Best Online Criminal Justice Schools

Technically speaking, the minimum requirements for the vast majority of police departments in the US include only a high school diploma or its equivalent. But becoming a police officer is the dream of many Americans, and often there are more applicants than there are open positions.

So it is more realistic to say that to increase your chances of getting in the force, you need to have some criminal justice courses under your belt. In addition, the criminal justice classes you take will actually help you perform your duties better, and you can advance further in your career. In fact, some police departments require an associate’s degree, while a few require that you get a 4-year degree. To maximize your chances, you need a criminal justice degree from a good school.

Many applicants already know this, and that’s why they are trying to get into one of the top colleges for criminal justice. The top criminal justice schools offer superior training that can really help stand out among the current crop of applicants, and they can also provide you with the special knowledge and training that can truly enhance your performance.

The Best Colleges that Offer Criminal Justice

One way of going about picking the best college for criminal justice is to pick a highly rated school with a prestigious reputation, and then see if they offer a criminal justice program. Perhaps the best university using this method is the University of Pennsylvania. It is the only Ivy League university which offers an undergraduate degree in criminology.

Some schools may also have criminal justice programs that are specially lauded among the law enforcement community. Some of the top schools for criminal justice which you may want to consider will include:

  1. Northeastern University
  2. University of Florida
  3. University of Missouri
  4. Rutgers
  5. Florida State University
  6. Sam Houston University
  7. Indiana University
  8. Marist College
  9. George Mason University
  10. California State University, Long Beach
  11. American University
  12. University of California, Irvine
  13. George Washington University
  14. CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  15. University of Albany (SUNY)
  16. University of Delaware
  17. University of Illinois (Chicago)
  18. Temple University
  19. Michigan State University
  20. Washington State University (Pullman)
  21. University of Cincinnati
  22. University of Nebraska (Omaha)

The Best Online Criminal Justice Schools

There are several good reasons why you would want to study online, but often it just boils down to the fact that this method is extremely convenient for students. Your options here would include:

  • Penn State University. Penn State is one of the top universities in the nation, and they are one of the leading proponents of distance education. They were among the first schools to offer a correspondence course back in 1892. And in 1998, they also became one of the first schools to offer online degree programs. You can get a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice online, and this is the first online criminal justice programs certified by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.
  • Arizona State University. The Criminal Justice program ASU offers is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges. The quality of the online education is quite esteemed, and many experts regard its online Criminal Justice degree program as the best in the country.
  • Keiser University ECampus. Many education experts regard Keiser as one of the best online schools in the country, and it is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It offers Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees through its online criminal justice programs.
  • Kaplan University. This school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and it offers online Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees in Criminal Justice. The training you undergo towards an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree will give you an extensive familiarity of criminal history. But it gives greater weight to the investigative techniques and research methods employed by law enforcement professionals. Completing the program requires 180 hours of credit spread over four years, and it includes a final project that demonstrates that you can apply the information you learned to real life situations.
  • Portland State University. PSU is the largest public state university in Oregon, and is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. It is ranked as one of the best colleges in the West by Princeton Review, and US News and World Report regards it as one of the best colleges in the country.

PSU offers a Bachelor’s of Criminology & Criminal Justice. It also offers certificates in Advanced Crime Analysis, Leadership in Criminal Justice, and Criminal Behavior.

  • American Intercontinental University. AIU offers an Associate’s degree and an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree. The associate’s degree involves learning about the basics of juvenile correction, court structure, and law enforcement. With the bachelor’s program, you expand your knowledge of these core subjects, and you also learn about forensic science and criminology.
  • Everest University Online. EUO is associated with Corinthian Colleges, and it is accredited by the Florida Commission for Independent Study and by the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools. Its Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice allows you to obtain a comprehensive knowledge of the criminal justice system and basic investigative methods. You will also be able to specialize in areas such as computer crime, gang activities, and drug operations.
  • Ashford University. Ashford offers a Bachelor of Arts in Social and Criminal Justice which you can get online. You will need to complete 120 credit hours which cover psychology, deterrence, forensics, law and the criminal justice structure. You can also earn a specialization. Ashford University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and it offers an associate’s and Master’s degree as well.

By obtaining a degree from any one of the best schools for criminal justice listed here, you can increase the likelihood of getting in to the police department. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to the community you are pledged to protect and serve.

Criminal Justice Degree

Many boys dream of becoming either an astronaut or a cop when they were growing up. While becoming an astronaut is very unlikely for most—according to the USAF there have only been 543 people who have been to space—the chances are much better for becoming a police officer. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 780,000 police officers in the US.

Educational Requirements: Do You Need a College Degree to be a Cop?

In 1966, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice recommended that the entire nation should require applicants for police departments to be college graduates. That never happened due to two reasons. One reason is that some people thought it may hurt recruitment. The other reason was that it may hurt recruitment among minorities.

Currently, the vast majority of police departments require only a high school diploma or its equivalent such as a GED. As of 2003, only 9% of all departments in the country require at least a 2-year course. Some, like Chicago and New York, need applicants to either have 60 college credits with a 2.0 G.P.A. from an accredited college or university under their belts, or have served 2 years of full-time active military service with an honorable discharge and a high school diploma or GED.

And only 1% of police departments in the country require a 4-year degree. The Arlington Police Department, for example, has required candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree since 1999. This state of affairs is in stark contrast with the acceptance standards for federal law enforcement agencies, most of which require a bachelor’s degree.

But in reality, candidates should have at least some college credit hours. Most police departments have more applicants than there are open positions, and the competition can be fierce. The Oklahoma City Police Department is an example of this. They want applicants to have at least a high school diploma or GED certificate. But they also explicitly state that they prefer applicants with either a military back ground or 60 or more college credit hours. And even when you do get in with just a high school diploma, many police departments will prefer or even require a college degree for a higher position such as a police detective.

What Degree Do You Need to Become a Police Officer?

What you get your degree in matters a lot. A degree in art history may not be as impressive as getting a more relevant degree. What degree do you need to be a police officer? In most cases, police departments look for law enforcement degrees such as a Criminal Justice Degree.

During the course of your study, you will also be asked to specialize. Your choices here may include Law Enforcement, which for obvious reasons is the most relevant and most preferred by police departments. Other options are Judiciary, Corrections, Forensic Science, Private Security, Homeland Security, and Juvenile Justice.

Schools to Go To: What Is the Best College for Criminal Justice?

One school of thought contends that the overall quality of the schools is crucial. For example, University of Pennsylvania is in the Ivy League, and it offers an undergraduate degree in Criminology. But many experts consider the following as excellent schools to get a Criminal Justice degree:

  1. City University of New York (CUNY) John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The degrees in criminal justice they offer include areas of concentration in Correctional Studies, Criminology, Fire Science, International Criminal Justice, Philosophy, Police Studies, and Criminal Justice Management. The school is extremely highly regarded not just in the country but in the world, which is why it has a lot of students from overseas. It even has faculty members with Pulitzer Prizes.
  2. George Washington University. Many of its faculty members are actively part of the federal justice system, federal law enforcement agencies, or community organizations.  You can get a general criminal justice degree with a particular specialization or you can obtain a forensic sciences degree.
  3. University of California, Irvine. Faculty members here are held in high esteem, as they have held august positions in government and law enforcement organizations. The school permits its students to study two distinct areas of specialization: law and society, and criminology. The school also enables its students to get internship positions in police departments, juvenile centers, law firms, and the public defender’s office.
  4. American University. The faculty here is distinguished as well, but what sets this school apart is that it offers a huge amount of international experience. They offer students the opportunity to study overseas with other university students taking the same kind of courses.
  5. California State University, Long Beach. This highly regarded school emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach towards gaining a better understanding of criminal justice. They teach students to employ scientific and philosophical methods, combined with critical reasoning.

What Can You Do with a Criminal Justice Degree?

The obvious answer here is that you stand a much better chance of being a cop than one who has a degree that is unrelated to law enforcement. But that is not your only option.

  • You can be a correctional officer and work in prisons to help look over convicted criminals. You can also be a parole or probation officer who monitors parolees released from prison to make sure that they comply with their probation requirements.
  • You can be a state trooper who makes sure that federal and state vehicle laws are obeyed. You also work with state and local cops to search and capture wanted (or escaped) criminals, and to help detect indications of criminal activity.
  • You can also work in forensics. You can then help gather physical evidence and analyze them to reconstruct the crime so that the criminal can be identified.
  • You can be a private investigator or work in a private security firm

So what can you do with a degree in criminal justice? You can be a cop, or you can—in one way or another—help cops fight crime.