nebraska at Omaha

The Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice is at UNO’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Students in the online master of criminal justice take:

  • twelve credit hours of foundational courses
  • nine credits of criminal justice electives
  • a three-credit Diversity course (either a Capstone or dissertation)
  • twelve credits of open electives from other departments

Courses for the criminal justice online curriculum include:

  • Survey of Corrections
  • Sociology of Deviant Behavior
  • Seminar in Theoretical Criminology

#5. Boston University

MS in Criminal Justice Program

Boston University

This master degree at Boston University offers a choice. There is a general track or a concentration in Cybercrime Investigation & Cybersecurity. There is also a concentration in Strategic Management.

This online master’s in criminal justice is ideal for students who wish to:

  • analyze criminal behavior
  • apply principles of leadership in organizational settings
  • learn theories of social control
  • gain an informed perspective of law enforcement, the judicial system, and corrections

The online criminal justice degree masters elective choices include:

  • Applied Digital Forensic Investigation
  • Trauma and Crisis Intervention
  • Criminal Justice Policy and Planning

#4. Arizona State University

Arizona State

The School of Criminology & Criminal Justice at the College of Public Service & Community offers a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MACJ) degree program. This is through ASU Online.

Students take twelve credit hours of related classes studying crime motivation.

Core courses in the online master’s in criminal justice and public safety include:

  • Criminal Justice Planning and Program Evaluation
  • Applied Data Analysis in Criminal Justice

#3. Sam Houston State University

MS in Criminal Justice Program

Sam Houston State University

You’ll find one of the best programs at Sam Houston State University.

The Master of Science in Criminal Justice program at Sam Houston State University is meant to be “Education Everywhere, for Everyone.”

There are 21 integral courses as part of this online master’s in criminal justice.

Core courses include:

  • quantitative analysis
  • research methods
  • policy

They will take classes in the online campus such as:

  • Emergent Issues In Criminal Justice Leadership
  • Seminar In Organization & Administration
  • Communication Theory & Administration Of Justice

#2. Florida State University


It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Master of Criminology degree program at Florida State University is in our top three.

Florida State University offers us a 36-credit hour program.

Core courses in the online criminal justice master degree include:

  • Applied Statistics in Criminology
  • Computer Applications in Criminal Justice
  • Prevention & Treatment Of Crime & Delinquency
  • Race, Ethnicity, Crime & Social Justice

#1. Michigan State University

MS Criminal Justice 

Michigan State

The master’s degree in criminal justice online at Michigan State University has existed at the College of Social Science since 1998. It should be no mystery that this program secures the number one spot on our list.

Students can opt for a general track or one of two specializations. These are Security Management or Judicial Administration.

Many of the courses in the online masters degrees criminal justice cut across a variety of disciplines.

Core courses include:

  • Crime Causation, Prevention, and Control
  • Policy Analysis under Conditions of Change
  • Proseminar in Criminal Justice

Students in the criminal justice master’s online take one to three elective classes.

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Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor