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An online master’s degree in criminology prepares students for various career paths involving the study of crime. Police and detectives earn an average annual salary of $69,160, while social workers make $55,350.

The average cost of graduate school tuition is $12,596 at public schools and $28,017 at private schools. Most online programs to earn a master’s in criminology require the completion of 30-36 credit hours, which can take full-time students 1-2 years to complete.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Criminology Program

Choose your area of study

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

Also, many programs allow you to select a concentration and focus your studies on a particular niche in this field, such as cybercrime or global security. If you already know what you would like to do after you graduate, look for programs that closely match these career goals.

Research schools and programs

You should only apply to institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Ideally, your master’s in criminology program will also be accredited by a respected industry group like the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). This programmatic accrediting organization has particularly high standards for criminology education.

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?

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Application requirements vary by school and program. 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 personal statement 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.

Before submitting an application, always contact an admissions counselor to ensure you have the most accurate information regarding requirements and deadlines.

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.

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Are you only interested in 100% online programs, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a few in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

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, and payment plans. If you are financing your education, you should begin with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Those who already work in the field should see if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits as well.

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

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How We Rank Schools

We focused our research for this list on master’s degrees in criminology and criminal justice. The list includes both Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS) degrees. 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 listed 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
  • 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 are typically electives. Most programs can be completed in one to two years, depending on whether you attend full-time or part-time.

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, researching and evaluating 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.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Criminology?

Career outlook

A master’s degree in criminology equips you with valuable skills and knowledge that are highly relevant to various careers in the criminal justice field. Criminologists work in both the public and private sectors and may be employed by government agencies, corrections facilities, nonprofit organizations, and more.

Here are some common career paths for an individual with a master’s in criminology:

  • Police officer or detective — Conduct patrols, respond to emergency calls, and investigate crimes.
    • Median annual salary: $69,160
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New job openings projected: 64,500 annually
  • Probation officer or correctional treatment specialist — Assist criminal offenders through the rehabilitation process while they are on probation or parole.
    • Median annual salary: $59,860
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New job openings projected: 7,400 annually
  • Social worker — Help individuals and families deal with problems in their everyday lives, such as health, financial, and legal issues.
    • Median annual salary: $55,350
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 7%
    • New job openings projected: 63,800 annually

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 $28,017 per year at private schools and about $12,596 per year at public universities. 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.

Typically, an online degree in criminology costs between $9,000 and $25,000 in total 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 will both need to complete 30-36 credit hours to earn a master’s in criminology. Part-time students may have these courses spread out over a longer period than full-time students. Some colleges also offer accelerated or dual-degree pathways, which can affect how long it may take to complete the program.

Is an online master’s in criminology worth it?

The value of an online master’s degree in criminology depends on individual goals, circumstances, and career aspirations. It’s essential to conduct thorough research, weigh the pros and cons, and consider your long-term career goals before making a decision. However, it can be an attractive option for individuals pursuing careers in criminal justice, law enforcement, research, or related fields.

Online master’s programs in criminology provide flexibility in terms of scheduling and location, allowing students to access materials, lectures, and assignments from anywhere with an internet connection. Online programs can be a good choice for learners who need to balance their studies with other personal or professional commitments. They also provide opportunities for networking and mentorship.

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