How Long Does it Take to get a Degree in Criminal Justice

I get this question a lot: how long does it take to get a degree in Criminal Justice? Well, that all depends on which degree level you are thinking of conquering. Is it an Associates, a Bachelors, a Masters, or a PhD? Are you taking this degree at a traditional college / university campus? Or, is the CJ degree program offered primarily at an online college?

Here’s the answer based on an average of the expected completion time frame:

Associates Degree in Criminal Justice

  • Traditional
    • 1 and 1/2 years with a maxed-out class load – super-full-time: at or above 16 credits
    • 2 years is the norm – usually full time: 12 credits or more
    • 2 and 1/2 years, or more – usually part time: below 12 credits
  • Online
    • 1 to 2 years depending on the school – usually one cannot manipulate the program to go faster or slower – but, there are exceptions to this general rule

Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice

  • Traditional
    • 3 to 3 and 1/2 years with a maxed-out class load – super-full-time: at or above 16 credits
    • 4 years is the norm – usually full time: 12 credits or more
    • 4 and 1/2 to 5 and 1/2  years, or more – usually part time: below 12 credits
  • Online
    • 2 and 1/2 to 4 years depending on the school – usually one cannot manipulate the program to go faster or slower – but, there are exceptions to this general rule

Masters Degree in Criminal Justice

  • Traditional
    • 1 and 1/2 to 2 years with a maxed-out class load – super-full-time: may depend on the school, prior permission may be required
    • 2 to 3 years is the norm – usually full time: may depend on the school
    • 3 and 1/2 to 5 years , or more – usually part time: may depend on the school, prior permission may be required
  • Online
    • 1 to 2 and 1/2 years depending on the school – usually one cannot manipulate the program to go faster or slower – but, there are exceptions to this general rule

PhD / Doctorate Degree in Criminal Justice

  • Traditional
    • 2 and 1/2 to 3 and 1/2 – with a Masters degree in CJ or prior permission to take on higher class load, usually the former expedites the doctorate.
    • 4 to 5 years is the norm – usually full time: the length of the degree may depend on the school
    • 5 to 6 years, or more – usually part time or a class a time: colleges and universities often cap their PhD program at 5 years, prior permission may be required
  • Online
    • 2 and 1/2 to 4 years depending on the school – usually one cannot manipulate the program to go faster or slower -but, there are exceptions to this general rule

I hope this helps you. Just remember that you can, if you would like to, shorten or lengthen the journey to your degree. Usually it takes a little initiative, but it pays dividends down the road. Good luck!

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Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

10 comments… add one
  • jane doe

    thanks this really helped

  • alondra

    thanks. this helped a lot

  • Alexis

    nope didnt help i droped out like a dumbie !!!!!

  • Abbie

    Thank You , this helped clarify quite a bit

  • yello

    Interesting stuff, i think that 2-3 hours of homework per day would also help, reading can consume some time so i would say a nice and relaxed study of 3-4 hours a day will ultimately give you the best end results and your effort will pay offfff, at minimum 2 hours a day should be devoted.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I agree

  • Christian morgan

    This helped a lot!!!!! Thanks

  • jennifer

    thank you sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much ;)

  • Carlos

    This is some interesting stuff, I’m still 15 but it doesn’t hurt to be informed ahead of time.

  • Jennifer G

    Thanks for the info, hopefully I gef my bs by 2016 (:

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