Best Online Associate's Degrees in Criminal Justice

With a criminal justice degree, students will learn how the criminal justice system operates and achieve an understanding of the principles.

Updated September 20, 2023 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Program Options, Degree Requirements & Learning Outcomes

For those interested in working in a career where protecting the innocent and ensuring justice is paramount, an associate degree in criminal justice may be an ideal degree to pursue. With a criminal justice degree, students will learn how the criminal justice system operates and achieve an understanding of the principles concerning crime, the courts and correctional policy. Graduates will have an exciting range of careers available to them, ranging from police officer to court administrator. Read on to learn more about getting an online associate degree in criminal justice.

Top 10 Best Online Associate Degree In Criminal Justice

#1 Kansas City Kansas Community College Kansas City, KS
#2 Chemeketa Community College Salem, OR
#3 College of the Ouachitas Arkadelphia, AZ
#4 Tallahassee Community College Tallahassee, FL
#5 Fayetteville Technical Community College Fayetteville, NC
#6 Forsyth Technical Community College Winston-Salem, NC
#7 Coastal Carolina Community College Jacksonville, NC
#8 Wayne Community College Goldsboro, NC
#9 Holmes Community College Goodman, MS
#10 Fox Valley Technical College Appleton, WI is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degrees


To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria: Accredited at the institutional level Private nonprofit or public school Minimum of 1 online associate degree in subject area Schools were then scored on factors such as: Cost & Financial Aid Number and variety of program offerings Student-teacher ratios Placement and support services offered Academic/Career counseling services Employment services Loan default rates These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or "bang for your buck" of a college or degree program.

With so many online schools and programs to choose from, it can be difficult to know which schools are considered top choices for criminal justice programs. That's why we have found the best academic options for students by analyzing factors such as class size, institutional financial aid opportunities, and acceptance rates at schools across the country. Explore our list of 2017's top schools that offer online learning options for criminal justice students below.

  1. Kansas City Kansas Community College

    Kansas City, KS

    Criminal justice specialists who want to improve their professional skills may enroll in the Associate of Applied Science in Corrections at Kansas City Kansas Community College. Options open to students are in corrections and police science. In addition to these two year programs, the school offers an option to earn a one-year certificate in corrections or police science. There is a basic skills and a math general education admissions requirement. First time students must also take the COMPASS exam. Sample classes include criminology, probation and parole, juvenile delinquency and justice, world terrorism, criminal procedure and criminal investigation. About 39 of the 64 credits needed to graduate are in the police science or corrections field.

  2. Chemeketa Community College

    Salem, OR

    Aspiring law enforcement professionals can earn a certificate or associate degree in the field at Chemeketa Community College to get started with their careers. Some associate programs are specifically designed to be transfer options for those who wish to earn a four-year degree. A Career Pathways roadmap is available on the school's website to help students determine which program is best suited for their career goals. Students attending online courses do so through CCC's eLearn online course management system, where they communicate with instructors and peers, access course materials and submit assignments.

  3. College of the Ouachitas

    Arkadelphia, AZ

    College of the Ouachitas is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice is administered through the Allied Health Science division. There's an option to complete the school's one year criminal justice certificate program then transfer into the associate program. Comprising the 60 to 61 credit associate program are more than 20 degree focused and general education courses. Prerequisites in police organization and management, sociology, reading and writing offer a rounded curriculum. Career counseling, academic advising and student support services are available to assist students with class scheduling and job searches.

  4. Tallahassee Community College

    Tallahassee, FL

    About 75 percent of Tallahassee Community College graduates pursue advanced degrees at four-year schools in Florida. The Associate of Science in Criminal Justice Technology degree is one of the many degree programs offered at the school. Political science, psychology, law and sociology are the four fields that instructors cover during the criminal justice portion of the training. Program length is 60 credits and students can expect to learn topics such as an overview of the court system, justice administration, contemporary criminal justice issues, probation and parole and juvenile justice. If students want training that is more narrowly defined in law and corrections, they could earn a public safety certificate.

  5. Fayetteville Technical Community College

    Fayetteville, NC

    Aspiring law enforcement officers can earn a diploma, certificate or degree in criminal justice at Fayetteville Technical Community College. The programs are available completely online, along with programs in about 30 other web-based programs. Distance education students access their course materials and instructors online, providing the flexibility they need to complete their education. Special services are available for active military and veterans and a corporate and continuing education program is available for those looking to increase skills in their current field. The school has more than 200 programs of study with the support of counseling services, a student learning center and a variety of clubs and organizations.

  6. Forsyth Technical Community College

    Winston-Salem, NC

    A certificate or associate degree in criminal justice from Forsyth Tech teaches students about the judicial processes at the local, state and federal level, preparing graduates for a career in the field. It also includes a 16-week spring internship, giving students the hands-on experience they need to secure a job after graduation. This and many other programs are available online, with the flexibility to view lectures and communicate with instructors and peers at any time of the day. The college offers a total of 69 associate degrees, 29 of which are available completely online.

  7. Coastal Carolina Community College

    Jacksonville, NC

    The criminal justice technology curriculum at Coastal Carolina Community College teaches students about criminal and constitutional law, ethics, criminology and the system's role within society. Students who choose to take online courses receive the same curriculum as on-campus students. While the courses are accessible entirely online, many exams are proctored, requiring students to visit campus or take the test at an approved testing facility. The Learning Resource Center provides online help, video tutorials and access to research databases for online students, helping to set them up for success.

  8. Wayne Community College

    Goldsboro, NC

    Wayne Community College's small class sizes enable its criminal justice technology students to get the personalized attention they need to get on the right path to a career in the field. Students can earn the degree online, along with a degree in education, office administration, accounting and several other fields. WCC also has diploma and certificate programs available online. An online learner survival guide gives students tips on time management, motivation and study skills. Online study resources are also available, helping students to be successful in an unstructured environment.

  9. Holmes Community College

    Goodman, MS

    Part of the Mississippi Virtual Community College, Holmes Community College offers a number of online and virtual courses and programs. Students attend class by accessing course materials via the Canvas online learning system. They can work at their convenience, watching lectures and submitting assignments at any time, so long as they meet instructor-set deadlines. In addition, the Community College Network offers interactive video courses that links HCC to other community colleges and two state universities to offer conference-style courses. A self-assessment helps students determine if they're a good candidate for online learning opportunities.

  10. Fox Valley Technical College

    Appleton, WI

    Fox Valley Technical College has six in-person locations and a number of flexible learning options for the non-traditional student. Its online courses and programs require a stronger commitment by the student to ensure they are on track and up-to-date on all requirements. Students pursuing a career in public safety can take some courses online, however hands-on training is typically required for those going into these fields. FVTC prepares its graduates for careers in the technical fields and offers more than 200 associate degrees, diplomas, certificates and apprenticeships. The school also has a career development resource to help new and future students help in determining their career path.

Find the Right Online Associate Degree in Criminal Justice for You

There is a plethora of schools offering associate degrees in criminal justice, with many of the degrees offered online. With so many choices, it can be hard to figure out where to start a search for the right program. That's where the following search tool comes in, allowing students to narrow down potential schools based on various characteristics, such as size, tuition and acceptance rate. 

What to Expect During Your Criminal Justice Associate Degree Program


As is true with many other associate degree programs, the admissions process for criminal justice is fairly straightforward. The steps needed in order to start working towards an online associate's degree in criminal justice generally consist of the following:

Finish high school or get a GED

In order to be admitted, prospective students will need to submit proof that they graduated high school or earned their GED. This can usually be provided with a certified copy of the high school diploma, GED certificate or submission of official final high school transcript.

Take the necessary standardized tests

Some online associate degree programs do not require incoming students to take the SAT or ACT, but many do. Prospective students will need to determine if standardized test scores are required and if so, prepare to take the test. Always allow ample time for the test to be graded and scores to be sent to the online institution.

Demonstrate an interest in criminal justice or the law

This isn't a hard and fast requirement, but it can be very helpful when applying to a criminal justice program. Admissions officers like to see students who are genuinely interested in their chosen field of study, and might improve the likelihood of acceptance.

Obtain the necessary technology for taking classes online

Access to internet connection and a computer with the necessary hardware and software for taking classes online is a must. Each school will have its own minimum hardware and software requirements, but generally speaking, students will need a computer with speakers (or ability to use headphones), CD/DVD ROM drive, microphone and/or webcam, and office productivity software, such as PowerPoint, Office and Excel.


  • Begin general education requirements

    An associate degree program will include several general education courses that are not related to the student's major. The general education requirements cover a variety of subjects, such as history, science, math and social science.

  • Complete core and remedial coursework

    In order to ensure that students begin their core studies at roughly the same level, some programs will require incoming students to take assessment tests or provide transcripts that prove they are at a particular academic level. If they are not, they will take remedial courses during their first year.


  • Learn core criminal justice theories and concepts

    The bulk of a student's criminal justice studies will start at the beginning of their second year. Students can expect to take courses in areas such as criminal procedure, evidence, law enforcement and justice administration.

  • Take criminal justice electives

    The criminal justice curriculum usually allows for students to choose which criminal justice courses they would like to take. This allows students to tailor their degree to more effectively suit their academic and professional needs. Most of the major electives are only available during a student's second year.

  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of criminal justice

    During their final semester, students will often be required to take a course that demonstrates they possess the wide range of knowledge expected, as well as have the ability to apply that knowledge. Depending on the class, students may be asked to complete a final project or paper.


One of the major selling points of an associate degree is the option to apply the credits earned to a future bachelor's degree program. Depending on the four-year college or university, incoming students with an associate degree can get their bachelor's degree in criminal justice in two additional years. Students who want to eventually transfer to a criminal justice bachelor's program should keep the following requirements in mind.

  • Research potential transfer schools

    Students should start their research early, as some schools have very particular requirements for transfer students, such as maximum credits that will be accepted and minimum GPA requirements. The specific policies of the schools a student will transfer to and get their bachelor's degree from will shape the student's course selection in the associate degree program.

  • Meet with an academic or transfer advisor

    At the very least, students interested in transferring should consult with their academic advisor to get help on creating a course schedule that will make it easy to make the move. Consulting with a transfer advisor at the potential bachelor's degree program is also a good idea.

  • Get the best grades possible in criminal justice courses

    Most schools that accept transfer students have minimum GPA requirements. In addition to a higher GPA helping ensure acceptance, the better the GPA is, the more likely a student will qualify for merit-based financial aid. Having good grades in your major courses can help get a head start on your criminal justice bachelor's program.

  • Apply for admission to bachelor's in criminal justice programs

    The earlier the student starts their admissions application, the less stressful it will be. The application may require standardized test scores, essays and letters of recommendation, usually related to criminal justice experience. These can all take several months to put together, so it pays to start as early as possible.

Career Paths for Online Associate in Criminal Justice Grads

An associate degree in criminal justice can open a lot of career doors. In fact, the associate is an ideal degree because it meets the educational requirements for many jobs in the field. For example, many criminal justice jobs, such as police officer, correctional officer or legal assistant, usually just require a high school diploma or a limited amount of post-secondary credits. This means students with an associate degree could be at an advantage when looking for post graduate employment. Some of those potential employment options are explored here.


Police Officers 

Police officers protect the general public and enforce criminal laws. They may also investigate crimes and gather evidence from a crime scene. Other duties of include testifying in court, executing search and arrest warrants, patrolling a given geographic area and responding to distress calls.

Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%

Median Annual Salary (May 2015) $60,270

Correctional Officers & Bailiffs 

Correctional officers and bailiffs have the task of managing individuals who are under the custody of a court or correctional system. Correctional officers supervise individuals detained in jail or prison while bailiffs ensure the proper running of a courtroom, such as guarding judges and juries, enforcing courtroom rules and handling court documents.

Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%

Median Annual Salary (May 2015) $40,580

Paralegals & Legal Assistants 

Paralegals and legal assistants provide administrative and legal support to lawyers and Judges. Some tasks include answering the telephone, drafting legal memos, correspondence and contracts, transcribing dictation, filing legal documents with the court, conducting legal research and reviewing client files.

Job Growth (2014-2024) 8%

Median Annual Salary (May 2015)$48,810

Private Detectives & Investigators 

Private detectives and investigators search for various types of information on behalf of private clients. Often, the information sought is financial, criminal or very personal in nature. This information can be obtained by conducting surveillance of people or places, interviewing individuals, researching legal histories and collecting evidence.

Job Growth (2014-2024) 5%

Median Annual Salary (May 2015) $45,610

Fire Inspectors 

A fire inspector examines buildings and plans to confirm they comply with applicable fire laws and regulations. In the course of a fire inspector's duties, they can expect to review building plans, inspect buildings, provide fire safety education, test fire safety equipment and identify fire hazards.

Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%

Median Annual Salary (May 2015) $54,790

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook

Key Learning Objectives of an Online Associate in Criminal Justice

Associate in Criminal Justice

  • Basic understanding of the criminal justice system

    One of the most basic and fundamental areas of knowledge a criminal justice student will learn in an associate degree program is the criminal justice process. From the concept of probable cause before an arrest to the beyond a reasonable doubt standard in order to gain a criminal conviction, students will learn what takes place during these moments and everything else in between.

  • Intro to psychological underpinning of crime

    Why are people motivated to engage in criminal behavior? How can criminals be rehabilitated? Why do people become repeat offenders? Students who earn their associate degree in criminal justice will be able to provide an answer to these and similar questions. In addition to learning the "what," students will also learn the "why."

  • Think critically about crime & corrections

    By getting a degree in criminal justice, students will be able to analyze and apply facts, policies and statistics about crime. Students will not just be able to rehash theories and numbers, but apply those pieces of information to create or modify criminal policies in order to improve society.

PHD in Criminal Justice


Master's in Criminal Justice


Bachelor's in Criminal Justice


Additional Resources

The criminal justice field is broad, with a great deal of information to learn and understand. The following is a brief list of organizations that can help advance a prospective student's criminal justice career.

American Criminal Justice Association - Lambda Alpha Epsilon

The ACJA-LAE is an organization open to both criminal justice professionals and students studying to work in the criminal justice field. The ACJA-LAE has numerous resources available to students, such as scholarships, academic competitions and career information.

American Society of Criminology

The ASC is an international organization with the broad task of increasing the practical and scholarly level of knowledge concerning crime, crime prevention and delinquency. Part of the ASC's goals is to promote academic research in criminology.

National Criminal Intelligence Resource Center

The NCIRC is a hub of criminal justice resources designed to assist criminal justice professionals. The information contained at the NCIRC website can also be informative to criminal justice students by exposing them to key points in the criminal justice field.

National Criminal Justice Association

Because the NCJA is intended to represent government entities found at multiple levels, the association addresses current issues in crime and prevention on a broad scale.

Popular Resources

Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

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