Best Online Criminology Degree Programs

Learn about the different types of online undergraduate and graduate criminology degree programs available as well as common course topics and how to choose a program that fits your needs. Then, explore possible criminology-related career paths. Schools offering Criminology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Best Online Degree Programs in Criminology

There are numerous online criminology undergraduate and graduate degree programs found throughout the country, and the top programs are affordable, flexible, and accredited. The below schools offer the best online criminology programs that lead to an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree.

1. Purdue University Global-Mason City

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Mason City, IA $14,343 n/a

Purdue University Global-Mason City offers several online criminology-focused degree programs including:

  • A 90-quarter-hour Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • A 180-quarter-hour Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice
  • A 55-quarter-hour Master of Science (MS) in Criminal Justice

The AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology and the BS in Criminal Justice both feature 10-week courses with multiple start dates per year. The MS in Criminal Justice has shorter 6-week courses and prepares students for higher-level leadership and administrative roles in criminal justice organizations. The two online undergraduate degree programs cost only $280 per credit for Indiana residents and $371 for non-Indiana residents. The MS in Criminal Justice is affordable as well, with tuition for Indiana residents at $378 per credit and non-residents at $420, and Purdue University Global-Mason City offers discounted tuition rates to active-duty military, veterans, military spouses, and international students for all online programs.

2. Maryville University of Saint Louis

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Saint Louis, MO $28,470 100%

Maryville University of Saint Louis's online 128-credit Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice program combines the fields of criminal justice and criminology with coursework on criminological theory, policing, and criminal law. This online program also allows students to choose a police academy or non-policy academy track. For the police academy track, Maryville University of Saint Louis partners with the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy and lets students apply 13 credits from their police training toward their degree. The non-police academy track requires a research capstone and an internship, which places students in a social service or protective service agency so that they gain valuable professional experience. Maryville University of Saint Louis is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

3. Bowling Green State University-Main Campus

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Bowling Green, OH $11,105 95%

Bowling Green State University-Main Campus has an online Master of Science (MS) in Criminal Justice degree program that requires 33 credits and allows students to choose a thesis option or a final portfolio option, which includes the collection of projects they have completed over the course of their degree program. This online program features short 7-week courses, and students can take only 1 class at a time, perfect for work/life balance, and still finish their criminal justice master's degree in just 2 years. Students benefit from small class sizes, and the total cost rings up at around $15,000; plus Bowling Green State University will never raise your tuition during your degree program.

4. Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Indiana, PA $12,979 92%

Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus has a fully online Master of Arts in Criminology and a hybrid 120-credit Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminology degree program that includes core courses on issues and dilemmas in criminology and theoretical criminology. Students can also choose from a large selection of free electives to form a minor, such as information assurance/cybersecurity, or a concentration area of their interest. Students in this program can join the Criminology Association and/or Alpha Phi Sigma, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society, which both present career and networking opportunities. Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus has received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

5. Missouri State University-Springfield

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Springfield, MO $7,376 91%

Missouri State University-Springfield has an online Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminology and Criminal Justice degree program that is fully customizable; students choose from a range of electives that fit their career goals and academic interest, including classes on:

  • Legalization of marijuana
  • Queer criminology
  • Far-Right terrorism and violence in America
  • Serial killers
  • College campus crime

Missouri State University-Springfield also offers an online Master of Science (MS) in Criminology and Criminal Justice degree program that includes a 30-credit thesis track or a 36-credit non-thesis track. This online program develops students' leadership and management skills as well as their knowledge about criminal justice policy and research. When attending full-time and taking summer classes, students can earn their MS in Criminology and Criminal Justice in only 1 1/2 years. These online criminology programs boast tuition of just $295 per credit for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Rank School Name Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6 Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY $10,512 96%
7 Ohio University-Main Campus Athens, OH $12,192 94%
8 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA $10,560 93%
9 University of North Carolina Wilmington Wilmington, NC $7,091 76 %
10 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Whitewater, WI $7,692 80%
11 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ $11,564 94%
12 University of Florida Gainesville, FL $6,381 93%
13 Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN $9,090 93%
14 Lindenwood University Saint Charles, MO $17,600 99%
15 Eastern Washington University Cheney, WA $7,323 94%
16 Baker University Baldwin City, KS $29,830 100%
17 Adams State University Alamosa, CO $9,440 95%
18 Arkansas State University-Main Campus Jonesboro, AR $8,607 97%
19 Mary Baldwin University Staunton, VA $31,110 100%
20 University of Missouri-St Louis Saint Louis, MO $9,792 95%
21 Loyola University New Orleans New Orleans, LA $39,942 99%
22 Saint Joseph's University Philadelphia, PA $44,974 98%
23 University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa, FL $6,410 91%
24 West Liberty University West Liberty, WV $7,680 97%
25 Mount Saint Mary's University Los Angeles, CA $41,170 100%
26 Lasell College Newton, MA $36,000 98%
27 Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Saint Mary of the Woods, IN $29,960 100%
28 University of California-Irvine Irvine, CA $13,700 68%
29 Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Carbondale, IL $14,704 93%
30 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA $53,244 100%
31 National Louis University Chicago, IL $10,710 93%
32 Concordia University Texas Austin, TX $31,810 100%
33 University of West Georgia Carrollton, GA $6,288 94%
34 Regis University Denver, CO $36,810 99%
35 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL $23,020 100%
36 LaGrange College Lagrange, GA $30,500 100%
37 Delaware State University Dover, DE $7,868 99%
38 Oklahoma Wesleyan University Bartlesville, OK $27,136 100%
39 University of La Verne La Verne, CA $43,050 98%
40 LeTourneau University Longview, TX $30,210 100%
41 Williams Baptist University Walnut Ridge, AR $17,320 100%
42 Tiffin University Tiffin, OH $25,000 98%
43 Lakeland University Plymouth, WI $28,870 100%
44 Coker College Hartsville, SC $29,548 97%
45 Cedar Crest College Allentown, PA $39,216 99%

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Online Criminology Programs

Criminology includes the study of the sociological and psychological aspects of criminal behavior and crime. This field shares similarities with criminal justice and also focuses on the criminal justice system, law enforcement, and the corrections system.

Criminology programs are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Typically, these programs can be completed 100% online. However, some degree programs require some real-world elements, such as an internship.

Criminology Certificate Programs

Online certificate programs in criminology are offered as both undergraduate and graduate certificates. To apply to a graduate-level program, students must have already earned a bachelor's degree. These online certificate programs are short, typically requiring about 12 to 18 total credits and taking 1 year or less. While many certificate programs have a general focus on criminology, others may concentrate on a specific area, such as forensic criminology.

Criminology Associate Programs

Online associate degree programs in criminology are foundational programs that prepare students for entry-level criminology positions in law enforcement or security. These programs require around 60 credits and include some general education coursework in addition to criminology and criminal justice coursework. An online associate criminology degree takes about 2 years to earn.

Criminology Bachelor's Programs

Online bachelor's degrees in criminology generally require 120 credits with general education coursework in math, composition, biological science, and the social sciences as well as coursework within the criminology major. Some online programs also offer concentrations areas, such as the following:

  • Cybercrime and security
  • Homeland security
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Forensic investigation

These programs sometimes require a real-world internship or make one optional. Usually, students can complete their online criminology bachelor's degree in 4 years, if attending full-time. Those with transfer credits from an associate degree can usually earn their degree in less time.

Criminology Master's Programs

Online master's programs in criminology can lead to a Master of Science or a Master of Arts degree. Generally, these programs are for those who want to move into management or leadership roles in law enforcement or criminal justice-focused agencies. Like online bachelor's programs, some master's programs offer concentration areas, such as:

  • Cybercrime/terrorism
  • Human behavior
  • Victimology
  • Policing
  • Global security

Students are required to earn anywhere from 30 to 36 total credits. Programs of this kind can require or make optional a final thesis or capstone project. Some also require an internship. Online master's degrees in criminology can take anywhere from 1 1/2 years to 2 years to complete when attended full-time.

Criminology Doctoral Programs

Online doctoral-level programs strictly in the field of criminology are somewhat rare, but there are some online doctorate programs in criminal justice, which cover the same kinds of subjects as criminology. Some programs allow students to concentrate their doctoral degree in the following areas:

  • Education
  • Homeland security
  • Emergency management
  • Justice administration
  • Law and public policy

To apply to a doctoral program, you must have already earned a master's degree. These programs require anywhere from 42 to 60 credits, and students must usually complete comprehensive exams and a dissertation or doctoral research portfolio. It could take anywhere from 2 to 3 1/2 years to earn a criminal justice doctoral degree.

What You'll Learn in Online Criminology Degree Program

The curriculum of online criminology degree programs centers on the study of various criminal justice, social science, and law enforcement topics. Although your exact coursework depends on the type of degree you are earning and its focus, below you can explore some classes you might take.

  • Criminology - This is usually an introductory course that gives students a foundational knowledge of the nature and cause of crimes as well as an understanding of the most prevalent criminological theories in the field.
  • Criminal Law- This course covers the history, development, and purpose of the criminal law system, and how criminal law functions within society and the democratic process.
  • Victimology- Victimology is the study of the impact that crime, violence, and harm has upon individuals. Students study such concepts as the measurement of victimization, victim-offender relationship patterns, and victim intervention/prevention programs.
  • Corrections- A course on corrections usually centers on the study of correctional practices, prisons, and jails. Students learn about different kinds of correctional and punitive options, parole, and correctional treatment.
  • Policing- Classes like these center on topics related to the practice and purpose of policing at all levels of government. Some classes focus on the structure and administrative functions of police departments, while others focus on issues within policing, such as policing within multicultural, diverse populations.

How to Choose an Online Criminology Degree Program

If you've decided to pursue a criminology degree, then there are several important factors to consider when choosing which program is right for you including what type of degree helps you meet your career goals, if your prospective school is accredited, and your school's transfer credit policy.

Degree Type

The first thing you want to consider when choosing a criminology degree program is how the type of degree you are earning prepares you for the career of your choice. Many criminal justice or criminology careers may only require some college coursework while others might require a bachelor's degree. For you, that would mean the difference between choosing a 2-year associate program or a 4-year bachelor's program.

Additionally, some careers may require a graduate degree, which means you'll want to plan for attending a bachelor's program and then moving on to a master's program. You'll also want to choose a program that offers your area of interest. For example, if you want a career in fighting cybercrime or terrorism, choose a program that offers a concentration in one of those areas.


Accreditation is one of the most important factors that should guide your choice of criminology program. Regional accreditation is completed through multiple agencies that accredit schools in a geographic region. You want to verify that your university or college is accredited by one of the following agencies:

  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

Accreditation proves your school has met high academic standards. Additionally, federal financial aid is only awarded to students who attend an accredited school.

Criminology and criminal justice associates, bachelor's, and master's programs can receive accreditation from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) as well. Only a handful of programs have received this accreditation. To get it, programs must meet standards in regards to curriculum, faculty credentials, and program resources.

Transfer Credit Policies

Most universities only accept transfer credits from regionally accredited colleges and universities. For bachelor's degrees, students can usually transfer about 64 to 90 credits and must have earned a 'C' or higher in their courses. Master's programs sometimes allow you to transfer around 6 to 9 credits.

Additionally, many universities accept professional military education (PME) and training credits, offer course assessments that allow you to test out of certain courses, or exchange work/life experience for credits. When choosing a criminology degree program, make sure that you can apply all of your previous college credits or experiences to your new degree, which can save you both time and money.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Online Criminology Degree Programs

Your first step when researching ways to afford your criminology degree is filling out the U.S. Department of Education's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application will show you the different types of federal aid you qualify for, including:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans, which are only for undergraduate students.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans, which are for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
  • Federal Pell Grants, which are awarded to undergraduates who have financial need and haven't earned a college degree yet.
  • Work Study, which is a program for all students who wish to work and earn a paycheck that can be used to help them afford their degree.
  • Direct PLUS Loans, which are for graduate students and parents of dependent undergraduate students
  • Direct Consolidation Loans, which is a program that allows students to combine all their loans into a single loan.

You can also look for scholarships that are offered by organizations or from your university. Below are examples of scholarships that are especially for students pursuing a criminology or criminal justice degree.

Bradley N. Horner Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund

This is from Portland State University and is awarded to a junior-standing student who has declared a criminology and criminal justice major and wants to pursue a law enforcement career.

Pi Gamma Mu Scholarships

Pi Gamma Mu, the International Honor Society in Social Sciences, offers $1,000 to $2,000 awards to Pi Gamma Mu members who will attend a graduate program in criminal justice or another social science field.

Brian Terry Scholarship Program

These are awards from the Brian Terry Foundation for students who are studying criminal justice and plan to pursue a law enforcement career.

What You Can Do with a Criminology Degree

The type of criminology or criminal justice career you can pursue depends on the level of education you have and your interests. Below, you can explore careers in law enforcement, corrections, and education.

Police or Detective

Police officers are responsible for protecting lives and property and ensuring the safety of the public. Their job responsibilities include:

  • Conducting patrols
  • Responding to crises and emergencies
  • Making arrests, collecting evidence, and writing reports

The educational requirements for police and detectives vary but applicants must complete a police training academy followed by on-the-job training. Some police departments may only require a high school diploma, yet some (as well as federal agencies) require you to complete some college-level coursework or have earned a bachelor's degree.

  • Median Annual Salary: $63,380
  • Projected 2018-2028 Growth Rate: 5%

Probation Officer/Correctional Treatment Specialist

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with parolees or probationers to help them access social services, such as counseling or job training, so that they can transition back to normal life. They must monitor parolees, conduct home or work visits, and make recommendations about the conditions of their parole.

Generally, you need a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field for this type of job.

  • Median Annual Salary: $53,020
  • Projected 2018-2028 Growth Rate: 3%

Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Professor

Criminal justice professors work in colleges or universities where they teach courses in the criminal justice field by creating syllabuses, working with students, and grading assignments. Professors must also conduct their own research and write books or articles within their subject area.

To become a university professor, you typically need a master's or doctorate in the field of criminology or criminal justice.

  • Median Annual Salary: $61,900
  • Projected 2018-2028 Growth Rate: 8%

Salary information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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