Top Criminal Justice Schools in America for 2019

What are the top criminal justice schools in America? It’s a question I get in my mailbox at least once a week. The truth is, it’s not University of Phoenix, Everest College, or Westwood College as you probably found other sites claiming a list of “10 Best Criminal Justice Schools” to be. Come on! Here’s the real deal.

In my opinion, some of the best criminal justice colleges in the US include:

Top Criminal Justice Schools in the USThese are just my recommendations, and rightfully so, as USNews.com has it’s own list of Top Criminal Justice Schools in America. Many of the schools I had in mind they listed, too.

Best Criminal Justice Schools in America for 2019

sources: US News and Criminal Justice Degree, College, and Career Blog

This is a list of the Top Criminal Justice Schools in America without the fluff.

More than half of these best Criminal Justice universities have online Criminal Justice degree programs – a great alternative to on-campus education.

No matter what you’ve heard before, be aware that the name of the school and/or program ranking matters; it can make a big difference between being accepted for a career position or getting promoted. We, as society, have preconceived notions, expectations for high standards, and the understanding of what’s real and what’s not – the people and organizations that will be hiring you or looking over your grad school application will look at the program and the school your graduated from.

And one more thing… your college grades and GPA matter, especially when applying for highly sought after career positions, and of course, graduate study. Just thought you should know.

Wait… When picking schools that have multiple locations be aware that a program from one campus location – for example – may be OR may not be better than the program from the other campuses. Take University of California (a.k.a. UC). This educational system has quite a few university campuses, but UC Irvine reigns supreme in Criminal Justice/Criminology over UC Davis (example).

Even if you can’t get into a great college or university, which doesn’t hurt to apply, remember that when researching your criminal justice schools make sure to take the accreditation, tuition, and time investment into consideration. Now, go share this great resource with someone! Thanks for reading.

Do you think there are criminal justice schools that should make the list, but didn’t? Share them with us and tell us why your picks should belong among the best criminal justice schools in the United States.

You might also like:

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.

115 comments… add one
  • Yasamine M

    Hi. I wanted to know which universities in California offer a Masters degree in Forensic science?not online. (I want to be a criminalist). I currently have a Bachelors degree in Cellular/Molecular Genetics. Would i have to take additional courses since i have a BS in a different field? and how much is the difference of salary between someone who has a Masters degree and a person with a PhD in this field (Criminalist) ?
    Thanks in advance. :)

  • Amy

    there’s this university called Olivet Nazarene University, its in Illinois, i don’t know if your familiar with it, but I’m really interested in going there but I’m afraid that it might be looked down upon in the hiring process… Is the school you go to really that big of a deal in getting hired in a law enforcement position after college?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      For the most part, any good and properly accredited school will do for most law enforcement careers. However, there may be instances where the person(s) deciding your career faith may have a specific liking to a school – University of Illinois, Chicago — for example — UIC is actually one of the better schools for criminal justice in Illinois. – It’s the whole local vs national vs no-name school fiasco. I think that quality schools will always prevail, the name of a school is an added bonus. Those hiring you will either sympathize with your school choice or condemn it. This is even true for those career hopefuls who graduated from prestigious schools. Insecure recruiters might worry about a Harvard grad replacing them, thus not considering his/her application.

      In all, it’s not that big of a deal when looking at it broadly, but on a case-by-case basis, the humans deciding your career faith will make their assumptions. Good or bad? I don’t know. What I do know is that most people are drawn to “the best” or they think through associations; college sports fanatics will love a candidate who came from the NCAA school like UCLA & University of Florida.. and the intellectual type will prefer those who graduated from schools like NYU or George Washington University.

      The main premise of my statement was to make you aware that for highly competitive spots in the work-force and academia the school name/quality of the program matters. To what extent? It all depends..

  • Cathey

    My son is currently a high school junior and we are investigating colleges with criminal science programs. We live in Texas and I’m curious why Texas A&M didn’t make the list? They have one of two FBI intern programs and seem to have a robust and well-thought of criminal justice program. We are checking out Sam Houston State later this month.

    I appreciate your insight.

    Cathey

    • Radek M. Gadek

      .. because, like Texas A&M, there is a ton of other great schools that I would have to mention. The list is meant to highlight The Best Schools in the Nation.

      I’m going to tackle the “best criminal justice schools in Texas” list in one of my blog posts.. coming soon.

  • shauna

    what do you think about the Walden University.. they have a bachelors in psychology with a concentration in criminal justice, then also have a fast track through that to their masters in forensic psychology? I hate going to school everyday and being 30 this year with 3 children, there has to be a decently cheap “good” online school. Question.. do you have to obtain licensing in any your state to be a forensic psychologist, like you do for lets say family counseling? I am all over the fence with my education, i know what I want to do, for the most part, although do not have anyone to academically guide me to through the process, and what would be a good decision. Walden university does have CACREP accreditation for their mental health masters degree through the nation, so that has to be good, right? Please help me, the only ones that want to help are the enrollment counselors at these schools and I know you cannot always believe everything they say.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Walden is definitely far from being a top school. I would skip Walden.

      I’m not too familiar with state certification for psychologists.

  • Arielle

    Hi there, I’d like to know what careers are available for legal studies majors besides paralegal and being an attorney? I graduate the program next year May and want to know what other paths are available. I’m thinking about probation, should I get a masters in CJ or get another bachelors in CJ? Thanks.

  • Ralph O'Maley

    Hello,

    My daughter (a Sr in HS) wants to major in criminology as an undergrad and get her masters in forensics. She’s been accepted at U New Haven, SUNY Albany, Bowling Green, SUNY Potsdam, Washington State U, and a few MA state colleges. I’ve been pushing Albany because it seems like a great school; they have the 5 year masters program and the cost is about $27k per year. My daughter wants New Haven (at $43k per year) because she can start her major as a freshman. Her third choice is Bowling Green($28k). Regardless of what I want, my goal is for her to get the best education possible. Of the first five schools listed what would you consider the best option(s)? Advice from a subject matter expert will certainly make “the decision” a lot easier.

    I greatly appreciate your insight.

    R. O’Maley

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Kudos!!

      I would recommend SUNY Albany based on both the pricing structure and its relevancy in the criminal justice field. SUNY Albany is one of the best schools an aspiring Criminology hopeful can get into. Plus, it ranks as one of the best schools in the US in many categories. Washington State University isn’t too shabby either.

      I know that choosing the right school can be a puzzling task, and that my recommendations are mine alone, but i do know that going to an esteemed university pays dividends down the line.

      I don’t know too much about University of New Haven, but based on a cursory lookup, I see it’s a reputable institution (perhaps only regionally). The price point is way too high, for a non-ivy league education.

      Hope this helps and wish your daughter good luck from me.

  • Moriah M.

    Between Northeastern University, Temple University, University of Maryland College Park, Rutgers, and University of Delaware…which has the BEST criminal justice program?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Tough to say. Really tough.

    • Jeff R.

      That’s actually not a tough call at all. University of Maryland – College Park has one of the nation’s best criminal justice/criminology programs for undergrads. And, it’s grad school was ranked the best in 2012 by U.S. News & World Report.

      • Radek Gadek

        It is when you add Northeastern into the mix :-P

        maybe you can help my mysterious reader: confusedddd. He or she posted a question on UM College Park vs Northeastern way below (please scroll down). I added my 2 cents already.

        Thanks for commenting.

  • terry

    I will graduate from the University of Scranton in May with a degree in criminal justice, minor in sociology. Would you recommend continuing my education….and what are my prospects for a job in this economic environment?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      What are your temporary and lifetime goals?

  • Theodora

    My daughter was accepted to Northeastern, John Jay College and University of Albany for Criminal Justice. Will John Jay as a CUNY school give her equal education to Northeastern which is an excellent school? Money is an issue here also. She received a merit scholarship from Northeastern but not enough to make a substantial difference.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Does your daughter want to major in Criminology, Criminal Justice, Forensic Psychology, or a similar field? If so, the distinction of CUNY — City University of New York — should not have too many complications here, because John Jay College of Criminal Justice is definitely one of the best schools in these fields; it’s like Harry Potter going to Hogwarts to become a Wizard – can’t get any better than that. Can it?

      Well, then comes Northeastern University, um… definitely one of the best schools in the USA and highly esteemed worldwide. Also their ranking for Criminology programs is great!

      And then, University of Albany (aka SUNY Albany) which has the top 3 ranking this year for their Criminology program. This is a well known school within the field of Criminal Justice.

      To be honest, I have no clue how you can make a decision here. You have to take a lot of factors into consideration when choosing. What if your daughter won’t want to pursue further studies in this field? Many students, and I mean like a relatively high percentage, discover themselves and their aspirations in college — an apex of actionable curiosity. Consider that when helping your daughter with her options. I switched my major twice in my undergrad years and Northeastern would have probably my best pick for that, even though they would most likely proverbially strangle me if I considered switching more than once — Northeastern doesn’t play.

      Check out the college rankings on websites like US News and the Princeton Review, among others. Regardless of how daunting the decision may be, your daughter has a very favorable dilemma. As for money, I feel that an investment in an excellent education is well worth it, granted one is able to handle high level academia. The dividends of such education will pay down the road, if not sooner. All three schools have something to offer:

      Northeastern University – top ranked school in many disciplines, including Criminology
      University of Albany – a SUNY school ranked as one of the top Criminology schools in the US
      John Jay College – a premier Criminal Justice (and related fields) school

      Good luck deciding! Trust me, you both will need it.

      • John

        All are great schools- I am in Northeastern U., Grad. School of a CJ. It is good as it gets in this field- in Boston which is always a plus- faculty is great- grad students that teach under grad w faculty are also very, very good. Great program that places students in the best career paths. Serious school for serious students and you get what you pay for.

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks for this page! I have a question, and if you have a chance to answer I’d really appreciate it:
    I’m about to graduate with a B.A. in Sociology. I want to become a criminologist, and although I’m good at statistics and research, I’m interested more in the profiling/psychology side of things. If I had to name a dream job, I’d love to work with the FBI (not as an agent). I’ve been looking at the schools on the list above, and I’m not sure if doing an MA or an MS is better for me. Is there a significant difference in job prospects? I get the impression that MS degrees are geared towards those who want to go on to a doctorate. Is this true? I want to start my career after my Masters. Any advice you could offer would be very helpful!

  • Pauline

    Hello,

    First, thank you a lot for this blog, it clarified a lot of questions I had. I still have some left though.
    I’m from Switzerland, and considering getting a degree in Criminology – or Criminal Justice with a focus on Criminology. My first question would be, would it be better for me to get a BA first or can I go for a Master directly, knowing that I will – hopefully – soon have a Master’s degree in History (major) and Social Anthropology (minor)?
    Second, looking through the lists of school, I was interested by Washington State University the most, but it seemed not to be a top ranked school on the usnews ranking. What is your opinion about that? Which University would you recommend and why?
    I would greatly appreciate your insights.

    Pauline

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I am assuming that your studies, now, are close to being finished on a Master’s level in your country (right?). If so, you should be able to go straight into grad school, without having to do your Bachelor’s in the US. Now, if you’re finishing your studies here in the US, same answer applies.

      WSU is one of the best schools for Criminology… and it is holding the #19 spot along with University of Illinois – Chicago (UIC) and American University (AU). It’s not top ranked, but considering the number of schools that are offering criminal justice and criminology programs I think that’s pretty good. Nevertheless, I am very ambitious and I would strive to get into the best criminology school I can.. one that ranks consistently and truly has an amazing program. I would definitely consider the top 20; weeding out schools that don’t fit my personal requirements, academic ideals, and financial criteria. I also like the power of a strong brand (school name) that has an excellent program to go with it. I can’t just pick a few… I would have to go back to school to give you my true assessment, but I hope this gives you some ideas that you can add to your own.

      • Pauline

        Thank you for your quick and helpful comments!

  • Paisano

    Utica College is far better than any of those you posted.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Utica College is a decent school, but I firmly stand by my choices. Thanks for the input.

  • Alexandra

    Hello – I am interested in your opinions on which private, christian schools would have a good criminal justice program. Please reply. Thanks.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I think it would be very hard for me to pick the best christian criminal justice schools. It just too much of a niche market, with no clear winners available for the choosing. There just might be a possibility that some of the schools I listed may be rooted in certain religions, but I wouldn’t know if those are christian or not unless I did some thorough research. Although I can’t help you now, I’ll try to incorporate a rating system for denominational schools.

  • Alexandra

    Thank you for the information. One school I was thinking of was Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Do you have any opinions on this school?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I’m not too familiar with that campus

  • RONALD

    I’m currently enrolled at San Francisco State University as a full-time sophomore with an undeclared major & was interested in majoring in Criminal Justice hopeful to obtain a government career in the future. Money is also a major issue with my family who are willing to support me in my academic endeavors to a certain extent. In a nutshell, what college would you prefer for a major in Criminal Justice OR what resources can you provide me to help me further research programs at San Francisco State or nearby universities?

  • Mitch

    Do you have an opinion on Tiffin University’s (Ohio) criminal justice program?

  • tj andrews

    I’m currently a senior in high school and im looking for colleges in new England for criminal justice ….. any suggestions?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I think that almost half of these criminal justice schools are in the New England area. I think Penn State, John Jay College, and SUNY Albany are definitely worth a look at.

  • Shawn's Apples

    I begin John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Aug of 2011 for their Fall semester. I am pleased, to see that my college of choice, has made the list as one of the best colleges for Criminal Justice. I’m working on my B.S. in Forensic Science and I will either specialize in “Criminalistics” or “Toxicology”!

  • Beth

    Hi.
    I’m a junior in highschool and seriously considering majoring in criminal justice or criminology, but am struggling to find a college in my price range. Do you know of any colleges with a lower price range but still has a great criminal justice program? And do you know of any possible scholarships that the schools you have mentioned might offer? I was thinking SUNY Albany, but I’m not sure if I could afford it.

  • Rick

    In this writers opinion I believe Northeastern University is the best school for Criminal Justice Studies. Dean Fox is one of the most knowledgeable and informative people I’ve ever encountered. NU has a well rounded program, as well as the co-op program. Hence when you graduate you have some experience under your belt. I graduated NU back in 1985. And like the author of this blog/website stated, that name recognition does carry some advantages when pursuing your career. I’ve been working in law enforcement on the federal level for 21 years now. And I definitely know graduating from NU has benefited me. Besides attending college in Boston was some of the most wonderful experiences I had. Boston is a well diversified town of many schools. Can’t go wrong with attending N.U.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I’m with you. I think Northeastern University is an amazing school.

  • Will

    Have you heard anything or do you know anything about the University of Central Oklahoma’s criminal justice degree? They offer two concentrations, one is standard and the other is police. If you could let me know what you think of this school and whether or not it is worth looking into. I’m also looking at the University of Oklahoma’s Criminology degree.

  • Hailey

    You forgot Virginia CommonWealth University, they have one of the best forensics/criminal justice fields

  • RNG

    Hello Radek,
    I first wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog and it’s one of the most helpful resources I have come across while exploring the possibility of pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice. Kudos really!

    I have a question that I have not been able to get answered by searching your blog and I hope that it’s not simply a case of me not being thorough enough in my search. I was wondering if you know of any schools that offers Master’s in CJ with some form of IT/Computer concentration. I don’t mean hard core computer forensics (like John Jay), but something more along the lines of what SUNY Albany offers (http://www.albany.edu/scj/prog-it.php).

    Will be sending you an email in case that is the best course of action.

    Thanks!

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Thanks RNG. I want to tell you that I know of such a school or program, but I don’t. A master’s degree is usually field specific and doesn’t offer much wiggle room. So, in essence, it’s CJ with a course or two related to IT OR IT with a course or two in CJ OR straight Computer Forensics. Also, John Jay is doing well in trying to merge all these very well.

      I have a Business & IT undergrad and know that you’ll probably have to make IT/Computers the pivot with Criminal Justice as the secondary option. It’s usually the technological programs that offer field specific pathways, not the other way around in this case. These programs can be tricky to find, but they are somewhere out there. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

      If you find anything, please reply to this comment thread with some updates. Thanks.

  • David Crowell

    How about the University of New Haven, Henry C. Lee School of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science. They have , probably the most advanced criminal lab on the East Coast. People should check into this school, especially if they want to go into Govt. work.Ex.-CIA, FBI Homeland Security etc.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I’ve heard about this school… good things that is and I’ll be sure to add it to the Best Criminal Justice Schools in Connecticut. Thanks for your input David.

  • Will

    Have you heard anything or do you know anything about the University of Central Oklahoma’s criminal justice degree? They offer two concentrations, one is standard and the other is police. If you could let me know what you think of this school and whether or not it is worth looking into. I’m also looking at the University of Oklahoma’s Criminology degree.

  • LACJ

    Hello I have found your blog very helpful. I fel like you really know what you are talking about. I have a question. I know that to be a police officer you don’t have to have a degree. I want to finish my Bachelors though because I want to be a detective at some point. If I finish my Bachelors in Forensic Psychology would that be a bad thing come hiring time? It wouldn’t be the usual CJ degree. I just find the program fascinating and you get the best of both worlds where you learn about law enforcement but also the psychology of criminals and the sociology of crime etc. Also, I read the requirements and I am able to pass the police academy physically but I’ve always been more brain than brawn. This is why I want to use the better part of myself and become a detective. How many years on average does it take to become eligible to take the detective test? Would a Forensic Psychology degree prepare me for this? Or, would I become better prepared by taking CJ or Criminology. Also, Florida Tech University has a Forensic Psychology program with an online option. What do you think about this school? Are there any reputable universities with a Forensic Psychology BA or BS with an online option that you would recommend? Thank you for your time answering my question!

    • Radek M. Gadek

      1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with choosing Forensic Psychology as an option. Criminal Justice degree is not the holy grail. Departments seek diverse candidates with myriad skills.
      2. There are many people who are more brain than brawn, but they still must be able to protect themselves, the public and their peers. As a detective you’re still a police officer.
      3. Eligibility on taking the detective’s exam is based on position opening, but usually one is able to take the exam after their probationary period is up – granted other departmental requirements are met, including education.
      4. A Forensic Psychology degree can help, as can a Criminal Justice degree or a Criminology degree. There are different attributes that can be considered. I don’t necessarily think one’s better than the other. Go for what make