When it comes to finding the cheapest criminal justice degree, you have lots of choices. If you’re a working adult in criminology going back to school, return on investment should be your top priority. Affordable tuition rates help keep your initial investment low – especially since most people are paying themselves. Online education opens up a lot of options, giving you some extra wiggle room. With a little bit of research, you’ll find plenty of ways to save money on your degree and stretch your dollars as far as they can go. First, look for regional colleges. In-state college tuition will virtually always be cheaper than out-of-state tuition. Even for online degrees, in-state students save more than out-of-state students.
Another option is to look for programs that will give you credit for experience. Most people looking for an online bachelor’s or degree completion program are already working in the field. If you already have some experience working in criminal justice, then some college programs may give you class credit for that experience. This will lower your overall class load, giving you fewer classes to pay for and a shorter pathway to graduation.
Methodology: Ranking the Most Affordable Criminal Justice Degree Online
To rank the most affordable criminal justice degree online, Bachelor’s Degree Center editors started with only accredited, trustworthy institutions, because affordability isn’t everything. However, it is the key component of the most affordable ranking, so programs in the BDC Most Affordable Criminal Justice Degree ranking are presented from highest to lowest tuition (as reported to IPEDS).
1. Fayetteville State University
Fayetteville State University’s BS in Criminal Justice is certified by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). It was the first Criminal Justice program in North Carolina, but it has evolved into a robust program with a Bachelor of Science degree as well as a Criminal Justice minor. The university also offers an online option for any level of undergraduate programs. The program is recognized as an affordable Criminal Justice degree online, with courses in Criminal Justice and Criminology. The CJ degree should prepare students for a wide range of career options, including DEA or FBI agent, Police Officer, Juvenile Detention Officer, Legal Researcher, Crime Analyst, etc.
The program stands apart with a certificate in Cyber Security and a focus on solving modern criminal justice issues. The college is built on diversity in state-of-the-art facilities. The goal is to promote social, cultural, educational, and economic transformation. The motto aligns with the focus of the university: “Res Non Verba” translated “Deeds not Words.”
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice
2. Bellevue University
Bellevue University’s BS in Criminal Justice (Traditional or Cohort) introduces students to the values for which the degree will represent, with justice and integrity at the forefront. The goal of the undergraduate degree program is to prepare students for a career in the courts, law enforcement, and/or corrections. The program is designed to transform students through a series of hands-on and integrated learning experiences, which simultaneously prepare students for a pre-law major as well as other graduate degree options. The program is recognized as an affordable Criminal Justice degree online.
Bellevue University is recognized as a national leader skills-based training with the Real Mastery® approach to learning. The real-world knowledge and hands-on experience are particularly critical to career success goals for all students. Their motto aligns with the focus on experiential learning: “Real Learning for Real Life.” Students learn and grow by doing.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice (Traditional or Cohort)
3. Kentucky State University
Kentucky State University’s BA in Criminal Justice prepares students for a career in corrections, the courts, or law enforcement through in-depth coursework in criminal justice policing, court procedures, as well as research and ethical issues. Career path outcomes are as diverse as the coursework with focal areas in intelligence, security, advocacy, policing, and social work. The program is recognized as an affordable Criminal Justice degree online. KSU has prepared students for careers in the legal system, corrections or policing since the 1970s.
As one of the top-ranked regional colleges in the South, Kentucky State University is a historically black college that was founded in 1886. The college also ranks as a “Best Value School” according to US News & World Report. The college focuses on putting the students first while encouraging diversity in an intellectual environment. Their motto is “Onward, Upward,” which seems appropriate given their dedication to excellence and academic achievement.
Degree: BA in Criminal Justice
4. Louisiana State University – Alexandria
Louisiana State University’s BS in Criminal Justice offers coursework and training for careers in juvenile justice administration, corrections, probation and parole, private sector security, and law enforcement. With online coursework in communication, leadership, as well as options for forensics, administration, corrections, and other foundational knowledge, Louisiana State University, Alexandria, prepares students to solve problems across a wide array of complex law and criminal justice environments. The Criminal Justice program is recognized as an affordable criminal justice degree online.
Louisiana State University, Alexandria, is ranked as a nationally recognized “top performer on social mobility,” by US News & World Report. LSU, Alexandria, is a state-assisted university on an urban campus. The colors are purple-and-gold, and their team is the Generals. The focus on the college is multi-faceted, offering degrees in liberal arts as well as professional disciplines to ensure the widest possible scope for career readiness. The beautiful college campus has ancient oak trees that are from the 19th century.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice
5. Northern Kentucky University
Northern Kentucky University’s BA in Criminal Justice delivers online coursework to help students understand the basics of law enforcement, law and order, as well as policing and corrections. The university is dedicated to life-long learning, celebrating excellence and embracing diversity. This online Criminal Justice program is designed to be affordable, with 63% of the student body receiving need-based financial aid or scholarships. The program is recognized as an affordable Criminal Justice degree online.
Northern Kentucky University is top-ranked as a “national university” as well as for its business programs by US News & World Report. The college prides itself on offering high-quality, affordable education with a community of diversity and global awareness. The motto aligns with that intense concentration of action-oriented education: “Let’s go to work.” The striking school colors are black and gold, with Victor E. Viking known as the school mascot.
Degree: BA in Criminal Justice
6. University of Louisiana at Monroe
University of Louisiana’s BA in Criminal Justice is the oldest degree program of its kind in the state. A majority of students, 88%, find jobs in the Criminal Justice field within six months of graduating with a degree. Popular career options include Police Officer, Private Detective, Crime Scene Investigator, Forensic Science Technician, Probation Officer, Fraud Investigator, Fish and Game Warden, etc. More than 40% of students also go on to pursue a master’s degree. The program is recognized as an affordable Criminal Justice degree online.
The University of Louisiana at Monroe is top-ranked for its business programs, for social mobility, and as a national university by US News & World Report. ULM transforms students, preparing them for the global society. The motto is “Seek the Truth.” The colors are maroon and gold, with a nickname of Warhawks. With more than 80 years of student success, some 35 degree programs are designed to be accomplished with 100% online coursework. ULM Online has also received accolades as one of the school’s fastest-growing areas of education.
Degree: BA in Criminal Justice
7. Missouri Southern State University
Missouri Southern State University’s BS in Criminal Justice Administration is designed to support students in their learning and understanding of law enforcement, corrections, and the courts. The degree is designed to support students in their pursuit of a fast-paced profession in law and justice. The program is recognized as an affordable Criminal Justice degree online.
With green-and-gold colors, Missouri Southern State University is a top-ranked Regional College in the Midwest, according to the US News & World Report. Appropriately enough, the mascot is Roary the Lion. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Nearly 62% of the college students are first-generation students, with 66% receiving financial aid.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice Administration
8. Troy University
The BS in Criminal Justice program is one of the largest at Troy University, with career options in law, forensics, or policing. What sets this program apart is the inclusion of instructors with real-life experience. Students have the opportunity to gain a comprehensive understanding and the skills they will need for the job. With 18% growth projections in the criminal justice industry, this program prepares students for a career as a police officer, probation officer, or even an attorney or other traditional or more contemporary role in law and order. The program is recognized as an affordable Criminal Justice degree online.
Known for being one of the top-ranked “Most Innovative Schools” by US News & World Report, Troy University is an international university that serves students’ needs across four campuses in Alabama. Their level of innovation is clear with their high-touch and high-tech educational experiences. The college motto is: “Educate the mind to think, the heart to feel, and the body to act.”
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice
9. Columbia College (MO)
Columbia College’s BA in Criminal Justice Administration is a multi-functional degree that’s designed to allow for a range of career options. The program is recognized as an affordable Criminal Justice degree online, but it also has internship and practicum opportunities to better prepare students for entry-level career objectives. The online coursework, in particular, offers a critical foundation for students who will be pursuing further studies in graduate or law schools.
Columbia College is a private, liberal arts and sciences college. As a nonprofit, it is dedicated to offering high-quality education, with a range of programs that are both traditional and non-traditional. The learning experience is designed to be focused on the individual with innovation and flexibility as key cornerstones of the college culture.
Degree: BA in Criminal Justice Administration
10. Youngstown State University
Youngstown State University’s BS in Applied Science – Criminal Justice concentration program is designed to teach students how to protect and serve. The coursework centers around service to the community, with an online program that allows for the most complete study of law and justice. The program focuses on how to use the law to protect the community, which is also why it is a natural segue into law school. The program is recognized as an affordable Criminal Justice degree online.
Youngstown State University is top-ranked for its Engineering Programs, as well as one of the top Regional Universities in the Midwest, by US News & World Report. YSU is an urban research university, dedicated to excellence and innovation. While the Criminal Justice program is an outstanding example of student-focused studies, the entire university focuses on intellectual inquiry, with the natural progression toward exploration and discovery in academia and in all lifelong pursuits. The school colors are cardinal red and white, with the mascot Pete the Penguin. The motto is “Animus Liberatus,” translated “The Mind Freed.
Degree: BS in Applied Science – Criminal Justice concentration
Will I Make More Money With a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice?
Does your criminal justice salary potential go up with a Bachelor’s degree? Yes. A Bachelor’s degree is virtually always a great way to increase your salary potential. At the end of the day, a criminal justice salary depends on the type of job you pursue and the level of education you earn, but for those who earn a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, salary potential goes up quickly. How much does a criminal justice degree make? As of 2019, the average criminal justice salary for people with Bachelor’s degrees is just over $59,000. The number varies between jobs, of course. A criminal justice salary per hour can range from just over $12 to nearly $29. That number only gets higher when it comes to cybersecurity jobs in particular, though. In this case, a criminal justice salary has an average of $92,600 per year.
The bottom line is that a Bachelor’s degree can help your career. With this upfront investment, you can see lots of financial benefits as you work.
How Much Can I Make in Criminal Justice?
You can make a great salary working in criminal justice and cybersecurity. As stated above, with criminal justice jobs, salary possibilities are quite high. Of course, when it comes to criminal justice jobs, salary can vary widely depending on the type of work. Generally, jobs that require a Bachelor’s degree will pay more than jobs that require an Associate’s degree or no degree at all. Just take a look at criminal justice salary per hour information. A quick search for “criminal justice salary per hour” shows that pay can be as low as $12.97 or as high as $28.17. Basically, the better your education, the better your criminal justice jobs salary.
Can I Get a Criminal Justice Degree for Free?
It’s extremely difficult to get a college degree for free. That said, it’s not impossible. If you’re already working in criminal justice, find out if your employer offers an education reimbursement program. A lot of employers recognize the value of a college-educated workforce. However, many also recognize that the expense often keeps people from pursuing those goals. Therefore, some employers will reimburse their employees for college credits. Otherwise, you can look for grants and scholarships to help you pay for your education.
You can also take some criminal justice online courses free. Now, these courses are usually non-credit options. They won’t provide college credit or count toward your degree. However, when you’re looking for criminal justice online courses, free options can help you boost your knowledge and know what to expect when you do take college courses. You may even find a college program that lets you “test out” of certain classes by demonstrating knowledge of the subject material. In that case, those free online courses will help you immensely. While you likely won’t earn an online criminal justice degree free, you may find that free courses are well worth the effort that you put into them.
You may also find a few free online law enforcement classes as part of a certificate program. Certificate programs give you another low-cost option for pursuing your education. When it comes to saving money on your education, you’ll need some creativity and research skills. Once you put in the work, though, you’ll find a path that works for you.
To save even more money on your degree, consider attending community college for the first year or two of your education. Community college classes are much cheaper than university classes. You can take your general education courses at a community college and then transfer the credits over to your online university.