There are few online PhD in criminal justice programs and even fewer accredited, reputable, and affordable online doctorate degrees. Through attentive research, we located top PhD criminal justice online or closely related programs that are designed to prepare you for careers as criminal justice experts. Some of the programs on our list are fully online while others deliver a mix of online and on-campus coursework. Below you will find our ranking methodology for the online criminal justice degree programs on our list.
Top 20 PhD Criminal Justice Online Ranking Methodology
We reviewed over 40 colleges and universities listed by the Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) College Navigator that offered online PhD in criminal justice and closely related doctoral degree programs. We then narrowed our original pool of schools by applying the following criteria: accreditation (school and program), online or hybrid pathways to the completion of a doctoral degree, and school or program rankings from at least one major publication like U.S. News and World Report. Once we found our list of programs, we ranked the schools according to raw affordability.
Below are the results of our top 20 online PhD in criminal justice degree programs.
#20 – California Southern University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $35,970
The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is an alternative to a doctoral online criminal justice degree. Unlike the research-intensive PhD, the online PsyD is more clinically focused. This degree is ideal for individuals seeking roles as counselors or therapists. The program consists of 66 credits and takes four years to complete. A large selection of electives allows doctoral students to tailor their degree toward areas of specialty or interest, such as criminal justice. Students take 33 credit hours of required courses and 18 credit hours of electives. Some of the courses include advanced psychopathology, advanced theories of personality, ethical and professional issues, and research methods in psychology. California Southern is an accredited and ranked institution, recognized by major publications like U.S. News and World Report.
#19 – Saybrook University
Online PhD in Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $27,489
The discipline of psychology is an alternative program to the few online doctorate criminal justice programs that exist. Saybrook University, a forty-year-old school, recognized by U.S. News and World Report as a top social sciences and humanities institution, offers an online PhD in psychology. There are also four areas of specialization designed so that students can tailor their degree to areas of interest. For those interested in criminal justice, psychophysiology is an option. All courses are delivered online and touch on areas of psychophysiology and psychology, such as consulting skills, energy medicine, hypnosis, and spirituality and health. While this degree program will not appeal to all, it is an option for individuals who want more freedom in their learning and exploration of the psychology discipline.
#18 – The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Online PhD in International Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $22,601
Individuals seeking an online criminal justice degree with psychology studies should look at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s online PhD programs. The online PhD in international psychology offers a trauma services concentration designed to prepare students to address mental health issues due to trauma. Courses are delivered online and the entire program takes three to four years to complete. Some of the courses offered in the online PhD program include assessment of psychosocial and mental health reactions to traumatic stress, mental health interventions, and self-care strategies in humanitarian efforts. Not only is the Chicago School accredited, it is also ranked by U.S. News and World Report.
#17 – Nova Southeastern University
Online PhD in Criminal Justice
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $20,620
Nova Southeastern University is one of the few institutions to offers an online PhD in criminal justice degree. The 60-credit program prepares students through online curriculum and coursework and allows for specialty training in three available concentrations. Students choose one concentration and complete 15 credits within the area of focus. Concentrations include behavioral science, juvenile justice, and organizational leadership. Some of the core courses offered within the program include applied statistics, data analysis and interpretation, qualitative methods, theories of crime, and the police and society. Nova Southeastern ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, the institution ranks #246 in best national universities. Also, the online graduate criminal justice programs rank #52 out of more than 1,200 programs surveyed by U.S. News.
#16 – Felician University
Lodi, New Jersey
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $19,690
Felician University offers an online PsyD for individuals interested in an online doctorate criminal justice program but seeking counseling licensure. Fully online offerings are available, though a hybrid pathway is also an option. The online PsyD program is designed to prepare graduates to become entry-level health service psychologists. Courses cover a wide range of topics that appeal to all areas of interest, including criminal justice. Course topics include biological basis of behavior, clinical theories and interventions, multicultural series, personality assessment, and techniques of counseling and appraisal. Felician ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, the most recent publication of Best Colleges ranks the school #129-#170 in best regional universities in the North.
#15 – Northcentral University
Online Doctor of Criminal Justice (DCJ)
San Diego, California
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,917
Northcentral University offers a type of online PhD in criminal justice degree program. The online DCJ or Doctor of Criminal Justice helps prepare criminal justice professionals to work together serving a larger goal of protecting and serving the public by creating a safer society. Three available specializations allow doctoral students to tailor their doctoral degree toward areas of interest. These DCJ specializations include homeland security, policing and law enforcement, and white-collar crime. A total of 54 credit hours are required (18 courses), which take 45 months to complete. Northcentral ranks with U.S. News and World Report among the top national universities.
#14 – Fielding Graduate University
Distributed PhD in Clinical Psychology
Santa Barbara, California
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,292
Individuals interested in rehabilitation and therapy often select a psychology or clinical psychology PhD program rather than an online criminal justice degree. This does not mean you don’t have an interest in criminal justice. In fact, both interests serve the public and your career trajectory. An APA accredited doctoral program, like the one offered at Fielding Graduate University, is designed to promote values that include community, diversity, and social justice. In fact, several concentrations are offered that allow students to explore their interests in the criminal justice system. These concentrations include forensic psychology and social justice and diversity. Fielding Graduate University has received accreditation and recognition by U.S. News and World Report.
#13 – University of New Haven
PhD Criminal Justice Online
West Haven, Connecticut
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $16,690
University of New Haven’s online PhD in criminal justice is designed to create a new generation of criminal justice scholars. Six available concentrations allow students to either customize their PhD or choose an area of specialization that serves their career interests. Areas of specialization include criminal behavior, investigative science, law and public policy, policing and law enforcement, research methods and quantitative analysis, and a custom option. Most of the courses are delivered on-campus, though the degree offers online options, making it a hybrid PhD. Courses offered cover a number of topics such as psychology of crime, rational models of crime, and social and structural crime models. University of New Haven ranks #66 in best regional universities in the North.
#12 – Regent University
Online PhD in Counseling and Psychological Studies
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $16,179
Regent University offers a PhD in counseling and psychological studies, which might appeal to individuals searching online criminal justice degree programs. The counseling and psychological studies PhD is available through Regent’s School of Counseling and is fully online. Also, the program is regionally accredited and offers a quick completion time, making it a quality and convenient PhD program. No GRE is required for admission. Courses are delivered entirely online and cover topics relevant to the psychology discipline. Students may also choose a concentration that best fits their interests and career goals, such as criminal justice. In addition to the convenient online structure and accreditation, Regent offers national rankings from major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, Regent ranks #281 in best national universities and #49 in top performers on social mobility.
#11 – Colorado Technical University
Online Doctor of Management in Criminal Justice
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,766
Colorado Technical University is one of our top choices for online PhD in criminal justice degree programs. Flexible online coursework and multiple start dates throughout the year make the program convenient for working students. However, a residency component must be met at some time during the three-year program. Criminal justice courses cover topics like collaboration and cooperation within and among criminal justice agencies, criminal justice organization and management, diversity in society and criminal justice, ethics and the criminal justice leader, and issues and trends in today’s criminal justice organizations. Colorado Tech is recognized by U.S. News and World Report among the top national universities. The school is accredited and offers affordable graduate tuition for online doctoral students.
#10 – Ashford University
Online PsyD in Criminology and Justice Studies
San Diego, California
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,540
Online doctorate criminal justice programs are limited, but Ashford University offers one option. The online PsyD or Doctor of Psychology is a 62-credit program with six-nine-week courses. This program is flexible for working professionals seeking criminal justice studies and a designated criminal justice credential. In addition to completing PsyD degree requirements, specializations are offered and allow students to delve deeper into an area of research and interest. One such specialization is criminology and justice studies. This specialization requires an additional 21 credits beyond what is required for the PsyD. Courses within this specialization include advanced analysis of criminal justice processes, contemporary criminological theory, and types and characteristics of crime. Ashford is accredited and ranked by U.S. News and World Report as a top regional university in the West.
#9 – Alaska Pacific University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,110
Alaska Pacific University offers a pathway that might appeal to those seeking online doctorate criminal justice programs. The online PsyD offers a number of related courses and study that delves deeper into psychology and human behavior. Accessible curriculum through synchronous e-learning sessions allows working professionals to take classes that accommodate their busy schedules. While most courses are delivered online, on-campus three-day weekend intensives are also required. Course topics include biological bases of behavior, cognitive and affective bases of behavior, and psychology of measurement. APU ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, APU ranks #82 in best regional universities in the West.
#8 – Florida International University
Online PhD in International Crime and Justice
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,097
Florida International University offers a unique online PhD in criminal justice degree. The PhD in international crime and justice is a hybrid program that focuses on international areas of study within the criminal justice field. While not a fully online program, courses are offered both online and on-campus. These courses cover a variety of topics, including advanced data analysis in criminal justice, criminal justice policy analysis, international crime justice, research methods in criminal justice, and transnational crime and national security. FIU ranks among the best national universities in the country. In fact, U.S. News and World Report ranks FIU #218 in best national universities and #63 in most innovative schools.
#7 – Grand Canyon University
Online PhD in Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,760
Grand Canyon University offers several online PhD in psychology programs that might appeal to those seeking online criminal justice degrees. The online PhD at GCU allows students to specialize in several areas of interest by taking online courses that dig deep into advanced psychology and human behavior topics. Students may select from a number of specialization options such as cognitive psychology, performance psychology, or psychology technology. To be considered for admission to any one of these online PhD programs, applicants must hold a master’s degree in a related discipline. GCU is an accredited institution that has been recognized by major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, GCU ranks #293-#381 in best national universities.
#6 – Touro University Worldwide
Online PsyD in Human Psychology
Los Alamitos, California
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,000
Touro University Worldwide offers online PsyD degrees that include online doctorate criminal justice studies. The program is 100 percent online with no residency or GRE required. An accelerated admissions processes makes this program highly appealing to individuals seeking online PhD and PsyD programs. Courses cover a variety of topics that include exposure to a deeper study of criminal justice and human behavior. While the degree offers valuable research experience through a faculty-guided dissertation process, the degree does not lead to any form of licensure. But, if this is the kind of degree you’re seeking, then Touro University offers an accredited program at an affordable price.
#5 – University of Maryland
Online PhD in Criminology and Criminal Justice
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,514
University of Maryland’s partially online criminal justice degree programs include the PhD in criminology and criminal justice. The university requires a minimum of three years of graduate study and research for the doctorate degree, though students have up to five years to finish requirements. The PhD in criminal justice at the University of Maryland is designed to prepare students as scholars and teachers through coursework, research, and teaching experiences. Courses, while not all delivered online, are flexibly designed for working professionals. Some of the topics explored include advanced theory, fundamentals of criminological research, and research methods in criminal justice and criminology. University of Maryland ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 20th most innovative school in the country.
#4 – Saint Leo University
Online Doctor of Criminal Justice (DCJ)
Saint Leo, Florida
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,498
With few online PhD in criminal justice programs available, Saint Leo University’s Doctor of Criminal Justice or DCJ ranks among our most affordable programs. Recently, Saint Leo launched the DCJ degree, making it one of the few criminal justice doctorate programs available. The program offers two curriculum tracks in homeland security and education. Students complete 60 credit hours with classes that fulfil the specialization requirements in either homeland security or education. The program generally takes three years to complete and some courses are delivered online to accommodate the busy schedules of working professionals. Saint Leo ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, the university ranks #25 in best regional universities in the South and #5 in best value schools.
#3 – Liberty University
PhD in Criminal Justice Online
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,333
Liberty University’s online PhD in criminal justice program, accredited by SACSCOC, is one of the only fully online criminal justice doctorates available. Sixty credits and three years of fully online study earn a PhD in criminal justice at Liberty. Also, doctoral students have the option of tailoring their degree to better align with career goals by earning a specialization. Specializations include the general studies pathway, homeland security, or leadership. Courses run eight weeks in length and cover a variety of criminal justice related topics. Courses include advanced corrections policy, advanced juvenile justice policy, criminal justice organizational conflict, and theories of crime. Liberty, a Christian university, ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, Liberty ranks #293-#381 in best national universities and #335 in top performers on social mobility.
#2 – California University of Pennsylvania
Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice (DCJ)
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,672
California University of Pennsylvania’s online PhD in criminal justice programs include the online DCJ or doctorate in criminal justice. The structure of the program allows students to finish their doctorate in two years of part-time online study. Completion requirements include a comprehensive examination and doctoral research portfolio. While courses are delivered online, one five-day summer residency on campus is required. The online coursework addresses current issues seen in the criminal justice system. Courses cover topics like advanced criminal law, corrections crisis and management, leading criminal justice agencies, police management for the 21st century, and using theory to improve criminal justice practice. California University of Pennsylvania ranks with publications like U.S. News and World Report. Rankings include #129-#170 in best regional universities in the North and #72 in top performers on social mobility.
#1 – University of the Cumberlands
Online PhD in Leadership Studies – Criminal Justice
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,970
The University of the Cumberlands offers one of the few online PhD in criminal justice program pathways on our list. The online PhD in leadership at the University of the Cumberlands offers a concentration in criminal justice, which allows students to tailor their degree to fit with career goals and interests. Online courses in criminal justice cover topics like advanced statistical analysis, corrections administration, critical issues in law enforcement – race and gender, legal and ethical issues in homeland security, qualitative methods in criminal justice, and recovery and relapse. The University of the Cumberlands, a private institution, ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 293rd to 381st best national university. Also, the online graduate criminal justice programs rank #8 out of more than 1,200 programs surveyed by U.S. News.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do with an online PhD criminal justice degree?
Criminal justice is an interdisciplinary field that incorporates different elements of criminology, law, business, and sociology. Earning a PhD in criminal justice online provides an interdisciplinary education while preparing you for work as an expert in the field. There are several different jobs you may qualify for once you’ve earned your online PhD in criminal justice.
With a doctoral degree in criminal justice, you may pursue advanced roles in the legal field or criminal justice system. Possible careers include CIA analysts, crime analysts, criminal investigators, FBI agents or intelligence analysts, supervisors with the police force, or victim’s advocates. A PhD criminal justice online degree tells potential employers that you are an expert in the field. With a PhD, you will offer a potential employer research expertise and advanced knowledge that can be used to advance criminal justice and social service efforts within any organization.
Also, by earning a PhD in criminal justice online, you may not have to give up your day job while attending classes. Online PhD programs allow students to balance outside obligations, such as work and family, while earning a doctoral degree. If you currently work in the criminal justice field, you will offer your employer valuable experience in addition to your PhD.
What is the job outlook for individuals with a PhD criminal justice online degree?
The overall job outlook, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for candidates of PhD in criminal justice online degrees is favorable for the next several years. In fact, a 12 percent increase in criminal justice jobs is expected through 2026. This growth rate is higher than the anticipated growth rate for all other occupations.
A 12 percent growth rate is also expected for individuals teaching criminal justice at postsecondary institutions. The growth rate for specialized teachers is favorable as more students enroll in undergraduate criminal justice programs. With increased enrollment, instructors will be needed to prepare individuals for employment following graduation from criminal justice programs. Community colleges will hire more criminal justice instructors as their enrollment increases.
Individuals seeking social work or sociology-related criminal justice degrees will likely see less of an increase in employment growth. In fact, BLS reports a steady but flat rate of employment for sociologists, criminologists, and survey researchers through the year 2026.
According to BLS, the most favorable employment growth rate through 2026 is for criminal justice and law enforcement teachers and postsecondary instructors. With criminal justice or education/classroom experience accompanied with an online PhD in criminal justice, you should see the best prospects for jobs as criminal justice educators.
Are there PhD criminal justice online specializations?
Individuals seeking PhD in criminal justice online degree programs may find specialization options. Specializations are areas of focus within the degree discipline that offer additional classes. Earning a specialization along with your PhD in criminal justice degree means you are labeling yourself as an expert in a second area beyond criminal justice.
For example, a specialization in a PhD in psychology degree may be criminology or criminal justice. We reviewed PhD in psychology degrees that offered an area of focus related to criminal justice. Other concentration or specialization areas include corrections, criminology, juvenile justice, organizational leadership, and public policy.
Coursework for online PhD in criminal justice specializations is delivered online. By tailoring your degree with a specialization, you can still take advantage of online studies. Also, an online specialization will allow you to dig deeper into an area of interest. Graduate students elect to earn a specialization to help tailor their degree to meet career goals. The most common specializations are corrections and criminology.
Corrections focuses on the correctional systems within the U.S. A corrections specialization covers areas such as incarceration, parole, and probation. Criminology is a more theory-based specialization option, rather than application. Criminology focuses on human behavior and explores social and psychosocial theories behind why individuals commit crimes.
How long does it take to earn an PhD criminal justice online degree?
A PhD in criminal justice online degree program takes anywhere between three and six years to complete. Most of the programs on our list take three to four years, though enrollment status impacts completion time.
Enrollment status impacts the number of courses taken at any given time. There are two types of enrollment statuses: full-time and part-time. Full-time students generally take more classes during a term or semester than part-time students. There are certainly benefits for both enrollment status types.
Full-time enrollment means you could earn a PhD in criminal justice online degree in less time than your part-time colleagues. Part-time students typically take one class at a time. By taking fewer classes, your completion time is stretched. A typical part-time PhD in criminal justice online program takes four to six years to complete, while full-time programs take three to four years.
Some online PhD in criminal justice programs allow students even more flexibility. During your first semester, you may elect to take classes on a part-time basis. However, your plans may change based on outside responsibilities. Some programs will allow you to change your enrollment status from part-time to full-time or full-time to part-time each semester or year. These programs offer a lot of flexibility.
What are the admission requirements for online criminal justice PhD programs?
The admission requirements for PhD in criminal justice online degree programs vary by school. However, many programs on our list require similar credentials to get into PhD or online doctorate criminal justice programs. All of the programs on our list require a minimum of a bachelor’s and master’s degree. You do not need to have earned your undergraduate or graduate degree in criminal justice but should have taken coursework in related disciplines. Also, accredited online PhD in criminal justice programs require a master’s degree from an accredited institution.
In addition to undergraduate and graduate degrees, many of the online PhD in criminal justice programs on our list require official transcripts. Some programs have GPA requirements and state that applicants with at least a 3.0 in graduate studies may apply. Some programs on our list do not stipulate GPA requirements. Generally, higher-ranked programs and institutions require competitive undergraduate and graduate GPAs.
Letters of recommendation are common when applying to graduate school. For an online PhD in criminal justice degree, letters of recommendation are needed. These recommendations often come from undergraduate or graduate school professors who can attest to your research ability and academic potential. Because PhD programs are so different, application requirements vary by program and school.