Best Criminal Justice Schools in California

Email from many many readers: Hey Radek, I think it goes without saying, what are the best criminal justice schools in California? Quit holding out on us.

I’m not holding out. Really, I’m not.

You would think that California has the best Criminal Justice schools in the United States, but the truth is not that clear cut. California has one of the biggest university networks in the world, but only a handful of criminal justice schools can qualify as the top victor in the degree program arena. Yes, it’s true. Despite its large size and many colleges and universities, California lacks in the best Criminal Justice colleges department.

Before you see the list, you should know that the University of California (UC) system has many great academic institutions, as does the California State University (CSU) system. Most will argue that UC schools reign supreme. For the most part, I agree. Seeking criminal justice degree options at any UC or CSU universities is a great start.

Enough chit-chat. Here’s the list.

best criminal justice schools in California

Best Criminal Justice Schools in California

UC Irvine was rated #5 on – US News & World Report – for Criminology related programs. I’ve asked around, scoured the Web, and even made a few phone calls to some of my academic contacts to verify as much information as I could. I was truly surprised that there aren’t too many more California schools that can take the title of “Best.”

All of these CA schools are highly regarded in academia and the work force.

Please share your opinions or expert knowledge about the top criminal justice schools in California. If you want to see how I picked these top schools please go back to Best Criminal Justice Schools and Colleges page.

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
  • Jason

    Finally! I keep looking for California CJ schools that have something to offer. Now it’s good to know that UC Irvine is kick ass. Thanks dude!

  • udy

    I have heard many great things about Sacramento State’s justice program. Which would be better to attend as a criminal justice major, San Jose State or Sacramento State?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      That can be a tough choice to make. I wouldn’t want to jump the gun on this one and answer you wrongly, as I am not too familiar with the schools in California vs. my familiarity with Midwestern and New England schools.

      I would use a tool like to research different strengths and weaknesses these schools and programs may have. Also check out their respective websites to dig for more. I wish you all the best in your academic pursuits.

  • Kim

    I doubled majored in Psychology and Criminal Justice Administration at San Diego State University and felt I received a pretty top notch education. While the Psychology department was a tad more distinguish there with their involvement with UCSD, I found I got more out of my CJA. Their department was very hands on and active with their students. About to graduate with a Masters in Forensic Psychology at John Jay College. Still think SDSU has a much more student friendly environment.

    UC Irvine should be considered probably the best criminal justice school in California when it comes to their PhD program. They offer an online Master’s in Criminal Justice which I considered but decided to turn down upon hearing negative feedback about its program. Well not so much negative feedback as “the program is still too new to be held in high regard.”

    Also heard some good reviews of CSU Fresno’s Criminal Justice program. I believe they only offer B.S. and M.S. degrees, however.

    • Karolina

      @kim, so would you consider SDSU for criminal justice, because i am just starting community college planning to transfer but i don’t know which USC will benefit the most for criminal justice

  • Melissa

    Do you know if UC Davis offers Master’s in Criminal Justice?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      As far as I remember, I don’t think so.

    • Rick

      They don’t offer a CJ program but do have a MS in Forensic Science…

  • samantha

    i wanted to know what cal state or universities would be good for criminal justice and psychology, i really want to major in both but psychology is one i would really like to do. i am doing criminal justice because i want to go into the armed forces to be a coast guard for investigations but you need to have 3 years of experience and i really want to do both. so can anyone help?

  • Marcus

    I have attended both Sacramento State and California State University, Long Beach for degrees in Criminal Justice. I received my BS from Sacramento State and MS from CSU Long Beach–both institutions provided excellent, renowned, top-notch education. It obviously depends on which degree you are going for and what your intentions are after you receive your degree. Sacramento State provides an excellent BS in Criminal Justice program, whereas CSU Long Beach’s MS program is known among the field of criminology as being THE best program in the west with 100% of its students who have applied to PhD programs being admitted to top-notch Criminology programs throughout the nation. If you are looking for a graduate degree, definitely consider CSU Long Beach, especially if your intent is to move on to the PhD level.

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