At Grad School Hub, we’ve channeled our inner sleuths to investigate cheap criminal justice master’s degrees online using the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator database. We conducted an advanced search to collect an initial pool of 85 graduate schools where criminal justice programs were available 100 percent by distance education. Our staff evaluated each college’s quality by double checking regional and national accreditation statuses with the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Every chosen school had to feature at least one recognition from respected ranking publications like Washington Monthly or the U.S. News & World Report. Our final step was ordering the prospective online universities from highest to lowest average graduate tuition in-state. Here are the 10 most inexpensive online criminal justice master’s degrees costing under $7,000 annually.
Ranking Low-cost Online Criminal Justice Master’s
Getting handcuffed to an advanced online master’s in criminal justice program doesn’t have to involve robbing your bank account or work schedule. Several affordable online colleges have arrestingly low prices for brave law enforcement officers to deepen their justice and leadership expertise. According to the 2015 FBI Legal Digest, graduate school is a smart choice for promoting one’s current rank, unlocking professional-level jobs, and planning post-retirement administrative careers. Qualifying for GS-9 and higher positions in federal government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security or IRS Criminal Investigation Division virtually requires post-baccalaureate study. The Hill reports that only 9.3 percent of U.S. adults have finished a master’s, so your credentials will be competitive. Let’s maximize your modest public service salary by looking into affordable criminal justice degrees.
10. Mount Mercy University
Online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
Cedar Rapids, IA
Average Graduate Tuition: $6,996 per year
Giving $18.58 million in annual financial aid for 1,824 Mustangs, Mount Mercy University is a private, coeducational Catholic “College of Distinction” that’s grown dramatically since its 1928 founding by the Sisters of Mercy. Partnered with Kirkwood Community College for Adult Accelerated learning, MMU extends beyond its 40-acre, wooded campus near Linn County Courthouse with online courses on Blackboard Learn. Mount Mercy was ranked America’s 87th best value in Money magazine and 177th best free application school on Niche. The U.S. News & World Report also deemed MMU the 54th best Midwestern university.
Starting each February and August, Mount Mercy’s Department of History, Politics and Justice confers an Online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice without GRE/GMAT scores. The 30-credit, solution-oriented curriculum strengthens law enforcement officials’ proactive problem-solving skills for meeting community needs. Chaired by Dr. Amanda Humphrey, an ACJS member, the program takes 12 months full-time to finish five-week, asynchronous courses like victimology and international policing online. Three fieldwork credits are required before the non-thesis capstone project. Successful graduates are investigating with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, IRS, Polk County Medical Examiner, Iowa Sixth Judicial District, and others.
9. Texas Southern University
Executive Master of Administration of Justice Online
Average Graduate Tuition: $6,718 per year
Known for its Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Texas Southern University is a diverse public, research-intensive HBCU with an economic impact of $500 million annually that was opened in 1927 after Heman Marion Sweatt’s lawsuit. Occupying a 45-building Tree Campus USA in downtown Houston, TSU selectively admits 10,514 Tigers for on-site or online enrollment via Blackboard Learn. According to the U.S. News & World Report, Texas Southern is America’s 47th best historically Black university. TSU was recognized for the 230th highest-paid criminal justice grads on College Factual and 142nd for best graduation rate in Washington Monthly.
Headed by Dr. Michael Adams, a Quiester Craig Teaching Award winner, the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs grants the Executive Master of Administration of Justice 100 percent online. Mandating minimum 2.5 GPAs, the 36-credit, non-GRE program accepts $50 applications from mid-career law enforcement and social service workers with at least five years of experience. The virtual classroom utilizes live chats to enhance graduates’ policy leadership capacities for ethical, culturally-sensitive public safety. Required online courses like juvenile justice, police administration, environmental crime, and criminological theory culminate with thesis research or applied projects.
8. American Public University System
Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Online
Average Graduate Tuition: $6,600 per year
Reaching 92 percent student satisfaction on the 2016 NSSE Survey, the American Public University System is a cheap private, for-profit master’s military institution established in 1991 by USMC Major James P. Etter. Linked to 19,764 LinkedIn alumni, including Nicole Malachowski and Yasser Harrak, APUS has administrative headquarters in Manassas near the FBI Northern Virginia Resident Agency to coordinate online study on Sakai. Washington Monthly ranked American Public 310th for service and 346th for research expenditures. APUS also has the United States’ 37th highest-paid criminal justice grads on College Factual and fifth best online programs on Super Scholar.
Capped at $325 per credit for military-affiliated graduates, American Public University’s School of Graduate Studies offers the MA in Criminal Justice online with an engaged community of mentors on ClearPath. Led by Dr. Charles Russo, a former Daytona Beach police officer, the 36-credit curriculum uses accelerated, eight-week online modules for teaching the leadership skills needed to address post-9/11 security problems. Expected to take 24 months part-time, the program has monthly starts for courses from gang prevention to criminal intelligence. Students select the General, Business Administration, or Emergency/Disaster Management concentrations for electives and capstones.
7. Columbia College
Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
Average Graduate Tuition: $6,585 per year
Established in 1851 by the Missouri Legislature for women, Columbia College is a private, open-admission liberal arts AMC member that’s affiliated with the Disciples of Christ to “Magnanimiter Crucem Sustine.” Operating 33 campus extensions from its 231-acre center in Mid-Missouri, Columbia carries a $329 million endowment to instruct 2,100 Cougars face-to-face and online via Desire2Learn. Columbia College was congratulated for America’s 221st highest graduation rate in Washington Monthly and 183rd best campus safety on Niche. The U.S. News & World Report ranked Columbia 15th for online criminal justice programs nationwide too.
Boasting an Alpha Phi Sigma Honor Society chapter, the School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences launched the MS in Criminal Justice online for post-grad legal cohorts. Chaired by Dr. Barry Langford, the 2013 Congressman Neal Smith Award recipient, the 36-credit program emphasizes policy development and analysis skills for future justice administrators. Requiring “B” averages, the curriculum splits electives into three concentrations: General Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement Administration, or Corrections Administration. Asynchronous sessions span from budgeting and human resources to crisis intervention before the capstone. There’s also a post-bachelor’s Crime Scene Investigation Certificate online.
6. Arizona State University-Skysong
Online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
Average Graduate Tuition: $6,220 per year
Called the Scottsdale Innovation Center, Arizona State University-Skysong is a three-story, 1.2 million-square-foot facility within the “Paradise Valley” that serves as a public, regional branch of the innovative Pac-12 research institution. Expanded during the 1960s under G. Homer Durham, Arizona State now enrolls 71,946 Sun Devils across seven campuses and online via Blackboard Learn. ASU is declared America’s 46th best college on the Social Mobility Index with the 54th best faculty production in Washington Monthly. The U.S. News & World Report noticed Arizona State University for the fifth best online criminal justice master’s too.
Furnishing funds like the Christopher Rearley Memorial Scholarship, the ASU School of Criminology & Criminal Justice presents the Online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice for completion in 18 months full-time. Directed by Dr. Cassia Spohn, the editor of Justice Quarterly, the School schedules eleven 7.5-week courses for gathering the management traits and attitudes needed within two concentration areas: Policing or Corrections. The 33-credit curriculum ends with capstone practice after students with minimum 3.0 GPAs tackle courses from applied data analysis to violent behavior. Similar online degrees at Arizona State include the Global Security MA, Public Safety Leadership MA, and Forensic Psychology MS.
5. University of the Cumberlands
Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration
Average Graduate Tuition: $5,970 per year
Founded in 1889 by 18 Southern Baptist churches at the Mount Zion Association, the University of the Cumberlands is a private, nonprofit arts and sciences institution with a 14:1 student-faculty ratio for 3,153 Patriots from 15 countries. Known for winning the Christian National Debate Competition, UC maintains a 150-acre Appalachian campus off Interstate 75 and makes courses accessible online with Canvas. The Cumberlands is crowned America’s 84th best Peace Corps producer in Washington Monthly and 115th most conservative school by Niche. The U.S. News & World Report also honored UC for the 11th best online graduate criminal justice degrees countrywide.
Accepting transfer credits from the FBI, DEA, ATF, and DOJ, the University of the Cumberlands delivers the Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration within just 12 months full-time. Coordinated by Hon. John Knox Mills, the 31-credit program helps rookies and veterans gain advanced leadership perspective on how security agencies function. Affiliated with the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council, the M.S. pushes students with minimum “B” averages into virtual classes on criminological theory, family violence, addiction, juvenile delinquency, and more. Before the capstone, graduates could apply 120-320 fieldwork hours from optional placements like Whitley County Detention Center and Kentucky State Police.
4. University of North Georgia
Online Master of Science with a Major in Criminal Justice
Average Graduate Tuition: $5,926 per year
Renowned for its championship-winning Blue Ridge Rifles Platoon, the University of North Georgia is a senior public, military institution of the Peach Belt Conference that was founded by William Pierce Price in 1873. Sitting atop 212 acres in Dahlonega near Crisson Gold Mine, UNG enrolls 18,782 Nighthawks with an average 3.55 GPA on-campus and online via Desire2Learn accounts. Forbes magazine named North Georgia the South’s 119th best college and America’s 173rd top public school. UNG was also picked for the 56th best regional value by the U.S. News with the lowest student loan debt.
Open for admission until August 10th, December 10th, and May 10th annually, the UNG College of Arts & Sciences houses the Online Master of Science with a Major in Criminal Justice. The 36-credit, non-GRE program supports law enforcement practitioners and military veterans seeking advanced credentials for international justice missions. Organized by Dr. Jennifer Allen in Hansford Hall, the curriculum builds leadership skills alongside awareness of intricate human behaviors. Students take six to nine credits like penology and legal liabilities per semester until the CRJU7500 comprehensive seminar. There’s also an Online Master of Public Administration available.
3. Columbia Southern University
Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration Online
Orange Beach, AL
Average Graduate Tuition: $5,085 per year
Partnered with Waldorf College, Columbia Southern University is a for-profit, DEAC-accredited virtual learning arena launched in 1993 by Robert G. Mayes, Sr. for “Flexible, Affordable” programs. Enrolling 21,442 Knights, CSU has corporate headquarters on Alabama’s Wolf Bay and over 1,000 faculty nationwide to deliver 26 degrees on Blackboard Learn. Columbia Southern was ranked America’s ninth best university on OnlineDegreeReviews.org and second most affordable school by OnlineU. College Factual also honored CSU for the 10th most popular online criminal justice degrees.
Offering Chi Sigma Upsilon membership, CSU’s College of Safety and Emergency Services awards the Master of Science in Justice Administration Online for part-time, post-baccalaureate completion in three years. Directed by Dr. Paul Baumgardner, the 36-credit degree examines the best practices for leading impactful agencies that resolve and deter criminal acts. Labeled “Military Friendly” by Victory Media, the cheap master’s features asynchronous online modules like constitutional law, global terrorism, and public finance before the critical analysis capstone. Other Columbia Southern offerings include the M.S. Emergency Services Management and M.S. Occupational Health & Safety.
2. Northeastern State University
Online Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice
Broken Arrow, OK
Average Graduate Tuition: $4,572 per year
Teaching 8,548 River Hawks in English and Cherokee, Northeastern State University is Oklahoma’s oldest public, minority-oriented master’s college opened in 1909 by the American Indian tribe. Besides its 200-acre headquarters in Tahlequah near Lake Tenkiller, NSU instructs at a 17:1 student-faculty ratio in Muskogee, Broken Arrow, and online via Blackboard. Washington Monthly applauded Northeastern State for America’s 14th best graduation rate and 19th top financial aid. NSU also stands out for the 160th best criminal justice value on College Factual.
Available exclusively in Broken Arrow or 100 percent online, the NSU Department of Criminology, Justice Studies, and Global Security confers the Online Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice. Led by Dr. Brett Fitzgerald, the 36-credit curriculum has immersive learning for post-grads with minimum 2.5 GPAs and good GRE/MAT scores to enrich their administrative capacities in legal settings. Students devote 1.5 years full-time or longer part-time with asynchronous electives from Native American law to forensic science and comparative justice. Also culminating with a thesis or comprehensive exam, the Accelerated B.S. to M.S. helps seniors start online study fast.
1. Texas A&M University-Commerce
Master’s in Applied Criminology Online
Average Graduate Tuition: $3,630 per year
Charging our list’s lowest in-state price of $3,630, Texas A&M University-Commerce is a public, outcomes-based research center created on the Texas Midland Railroad in 1917 by William L. Mayo. Committed to “Fearless Investigation,” TAMUC enrolls 12,385 Lions at DFW locations from Mesquite to Rockwall and online on LearningStudio. Graded A by Noodle, Texas A&M Commerce is congratulated for America’s 157th best faculty academies in Washington Monthly and 17th fastest-growing enrollment by The Chronicle of Higher Education. According to Niche, TAMUC also has the 148th best criminal justice programs nationally.
Chaired by Dr. Martha Henderson Hurley, the Masters in Applied Criminology Online program is housed within the College of Humanities, Social Sciences and Art for training scholars who study the nature of crime. Cohorts progress through five-week online courses to complete the 36-credit, non-thesis curriculum within just 18 months. Online students with minimum 3.0 GPAs file $50 ApplyTexas applications to enter three concentrations: General Criminology, Criminal Justice Administration, or Homeland Security. Courses emphasizing empirical research literature explore topics like policing practices, criminal law, and counterterrorism before the capstone sequence.
What Benefits Do Criminal Justice Master’s Online Degrees Provide?
Heading back to graduate school without the headaches of commuting is doable if you join the 6.1 million U.S. college students taking online courses according to Babson Survey Research Group. Online programs are typically asynchronous for criminologists to log in 24/7 around diverse law enforcement shifts and keep working full-time. Virtual classrooms can present real-life case simulations for building technical skills needed to combat cybercrime. Online education lets you pick colleges based on quality and affordability instead of geographic location. Learning about America’s legal labyrinth at home saves money on transportation, childcare, and sometimes even textbooks. Online students often report feeling less distracted and more connected to faculty anytime by email too.
Which Careers Are Possible with an Online Criminal Justice Master’s?
Completing an affordable criminal justice master’s degree online would lead to the upper echelon of law enforcement administration jobs but keep you barred from some careers like lawyer and judge. Search for leadership positions in various criminal justice disciplines. For example, cyber forensics is a hot niche dedicated to surveilling digital evidence stashed on computers. Homeland security focuses on protecting domestic populations from external threats of terrorism and natural disasters. Corrections is another branch concerned with the ethical punishment of convicted inmates within jails. Here are some potential job titles after finishing an online criminal justice master’s:
Criminologist- Master’s criminal justice training is the bare minimum for criminologists to perform in-depth research projects that further understanding of offenders’ behaviors and motivations. According to the American Society of Criminology (ASC), duties include posing hypothetical theories, structuring research designs, collecting empirical data, conducting statistical analysis, publishing journal articles, and presenting at conferences.
Intelligence Analyst- Out of uniform, intelligence analysts are the behind-the-scenes brains of successful investigations who glean crime evidence or preventative tips for law enforcement agencies. Master’s-level responsibilities could include developing security assessments, facilitating information networks, identifying threats, preparing data reports, shaping policy decisions, and directing teams of agents.
Emergency Management Director- Recent events like Hurricane Maria and the Thomas Fire prove the importance of having air-tight disaster plans prepared for coordinating life-saving responses. Emergency management directors are often master’s-educated to spearhead safety efforts, organize volunteers, obtain federal funding, conduct disaster analysis, maintain community shelters, and conduct public outreach.
Chief of Police- The United States’ 17,985 state and local police departments prefer hiring master’s graduates for providing full administrative direction to law enforcement services. Police chiefs develop department standards, prepare annual budgets, select personnel, provide staff development, coordinate task forces, report to city managers or governors, boost officer morale, and address community social issues.
How Much Do Criminal Justice Online Master’s Graduates Earn?
Investing in cheap criminal justice master’s online study can greatly increase your pay grade in upper-level management. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the 104,980 detectives and criminal investigators make a mean yearly wage of $81,490. Emergency management directors earn $78,060 on average. Criminologists fall into the sociology category for mean income of $86,840. PayScale published a median salary of $66,260 for intelligence analysts. Salary.com boasts that police chiefs claim median earnings of $103,018 annually. Executive agency directors bring home $103,950 on average. In corporations, online criminal justice master’s graduates could also become security executives for average pay of $174,436.
What is the Job Outlook After MS in Criminal Justice Online Programs?
A New York Times report showed that violent crime rose by 4.1 percent for 17,250 total murders in 2016. The FBI stated in November 2017 that 58 percent of last year’s 6,100 hate crimes were racially motivated. Lack of public safety unfortunately leads to strong job growth for online criminal justice master’s graduates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 7 percent increase in law enforcement hiring by 2026. Emergency management is expecting 8 percent growth from 10,100 to 10,900 leadership jobs. Demand for correctional wardens will decline by 7 percent because of budgetary constraints though. Position yourself for the best competitive edge by going the extra mile for an online master’s in criminal justice.