Top 10 Best Criminal Justice Schools

By Henry Steele - October 24, 2018
Reading Time: 9 minutes

A major in criminal justice gives you many exciting, rewarding career alternatives, from law enforcement to private security to emergency management. If you choose to earn your bachelor’s or master’s degree in one of the below best criminal justice programs, you will be on the path to a great career.

#1 CUNY John Jay School of Criminal Justice

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice has evolved into an international leader in educating for justice in all of its dimensions. It was founded in 1964.

The John Jay School of Criminal Justice offers both a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice (Crime Control and Prevention) and a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice.

The BA program views crime is a serious social problem and attempts to develop students in the capacity to assess the current structure of the criminal justice system with the intention to improve both its function and condition. The stress of the undergraduate criminal justice major is to develop your analytical skills, ethical reasoning, and capacity to solve problems in the criminal justice field. The program aspires to cultivate original and creative thinking about challenging crime and social problems.

The MA program has a diverse and celebrated faculty who give students an advanced understanding of practice and research in the US criminal justice system. The core classes provide students with a mastery of major works and theories of policing, corrections, criminology, judicial studies, quantitative research and policy analysis. Students can choose from the following concentrations:

  • Criminology and Deviance
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Police or Corrections Administration
  • Terrorism Studies

Elective courses include Crime Mapping, Cybercrime, Crime Scene Investigation, Social Aspects of Alcohol and Drug Use, Homeland Security and Terrorism and Criminal Law.

#2 Liberty University

Liberty University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice that will help you to build excellent leadership and managerial skills so that you can have a high level of success in any criminal justice position. This 100% online program will ready you for certification and promotion chances as you develop excellent oral and written communication skills. Both of these are vital for developing your career options in criminal justice and law enforcement disciplines.

This bachelor’s degree in criminal justice will assist you in gaining an understanding of how the criminal justice system works, and the various responses to different sorts of crime. All through your four year, online criminal justice program, you will study the procedural, organizational and constitutional differences of the federal criminal justice and representative systems.

Many students in this program are full-time police officers or other working professionals in law enforcement who need the flexibility of an online program to get their degree.

This online bachelor’s program teaches students every major phase of the criminal justice system from entry into the system to trial. Students learn from respected professors who have years of experience in the courtroom and/or the corrections field. You will learn practical approaches to studying criminal justice as you take courses in juvenile justice, judicial process, criminology and criminal investigations.

Specializations include:

  • Homeland security
  • Public administration
  • Strategic intelligence
  • Criminal psychology
  • Business administration and management
  • Crime scene investigation

Students also can earn their master’s in criminal justice at Liberty Universty. Available specializations are forensic psychology, public administration and homeland security.

#3 Northeastern University

Northeastern University and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers both of Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice. The department has identified several key outcomes that it wants undergraduates in criminal justice to achieve through their engagement with the curriculum:

  • Describe major elements of the criminal justice system and understand the historical development as effective social responses to crime.
  • Identify and apply theories of causes of crime, and theories of organizational responses to various types of crime
  • Identify and apply various theories of the causes of crime and the theories of organizational responses to crime
  • Apply basics of legal reasoning and development of case law to criminal law doctrines and constitutional law
  • Apply tools of research design and statistics to test criminal justice theories and to evaluate how effective current criminal justice programs are

The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice will prepare students for professional and research jobs in criminal justice and criminology. You will learn to apply multidisciplinary and comparative social science to predict, understand and explain crime so you can contribute to the development of public policy in communities with crime problems. Required courses include criminal due process, criminology, criminal justice research methods, and criminal justice statistics.

The Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice concentrates on the problem of crime as a type of deviant behavior, and on the criminal justice and private security programs that attempt to deal with it. The program stresses a systems approach to criminal justice, with a focus on policy development and analysis, as well as the effects these policies have on individuals and organizations that are charged with delivering criminal justice in a fair manner.

Required courses in the MS program include global criminology, criminal justice process, criminology, police and society, and security management.

#4 University of California Irvine

The University of California Irvine and the School of Social Ecology offers both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminal justice. The undergraduate major in criminology, law, and society focuses on the problem of crime, and how to understand the social, cultural, political and ecnomic forces that interact with criminal justice laws. The basic courses in the undergraduate program present an overview of legal systems, with a stress on the criminal and juvenile justice systems, different types of criminal behavior, the role of law for understanding social and psychological phenomena and how to apply sociological theory to understand law and legal systems. Later coursework in the program provides you with a better understanding of the consequences and causes of crime, criminal justice policy, and socio-legal theory.

A major benefit of the undergraduate program in criminal justice are the field study placements that are required of all students in the School of Social Ecology. Placements to gain real-world work experience occur in police departments, public defenders’ offices, probation and parole agencies, and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

For students who want to earn their master’s degree in this field, you can earn a Master of Advanced Study in Criminology, Law and Society, or a Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology. The MAS degree prepares criminal justice professionals for leading positions in criminal justice and legal professions. The curriculum stresses theoretical and practical applications that are central to crime and control, social policy and the law. The MLFP program focuses on psychology and criminal legal issues, with a stress on the use of psychological principles, theories and research to get a better understanding of the legal processes and systems that undergird the criminal justice system.

#5 University of Miami

The University of Miami and the College of Arts and Sciences offers a bachelor’s in criminology. The major in criminology at the undergraduate level stresses theory and research, encourages scientific inquiry; abstract and logical thinking, critical analysis, and historical consciousness. Students in this bachelor’s program will gain a complete understanding of the problems of crime and the criminal justice system.

The criminology program will ready students for many potential criminal justice careers and offer a basis for further education in graduate or professional schools related to criminal justice. Students will gain the knowledge and skills they need to enter the criminal justice profession in many careers, such as police officer, probation officer, caseworker, corrections officer, crime prevention specialist and crime analyst.

Required courses for the Bachelor of Science in Criminology are:

  • Introduction to Social Research
  • Quantitative Methods Lab
  • Criminology
  • Theories of Deviant Behavior
  • Criminal Justice
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Criminology

The University of Miami also offers a Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology. Students in this graduate program will develop advanced knowledge of the criminal justice system, including tools to evaluate policy and practice via training and criminal justice theory in quantitative research methods. The idea of the program is to offer graduate students a well-rounded understanding of the control, prevention and etiology of crime. Specialization tracks are in leadership and management, criminal law, and research methods and statistics.

#6 Penn State University

Penn State University’s World Campus offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice that can be obtained completely online. Whether you are just starting on your criminal justice degree or have previous credits earned with an associate’s degree, you can take your bachelor’s courses entirely online and earn your degree in much less time than in conventional, on campus programs.

Students who have this highly desirable degree on their resume can work in such exciting fields as protective services, law and corrections, crime related prevention and support, security management, court administration, and social services.

The Bachelor of Science program has been certified by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences for meeting all ACJS academic certification standards that have been documented through the ACJS academic certification review process.

The criminal justice bachelor’s curriculum has a good balance between the theoretical and practical aspects of crime control as they relate to adult and juvenile justice. Students also can provide an enhancement to their degree with the homeland security minor that consists of 18 credit hours. The curriculum includes:

  • Criminology
  • Law, policing and corrections
  • Ethics in criminal justice
  • Security and police administration
  • Alternatives to incarceration
  • Aspects of the juvenile justice system
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

This university also offers a Master of Professional Studies in Criminal Justice Policy and Administration. This two year, online program is a good choice for those who want to advance in their criminal justice career, or have a change into a new field. Courses consist of theories of crime; criminal justice interventions; applied research methods for criminal justice; criminal procedure; and advanced statistics in criminal justice.

#7 Howard University

Howard University offers a Bachelor of Science in Administration of Justice that assumes that a successful career in the criminal justice career requires a broad educational basis in the humanities, as well as the social and behavioral sciences. This preparation involves intense classroom instruction efforts that affords the student a much better understanding of the complexities of human interaction and conduct, as well as a better understanding of some of the problems that relate to daily human life. Theory-based instruction in criminal justice is combined with practical experience to provide students a better knowledge of the criminal justice system and how to is connected to the larger institutional structure.

The bachelor’s program has these key principles:

  • Provide a criminal justice curriculum that provides opportunities to ground students in important administration of justice theories and scientific methods.
  • Provide diverse criminal justice program that includes conceptual and experiential learning to ready students for graduate study, law school and successful careers in justice administration
  • Offer a broad criminal justice curriculum that provides strong scientific training and substantial and rigorous coursework in and outside the department

#8 Florida A&M University

Florida A&M University and the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice that offers courses related to theory, research, criminal law, law enforcement, corrections and juvenile justice. Required core courses for the bachelor’s program are:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Theories of Criminal Behavior
  • Statistics in Criminal Justice
  • Research Methods in Criminal Justice
  • Seminar in Criminal Justice
  • Police and Society
  • American Court System
  • Penology

The university also offers a Master of Applied Social Science with a focus on Criminal Justice. Courses in the program are derived from various disciplines within the department, including political science, public administration, global security and international affairs, history and criminal justice.

Courses required for all graduate students in criminal justice are:

  • Interdisciplinary Social Science Seminar
  • Social Science Research
  • Statistics for Public Managers
  • Statistics for the Social Sciences

#9 Keiser University

Keiser University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice that offers preparation in the most important areas of our criminal justice system. Common topics in the four-year program are deviant behavior, forensics, law enforcement and investigation, private security, victimology, corrections and juvenile justice, and how the criminal justice components work together and are governed by federal and local laws. Goals of the program are:

  • Develop your ability to understand the tools and procedures that are used by assorted state, local and federal agencies in the criminal justice system
  • Develop your ability to think critically and communicate effectively in words and in writing
  • Assist you in becoming more proficient in collecting, researching and organizing complex criminal justice data
  • Prepare you for exciting employment and advancement in various criminal justice related fields

Courses in this four-year program include an introduction to criminal justice, introduction to corrections, introduction to law enforcement, communications and writing for CJ professionals, criminal law and criminal investigation.

#10 American University

American University and the School of Public Affairs offer the following criminal justice degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Justice and Law
  • Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies
  • Master of Science in Justice, Law and Criminology
  • Master of Science in Terrorism and Homeland Security Policy

At the Department of Justice, Law and Criminology, whichever criminal justice degree you choose, you will be given the tools and knowledge needed to tackle important challenges in criminology and criminal justice, as well as homeland security, justice and the law.

The American University campus is only a few blocks from the seats of justice and power in Washington DC, so the school’s programs put students in one of the best places in the world to affect change in the criminal justice system. The faculty in these criminal justice programs are comprised of some of the best known criminal justice experts in the world. They work in international research and work closely with practitioners and policymakers to devise solutions to pressing criminal justice and security concerns.

Required courses for the BA program in justice and law are below. Concentrations are available in criminology, criminal justice, terrorism and security studies.

  • Critical Issues in Justice
  • Introduction to Systems of Justice
  • Introduction to Criminology
  • Introduction to Justice Research
  • Justice and Public Policy

In the master of science in justice, law and criminology, you will examine the complex theories behind the foundational institutions of the rule of law and justice. There is a focus on the academic, practical and strategic areas of law, criminal justice, and security. Available concentrations are justice and public policy, law and society, jurisprudence and social thought, and terrorism and security policy.


Henry Steele
Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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