Top 25 Online Associate in Criminal Justice Programs for 2019

Criminal justice involves theories and practices of public safety, law enforcement, and corrections. Students learn crime scene investigation techniques, court procedures, emergency management practices, and the latest theories of criminal justice. The best online criminal justice associate degree programs lead to exciting and worthwhile careers with terrific job security, increased earning potential, and valuable contributions to public safety.

According to recent reports, unemployment rates in the field are as low as 1%, and projected rises in job openings are as high as 8%. The following guide provides you with the necessary information to choose the right online criminal justice associate degree to jumpstart your career.



Liberty University Lynchburg, VA

Liberty University’s associate of arts in criminal justice, offered through the Helms School of Government, provides a highly flexible option to students interested in the fields of criminal justice and law. The 60-credit program can be completed online, and up to 45 hours may be transferred from another institution. This online associate degree in criminal justice requires a foundation of general education courses, several classes in Christian studies, and major-specific coursework in constitutional government and free enterprise, the judicial process, and criminology. The degree requires roughly one year to complete, and prepares graduates for a number of professional opportunities such as counseling, juvenile justice, policing, and homeland defense. This degree does not qualify students for federal jobs.


Pamlico Community College Grantsboro, NC

Situated in rural Grantsboro, NC, Pamlico Community College offers high-quality distance learning alternatives to students seeking an online associate degree in criminal justice. Delivered via the Moodle online learning platform, students can pursue either a certificate or associate degree, with a focus on criminal justice technology. The associate degree requires 60 hours of coursework, split between general education subjects and classes in victimology, substance abuse, and community relations. The degree provides a path to diverse professions in law enforcement, security, and corrections, as well as to further education. All students with at least a 2.0 GPA (grades of C or better) are guaranteed to have their coursework transferred to a University of North Carolina system college or university.


Concordia University-Wisconsin Mequon, WI

Concordia University-Wisconsin’s associate degree in management of criminal justice is ideal for students wanting to explore criminal justice administration from a Christian perspective. Concordia University’s online associate degree builds a solid foundation for criminal justice management at all levels of government. Students learn about the development and application of the law, and classes also cover the moral and ethical issues they’ll encounter in the field. The 64-credit program can be started at any time, and degree-seekers complete coursework on their own schedule — though Concordia University recommends no more than 15 credits per semester for students working full-time. Credits from other regionally accredited institutions can be transferred, but a C- average in those courses is required.


Ashland University Ashland, OH

Ashland University’s associate’s degree in criminal justice online is designed for working students who want a promotion or better pay at their current job, or who would like new opportunities altogether. All required courses are available online and can be completed asynchronously whenever a student’s schedule allows. Even in-class assignment deadlines are flexible, allowing students to work at their own pace and balance their employment and coursework. Because many students bring a wealth of on-the-job experience, Ashland University accepts academy and in-service training as credit toward the online associate degree in criminal justice. Ashland also may apply transfer credits from other institutions. The school is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.


Colorado Christian University Lakewood, CO

The associate of science in criminal justice program at Colorado Christian University (CCU) is rooted in the Christian values of free will, human nature, and redemption, specifically as they relate to law, security, and criminology. CCU prepares graduates for careers in both the public and private sectors. The 60 credit program is typically completed in two years, and requires 18 credits in the major, 36 credits in general education, and six elective credits. Students can accelerate their coursework to earn their online associate degree in criminal justice in as little as 18 months, with no prior coursework needed. Although this program is offered in-person on CCU’s campus just outside of Denver, CO, coursework can be completed online and on a student’s own schedule.


Keiser University Fort Lauderdale, FL

Students looking for entry-level positions in the criminal justice profession should consider Keiser University’s associate of arts in criminal justice. The program has no prerequisites for major courses, meaning students can immediately begin their studies of criminal law, juvenile justice procedures, and corrections. This 60 credit online associate degree in criminal justice requires 24 credits in major courses, and the remaining 36 credits earned through general education courses. Keiser University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and credits from other accredited institutions are accepted at the discretion of the Dean of Academic Affairs. However, at least 25% of the degree must be completed at Keiser University.


St. Leo University St. Leo, FL

Saint Leo University has a rich history of serving military members — in fact, one-third of its student population are members of the U.S. armed forces community. The associate of arts in criminal justice is a foundational program designed for current and aspiring criminal justice professionals. This online associate degree in criminal justice is rooted in the Catholic faith, and offers general education courses on religion and philosophy, while promoting themes of morality throughout its coursework on laws, investigatory procedures, and criminal justice ethics. The degree requires 60 credits in total, and Saint Leo University holds an articulation agreement with nearly 40 community colleges around the country to facilitate a smoother transfer of credits.


Southern New Hampshire University Hooksett, NH

Southern New Hampshire University’s associate degree in criminal justice prepares graduates to enter the growing criminal justice field. Completing this associate degree in criminal justice online opens doors to entry-level positions in court administration, business security, and victim advocacy. It also builds a foundation for further education by covering theoretical topics like crime causation, ethical policing strategies, the history of public safety, and the policing profession. Classes are completed at a student’s convenience, with online courses offered during six different eight-week terms per year. Southern New Hampshire University also accepts up to 45 transfer credits toward the 60 required for completion of an associate degree.


Park University Parkville, MO

Based in Kansas City, MO, and with programs delivered at 40 additional campuses across the country, Park University offers online coursework in criminal justice. The associate of science in criminal justice administration blends Park University’s traditional liberal arts education with a career-oriented curriculum. In addition to general education courses, students in the program select one of three concentration areas: law enforcement, corrections, or security. The degree requires a minimum of 60 earned credits, with at least a 2.0 GPA in those courses. Students must complete 15 of these credits in residence — at Park University or a satellite campus — in order to earn the associate degree in criminal justice.


Chaminade University of Honolulu Honolulu, HI

Through its Office of Professional and Continuing Education, Chaminade University of Honolulu offers an associate of science in criminology and criminal justice that is completed entirely online. The 60 credit program explores the foundations of the American criminal justice system, the relationship between socioeconomic factors and crime, foundational techniques of investigation, and the laws of evidence. Up to 45 credits can be transferred from another institution or earned through professional experience. A minimum of 15 credits of the online associate degree in criminal justice — and nine hours of the major-specific coursework — must be completed at Chaminade University, and students must maintain a 2.0 GPA.


Clarion University of Pennsylvania Clarion, PA

Clarion University’s associate of science in criminal justice can be completed on-campus in northwestern Pennsylvania, or entirely through Clarion Online. The online associate degree requires a minimum of 60 credits, with 33 credits required in criminal justice studies. Six of those courses — such as psychology of personal growth and sociology of deviant behavior — are electives, giving students significant freedom to design their own learning experience. Credits from other regionally accredited two and four-year institutions (with grades of C or better) are accepted, and prior experience such as military service can also replace some credits. However, students must complete at least 50% of their courses at Clarion University to earn a degree.


Campbell University Buies Creek, NC

Campbell University offers more online degree programs than any other private school in North Carolina. Its associate of arts in criminal justice can be completed through eight-week accelerated terms, giving students the flexibility to tailor their schedule to their professional and personal responsibilities. Campbell University requires students to complete 62 credits of coursework: 36 credits in general education, 21 in the criminal justice concentration, and five via electives. Credit toward the online associate degree in criminal justice can be transferred from a variety of sources, including military service and accredited institutions. However, students must complete at least 15.5 credit hours at Campbell University to graduate. Additionally, students must maintain a 2.0 GPA to earn the degree.


Franklin Pierce University Rindge, NH

Franklin Pierce University’s associate degree in criminal justice is ideal for experienced professionals, as up to 45 credits of the required 60 can be earned through previous law enforcement experience and professional certifications and licenses. Students benefit from small class sizes, and learn from professors who are experts in their fields. In addition to general education courses and foundational criminal justice course requirements, students can further personalize their learning by pursuing an electives, including courses on rehabilitation, white collar crime, and social science research methods. Applicants to the program must have completed high school or earned a GED, but there are no minimum GPA or test score requirements for admission.


Drury University Springfield, MO

At Drury University’s College of Continuing Professional Studies, students can earn an associate of science in criminal justice degree completely online. Courses are completed asynchronously via the Moodle platform, and Drury University provides a number of academic services and resources to support online learners throughout their studies. A total of 62 credits are required, with 26 credits dedicated to understanding the causes of crime, as well as the institutions that both attempt to prevent and respond to crime. A maximum of 31 credits can be transferred from another institution (with a minimum grade of “C” or better) or awarded based on experience.


Thomas University Thomasville, GA

For students residing in Georgia, Thomas University’s associate degree in law enforcement is a terrific local option that still allows for flexibility of online study. Although the online associate degree is not available to students in all states, those who qualify join a program that quickly prepares graduates for careers as police or corrections officers. The degree requires 61 total credits, but up to 40 hours can be earned through prior experience as a law enforcement professional. In this case, students then earn an additional 21 credits through seven required general education courses. To be admitted, prospective students must have a high school diploma or GED, and a minimum GPA of 2.0.


St John’s University New York, NY

St. John’s University’s associate of science in criminal justice is an ideal option for students who work, or hope to work, for the New York City Police Department. The online associate in criminal justice degree requires 60 credits, but graduates of the New York City Police Academy may be awarded up to 24 credits for field training. Students can also transfer credits from other institutions, but a minimum of 30 credits must be earned at St. John’s University. There are no strict admission requirements; rather, admission is based on a holistic mix of factors, such as recommendations and applicant interest and potential. However, students must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA to graduate.


Vance-Granville Community College Henderson, NC

Vance-Granville Community College offers students the chance to continue their learning either in person at their North Carolina campus, or online via the Vanguard Online Learning through Technology (VOLT) platform. The associate in applied science in criminal justice technology is one of five, two-year programs the school offers. The curriculum focuses on topics such as criminal justice systems, juvenile justice, and community relations, but also allows students to explore subjects including counseling and technology. Students will spend 66 credit hours (or roughly two years) earning an online associate degree in criminal justice, preparing them for a broad spectrum of careers as police officers, park rangers, and court clerks. Credits can be transferred but cannot exceed 75% of the hours required for the desired degree.


Stanly Community College Ablemarle, NC

Stanly Community College’s associate in applied science in criminal justice technology is a two-year, online program designed to fit the busy lives of nontraditional students. The degree requires 65 total credits, and includes coursework in criminology, substance abuse, and terrorism. The program takes approximately two years to complete if taken full-time. Although Stanly Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and has partnerships with a number of universities in North Carolina, this online associate degree in criminal justice may not be fully transferrable to other institutions. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED, and must also complete a placement test.


Shorter University Rome, GA

Shorter University is a private liberal arts school in the Georgia Baptist denomination, and its associate of science with a concentration in criminal justice is a flexible online degree designed for students to set their own pace. Coursework is completed in an asynchronous format, with six, eight-week terms to choose from each year — two in the spring, two in the fall, and two in the summer. While students can complete this online associate degree in criminal justice on their own schedule, 60 credits are required to graduate, along with a cumulative GPA of 2.0. In addition to general education and concentration-specific courses, students take two classes that survey the New and Old Testaments.


Mansfield University of Pennsylvania Mansfield, PA

Mansfield University offers an associate of science in criminal justice administration entirely online. Beyond the six courses required by the program, students tailor the degree to their personal and professional goals by selecting from a diverse set of elective courses. Among the coursework in this associate degree in criminal justice online is organized crime, the media, and serial murder. Furthermore, Mansfield University is transfer-friendly institution; they hold a network of transfer agreements with schools across Pennsylvania and New York, and an unofficial transfer evaluation is available to students before they apply. A formal evaluation of transcripts and transferrable credits takes place after a student is admitted.


Ogeechee Technical College Statesboro, GA

Ogeechee Technical College’s associate of applied science in criminal justice technology combines theory and real-world experience to prepare students for a host of jobs in corrections, security, investigation, and police administration (though the degree does not automatically provide certification as a police officer in Georgia). Courses are offered online, in-person, and in a hybrid format—allowing students some face-to-face interaction with the instructor, but maintaining the flexibility of distance learning. Students must take a minimum of 60 credit hours to earn the online associate degree in criminal justice, and the program typically requires five semesters to complete. Admission requirements include a high school diploma or GED, as well as minimum scores on standardized tests (e.g. 890 total score on the SAT).


University of Maine at Fort Kent Fort Kent, ME

The University of Maine at Fort Kent offers several academic programs on its campus near the Canadian border, and the school’s associate of arts in criminal justice degree program can be completed entirely online. With 60 credits required for graduation, this online associate degree in criminal justice takes about two years to complete. Transfer credits may considerably shorten the time needed to complete this degree. Credits earned from regionally accredited schools — and in which the student has maintained a grade of at least a “C-” — are usually accepted by the school. To be admitted, students typically need a minimum 2.0 GPA in high school and earned either a diploma or GED, though some exceptions are made.


Western Wyoming Community College Rock Springs, WY

Western Wyoming Community College (WWCC) offers an associate of arts in criminal justice and an associate of applied sciences in law enforcement to prepare criminal justice professionals. The associate of arts is designed for students who plan to continue their education at another college or university, whereas the associate of applied sciences helps students transition immediately to a workplace environment upon graduation. Both programs require approximately 65 credits in total, and WWCC recommends completing the degrees over the course of four semesters. It is important to note that WWCC’s courses are not self-directed — online students follow the same schedule, have the same deadlines, and must interact with the class at the same pace as in-person students.


Northeast Community College Norfolk, NE

With concentrations available in law enforcement or corrections, Northeast Community College (NCC) offers a fully online associate of arts in criminal justice. The 60 credit liberal arts curriculum features 37 general education credits in fine arts, history, and mathematics. The final 23 credits are fulfilled in the concentration, with courses such as criminal law and criminology, among others. Students who take 15 credits per quarter can expect to complete their degree in approximately two years. Northeast also offers several academic support services to foster classroom success, such as a disability resource center and a tutoring and writer’s clinic. Students may transfer previous coursework with a “C” or better, and courses completed at NCC can easily transfer to other institutions within the state of Nebraska.

How to Choose an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Program

Choosing an online criminal justice associate degree program can be a challenging and personal process. Review the amount of required total credits to ensure the program length fits with your needs. Some schools let you take courses asynchronously and at your own pace, while others assign you to a cohort that completes coursework together. Some programs also apply credits from a previous institution toward your degree. Each of these factors affect the total time you’ll need to complete the degree.

You should also review whether courses are offered 100% online, or if on-campus and hybrid courses are available. Tuition varies from school-to-school, as well, so examine the total costs per course; these are often listed by credit hour. A school’s accreditation is important for employment and for transferring credits toward a bachelor's degree, and your institution should be accredited by a regional or national organization. The curriculum, school policies, and length of program can all help determine whether a school meets your needs, but contact the admissions director at each prospective school for the most up-to-date information.

Educational Paths

While earning your associate degree online in criminal justice, consider it your first step toward a bachelor's degree. A recent report by PayScale compared beginning and mid-career salaries for employees with an associate degree versus those with a bachelor's. Entry-level employees with a bachelor's degree started with a 20% higher salary, and mid-career employees with a bachelor's made 25% more than those with only an associate degree. Potential bachelor's programs build on your associate degree studies, and help you increase your earning potential. Some of these include:

  • Bachelor's in Law Enforcement

    Though similar to many criminal justice degrees, a bachelor's in law enforcement focuses on maintaining public safety, and includes possible specializations in areas such as homeland security, corrections, police administration, or juvenile justice.

  • Bachelor's in Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation

    A bachelor's in forensic science prepares students for careers in crime-scene investigation and laboratory analysis. Advanced studies in fingerprint analysis, cybercrime techniques, firearm trademarks, and criminal tools prepare students to scientifically evaluate evidence left behind at a crime scene.

  • Bachelor's in Cyber Crime

    A bachelor's in cybercrime is an interdisciplinary degree that blends criminal justice with technology. Students learn programing and data architecture systems, and explore topics such as computer fraud, financial crime, and digital intrusion-detection methods.

  • Bachelor's in Criminal Justice

    With a bachelor's in criminal justice, students specialize their studies to prepare for careers in corrections, law enforcement, juvenile justice, or victim advocacy. Many students focus on legal aspects of the criminal justice system and advance to law school.

Careers for Graduates of this Program

With an associate degree in criminal justice online, many graduates find work within the criminal justice system. Whether working in legal aid, a corrections facility, or patrolling neighborhoods, criminal justice graduates play integral roles in maintaining public safety and enforcing the law. The day-to-day experience can be challenging and diverse, but your career will build on the skills you gain in your studies. Below are some of the most common career paths for graduates with a criminal justice associate degree online.

Police Officer

Police officers enforce the law, patrol neighborhoods for threats to safety, and arrest those who violate the law. Police coordinate community events and education programs. Police officers also complete academy training, remain physically healthy, and pass criminal background checks.

Median Salary: $50,728

Police Detective

Police detectives are law enforcement officers who investigate crimes, which may include property damage or physical incidents between people. They gather evidence with specialized teams, and work with attorneys to prosecute crimes. Detectives typically begin their careers as police officers then advance detective training.

Median Salary: $60,983

Probation Officer

Probation officers monitor criminal offenders through various stages of their sentencing. They may work with individuals after they are released from prison, or with non-violent offenders during community service portions of their sentence. Probation officers work with courts and local police forces to monitor behavior and enforce legal rulings.

Median Salary: $40,919


Paralegals offer legal and business related research for lawyers and their firms. They may interview clients, edit technical papers, and review legal documents before papers are filed with the courts. Depending on the organization, the subject of the work may vary, and travel may be required.

Median Salary: $46,386

Correctional Officer

Correctional officers work in prisons or similar detention facilities. They maintain the order and safety of all persons within the building. Other responsibilities include building maintenance and adherence to regulatory procedures.

Median Salary: $36,553

Job Outlook and Salary

The best online criminal justice associate degree programs prepare you for a variety of roles. Depending on the field you enter and the geographic location of your job, however, employment rates and salary vary. For example, employment for police officers and detectives is projected to rise by 4% by 2024, while employment rates for paralegals are projected to rise by 8% over the same time, a much higher increase than other occupations. Paralegals assist with research and filing needs for lawyers in many different industries. As you review the projected employment rates over the next decade, consider how you plan to apply your online criminal justice associate degree once you graduate.

Employment Growth for Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024
279,5000 300,800

Source: BLS


For many careers, compensation grows with more experience, and this is true especially for graduates with an online associate degree in criminal justice. The most dramatic increases are for police officers and probation officers, who earn up to $20,000 more than those without a degree. Below are the most common career paths for graduates.

To determine the best online associate in criminal justice programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online associate in criminal justice programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.