College is an expensive proposition. No one wants to earn a degree and owe a ton of money for student loans. There are less costly options depending on one’s degree selection. Some programs have high tuition, no matter which college you select. For example, engineering, law or medicine can be extremely expensive four plus year programs.

What if you could work and earn a degree online in a popular field such as Criminal Justice? Here are the top 10 online programs for earning a degree in this field based on affordability.

 1.  Fort Hays State University (FHSU)

FHSU claims to be the leading forward-thinking, entrepreneurial university of the Midwest. They have an enrollment of more than 13,000 students and offer hundreds of certificate and degree programs at the associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s levels through 28 academic departments.This university offers online and on campus degrees but for this report, we’ll address the online programs. A sampling of the criminal justice curriculum involves:

  • Corporate Crime
  • Private Security
  • Terrorism
  • Sex Crimes
  • Victimology and Victim Services
  • Civil Liability
  • Police Systems and Practices

Their Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies are interdisciplinary programs that focus on the cause of crime and society’s response to crime. FHSU graduates are uniquely qualified and prepared to enter one of the many careers related to criminal justice, including state and federal special agents; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Marshals; customs agents; court administrators; law enforcement agents; security, correction, parole, probation and community correction officers; juvenile intake personnel; and victim services personnel. The majority of distance education students pursuing a degree in Justice Studies are adult learners, going back to school to finish or start a degree in order to change careers, obtain a promotion or increase their salary. A number of our students are already criminal justice practitioners and military veterans employed at the local, state or federal level. Total credit hours required for degree are 124.

Location: Hays, Kansas
Tuition: $21,576

 2.  Waldorf College

The Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice offered at Waldorf College is designed to provide the student with a strong base of knowledge in the three primary areas of the criminal justice system: law enforcement, courts, and corrections, while also providing additional knowledge in management. This foundation includes the Waldorf general education curriculum; numerous courses in the criminal justice arena; and courses in sociology and management. The program provides students with the general education, discipline specific, and technical knowledge required to succeed in the criminal justice workplace.

The interdisciplinary nature of our criminal justice major provides the student with the general education, discipline specific and technical knowledge required to succeed in the criminal justice workplace. Areas of employment are wide ranging, including local, state, and federal law enforcement, courts, corrections and Homeland Security. Total credit hours required are 120.

Location: Forest City, Iowa
Tuition: $27,000

 3.  Columbia College

The Criminal Justice Administration Program at Columbia is designed to permit the pursuit of different professional career goals while integrating the student of criminal justice and law with other relevant disciplines. A degree in criminal justice administration prepares students for entry-level employment in law enforcement, corrections and court based agencies, and provides opportunities for promotion and leadership roles within those agencies.

Students study criminal procedures, law, justice systems, judicial process, corrections and penology among other topics, giving you a truly comprehensive understanding of criminal justice. There is also the opportunity to engage in internship and practicum experiences.

Columbia offers an  Associate in Science in Criminal Justice Administration is a comprehensive two-year program designed to allow specialization within the field while integrating the interdisciplinary perspectives of sociology and psychology. The online program also has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice Administration. Total hours required for the BA are 120 hours.

Location: Columbia, Missouri
Tuition: $27,480

 4. Northwestern State University of Louisiana

The baccalaureate program provides a full complement of Criminal Justice courses. Additional course work is taken in Sociology, Psychology, and Political Science. Here is a sampling of the curriculum for the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice:

  • Police Process-  Social and historical settings of the police
  • Criminal Justice Ethics
  • Adjudication Process-  Role and structure of prosecution, public defense, and courts
  • Intro to Criminalistics and Forensic Science-  The application of science to law in a criminal justice setting
  • Criminal Investigation-  Fundamentals of investigation; crime-scene search and recording
  • Criminal Evidence and Procedure-  Constitutional and procedural considerations affecting arrest, search and seizure, post-conviction treatment; origin, development, philosophy, constitutional basis of evidence
  • Juvenile Delinquency and Justice
  • Criminology, Foundations and Punishment

120 credit hours required for the bachelor’s degree.

Location: Natchitoches, Louisiana
Tuition: $29,973

 5. Ohio University

The Bachelor of Criminal Justice (B.C.J.) is intended for students who have already completed an applied associate degree program in the criminal justice field from an accredited community college, regional campus, or technical college, and who wish to pursue a baccalaureate degree. The guiding premise of the program is that the criminal justice system can be improved by providing high-quality, liberal education to men and women who have already earned an associate degree in a related field.

The B.C.J. can be completed through the Online Degree Completion Program, through which you will take online classes from Ohio University and also may choose to take some required courses at a local university, community or technical college, or at an Ohio University regional campus. The B.C.J. major requirements are:

  • Oral Communication-  Public speaking and Group Discussion
  • Ethical Reasoning-  Ethics, social and political Philosophy
  • Statistical Reasoning- Quantitative Applications in Criminal Justice
  • Research Methods-  Research Methods in Psychology and Social Work
  •  Diversity and Intercultural Understanding
  • Political and Legal Issues
  • Human Behavior and Social Problems
  • Professional and Organizational Skills

Location: Athens, Ohio
Tuition: $30,144

 6. American Public University

Founded as American Military University (AMU) in 1991 by a retired Marine Corps officer, James P. Etter, who envisioned an innovative way to offer quality and affordable education to our U.S. armed forces—we’ve grown to serve a diverse population of more than 100,000 military, public service, and corporate professionals through American Military University and American Public University. In 2002, AMU was reorganized into American Public University System (APUS). American Public University (APU) was founded to provide access to the same quality, affordable, and relevant education to a broader audience of motivated working adults with an emphasis on public service disciplines.

The Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice prepares students for a wide range of careers within the criminal justice field, and at the same time enhances the professional career paths of those already within the discipline. The degree program’s interdisciplinary approach provides students with a sound knowledge base in the areas of U.S. law enforcement, criminology, investigations, law, and community relations. A wide range of course offerings further enable students to focus on juvenile issues, causes of crime and criminal behavior, corrections and incarceration, investigative procedures/techniques, and forensics. For those students interested, concentrations in Organizational Law Enforcement Leadership and Maritime Law Enforcement are available. The curriculum also provides the background and educational experience necessary for those who may wish to later pursue graduate study.

Location: Charles Town, West Virginia
Tuition: $30,250

 7. Troy University of Online Learning

As a leader in distance education, Troy prides itself on the fact that we can deliver complete degrees online or provide students a comprehensive offering of courses which compliment their in-class work. Their online delivery program is called eTROY and it is rooted in the deep traditions of Troy University which date back to its founding in 1887.

Troy was one of the first universities to pursue offering students the flexibility of taking courses online and continues to add complete degrees to its undergraduate and graduate academic offerings. Their philosophy is that no student should be limited access to a college degree because of time, place, or situation. Criminal Justice Majors are encouraged to take two semesters of Spanish or another foreign language as part of their general studies requirements. A sampling of the undergraduate program involves:

  • Survey of Corrections
  • Survey of Law and Criminal Procedure
  • Terrorism
  • Cyber Crime
  • Criminal Justice Issues in Homeland Security
  • Private and Public Security Administration

Location: Troy, Alabama
Tuition: $32,160

 8. Metropolitan University

If you are an adult learner looking to finish what you started by completing your bachelor’s degree or going on to obtain your master’s or doctorate, Metropolitan State University should be a consideration. The school  offers over 60 baccalaureate majors, 10 master’s degrees, and 2 doctoral programs. Founded in 1971, the university is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and is the only state university in the Twin Cities.  It is a comprehensive urban university committed to meeting the higher education needs of those who live and work in the 13 county metropolitan area.

The Law Enforcement Major for Minnesota Licensed Peace Officers is designed for those who wish to earn a bachelor’s degree and enhance their knowledge, skills and potential for professional advancement. The Law Enforcement Major may be completed on campus or online. Eligibility requirements must be met. These are available at 

The online Law Enforcement Major Completion Program is a cohort program which begins in fall semester of each year. Students are required to attend a one-day orientation at Metropolitan State University in August to meet instructors, fellow students, learn about Web-based courses, and finalize degree plans with an advisor. This is the only required travel to campus during the program.

Location: St. Paul, Minnesota
Tuition: $33,490

 9. Bemidji State University (BSU)

BSU calls their online degree programs “Extended Learning” which are aimed at adult students just starting a degree, adding a new degree or finishing a degree started at Bemidji State University or elsewhere. Some programs allow students to complete all of their courses from their office or home, while others require some time on-campus or at another designated location close to where they live or work.

BSU offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in one of four areas including Law Enforcement with Internship, Corrections with Internship, Criminal Justice with Internship and Criminal Justice (non-internship). This is a generalist degree that prepares you for a career in law enforcement, corrections, and other public and private agencies concerned with the prevention and investigation of crime. The program also allows majors to choose one of four areas of specialization within the discipline that best prepares them for their career choice. This preparation includes a combination of course work, internships, and special research projects. Students considering this major are encouraged to develop a proficiency in writing. The degree is also appropriate for students who choose to pursue advanced study in criminal justice or law.

Location: Bemidji, Minnesota
Tuition: $34,615

 10. Baker College Online

Baker College, founded in 1911, is Michigan’s largest, private, not-for-profit, independent college with 9 campuses and more than 28,000 students. In the mid-1990s, it was one of the first colleges to embrace the concept of online classes. Today, their online school is one of America’s largest with over 40 accredited degree programs delivered 100% online, and more than 20,000 students attend online worldwide.

Baker’s Criminal Justice bachelor degree program focuses on ethical behavior and a commitment to service, and provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to respond to complex and dynamic situations appropriately. Designed with the continuing guidance and input of professionals and employers in the field, this program aligns with the standards of the Michigan Corrections Officers Training Council. Through classwork and internships, students develop the skills, tools, and methods needed to work in the criminal justice profession. Furthermore, students explore the concepts of crime and justice, and develop an understanding of the relationship between police, corrections, and the courts. The Criminal Justice Major requirements are 118 credit hours.

Location: 15 campuses in Michigan
Tuition: $38,540


The average cost of a Bachelor’s degree in the criminal justice and law data set is $44,799. According to The Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average salary for a police officer is not much higher than this, with the average police officer earning $56,980 in 2012 with a high school diploma. The job growth rate was projected at only 5%. As in most occupations, more education may translate to higher salary and certainly more career paths to choose.

With these salaries in mind, it behooves those in law enforcement to advance their education with as little debt as possible. The above-referenced online undergraduate programs are worth contemplation, at least from an affordability perspective.

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