Your Guide to the Best Colleges for Criminal Justice

Criminal justice college black wooden gavel.
July 13, 2022
What Is the Best College for Criminal Justice?Other Top Colleges for Criminal Justice MajorsFAQs: Your Guide to the Best Colleges for Criminal Justice


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

Need help deciding which college to go to for a criminal justice degree? This article will outline the best schools to major in criminal justice.

The criminal justice system deals with law enforcement, courts, and corrections. If you want to pursue a career in criminal justice, you can choose from a variety of majors like criminology, forensic science, sociology, and more. Most schools also offer a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice for a broader education. 

If you are looking for the best-suited colleges for such a career path, look no further. This article has established the best criminal justice colleges ranked by student resources, tuition costs, types of programs, and internship opportunities.

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What Is the Best College for Criminal Justice?

According to US News rankings for the best colleges for criminal justice, University of Maryland is ranked #1. Located in College Park, the institution has a separate law school where both undergraduate and graduate students can earn  a Criminal Justice & Corrections Major, the top-ranked criminal justice program in their school. They have a graduate growth of 34.5% for criminal justice students, most of whom get into careers such as lawyers, judges, and magistrates.

It is a private, not-for-profit institution ranked #6 out of 2,576 schools nationwide as the top best in the country. In recent years, the graduating class in the Criminal Justice and Corrections program consisted of 29 students. They earned up to $48,348 more than the average college graduate with the same degree post-graduation.

Other Top Colleges for Criminal Justice Majors

Investing in a career in criminal justice is a very studious endeavor. You need to select a college that best adheres to your interests, needs, and other circumstances. Here is a list of the top best colleges for criminal justice ranked by tuition and acceptance rates for you to look at and choose which ones make your list.  

1. Old Dominion University - Norfolk, Virginia

Tuition: $16,681 per year

Program duration: 4-year

Acceptance rate: 89%

Old Dominion University offers a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. Students are also given the option to earn departmental honors, which are programs that provide undergraduate students with more opportunities to advance in their studies and a chance to work independently with any department faculty. 

You can choose to research or do a hands-on position in the program; in your senior year, you will be handed a capstone research project and internship credit for the coursework you have done over the years. Their internship has a 100% placement rate with the Delaware State Police, United States Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and many more. The school has a graduation rate of 57%, with alumni having a starting salary of $29,900.

2. Michigan State University - East Lansing, Michigan

Tuition: $16,579 per year

Program duration: 4-year

Acceptance rate: 71%

Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice has the oldest criminal justice program in the country. The program allows students to study the issues of crime and justice and solutions in order to have a healthy, law-abiding society. 

The program uses science to transform justice to improve communities across the nation. By the end of the program, you will understand the patterns of time, the challenges of criminal justice agencies, and the importance of security management. They have a graduation rate of They offer four study abroad programs and program-specific scholarships. They have a graduation rate of 81% and a starting salary of $34,700

3. University of Minnesota - Minnesota, Crookston

Tuition:  $11,483 per year

Program duration: 4 years

Acceptance rate: 68%

The University of Minnesota offers a Criminal Justice Bachelor of Science degree that focuses on law enforcement, corrections, and many other public and private agencies. In order to complete the degree, you must complete 35 credits in your core courses, liberal arts courses, and technology requirements. Then you must complete 12 credits in their corrections emphasis section and an additional 18 credits in their law enforcement emphasis.

 Students in the program can also apply for jobs with campus security. The graduation rate is 50.6%, with alumni getting a starting salary of $55,010.

4. Stonehill College - Easton, Massachusetts

Tuition: $35,409

Program duration: 4-year

Acceptance rate: 68%

Stonehill College offers a criminal justice undergraduate program where students will learn about the political, cultural, and economic patterns that define crime, the practice of law, and the criminal justice system as a whole. You will be allowed to learn about the causes and consequences of crime, as well as crime control solutions. 

This program offers a broader platform on crime and justice and has courses that examine the nature of groups and individuals who are conflicted with law, social harm, and victims of crime. The graduation rate is 80.6%, with alumni having a starting salary of $31,000.

5. University at Albany, State University of New York

Tuition: $16,769 per year 

Program duration: 4-year

Acceptance rate: 54%

The University of Albany’s School of Criminal Justice allows students to delve into the structural and philosophical facets of the American criminal justice system. Students can learn about law through examining the intersectionality of law, enforcement agents, criminal offenders, rehabilitation and justice, victims, and legal personnel. 

You will also have the opportunity to learn about the individual and social causes behind the crime and the foundations of successful crime prevention strategies. Students must complete one 400 level writing-intensive seminar alongside 16 to 18 elective credits in the program. The graduation rate is 65.6%, with alumni earning a starting salary of approximately $29,000.

6. Liberty University - Lynchburg, Virginia

Tuition: $28,181 per year

Program duration: 4- year

Acceptance rate: 51%

Liberty University’s Helms School of Government offers a multitude of criminal justice degrees in which you will learn about theoretical and practical aspects of law enforcement and levels of government. Helms School allows students to perform activities alongside local and national law enforcement and homeland security agencies, with graduates being offered employment by the same agencies. You can take classes in person or online, with Liberty University offering scholarships for those seeking financial aid. The graduation rate is 54%, with alumni earning a starting salary of $38,000.

7. CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice - New York, New York

Tuition: $3,814 per year

Program duration: 4 years

Acceptance rate: 41%

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice offers a variety of undergraduate programs in criminal justice. They offer links to financial aid programs and scholarships for students seeking it. Each major and minor involves a highly revolutionized curriculum that covers humanities, natural sciences, arts, and social sciences, which will allow you to choose from a full range of academic interests and opportunities. This college has 11,200 students per year, with a graduation rate of 52%, with alumni earning a starting salary of $31,700.

8. Florida State University - Tallahassee, Florida 

Tuition: $12,568 per year

Program duration: 4 years

Acceptance rate: 36%

Florida State University’s Department of Sociology and Criminology offers a degree in criminology that focuses on the development of law, why people break laws, and how society reacts to law-breaking. Financial aid and scholarships are available for those seeking them. In order to complete this program, you must complete a maximum of 12 credits in criminology courses. 

Majors are allowed to enroll in relevant courses offered outside the department to satisfy tracking requirements. You can transfer 1000 or 2000-level courses, such as introductory criminology classes and criminal justice. However, if you are transferring from another school, you should read the 22 credit residency requirement guidelines. Florida State has a graduating rate of 83%, and alumni earn a starting salary of $36,500

9. University of California, Irvine - Irvine, California

Tuition: $15,268 per year

Program duration: 3 or 4 years

Acceptance rate: 27%

Located in the Los Angeles area, UC Irvine has a Criminology, Law, and Society department that offers an undergraduate degree that focuses on law's social, cultural, economic, and political forces. They offer special financial awards for students in the program seeking financial aid. They have a requirement plan for both their 3-year and 4-year programs. They have a graduation rate of 84%, with alumni earning a starting salary of $41,100.

10. Northeastern University - Boston, Massachusetts

Tuition: $36,479

Program duration: 4-year

Acceptance rate: 18%

Northeastern University offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice that offers students a way to understand, predict, and explain crime and discuss better development of public policies in communities. This program also allows you to combine majors and minors in subjects beyond the criminal justice system. 

Students can also participate in neighborhood agencies such as schools, health clinics, and nonprofit organizations. They also offer abroad programs with the immersive Dialogue of Civilizations program alongside international co-ops. They have a graduation rate of 87.7%, and alumni have a starting salary of $43,800.

11. University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tuition: $24 711 per year

Program duration: 4 years

Acceptance rate: ~8%

The University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences offers a 4- year program undergraduate degree in Criminology. It is the only criminology program offered in an Ivy League university. Financial aid and scholarships are available for students at the institution.

In order to complete the Criminology major, you must have a cumulative GPA of 2.0, a satisfactory performance in their course CRIM 1410, taken in the Fall semester of your senior year. They have a graduation rate of 96%, with most of its alumni starting a job with a salary of $71,600.

FAQs: Your Guide to the Best Colleges for Criminal Justice

Still, have questions concerning which college is best for you? Here are some general questions that will provide more information in your decision-making. 

1.  How Do I Know Which School Is Best for Me?

In order to see which school best adheres to your interests, you should ask yourself some questions: is the tuition too much for me? Is the location of the school adaptable? Am I willing to travel or commute? Do the program courses best fit with my career interests? You ask these questions to perform an order of elimination of the schools to see which pens are on your top list (it is best to have three or four top choices by the end)

2.  Are There Different Degrees I Can Obtain in Criminal Justice?

Yes, depending on which school you apply to. Aside from undergraduate degrees, some offer degrees in specialized criminology programs, and some have graduate programs you can continue your major in. 

3.  What Kind of Courses Will Do I Take In These Programs?

It depends on what the programs require. You will learn about crime, but you will also learn different aspects of crime, such as at-risk communities, crime theories(like the Broken Window theory), race and justice, diversity in the law, and many more. 

4.  Are There Any High School Courses I Should Take To Qualify?

They are usually not required, but taking some courses in high school will offer you a preview of what you will be studying in your criminal justice program. Some courses you can take in high school are:

·        Politics and current issues

·        Psychology

·        Law

·        Sociology

·        International affairs

·        Public Policy

·        International relations

·        Political Science

5.  What Skills Do I Need to Study Criminal Justice?

When considering a criminal justice major, some skills you need to excel in the program include active listening, empathy, conflict resolution, and, most importantly, flexibility. When you get into criminal justice, you are required to have moral, ethical, and legal standards and a diverse understanding of the law to be a well-rounded individual while working with legal issues, criminology, and justice.

6.  Do These Colleges Offer Hands-on Experiences or Volunteer Placement Work?

Some of these colleges do. It all depends on the program. Enriched programs can offer students the choice to do coursework or co-op programs while studying, while other schools have requirements for students to do placement work. Each school offers resources for internships and opportunities for those seeking them; you have to check out their resource pages or contact the program coordinator for more information. 

7.  What Careers Can I Make With a Criminal Justice Degree?

Once you have obtained a degree in criminal justice, you have opened up a wide range of productive and rewarding job opportunities and career paths. You can work in both the public and private sectors and gain flexibility when deciding on a career. Some of the most common careers you can participate in are:

·        Border patrol agent

·        Private investigator

·        Detective 

·        Paralegal

·        Forensic or crime scene analyst

·        Child and youth worker

·        Lawyer

·        Judge 

·        Police Officer

           And many more.

Final Thoughts

Being interested in criminal justice is an amazing career choice. You can check out high-quality schools that offer degrees in criminal justice and other crime-related fields. Criminal Justice majors analyze and practice theories used in the criminal justice system. 

This allows them to better understand crime, the judicial system, and crime’s overall effect on society so that they can create solutions to ensure a healthier environment. Exploring top schools can facilitate your choices in picking the right program and can jumpstart the road ahead into a professional career in law enforcement and crime prevention.

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