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Best Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Top Online Degree Programs

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If you are interested in achieving a doctorate in criminal justice that means you want to go all the way in the field. This is a terminal degree that prepares people for positions in the academy, to become directors of research, and other high level administration careers. Advanced private investigators and also forensic scientists also often have doctorate degrees in criminal justice. The bureau of labor statistics has predicted a slight increase, by 5-7 percent in many jobs that benefit from a doctorate in criminal justice. This includes  private investigators and people in protective services. 

Just like any field, the path of study for best criminal justice phd programs includes understanding research methods and practical evaluation skills as they relate to criminal justice policy. Criminology theory and an understanding of research methods are imperative to the discipline as well. Many of the classes feature topics such as social psychology, statistics, homeland security, criminal risk factors, advanced psychology, among many others. Many people who achieve this advanced degree go on to achieve careers within the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Homeland Security among many other state and federal agencies. There are several other options, however, including working within protective services. 

These days it is easier than ever to accomplish this degree by way of a flexible online program. Such opportunities enable students to work at their own pace and continue with their career in the field while completing their coursework. We have sourced the best online criminal justice phd programs for you by using the following metric for our ranking:

  • Cost
  • Reputation
  • Student Success


American Military University

The American Military University offers a doctor of global security program through their school of security and global studies. This is considered one of the best criminal justice phd programs. This program was designed to be a flexible and convenient option even from the start. There are three first day choices throughout the year, so accepted students don’t have to wait to matriculate. The entire course of study is made up of 50 credit hours. Students can complete all of their coursework in three years time, but that does not include their dissertation component. This can take different amounts of time depending on this student and the topic. Some of the core courses include: seminar in global governance, nationalism and identity, strategic leadership, and statistics. Six semester hours are dedicated to professional practice requirements. Each student will choose three electives from a hefty list. 

Degree Type: Doctor of Global Security

Stephen J. Green School of International and Business Affairs at Florida International University offers a PhD in International Crime and Justice. The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice oversees this program. Though the majority of the coursework in this terminal degree option is delivered online, students are supported to be on campus as much as possible to take part in ample networking opportunities. This is not a good program for those who are interested in working entirely online. There are regular offerings of workshops and professional development opportunities for students to enhance their skills and experiences. The required courses for this program includes: criminology theory, comparative crime and criminal justice systems, applied research in criminal justice among many others. As far as general electives go, students can choose options from other departments that interest them. The two required milestones include: comprehensive exams as well as a dissertation. 

Degree Type: PhD. International Crime and Justice

St. John’s University offers a doctor of professional studies in criminal justice. This is one of the best criminal justice phd programs. This program is offered through their Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies. The program is delivered online or through their Queens Campus if students want face-to-face class options. The entire course of study is made up of 78 credit hours. The program was designed to be remarkably flexible, so students can continue working while participating in their coursework. Students can choose to participate in the program with full time or part time status. The program offers students many opportunities to participate in internships and access support resources like their comprehensive career center. They also have one on one advisors that are there to support students with their personal academic trajectories. All of their faculty members are experts in a variety of aspects of criminal justice. 

Degree Type: Doctor of Professional Studies, Criminal Justice

The New Jersey City University offers a doctor of science degree program in civil security – leadership management and policy that can be completed online. It has made our ranking as one of the best online criminal justice phd programs. Some of the perks of this program include the fact that they let only 30-35 people into the program at a time, which enables students to work in an intimate learning environment. The program can be completed in its entirety in three years time. While the coursework is delivered entirely online, students are required to be on campus for residencies at least four weekends per year with a two week additional residency. Research is one of the most critical components of this course of study. The dissertation requirement is heavily weighted as well, as students will place a lot of emphasis on the subsequent research for this particular aspect of the program. 

Degree Type: Doctor of Science Civil Security: Leadership, Management and Policy

The Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice at Nova Southeastern University in Florida offers one of the best online criminal justice phd programs as far as our metics go. This course of study is known for its flexibility. There are no on campus requirements, meaning the coursework can be completed from anywhere in the world. Applications are accepted for the program on a rolling basis, so prospective students don’t have to wait for admission. The coursework includes a variety of classes that support an in-depth understanding of the current trends in criminal justice. Some of the classes include: the police and society, theories of crime, criminal law, procedure, and individual rights, applied statistics, among others. There are three specializations that students can choose from that include: juvenile justice, behavioral science, and organizational leadership. The dissertation acts as the culmination of the program. 

Degree Type: Ph.D in Criminal Justice


Colorado Technical Institute

Colorado Technical Institute offers a doctorate in criminal justice program that is delivered entirely online. Students will work from minute one of the program on their management and leadership skills. They will do this through mentorship, research and action, projects, with opportunities to make contributions to the field. The curriculum is delivered online, though there is also a residency component that requires students to be on campus. There is also a symposium experience that requires face-to-face interactions. The course of study is designed to be flexible and as a result they offer start dates throughout the year. The program can be completed in as little as three years. Students will be developing their dissertation from the start of the program. Students will choose one of three specializations in their learning trajectory which include leadership and change management, research and writing and a specific concentration discipline. 

Degree Type: Doctorate in Criminal justice

Walden University offers one of the best criminal justice phd programs. It is a Phd in criminal justice that is delivered entirely online. This program has a variety of specialization offerings including: law and public policy, public management and leadership, global leadership, emergency management, justice administration, and homeland security policy and administration. Students have access to many financial aid opportunities in this program as well as support resources, including advising. Graduates will be prepared for a variety of professions including research consultant, post secondary professor, police captain, sheriff deputy, criminal investigator, among many others. Prospective students must first have a masters degree or the equivalent in academic credits. There are two tracks, one is for students who have a masters in criminal justice and the other is for those who have a masters in an unrelated field. Their student services include access to 24/ 7 support services. 

Degree Type: PhD Criminal Justice

Saint Leo University offers a doctor of criminal justice program that is delivered entirely online. This is known as one of the best criminal justice phd programs. Students can tailor their experience to their own academic goals and study when it is convenient for them. The entire course of study is made up of 60 credit hours in total. Students will dive deep into leadership and managerial skills that will make them effective facilitators and team leaders in criminal justice. Students will learn how to work within federal, local, and state organizations as well as public service organizations. Process and procedure as they relate to criminal justice are emphasized in this program. There are two tracks in this doctorate program including education and homeland security. The entire course of study can be completed in 3.5 years. The final four course sessions are dedicated to the dissertation. 

Degree Type: Doctor of Criminal Justice

Dakota State University offers a doctorate in Information Technology Systems. This is considered one of the more flexible options as it is delivered online. In fact, students even have the option of studying on a full time or part time basis. The course of study prepares students for a lucrative research based career, administration and managerial leveled work, or higher education. The entire course of study is made up of 72 credit hours. The classes look deeply at the most up to date issues that pertain to the field. This includes the technologies that are behind the criminal justice industry. Students will look at information systems literature and pertinent research related to theory practice quantitative and qualitative design and research techniques. Participants will be able to navigate the program with the specializations that interest them at the forefront of their studies.  

Degree Type: Doctorate of Philosophy: IT: Security

Jacksonville State University offers a doctor of science program in emergency management that is delivered entirely online. The entire course of study is made up of 60 semester credit hours, 42 of which are dedicated to policy and administration coursework as well as research methods and statistics. The additional 18 credit hours are dedicated to the culminating dissertation. Prospective students must have a masters degree already in a field related to emergency management from a school that is accredited regionally. Passing three qualifying exams is required for completion of the program as well. Students will choose from a list of administration and policy classes including: disaster management principles and practice, systems thinking and applications in emergency management, interdisciplinary disaster theory and management, and institutional context and emergency management policy. It is required that students achieve a 3.0 GPA or better on all of their coursework to successfully pass the program. 

Degree Type: Doctor of Science Emergency Management


California University of Pennsylvania offers a doctorate in criminal justice that is delivered entirely online. Even though students can participate in the program on a part time basis, they can complete the program in two years, while still working. Students are able to dive into study that looks at the complexities of the criminal justice system with a focus on current and real world concerns. This includes reduced recidivism rates, wrongful use of force from police, and federal consent decrees. Leadership and consulting for a second career is another critical aspect of the program that is thoroughly addressed in the coursework. Though the majority of the class material is delivered online, students are required to attend a five day summer residency at one point in the program. Some of the required classes include: leading criminal justice agencies, improving the administration of juvenile justice, corrections: crisis and management, among many others. 

Degree Type: Doctorate in Criminal Justice

Liberty University offers one of the best online criminal justice phd programs. The entire course of study can be completed in three years. All of the coursework together makes up 60 credit hours. The program is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This program is very transfer friendly as they allow students to transfer in as many as 50 percent of their credits. Many people are drawn to this particular program because of its christian orientation. They are unwavering in their faith based approach to all disciplines and criminal justice is no exception. They have many financial aid offerings and this includes a military discount. Each student must choose a specialization between three options including: general, leadership, and homeland security. The most flexible of the three tracks is the general emphasis. The coursework for this program includes: transnational organized crime, stress management in criminal justice, advanced topics in terrorism and intelligence, and criminal justice organizational conflict. 

Degree Type: PhD Criminal Justice

The University of New Haven offers one of the best online criminal justice phd programs. The program is offered through the University of New Haven’s College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences. This program features extensive coursework in research methodologies as it relates to the criminal justice industry, collaboration with peers, and even opportunities to gain teaching experience. Another perk in this program is the extensive mentorship that students receive from faculty members. There are several specialized classes to choose from including psychology of crime, rational models of crime, foundations of scholarship, social and structural crime models, advanced research methods in criminal justice, and advanced quantitative applications in criminal justice. Students will choose between five specializations in the program; among them are: policing and law enforcement, criminal behavior, law and public policy, and a customized specialization. There are many financial aid offerings for students who participate in the program. 

Degree Type: PhD in Criminal Justice

Northcentral University offers a top ranked Doctor of Criminal Justice program. This fully online program was designed for working professionals looking to advance in their careers into leadership roles in law enforcement and criminal justice organizations. The program is 60 credits in total with coursework exploring topics that deal with organized criminal gangs, delinquency, and institutional corrections. Northcentral University’s faculty consists of all doctorate holders who are determined to build an individual and  personalized interaction with the student, while sharing  an intimate online environment. Career opportunities for doctorate graduates of this program can go on to teach criminal justice, work in the private consulting firms to evaluate businesses and their effects on society. NCU is an unmatched online program that students can begin at any time with start dates every Monday, no GRE or GMAT requirement, and no group work.

Degree Type: Doctor of Criminal Justice

Why Should I Get My Criminal Justice Doctorate Online?

An online phd in criminal justice will support those who want to position themselves in a place to effect real lasting change. Embarking on the journey of obtaining a phd in criminal justice online grants students who have already completed a master’s in criminal justice a flexible option for advancement. Most students who consider a criminal justice phd online aspire to obtain positions within state and federal offices at a  higher level in law enforcement. Achieving a doctorate can be used for future professors of law and policy as well as private firms, wardens of correctional facilities, FBI agents or to run for office. Online programs that are available generally offer specific fields of focus for doctoral candidates to train within their desired niche of study. Individuals choose online doctorates in criminal justice to gain the freedom to curate a schedule around their own advancement, on their own terms. Students looking to climb to the peak of criminal justice organizations, will find that accomplishing a doctorate in this course of study is the next step.  Graduating with this terminal degree can give you a competitive edge in a fast growing industry. 

How Do I Choose a Criminal Justice PhD Program?

Choosing an online doctorate in criminal justice program is the first step in completing this graduate degree, and the most important. Most schools have accredited online phd programs in criminal justice, make sure that the program is accredited. When choosing a program you must also consider accessibility, class size, and the faculty. It is helpful to read into the history of your program’s department; they will usually have testimonials from students and faculty on the website. Another thing to consider is work transfer credits. Most students seeking to obtain their doctorate are already working in their field and some programs may allow training obtained at work to count as credit for required courses. One main consideration for choosing a program are the specializations they offer. Some schools will only have one or two PhD options in a particular field for criminal Justice. Make sure the school you choose has the specialization you want to pursue. Finally, it is crucial to know if programs offered online are fully online or have some on campus requirements.  This may not be a program for you if it is out of state and you do not want to travel to get there. Several online programs offer 100 percent online participation, yet others require students to be on campus for introductory and select sessions. 

How Much Can I Make with a Doctorate in Criminal Justice?

Doctorate in criminal justice job salaries have increased in the last few years as a need for more qualified candidates emerge. According to payscale the average salary for a doctorate of criminal justice job is $77,500. The highest phd in criminal justice salary is $89,000, and a FBI agent makes $56,000 which is on the lower end of the pay scale. In many cases the pay scale varies greatly and there are many professions to consider. Each holds an equal opportunity for competitive pay. As a doctoral candidate entering into the job pool, the doctorate degree in criminal justice salary will be the key negotiating factor in remaining competitive in the private sector of the industry, although in most state and federal institutions salaries are locked in based on the budget. 


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Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?