Feb 17, 2021
You need only read the headlines to know that there are few careers today as demanding as those in criminal justice, but are criminal justice professionals in demand? In general, job demand in criminal justice varies depending on factors such as specific job title and geographic location. Due to the increasing complexities in our criminal justice system, the demand for well-educated criminal justice professionals, including those who have completed a PhD in criminal justice, is robust. If you are currently working in the criminal justice field and seeking to move your career into the top echelons of your profession, there are several questions you should answer when considering a PhD in criminal justice, including:
Do I need to earn a doctorate in criminal justice to move up the ladder? Can I fit a degree program into my already busy work and life schedules? Just exactly which online PhD in criminal justice program is right for me?
You’ll find the answers to these questions and a whole lot more in this guide. Discover the best online PhD in criminal justice programs currently available and how earning a doctorate in criminal justice can help you reach your highest career goals.
Best Online PhD in Criminal Justice Programs for 2021
The right PhD in criminal justice program is the one that best suits your unique academic preferences and professional goals. To help with your program search, we’ve surveyed all of the fully accredited online PhD in criminal justice programs currently out there and have spotlighted three of the best. We’ve vetted these programs based on a number of important factors, including affordability, study options, curriculum comprehensiveness, and more. There are other excellent criminal justice doctorate programs out there to consider, but these three will give you a good idea of what you should expect from your chosen program.
Liberty University’s online PhD in criminal justice degree is offered 100% online with no on-campus residency, dissertation defense, or other in-person requirements. Didactic coursework includes core criminal justice-related courses (theories of crime, advanced juvenile justice, and corrections policy), research core courses (methods of research and research design), and advanced focus courses (transnational organized crime and stress management). Specialization options are available in leadership and homeland security, or students can choose the general criminal justice track. This 60-credit-hour program is designed to be completed in as little as three years.
- Credit hour rates are $595 for full-time students and $650 for part-time students.
- Up to 50% of the required credit hours can be transferred upon program approval.
Nova Southeastern University
The online PhD in criminal justice degree from Nova Southeastern University offers an interdisciplinary approach to criminal justice study and is designed to prepare current and prospective criminal justice professionals for advanced roles in management, research, and academia. Students in this 60-credit program choose one of three concentrations in organizational leadership, behavioral science, and juvenile justice. The entire program can be completed in as little as 2 ½ years by taking three courses each semester.
- The current tuition cost is $1,170 per credit hour.
- Admissions requirements include a master’s degree in criminal justice or closely-related major, earned with either a minimum 3.0 GPA overall or on the last 60 credit-hours of master’s coursework.
- Admission is competitive and typically limited to 20 new students annually.
Study flexibility is the key to Walden University’s partially online PhD in criminal justice degree. The program offers students a choice of seven specialization options along with a general studies curriculum, with several specializations available in both regular and fast-track formats. Additionally, students can complete their degrees in a little as 2 ½ years (depending on specialization), but may take up to eight years to finish. All didactic coursework is completed online. However, students are required to participate in four short-term residencies throughout their courses of study, two of which must be attended in-person.
- Total program costs vary significantly (from the mid-$40,000’s to approximately $140,000) based on specialization choice, total program length, and number of previously-earned credits transferred in.
Benefits of the Online PhD in Criminal Justice
The benefits of earning a degree online are numerous and include the convenience and cost savings from not having to regularly travel to and from campus to attend classes. Here are two other distinct and substantial benefits to pursuing your PhD in criminal justice online:
Full-time and part-time study options.
Most students taking on the challenge of pursuing a PhD in criminal justice do so while maintaining their regular jobs. Colleges and universities are keenly aware of this and tailor their degree curriculums to help make the learning process easier. That’s why you’ll find most online criminal justice doctorate programs offer flexible program lengths that allow students a great deal of leeway when it comes to the time needed to complete their degrees. In many cases, students may be able to take anywhere from three to seven years to complete all curriculum requirements.
The flexibility of asynchronous coursework.
Whether the program you’re in is fully online or partially online, you’ll have the benefit of asynchronous coursework. Asynchronous courses are those with content (lectures, readings, assignments, etc.) you can access at anytime and anywhere that best fits your busy schedule. You’ll still have deadlines for completing assignments and taking tests, but you won’t have to login online and attend classes on specific days or at specific times.
Types of Online PhDs in Criminal Justice
Every online PhD in criminal justice program is different, each with its own particular academic perspective and specific requirements. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the details of any program you’re considering before enrolling. One of the most crucial factors to pay attention to is whether a program can be completed entirely online or includes some elements requiring on-campus attendance. Some programs that advertise themselves as “100% online” may actually include in-person components, such as short-term on-campus residencies, orientation meetings, or in-person dissertation defenses.
Timeline: Online Criminal Justice PhD
The time allowed to complete an online PhD in criminal justice degree varies substantially from program to program (from 2 ½ years for fast-track students to six years or more for part-time students). The time you’ll take to earn your degree will depend on a whole range of factors, including your specific program and specialization choice, whether you enter the program with a previously-earned master’s or bachelor’s degree, the amount of research required for your dissertation, and whether you choose to study full time or part time. With that in mind, the following degree timeline is similar to what most students can expect to encounter in their doctorate studies:
PhD in Criminal Justice Learning Outcomes
Any quality degree program you encounter will provide you with a learning outcome statement outlining the fundamental knowledge, skills, competencies, and larger concepts obtained through completion of the program’s curriculum. These learning outcome statements essentially act as the academic backbone of the degree program, so it pays to review them carefully to make sure you’ll be getting the education you’re looking for. Here are five typical learning outcomes similar to ones you’ll find in online PhD in criminal justice programs:
Criminal justice system and issues
A thorough understanding of the historical and modern criminal justice system and the current pressing issues (legal, social, political, and public) concerning criminal justice. Ability to evaluate the root causes of crime and how they relate to criminal justice practice, policies, and procedures.
Leadership and management
Develop knowledge of, and ability to integrate, established and cutting-edge theories of leadership and management into the practice of criminal justice. Ability to develop and enact policies, programs, and budgets in support of effective administration of criminal justice agencies and organizations.
Critical thinking and decision making
Develop foundational and advanced skills in critical thinking. Ability to apply those skills to the evaluation and synthesis of research studies concerning criminal justice and criminology, as well as both long-term and short-term criminal justice issues and practices.
Legal, professional, and ethical issues
Develop understanding of the role of the criminal justice system, and the professionals working in it, in the advancement of positive social change and social justice. Ability to identify and evaluate the policies, practices, risks, and opportunities to criminal justice agencies and organizations as they relate to legal, professional, and ethical issues.
Deep understanding of foundational scholarly research in the criminal justice field and its historical and current influence on criminal justice practice. Ability to design, develop, and implement scholarly research projects and to analyze and apply the resulting data to real-life criminal justice issues and problems.
Specialization in Criminal Justice: Customize Your Degree to Meet Your Unique Needs
Degree specializations (sometimes referred to as concentrations), particularly on the graduate level, can be particularly valuable because they allow students to tailor their studies to fit their particular interests within the larger criminal justice field. Most importantly, degree specializations give students a leg up over others in an increasingly competitive market for jobs that require the particular skills associated with that specialization.
Along with a “general” program track, PhD in criminal justice degree programs often provide a variety of specialization track options for their students. Here are five of the most popular currently available:
Accreditation & Online PhD Degrees in Criminal Justice
The most important factor in selecting any postsecondary degree program, online or otherwise, is accreditation. If a program you’re considering doesn’t have it, scratch it from your list immediately. Accreditation is the process by which PhD in criminal justice students can confirm that both the school and the degree program it offers have been properly vetted to meet critical minimum curriculum requirements.
There are two basic types of accreditation in the United States: institutional and programmatic. Programmatic accreditation concerns specific degree programs offered by a college or university. There are currently no professional organizations that specifically accredit U.S. criminal doctorate degree programs. Institutional accreditation, on the other hand, refers to accreditation of the school itself. Institutional accreditation of both traditional and online U.S. colleges and universities is administered by a number of Department of Education recognized regional and national accrediting agencies. You should only consider online PhD in criminal justice programs offered by schools with proper institutional accreditation.
Applying to a Criminal Justice PhD Degree Online
Every degree program has admissions requirements and processes that are overseen by admissions committees with specific selection criteria and methods. Requirements typically include a previously earned master’s (or bachelor’s degree, in some cases) in criminal justice or a closely-related field, a minimum GPA for previous undergraduate and graduate coursework, and letters of recommendation from professors, employers, and others who have personal knowledge of the applicant’s professional experience. International students may be required to provide proof of English language proficiency.
Admission into many PhD in criminal justice degree programs is competitive, and admissions committees often place particular emphasis on the following:
Tuition & Fees
Pursuing a college degree is an expensive proposition in any situation, and costs are bound to play a major role in your criminal justice PhD program decision. Program costs vary significantly from program to program, but to give you an idea what you might expect to pay, we’ve compiled current tuition prices for online (and one on-campus) PhD in criminal justice programs. These figures are for tuition costs only and do not include additional charges and fees or the cost of books or supplies, so your total program cost will be higher.
Note: Some colleges and universities offering doctorates in criminal justice provide substantial financial assistance to help make their degree programs more affordable. This assistance most often takes the form of tuition discounts for special interest groups (active military and veterans, full-time students, etc.), in-house scholarships and grants, and enrollment incentive discounts. Consider the above-listed tuition figures as a starting point when figuring out what your total program costs will be. Contact a program’s financial aid advisor for help, and take a look at our scholarship and grants guide to learn more about additional financial aid sources and how to apply to them.
Salaries for Criminal Justice PhDs
According to current data from payscale.com, the estimated average salary for PhD in Criminal Justice graduates is $68,536. Actual salaries vary substantially depending on several factors, including professional experience (both before and after earning the degree), geographic location, and specific job title. We’ve listed current average salary figures for three job titles common to criminal justice doctorate holders. These figures do not include common additional income sources like bonuses and profit-sharing plans.
To offer another comparison, Payscale’s current estimated average salary for MS in criminal justice degree holders is $56,370.