25 Best Online Criminal Justice Associates Degree Programs [2021 Guide]

Home » 25 Best Online Criminal Justice Associates Degree Programs [2021 Guide]

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If you’re someone who has ever seriously considered a career as a detective, jailer, border agent, or another law-related career, you might want to think about earning your online criminal justice associate degree. Even at the associate’s level, many careers, including ones in law enforcement and forensics, may be open to you.

Online Criminal Justice Associates Degree

Protective services jobs are projected to grow steadily. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private detective and investigator jobs alone are projected to grow by 8% on average. There is a strong demand for people who are well-educated and experienced in all facets of criminal justice.

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The criminal justice field offers a variety of choices when you are deciding on what to do with your online criminal justice degree. Once you graduate, you may find jobs in the state, federal, or private sectors.

Online Associates in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Click on the degree field that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

Whether you want to work as a police officer or correctional officer or in private security, online associates degrees in criminal justice and related fields can help prepare you for entry-level positions in this field.

Criminal Justice

police officers collecting evidences on a crime scene

An associate’s in criminal justice degree can help prepare you for a career as a law enforcement officer, homicide detective, forensic science technician, security guard, corrections officer, parole officer, or criminal investigator, just to name a few options. If these jobs are of interest to you, a criminal justice degree might be a perfect fit.

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At the associate’s level, students take many general core educational classes as well as criminal justice classes. Common courses are Intro to Criminal Justice, Crime in America, Corrections, Ethics in Criminal Justice, and Psychology.

Although this may look like a comprehensive list, these are only examples of some of the many classes you might be required to take for this degree. The main goal for most criminal justice programs is to educate you in all aspects of crime, criminal justice, and the law.

Homeland Security

customs officer training his dog

A degree in homeland security is a type of criminal justice degree, but it’s a little more specialized than a general degree. This specialization in criminal justice is a good major for people who want to work for the U.S. government at the local, state, or federal levels, although some graduates do go on to work for nonprofits or private companies.

This degree program can help you learn not only how to react to large-scale problems, such as security threats, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters, but also how to minimize the damage these types of events can cause in the event they can’t be avoided or stopped entirely.

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Once you’ve completed your associate’s degree in homeland security, you can pursue a job as a security officer, border patrol agent, police officer, or correction officer. Other potential options include transportation security officer, transportation inspector, customs agent, immigration service agent, or checkpoint security guard.

Criminal Justice Curriculum & Courses

Criminal Justice Curriculum & Courses

We’ve already mentioned some of the courses you may be required to take in pursuit of your online criminal justice associate’s degree. Now we want to tell you a little more about what those courses may entail. The following is a sampling of some of the courses you may be required to take in your criminal justice associate degree program:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice: This is a basic overview of the field of criminal justice and everything you might experience in it.
  • Criminal Procedure and Process: This course goes in-depth into what the actual criminal investigation process looks like step-by-step, from discovering a crime to prosecuting the criminal.
  • Crime in America: This class covers crime statistics in America and how they’ve changed and evolved over the years.
  • Introduction to Homeland Security: This is another broad overview course, this time in the field of homeland security. It covers what homeland security is and why it’s important.
  • Ethics in Criminal Justice: This course discusses a law enforcer’s responsibilities and how not to overstep bounds.
  • Introduction to Corrections: This course discusses jails, prisons, and other rehabilitation systems in America.
  • Introduction to Terrorism: This is an introduction to studies on domestic and global terrorism, the history of it in America, and how to plan for it in the future.
  • Foundations of Psychology: Psychology plays a huge role in predicting and understanding criminal behavior. It’s often an essential class for criminal justice majors.
  • Computer Networks and Security: Just as everything else has moved online, so has crime. This class talks about cyber security, identity theft, and other computer-related crimes.
  • Constitutional Law: This course discusses the specifics of the U.S. Constitution and the responsibilities of law enforcers in upholding it during criminal investigations.

Criminal Justice Concentrations & Specialties

Criminal Justice Concentrations and Specialties

There are several different specialties to choose from in the field of criminal justice. We’ve listed five of the most popular here:

  • Criminal Justice: Most general, non-specialized criminal justice degree programs are designed to give students a wide overview of the criminal justice field that touches on all the different specialties. People hoping to become familiar with all aspects of criminal justice, including law enforcement and corrections, may gain a lot of insight from this degree.
  • Law Enforcement: Law enforcement and criminal justice go hand-in-hand. A law enforcement degree program may be a good choice if you specifically want to become some type of law enforcement officer, such as a cop, homicide detective, corrections officer, or probation officer.
  • Crime Scene Investigation: If you’ve ever watched an episode of any of the seemingly endless versions of CSI on television, you likely have an idea of what crime scene investigation is. This degree may be perfect for incredibly detail-oriented people who love examining, searching for, cataloging, and discovering the relevance of evidence found at crime scenes.
  • Homeland Security: If you’re interested in criminology on a larger, more global scale, homeland security may be perfect for you. Homeland security degree programs cover how to prevent and react to large-scale disasters, such as terrorist attacks, widespread pandemics, natural disasters, and domestic and global threats to America’s security.
  • Corrections: Getting a specialized criminal justice degree in corrections may make sense if you’re interested in dealing with criminals after they’ve committed their crimes and been convicted. This specialization focuses on the incarceration and potential rehabilitation of criminals in the event they’re eventually allowed back into the “real world.”

Despite your chosen specialization, you’ll probably take many of the same courses related to criminal justice.

Criminal Justice Careers & Salaries

Criminal Justice Careers & Salaries

There are many potential career opportunities for you to pursue if you earn your associate’s degree in criminal justice or one of its related, specialized fields. Job prospects may improve even more if you continue on to your bachelor’s degree or higher.

Getting an associates degree in criminal justice often marks the beginning of a sustainable career for many people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are some careers in the criminal justice field along with their average annual salaries:

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Detectives and Criminal Investigators $86,940
Transit and Railroad Police $72,580
Police or Sheriff’s Patrol Officers $65,540
Fire Inspectors $62,120
Fish and Game Wardens $58,040
Private Detectives and Investigators $53,320
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $52,920

Some employers may require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree for some of these positions.

You can continue on with your education and pursue a bachelor’s or master’s in criminal justice online, which should make you eligible to pursue higher-paying security jobs that require more education than an associate degree.

Accreditation

Criminal Justice Associates Degree Accreditation

Whichever program you ultimately choose, it is important to check its accreditation. Accreditation helps to ensure that the credits you earn actually have worth.

There are three types of accreditation—regional, national, and programmatic. Regional accreditation is typically considered the best, most all-encompassing type of accreditation. If you earn a degree from a regionally accredited school, your credits are more likely to transfer to other schools in the U.S., and employers are more likely to respect your degree.

There are six different agencies that provide schools with regional accreditation. They are:

National accreditation gives accreditation to schools but only within a specific region, and credits earned at a nationally accredited school can usually only be transferred to other nationally accredited schools. Programmatic accreditation doesn’t accredit schools. Instead, it accredits specific programs, such as computer programming or business.

Criminal Justice Professional Organizations

police detectives in a meeting

After earning your degree in criminal justice or a closely related field, you could potentially be eligible for membership in a number of criminal justice professional organizations. Some possibilities include the following:

  • Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences: Founded in 1963, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) provides many scholarly and professional criminal justice-related activities to both students and teachers.
  • American Correctional Association: Founded in 1870 under a different name, the ACA is the oldest association for professionals in the correctional field. It seeks to improve America’s justice system.
  • National Criminal Justice Association: This association operates out of D.C. and works with state, local, and tribal governments to control and prevent crime.
  • National Association of Police Organizations: NAPO is a group of police officers, associations, and unions from all over the U.S. It seeks to advance American law enforcement through education, political action, and legislative advocacy.
  • National Association of Legal Assistants: This is a non-profit group that seeks to educate and develop paralegals and other legal assistants. It has over 18,000 members.
  • American Probation and Parole Association: This is a joint effort between the U.S. and Canada. It works on improving parole, probation, and community-based corrections facilities for youth and adult offenders.

Depending on your particular specialization, you might consider joining one of these after earning your degree.

Financial Aid

Financial Aid for criminal justice degree students

At the associate’s level, you’ll have potential access to many different financial aid opportunities. The two most students apply for first are scholarships and grants, particularly the Federal Pell Grant awarded by the government.

To apply for the Pell Grant, you can fill out the FAFSA. If you fall within a certain income bracket and have no outstanding debts or defaults on loans from the government, you should be eligible for the Pell Grant, which doesn’t have to be repaid if used correctly.

After completing the FAFSA, you’ll also be notified of any federal loans for which you’re eligible. The loans from the government usually have the best interest rates and repayment options, but they still ultimately have to be repaid, so it is important to make sure you only borrow as much as you need.

Scholarships are also awesome forms of financial aid because, like grants, they don’t usually have to be repaid as long as you don’t misuse them.

The first place to look for scholarships is on the website for your college or university, usually under the financial aid tab. Local organizations in your community and state may also have scholarships for which you can apply.

criminal justice degree student looking for scholarships online

Finally, there are dedicated scholarship sites online, such as Fastweb. You may even find many good scholarships with just a simple Google search. It is important to watch out for scholarships that claim to “guarantee” you’ll get them, though. Also, if a scholarship application asks you to pay a fee or provide any sensitive information, it’s very likely a scam.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice Online?

If you’re a full-time student taking classes both fall and spring semesters, don’t have to take any remedial classes, and don’t have to retake classes, it will likely take you about two years.

This time can be lengthened or shortened depending on how you take classes. If you take classes in the summer or take accelerated courses, you might finish faster. If you only take one or two classes a semester, it might take you longer. Students usually need to earn about 60 credit hours to get an associate degree.

What Is an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice?

police officer showing video footage of accident to a detective

There are two types of associate degrees for criminal justice: the Associate of Science (AS) in Computer Justice and the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Criminal Justice.

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The AS is typically a transferable degree that can help you pursue higher levels of education.

The AAS is more like a certificate program designed to teach you about the field of criminal justice and help you pursue work in the field. It alone won’t give you what you need to continue on to higher degree levels.

How Much Is an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice?

Tuition and fees vary depending on the college you go to, whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student, and other factors. On average, though, an associate’s in criminal justice usually costs between $9,000 and $16,000 at a public, in-state college.

How Much Does a Police Officer Make with an Associate’s Degree?

Police officers with associate’s degrees get paid very differently depending on the city and state in which they work. The annual average salary for police officers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. is about $65,540.

Is an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice Worth It?

The simple answer is yes, it is worth it for many professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, protective service occupations are set to grow at 3% over the next 10 years, as fast as the average for all occupations.

If you are looking to advance your education and career, earning an associates degree may be a valuable decision.

What makes an associates degree in criminal justice worth it for many is the number of new career opportunities that it can help open up. This degree can help prepare you for careers in the protective service sector. Common careers in this field include police officers, probation officers, corrections officers, security officers, and paralegals.

What Is an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice Salary?

police officer with his dog during training

After you’ve received your associate’s degree in criminal justice, your salary can vary widely. It will depend somewhat on the state in which you’re working. What you intend to do with your degree once you have it will be a large factor in how much you make.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salaries for criminal justice degree holders start as low as $31,080 for security guards and can potentially reach as high as $92,080 for those that work as detectives for the federal government. Generally, though, with an associate’s degree, jobs in the criminal justice field pay between $40,000 to $50,000 a year (Center on Education and the Workforce).

What Jobs Can I Get with an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice?

Depending on your particular criminal justice specialization, there are several different criminal justice-related jobs you could potentially get with this degree. You might work in law enforcement as a police officer, corrections officer, jailer, or detective.

You could also potentially work on the forensics side of things as a crime scene investigator or forensic science technician. If your specialization is in homeland security, even more jobs may be open to you, including border patrol agent, customs agent, and emergency response specialist.

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There are also plenty of jobs in security that this degree may qualify you for.

Universities Offering Online Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Amarillo College

Amarillo College

Offering a variety of associate degrees in arts, science, and applied science, Amarillo College is a public community college that enrolls more than 10,000 students annually.

Serving students over six campuses and through its distance learning platform, AC students have access to various education majors, minors, and vocational certificate programs.

  • AAS in Criminal Justice
  • AS in Criminal Justice

Amarillo College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Bismarck State College

Bismarck State College

Bismarck State College opened in 1939 to provide workforce education to the local community. Throughout the years, Bismarck State College has grown into a leading center for higher academics that offers associate and bachelor’s degrees in various fields. Technical certifications are also available for students who need career advancement.

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Bismarck State College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Bucks County Community College

Bucks County Community College

Established in 1964, Bucks County Community College sets the standard for public higher education. Many students seeking associate degrees or career certificates turn to Bucks County Community College to get high-quality educational services. Many programs offered at BCCC can be completed through virtual learning or on-campus classes.

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Bucks County Community College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Campbell University

Campbell University

Founded in 1887, Campbell University helps students in and around North Carolina obtain higher education. This private college has an array of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in many academic fields.

Each program blends Christian philosophies with a rigorous core curriculum. Criminal Justice, Education, and Business are some of the programs offered at CU.

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Campbell University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Columbia College

Columbia College

Initially opened as a women’s college, Columbia College began in 1854. Today, Columbia College serves thousands of men and women who are seeking undergraduate and graduate degrees. Offering a plethora of academic majors based on a religious foundation, CC has dynamic educational programs that are designed with the goal to help everyone succeed.

  • AS in Criminal Justice Administration

Columbia College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Excelsior College

Excelsior College

Opened in 1971, Excelsior College is a leader in alternative education. Letting learners study at their own pace through distance learning opportunities, EC strives to bring higher education to anyone needing professional advancement.

With over 40 programs to choose from, Excelsior College offers a multitude of undergraduate and graduate degree options.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

Excelsior College is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Fisher College

Fisher College

Fisher College, located in Boston, MA, was established in 1903. Today, the school serves students throughout the state using satellite campuses and distance learning platforms.

This private school allows individuals to work towards associate, undergraduate, and master’s degrees. Popular programs at Fisher College include Health Care, Education, and Criminal Justice.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

Fisher College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Florida Tech

Florida Tech

Offering a variety of research-based job training opportunities, Florida Tech allows students to work closely with global leaders in their fields of study while working to earn their undergraduate or graduate degrees.  Students at Florida Tech have access to a dynamic private education at an affordable tuition rate.

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Florida Tech is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Hutchinson Community College

Hutchinson Community College

Opened to the public in 1928, Hutchinson Community College now serves more than 13,000 credit and non-credit students annually. HCC offers over seventy academic majors that allow students to work towards an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science. Many students go on to transfer their associate degree from HCC to a bachelor’s program.

Most programs at HCC can be accessed online and in person.

  • AA in Criminal Justice Administration

Hutchinson Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University

Founded in 1920, Indiana Wesleyan University provides students worldwide opportunities to achieve professional and educational advancement.

IWU offers over 100 academic options that lead to undergraduate or graduate degrees. Academic counselors are available to assist students during their trek. Popular programs at IWU include Criminal Justice, Healthcare, and Education.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

Indiana Wesleyan University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Keiser University

Keiser University

Located near the beautiful Florida shores, Kaiser University first began in 1977. Since its beginning, this private educational facility has worked to surpass the boundaries of traditional instruction and has expanded across the globe.

KU offers an array of program options that lead to associate, undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees that can be accessed through virtual and classroom settings

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Keiser University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Lanier Technical College

Lanier Technical College

Opened as a public school in 1964, Lanier Technical College works to prepare students for career advancement.

Through multiple campuses throughout the state of Georgia and their distance learning platform, Lanier Technical College awards associate degrees and technical certificates in a variety of academic fields. Nursing, Criminal Justice, and Business are just a few of the popular programs at LTC.

  • Associate’s in Criminal Justice

Lanier Technical College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Liberty University

Liberty University

Opened in 1771, Liberty University is one of the most long-standing private schools in the US. Liberty University is a Christian academic facility that accepts students of all denominations. With hundreds of academic majors and minors, Liberty University strives to help students attain undergraduate and graduate degrees at all levels of education. Liberty’s alumni come from nations worldwide.

  • Associate’s in Criminal Justice

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Montgomery County Community College

Montgomery County Community College

Opened in 1964, Montgomery County Community College is part of the public school system in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. Students at MCCC can attain vocational certifications and associate degrees in art, science, and applied science.

Many programs offered at MCCC are accessible through its distance learning platform. Some of the program options at MCCC include Business, Education, and Criminal Justice.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

Montgomery County Community College is fully accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Northeast Community College

Northeast Community College

Northeast Community College opened its doors in the 1920s and has expanded vastly throughout the years. As a public school option for individuals seeking associate degrees or vocational training, NCC strives to provide the best options for today’s industry standards.

Students around the nation turn to Northeast Community College for online and traditional campus opportunities.

  • AA in Criminal Justice – Corrections
  • AA in Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement

Northeast Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Ocean County College

Ocean County College

Ocean County College has had a history of providing effective learning options for students of all ages since its beginning in 1964.

OCC serves the community by providing an array of public education options, including vocational training and associate degree programs. They encourage all students to become involved in community service projects. OCC also has a variety of programs for kids.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

OCC is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Odessa College

Odessa College

Odessa College has been providing public education since 1946. Today, they offer a variety of bachelor’s degree programs associated with the top competitive work industries. They also deliver high-quality vocational and technical certification and training.

Through virtual classes, hybrid courses, and traditional learning options, Odessa College works to meet all learners’ needs.

  • AAS in Criminal Justice Leadership

Odessa College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Peirce College

Peirce College

Founded in 1965, Peirce College provides pathways to associate, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees in a multitude of academic majors. This private learning facility provides online courses designed to allow students to gain their degrees quicker and more flexibly.

Some of the many programs offered at PC include Business, Technology, and Criminal Justice.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

Peirce College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is a Catholic private school that began in 1889. They offer a variety of majors and minors that can lead to undergraduate and graduate degrees. They encourages all students to become involved in community service programs while attending.

SLU strives to help students become critical thinkers in today’s society.

  • AA in Criminal Justice

Saint Leo University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Shoreline Community College

Shoreline Community College

In 1964, Shoreline Community College began providing a means to public education to community members. Over the years, the school has expanded its program options to include more than 100 majors and minors to better meet today’s students’ needs.

An array of associate degrees and technical certifications can be obtained at Shoreline Community College.

  • AA in Criminal Justice
  • AAAS in Criminal Justice

Shoreline Community College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University

Since its beginnings in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University has become well known throughout the world. They have hundreds of academic majors to choose from and provide hands-on learning for innovative thinkers and confident faculty members to assist with individual needs.

Students at SNHU can earn associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees either online or in-person.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, Inc.

St. Petersburg College

St. Petersburg College

St. Petersburg College has been giving students a public educational option since 1927. Students from around the world turn to St. Petersburg College to attain associate or bachelor’s degrees in many different subject areas. With face-to-face classes and virtual learning platforms, SPC allows for flexibility and adaptability in most programs offered.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

St. Petersburg College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Surry Community College

Surry Community College

Located in the heart of NC’s Piedmont, Surry Community College is a public technical school that has been serving the community since 1964. They strive to provide quality academic services to give students a way to earn associate degrees and vocational certifications. Popular programs include Nursing, Automotive Technology, and Criminal Justice.

  • AAS in Criminal Justice Technology

Surry Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges.

Thomas Edison State University

Thomas Edison State University

Thomas Edison State University has been changing the way that public education is offered since 1962. Believing that students learn better from doing, TESU allows qualifying work experience and military training to be turned into credits towards one of their many undergraduate or graduate degrees.

Many students at TESU earn credits with self-study options and comprehensive exams.

  • AAS in Criminal Justice

Thomas Edison State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Trident Technical College

Trident Technical College

Opened in 1973 as a public community college, Trident Technical College helps students obtain associate degrees or workforce development. Students acquiring associate degrees at TTC can often transfer their credits into bachelor’s degree programs. Popular programs at TTC include Criminal Justice, Healthcare, and Education.

  • AAS in Criminal Justice

Trident Technical College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your Associates Degree in Criminal Justice Online

police interrogating a suspect

If you have an interest in the criminal justice system, corrections, or homeland security but don’t want to invest a lot of time and money into a bachelor’s degree, an online associate degree program for criminal justice may be the happy medium you’ve been searching for.

With an associate’s degree in criminal justice, you may pursue many different criminal justice careers, some of which are often very lucrative. With an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice, you may also go back to school later for a higher-level degree if you choose to do so.

Applying to college doesn’t have to mean committing to four years of commuting anymore. Today, you can find the right associate’s degree program for you without having to leave your house and potentially earn the degree the same way. Why wait? You can research online criminal justice associate’s degree programs to enroll in today.

Ready to start your journey?
Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.