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Online Degrees in Law and Criminal Justice

Law and criminal justice professions have been glamorized by television series covering everything from forensic psychology and crimes scene investigations (think NCIS and CSI) to courtroom dramas like Suits. What you don't see on TV is the work put in by the characters to obtain their criminal justice and law enforcement degrees.

With a population of over 327,000,000 people, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, you can imagine the number of personnel needed to keep the citizens of the country safe. With growing law enforcement budgets, agencies are very likely to see an increasing demand for qualified candidates.

Today's criminals are often tech geniuses and therefore professionals in this field must be willing to adapt to changing technology to stay one-step ahead. Big data systems, drones, automated license plate scanners, GPS systems and gunshot technologies are just some of the high-tech sophistication being used to help officers on the street combat crime.

It's not just the police systems that need to continuously expand their tech capabilities. Traditional law firms are seeing big changes in the way they operate. A 2017 article in the International Journal of Economics and Management Sciences states that globalization can lead law firms to adopt and provide services in multiple countries along with using social media to promote their services. Virtual law offices can mean that more lawyers may be able to freelance and work from home.

Those who are good communicators, detail-oriented and interested in different aspects of the law, including psychology, can be good candidates for a career in law and criminal justice, according to the College Board.Online degree programs allow high school graduates, working professionals and those with family commitments to maintain their busy lifestyles while earning the credentials needed to qualify for a variety of jobs in these fields.

Lawyers
Job DescriptionLawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes.
Mean Annual Salary: $142K
Typical Degree Required: Doctoral or professional degree
Law Teachers, Postsecondary
Job DescriptionPostsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.
Mean Annual Salary: $130K
Typical Degree Required: Doctoral or professional degree
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates
Job DescriptionJudges and hearing officers apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts. They also conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions.
Mean Annual Salary: $121K
Typical Degree Required: Doctoral or professional degree
Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators, and Hearing Officers
Job DescriptionJudges and hearing officers apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts. They also conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions.
Mean Annual Salary: $98K
Typical Degree Required: Doctoral or professional degree
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary
Job DescriptionPostsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.
Mean Annual Salary: $69K
Typical Degree Required: Doctoral or professional degree

Nearly all criminal justice and legal careers require some level of formal education, from certificate programs for court reporters to graduate and doctoral degrees that may be held by federal officers, judges and criminologists. Whether you are interested in law and criminal justice, forensics or protection and security, take a look below at the variety of online degree programs available to you.

Be sure to click on the buttons under each section to find data-driven insights that can help you as you consider the variety of online degree programs in law and criminal justice.

Explore our list of top online college choices, crafted using factors that prospective online students should consider to maximize their distance education experience.

Online Law and Criminal Justice Programs

Graduates of criminal justice degree programs may find jobs in police and court-related occupations, administrative positions in law and in the field of criminal justice as probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the continuing need for safety by citizens is likely to lead to new openings for police officers.

Explore your options in online criminal justice and law enforcement degree programs by clicking on the buttons below. This can help you compare the different degree programs by coursework, salaries, jobs you may qualify for and the career outlook.

Online Protection and Security Programs

Public safety is of paramount importance especially in today's often chaotic world. Occupations that contribute to the protection and security of citizens may involve apprehending criminals or responding to local, state or national emergencies, while others may offer support services. According to the BLS, the demand for protective and security occupations is expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations in the decade leading up to 2026.

By clicking on the buttons you can gain insights on the typical coursework by degree level, the kind of jobs you might be able to qualify for, typical wages related to each degree program. 

Online Forensics Programs

The BLS predicts that forensic technologists may be able to add more value to the investigation of crimes due to advances in technology and the increasing reliability of forensic evidence. It also predicts that the employment of forensic technicians may increase by 17 percent over the decade leading up to 2026, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

Click on the buttons below to explore these online degree programs in forensic sciences. Find information related to salaries you might be able to expect, top occupations related to each degree program, and coursework you may encounter.

With the large number of criminal justice and law degree programs available online, it can be difficult to choose one that best caters to your needs. In order to help you choose, we've ranked colleges based on criteria like the ratio of undergraduate students participating in distance education to total enrollment, in-state tuition, financial aid, credit for life experience and more. Have a detailed look at our methodology at the bottom of the page to be assured that these are the best online colleges for you to consider.

Top Colleges for Online Associate Degrees in Law and Criminal Justice

Associate degrees require a minimum of two years to complete and can help you find entry-level roles in the legal system.

1
Fayetteville Technical Community College(Fayetteville, NC)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$2,432
No. of online programs
28
% of students in distance education
69%
Avg. amount of Aid
$4,442
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
N/A
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
2
Albany Technical College(Albany, GA)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$2,136
No. of online programs
27
% of students in distance education
67%
Avg. amount of Aid
$5,351
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
N/A
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
3
Kaplan University-Davenport Campus(Davenport, IA)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$13,356
No. of online programs
114
% of students in distance education
100%
Avg. amount of Aid
$3,772
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
39%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
4
Fox Valley Technical College(Appleton, WI)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$3,966
No. of online programs
15
% of students in distance education
25%
Avg. amount of Aid
$3,786
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
N/A
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
5
Davidson County Community College(Thomasville, NC)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$2,094
No. of online programs
15
% of students in distance education
52%
Avg. amount of Aid
$5,002
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
N/A
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
6
Drury University(Springfield, MO)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$25,850
No. of online programs
15
% of students in distance education
41%
Avg. amount of Aid
$9,986
Admissions Rate
66%
Graduation Rate
55%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
7
Southern Arkansas University Tech(Camden, AR)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$3,240
No. of online programs
11
% of students in distance education
47%
Avg. amount of Aid
$4,714
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
N/A
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
8
Arizona Western College(Yuma, AZ)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$1,968
No. of online programs
2
% of students in distance education
52%
Avg. amount of Aid
$4,004
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
N/A
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
9
Forsyth Technical Community College(Winston-Salem, NC)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$1,920
No. of online programs
22
% of students in distance education
47%
Avg. amount of Aid
$2,824
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
N/A
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
10
Roane State Community College(Harriman, TN)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$3,840
No. of online programs
5
% of students in distance education
46%
Avg. amount of Aid
$3,961
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
N/A
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
Top Colleges for Online Bachelor's Degrees in Law and Criminal Justice

Bachelor's degree programs typically take full-time students four years to complete. Degree programs with a law and justice major may allow you to choose a specialization based on your interests.

1
Eastern Kentucky University(Richmond, KY)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$8,996
No. of online programs
45
% of students in distance education
42%
Avg. amount of Aid
$6,779
Admissions Rate
87%
Graduation Rate
44%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
2
Indiana Institute of Technology(Fort Wayne, IN)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$25,940
No. of online programs
22
% of students in distance education
68%
Avg. amount of Aid
$7,837
Admissions Rate
76%
Graduation Rate
34%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
3
Saint Leo University(Saint Leo, FL)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$21,600
No. of online programs
62
% of students in distance education
74%
Avg. amount of Aid
$6,500
Admissions Rate
58%
Graduation Rate
48%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
4
Waldorf University(Forest City, IA)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$20,544
No. of online programs
37
% of students in distance education
78%
Avg. amount of Aid
$10,541
Admissions Rate
72%
Graduation Rate
29%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
N/A
5
Kaplan University-Davenport Campus(Davenport, IA)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$13,356
No. of online programs
114
% of students in distance education
100%
Avg. amount of Aid
$3,772
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
39%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
6
SUNY College of Technology at Canton(Canton, NY)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$6,670
No. of online programs
13
% of students in distance education
59%
Avg. amount of Aid
$7,768
Admissions Rate
79%
Graduation Rate
36%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
7
Washburn University(Topeka, KS)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$7,868
No. of online programs
27
% of students in distance education
33%
Avg. amount of Aid
$6,737
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
39%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
8
Anderson University(Anderson, SC)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$24,290
No. of online programs
18
% of students in distance education
42%
Avg. amount of Aid
$16,123
Admissions Rate
79%
Graduation Rate
57%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
9
Union Institute & University(Cincinnati, OH)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$12,720
No. of online programs
24
% of students in distance education
100%
Avg. amount of Aid
$13,034
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
N/A
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
10
University of Florida(Gainesville, FL)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$4,477
No. of online programs
50
% of students in distance education
58%
Avg. amount of Aid
$6,517
Admissions Rate
42%
Graduation Rate
88%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
Top Colleges for Online Master's Degrees in Law and Criminal Justice

Master's degree programs in criminal justice may take you about two years to complete while a professional law degree can take three years. Over 35 percent of law agency CEOs have earned a master's degree making it an important degree to hold if you want to climb the career ladder.

1
Saint Leo University(Saint Leo, FL)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$21,600
No. of online programs
62
% of students in distance education
74%
Avg. amount of Aid
$6,500
Admissions Rate
58%
Graduation Rate
48%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
2
Sam Houston State University(Huntsville, TX)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$5,472
No. of online programs
37
% of students in distance education
50%
Avg. amount of Aid
$7,494
Admissions Rate
74%
Graduation Rate
51%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
3
Kaplan University-Davenport Campus(Davenport, IA)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$13,356
No. of online programs
114
% of students in distance education
100%
Avg. amount of Aid
$3,772
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
39%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
4
Bellevue University(Bellevue, NE)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$7,152
No. of online programs
70
% of students in distance education
88%
Avg. amount of Aid
$3,557
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
17%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
N/A
5
Wilmington University(New Castle, DE)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$10,890
No. of online programs
46
% of students in distance education
62%
Avg. amount of Aid
$2,552
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
26%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
6
Liberty University(Lynchburg, VA)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$15,734
No. of online programs
127
% of students in distance education
90%
Avg. amount of Aid
$6,937
Admissions Rate
30%
Graduation Rate
47%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
7
Fairmont State University(Fairmont, WV)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$5,216
No. of online programs
3
% of students in distance education
67%
Avg. amount of Aid
$6,398
Admissions Rate
71%
Graduation Rate
37%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
8
Angelo State University(San Angelo, TX)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$4,061
No. of online programs
28
% of students in distance education
37%
Avg. amount of Aid
$6,271
Admissions Rate
74%
Graduation Rate
37%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
9
National University(La Jolla, CA)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$13,032
No. of online programs
120
% of students in distance education
77%
Avg. amount of Aid
$4,083
Admissions Rate
N/A
Graduation Rate
42%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes
10
University of the Cumberlands(Williamsburg, KY)
Additional Info
Average in-state tuition
$22,640
No. of online programs
51
% of students in distance education
81%
Avg. amount of Aid
$16,275
Admissions Rate
74%
Graduation Rate
41%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
N/A
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The BLS reports that the employment of law and criminal justice occupations is expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations from 2016 to 2026 with a strong demand for paralegals and legal assistants as law firms attempt to increase their efficiency. What are the highest-paying jobs in law enforcement? Take a look at the table below using data from the BLS to describe the top occupations with the average wages and projected employment growth for each.

Occupations In-Demand for Law Criminal Justice
Job Openings (2016-26)
Average Salary (2016)
Typical Entry Level Education
Lawyers41,900$141,890Doctoral or professional degree
Paralegals and Legal Assistants34,700$53,910Associate's degree
Loan Officers30,500$77,920Bachelor's degree
Compliance Officers25,900$71,540Bachelor's degree
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists8,300$56,630Bachelor's degree
Legislators4,400$46,350Bachelor's degree
Forensic Science Technicians2,200$61,220Bachelor's degree
Law Teachers, Postsecondary1,900$129,840Doctoral or professional degree
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary1,600$68,980Doctoral or professional degree
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates1,400$121,050Doctoral or professional degree
Source: 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2016-26 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com
Methodology and Sources
Methodology and Sources

Methodology

To be included in our rankings for the top colleges for online degrees in law and criminal justice by degree level all colleges had to meet the following 4 requirements:

  • Offer a degree or certificate program in that subject, either in an online or hybrid format
  • Have at least 1% of students attending some form of distance education
  • Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2015-16
  • Have reported data for all 19 ranking variables for associate/bachelor’s and 11 ranking variables for master’s (listed below)

We then ranked colleges and universities in the United States that fit our criteria, using 2016-17 data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the weights specified. The final totals were:

  • 259 colleges for online associate degree in law and criminal justice
  • 232 colleges for online bachelor’s degree in law and criminal justice
  • 125 colleges for online master’s degree in law and criminal justice

We then scored the final list of colleges by degree level on a 100-point scale using these specific data points:

Associate/Bachelor’s

  1. Associate’s/Bachelor’s Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded via distance education in 2016-2017 were in this particular subject
  2. Ratio of undergraduate students participating fully or partially in Distance Education to Total Enrollment
  3. Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
  4. Retention rate
  5. Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
  6. Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students
  7. Student-to-faculty ratio
  8. Variety of Programs, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered via distance education at any level
  9. Total electronic library collections, including digital books, databases, and media
  10. The availability of any tuition plans (Payment, Guaranteed, Prepaid, Other)
  11. Services (Academic/Career Counseling, Placement for Completers)
  12. Credit offerings (Dual, Life, AP, Military)

Master’s

    1. Master’s Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded via distance education in 2016-2017 were in this particular subject
    2. Ratio of graduate students participating fully or partially in Distance Education to Total Enrollment
    3. Average in-state tuition for graduates
    4. Credit offerings (Life, Military)
    5. Services (Academic/Career Counseling, Placement for Completers)
    6. The availability of any tuition plans (Payment, Prepaid, Other)
    7. Total electronic library collections, including digital books, databases, and media

Methodology Sources

        • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

Sources

      • Forensic Science Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm, accessed October 2017
      • Full-Time Employees in Law Enforcement Agencies, 1997-2016, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, August 2018, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ftelea9716.pdf
      • Policing around the Nation: Education, Philosophy, and Practice, 2017, https://www.policefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/PF-Report-Policing-Around-the-Nation_10-2017_Final.pdf
      • How Much Do U.S. Cities Spend Every Year On Policing?, Forbes, August 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2017/08/07/how-much-do-u-s-cities-spend-every-year-on-policing-infographic/#b528e34e7b7d
      • Justice and Law Majors: The Basics, BigFuture, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/explore-careers/college-majors/justice-and-law-majors-the-basics, accessed October 2018
      • Lawyers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/lawyers.htm, accessed October 2017
      • Legal Occupations, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, April
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