15 Best Online Associates in Criminal Justice

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Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: March 27, 2024, Reading time: 19 minutes

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Public safety takes high-level priority in every community. With property crimes reaching 6.45 million in 2020 and violent crimes soaring to 1.31 million, it makes sense that the demand for criminal justice system specialists is high!

With an online Associate in Criminal Justice degree, criminal justice professionals take the first important step toward contributing to society in this regard.

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The Lowdown
An online Criminal Justice associate degree can mean a seamless transfer to a bachelor’s degree program, and also lead to rewarding careers in law enforcement, corrections, and other related areas, making it an attractive degree choice. Fortunately, more than enough colleges and universities in the US offer distance learning programs.

Prospective students of an online criminal justice associate degree have their own criteria for choosing the best program, but you can’t go wrong with picking the Online Associate in Criminal Justice degrees that are accredited, provide quality instruction, offer reasonable rates, and financial assistance.

Courses in an Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

If you are interested in an exciting and rewarding career, earn your criminal justice associate degree! While each school maintains its own unique curriculum, they are expected to cover similar courses and subjects. These are the elements of Criminal Justice that online Associate in Criminal Justice students and future professionals must be familiar with:


The criminal court system will be discussed in this class. Students will learn about the differences between the juvenile court system and the traditional criminal court system.


Criminal behavior will be taught to students as a foundational concept. This includes an overview of criminal theory and causation and the types of crimes society recognizes.

Private Security

Maintaining public order and safety isn’t always the job of law enforcement. The purpose of this class will be to examine in depth how to privatize security duties to protect businesses and communities, including conducting operational analysis.

Ethics in Criminal Justice

Crime and punishment theories do not always lead to fair or moral outcomes when they are applied to the real world. Students also get to explore ethical dilemmas that criminal justice professionals face, as well as different solutions.

Law Enforcement

America is known for its mixture of cultures, languages, and religions. As part of this course, online students will examine various aspects of providing law enforcement services to minority communities and groups.

Career Paths for Students with an Online Associate in Criminal Justice Degree

The associate degree in criminal justice focuses on the foundations of the criminal justice system. With the skill set developed in their education, graduates apply for and successfully snag police officer, probation officer, emergency management specialist, and corrections officer jobs.

That said, graduates also have a world of career options in various fields other than Criminal Justice. This educational degree leads to well-paying and stable career tracks, including the ones presented below:


An online associate’s degree in Criminal Justice program may lead to a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Sociology.

If you want to learn the foundations in Criminal Justice to use for a sociology education, later on, an associate degree should suffice! Sociologists study culture and society as a whole. Criminal justice programs facilitate studies of criminal behavior and society.

Legal Studies

Graduates of Associate in Criminal Justice programs are qualified to work as paralegals, file clerks, and court messengers. They usually qualify for promotions in legal firms as soon as they earn their bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies.


Criminal justice and psychology are closely related fields of study when participating in a criminal investigation. Psychology courses are often included in criminal justice programs, preparing students for further study.

Psychiatric technicians and human resource specialists are also available as entry-level careers for psychology graduates. You can proceed to study for a bachelor’s degree in psychology after you’re done with an associate program in criminal justice.

Social Work

Supporting vulnerable and at-risk communities is the job of social workers, who assist them in navigating a variety of challenges.

After obtaining an associate Criminal Justice degree online, you can also land a job related to social work. Providing social services and ensuring the safety of families and children is the job of these professionals.

What To Expect When Pursuing Jobs As An Online Associate in Criminal Justice Graduate

Apart from qualifying for a bachelor’s degree program that strengthens your competence in criminal procedure and forensic science in the criminal justice fields, graduates of online Criminal Justice associate degree programs become eligible for law enforcement positions.

Job Outlook

Graduating from criminal justice programs usually sees tremendous job growth. According to Boston University’s Knowledge Center, cybercrime, digital forensics, and cybersecurity are the most critical areas of development in law enforcement.

As of 2021, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 847,376 complaints, with potential losses exceeding $6.9 billion. In 2020, that number was 791,790 complaints, with over $4.2 billion in losses.

Accordingly, the number of reported crimes is rising, leading to an increase in the need for investigators to identify the source of cybercrime.

Decent Wage

It is possible to earn very good wages in criminal justice jobs. For instance, correctional officers earn $43,203 annually, private investigators earn $50,416 per year, and forensic specialists earn $51,653 annually. These are just some high-paying careers that you can work when you finish an associate degree in criminal justice.

Diverse Career Opportunities

Criminal justice graduates enjoy a wide range of career options, as mentioned. They can work in the police industry, psychology, law, and several government agencies.

Work Benefits

Individuals starting a new job today place great importance on insurance and benefits packages. Fortunately, the criminal justice field generally offers good benefits packages.

Higher Purpose

No matter what work you acquire related to criminal justice, you’re almost always able to help others or help your community. This can be the most satisfying advantage of having a degree in criminal justice.


Perhaps a career in Criminal Justice is one of the most challenging jobs there is, as it requires professionals to have a keen understanding of how the system works while also demonstrating courage and quick-thinking skills to resolve complex situations.

An Associate in Criminal Justice degree introduces students and future professionals to the fundamental facets of the discipline, making it extremely important to choose the program that meets your individual needs while adhering to the prevailing educational standards.

The Online Associate in Criminal Justice programs on our list is best known for these standout features:

To know more about how our ranking process works, visit our Methodology page.

The 15 Best Online Associate Programs in Criminal Justice

Ball State University

Online Associate in Criminal Justice

Online Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice And Criminology 

Students become prepared for an entry-level or mid-level professional position with Ball State’s online associate degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology. Similarly, this program takes you two years closer to a bachelor’s degree program that bolsters your skill set.

Ball State University’s Criminal Justice program specializations include police systems, court systems, victimology, corrections, and special populations.

This online program requires 60 credits for completion. Expect to learn courses such as:

Liberty University

Online Associate in Criminal Justice

Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

There are three highlights of studying the Criminal Justice online associate program at Liberty University:

Students are able to gain an understanding of the complex criminal justice systems. All undergraduate courses are provided with free electronic textbooks as part of their commitment to providing affordable education. They can opt to either pursue a bachelor’s degree in the field or build their career right after graduation.

Liberty University students can expect the Christian perspective to be woven into their study. Their online programs, including the Criminal Justice associate track, are ideal for students who need flexibility in their schedules, such as law enforcement officers and military personnel, as there are no set log-in times or on-campus class requirements.

Trine University

Online Associate in Criminal Justice

Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

The Associate in Criminal Justice online program offered by Trine University is taught by instructors with real-life field expertise and experience. As such, students gain a solid academic background for further study at the bachelor’s level or a thriving entry-level career in Criminal Justice.

The online, asynchronous classes are offered every eight weeks through TrineOnline. 

Ashland University

Online Associate in Criminal Justice

Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

Students get access to an interactive, fully online learning environment with Ashland University’s online Criminal Justice degree program. The curriculum is comprised of seven-week courses focusing on:

Sixty credit hours are required in the program, from which students can earn college credits for law enforcement and corrections training.

The online Criminal Justice system degree at Ashland is also offered at the bachelor’s level.

Regent University

Online Associate in Criminal Justice

Online Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

Regent University in Virginia Beach students become acquainted with criminal law, criminal investigation, and the theories of criminal justice through the Online Associate of Science in Criminal Justice program.

They earn 64 credits toward the bachelor’s level or enter the workforce as police officers, forensic specialists, or legal assistants upon graduation.

Typically, applicants to this program are asked to submit their personal statement, ACT or SAT scores, and official high school transcripts or GED. Compared to on-campus students, distance learners pay less per credit.

Full-time students usually complete their associate degree in Criminal Justice in two years.

Regent University also offers an on-campus Associate in Criminal Justice program.


Northeast Community College

Online Associate in Criminal Justice

Online Associate of Applied Science Degree in Criminal Justice

Northeast Community College offers the Online Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice program that focuses on imparting fundamental knowledge of the field through an interdisciplinary approach.

This program equips students with the tools to make rational decisions and provide informed responses to the challenges facing law enforcement, corrections, court administration, and the human services field.

General education courses, core courses, and electives comprise the online AAS Degree in Criminal Justice at Northeast. Students can also receive credit for completing the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center, as well as Jail Management Certification.

Criminal Justice Law Enforcement or Corrections Associate of Arts degrees are appropriate options for students seeking to continue to a four-year college. Most AAS courses can be transferred to four-year institutions.

Dawson Community College

Online Associate in Criminal Justice

Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

The online Associate in Criminal Justice curriculum at Dawson Community College prepares students for bachelor’s level education and, ultimately, careers in:

They will gain critical thinking and problem-solving skills and an in-depth understanding of how diversity, social responsibility, and public affairs play key roles in the criminal justice system.

Students seeking to transfer can opt for MSU-Billings’ and Norwich University’s Criminal Justice 2+2 Articulation Agreements. AAS in Criminal Justice graduates qualify for criminal justice agencies that do not require academy training. 

Hillsborough Community College

Online Associate in Criminal Justice

Online Associate of Science (AS) in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies

The Online Criminal Justice Associate of Science program at Hillsborough Community College exposes students to the history, philosophy, management, organization, and operation of the criminal justice system.

This AS degree also qualifies them for entry-level positions at local, state, and federal government agencies. They often land positions in:

They will be expected to have a solid foundational knowledge of private security, juvenile justice, law enforcement, probation, detention centers, and corrections.

Some Florida universities and colleges offer similar upper-division programs with the AS degree. Prospective transfer students must secure approval from the transfer institution in advance. 

Trinity Valley Community College

Online Associate in Criminal Justice

Online Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Criminal Justice

Trinity Valley Community College’s Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice is offered entirely online. This program exposes students to:

One requirement to enroll in this associate program is to take the Texas Success Initiative exam and earn a good score. Also, after passing the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement exam and completing an approved law enforcement training program, students receive 13 credits. 

Century College

Online Associate in Criminal Justice

Online Associate in Science Degree in Criminal Justice

By pursuing an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice online at Century College, students understand how the criminal justice system works and become prepared for the rigors of the criminal justice profession. In particular, students study:

These studies will also have an emphasis on the current legal, ethical, and social issues affecting the system. Students can also become interested in criminal law, homeland security, corrections, and counterterrorism to serve their community.

Each graduate gets the chance to explore their expertise in investigating crimes, collecting evidence, and questioning suspects using forensic investigative techniques.

The AS in Criminal Justice degree requires 80 hours of service learning related to criminal justice. A grade C for all the courses should be maintained by each student. This associate-level program provides a solid foundation for transferring to a four-year academic institution.

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University

Criminal Justice Associate Degree

The Associate of Criminal Justice degree offered by Southern New Hampshire University is ideal for students seeking a better understanding of law enforcement. 

This fully online program allows students to choose among various courses that cover relevant subject areas, including:

It is specially designed for experienced criminal justice professionals aiming to enhance their skill set and students seeking entry-level professional positions in the criminal justice field. 

To earn the program, one must complete 60 credit hours, with an allowable transfer credit of 45. Experienced instructors teach the degree. Students can use this associate’s degree to pursue bachelor’s and master’s in criminal justice degrees. 

Franklin University

Franklin University

Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

Franklin University’s Associate of Science in Criminal Justice degree program is available online with 6 to 12-week courses. Earning this degree program will allow students to learn the inner workings of the justice system, equipping them with essential skills for a rewarding career in the criminal justice field.

Students are guaranteed quality coursework as they will learn from in-the-field criminal justice administrators with valuable real-world experience. 

The curriculum accounts for 60 semester hours. Some core courses required are:

Students can successfully earn the degree upon completing major area and elective courses along with other required courses in the program and meeting the grade point average requirements. 

The degree offers a fast path, which allows one to earn the degree in less than two years. Franklin University also makes it easy for students to seamlessly transition to the university’s bachelor’s degree program in Criminal Justice Administration. 

Generations College

Generations College

Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice

The online Associate’s in Criminal Justice program offered by Generations College is specifically geared towards adult learners pursuing a degree without compromising their career and personal responsibilities. The curriculum teaches the same content as the traditional on-campus program. 

The program covers comprehensive courses such as:

By the end of the program, students are expected to work in a variety of key roles in the field, including police officers, detention officers, private investigators, fraud investigators, and legal assistants. 

The university allows students of this associate’s degree program to work towards their bachelor’s degree. Moreover, this higher institution has partnered with well-known four-year colleges in the Chicago area, which makes it easy to transfer credits to a higher degree level.  

Spartanburg Methodist College

Spartanburg Methodist College

Online Associate in Criminal Justice

Students who wish to get ahead in the criminal justice field might consider earning an online associate’s degree in criminal justice at Spartanburg Methodist College. This versatile degree offers the same support and high-quality coursework that traditional on-campus students enjoy.

It is ideal for those who want to change their careers or give themselves a solid foundation for career advancement. 

The program builds upon the core liberal arts and social science courses. Students can enroll either full-time or part-time. Each course runs for eight weeks.

Those who want to save time when proceeding to a bachelor’s degree will find this degree valuable as it guarantees 30 transfer credits from this associate’s degree program to the higher degree level. 

The same experienced faculty spearheads the program, ensuring that students learn from the best in the field. Students also take advantage of the college’s financial aid programs, significantly reducing their tuition costs. 

University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands

Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

Preparing for a career in criminal justice is made easy and accessible by the online associate degree in criminal justice at the University of Cumberlands. This degree program equips students with the essential skill set and knowledge to help them succeed in their chosen careers. 

Learners develop a better understanding of the roles of law enforcement in response to deviant behavior. They are also taught to hone their critical thinking skills and cultivate skills in research and writing that are often involved in many criminal justice jobs. 

To earn the degree, students must complete 61 semester hours, 31 of which account for general education, 18 for core courses, and 12 for elective courses. Some core courses include:

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the typical online Associate in Criminal Justice degree program cost?

The costs of online associate degrees in criminal justice vary depending on several factors. Out-of-state students are often charged higher tuition at many colleges and universities because of their residency. 

For online students, however, education is fixed regardless of residence. An online associate’s degree in criminal justice usually costs between $75-$560 per credit. As for the total tuition fee, you should see it ranging from $5,000 to $34,000, respectively.

Students should expect to pay $5,300 to $33,600 in full tuition. Fortunately, some learning institutions allow you to apply for financial aid.

What are the requirements for admission to an Associate in Criminal Justice online degree?

Prospective students must submit an application and transcripts for almost all programs, as well as a high school diploma or GED, for the best chance of acceptance. An applicant’s GPA plays a major role, too, as a high GPA automatically makes them eligible for a scholarship. 

Applicants are also asked to submit proof of English language proficiency if they come from a non-English speaking country. Candidates may be required to demonstrate fluency to understand and benefit from the program’s course materials.

Depending on some schools, the ACT or SAT scores may or may not be submitted. Most online associate degree programs do not require any tests, but if you’re able to get a good score, it may be a good idea to take one.

This will put prospective learners at a good advantage over other applicants. It can also be helpful for individuals who plan on transferring or earning a bachelor’s degree, whether required or optional, as it can help you stand out in a pool of numerous transfer applicants.

Criminal justice associate degree holders are qualified to work in law enforcement, corrections, and security, among other occupations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that multilingual applicants and those with a bachelor’s degree, experience in law enforcement, or military service have better criminal justice job prospects. The demand for police and detectives currently has a projected growth of 3% from 2022 to 2032. 

How can you advance your career after getting an online Associate degree in Criminal Justice?

Graduates of a criminal justice system program can progress to prestigious and higher-paying jobs. A bachelor’s degree is required for employment in some federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI. Students may focus on a specific area of interest when earning professional certificates in criminal justice.

From crime scene technology and crime investigation to youth services, criminal justice programs offer professional certification for various specialties. Criminal justice students pursuing an associate degree can expect many opportunities for career advancement.

How long does an online program in Associate in Criminal Justice take to complete?

A criminal justice associate degree is usually completed in two years. Part-time online students can take longer. If you want to graduate sooner, some colleges offer accelerated programs.

Universities may also grant credit to students who have previously completed training at a law enforcement academy. A criminal justice education will serve you well!

Key Takeaways

Additional Information: