15 Best Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice

15 best bachelors in criminal justice

Have you ever considered a career in criminal justice? Criminal justice is a broad field that includes many different aspects of law enforcement, investigative work, and public administration and safety. The emphasis is on performing jobs that deal with enforcing laws and bringing those who do not follow the law to justice through criminal court proceedings.

What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal Justice is a field that deals with the implementation and enforcement of public law and regulations that have as its goal to bring criminals to justice. Graduates of the criminal justice field can find employment in several different areas of the law including local law enforcement, investigative services, and the legal field.

Program Highlights

Criminal Justice programs deal with the skills and knowledge that are needed to complete a degree in the field of Criminal Justice. You’ll likely be required to take a variety of courses that cross over into several areas of the Law and administration of the Law in your state. The types of courses and information you’ll be required to complete will be dependent upon the requirements in your state as well as the national and local standards where you live. You can visit your local sheriff’s office or city hall to find out what these requirements might be if you plan to work in your immediate area.

15 Best Criminal Justice BA Programs

Are you passionate about the workings of the criminal justice system, and eager to become a part of it?  Here are the 15 best criminal justice degrees to help you meet your goals. Take a look at our ranking methodology to find out how programs make our list.

1.  Northeastern University 

The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University offers more than just an academic program. You’ll dive right into the nitty-gritty of criminal justice, getting a real feel for the intricacies that govern law enforcement. Students here benefit from small class sizes and have the ability to collaborate closely with faculty and staff on research.

2. University of Cincinnati 

At Cincinnati’s School of Criminal Justice, you’re set up for success with dynamic undergraduate programs in Criminal Justice and Paralegal Studies that prep you to confidently face the modern-day intricacies of forensics and cybersecurity.

3. Indiana University, Bloomington

At Indiana University Bloomington, the criminology program combines elements of law, history, and sociology to create a comprehensive understanding that’s vital for today’s justice careers. You can pick from several concentrations so you can meet the ever-evolving demands of today’s criminal justice field. 

4. Pennsylvania State University 

Penn State’s Department of Sociology and Criminology offers a comprehensive BA in Criminology that blends sociological understanding with rigorous research methods. The BA in Criminology is well-respected for its deep-dive approach and strict academic discipline.

5. Washington State University 

WSU boasts a policy-focused BA in criminal justice that stands out due to its strong social science foundation. The program sharpens your critical thinking by diving into a varied, hands-on curriculum. There are even study abroad opportunities! 

6. University of Georgia 

UGA’s BA in Criminal Justice, offered jointly by the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Public and International Affairs, combines a liberal arts foundation with in-depth criminal justice coursework. The program includes a hands-on internship that’s mandatory for all students.

7. CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice 

John Jay College’s dedicated focus on criminology and forensic psychology has attracted thousands of ambitious students to date. The school prepares graduates to explore not just the core criminal justice system, but also criminological research and the application of justice on an international level.

8. Sam Houston State University 

SHSU has a rich selection of options, from BAs in Criminal Justice and Victim Studies to MS and PhD programs in various other criminal justice disciplines. Strong partnerships with top agencies like INTERPOL and the FBI mean students have a shot at internships that could really take their careers to new heights.

9. Michigan State University 

MSU’s School of Criminal Justice provides students with a wide-ranging and constantly evolving criminology curriculum. At MSU, you’ll dive into research and grab hold of the real deal through internships and studies abroad – gearing you up for a future in anything from policing to policy.

10. University of Maryland, College Park 

UMD’s #1 ranked criminology program offers a dynamic BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice. At UMD, you’re not just hitting the books – you dive into real-world practice with a bunch of focus areas and chances to get your hands dirty through research projects and internships.

11. Florida Atlantic University

The BA in Criminal Justice at FAU has an emphasis on community-oriented policing and crime prevention. Because of this, students are guaranteed an education that’s versatile enough to meet the ever changing needs of the field.

12. Arizona State University

At ASU, you’ll dive into the complexities of criminal minds and the ins and outs of our justice system through their top-notch criminology program. At ASU, you dive into a sea of research and hands-on gigs that seriously school you on how criminal justice shapes society and sways the rules we live by.

13. University of California, Irvine 

UCI’s Department of Criminology, Law, and Society offers a prestigious undergraduate program that combines larger discplines of law and society. The faculty are known for their expertise in psychology and law.

14. Temple University 

Temple University’s multidisciplinary BA in Criminal Justice combines coursework in law, sociology, and public policy. With multiple certificate programs to enhance your studies and a unique 4+1 BA/MA offering, Temple sets students up for a future filled with all kinds of opportunities.

15. Florida State University 

At FSU’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, you’re not just soaking up theories. The hands-on approach to learning in this program, coupled with strong ties to law enforcement agencies, sets graduates up for success across various career paths.

Sample Curriculum

A Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice normally consists of around 120 credit hours of training. There are additional electives you can take if you want to increase your chances of expanding your career and specialize in a specific area of the Law.

If you are planning to enter the field of Criminal Justice, you should prepare to take courses related to the following categories:

  • American Legal System
  • Criminal Justice: Ethics
  • Criminal Behavior and Analysis
  • Law and the Criminal Court System in America

These courses give students in the Criminal Justice field a broad but focused view of the types of things they will encounter when seeking a career in this exciting but challenging field.

The course titles may vary, but the substance contained in the courses will be similar to the categories we have listed. It’s a good idea to get a sense of the types of courses that are offered in your state before beginning the program by researching the schools in your area.

Potential Job Titles

Persons who finish the program and training can expect to work in law enforcement, private investigations, or digital forensics, to name a few. There is a large list of potential outcomes regarding career positions and salary that you can begin if you are successful in completing the basic requirements.

Some of the titles you might have upon completion include:

  • Private Investigator/Detective
  • Police Officer
  • Social Services Coordinator
  • Constitutional Law Expert
  • Correctional Facility Consultant

This will depend on the other courses that you take along the way and whether you also graduate from a police academy to receive the proper training for law enforcement. In some cases, the degree in Criminal Justice includes all of the requirements for becoming a police officer. Check with your program before signing up to see what is required in your state.

Continuing Your Education

Police officers, case workers, and private investigators are all expected to follow certain standards including continuing your education or training from time-to-time as provided by your local justice system training programs.

Much of this information is available on your state website regarding criminal justice continuing education or at your regional training facility.

If you decide to pursue a master’s degree in the field of Criminal Justice, you may be able to command an even higher salary potential than if you have the bachelor’s degree alone. Graduates in the field of Criminal Justice on the master’s level can make over $60,000 per year, depending on the position you hold. Possible job outcomes might include teaching in community college as a Law Enforcement training officer, serving as a commander of a central crime unit, or any other position that involves a higher level of training and education.

Career and Salary Outlook

The highest paying salaries in law enforcement can be found in the District of Columbia, California, and New Jersey areas. This is because there is an emphasis on solving federal crimes there, where other areas focus more on state or regional crimes and investigations.

People who enter the Criminal Justice field are trained to be prepared to work in the law enforcement field and public safety fields. The program is usually based on theoretical concepts and skills related to the investigative process. Police officers who successfully complete the course requirements in this field earn an average of $48,656 annually. For those who go on to complete a bachelor’s degree in this field, you can earn up to $56,172 per year.


If you are interested in pursuing a career in the Criminal Justice field, congratulations! This field is in high demand all over the country, and it will continue to be a much-sought-after career choice. The requirements are rigorous but achievable with a dedicated and determined outlook. You can find courses online or look to your local city hall or community colleges to check for course offerings.

Once you complete your degree, you may want to continue your education to open up even more doors of opportunity in the Criminal Justice field.

Check online for requirements in your state or visit the FBI or other federal law enforcement sites to learn more about the requirements. There is plenty of information available through the FOI (Freedom of Information Act) in local areas that reveal the requirements for seeking careers in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice.