The best bachelor’s degrees in criminology

HomeCriminal JusticeThe best bachelor’s degrees in criminology

Introduction to criminology

Criminology combines the study of crime with sociological and psychological aspects. It involves looking at who commits crimes, why they do it, and what are the best methods to prevent crime, deter criminals, and respond to societal factors that increase the crime rate.

For many careers in the criminal justice system, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in criminology. You could progress from an associate degree to earn a bachelor’s, or it could be your first undergraduate degree. Either way, you’ll typically gain an understanding of investigation, law, and the justice system. Most programs offer a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree in criminology. 

With a bachelor’s degree in criminology, there are several potential roles that you could fill. They include crime analyst, forensic science investigator, an agent with a government organization, probation or prison officer, court administrator, or intelligence analyst. You could even be a detective in a private firm or law enforcement.  

Bachelor’s degrees can provide the skills to gain positions that aren’t open to those without an undergraduate degree. As you complete an internship and connect with industry professionals during your education, you will get the experience and contacts to succeed. You might also want to continue your education to a master’s degree, which allows you to specialize in areas such as homeland security, law and policy, or forensic science and criminal investigation.

Top bachelor’s in criminology programs

  • Coker University

    Coker University Hartsville, South Carolina
    Coker University

    Coker University in South Carolina, with fewer than 1,000 enrolled students, offers a criminology program with online, on-campus and hybrid program formats. The university partners with local organizations and colleges to provide discounts for tuition.

    Its bachelor’s degree requires 120 credit hours for completion. The school and this program are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Coursework includes substance abuse, white-collar crime, and corrections. The online course provides an opportunity to take an accelerated program with courses that last 8 weeks. If you’re looking to progress to a graduate degree, the school offers an online master’s of science (M.S.) in criminal and social justice policy.

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  • Drury University

    Drury University Springfield, Missouri
    Drury University

    The department of behavioral sciences at Drury University delivers the criminology program, which can be taken as a major or minor. The minimum number of credit hours for the criminology major is 44. It’s supplemented with courses in sociology and psychology and explores subjects like juvenile delinquency, societal drug use, and capital punishment.

    Alongside the campus-based program in Missouri, there’s an option to earn an online B.S. in criminal justice.
    Coursework includes law and society, victimology, forensic science, and the correctional process. The criminology major includes a capstone project and an internship to gain a practical understanding.

    The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Full-time enrollment at Drury University is about 2,650 students. Although Drury University doesn’t offer a graduate program in criminology, some students choose to continue their studies with a master’s degree in public service and safety leadership which can lead to management positions in law enforcement.

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  • Eastern University

    Eastern University St David’s, Pennsylvania
    Eastern University

    The B.A. in criminal justice available from Eastern University is taught both as an online and hybrid program. In the latter format, students attend weekly on-campus classes at Esperanza College in Pennsylvania. Alongside the accelerated program, there’s also a traditional campus-based program that focuses on research and statistics.

    The 3- or 4-year programs require between 45 and 51 credits to complete and include an internship, and a research project or thesis. The coursework explores prosecution and the courts, restorative justice, U.S. constitutional law, and urban sociology. The school doesn’t offer graduate programs in criminology.

    With accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), your degree should be recognized by other schools. Eastern University is a relatively large school, with a full-time enrollment of nearly 2,000 students and more than 1,300 part-time students.

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  • Arizona State University

    Arizona State University Phoenix, Arizona
    Arizona State University

    The school of criminology and criminal justice at ASU delivers a B.S. program that explores the causes and consequences of crime, in addition to the role of agencies. The program is available on several campuses or as an online format. You’ll earn the degree over 8 in-person terms or 10 online terms, both of which total 120 credits. There are also fast-track options to complete the program in 3 years. Coursework includes general studies modules and crime control, courts and sentencing, gender crime, and criminal justice. The interdisciplinary requirements and solution-based approach mean you’ll also have classes on community, sociology, public service and have the opportunity to complete an internship.

    The school and its programs are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The downtown Phoenix campus has about 10,000 students and plenty of activities. ASU also offers an online M.A. in criminal justice and an on-campus M.S. in criminology and criminal justice.

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  • University of Florida

    University of Florida Gainesville, Florida
    University of Florida

    At the University of Florida, you can earn a bachelor of arts in criminology. There’s an option to take the program online or on-campus. Each program is completed over 8 semesters, usually split into 13-16 credits each, adding up to the required 120 credits. Coursework includes advanced principles of criminal justice, law and the legal process, law and society, and criminal procedure. At the end of the final semester, students need to sit for a criminology exit exam.

    The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). It’s a large school with a full-time enrollment of more than 43,000 students. If you wish to continue your education, you can do so at the UF graduate school, which delivers a master of arts (MA) and a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in criminology, law, and society.

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  • University of Missouri

    University of Missouri St Louis, Missouri
    University of Missouri

    In 2019, UMSL had an enrollment of undergraduate students of around 7,000. It has a busy and active campus life.The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    There are 3 options to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice at UMSL— an on-campus B.S. program, an online program, and a dual B.S.-M.A. degree. This program spans 10 semesters and has a minimum of 138 credits. Statistical analysis, research, and internships are encouraged on all 3 programs.

    The B.S, programs require you to complete general education courses and a minimum of 37 credits in criminology. The core curriculum includes theories of crime, research methods, criminal law, criminal justice policy, and several electives, such as policing, violence against women, and corrections. There are also options to pursue an MA and a Ph.D. at UMSL.

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  • University of Maryland

    University of Maryland College Park, Maryland
    University of Maryland

    The College Park department of criminology and criminal justice at UMD delivers a bachelor of arts program in criminology and criminal justice, which aims to help students understand the law, crime, and society. The global campus also delivers online and hybrid bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice. Also available for graduate students is a M.A. program, a combined M.A. and J.D. program, and a Ph.D. in criminology and criminal justice.

    Programs require a total of 120 credits for completion, incorporating 40 credits for general education, another 40-45 are for minors and electives, and 33-36 focus on criminology. Core courses include criminal law in action, introduction to criminology, policing, courts and sentencing, corrections, an internship, and independent study.

    The school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). It’s a large school with a full-time enrollment of more than 35,000 students.

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  • University of Cincinnati

    University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, Ohio
    University of Cincinnati

    The University of Cincinnati offers a bachelor of science in criminal justice. The 4-year program is available online and in-person. It focuses on crime prevention, behavioral problems in children and juvenile delinquency, and the use of technology in crime detection and policy.

    The minimum number of credits required for the online and traditional programs is 120. It includes general education courses, core curriculum, and criminal justice electives. Coursework includes criminal procedure, psychology of criminal behavior, corrections, and policing in the U.S.. All students must complete a field placement.

    UC also offers a master’s degree program in criminal justice, including an online option and a doctoral program. The main campus at UC has a full-time enrollment of more than 28,000 students. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Council.

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  • John Jay University

    John Jay University New York, New York
    John Jay University

    John Jay is the college of criminal justice at CUNY. The college has a total enrollment of full-time students of more than 10,000. It offers a B.A. in criminology, as well as a B.A. and a B.S. in criminal justice and several dual master’s level degree programs, and a Ph.D. in criminal justice program. There are also specialist programs in forensic science. The programs are usually taught on campus, although some graduate options and advanced certificates are available online.

    The 120-credit program includes coursework on theories of social order, probation and parole, victimology, women and crime, ethics and law. Students are required to complete a research module and an internship. The college is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

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  • University of Albany

    University of Albany Albany, New York
    University of Albany

    Part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, the University at Albany’s criminal justice program offers an on-campus B.A. in criminal justice. As well as completing credits for general education courses and minor electives, students need a minimum of 36 major credits in criminal justice. Courses include statistics in criminal justice, wrongful convictions, juvenile justice administration, punishment and corrections, crime analysis for problem solvers, and policing in a free society.

    The university offers a combined B.A. and M.A. program for those who want to continue to graduate level. There’s also a M.A. and J.D. program and the option to earn a Ph.D. in criminal justice. UAlbany is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The full-time enrollment of students at UAlbany is about 15,000.

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Career options

Criminal justice is a competitive field and a bachelor’s degree in criminology can help candidates improve their chances of gaining a position.. Here are some of the career options for people with this degree:

Correctional officers

This job title includes correctional specialists and probation officers. These roles involve working with inmates and those recently released from prison with a focus on rehabilitation. This work can be stressful and dangerous while also being rewarding. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 4% growth in these positions between 2019 and 2029 and notes a median annual salary of $54,290.

Law enforcement

 A job in law enforcement is a popular path for many undergraduates and could involve a number of different career paths like enrolling in a police academy or working as a criminal investigator. There’s a projected growth of 5% for detective roles between 2019 and 2029. The median annual salary for these roles is $83,170.

Other opportunities exist at a federal level, for example, as a special agent, where the median annual salary is $88,819, or as a border patrol agent, which has a median annual salary of $65,106.

Other roles

Other possible career choices with a bachelor’s degree in criminology are:

Future prospects

Many holders of a bachelor’s degree in criminology choose to continue their education to enhance their career prospects. Some want to  pursue a career in law and go on to earn a law degree. Others might choose to continue with criminology but specialize in investigation, corrections, or homeland security.

Earning a master’s degree or doctorate in this field can help with career progression. With these degrees, you could gain a senior position in a government agency setting policy, managing law enforcement, or advising politicians on the justice system.

Financial aid

A common route for students is to seek federal financial aid by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Alternatively, some of the programs offer tuition discounts for employees of local businesses.

Another option would be to apply for a scholarship or a grant, such as the Gene Carte Student Paper Award through the American Society of Criminology (ASC), which is awarded to full-time undergraduate or graduate students. Scholarships and grants can contribute from $200 up to around $3,000 towards degree costs and tuition.