10 Best Online Master’s of Criminal Justice Graduate Schools

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Updated: March 11, 2024, Reading time: 24 minutes

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The criminal justice field embodies hundreds to thousands of professionals employed in the federal, state, and local sectors in any given location.

A Criminal Justice degree is a springboard for police officers seeking higher-level positions. However, completing advanced studies through a Criminal Justice graduate program brings more opportunities beyond local law enforcement.

Most who enter the field of law begin at the basic level, as they should. Eventually, if you would like to improve your chances of other career opportunities, earning a Master’s of Criminal Justice degree may be just what you need to jumpstart your career. With prior experience in law enforcement and the like, adding these impressive credentials to your resume makes you a good candidate for the job!

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Why You Should Choose a Criminal Justice Program

Are you planning to enroll in one of the best graduate schools offering an online Master of Criminal Justice program? You’re right on track! Many students pursuing their graduate studies are working professionals who want to advance while employed in their current field.

criminal justice

Choosing to enroll in one of the best criminal justice graduate programs signifies that you’re determined to become an effective professional in the field of criminal justice.

When you’re enrolled in a criminal justice graduate program, you’re giving yourself the option to add credentials and experience to your CV/resume. The online criminal justice program that best fits your preferences is an excellent opportunity for students requiring flexibility and convenience in their studies. They can accomplish projects, assignments, and courses without leaving the comforts of their home.

Explore the best online Master’s of Criminal Justice graduate schools, obtain a comprehensive overview of the standard curriculum, and learn more about career opportunities in the criminal justice field.

Common Specializations Offered in an Online Master of Criminal Justice Program

The field of criminal justice has a significantly diverse sector. Many graduate schools provide specializations/concentrations for students wanting to strengthen their knowledge in a particular subfield of criminal justice. The specializations described below provide an overview of what students can learn; however, they must consult their preferred school to know what specializations are available.


Corrections prepare students to work directly and effectively with convicts by educating them about the parole systems, probation, and correction facilities. They also explore how prison facilities operate as well as how to achieve goals within the correction systems.


An online criminal justice program with a criminology specialization is ideal for science-minded learners. The specialization orients them to topics, including criminological theories, data analysis, and understanding criminal records. Students pursuing this specialization will also explore the minds of criminals committing unlawful acts.


A concentration in Investigations helps students learn more about managing career criminals and obtain forensic proficiencies for investigating crime records. They also explore investigative techniques, interview methods and interrogation, evidence gathering, and organized crimes.

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice specialization prepares students to find careers within the juvenile justice system. They learn how to address family violence, juvenile rehabilitation, laws, and regulations surrounding minors, and the effects of domestic violence.

Security Management

A specialization in Security Management is ideal for graduates finding career opportunities in governmental, public, and private security facilities. The specialization emphasizes security administration, retail security, network, and information security, threats of terrorism, and homeland security.


Take the next academic step in your Criminal Justice to enter leadership roles in the professional world. Enroll in Online Master’s in Criminal Justice programs that have earned a reputation for academic excellence and superior student services! We’ve rounded up the Best Online Master’s of Criminal Justice Graduate Schools that feature:

Best Online Master’s of Criminal Justice Graduate Schools

Florida International University

criminal justice

Miami, FL

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice

From a single establishment in an abandoned airfield, Florida International University is one of the top 50 public universities advocating innovation and real talent in Miami and worldwide. With an initial enrollment of almost 6,000 students, FIU has grown to be one of the biggest institutions of higher learning in the US, with 58,000+ students and 270,000 alumni.

Standout Features:

Students pursuing advanced studies in the criminal justice field can utilize FIU’s comprehensive Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice program. As part of the standard curriculum, students can accomplish a set of criminal justice electives tailored to their academic and professional aspirations, namely internship, doctoral studies preparation, and college teaching preparation.

FIU also offers various accelerated and joint degree pathways for students wanting to obtain a criminal justice degree in the quickest way possible.

In 2021, Florida International University garnered the highest rating among public universities in Florida. The university has 97 points, making it the highest rating in the history of Performance-Based Funding in Florida.

FIU also has an R1 High Research activity and high social mobility to accelerate and motivate students’ success in a global city by emphasizing justice, innovation, health, and the environment. The university receives consistent recognition from the US News & World Report for its reputable programs as among the best in the country.

Michigan State University

criminal justice

East Lansing, MI

Online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice

As one of the leading research universities worldwide, Michigan State University creates enduring partnerships to resolve the most challenging and relevant global issues. The country’s pioneer land-grant university was established as a bold initiative, helping innovation and science into daily life.

Formally acknowledged by the Higher Learning Commission, Michigan State University is globally recognized as a top research school and a leader in criminal justice studies.

Standout Features:

MSU’s Online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice program is one of the most affordable programs of its kind in the country. Through this program, students learn from expert faculty who have experience working in the US Secret Service, led police departments, and proactively engaged in international and national research.

As an online student for the MA in Criminal Justice program, learners can establish strong connections with their colleagues and instructors. They can also receive comprehensive and high-quality faculty support.

MSU’s School of Criminal Justice has been around for 80+ years serving the student community and general public. The School of Criminal Justice is the country’s first school focused primarily on criminal justice education.

Founded in 1935, it is also considered one of the most renowned and oldest schools of its kind. With an 80+ year legacy of criminal justice studies, the School of Criminal Justice at MSU is ranked by the US News & World Report as one of the best schools offering graduate programs in criminal justice.

Texas A&M International University

criminal justice

Laredo TX

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Texas A&M International University is a member of The Texas A&M University System. The university is home to more than 8,400 students with a learning environment anchored by quality programs created on a concrete academic foundation in the sciences and arts.

It offers a diverse range of master’s and baccalaureate programs across different areas of the discipline. Its programs emphasize developing graduate and undergraduate offerings with an advanced international agenda for global education.

Standout Features:

The TAMIU Master of Science in Criminal Justice online program is one of the country’s most comprehensive criminal justice graduate offerings. With a dynamic core curriculum, students will learn more about the foundations of the criminal justice system, advanced methods of social research, and the relationship between criminal justice and law.

It is one of the few accelerated graduate programs in criminal justice that can be earned within one year.

Texas A&M International University is often recognized by many prestigious publications and organizations, including the US News & World Report, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and LendEDU.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, TAMIU ranks 8th among “Colleges with the Greatest Racial and Ethnic Diversity Among Faculty Members.” Although ranked in the 2nd spot for national rankings, TAMIU is the first in Texas for having the lowest student debt in LendEDU’s Student Loan Debt by School by State report.

Georgia Southern University

criminal justice

Statesboro, GA

Online – Master of Science in Criminal Justice & Criminology

Georgia Southern University is Statesboro’s most comprehensive and biggest center of higher learning. The university is a public R2/Carnegie Doctoral institution with three major campuses with undergraduate and graduate programs.

Undergraduate and graduate programs at Georgia Southern are nationally accredited and integrated with a significant part of real-world initiatives so graduates can easily find rewarding careers. A part of the University System of Georgia, it features 300+ student organizations, state-of-the-art residence halls, Division I athletics, and campus facilities.

Standout Features:

Georgia Southern University’s Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology online program offers three emphases ideal for students seeking professional advancement and careers in the field of criminal justice.

Students work with award-winning faculty and engage in graduate and undergraduate field experiences and research, including internships within criminal justice organizations.

Georgia Southern University serves a community of the largest military facility in the eastern part of the Mississippi River. The university has evolved as a facility of excellence for advocating a veteran and military-friendly campus tradition.

For ten years, Georgia Southern has been a consistent school in the Military Friendly® School listings.

American Public University

criminal justice

Charles Town, WV

Online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice

APU traces its roots to the American Military University founded by retired Marine Corps James P. Etter in 1991, providing career-relevant, online education for military learners with special needs. Over a decade, many graduate and undergraduate programs were added to prepare students for leadership positions for transitioning to post-military professions and within the military.

The American Military University was restructured into the APUS or American Public University System, and the American Public University was established to offer the same high-quality, distance education to a wider audience of working adults.

Standout Features:

American Public University is an inexpensive school for US active-duty, National Guard members, and Reservists interested in pursuing a graduate program in criminal justice.

The majority of the program’s courses utilize Open Educational Resources available at no fee. Students will only pay very minimal book expenses associated with completing the degree. 

Since 2013, American Public University has been recognized as the Best for Vets College by the Military Times to the US Federal government, the global defense community, and the US Military.

In 2018, the American Public University System was designated by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. APUS is a member of the elite group, joining 200+ institutions to receive such distinction.

Boston University

criminal justice

Boston, MA

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice

With faculty members dedicated to a unique, interdisciplinary approach to resolving challenges, Boston University has become one of the leading global research universities worldwide. In 2021, the university alone boosted $502.6M in contract awards and grants.

Today, BU is home to more than 30,000 graduates and undergraduates and 10,000+ total employees working in the university.

Standout Features:

Since 2015, Boston University’s Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice consistently ranks in the Top 4 Best Online Programs in Criminal Justice of the US News & World Report. In 2021, the graduate program is the 2nd place in the said listing.

The Criminal Justice program was BU’s first online program offered in 2002. In distance learning, students can network with a global community of professionals in the criminal justice field.

In 2012, Boston University became part of the Association of American Universities, an elite group of 65 other higher education institutions in the US and Canada. Elite learners from all 50 states and more than 130 countries pursue advanced studies on Boston University’s campuses around Boston and programs in Washington and California.

Arizona State University

criminal justice

Tempe, AZ

Online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice

Arizona State University launched ASU Online with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and available for everyone. The digital learning platform is built with the help of experienced, world-class professors and instructional designers at ASU. With this initiative, the university is ranked #1 in the US as the Most Innovative school for six consecutive years by the US News & World Report.

Standout Features:

Arizona State University’s Master of Arts in Criminal Justice online program is offered through the Watts College of Public Service & Community Solutions. This prestigious institution is dedicated to resolving social issues through service, research, and teaching.

The graduate program in criminal justice is one of the Top 10 schools in the US News & World Report for best criminal justice programs.

The National Science Foundation, an association that monitors higher education development investments and research, has garnered ASU the #1 spot for transdisciplinary science research expenditures.

The university has been consistently recognized as a top university for online graduate and undergraduate programs. In 2021, ASU landed in the Top 10 Best Online Schools for Online Bachelor’s, Online MBA, and Online Engineering programs in the US News & World Report publications.

University of Colorado Denver

criminal justice

Denver, CO

Online Master of Criminal Justice

The University of Colorado Denver makes up one of the campuses of the University of Colorado System. In 1912, the university started as an extension of the University of Colorado Boulder. UC Denver became an independent campus in 1973 and was officially established.

Its headquarters in downtown Denver caters to over 15,000 undergraduates and graduates. The Higher Learning Commission accredits UC Denver.

Standout Features:

In a holistic Online Master of Criminal Justice program, students at the University of Colorado will become skilled professionals and innovative thinkers in the field of criminal justice and criminology by mastering five primary competencies, namely Diversity and Cultural Literacy, Effective Communication, Critical Thinking, Research Skills, and Substantive Knowledge.

In 1994, the University of Colorado Denver collaborated with China Agricultural University to develop the International College Beijing. The partnership was considered the first of its kind in China.

The multicultural exchange of learners and faculty boosted the university’s reputation as an entirely diverse academic community. In 2010, the university claimed its reputation as “CU in the City,” Colorado’s sole public urban research university.

Saint Leo University

criminal justice

Leo, FL

Online Master of Criminal Justice

Established in 1889 by the Order of Saint Benedict of Florida, Saint Leo University seeks balanced development in spirit, body, and mind for all members of the society. It has grown from a peaceful campus in Central Florida to an institution of higher learning known worldwide.

The US News & World Report ranks Saint Leo University as one of the best regional universities in the South. The university serves almost 6,000 men and women of the armed forces, veterans, and their families with a military heritage.

Standout Features:

Students pursuing an Online Master of Criminal Justice degree can complete a suitable program that best fits their commitments and preferences.

Recognized as one of the US’ most military-friendly universities by G.I. Jobs and Military Advanced Education publications, the university has trained criminal justice professionals online for over three decades. As one of the holistic criminal justice graduate programs, the university offers a variety of unique specializations.

Despite being the oldest Catholic university in Florida, Saint Leo University continues to be one of the top institutions of higher learning in Central Florida. The university has a century-long tradition of accepting students regardless of their academic and religious backgrounds.

Since the university’s inception in 2006, Saint Leo has been recognized on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll every year. Its faculty and student communities have a culture of volunteerism and service in the spirit of its core values.

University of Louisville

criminal justice

Louisville, KY

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Headquartered in Kentucky’s biggest metropolitan area, the University of Louisville is a nationally recognized institution of higher learning. The state of Kentucky funds it and currently has three campuses within the Louisville metropolitan area.

Its online learning platform offers more than 50 programs in different areas of discipline designed for non-traditional or adult learners. UofL garners its accreditation status from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Standout Features:

The Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice program has been awarded by the US News & World Report as one of the Best Online Programs for Criminal Justice studies for both Veterans and Traditional Students.

UofL’s Department of Criminal Justice faculty is an active participant in community service, providing several opportunities for networking and internships that boost students’ learning experience.

The University of Louisville is proud to serve veterans and active-duty service personnel both overseas and at home. UofL has received Military-Friendly recognition for ten consecutive years, showcasing a constant dedication to service members and their transition from military professions to student life.

In 2021, the university was awarded by the US News & World Report as the Best Online Program for Veterans.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the standard curriculum of an Online Master of Criminal Justice program?

What is the standard curriculum of an Online Master of Criminal Justice program?

The primary aim of an Online Master of Criminal Justice program is to provide graduates with the proficiencies and expertise necessary for career progression within the criminal justice sector. They can also obtain a comprehensive understanding of the criminal justice system’s organization, theories, and complex issues.

Some of the common subjects in the criminal justice graduate program include policy analysis, policymaking, analysis and design of criminal justice, and crime control, prevention, and connection. Concentrations and elective courses will allow students to accomplish a set of courses in popular subjects, including cybercrime, emergency management, ethics, and victimology.

Professionals can also pursue more advanced studies, such as a Ph.D. in criminal justice; however, the decision will depend significantly on their professional aspirations. Many graduates immediately find career opportunities in the field of criminal justice, seeking career progression in correction facilities, courts, and federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies.

Others also pursue a doctorate in criminal justice, especially those who desire opportunities in scientific research or forensic psychology.

Are there any accreditations required for an Online Master of Criminal Justice program?

Enrolling in an accredited online master of criminal justice program is a crucial step in the academic requirements since many employers desire such credentials when hiring applicants. Although there are no major accrediting agencies within the criminal justice sector, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences authorizes particular programs that pass their requirements or qualifications.

Aside from programmatic accreditations, degree-seekers must consider the institutional accreditation of their preferred graduate school. Institutional accreditations are categorized into two major classifications, namely national and regional.

Regional accreditations often have more rigorous criteria and qualifications for universities and their quality of education. Four-year schools receive regional accreditation status, while trade/technical schools often seek national accreditation. 

What careers are appropriate for Online Master of Criminal Justice program graduates?

Depending on the graduate’s skill sets and aspirations, pursuing an online master of criminal justice degree leads to their chosen career path. Some graduates may want to find a rewarding career in rehabilitative or counseling roles, while others prefer to work as detectives or agents.

Other graduates also have the desire to educate the next generation of professionals in criminal justice. Regardless, graduates with an online master of criminal justice degree have a penchant for working, fact-finding, and research in a diverse range of personalities.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, correctional treatment specialists and probation officers earn a median wage of $59,860 per year.

Correctional Treatment Specialists and Probation Officers

Correctional Treatment Specialists and Probation Officers find work in various correctional facilities, helping inmates through a series of rehabilitation programs. Other responsibilities for correctional counselors include liaising between prisons and inmates to advocate proper services, writing documentation regarding prisoners’ progress, and creating educational and career training programs.

Private Detectives and Investigators

Private Detectives and Investigators investigate federal crimes by gathering pieces of evidence, analyzing data, working with other justice professionals, and conducting a series of interviews. These professionals often create reports about their findings and present them to supervisors.

Forensic Computer Analysts/Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic Computer Analysts educate justice professionals about network safety and confidentiality, eliminate malware and other corrupted files, and ensure the safety of a diverse range of computer networks. These professionals report to management regarding security issues and threats, facilitate training sessions, and conduct annual reviews regarding computer-based pieces of information for forensic investigations.

Criminal Justice Professors

Criminal Justice Professors find work in universities and colleges to educate learners about discipline and other aspects of the criminal justice system. They conduct lectures, counsel graduates regarding career pathways, create assignments, perform research in the criminal justice field, and grade papers.

Is an Online Master of Criminal Justice program reputable enough for my future employers?

Online education/distance learning easily became academics due to several factors, including the pandemic. The good news is that most companies distinguish online Master of Criminal Justice degrees from accredited schools as reputable programs.

When companies see that graduates have completed graduate programs in one of the best graduate schools, students have the impression that they can balance academics with hectic schedules and workloads.

The best online graduate programs in criminal justice allow graduates to continue with their current profession while advancing their studies and showcasing their time management skills.

When you’ve obtained an online Master of Criminal Justice degree, you’re showing proof to your future employers that you’re determined enough to advocate the safety and peace of the public by punishing criminals justly.

The best online graduate program in criminal justice helps graduates obtain their graduate degrees in the field, helping them progress in their careers. These programs will provide graduates with the necessary credentials to take their profession within the criminal justice sector to the next level.

Key Takeaways

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