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

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

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

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 can find jobs in the state, federal or private sectors.

Best 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, 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 or parole officer or criminal investigator, just to name a few. If these jobs are of interest to you, a criminal justice degree could be a perfect fit.

At the associate’s level, you’ll be required to take many general core educational classes as well as criminal justice courses such as 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 some of the many classes you might be required to take with this degree plan. The main goal 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 degree is geared more towards 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.

In this degree program, you’ll be taught to not only react to large-scale problems, such as security threats, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. You’ll be trained on how to minimize the damage these types of events can cause in the event they can’t be avoided or stopped entirely.

Once you’ve completed your degree in homeland security, at the associate’s level, your potential job options could include security officer, border patrol agent, transportation security officer, transportation inspector, customs agent, immigration service agent, police or correctional officer, checkpoint security guard and more.

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 entail.

  • 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: In this course, you’ll go in-depth into what the actual criminal investigations process looks like step-by-step, from discovering a crime to prosecuting the criminal.
  • Crime in America: In this class, you’ll learn all about 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 – what it is, why it’s important, etc.
  • Ethics in Criminal Justice: This course teaches you about your responsibilities as an upholder of the law and how not to overstep your bounds.
  • Introduction to Corrections: In this course, you’ll learn about jails, prisons and other rehabilitation systems of America.
  • Introduction to Terrorism: This introduces you to domestic and global terrorism, the history of it in American 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 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: In this course, you’ll learn about the specifics of the U.S. Constitution and your responsibilities in upholding it during a criminal investigation.

Criminal Justice Concentrations & Specialties

Criminal Justice Concentrations and Specialties

There are several different specialties from which you can choose in the criminal justice field. We’ve listed five of the most popular.

  • Criminal Justice: With a general, non-specialized criminal justice degree, you’ll get 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, corrections and more could gain a lot of insight from this degree.
  • Law Enforcement: Law enforcement and criminal justice go hand-in-hand. Law enforcement, though, would be a good choice if you specifically wanted to become some type of law enforcement officer, such as a cop, homicide detective, corrections or probation officer or more.
  • Crime Scene Investigation: If you’ve ever watched an episode of any of the seemingly-endless versions of “CSI” on television, you have an idea what type of specialization crime scene investigation is. This degree is 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 could be perfect for you. Homeland security studies and tries to prevent such large-scale disasters 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 could make sense if you’re interested in dealing with criminals after they’ve committed their crimes and been convicted. Corrections 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 take many of the same criminal justice-related courses.

Criminal Justice Careers & Salaries

Criminal Justice Careers & Salaries

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

Getting your associates degree in criminal justice can mark the beginning of a sustainable career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some careers in the criminal justice field along with their salaries. Keep in mind, some employers may require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree for some of these positions.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Detectives and Criminal Investigators $83,170
Police Officers $65,170
Sheriff’s Patrol Officers $63,150
Fire Inspectors $60,230
Fish and Game Wardens $57,500
Paralegals $51,740
Private Detectives $50,510

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


Criminal Justice Associates Degree Accreditation

If you remember only one thing from reading this, remember this: Accreditation is key. Whatever program you ultimately choose, check its accreditation. Accreditation is what gives the credits you earn actual worth.

There are three types of accreditation – regional, national and programmatic. However, regional accreditation is the best, most all-encompassing type. If you earn a degree from a regionally-accredited school, your credits should transfer to any other school in the U.S. and, perhaps more importantly, any employer should 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 only be transferred to other nationally-accredited schools. Programmatic accreditation doesn’t accredit schools. Instead, it accredits specific programs, such as computer programming, business, etc.

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 with one of the criminal justice professional organizations. These 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 helps 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 the parole, probation and community-based corrections facilities for both 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 have potential access to many different financial aid opportunities. The two you should apply for first are scholarships and grants, particularly the federal Pell Grant awarded by the government.

To apply for the Pell Grant, you 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 application, 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 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 can even find many good scholarships with a Google search. However, watch out for scholarships that claim to “guarantee” you’ll get them. Also, if a scholarships application asks you to pay a fee or provide any sensitive information, it’s very likely a scam. Be vigilant.

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 should take you about two years.

However, this time can be lengthened or shortened depending on how you take classes. If you take classes in summer or take accelerated courses, you could finish faster. If you only take one or two classes a semester, it might take you longer. You need to earn about 60 credit hours for an associate’s.

What Is an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice?

police officer showing video footage of accident to a detective

There are two types of associate’s degrees for criminal justice – the Associate of Science (AS) in Computer Justice or the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Criminal Justice.

The AS is a transferable degree that can allow you to go on to higher levels of education. The AAS is more like a certificate program that teaches you about the field of criminal justice and can allow you to work in the field. It doesn’t, however, give you what you need to continue on to higher degree levels.

How Much Is an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice?

Different colleges will have different rates for tuition, fees, etc.

However, an associate’s in criminal justice will usually cost you 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.

However, the annual average salary for police officers in the U.S. is about $63,380.

Is an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice Worth It?

The simple answer is yes. Anytime you are looking to advance your education and career, an associates degree is a valuable decision.

What makes an associates degree in criminal justice worth it is the number of new career opportunities that open up. This degree can prepare you for careers as a police officer, probation officer, corrections officer, security officer, or paralegal.

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. However, even more importantly, your salary will depend on what you intend to do with your degree once you have it.

As you can see from our chart above, the average yearly salary for criminal justice degree holders starts as low as $28,000 for security guards and reaches as high as the $85,000 range if you become a homicide detective. Generally, though, with an associate’s degree, jobs in the criminal justice field pay between $45,000 to $65,000 a year.

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 could work in law enforcement as a police officer, corrections officer, jailer, detective or something else.

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 open to you, including border patrol agent, customs agent, emergency response specialist and more.

There are also plenty of jobs in security for which you could be qualified with this degree.

Universities Offering Online Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Each of the universities included below are regionally accredited and offer associate’s degree in criminal justice online.

#1  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.

#2  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.

#3  Bucks County Community College

Bucks County Community College

Established in 1964, Bucks County Community College sets the standard for public higher education. Students seeking an associate degree for 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.

#4  Campbell University

Campbell University

Founded in 1887, Campbell University serves students in and around North Carolina to assist in obtaining higher education. This private college has an array of undergraduate and graduate degrees in many academic fields.

Each program has a blend of Christian philosophes 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.

#5  Columbia College

Columbia College

Initially opening as a women’s college, Columbia College began in 1854. Today, Columbia College serves thousands of men and women who are seeking an undergraduate or graduate degree. Offering a plethora of academic majors based on a religious foundation, CC has a dynamic learning program that helps everyone succeed.

  • AS in Criminal Justice Administration

Columbia College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#6  Excelsior College

Excelsior College

Opening 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.

Offering a multitude of undergraduate and graduate degree options, EC has more than forty programs to choose from.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

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

#7  Fisher College

Fisher College

Established in 1903, Fisher College is located in the Boston MA area. FU also serves students throughout the state using satellite campuses and distance learning platforms.

This private school allows individuals to achieve an associate, undergraduate, or master’s degree. 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.

#8  Florida Tech

Florida Tech

Offering a variety of research-based job training opportunities, students at Florida Tech are able to work closely with global leaders in their field during the process of earning an undergraduate or graduate degree. 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.

#9  Hutchinson Community College

Hutchinson Community College

Serving more than 13,000 credit and non-credit students annually, Hutchinson Community College opened to the public in 1928. HCC offers over seventy academic majors that allow students to obtain an associate in arts or an associate in science that can be transferred to a four-year school. Most programs at HCC can be accessed online or in-person.

  • AA in Criminal Justice Administration

Hutchinson Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#10  Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University

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

With over one-hundred academic options that lead to an undergraduate or graduate degree, IWU provides academic counselors 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.

#11  Keiser University

Keiser University

Located near the beautiful Florida shores, Kaiser University first began in 1977. Since its commencement, this private educational facility has surpassed the boundaries of traditionally based instruction and has expanded across the globe.

Offering an array of program options that lead to an associate, undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degree, KU has virtual and classroom learning options.

  • AA in Criminal Justice

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

#12  Lanier Technical College

Lanier Technical College

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

With multiple campuses throughout the state of Georgia and through their distance learning platform, Lanier Technical College awards associate degrees and technical certificates in various academic fields. Nursing, criminal justice, and business are 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.

#13  Liberty University

Liberty University

Liberty University is one of the most long-standing private schools in the US. Opening in 1771, this Christian academic facility accepts students of all denominations. With hundreds of academic majors and minors, Liberty University helps students attain an undergraduate or graduate degree on all levels. 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.

#14  Montgomery County Community College

Montgomery County Community College

Montgomery County Community College is part of the public-school system in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. Opening in 1964, 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.

#15  Northeast Community College

Northeast Community College

Opening its doors in the 1920s, Northeast Community College has expanded vastly throughout the years. As a public-school option for individuals seeking an associate degree 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.

#16  Ocean County College

Ocean County College

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

Serving the community by giving an array of public education options, including vocational training and associate degree programs, OCC encourages 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.

#17  Odessa College

Odessa College

Awarding associate in bachelor’s degrees with majors associated with the top competitive industries, Odessa college has been providing a public education option since 1946.

Odessa college also delivers top-notch vocational 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.

#18  Peirce College

Peirce College

Founded in 1965, Pierce College has a pathway to associate, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees with a multitude of academic majors. This private learning facility provides online courses that allow students to gain their degree 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.

#19  Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is a Catholic private school that began in 1889. Offering a variety of majors and minors that can lead to two-year, four-year, or graduate degrees, SLU encourages all students to become involved in community service programs while attending.

Saint Leo University 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.

#20  Shoreline Community College

Shoreline Community College

In 1964 Shoreline Community College began providing it means to public education to community members. Shoreline Community College has expanded its program options to include more than 100 majors and minors to better meet today’s student’s needs.

An array of associate degrees end 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.

#21  Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University

Finding its beginnings in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is well known throughout the world. Giving students hundreds of academic majors to choose from, SNHU provides hands-on learning for innovative thinkers.

Students at SNHU can earn an associate, undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degrees either online or in-person. This public university has confident faculty members to assist with individual needs.

  • AS in Criminal Justice

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

#22  St. Petersburg College

St. Petersburg College

St. Petersburg College has been given students a public educational option since 1927. Students from around the globe turn to St. Petersburg College to attain an associate or bachelor’s degree 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.

#23  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.

Surry Community College strives to provide top-notch academic services to provide a means for students to earn an associate degree or vocational certification. 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.

#24  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 prior work experience and military training to be turned into credits towards one of their many undergraduate or graduate degrees.

Many students at TESU earned 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.

#25  Trident Technical College

Trident Technical College

Commenced in 1973 as a public community college, Trident Technical College helps students obtain an associate degree or workforce development. Students acquiring an associate degree at TTC can transfer most degrees into a four-year degree at a university. 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 law, the criminal justice system, corrections or homeland security but don’t want to invest a lot of time and money into a four-year university, enrolling in an online associate degree program for criminal justice could be the happy medium for which you’ve been searching.

With an associate’s degree in criminal justice, you can enter into many different criminal justice careers, some of which are very lucrative. Plus, with an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice, you can 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 ever even leaving your house and earn the degree the same way. So why wait? Enroll in an online criminal justice associate’s degree program today.

Sarah Walker
Sarah Walker