Best PhD & Doctorate Criminal Justice Schools & Programs

If you are looking for the best PhD & Doctorate Criminal Justice Schools and Programs then the Criminal Justice Online Blog is the best place to find them. Doctoral degrees in Criminal Justice & Criminology are available both online and off.

Even though I tend to focus on online programs, I strongly feel that a proper PhD / doctorate education is in order for the aspiring Law Enforcement administrators and academicians. To me, it’s just a matter of perspective.

Top PhD & Doctorate Criminal Justice / Criminology Schools for 2019

1. University of Maryland – (College Park): College Park, MD

2. SUNY – (Albany): Albany, NY

3. University of Cincinnati: Cincinnati, OH

4. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey – (Newark): Newark, NJ

4. University of California – (Irvine): Irvine, CA

4. University of Missouri – (St. Louis): St. Louis, MO

7. Michigan State University: East Lansing, MI

7. Pennsylvania State University – (University Park): PA

9. University of Nebraska – (Omaha): Omaha, NE

9. University of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, PA

11. CUNY, John Jay College: New York, NY

11. Florida State University: Tallahassee, FL

11. University of Florida: Gainesville, FL

14. Northeastern University: Boston, MA

14. University of Delaware: Newark, DE

16. American University: DC

16. Arizona State University: AZ

18. Temple University: Philadelphia, PA

18. Washington State University: WA

20. Indiana University: Bloomington, IN

20. University of Illinois – (Chicago): Chicago, IL

22. Sam Houston State University: Huntsville, TX

These ratings are not arbitrary, but rather compiled by U.S. News & World Reports. U.S. News is a very popular and trusted resource  for students and parents looking for the best colleges & universities in the country and the world. You’ll often see their magazine on store shelves. It is filled with ratings, statistics, and other useful info, however it doesn’t get published often. I highly recommend picking it up next time you see it, or even better, you can see the ratings for yourself, online – there may be a nominal fee for this service.

Top Online PhD / Doctorate Criminal Justice Schools for 2019

At present, the online doctorate level education in Criminology and related fields is not up to my standards (read : Online PhD in Criminal Justice – it’ll explain a lot). Therefore you don’t see me endorsing too many universities and colleges of that kind.

Just added…

Nova Southeastern University is offering potentially one of the first Criminal Justice PhD degree programs that is online and perhaps right on the money. Regardless, I still think you should consider your doctorate studies at a traditional setting (read the other article + comments at Online PhD in Criminal Justice for more on that). I hope that in the near future this will change and that both the traditional and online mode of learning will have the same “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” (aka career opportunities).

In the end I am looking for a Doctoral program which will serve me well in my profession and in the academic field. Thus, it is my recommendation that you consider the traditional PhD schools, before you venture out online.

The only exception to this would be a national or private college / university offering an online Criminal Justice / Criminology program. Schools like University of Maryland, Rutgers, SUNY, University of Cincinnati, Michigan State University, and an ivy league favorite, University of Pennsylvania, would be just outstanding for my online doctorate needs. For now, we’ll  just have to wait.

If you’re a quality, regionally accredited, academic institution offering or soon to be offering a PhD in Criminal Justice, please get in touch with me / participate in the discussion.

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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.

90 comments… add one
  • Matt Retterer

    What factors are taken into consideration when determining which school has the best doctorate program for criminal justice??

    • Radek M. Gadek


      Each organization that examines doctorate programs has their own criteria for determining which criminal justice school has precedence over another. For example, U.S. News may use statistical data and peer reviewed sources from academic institutions, non-profits, private companies, and field experts. Factors like the length of accreditation and the length of the program are considered. I’m sure additional certifications, successful student graduation rates, employment rates after obtaining a degree, and diversity of student population play a role. When I was searching for law schools I also noticed that a school had a better ranking based on the number of scholarly works each professor or instructor published.

    • Martin Duffy

      I don’t know if this helps, but I know in the case of SUNY Albany, there is — on top of very widely published faculty — a great variety and diversity of law enforcement and legal experts involved with the program as students, so grad classes really aren’t just about the professors, the seminars are very, very interesting. I’ve only been in the graduate school one year but I’ve already met police officers from the State Police, NYPD, Buffalo (a smaller city in NY), Japanese National Police, Anakara (Turkey), London metro police, and a girl who’s a crime analyst in China. Assistant Attorneys General and a local assistant DA were even enrolled in the program. It’s a very odd thing because SUNY Albany itself is a pretty mediocre university, but for some reason the Criminal Justice school is very professional and intensive. I love SUNY though, I live in New York so the tuition and fees are under $5k for me and I can commute there because I live pretty close to it.

      • Martin Duffy

        p.s. if you have any questions about Albany or graduate school in CJ in general, feel free to shoot me an email if you want! duffym at gmail

      • Radek M. Gadek

        University of Albany – SUNY (Albany) is one of the best criminal justice destinations for anyone who can get in. It is a tier 3 school, but is well regarded in fields of Business and Education, amongst others.

        I heard that the lectures and seminars are some of the best in the world, and that’s no understatement. You are a lucky guy, Martin. Thanks for the input. I’m sure many readers can benefit from it.

  • Kenzie McDowell

    I am very pleased to find this page. I work for a company in close relations with Capella University however, my specialization is in teacher education. I have recently enrolled a PhD- Criminal Justice student and I was doing research to find funding and literature for him. I’m glad to see that Capella was a suitable choice for him to pursue his educational goals. Thanks for all the information! I will be referring him to this page to do some browsing of his own.

  • Fs=-kx

    Does it strike anyone else as odd that there are only three doctoral programs in criminal justice (Arizona State, Washington State, UC – Irvine) in the western U.S.?

  • jwuticgwid

    It doesn’t strike me as odd because criminology/criminal justice is a major that schools use to make money. Meaning, they offer a semi bogus degree and reap the rewards while the students get shafted upon graduation. (I know this as I have a BS in criminology and I currently make 8.50 an hour in a part time non CJ job.) The western US schools are either smart for not offering it and allowing students to major in engineering or medicine or dumb for losing out on more money they could be making for themselves.

    • drewd

      jwuticgwid, I somewhat agree with you. As a former detective, schools that offer criminal justice degrees/training don’t offer much after a B.S. None of these credits can be applied towards police officer certification. However, if you go on for your masters you will be much more marketable. Not marketable as a potential police officer unfortunately. This is because a majority of the ones in charge of don’t have formal education and have ‘small man’s syndrome.’ I personally experienced the friction created working for an insecure idiot. You can go on for a PhD or work in corrections with an M.S.

      • Joe Hetzer

        I am currently a junior in HS attending University of Cincinnati Clermont Branch through Post Secondary. I am aiming to become a Detective myself. As a post secondary student I am only taking the General Education classes as well as a few CJ to lean towards a degree. What Major(s) would you suggest obtaining in order to become a detective. My goal or hope at this point would be to go Federal, but that is a long ways off yet and I’m just looking for a general direction. Any feedback would be great thanks.

        • Jason


          I am currently a federal law enforcement agent with one of the large, three letter acronym agencies. I would not pay much attention to the original poster about CJ degrees being a bogus degree for colleges to make money. First, all colleges are out to make money plain and simple. I have a B.S. in Criminal Justice that has served me well through the years. In fact, I am making approximately $90,000 yearly. I am looking at enrolling to the M.S. of CJ at University of Nebraska, Omaha just for self-betterment. If you truly want to get into law enforcement and possibly federal at some point, the best thing you can do is not get into trouble. This means both legally and financially. You also have to understand that most law enforcement agencies, if not all, won’t hire you until you are 21 years old. Many won’t hire you until you are at least a couple of years beyond that because of the amount of responsibility placed upon individual officers. One of the best ways you can bolster your resume besides having your degree is to have military experience or corrections experience. Both show a level of maturity that law enforcement agencies look for. In closing, the only agency that I know of that generally will not take a CJ degree is the FBI. The BATFE (ATF), DEA, ICE, HSI, DSS, Border Patrol all gladly take a CJ degree. Of course you will also have to take and pass agency specific tests and physical testing. Just make sure your CJ degree is from a regionally accredited university or college. Hope this helps.

        • Jenafer Jackson

          drewd, I am an educated female in Indiana, I moved my family (husband & children) further down southern Indiana just to have a competitive advantage in the vacancies that were available in the field of corrections. I have more of a corrections mentality and ability to communicate improving the quality of life in the community by joining forces within the community and the law enforcement in the community. I have a BS in Criminology with a hands on 3 full semesters of internship at a local probation department where I actually supervised a case load independently but can seem to catch a break here to save my life. A bit frustrating when you actually consider that we are instilling in our children the importance of education and dedication to making the community better. Any form of positive feedback would be appreciated. Thank you

    • Jenafer Jackson

      I have found this to be a true statement as well. I have a BS in Criminology and cannot get past the good ol boy system that has been hindering my furthering my career in corrections. I have a 12.00 pt security officer job at a work release center without any room for advancement. What to do????

  • Jes_ducky

    I do not think that is a fair assumption. I have a BS in criminal justice and currently make $16.00 an hour as a Correctional Counselor, a job I could not have gotten without the degree. By the way, I got my degree through a western school. You can not expect to just go out and get a high paying job, you will actually have to work through the lower levels and be promotable. I have been at the same facility for 5 years, started out making $11.00 an hour and now have my own case load of 64 individuals and my own office.

  • Gina

    My concern was my desire to teach Criminal Justice at a Junior college or university. I have a AAS and BAS in Criminal Justice, am finishing my Masters in Educational Teacher Leadership and really miss the Criminal Justice aspect of my education. I Teach middle school, and want to work my way to teaching CJ in high school and eventually venture into the colleges. Do I need to get my Doctorate in CJ or should I get another masters and focus on CJ?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      In order to teach in high school you probably will be fine with a Master’s. However, I’m not to sure how you would go about that in your State. Also, Criminal Justice, as a subject in the field of Sociology, is not that widely taught in K-12 environments. College, Yes! Now for that, a PhD from a Good TO Excellent school can help. As with anything in life – considering the present economy – there’s no promises that you’ll be able to start exactly where you want to, even with a PhD.

    • Jennifer

      Gina, I have two AS degrees (one in Law Enforcement), a BS degree in Criminal Justice Administration, and Masters in Forensic Science. I’ve been teaching at the Community College Level since 2000. California Community Colleges allow instructors to teach courses in Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement/Corrections, etc., with an AA/AS in the field + 6 yrs of experience in the field; a BS in the field + 2 yrs of work experience in the field; or, with a Masters in the field, and no work experience. Feel free to email me if you have questions. Regards, Jennifer.

      • David

        Jennifer, I have my B.S. in Criminal Justice and am currently 9 units away from having my M.S. in Criminal Justice Leadership. What area do you teach at in California. Do all community colleges consider a teaching candidate with a Master’s and no field experience?

      • CeCelia

        Jennifer, I have two MSCJ one in Policing and the other is Law (Criminal and Constitutional). However, I have no practical experience in the field. Can you please tell me more about some opportunities to teach CJ on the undergrad level in California? Thank you.

  • Rob

    “But, there is only one program I sort of approve of: Capella University.”

    Capella University? The same Capella University that has 82 registered complaints with the Better Business Bureau in just 36 months?

    “BBB processed a total of 84 complaints about Capella University in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period. Of the total of 84 complaints closed in 36 months, 30 were closed in the last year.”
    ( )

    Incidentally, how much time did you say you had as a law enforcement officer, Mr. Gadek? Or law enforcement trainer? Or law enforcement educator?

    That’s what I thought.

    If you are searching for a PROPER law enforcement education, find a curriculum that interests you, make sure the school you choose is accredited (you can check the schools at ), study hard, and, above all ENJOY yourself. If it isn’t fun, you won’t learn.

    Best of luck.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I do appreciate your feedback Rob, but I think you are missing the point. There are tons of schools that have pending and resolved complaints with the BBB. This includes many reputable schools, too. Online for profit-schools need to re-evaluate their practices, that’s for sure.

      I think your pompous remark to what you call “my lack of experience” is unfounded. You have no clue what I do within the field and rubbing what you don’t know in with “That’s what I thought” seems dominative (a good or a bad trait, I guess). Before you gave me a cyber beating, did you read this post? –

      On the good note, I agree that accreditation matters a lot, and by searching for it on my site, you will find me pushing regionally accredited schools to those who are academically precocious and those who need to take it a little easier. I feel that people need to do due diligence when picking their degree program and that includes researching other factors, like the BBB ranking and complaints on file.

      Please read the other 80% of this article and you’ll notice that “sort of” is further explained in the lines below and the lines preceding it. You clicked on Best Criminal Justice PhD programs; not Master’s, not Bachelor’s (there are plenty of wonderful schools for these). There are not that many PhD programs online and those who choose to go for their PhD online may not have that many choices (ie. living/working in a rural area). At the time of this article, more than a year ago, Capella University was the ONLY regionally accredited university that had a PhD in Criminal Justice Administration (with a present A+ ranking with the better business bureau). Now, and I’ll add this to this post, Nova Southeastern University released a PhD program that I think is worth a look at.

    • Skylar

      Actually, Rob, you are partially correct in your mention of Capella University receiving 84 complaints per more investigation on the issue. The BBB confirmed that a majority of the complaints were due to the fraudulent sweepstakes firm claiming to be a part of the Capella University (specifically using Capella University’s address and other identifying information).

      Check the BBB site now and you will mention Capella University has an A+ rating and has notified people that “Fraudulent sweepstakes has been taking place using Capella University’s name and address. A letter is sent along with a check. The check title is “Capella Services Inc” and lists Capella University’s address. Capella Inc is not associated in any way with Capella University. Capella University informed the BBB of this on 9/16/2011″. Capella can’t control fraudulent organizations throwing the university under the bus in terms of filtered BBB complaints- which belong to some sweepstakes company and NOT Capella University.

  • Nancy V

    I am currently a senior in college and am very stressed trying to figure out what graduate school to attend to obtain a Masters in Criminal Justice. I live in New York but I am debating on which graduate schools to look at and what ranking really do matter and are legit when it comes to picking the best grad school for criminal justice. I would appreciate any help, Please and Thank you!

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Rankings do matter as does accreditation, quality of program offerings, and location. CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice is top notch. I would start looking there. SUNY at Albany is another great option.

      You live in proximity to so many great colleges. New York has a few as do other neighboring states.

      • Nancy V

        Would attending the number one school for criminal justice significantly work as an advantage when it comes to job opportunities after I graduate with a Masters degree in C J?

        • Radek M. Gadek

          It can, but doesn’t necessarily have to. It all depends on the person/review panel hiring you. I think that there’s a sense of prestige going to one of the best Criminal Justice schools and those in the industry should know of at least their regional schools (we can hope that’s the case, right?).

          I think the programming and seminars available at John Jay College of Criminal Justice are really educational and practical. They are one of the best at what they do in the Criminal Justice academia, but despite that, it’s probably the grades, GPA, and of course, your moral fiber that will be the determining factor no matter what school you graduate from.

          Overall, I still think that the answer is YES, because you may receive opportunities available only to top educated graduates that others may not; especially at highly selective and competitive agencies. The operative word is “may” – as really everything is dependent on you and how much you will strive to purse the career you want.

          Sorry for the philosophy babble, but I think that’s the best way – not most succinct – to explain the nuances of going to a great school, like John Jay.

  • Nancy V

    P.S Thanks for the reply! I appreciate it!

  • Kimberly

    I cant choose between John Jay College, Rutgers University and University at Albany for a Masters in Criminal Justice, any help from anyone would be great!

    • Radek M. Gadek

      All are wonderful schools. It’s tough to pick. I would still apply to ALL of them, and other criminal justice schools, just in case.

  • RWR

    Let me start off by saying that this is a wonderful site and I have found the wealth of information very helpful. My question is this: I am currently working on my Masters degree in CJ through Troy University’s ecampus and I will graduate in May. I am considering going on to earn my PhD if at all possible, but I’m not sure if I will be able to get in to a good program. While I easily maintain a 4.0 gpa in my graduate studies, my undergrad work is nothing short of shabby. I did not care about college when I was younger and my grades reflect that stance. I have not taken the GRE yet, but I did take the MAT (to gain admittance to Troy) and scored a 429. I’m not sure how this compares to the GRE in relation to score.

    In short, do I have a reasonable shot of getting in to a decent PhD program? Thanks

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Sounds like a pretty decent resume, but you’re right, the lack of good grades in your undergrad years can be detrimental. I highly recommend providing an addendum to the application explaining why those grades were the way they were.

      Many colleges and universities won’t accept MAT (Miller Analogies Test), nor will they use it as a comparison to a GRE. The Graduate Record Exam is the golden standard and I highly recommend getting that out of the way.

      I think you have a reasonable chance of getting into a good to and excellent PhD program, granted you have great references, a compelling statement, an addendum explaining your grades, and the great grades from grad school… oh and the GRE, of course. Make the application count and apply to numerous schools, but you already know that : )

  • Bill

    Hey Radek, you graduated from Boston University right? I am on my 3rd class now in the MCJ program and I am currently taking Analytical Methods….its kickin my butt! What was your toughest class in the program?


    • Radek M. Gadek

      I would have to say the ones I didn’t read the material in… lol

      But really, Analytical Methods and Research Methods were probably two of the most work intensive.

  • Lisa

    Do you have an opinion on the CJ PhD program that Indiana University of PA offers? I would really like to complete my PhD online but I do share your concerns about the schools offering them at this point.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I stand by my story, so no “good” opinions or “go for it” cheers. Traditional and respectable is the “flavor of the day.”

    • John beam

      That’s not an online school…

  • John W

    What do you think about the PHD Programs offered at Walden’s University?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      No way, at least that’s the case for me.

  • Justin Ovaska

    This is a great website blog. I am looking to apply in fall of 2012 for my PhD in criminal justice. I have Bachelor’s in Psychology from Bridgewater State University and Master’s in Criminal Justice from Curry College in Massachusetts. I currently live in North Carolina and have 9 years of experience as a law enforcement officer. What schools do you recommend for the North Carolina area for PhD programs in the criminal justice field? I really like the online option at Nova Southeastern since I may not have the option to relocate that far.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Hey Justin,

      I haven’t had a chance to get to write a post on Best Criminal Justice Schools in North Carolina. The research takes time, and I don’t want to misinform my readers, but maybe you can consider the NC State University System for your online degree needs. I’m pretty sure one of the top universities in North Carolina has an online program, but not quite sure on the PhD. There aren’t that many school Nationwide that offer an online PhD in Criminal Justice.. at least not yet.

      • Chris

        East Carolina offers a very credible and good Masters Degree in Criminal Justice online and was on of the first in the the state to offer a completely online program in CJ. However, while I was getting my Masters there I asked my professor who I worked with and who chaired my thesis about them ever getting a doctorate in CJ and he said that there just wasn’t enough students interested that would justify a Ph.D in CJ. Now, the best options I have seen in NC that are close to a Ph.D in Criminal Justice is UNC-Charlotte’s Ph.D in Public Policy (you can earn a concentration in CJ Management) and NC State’s Ph.D in Public Administration with a Justice concentration. However, I have not found an online program in NC in CJ.

  • CJM

    I would hope that you included Kaplan University’s on-line programs for criminal justice and criminology. KU offers certification, BA, and MSCJ programs–all of which are very good. They are working on introducing a PhD program, but I believe this will take time to incorporate as a permanent offering to prospective students.

  • Sean


    Hi – I’m back with another question for you. I’m not sure if you remember me from your other blog regarding online PhD’s, but we conversed a bit on there. You convinced me (along with other research) to stop