Overview

Criminology is the study of crime and criminals. Professionals in the field study the science behind crime and its causes to inform professionals in criminal justice and law enforcement—an important responsibility in terms of equitable justice and law enforcement strategy.

Due to the complexity of the field and its importance, many consider obtaining a master’s degree. Criminology master’s programs train students to become sociologists who specialize in criminal behavior and the causes and effects of crime. Courses ensure students develop a comprehensive understanding of the basic elements of psychology, the criminal justice system, and current law enforcement practices while being able to respond to new developments including cybercrime.

Degree holders can work as researchers, consultants, or work for government agencies such as the FBI or in the private sector. In addition, many go on as fraud analysts.

Yes. The key is to find an accredited program that suits your specific scheduling needs.

Most online degrees are accepted by employers and universities. What matters more is a student’s performance in the program and their work experience.

A master’s in criminology takes around 2 years to complete. Students can complete their degrees faster by taking more courses, but it’s best to take your time.

For those who want a career in improving the criminal justice system, a master’s degree is a worthwhile investment. In addition, degree holders often have higher salaries and chances of employment compared to their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees.

To put it simply, criminology master’s programs explore the socioeconomic, political, and environmental factors affecting crime. This type of education ensures that degree holders can evaluate and examine the current criminal justice system to offer suggestions that lead the way to equity and progress. At a time of political and social tension between the criminal justice system and the public, such expertise is invaluable.

Best Online Masters in Criminology Programs

We took a deep-dive and analyzed every online Masters in Criminology program in the nation. Below are the results of our analysis and a list of the 12 best online Masters in Criminology programs.

Read about our methodology here.

Graduation Rate
79%
School Type
Public
Tuition
$554 per credit
Best Value

Florida State University offers one of best master's in criminology programs in terms of value thanks in part to its affordability and career-driven curriculum. Students pay the same online tuition no matter where they live and can match the coursework with their career goals for true flexibility.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: College of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminology
Available Concentrations: Penology, Race, Ethnicity, Crime & Social Justice, Criminal Law, Procedures & Individual Rights, Criminal Justice Administration

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's Degree
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Field Education Requirements: 9 credit hour full time graduate internship (field practice)

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-time
Program Length: 1 year

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Fall: July 1; Spring: November 1; Summer: March 1
GPA: 3.0

Address:

112 S Copeland Street

Tallahassee, FL 32306

850-644-6200

Graduation Rate
55%
School Type
Public
Tuition
$295 per credit
Best for Policy Careers

Missouri State University prepares graduates for careers as criminal justice policy makers thanks to a rigorous curriculum in the master's in criminology program. Graduates have the skills to make critical decisions in the criminal justice system and to lead in administrative roles in their careers. Students also have the opportunity to earn a homeland security certificate as part of the program.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Criminology and Criminal Justice
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's Degree in Sociology, Criminology, or Criminal Justice
Credit Requirements: 36 credits

Program LengthProgram Length: 3 years
Program start dates: Fall, Spring, Summer

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Fall: August 16; Spring: January 11; Summer: June 7
GPA: 3.0

Address:

901 S National Ave

Springfield, MO 65897

417-836-5000

Graduation Rate
71%
School Type
Public
Tuition
In-state: $1,495 per credit; Out-of-state: $2,263 per credit
Most Reputable

The University of Texas at Dallas has an outstanding reputation for its criminology program thanks to its cutting-edge research facilities and faculty. Students who enroll in this online program learn from renowned criminologists and gain the skills to advance their careers in administration.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminology

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Baccalaureate in Criminology, Sociology, or a relevant discipline
Credit Requirements: 36 credits

Program LengthProgram Length: 1 year
Program start dates: Fall: July 1

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Fall: May 1; Spring: October 1; Summer: March 1
GPA: 3.2

Address:

800 W. Campbell Rd

Richardson, TX 75080

972-883-2935

Graduation Rate
86%
School Type
Public
Tuition
$13,974 per year
Best for Leadership Careers

The University of California-Irvine designed its master's in criminology program for professionals in law enforcement, corrections and other related fields who want to advance their careers into leadership positions. Graduates are prepared for administrative roles after college thanks to a rigorous curriculum and an expert faculty with years of experience in academics and criminal justice professions.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Department of Criminology, Law and Society
Program Name: Masters of Advanced Study in Criminology, Law and Society

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's Degree
Credit Requirements: 52 credits

Program LengthProgram Length: 2 years
Program start dates: October 1

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: March 1
GPA: 3.0

Address:

Irvine, CA 92697

949-824-4611

Graduation Rate
52%
School Type
Public
Tuition
In-state: $635 per credit; Out-of-state: $1,050.06 per credit
Best for Sociology Careers

Texas A&M University-Commerce caters to both aspiring and advanced criminal justice professionals who want to pursue leadership roles in sociology. The master's in criminology program prepares them for careers as sociologists, giving them the skills to study the behavior of groups, cultures, organizations and more.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice
Program Name: Master of Science in Applied Criminology
Available Concentrations: General Criminology, Criminal Justice Administration & Management, Homeland Security
Accrediting Body: SACS

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's Degree
Credit Requirements: 36 credits

Program LengthProgram Length: 18 months
Program start dates: Summer: July 6

Admission RequirementsGPA: 3.0

Address:

2200 Campbell St

Commerce, TX 75428

903-886-5483

Graduation Rate
44%
School Type
Public
Tuition
$707 per credit
Best Credit Transfer

Western Kentucky University is the ideal choice for transfer students who want to earn their criminology degree without having to take unnecessary courses. The university allows students to transfer up to 12 credit hours from a previous graduate program and to start any day of the year thanks to on-demand coursework.


Program OverviewProgram Name: Master of Arts in Criminology
Accrediting Body: SACS

DeliveryFormat: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's Degree
Credit Requirements: 36 credits

Program LengthProgram Length: 2-3 years
Program start dates: Fall: August 27; Winter: January 2; Spring: January 22; Summer: May 13

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: February 1
GPA: 3.0

Address:

1906 College Heights Blvd

Bowling Green, KY 42101

270-745-2446

Graduation Rate
59%
School Type
Private Non-profit
Tuition
$600 per credit
Most Flexible

Regis University's master's in criminology program is ideal for distance learners who want the flexibility to earn their degree at their own pace. Students can choose a specialized focus area, tailor the coursework to their interests and select between online and blended campus formats to have a truly customized educational experience.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: College of Contemporary Liberal Studies
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminology
Available Concentrations: Leadership, Human Behavior, Cybercrime, Terrorism
Accrediting Body: HLC

DeliveryFormat: Online, Hybrid

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Baccalaureate Degree
Credit Requirements: 36 credits

Program LengthProgram start dates: Fall: August 27; Spring: January 14; Summer: May 6

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Rolling
GPA: 3.0

Address:

3333 Regis Blvd

Denver, CO 80221

800-944-7667

Graduation Rate
52%
School Type
Public
Tuition
$600 per credit
Best for Criminology Education Careers

San Jose State University offers an online master's in criminology degree program with a curriculum that prepares graduates for careers as criminology or criminal justice instructors. Students develop the skills to create a syllabus, to deliver coursework and to teach law enforcement procedures to students in their classes.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Department of Justice Studies
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminology
Available Concentrations: Global Criminology

DeliveryFormat: Online
Instruction Style: Asychronous

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Baccalaureate Degree
Credit Requirements: 30 credits

Program LengthProgram Length: 2 years
Program start dates: Fall: August 21

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Spring: December 1; Fall: June 1
GPA: 3.0

Address:

1 Washington Square

San Jose, CA 95192

408-924-2940

Graduation Rate
40%
School Type
Public
Tuition
In-state: $412 per credit; Out-of-state: $527 per credit
Best Educational Paths

Students at Indiana State University have two criminology programs to choose from: a Master of Arts and a Master of Science. Both programs provide similar coursework in criminal justice and criminology but require different credit hours, giving students separate options for pursing their degree.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: College of Graduate and Professional Studies
Program Name: Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice
Accrediting Body: Higher Learning Commission

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Baccalaureate Degree
Credit Requirements: 36 credits

Program LengthProgram start dates: Fall: August 21; Spring: January 15; Summer: May 20

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Fall: July 1; Spring: December 1; Summer: April 1
GPA: 3.0

Address:

200 N 7th St

Terre Haute, IN 47809

812-237-3619

Graduation Rate
32%
School Type
Public
Tuition
$393 per credit
Most Individualized Experience

Delta State University offers small class sizes for students who want to receive a more individualized education in the master's in criminology program. This program also includes a personal adviser to oversee the students' progress as they work toward earning their degree.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Division of Social Sciences and History
Program Name: Master of Science in Social Justice & Criminology

DeliveryFormat: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Undergraduate Degree in the proposed area of study

Program LengthProgram start dates: Fall: August 20; Spring: January 7; Summer: May 28

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Rolling
GPA: 3.0

Contact:

Beverly Moon

Admissions Contact

Address:

Hwy 8 West

Cleveland, MS 38733

662-846-4700

Graduation Rate
53%
School Type
Public
Tuition
In-state: $516 per credit; Out-of-state: $526 per credit
Most Accelerated

California University of Pennsylvania offers an accelerated master's in criminology program for distance learners. Students in this program who enroll on a full-time basis can complete the entire coursework in just over a year.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Department of Criminal Justice
Program Name: Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Studies
Accrediting Body: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Credit Requirements: 30 credits

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-time
Program Length: 1 year
Program start dates: Fall: August 27, 2018; Spring: January 22, 2019

Admission RequirementsGPA: 3.0

Address:

250 University Ave

California, PA 15419

866-595-6348

Graduation Rate
53%
School Type
Public
Tuition
In-state: $525 per credit; Out-of-state: $613 per credit
Best New Program

Indiana University of Pennsylvania started its online master's in criminology program in 2009, making it one of the best new programs in the nation. Though it's fairly new, this program offers an in-depth curriculum and delivers invaluable education thanks to an expert faculty with professional experience.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Program Name: Master of Arts in Criminology

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsCredit Requirements: 30 credits

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-time, part-time
Program Length: 1 year (full-time), 2 years (part-time)
Program start dates: Fall: August 27; Spring: January 22

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Rolling
GPA: 3.0

Address:

411 N Walk

Indiana, PA 15705

724-357-2720

What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Criminology Program?

Online master’s in criminology programs focus on the cause, effect and social impact of crime. Criminology is rooted in sociology and psychology, so students receive a multidisciplinary understanding of why crime happens and how it can be prevented. Online master’s programs are available through traditional universities with the same degree of professionalism as on-campus classes. These programs are designed for full-time graduate students or working professionals pursuing their master’s part-time who want to earn their master’s at their own pace or at an accelerated rate. Online master’s in criminology programs vary in many aspects, so it’s important to compare programs to find one that meets your career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Criminology

Online master’s in law enforcement administration programs offer a variety of concentrations that help improve your crime prevention, personnel management and leadership skills. Most programs are designed for mid-level to upper-level law enforcement professionals, but the curriculum varies. Compare program details and choose one with courses that align with your career goals, especially when you seek advancement into supervisory roles.

CONCENTRATIONDESCRIPTIONPOSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
CriminologistEquips graduates with an overall understanding of crime and criminal behavior and offers a wide variety of career opportunities in academia, law enforcement, corrections, science and government.Forensic scientist, intelligence analyst, criminal profiler, criminology professor, private investigator, police officer, corrections officer, social worker
Forensic CriminologyFocuses on the legal aspects of forensics and criminology and may lead graduates into criminal investigation, predominately collecting and analyzing evidence.Crime scene photographer, forensic photographer, expert photo analyst, crime scene specialist
Human BehaviorExamines why people commit crimes or why certain individuals become victims and may encourage career paths in counseling or other sociology-based professions.Criminal profiler, crime analyst, victimology expert, law enforcement, victim advocate, counselor
CybercrimeProvides graduates with an understanding of the social and behavioral aspects of cybercrime while developing skills in digital forensic science and cybercrime investigation.Cybercrime investigator, information security crime investigator, forensics expert, FBI computer forensic examiner, counterterrorism consultant

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Criminology

Many online master’s in criminology programs allow you to complete your degree completely online, but a few require a limited amount of on-campus attendance. All criminology programs focus on crime and criminal behavior, but some are customizable to suit your professional aspirations. When choosing an online program, compare your career goals to the curriculum to determine whether a program meets your specific needs.

No two online criminology master’s degrees are exactly alike. Some programs focus strictly on core subjects directly related to criminology, while others offer a combination of core courses and electives that may or may not relate to criminology, depending on the program and whether you want to specialize in one aspect of criminology. Always choose programs with coursework that directly correlates to your career goals. Here are examples of core courses you might encounter in a criminology program:

COURSESDESCRIPTION
Research Methods in CriminologyCriminological studies with focus on data collection methods and measuring the validity and reliability of the data collected.
VictimologyScientific study of victims, including victim types, patterns, characteristics and impacts.
Criminal ProfilingAn overview of the development of perpetrators of violent crimes, often combined with an analytical understanding of the unique characteristics of serial criminals and their methodologies.
CybercriminologyAn understanding of cybercrime tactics and the social and psychological aspects of a cybercriminal, which can be beneficial when pursuing careers in forensic science or intelligence analysis.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Criminology?

Completion of an online master’s degree in criminology varies based on the type of program you choose and your motivation level. Programs in a collaborative learning environment use a cohort-based model that requires all students to take classes as a group at scheduled times, which will take longer to complete, whereas motivated students enrolled in programs offered in an individually paced format can complete their degree quicker.

Depending on the program, earning an online master’s in criminology could require completing anywhere from 30 to 56 credits. Most programs take about two years or four semesters to complete; however, institutions that offer accelerated programs allow students to finish sooner. Full-time students may be able to earn their degree through an accelerated program in one year to 18 months. Professionals pursuing their degree part-time may take considerably longer, especially if their career and/or family obligations allow little time to dedicate to their studies.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Criminology Prepares For

Certifications and licenses aren’t typically necessary for entry-level criminology positions, but voluntary certifications are available to provide credentials of expertise in the field and could help in career development. However, some states and many law enforcement agencies do require their own professional licensing through a licensure exam. Check with your local law enforcement agencies, secretary of state office or professional licensing department to learn specific requirements in your state.

CERTIFICATIONDESCRIPTION
Private InvestigatorIf your criminology career goal is to become a private investigator, most states do require you to obtain a state-issued license, which requires passing an exam. Earning a master’s in criminology can prepare you to pass this exam.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Criminology Degrees

To protect yourself from fraudulent or subpar schools, always ensure the college or university and the online master’s in criminology program are accredited. Accreditation demonstrates the school consistently provides quality education that prepares graduates for careers in their chosen field. Attending an unaccredited school will likely disqualify you from federal and state financial aid and usually prevents you from transferring earned credits to another learning institution.

Legitimate universities, colleges and online degree programs receive accreditation from agencies recognized by either the Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation. While no single accreditation agency oversees all criminology programs, some programs have obtained specialized accreditation through organizations like the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Look for information on the program’s website indicating accreditation, then verify this information with the agency listed.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Criminology Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Because many jobs in the criminology field are specialized and highly competitive, obtaining a master’s degree over a bachelor’s degree makes you a more desirable candidate. This is especially true in laboratory settings, such as forensic science, or when you specialize in a niche field, such as toxicology, ballistics or forensic odontology.

Expected Salary

Earning a master’s in criminology can potentially boost your salary by establishing new career paths and promoting career growth. Entry-level positions in criminology seldom require a master’s, but many advanced criminologist positions do. Many agencies often show preference to candidates with advanced degrees, even in low-level positions. To learn more about typical salaries, consider these salary ranges for various positions you may qualify for with your master’s in criminology.

Job TitleSalary Range
Criminologist$26,631–$65,889
Forensic Scientist$36,358–$90,142
Intelligence Analyst$40,228–$100,991
Criminal Profiler$44,698–$98,633
Detective/Criminal Investigator$38,343–$106,472

Source: PayScale.com

Where you live can also have a huge impact on your salary in the criminology field. Detective and criminal investigators are some of the higher paid professionals in this field, but you could earn even more as a criminal investigator in one of these top-paying states.

Top 5 States for Detectives and Criminal Investigators

Below is a map of mean wages for detectives and criminal investigators nationwide.

Detectives and Criminal Investigators Mean Wages by State
Figures in US Dollars per year

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Opportunities

Based on your specialization, criminologists with an online master’s degree can pursue highly varied career paths. Career opportunities can be found on the local, state and federal levels and with private companies, laboratories and research departments at educational institutions. Law enforcement agencies and government employers especially seek out criminologists possessing graduate degrees with specialties in a variety of fields.

JOB TITLEJOB DESCRIPTIONMEDIAN SALARYPROJECTED GROWTH RATE
SociologistCriminology is a discipline within the field of sociology, so sociologists who specialize in the scientific study and analysis of crime and criminal behavior are criminologists and often work in law enforcement, laboratories or academia.$79,650 per year7%
Forensic ScientistForensic science technicians aid criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence for law enforcement agencies and often specialize in either crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis.$57,850 per year17%
Private Detectives & InvestigatorsPrivate detectives search for information about financial, legal and personal matters, often conducting surveillance and collecting evidence to present in court, and can work for individuals, lawyers or businesses.$50,700 per year11%
Detectives & Criminal InvestigatorsDetectives and criminal investigators investigate suspected criminal activity, collect evidence, conduct interviews, observe human behavior, make arrests and testify at trials. Criminal investigators can work on the local, state or national level and are typically referred to as agents or special agents at state and federal agencies.$79,970 per year5%

Professional Organizations

Networking and making professional connections are important no matter what field of expertise you pursue in criminology. Joining professional organizations is one way to keep abreast of what’s going on within the industry, find job opportunities and sometimes obtain professional credentials. These are some of the top organizations for individuals with a master’s in criminology.

American Board of Criminalistics: This organization can help promote your professional development through peer-based certification that recognizes you’ve attained the necessary qualifications to work in one or more branches of criminology.

American Academy of Forensic Sciences: This multidisciplinary organization provides leadership and promotes professionalism, education, competency and integrity while fostering research and encouraging collaboration in the forensic sciences.

American Society of Criminology: This international organization maintains a professional employment listing service on its website and conducts annual meetings to discuss topics of general interest and sponsor an employment exchange. Members also receive professional journals and a newsletter that contain valuable industry information.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Criminology

Getting a master’s degree in criminology online is less expensive than traditional on-campus classes, but many students still require financial assistance. If you’re in need of financial aid, start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to explore numerous grants, loans and other financial aid options available through the federal government. State-based financial assistance and private grants and scholarships may also be available to cover the cost of undergraduate and graduate studies in criminology. Read through the resources below for information on various ways to finance your higher education.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

American Criminal Justice Association & Lambda Alpha Epsilon Scholarship

Award: $100/$200/$400

Deadline: December 31

Students enrolled in an accredited postgraduate program associated with the criminal justice field.

Tom Broussard, Ph.D., Memorial Scholarship Fund

Award: $500

Deadline: March 1

Eligibility: Academically deserving undergraduate or graduate students in the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice Graduate Scholarships

Award: $500-$3,250

Deadline: Varies

Eligibility: Graduate students at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who are recognized for academic excellence, leadership qualities and public service accomplishments through numerous internal scholarship opportunities.

Allan Roscoe Endowed Scholarship

Award: Varies

Deadline: April

Eligibility: Undergraduate or graduate students majoring in criminal justice or criminology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.