Online PhD in Criminal Justice

As the Criminal Justice field expands so does the need for related education. If you are looking to start a career in law enforcement, criminal justice academia, and consulting, the online Criminal Justice Doctorate Degree (PhD) can definitely make that happen.

The colleges and universities below may help you pick the right online Criminal Justice PhD Degree program:

Nova Southeastern University

Also check out these blog posts

Online PhD in Criminal Justice

If you’re looking for an online PhD in Criminal Justice you will be very disappointed at the number of criminal justice colleges and universities that offer such programs. The transformation from online bachelor degrees to master degrees in Criminal Justice online has been a tedious journey in the past years and the concept of the distance learning PhD hasn’t hit a home run, yet.

I remember when I was looking for a graduate level criminal justice program online I was very disappointed at the choices that were available. Sure, there were maybe a dozen schools that had master’s programs in CJ online, but the handful that were really top notch were hidden deeply within the search engine index.

To fix this problem I compiled a list of the Best Criminal Justice PhD / Doctorate Schools – majority are traditional and reputable colleges.

I feel that an online Doctorate in Criminal Justice is something we all will have to wait for. As of this writing only a few universities have an online PhD Criminal Justice degree program. The schools that have it are mostly private, expensive, for-profit and in the “real world,” carry little weight when compared to the ivy league and the top national schools.

Essentially, you will obtain a doctorate degree in criminal justice online, but the name of the school may matter when you apply for a career position in the criminal justice world of academics, training, and director-level positions.

That said, this doesn’t mean that these degrees are not valuable. In fact, they are very valuable and applicable to the current demand. However, until the state and national universities catch up with the online education craze a PhD in CJ from University of Cincinnati, Michigan State University, and Rutgers University will carry more weight than the one at the current online entities.

I will revisit this section in the future. In the meantime, please read the comments

94 comments… add one
  • Paula LeClaire

    This is a great blog! I was lucky enough to stumble into the University of Massachusetts – Lowell online M.A. program. It was hard getting into (I only made 1000 on my GRE) but I got in and now have my MA-CJ. It’s a great program and I wish they would offer a PhD soon.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Thanks for reading and congratulations on your achievements. University of Massachusetts – Lowell is a great institution. Good luck with pursuing your PhD.

      • anon

        Their PhD program was launched in the fall of 2011 and they were able to recruit some top notch professors to lead the way. Worthy of a blogpost I believe.

        On an unrelated note (as a current doctoral student), I’m very against the concept of an online PhD and hope these do not develop.

        • Radek M. Gadek

          By “Their,” did you mean University of Massachusetts at Lowell?

  • Pam

    Radek,
    Awesome site with tons of useful and real world information. I just received my Master’s in CJ from Boston University a few weeks ago…Go Terriers!!! I am looking for a good Ph.D. program for CJ, but as a single mom I can not venture too far from CT. Do you have any potential and feasible recommendations?
    Thanks,
    Pam

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I don’t think there’s anything out there, yet. It might be a while before any great online PhD programs for Criminal Justice / Criminology come out. I don’t think there’s anything by you either; if you wanted school to be close to where you live. I would either hold off and wait, or venture out to Massachusetts. There are also online PhD programs that you can easily find at the most advertised / televised schools , but they aren’t top notch.

    • Ashley

      There is PhD CJ program at the University of New Haven in CT

  • Adam Eaton

    I already have my M.S in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida, which has enabled me to teach some basic courses at online universities. If I want to pursue my PhD to teach at other acedmic institutions, is on online PhD (Capella?) frowned upon?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I would go the brick-and-mortar way if you want to obtain a PhD and teach at other online and on-campus institutions. Online schools are not as widely accepted when it comes to teaching in academia, unless they have a high ranking program or name prominence.

    • Adam Smith

      No it isn’t.While earning My PhD in Criminal Justice. I have had two Professors who obtained their PhD from Capella

  • A M

    How about sociology? Do you know of any decent online sociology phds?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Sorry, I know of none.

  • Stace

    I had a question, where does Saint Leo University Master’s program rank in the field of CJ?

    V/R,
    Stace

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I don’t think it ranks anywhere. Saint Leo isn’t in top anything that I know of.

      • Carmella Williams

        Hi,

        Well, Saint Leo University is now ranked #59 as one of the top best regional universities out of 118 by U.S. News & World Report Magazine — in “America’s Best Colleges” category. They do offer a Master of Science in Criminal Justice with Specializations in Forensic Science, etc. They also are a widely respected university, especially here in Florida, and have top-notch professors. It is an excellent school at which to get an education! Their Center for Online Learning is wonderful! I just wanted to let ‘Stace’ or anyone else know this.
        Thank you.

        • Stace

          I graduated from Saint Leo U, with a Master’s in CJ just this past May. Saint Leo was a great journey!

          V/R
          Stace

  • Sean

    Hi Radek,

    I have a question – do you recommend Capella’s PhD program in PS/CJ or not? On your other page, of top CJ schools, you have Capella at the bottom saying it is the only online school you recommend. Will a PhD from Capella in PS/CJ allow people to teach at many schools or not? I’m currently enrolled, and I’m considering dropping out and going back to a Brick and Mortar to get another M.S. or M.A. in Criminal Justice. My current masters degree is a M.Div, so it doesn’t relate to CJ, though my professional career is CJ. I have 17 years of law enforcement experience and I want to teach.

    Would you recommend staying with Capella or going to a Brick and Mortar online CJ program that is more readily accepted?

    Thanks.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      For teaching, I would recommend traditional venues. For personal enrichment and/or traditional career opportunities, like in law enforcement and administration, I recommend either going on-campus or online. Despite me approving of Capella’s program, I still would consider having a Master’s from Penn State over having a PhD from Capella.

      • Tracie

        What is your opinion now of online schools? I live in Alabama, so I am not in or near a major metropolitan area. I was very interested in Nova’s PhD program.

        Background: I am an attorney looking to teach CJ. When I went to interview for a position, I noticed one of the instructors (interviewers) had a degree from Nova. He did have law enforcement experience–which I do not. However, I am almost 40 and I just do not see becoming a patrol officer.

        Do you know of any other resources I could access to find information–i.e. statistics on how difficult it might be for someone like me to enter the field, etc.

        • Radek M. Gadek

          Nova Southeastern University has a brick and mortar presence, so he might have attended on campus. I think Nova’s program is probably the only PhD online program I would endorse in the CJ field. Regardless, I still would go to a brick and mortar school for a PhD if given the chance (at least right now)

          I don’t have statistics, but I think that most law enforcement positions from local to federal level would be unattainable unless you had prior law enforcement experience. The field of Criminal Justice is still open to you, since I assume you have JD and obtaining a Criminal Justice PhD degree can always help. Still, I don’t have anything concrete for you.

      • David Woods, PhD

        Radek,
        Having a PhD in CJ from a “traditional” school I could not agree with you more. However, you should tell your readers that all of the online PhD programs I have seen, with the exception of Nova Southeaster University, cannot really be called a CJ PhD program. By this I mean they do not have the CJ or CRJ or ADJ (administration of justice) or equivalent preface in their classes. If you look closely at many of the so-called online PhD in CJ programs you will notice that they are under and titled in programs like Human Resource Management or something along that line. This will not work with most accreditation agencies and thus at the several universities I have worked at in the last 24 years they do not make the “first cut”. I do not know the quality of their programs so I am not commenting on them that way, but the preface to the courses do make a great difference. For example, last time I went, as a department chair, through accreditation with SACS a JD was not a terminal degree and did not “qualify” to teach upper division and graduate CJ students as a terminally degreed faculty member. Same for Sociology and other PhD’s.
        Just thought you might want to know this and warn others that the field has changed in the last 20 years now that more universities (traditional) have PhD in Criminal Justice, Administration of Justice, Criminology (which is different from a CJ degree itself but ok for accreditation purposes), Juvenile Justice, etc.
        David

        • Radek Gadek

          Thanks David,

          Your advice is much appreciated and it’s been implemented nearly since inception of the website. I have been trying to make this message more visible, but it’s probably lost within other articles and countless comments. Maybe a “Guide” or “Start Here” page is in order (it’s been on the “to do” list since early this year).

          Please chime in anytime you come by the blog.

          – Radek

        • JP

          I have a PhD from Capella University. I teach for several universities including Liberty University, Saint leo University, American military university, Grand Canyon University, Bethume Cookman University -and the list goes on. I make well over six figures and never had a problem. I know individuals who have graduated from Capella University who are directors of various CJ programs. Don’t knock it until you try it.

  • Sean

    Radek,

    Thanks for your reply. So I see that the University of Cincinnati has an online M.S. in CJ. You would recommend that over the PhD with Capella also? Do you think it will open many doors to teach online and traditional for undergraduate CJ?

    Thanks again for posting your opinion.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Sean,

      You ask very good questions. In short: Yes! BUT with caveat emptor in mind:
      1. Online Master’s degree recipients may be scrutinized by employers in the academic field, HOWEVER, and this is at your own risk, you can find out if the school is offering the same degree on campus with literally the same diploma (ie. a degree in Criminal Justice from the College of Professional Studies VS. Criminal Justice from the College of Law & Criminology <– I am referring to the actual department). This can mask, sort of, the association of you being a non-traditional student with hopes of teaching at a traditional setting. 2. Despite my suggestion, it is a gamble — a winnable one, however — that a strong Master's will allow you teaching possibilities vs. a weaker brick and mortar PhD degree (ie. Master's from Univ. of Cincinnati VS. PhD from Some Half-Decent State University. The Master's, in my opinion, has more strength vs any online PhD counterpart BUT usually not a traditional one, like I mentioned in the parenthesis, unless you really went to a crappy brick-and-mortar school for your PhD. It's funny how we're able to get a coveted degree, but still receive scrutiny from academic institutions that we want to work for; far more scrutiny then those looking for new careers and career advancement. I do feel there will be a shift within the upcoming years, but it will still be the old "what school did you go to" adage, even with an online degree. That's why I don't advocate getting a PhD online, at least not yet. In reference to points 1 and 2, I still know of quite a few Master degree recipients — from online schools — who are presently teaching at community colleges, online colleges and universities, and for-profit or smaller schools.. and only a small fraction (very small), teach at traditional — decent to very good — academic institutions <– in almost all cases for the latter it is on a trial / part-time basis and with a non-tenure track. I hope this makes sense. If it doesn't please read it again. If that fails, let me know then. One last thing.. and this is an obvious one for me: speak with a knowledgeable person at University of Cincinnati — preferably the Dean or the professor running the Criminal Justice program — about your aspirations and concerns. Please feel free to cite our dialogue. Heck, I welcome it. I hope that when you get some answers, perhaps I can either stand my ground on this issue, or maybe, just maybe, become more optimistic.

      • Jim

        Radek, Shaun,
        I earned my masters from U of Cincinnati online and am now teaching at a local community college and online for one of the big for profit online schools. I can take phd classes from the online school at a discount but I feel it is not worth my money due to the reputation of online degrees.

        Jim

  • Sean

    Radek,

    Thanks a lot for all the information. It really helps! Not to burden you, but I do have one more quick question for you. Nova Southeastern is starting an Online PhD in CJ next year. Are you familiar with that program? Any opinion on it?

    Thanks again so much for your help. I really appreciate it.

    Sean

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Not too familiar with the program or school, but from cursory perusing, it looks pretty decent.

  • SHARON GORDON MULLANE

    I have three degrees from Nova Southeastern (Bachelor’s in C.J., Master’s in C.J. and Juris Doctor.) I am very happy to have just been accepted into Nova’s online PHD in Criminal Justice which is now set to start in August of 2011. I have looked for two years but have found this to be the only pure PHD in C.J. from a regionally accredited (SACS) university that is in an online format(from an American school.) Applicants now have until May of 2011, I believe, to apply for the August 2011 start date. (Applicants can check the Nova CJI website for exact details.) I am extremely excited about the program as Nova has become a very competitive university. (As a graduate of Nova law school I was very excited to just learn that Nova law school had the second highest pass rates for the Florida Bar this last year.) Insofar as questions regarding what one can do with degrees from Nova, I was able to work as a prosecuting attorney for 23 years, as a criminal defense attorney for 4 years and as a college professor of criminal justice/legal for 10 years so I have to say that I highly recommend Nova Southeastern. My daughter also graduated from Nova Medical School and is enjoying a highly successful career.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Sharon,

      Thanks for the very valuable input.

      I was kind of wondering myself, since Sean’s persistent, but very well thought out, comments. I did a little digging around and found the school to be rooted in great academics. I am guessing this is worth a look at. Be aware that the PhD program is awaiting approval from the accreditation agency, but I hope it will pull through.

      I contacted Nova Southeastern University to chime in. I would love schools, like Nova, to contribute to the blog with relevant CJ info.

      • Sharon Gordon Mullane

        HI RADEK:

        JUST TO GIVE YOU AN UPDATE ON THE PhD IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE FROM NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY…I’VE COMPLETED THE FIRST SEMESTER AND AM ALMOST THROUGH WITH THE SECOND SEMESTER. NOVA’S PROGRAM IS VERY CHALLENGING AND THE PHD STUDENTS ALL HAVE UNBELIEVABLE RESUMES. THESE DAYS MORE AND MORE SCHOOLS ARE INSISTING THAT THEIR PROFESSORS HAVE A PhD IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE. THERE IS A HUGE DEMAND FOR PROFESSORS WHO HAVE A PURE PhD IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SUCH AS THE ONE OFFERED BY NOVA SOUTHEASTERN. UNLESS A NEW PROGRAM HAS RECENTLY BEEN ADDED, NOVA’S PhD IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE IS THE ONLY PURE PhD IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE OFFERED REMOTELY. THE PROGRAM IS A GREAT ONE AND I AM WILLING TO BET YOU THAT,WITH THE IMPRESSIVE RESUMES THAT MY CLASSMATES ALREADY HAVE, THEY WILL HAVE FABULOUS SUCCESS UPON GRADUATION. THE RESUMES OF MY CLASSMATES WILL ABSOLUTELY BLOW YOU AWAY! CLEARLY, NOVA WAS EXTREMELY SELECTIVE AND ONLY TOOK THE BEST OF THE BEST. (I FELT QUITE HONORED TO EVEN BE ALLOWED TO JOIN SUCH AN OUTSTANDING GROUP!) I HAVE NO DOUBT AT ALL THAT, WITH THIS DIPLOMA IN HAND, WE WILL ALL DO EXCEPTIONALLY WELL IN OUR CAREERS. THIS PROGRAM IS NOT SIMPLE TO GET INTO SO I URGE ANY OF YOUR READERS WHO ARE INTERESTED IN A PhD IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE TO JUMP IN AND SLUG IT OUT AND TRY TO GET INTO THIS PROGRAM. (NO, I DON’T WORK FOR NOVA AS I AM A CRIMINAL TRIAL ATTORNEY AND A COLLEGE PROFESSOR. HOWEVER, I HAVE HAD TREMENDOUS SUCCESS IN LIFE HAVING EARNED A BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE, A MASTER OF SCIENCE IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND A LAW DEGREE, ALL FROM NOVA SOUTHEASTERN.) AS MENTIONED PREVIOUSLY, MY DAUGHTER HAS ALSO DONE VERY WELL AFTER EARNING HER MEDICAL DEGREE FROM NOVA SOUTHEASTERN. SHE HAS BECOME AN EXTREMELY SUCCESSFUL MEDICAL DOCTOR AND CONTINUES TO EXCEL IN HER SPECIALTIES.

        • Radek M. Gadek

          What an update… Kudos!

  • SHARON GORDON MULLANE

    Hi Radek,

    Thanks for your reply. I know that Nova is being very selective regarding the students that they accept into the PHD in CJ program. They have only accepted five students so far and have a cap of 20 students for the program. Nova is a very large school. They have a law school, a medical school, a dental school, and many more. They offer various doctorates in many subjects including psychology.

    Thanks for all the work you do on your blog.

    Best Regards,
    Sharon

  • Jon

    I am planning to start the Masters in CJ at the University of Cincinnati online in March 2011. After completing the MCJ at University of Cincinnati, I plan to apply to a PhD program as a traditional student. I have worked in Corrections and as a Parole Agent for the past 21 years with the State of California. I plan to retire in three to four years and want to teach after finishing my PhD. My question is, if I receive a MCJ at the University of Cincinnati online, will I have difficulty getting into a traditional PhD program because I graduated from an online program?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Good question, Jon. Really good!

      Firstly, University of Cincinnati is an excellent school, especially for Criminal Justice majors.

      Secondly, no one really should/must know that you went to school online. Your diploma will not say “online” on it. I think that as long as you obtain letters of recommendation from your professors, you should be fine with avoiding that hurdle. I wasn’t as persistent and that’s something I would want to change if I “did it all over again”. Get those letters – they are worth it. If your grades / GPA / GRE / and other important factors are great, the letters of recommendation will make them pop out. If you take the route of mentioning that you went to school online in your application for a PhD, then you may OR may not be setting yourself up for failure. It just depends on the mindset of the reviewer / admissions dept as a whole.

      I think the whole taboo of going to school online will change within the next several years or so. Right now, there’s a huge transition in high school grads and professionals taking their baby steps towards online education. Soon, I think both modes of going to school (on campus or online) will be widely accepted.

      If anyone had success going to college online and getting into a brick-and-mortar PhD program, please let us know how you did it? Thanks

  • G.M.

    Please allow me to offer the results of my yearlong search for an Online doctorate program in CJ or Criminology…the bottom line, none of any substance exist. Let me offer a bit of background and why I believe that Online doctorate training in this country will never become mainstream…it will remain nothing but an expensive dream that will never materialize.

    Online education in this country is still relatively young. I myself have been involved in it daily for 8 ½ years. The concept was good…affording working adults and/or non-traditional students a choice over the traditional “brick & mortar” schools. I would say that initially, the quality of the Online classes was quite good. In fact, I recall as a new Adjunct thinking there is no way I would have jumped the hoops my students had to in order to complete the class.

    But about 5 years ago, a shift began in the Online world. The institutions decided they could build market share by simply lowering the standards of student performance. Personally, I began to note (in a relatively short period-of-time) students go from striving to achieve, to just simply just “getting by”. Things like performance and GPA’s took a back seat to passing and students went from a desire to better themselves to just checking a box.

    But what really has surprised me was the attitude shift of the administrators in the Online world. Initially, they too had a strong desire to promote academic excellence and genuinely believed they were helping develop a new format of education for the next century. Their talk was that the Online world had to be better than the “brick & mortars”, or people would simply stop enrolling. But somewhere around the ‘06/’07 timeframe, a shift occurred. Most who noted this change attribute it to retirements of Online administrators who came from “brick & mortar” institutions but had moved into Online. This opened doors for lower-level employees to move into these admin positions. But unlike those who had retired, these new admin types only had Online academic backgrounds…many had never sat in a traditional college-classroom in their entire life. This was especially true for a very large Online institution that finds itself in the media spotlight quite often now.

    The net effect was that academic excellence went from being the norm to more of a recruiting slogan. With the advent of these new Online-trained administrators, an attitude shift started too. It became all about “servicing” the students and being sensitive to their needs and teaching the material took a back-seat to this mentality. This was true no matter how ridiculous or offensive student behavior became. Students discovered that if they filed complaints against faculty members (no matter how absurd), the schools would side with the student. I personally caught a student plagiarizing not once, but twice in a Master’s class. I failed the student and an investigation was opened on me!

    But what really blew my mind is that a large number of Online Adjuncts and even Online Full-Timers who sort of dumb-down their approach too. They soon discovered that if they gave everyone and “A” or “B”, they had no problems, with the students or the Admin people. The faculty who refused to comply were summarily dismissed or simply saw offers of additional classes reduced to zero.

    This is important because the traditional academic world has discovered all this. So has Congress and so have the student-loan people. The folks who work in the accreditation agencies are getting up-to-speed as well. I believe that serious changes are coming to Online education in this country in the very near future. But perhaps most effective in stifling Online doctorates have been the brick & mortar Ph.D’s. Unlike their admin bosses, they very quickly saw Online education as a threat and circled the wagons to stop the Online Ph.D’s. In fact, they have been extremely successful at keeping Online “Doctors” out of the tenured-track faculty appointments at both private and land-grant colleges and universities. One university-level VP told me the Online people will never have positions in academia of any substance. Their entire careers will be spent teaching at junior colleges, other Online institutions or low-level non-tenured Instructor positions.

    Sorry to have gone on for a bit, I just wanted to share my experiences. If your desire is just to have a Ph.D after your name, then you’re probably OK with the Online programs. But if you desire a career in academia, corporate management, or a senior National Government positions, please, before you spend 50K – 60K on an Online doctorate, do your homework. Don’t get caught-up with the recruiting slogans or brochure testimonials that claim an Online doctorate will land you anything of substance…the simple reality is that none of the Online doctorates are considered legitimate by those who are smart on the set-up and do the hiring.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Did someone say featured post?! Wow!

      I think you’re right on target. I’ve seen positive changes in online academia in the last few years/months, but “the road” is still hard and uneven.

      I am very curious about potential career prospects for Master and PhD level grads. Your assertion seems to mimic current trends and I think that’s very misleading to those who take up online learning in order to BETTER their life and NOT make it more mundane.

      Thanks for you insightful comment.

  • Jim

    I could not agree with you more Mr. Gadek. I received my MS in CJ from U of Cincinnati in 2004. I was impressed with their program. It does not mention “online” anywhere and one would only find out if the recipient of the degree mentioned it.

    I then looked for a PhD online and found several “subpar” Universities offering the PhD. In early 2010 I signed up for the PhD at Rocky Mountain University at a cost of $56,000. I then started background checks on the school and withdrew before my first class.

    I am still looking. I retired from law enforcement 3 years ago and am teaching online for a big name online only University. I also am teaching at a community college part time with no chance of a tenure track in the foreseeable future.

    Just my $.02.

    Thanks for your insight.
    Jim

  • Jim

    I forgot to mention, the online University I teach for offers a PhD in CJ, but I feel it would not be in my best interest to obtain a degree from them in order to teach at a University.

    Thanks,
    Jim