Best Criminal Justice Programs

Criminal Justice is an exciting field with an array of career opportunities in a range of occupational settings. Graduates possessing a criminal justice degree have the option of working in the private sector as private investigators or security or in the public sector as law enforcement agents, investigators, administrators and a variety of other positions. Regardless of the exhaustive efforts of law enforcement, criminal behavior remains a constant societal problem. Though the aspiration is to eliminate crime, the reality is that this goal will never be realized. Because crime will always remain an issue, the need for qualified and skilled individuals knowledgeable in the vast areas of criminal justice will remain consistently in demand. Individuals who choose to pursue a degree in the field of criminal justice will never have to worry about the discipline becoming obsolete.

Here are our rankings for the best criminal justice programs:

1. University of Maryland College Park

The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland is considered a leader in the field in the areas of education and research. The university endeavors to further the knowledge and existing theories of criminal justice through research and academic investigation and to provide their students with a quality education so they might become leaders in the field. As pioneers in the field, the faculty members within the department of criminal justice at the University of Maryland are considered among the foremost authorities in the discipline with one professor having been appointed to the position of Director of the National Institute of Justice by the President of the United States. The faculty members are consulted regularly on issues of importance on the local, national and international levels.

The curriculum for students pursuing a criminal justice degree encompasses the principal areas of the field. The coursework is academically challenging and dynamic. Students study the areas of crime and delinquency including prevention, management and corrections. Courses include introduction to criminal justice and criminology, criminal law, law enforcement and juvenile delinquency, statistics, research methods and a range of elective and supporting sequence courses. Both undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered. Students are afforded the opportunity to participate in international study programs and internships as part of their curriculum. The university is home to a local chapter of the criminal justice honor society, Alpha Phi Sigma.

2. State University of New York Albany

The School of Criminal Justice at the State University of New York at Albany offers an interdisciplinary and comprehensive program which examines the breadth of the field; with emphasis in certain areas. Principal areas of study include the effect of the various agencies on the criminal justice system and the relationships among these systems and the various segments of society and the examination of the effect various societal institutions have on crime. The criminal justice program at the university explores the subject of crime in its entirety; investigating how crime is perceived and influenced by the political and economic machinations in various societies and the response of these institutions to crime and deviant behavior.

The criminal justice department offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Students who choose to pursue an undergraduate concentration in criminal justice are required to select a specific area of the field for specialization. These areas include American government, law, psychology, sociology, African American Studies, Anthropology and Women’s studies. The undergraduate curriculum provides graduates with a solid foundation in the criminal justice field and in related disciplines. The required courses for completion of the undergraduate major include the introductory courses in criminal justice, law and criminal justice and criminology, statistics, research methods and a senior seminar course. The graduate degree program is internationally recognized for excellence. Students who meet the requirements have the opportunity to participate in the honors program. Internships are also coordinated by the university.

3. University of Cincinnati

The School of Criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati, established in 1970, earned its ranking among the top programs because of its dedication to research, education and service. Research productivity at the university is the highest in the nation; earning distinction for the school’s Center for Criminal Research. The Center includes the Corrections Institute and Policing Institute. The University endeavors to provide their graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully enter into any of the various criminal justice fields and settings. Among their twenty full time faculty members is the recipient of the 2010 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences’ Bruce Smith Award. Faculty members are routinely requested to consult with a variety of criminal justice agencies; both domestic and foreign.

The criminal justice degree program curriculum at the university is formatted to ensure students are provided a comprehensive understanding of the criminal justice process and offending in the United States. Required courses include core areas such as introduction to criminal justice, criminology, policing and corrections as well as courses in other areas such as biosocial criminology, serial criminals, gangs and violence, terrorism and race, class, and crime. Students have the opportunity to explore a specific are of specialization as part of their coursework including corrections, criminology and policing. Students examine the most current research results available. Graduate degree programs are also offered, with the doctorate program ranking third in the nation. Students are afforded the opportunity to study abroad or participate in internships to enrich their educational experience.

4. Rutgers State University

Rutgers State University at Newark’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice offers their students the advantage of a unique and dynamic interdisciplinary program enriched by the fact that the three related disciplines are housed within the single department. The department concentrates on instilling practical as well as academic skills to their students. Technology is an integral aspect of the criminal justice degree program; preparing students to effectively function in an increasingly technology dependent field. Faculty members at the university are actively engaged in research projects and routinely involve students in their investigations. Students are afforded the opportunity to present and share their research at an annual session held by the university.

The university offers a range of criminal justice degree programs and opportunities. Students have the option of pursuing a joint degree program in sociology and criminal justice, an undergraduate degree program in criminal justice, graduate degree programs in the field and a range of minors. A minor in criminal justice is also offered to students. Required courses include criminal justice in America, police and policing, confinement and corrections, courts and criminal law, theories of crime and delinquency, methods and techniques of social research. In addition to the fundamental courses, students can choose from more than twenty elective courses in the criminal justice areas. The master degree program in criminal justice is still a relatively new addition to the curriculum, introduced in 2002. It is intended to facilitate advancement in the professional criminal justice fields. Students are provided with both administrative and criminal justice coursework.

5. University of California Irvine

The Department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California was founded in 1970 and offers an interdisciplinary study of the field which centers on the causes and consequences of criminal behavior and the various methods of controlling criminally deviant behavior . Endeavoring to educate future professionals in the field of criminal justice, the university explores the areas of law, cultural practices and social structure in relation to criminal behavior. Students learn to evaluate research and pressing policy issues to develop problem solving theories. The university’s boasts among their faculty members three former presidents of the American Society of Criminology and former presidents of the Law and Society Association and the Society for the study of Social Problems. Graduates are prepared to work in the private and public sectors.

Both undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered at the University of California in the criminal justice discipline. The curriculum focuses on the areas of social policy, law and the various areas of crime and its control. The undergraduate program includes coursework in juvenile justice, criminal behavior, sociological theory, law and legal systems, sociological perspectives of crime, even family law. The undergraduate program prepares students for graduate study or placement in a range of professional roles. Students have the opportunity to participate in activities at the various agencies related to criminal justice activities; probation, parole, district attorneys office police departments, witness assistance program among others. The experience allows students to experience the responsibilities of the criminal justice agencies and their effect on crime and individuals who commit criminal offenses first hand.

6. University of Missouri St. Louis

The University of Missouri’s Department of criminology and Criminal Justice strives to provide a service to the criminal justice profession through research and service efforts and providing a quality educational program for future professionals in the field. The university is dedicated to contributing to the field of criminal justice by distributing important research findings and offering their service to the professional community. Faculty members are involved in professional activities administered by criminal justice organizations and government agencies on the local and international levels. Many of the faculty members regularly publish their research findings in the most respected journals and a few hold editorial positions. The university offers traditional educational experiences and incorporates concentrated research experiences for the benefit of their students.

The university offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in criminal justice. Students also have the option of pursuing a three year undergraduate degree program. Graduates of the program will possess a basic knowledge of the criminal justice field including the theories and methods and the ability to analyze and evaluate theory and research methods. Required courses include theories of crime, criminal law, criminal justice policy, comparative criminology and criminal justice, violence against women, race crime and justice and rights of the offender. The masters of art degree program in criminology and criminal justice prepares graduates for advanced research and academic pursuits. Doctoral degree programs are also available. Emphasis is placed on the research and its integral impact on the criminal justice field.

7. Michigan State University

The School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University is the oldest degree granting program, established in 1935, in the country. Though the criminal justice program itself is old, the university has continued to update their curriculum and technology to ensure students receive a state of the art education in the field. The same holds true for the research projects at the university. The US Department of Justice once ranked Michigan State as “one of the seven centers of excellence for studies in criminal justice”. The study of criminal justice at Michigan State is approached in an interdisciplinary methodology; integrating the related social sciences into the curriculum. The areas of psychology, anthropology, political science and psychology are investigated to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the causation, prevention and control of crime and to study the management of the various criminal justice agencies.

Michigan State University offers a range of degree programs and educational opportunities within their school of Criminal Justice. Degree programs are available on the undergraduate and graduate level; offering bachelor, master and doctorate degrees. Students also have the option of completing a certificate program in Intelligence, Homeland Security or Judicial Administration. Specializations are also offered in business organizations, information networks and government operations. The University also offers joint degree options combining coursework in criminal justice with biology/chemistry, fisheries & wildlife, food science and computer science. Internships are offered to provide graduates with practical experience in the field. And a study abroad option is available to students in Australia, Ukraine or the United Kingdom.

8. Pennsylvania State University; University Park

The department of Sociology & Crime, Law and Justice at Penn State University endeavors to instill in their graduates a broad understanding of the field developed from an interdisciplinary perspective. The department concentrates on utilizing tested theory and proven empirical research to investigate and explore the various areas of the criminal justice field. Faculty members responsible for teaching the subject matters are respected leaders in academics and research in the field and have substantial amounts of published work to their credit. The Crime, Law & Justice program boasts 650 students majoring in the field. The program develops problem solving, critical thinking and writing skills while conveying a foundational education in the field of crime and justice. All aspects of the justice system and crime are explored.

The students at Pennsylvania State University majoring in the Crime, Law and Justice program have the option of obtaining an undergraduate or graduate degree in the field. Both a Bachelor of Art and a Bachelor of Science are offered with the BA degree following a traditional liberal arts curriculum and the science concentrating on the areas of research, methods and quantification. Students will develop the skills and knowledge necessary for entry as a professional in the criminal justice filed; having the ability to evaluate theories, an understanding of research and methodology and the basic causes and consequences of crime and the criminal justice system. An honors program is available for exceptional students who meet the criteria for entry into the program. The department also offers internship opportunities and a study abroad option.

9. University of Nebraska- Omaha

The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska addresses all of the principal aspects of the criminal justice system, criminal behavior and law. The university is considered a leader in the areas of education and research. The twenty full time faculty members have backgrounds in criminal justice and criminology as well as many of the related interdisciplinary fields; history, political science, sociology, psychology and urban studies. Research is an integral aspect of the program as evidenced by the range of projects in which the faculty members are engaged. Research areas include community policing, serious and violent offender reentry program and criminal justice, juvenile justice and police professionalism initiatives. In addition to offering traditional courses, students are offered the option of completing courses online through the distance learning program.

Degree programs offered at the University of Nebraska include bachelor, master and doctorate. The Bachelor of Science in criminology and criminal justice is a 125 credit program requiring students to complete general courses in English, mathematics, social sciences, humanities and natural sciences in addition to the 39 required credit hours in major specific classes. Students have the option of a pursuing a minor or area of concentration by completing 18 credit hours in a specific field. Both a 36 credit master of science and a 30 credit hour master of art in criminal justice are offered. Undergraduate and master courses can be completed online. Students also have the option of pursuing a doctorate of philosophy in criminology and criminal justice with a total of 92 post graduate credits. This program allows students the opportunity to complete a thorough examination of a specific area of interest to them in crime and criminal justice.

10. University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Criminology studies the origins, prevention and treatment of crime as it relates to the discipline of criminology. The areas of law enforcement, correctional and judicial systems and research and methodology are all explored to gain a foundational comprehension of the field. The university also incorporates studies in public health, psychology, sociology, law, statistics and neurosciences as they relate to criminology. The program at the University of Pennsylvania has gained recognition for their excellence in the areas of education and research. The University of Pennsylvania offers the only undergraduate degree program in criminology in the country. Students are provided with a comprehensive education in liberal arts which encompasses the breadth of the criminal justice discipline.

The University of Pennsylvania offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in criminology. The interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program concentrates significantly on analyzing and evaluating scientific study in criminology including crime mapping, controlled experiments, cost-benefit analysis and social area analysis. Students use this knowledge to study theories and patterns of crime. All students are required to complete both a senior thesis and participate in a faculty research project as part of their degree curriculum. Undergraduate students develop their own independent research projects. Required courses include 8 criminology courses and 6 cross departmental courses. Master and doctorate degree programs are both offered. Students also have the option of completing a dual degree program on the graduate level.