Why This Matters

  • CHOOSE FROM A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT CAREER PATHS

    Criminal justice is a versatile degree, preparing you for jobs in law enforcement, government, cybersecurity, education, and more. A master’s degree will also qualify you for management positions.

  • DEMAND FOR FORENSIC TECHS UP 11% BY 2031

    One of the fastest growing areas of criminal justice is the use of forensics in crime scene investigations. Specializing in forensics can prepare you for one of 2,000 new jobs expected in this field.

  • EARN $30,000+ MORE ANNUALLY WITH A DEGREE

    The median annual salary for police officers and detectives, who typically have degrees, is $66,020. Security guards, who usually only need a high school diploma, earn $35,450 per year.

Our Research

This list features some of the best online master’s in criminal justice programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for online students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online master’s in criminal justice programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The Top 41 Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Programs

Best Master's in Criminal Justice Programs 2023
01
Intelligent Pick
Boston University
01
Best Research Institution
Sam Houston State University
01
Best Faculty
UMass Lowell
01
Best in the Southwest
Arizona State University
01
Best Public Institution
Michigan State University
01
Best Dual-Track Option
University of Central Florida
01
Best in the Midwest
University of Cincinnati
01
Best for Adult Learners
OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies
01
Best Alumni Job Placement
Bowling Green State University
01
Best Private Research Institution
University of New Haven
01

University of Louisville
01

University of San Diego
01

CU Denver School of Public Affairs
01

Florida International University
01

East Carolina University
01

Georgia State University
01

University of Alabama at Birmingham
01

DeSales University
01

University of Houston at Downtown
01

University of North Texas
01

Saint Joseph's University
01

Colorado State University Global
01

Texas A&M University at Central Texas
01

New Mexico State University
01

Wayne State University
01

Marshall University
01

Liberty University
01

Johnson & Wales University
01

University of Southern California
01

Nova Southeastern University
01

Lamar University
01

Webster University
01

Saint Leo University
01

Northeastern University
01

John Jay College of Criminal Justice
01

Rowan University Global Learning and Partnerships
01

Southern New Hampshire University
01

Purdue University Global
01

Lewis University
01

University of West Florida
01

Concordia University at St. Paul

What You Should Know About This Degree

Law enforcement jobs such as a police officer, correctional officer, or crime scene investigator are physically demanding, mentally stressful, and often dangerous. Individuals working in criminal justice need a blend of aptitudes and qualities, including physical stamina, perceptiveness, communication and critical thinking skills, and the ability to remain calm in high-stress situations.

Because of the demanding nature of these jobs, specialized training programs beyond formal education are often required. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) requires 12 weeks of training for agents and 21 weeks of training for intelligence analysts. Even if you have a master’s degree, be prepared for additional training before entering the workforce.

Certain jobs within the criminal justice field are expected to experience a decline in employment over the next few years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of correctional officers will drop 10% by 2031, as changes in laws and state budgets impact the number of prisoners in the U.S. and the length of their sentences. Be sure to research your area of interest within criminal justice to understand your job prospects post-graduation.

You should also find out if a master’s degree is required for the job you seek. In some areas of criminal justice, a bachelor’s degree and on-the-job training are sufficient for employment and promotions.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Master’s in Criminal Justice programs:

  • Am I eligible for this degree? Depending on the master’s program, you may need a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field. If you do not have this specific educational background, some programs may let you complete prerequisite coursework in order to enroll.
  • Does this program have the specialization that I want? As the field of criminal justice is so diverse, many programs offer concentrations to help you master skills for particular jobs. Specializations include crime analysis, cybercrime investigation and cybersecurity, fraud management, and more. If you are considering a concentration, make sure you select a program that offers that area of focus.

During your research process, you should also be sure to investigate the school’s admissions process and requirements. You can typically find this information on the school’s website, or you can contact their admissions department. Also consider your financing options for graduate school, including financial aid, scholarships, assistantships, and tuition remission or reimbursement from your employer.