Best Criminal Justice Schools in Texas

Reader emails and comments: Radek, what about best criminal justice schools in Texas?

I guess it’s time to start messing with Texas…

Texas has some of the best schools in America, and it certainly has a share of best Criminal Justice schools in the United States. Texas, being as big as it is, has quite a few higher learning institutions, but only a few of the schools can make the list of being the best in TX.

Best Criminal Justice Schools in Texas

Best Criminal Justice Colleges and Universities in Texas

Sam Houston State University was ranked by US News & World Report and boasts one of the best criminology programs in the country.

I also heard that University of Texas (Austin) and Texas A&M University (College Station) may be worth a look at, too — these two schools may not have a direct Criminal Justice or Criminology program, but may have great programs that are related, like: Homeland Security, Sociology, Emergency Management, and Public Administration.

The Texas schools listed are well regarded in academia and the work force.

Share your opinions about the top criminal justice schools in Texas. 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.

24 comments… add one
  • Lleneri Perez

    I really need some help looking into colleges with a good criminal justice program. Near the Dallas area. Help please !

    • James Blair

      I don’t have direct personal knowledge of the quality of the programs, but I have heard great things about University of North Texas in Denton, and I know that UT Dallas recently started a PhD program for Criminal Justice which has already made it onto a top list found elsewhere on this site.

  • Jaquelin Melendez

    Hmm.. I’m Currently A Sophomore , I Am Interested In Criminal Justice , I Would Really Appreciate If You Could Help Me On Looking For A Good Program For Criminal Justice In Texas.

    • James Blair

      Depends on what you want to do, where you are, how far you are willing to travel for school, what size classes you would like, and so forth.

      Sam Houston is the largest and most famous, which can cut both ways. They have many opportunities that other programs don’t have, but because it is such a large program, it can be easy to get lost in the crowd if you don’t make an effort to stand out.

      Prairie View A&M tends to be looked down upon (though few people will admit it) because they are a historically black college. My experiences with the faculty and students of Prairie View A&M is that they are very much focused on student success and they are heavily involved in the community. They also have a PhD in Juvenile Justice program, so that may be a consideration.

      I can personally attest to the program at Tarleton. Although I did most of my work at a satellite campus (which recently became Texas A&M Central Texas), I did have enough interaction with the main campus to know that they have some solid faculty.

      Don’t forget to consider your local community college if you want to get a head start. Many will offer dual enrollment classes in conjunction with local school districts, plus you have the option to complete your core requirements in smaller classes (and usually at lower tuition rates). If you do this, be sure the check before you enroll if the program has articulation agreements (sometimes known as 2+2) with any universities you want to consider transferring to after you finish your basics. The down side of this approach is that you won’t get the full “traditional” college experience, but that is more of a personal decision to make.

      Regardless of where you go, remember to not get sucked up into the mainstream college culture of parties and shenanigans. It will come back to bite you later when your backgrounds checks are being conducted.

  • Roman Castillo, III

    Its my dream profession to be a FBI Special Agent, but I also have to consider reality. The FBI Special Agent Program employs a little over 13,000 agents yearly, plus the current economic recession has made law enforcement positions on the state and federal levels somewhat tricky. So as a fall back career I’m considering engineering. I was considering Sam Houston, but it doesn’t offer an engineering course. I’m currently looking at Tarleton; on their website their alumni aren’t listed, so I’m not sure how solid their course is (I read that you can vouch for their course, but how does it compare to say, Sam Houston). Also, Texas Christian University is on my list; their alumni have gone to police departments and the Department of Justice, so their program appears solid. If I can just get your opinion on it too.
    Thank you for your time,
    Roman Castillo, III

  • Rick

    I’d like to add one school to this list. I am a junior and a criminal justice major at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. I came upon this site as I was searching for the best criminal justice graduate programs in Texas (as St. Edward’s does not have one) but I would highly recommend St. Edward’s for a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice if you are lucky enough to have the money for private tuition or have good grades and are eligible for financial aid (St. Ed’s has been very helpful to me in the financial aid department.)

    All of my courses have been extremely insightful and all of my professors have been very well qualified. Two of my most recent professors are both criminal justice graduates from St. Ed’s, one went to law school at SMU, the other at UT and together have worked / currently work as a federal prosecutor for the 5th circuit in Austin, co-author of a criminal justice textbook, and instructor at the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center.)

    I may be biased but I highly recommend St. Edward’s, hope this has been helpful

  • Brian

    I go to SHSU, and the CJ program is tough. All the professors are Doctors in their profession or lawyers and they hold the standards really high; they have a reputation to uphold.

    I suggest if you go here, once you start your junior and senior year only take 12 hours a semester unless you’re really good at taking 15+. There are a lot of research papers, projects, essays, etc. The one good thing about being a CJ major at SHSU, is all the recruiters trying to get you to commit to working for them once you’re a senior – makes you feel like your future is set.

    • Abigail

      Brian, that scares me somewhat, I want to be a homicide detective and SHSU was one of my choices, I was wondering are you happy that you made the decision to go there, or somewhat regretful?

      • Wade

        Don’t worry about it Abagail.. I go to SHSU as well and i took 15 hrs every semester and did perfectly fine. He is right that the professors are almost all doctors and the standards are high, but just do your work and you’ll succeed just fine.

  • PH

    Let me through my two cents worth in here. I am a Federal Agent with a DHS component and have taken courses at both the Texas A&M Central Texas Campus back when it was a satellite for Tarleton and at SHSU. While I was not a “fan” of Central Texas, it got the job done. As for SHSU I felt pretty much like a number, but it had excellent classes and opportunities. I got my degree from Midwestern State up in Wichita Falls TX. It gets overlooked a bunch, but it has an outstanding cadre of instructors that either are currently working in the field or are former officers.

    I have worked with the instructors at Texas State in my current position and have nothing negative to say about them. They really try to “get it right” just like the blog master here. That’s how I found about about this blog.

    Stay safe and train hard!


    • Radek M. Gadek

      PH, thanks for the two cents.

    • Wade

      good info.. although i disagree with your experience feeling like a “number” at SHSU.. I had quite the opposite experience

  • jasmine

    is texas state university a good criminal justice school?

  • Purple Fever

    Wiley College kills every year in the SWACJ quiz bowl and they get no respect…the schools that you mentioned above were too scared to even get in the quiz bowl and prove they were the so called “best.”

  • Ruben

    I know parents always have something good to say about their kids, but my son is a really smart kid but finances are keeping me as a parent from sending him to a good school. I’m in between I make to much money but can’t afford a good college. So he is settling for a local college which is heart breaking for him, all the hard work for nothing. Any ideas on what I can do for him???

    • Radek Gadek

      This is a tough turf for me to walk on, since I don’t have any kids just yet.

      However, I have a few suggestions:

      1. Consider your child obtaining an Associate’s degree at the local college or university (or community college) and taking it to the “better” school for the last two years.

      2. I think of student loans as an investment and not an expense. If the school is well recognized and your child has the brilliance to get awesome grades, I would consider investing. As with any investment, there are risks — like early withdrawal from school or not obtaining employment right after graduation. You would still owe for the debt and be mindful that 99.99% of student loans are not discharged in bankruptcy proceedings in an event you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

      3. In relation to #2, if you’re paying for college, consider your child to take on some of the financial responsibility since they are able to go to the better school (via student loans in his or her name).

      4. If you can’t do any of the above, make sure that the local college is regionally accredited. If it’s not, RUN to one that is.

      5. Accreditation and where you go to school matters big time, especially in most competitive fields.

      I could write a book on this and I know that some of my statements are debatable, like beginning of #2. But I find that if your kid doesn’t get killer grades from the local college, or doesn’t go to a very good university, he or she will have it a little harder later on (#5) – unless they will be seeking employment locally or regionally and the local college has a very good reputation despite not being “the best.”

      Without passing guilt onto parents… at the very least, please make sure your child goes to at a “good” school that is regionally accredited by one of the six regional accreditation bodies. And, definitely don’t feel guilty by passing the buck onto your kids when they want to, are academically able to or just “need” to go to a certain “better” school by making sure they get their share of the student loan debt, a part-time job, or both.

      – All the best

  • Lily

    Actually, Sam Houston State University’s Criminal Justice Department is currently Top 3 in the whole United States and Top 1 in Texas! :)

  • PBP

    I am a graduate of SHSU, and I have a BS in Law Enforcement/Police Science (this degree is no longer offered, as all of the specialized degrees were consolidated into CJ in ’94, right after I graduated). I spent eight years as a U.S. Border Patrol Agent, and I have been a Special Agent with Homeland Security Investigations (formerly Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations) for ten years. I can’t speak for other schools and their programs, but I can say that the education and experience gained from SHSU was top above reproach. I know, it’s been a little while since I’ve been a student, but being in the field, it’s surprising how many fellow SHSU grads with numerous different agencies (local, state, and federal) that I run into and also work cases with.

    After reading some of the posts, I just wanted to toss in a few points:

    First and foremost, you’re only going to get out of your education what you put into it. You can “be a number”, or you can interact with the professors, staff, and students, and realize that you are so much more than just a number.

    Secondly, the quality of the SHSU CJ school is definitely top-notch. The instructors and their qualifications are well known, and respected in the CJ field around the world. The CJ college is as diverse in the areas of CJ research, training, and education, as it is the the various countries, agencies, organizations, and cultures in which it has graduates and partnerships. We (the grads of the school) stake our reputation on our merits of our accomplishments and affiliations. Most recently, the forensics program has excelled quite well in its field, as I will inform you about at the end of this post. That being said, we don’t stake our claim by noting our accomplishment in a “quiz bowl”, though that is something some may want to hold onto in their list achievements. However, “quiz bowls” don’t get the work done in the field, they just show you have students that can remember tidbits of information, relevant or not, that pertain to the field, and not necessarily garner anything tangible that you will need to accomplish your professional goals.

    It should be noted that SHSU also has an excellent continuing education program geared mainly towards state and local law enforcement at the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT). There are many great resources there for officers, deputies, and agents to further law enforcement training and management training geared towards specific aspects of the profession.

    There ARE plenty of good CJ schools in Texas and the U.S., and they are worthy of mention. Again, you will take with you whatever you choose to, so the education attained, in some aspects, is subjective to the individual.

    On another note, although being bigger doesn’t always mean being better, the college is the largest criminal justice school in the United States. The very simple reason why is because it was built with prison labor. Furthermore, the college and LEMIT also are connected to the university hotel, so continuing education seminars can be kept in the same location as where the attendees are staying.

    On a final note, I think there are two notable recent accomplishments that help to show the level of regard that SHSU has in the field of criminal justice.

    1. SHSU has been approached by the United Nations to help the Sudanese Government in the establishment and training of a new national police force for the country of Sudan. The students will initially be trained in the U.S., and further education will be made available in Sudan.

    2. The Central Intelligence Agency has entered into a partnership with SHSU in regards to the forensics program, and it is going to be expanded to include an area of training in telecommunications and electronic device forensics. This development will be done in coordination with the CIA, and it will be partially funded by the agency, as well.

    As you can see, it’s a good school with great accolades, not all of which have been listed in this post. It’s definitely deserving of recognition and ranking by this website higher than what it is given. However, I may be a little biased.

  • Natalee

    University of Texas at Austin doesn’t even have a criminal justice program.. so obviously its not one of the best.

    • Radek Gadek

      If you had read the entire paragraph, you would have seen that I agree with you that UT Austin doesn’t have a criminal justice program. Obviously :-)

  • Denise Sanders

    Just out of curiosity, does anyone have any insight to the University of Houston – Downtown’s CJ program??

    I am closer in proximity to UHD, but counting traffic…I might actually be better off at SHSU. I’m also using GI Bill benefits, which has SHSU a significant amount of $$ less in BAH than UHD. (Which in reality, if what the above poster says is true about how CJ from SHSU is viewed in the field from peers and superiors, then the amount of $$ may be made up in the long run with a better job because of having SHSU on that coveted piece of paper.)

    But I cannot seem to find any information on their program outside of their own info.


  • jquincy

    The University of North Texas is the only school in Texas to offer classes in the field of criminalistics, which is a relatively new area of research in the criminal justice field. It is basically a comprehensive, in-depth approach to crime scene investigation. Not even the mighty SHSU offers classes that are as in-depth as criminalistics in the area of crime scene investigations and evidence analysis. If you don’t believe me, look for yourself:

    The above link is a list of the actual courses offered at UNT, and their descriptions. You will not find the same classes anywhere else in the State of Texas.

  • miranda

    Im 16 and currently a sophomore in high school. Its my drwam to be in the FBI and be a special agent, I rank about 275 in my class of 575. My gpa is 3.5, and i do try hard. So far my top school choice is sam houston, anybody major in criminal justice that went to a different school? I would like to have more back up ones! It doensnt matter where as long as its in texas, im just looking at schools right now! Thank you in advance! Oh and also woukd it be better to live in a dorm or on my own?

  • Monica Green

    I am looking for a school with Criminal Justice Degree with a good forensics program. I am looking in the area of Refugio Texas. I know there are now universities in Refugio but I am looking for one that is near that town.

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