Discover More Programs

An online master’s degree in criminology prepares students for various career paths involving the study of crime. Based on 2021 data, investigative careers such as police and detective work typically pay around $66,020 annually. Social workers and college professors’ average annual salaries are about $50,390 and $79,640, respectively.In 2020-2021, master’s degree programs averaged $12,394 for tuition and required fees in public schools. For private colleges, the average was $26,621. Most online programs to earn your master’s in criminology require the completion of 30-36 credit hours, which can take full-time students between one and two years to complete.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Criminology Program

Choose your area of study

Successful criminologists often decide to choose concentrations that leverage their strengths. For instance, specializing in a leadership field can support upward mobility, while concentrations in cybercrime or global security can set students up for careers in government.

Master’s degrees in criminology come in many forms and offer a variety of choices. For example, all of the following degree programs fall under the criminology umbrella:

  • Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Master of Science in Crime Analysis
  • Master of Science in Justice, Law, and Criminology
  • Master of Science in Forensic Investigation

Research schools and programs

Online master’s degree programs should be just as rigorous as on-campus programs, and both should meet the standards of quality set by higher education accrediting agencies. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) are agencies that ensure colleges provide adequate resources to students and staff.

In addition, consider the availability of faculty to online students and how educational support is offered for those not physically on campus. Other questions to ask include:

  • Are mentoring or tutoring services available to online students?
  • Are there any student-faculty research opportunities for online students?
  • Is there a career services office or support center available?

Prepare for tests and applications

Most online programs for a master’s degree in criminology will require a bachelor’s degree in a related field and at least a 3.0-grade point average. You will likely be asked to submit undergraduate transcripts and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

Colleges often ask for letters of recommendation from professors who can speak to your scholarship. You may also be asked to write a letter of intent about why you are an ideal student for the chosen college. In addition, a professional resume or curriculum vitae (CV) is always an important document to have prepared ahead of time.

Select your program

After you’ve weighed all the academic considerations, you should consider more personal ones, such as:

  • Affordability
  • Friendliness of staff and students
  • Sense of community
  • Opportunities for scholarships
  • Faculty-to-student ratio

Aligning your personal and academic preferences will help you select a program that best fits you.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

The best place to start is with your school’s financial aid department. Advisors can share information about potential grants, scholarships, payment plans, and tuition assistance. If you are financing your education, you may want to begin with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Also, consider any indirect costs that aren’t necessarily academic, such as childcare, technology upgrades, Internet fees, and time away from work if you are employed.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Criminology Programs

Best Online Master's in Criminology Degree Programs

UCI School of Social Ecology

Florida State University

Boston University

Florida International University

Regis University

University of Central Florida

California State University at Long Beach

Saint Joseph's University

Pennsylvania Western University

Michigan State University

Missouri State University

Colorado State University Global

Arizona State University

San Jose State University

Indiana State University

Concordia University at St. Paul

East Tennessee State University

UMass Lowell

Kent State University

Loyola University New Orleans

Sam Houston State University

University of West Florida

Lamar University

Western Kentucky University

Saint Louis University

Northeastern University

West Liberty University

Slippery Rock University

Southern New Hampshire University

Texas A&M University at Commerce

TCU AddRan College of Liberal Arts

University of Nebraska Omaha

University of Cincinnati

University of Colorado Denver

University of Oklahoma

USC Bovard College

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Discover More Options

How We Rank Schools

We focused our research for this list on master’s degrees in criminology and criminal justice. The list comprises Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS) degrees in this field. Both degrees offer advanced training in this field, with slightly different theoretical approaches.

We also looked for top-quality online programs to ensure flexibility and accessibility for working professionals and those who cannot attend on-campus classes.

All of the schools are regionally accredited institutions, meaning they meet the highest quality standards in postsecondary education. Degrees and credits from regionally accredited institutions are more widely accepted by other schools and employers.

We evaluated each program based on cost, course offerings, outcomes, flexibility, faculty, and reputation. We then calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Criminology Program?

Criminology is a broad field encompassing sociology, psychology, victimology, statistics, data analysis, surveillance, and computer science. In your online master’s program, you’ll develop investigative and analytical skills to prepare you for work on crime scenes, interviews, and laboratories.

Some typical areas of study include:

  • How crimes impact victims and families
  • How crimes impact economics and societies
  • How to prevent crime using data
  • The location of commonly committed crimes
  • Ways the government can respond to crime
  • Using data to determine causes of illegal behavior

On average, online programs for a master’s degree in criminology require the completion of 30 credit hours, but some may require up to 36 credit hours. Usually, about 15 of these credit hours are core classes everyone must take, but the remainder is typically electives. Most programs can be completed in one to two years, depending on your full-time or part-time status.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online program to earn your master’s degree in criminology

  • Advanced Theoretical Criminology. Students will learn about the historical development of criminological theories. They will examine explanations for criminal behavior, drawing from biology, psychology, and sociology.
  • Victimology. Students identify trends and patterns in victimization while examining the victim’s role in the crime. They will assess those at the greatest risk and analyze the handling of victims by the criminal justice system. The victim’s rights movement is also explored.
  • Applied Research Methods. Students examine scientific and empirical perspectives in criminology. Students research and evaluate the data to draw conclusions and interpret the outcomes. This course focuses on research problems and design.
  • Terrorism. Political violence and its characteristics are examined in this course to give the student an in-depth understanding of the origins and trends of terrorism. Students will address problems in response to terrorism and analyze terrorist organizations in detail.
  • White Collar Crime. Crimes committed by corporations are examined from sociological and legal perspectives. Students learn how such crimes are socially defined, how they begin, and how society responds to them.

Online Master’s in Criminology Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online program for a master’s degree in criminology?

First, visit the school’s website to learn about its programs and application requirements.

Next, contact an admissions counselor who can guide you through the application process. Generally speaking, online master’s degree programs tend to be more flexible than in-person programs concerning application deadlines and class start dates. However, you’ll still want to take note of any cutoff dates or time limits for submitting documents.

Finally, prepare all of the documents you will need, including:

  • Standardized test scores, such as the GRE
  • Personal statement or letter of intent
  • Resume or CV
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts

How much does an online master’s degree in criminology cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average graduate tuition cost is about $26,621 per year at private schools and about $12,394 per year at public universities. In-state students often pay less in tuition than out-of-state students. Online students may have to pay additional fees, such as technology fees, so it’s a good idea to list any other costs you may need to include in your financing.

Typically, an online degree in criminology costs between $9,000 and $25,000 in tuition, with per-credit costs ranging from $300 to $700.

How long does it take to earn a master’s degree in criminology online?

The short answer is one to two years. However, several factors can influence the time a student will take to finish an online master’s degree. Full-time and part-time students can expect to complete 30-36 credit hours needed to earn a master’s degree. Part-time students may have courses spread out over a longer period than full-time students. Colleges also offer accelerated or dual-degree pathways, which can affect how long it may take to complete the program.

Compare School Options

Related Degrees