Top 5 Best Online Doctor of Criminal Justice Degrees

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Updated: March 17, 2024, Reading time: 14 minutes

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One of the most difficult and fulfilling professions, criminal justice is committed to maintaining public safety and a just society. However, reaching the top levels of the career ladder might be challenging, especially if you have not earned any advanced degrees.

As a result, criminal justice professionals who want to land upper-level positions earn doctorates on top of their experience levels.

The majority of doctoral students are working professionals in the industry. Mid-career workers who have too much invested in their careers to take time off for school are wise to pursue an online degree.

Due to the flexibility of the online format, students can take classes around their own schedules and complete their assignments, research, and dissertation writing whenever it suits them.

Quick audio summary:


Criminal justice is a multidisciplinary field that draws on sociology, psychology, and the law. A criminal justice doctorate opens up a wide range of upper-level career opportunities in public safety and law enforcement.

Online doctorates have a similar curriculum to on-campus degrees; only online degrees are more flexible than on-campus ones. The most recent research and theory, as well as the analytical and problem-solving skills to apply that knowledge to practical situations, are all taught in online doctoral programs for working professionals.


Few people achieve the degree of skill that a doctorate confers, putting those experts in high demand and earning respect and salary that go along with it. To this end, it is crucial to find the most fitting Doctor of Criminal Justice program offered online that emphasizes, above and among other things, high quality of education!

Here are the standout features that make each of the Online Doctor of Criminal Justice programs stand out:

Read our Methodology and learn how we compile and rank the online doctorate programs.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

The 5 Best Online Doctor of Criminal Justice Programs

Walden University

Walden University
Online Ph.D. in Criminal Justice

Walden University offers an online Ph.D. in Criminal Justice. Students in the doctoral program are required to complete 77 credit hours, including doctoral writing assessment, foundation courses, core courses, research courses, doctoral dissertations, and residencies that can be completed in 8 years.

Busy working professionals who are not confident that they can finish the required coursework in 8 years can petition for an extension. Since most doctorate students are working professionals, the degree is conducted entirely online, except for four Ph.D. residencies.

Applicants must hold a master’s degree in criminal justice or other related disciplines from regionally accredited institutions. Upon admission, students can transfer up to 38 credits of graduate coursework.

Walden’s Ph.D. in criminal justice program is taught by seasoned doctoral-level instructors with real-world experience that help students understand the criminal justice theory, practice, and national and international issues in the administration of the criminal justice system.

This online criminal justice degree allows students to combine professional experience with academic study to develop practical solutions to challenges in the real world.

Liberty University

Liberty University - Online
Online Ph.D. in Criminal Justice

Liberty University offers an online Ph.D. in Criminal Justice degree program. This online Ph.D. requires students to complete 60 credit hours in an average of 3 years, including core courses, research and program evaluation, advanced focus courses, elective courses, and dissertation courses.

To help students further tailor their degree program toward their professional goals, Liberty University’s online Ph.D. in criminal justice offers three specializations: General, Homeland Security, and Leadership.

Applicants must hold a master’s degree in criminal justice with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale from regionally accredited institutions or its equivalent for international students.

The online Ph.D. in criminal justice at Liberty University will prepare students for various upper-level careers in criminal justice organizations by equipping them with in-depth knowledge on various important topics, including comparative criminal justice systems, advanced corrections policies, juvenile justice practices, and crime causation.

To obtain knowledge of the worldwide effects of organized crime, doctoral students will also study terrorism and international crime.

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University
Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice: Education

Saint Leo University offers an online Doctorate in Criminal Justice: Education. Students must complete 60 hours of coursework to acquire the necessary knowledge in theoretical ideas, intervention modalities, social order challenges, and public policy that impacts criminal justice fields and graduate in 3-4 years of full-time study.

This fully online program is designed for busy criminal justice professionals who desire to graduate with a flexible terminal degree and work in education, homeland security, criminal justice, and other senior positions and have a maximum impact on the field.

Applicants must hold a master’s degree in criminal justice or other closely related fields with an average GPA of 3.0 from an institution with regional accreditation. Applicants who don’t meet the GPA requirement should submit a minimum of 500 on GMAT scores.

Online criminal justice Ph.D. students are encouraged to attend annual on-campus networking opportunities. Regardless of the specialization students take, Saint Leo University will provide a wealth of professional development opportunities, industry expertise from knowledgeable professors, and community support. Students will be prepared for their professional goals.

National University

Online Doctor of Criminal Justice

National University offers an online Doctor of Criminal Justice. Unlike most online programs, this doctorate program has no residency, GRE/GMAT, or group project requirements, making it perfect for those already in criminal justice practice.

Aside from being one of the most flexible online criminal justice degrees, this online Ph.D. degree encourages students to customize their degree by choosing one of the three specializations: Homeland Security, Organizational Leadership, Policing/Law Enforcement, or Public Administration. 

Applicants are required to hold a master’s degree from regionally accredited universities.

National University created a social area for their online students called The Commons to help students feel less alone. This hub creates a fun space for students from different academic fields to communicate, meet, exchange ideas, and support one another as they progress through their academic careers.

The university also provides a special one-to-one learning methodology that gives students the direction, focus, and assistance they need to succeed.

Florida International University

Florida International University
Online Ph.D. in International Crime and Justice

Florida International University offers an online Ph.D. in International Crime and Justice. Students must complete a minimum of 75 credits of graduate coursework beyond a bachelor’s degree, including a comprehensive exam and dissertation based on the student’s original research.

With its cutting-edge focus, this online Ph.D. prepares students for academic careers and professional life in public and private criminal justice organizations. It encourages criminology and criminal justice research from a comparative and international viewpoint, in contrast to typical criminal justice degrees.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s and master’s degree from an accredited institution with a 3.2 GPA or higher for all master’s degree coursework.

This online Ph.D. in criminal justice degree strongly encourages students to speak with their professors on-campus for networking reasons to create opportunities for collaborative publishing. Students are advised to get to know their faculty personally to learn more about their research interests and to ask them to serve on committees for comprehensive exams and dissertations.

Additionally, the school enriches students’ knowledge through various workshops and lecturers.

Common Courses of Doctor of Doctor of Criminal Justice

Quantitative Research Methods

These research courses teach students a different approach to doctoral research, from conceptualization to design and data collection procedures, to utilize in their graduate studies and jobs. 

Advanced Seminar in Criminal Justice

This graduate course explores the most important contemporary themes in the criminal justice field. It investigates how criminal justice policies, theory, research, and professional practice interact with the criminal justice system. Additionally, students get familiar with current academic material, which influences their future curriculum.

Race and Ethnicity in Crime and Criminal Justice

This course discusses the racial implications of criminal legislation passed by the people’s elected officials and the practices and stances of law enforcement organizations, courts, prisons, juvenile detention facilities, and the death sentence. This raises awareness of the issues with the criminal justice system, its history and evolution, and potential remedies.

Criminal Law

This course studies common law, current statute versions, and substantive criminal law. This course covers various issues, including domestic violence, homicide, rape, and other crimes. It also covers all the elements of culpability necessary for criminal responsibility and exculpatory doctrines and defenses. This course also covers the death penalty and other issues with imposing criminal penalties and the justifications for and propriety of specific punishments.

Common Criminal Justice Careers for Doctoral Graduates

Postsecondary Teacher

Many doctoral degree holders in this area have invested significant academic effort to pursue careers in academia. These careers usually include a vital research component, guaranteeing the continuation of a field study by educators. During their tenure, they are frequently in charge of publishing work and coaching the upcoming generation of criminal justice specialists.

Police Chief

Police chiefs ground their team and monitor the requirements of their neighborhood. They can make complex decisions based on the information at hand because of their experience with some of the most challenging emergencies. One can pursue this professional path with a doctoral degree in criminal justice, but significant work experience is also necessary.

FBI Agent

High-level criminal justice professionals conducting federal criminal investigations are the target audience for this career path. One of the responsibilities of this career path is interviewing potential witnesses and people of interest in crimes. They must also have expertise in crime analysis and the detention of individuals before court proceedings.

Forensic Scientist

You can prepare for a job in this sector by enrolling in one of the several Ph.D. programs in criminal justice. Forensic scientists assist in criminal investigations by gathering and examining evidence from crime scenes. Those with a doctorate in criminal justice can work as consultants in criminology or criminal law, even though most forensic scientists focus on natural or forensic science.

Private or Criminal Investigator

Graduates in criminal justice Ph.D. programs may pursue employment as private or criminal investigators. These criminal justice practitioners seek information on delicate legal, financial, and personal matters. They carry out homicide investigations, aid in the search for the missing, and check references.

Professional Associations in Criminal Justice

Future criminal justice leaders need companionship and resources. Joining professional associations in criminal justice will boost your network and help you gain more knowledge and schools beyond your doctoral studies. You’ll be able to keep abreast of market trends and technological developments.

General Association:

Court Systems


Law Enforcement

Loss Prevention

Skills for Criminal Justice Students


As a criminal justice professional, you’ll need to use discernment daily to make decisions and move forward with the best goals and results. Making the appropriate choice is essential for resolving disputes, protecting yourself, and preventing an emergency from developing. The choices you make between cases are always a matter of life and death.


Your relationship with everyone around you will be harmed if you have no integrity to set aside personal bias or opinions. Even worse, one professional’s lack of integrity might contribute to the development of negative stereotypes and stigmatization of the criminal justice system. To be respected by society, criminal justice professionals must always act with integrity.


Empathy must offer answers, options, and resources based on the conviction that individuals can change, improve their circumstances, and overcome problems. Regardless of your role, your ability to separate the person from the crime can help you better fulfill your duty as a criminal justice professional.


Government rules and legislation are deeply ingrained in the criminal justice system. Regrettably, working with government organizations can involve a lot of waiting and paperwork. Criminal justice may be the best job choice for you if you have the self-control to maintain your composure while waiting patiently and working within occasionally slow procedures.

However, if you work quickly and have high standards for punctuality and efficiency, you might be happy in the private sector, where you have more control over the processes.

Online Doctor of Criminal Justice - fact

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the average Doctorate in Criminal Justice cost?

An online criminal justice doctorate typically costs between $550 and $1,100 per credit. Tuition costs for students should range from $22,000 to $66,000. However, these numbers are expected to increase or decrease depending on several factors. 

State residency is a crucial factor to consider because many schools and institutions charge more for out-of-state students. Some institutions, however, provide a set tuition fee for online learners regardless of the state of residence. Another essential cost is technology expenses, which frequently only apply to students who attend classes online rather than in person.

Is the Criminal Justice field rewarding?

Criminal justice careers offer incredible opportunities and experiences that cannot be obtained in any other line of work. Along with some of the best training out there, you’ll have the chance to grow your career.

What’s the difference between Criminal Justice and Criminology?

Since both criminal justice and criminology have job paths that occasionally cross, they may appear to be similar. A detective, for instance, may practice both criminology and criminal justice.

However, there are a few areas in which criminology and criminal justice differ from one another:

What’s the usual timeline for completing a Criminal Justice Doctorate online?

A doctor of criminal justice usually requires 40 to 60 credits, which can be finished in two to five years of full-time study. Some schools, such as Walden University, allow students to complete the degree in 8 years or longer. 

What are the standard admission requirements for an online Doctor of Criminal Justice?

Most online doctorate programs in criminal justice need master’s degrees and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 for applicants. 

Key Takeaways

Criminal justice is the study and practice of criminology. Students in online Ph.D. programs in criminal justice learn about the inner workings of the legal and law enforcement systems, from their inception to their present-day structures and roles.

Criminal justice professionals are vital to the safety of our communities. They protect vulnerable individuals from violent crimes and seek justice for victims.

Doctor of Criminal Justice graduates have lots of career opportunities. These graduates may work in classrooms to educate the next generation of professionals, become law enforcement officers and rule criminal offenders, or make vital discoveries in labs that reveal important crime details.

Additional Information:

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