Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice

On this page we highlight 22 accredited online master’s in criminal justice programs that deliver a high-quality education. Read on to learn if these affordable online master’s programs are right for you and discover options for how to cut costs and fund your master’s degree.

Let’s say you’re working as a criminal analyst in a city police department but your bigger goal is to get into the FBI and work your way up. What’s your next step? A master’s degree is one of the best ways to get ahead in the criminal justice field. But first you have to find a high-quality program that fits your budget.

Affordable online master’s degrees in criminal justice are readily available—including top-quality programs. This guide reveals the 22 programs that are both affordable and worthwhile, as well as insider tips to help you save money on your degree throughout your program.

Most Affordable Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Programs for 2022

When applying for a master’s in criminal justice program, you’ll need to consider the curriculum, internship opportunities, and the time it takes to get your degree. All things being equal, there’s one other consideration that most likely will determine which program you choose: the cost. Finding an affordable program doesn’t have to be difficult. That’s why we put together these rankings, which were determined from data on affordability and quality from the The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). If you want to learn more about how we calculated these rankings, click the “about the ranking” button below.

About the ranking
1
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

As one of the best programs in the country, Westfield State University’s master’s in criminal justice has a lot to offer while still being one of the most affordable online options. The program covers criminal justice administration, criminology, criminal justice policy, and criminal justice research. The faculty come from a variety of disciplines and the curriculum is designed for anyone with experience in the field, from a criminal justice researcher to a local law enforcement agent. The program is designed with the working student in mind, as many classes are offered online in the evenings. However, the program is only partially online; depending on the courses you choose, you may find some are only available in person.

To apply, prospective students need to have a bachelor’s degree in the social sciences and a minimum GPA of 3.0. Applicants also need to submit their GRE scores and should have relevant professional or educational experience when they apply.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

  • Credits: 33
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $383/credit
  • Format: Partially-online
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation NECHE
2
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

The master’s from the University of Texas Permian Basin not only offers students an affordable option for an online master’s degree in criminal justice, but it also offers one of the top-ranked programs nationwide. Faculty members focus many of their courses on how to create more ethical and efficient criminal justice systems as well as how to tackle some of the biggest problems in the criminal justice field today. A unique feature of the program is that it prepares you for any type of criminal justice work, from the federal level to local corrections agencies to nonprofits. The program also offers the flexibility of a 24/7 virtual classroom so you can attend your courses whenever they work within your schedule.

To apply, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. It’s also important to have a resume with relevant experience, as this program is tailored to seasoned criminal justice professionals instead of those looking to enter the field. No scores are required from the GRE or other exams to apply.

Program Highlights:

Master’s in Criminal Justice Administration

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: 1 year
  • Cost: $10,679.70 for the total program
  • Format: Fully-online
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
3
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

The master’s in criminal justice from Salem State University is designed to prepare students for a career reforming the criminal justice system. The program is rooted in both social justice theory and applied learning, with a goal of changing the criminal justice system to be more equitable. Students choose from two concentrations: administration or criminology. Salem State University offers both online and in-person coursework; all class meetings are synchronous.

Prospective students must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.7; no GRE is required. This program is also a top option for those looking to get into the criminal justice field, as no previous experience is needed.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: 18 months
  • Cost: $486.55/credit hour (in state); $576.55/credit hour (out of state)
  • Format: Partially-online
  • Accreditation: NECHE

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation NECHE
4
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

Texas A&M International University designed its master’s in criminal justice program for those who want to shape public policy. The program focuses on developing the critical thinking skills needed to tackle the most pressing issues in the criminal justice system and juvenile criminal justice system. Texas A&M’s program focuses heavily on criminal theory but gives students the opportunity to apply course topics to their specific career paths with a capstone project. The program is completely online with synchronous class times.

Applicants need a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5 or above. If your undergraduate degree wasn’t in criminal justice, you’ll need a minimum GPA of 2.8. The GRE and other tests are not required to apply for this program.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: 1 year
  • Cost: $13,189 for the program (in state); $37,080 for the program (out of state)
  • Format: Fully-online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
5
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

Fitchburg State University offers a high-quality, cheap online master’s degree in criminal justice that can be completed in one year. The program is fully online and offers an asynchronous option so the coursework fits your schedule. The program is tailored to those looking to get jobs in law enforcement, corrections, or court systems. The focus is heavily on developing police officers’ critical thinking and communication skills as well as providing courses in more technical knowledge such as procedural law. To make the program even more affordable, Fitchburg State works with select towns and cities to offer monetary incentives and higher salaries to police officers who complete the program.

To apply, prospective students should have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.8. You don’t need to take the GRE, but you should provide references and a letter of recommendation. Fitchburg also offers a 4+1 program for students who want to get their bachelor’s and master’s in criminal justice in five years.

Program Highlights:

Master’s in Criminal Justice

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: 1 year
  • Cost: $347/credit
  • Format: Fully-online
  • Accreditation: NEHCE (school)

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation NECHE
6
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
7
San Angelo, TX
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
8
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
9
Wichita Falls, TX
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
10
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
11
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services No
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
12
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
13
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services No
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
14
Greenville, NC
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
15
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
16
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
17
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
18
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
19
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
20
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
21
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
22
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC

5 Ways to Save on Paying for Your Online Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice

When calculating the cost of the most affordable online master’s in criminal justice, it’s important to look past the listed tuition price. That’s just a starting point; you can make your master’s more affordable and earn money while getting your degree. These five ways to save money on your online master’s degree are great for your wallet and may also help you build up your experience in the criminal justice field.

  1. Scholarships, Grants, and Fellowships for Criminal Justice Master’s Students

    One of the most common ways to lower the cost of your master’s in criminal justice is applying to scholarships, grants, and fellowships. Some scholarships are designed for criminal justice graduate students in particular, such as the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Fellowship. For more scholarships you can apply to and tips on how to make your applications stand out, visit OMD’s scholarships and resources guide.

  2. Work-Study or Assistantships

    Another great option for the cheapest online master’s in criminal justice is to apply for a work-study position or assistantship. Work-study programs are run through the federal government and give students the opportunity to make money through an on-campus job. An example might be a job as a criminal justice student assistant providing support to criminal justice faculty and staff. Assistantships are offered through individual departments and are a great way to earn extra money while playing a bigger role in your academic community. They often consist of helping a professor with their teaching or research responsibilities.

  3. Employer Tuition Reimbursement Programs

    Some employers offer tuition reimbursement for employees who get master’s degrees relevant to their job. In the criminal justice field these programs are popular, especially if you are employed by the federal or state government. Some departments even have fellowships that offer additional support beyond tuition reimbursement, such as the reimbursement program offered by the CIA. Check with your employer to find out if they offer tuition reimbursement program.

  4. Payment Plans

    Let’s say paying a semester of tuition at a time would wipe out your emergency fund, but you could afford to pay your tuition in smaller installments after each paycheck. Luckily, many schools are aware of the heavy burden of paying tuition upfront and offer payment plans so you can pay in monthly installments. For example, Texas A&M International University and Westfield State University both offer payment plans. To find out if this is an option, check with each individual program you’re considering.

  5. Paid Internships

    Another option to help fund the cheapest online master’s in criminal justice is a paid internship. This is an especially great opportunity for those who don’t currently have a job or who are looking to get hands-on experience in branches of the federal or state government. Some criminal justice paid internship opportunities also offer tuition reimbursement and academic support as well, such as the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs program.

FAQs: Affordable Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice

Q. What impacts the affordability of an online master’s program?

In general, public schools with online programs will have the least expensive tuition both because they receive federal funding and because online programs require fewer costly resources than in-person programs. However, the availability of scholarships, assistantships, and work-study positions also impacts how cheap your online master’s in criminal justice will be. Depending on scholarships and other financial assistance, one program could be more affordable to one student than another.

Q. What is the ROI on an online master’s degree in criminal justice?

Calculating the ROI on a master’s degree in criminal justice can be difficult because there are many career fields one could go into, with salaries ranging from $40,000 to $120,000 a year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for someone working in the criminal justice field is $67,000 per year. However, those with a master’s degree make more starting out and usually have more promotions over the course of their career. So, a master’s degree in criminal justice can definitely pay off in the long run.

Q. How can I ensure that an affordable master’s in criminal justice program is high-quality?

One indicator of a high-quality program is how many graduates are employed in the field after getting their master’s. A less expensive online master’s degree in criminal justice isn’t worth a dime if employers don’t value it. Other signs of quality include the resources available to help you with your courses, from tutoring and mentoring to libraries and subscriptions, and how closely the curriculum aligns to your professional goals. A top-ranked program won’t help you if, for example, you want to learn about social justice and the courses barely touch on the topic.

Q. Is an online master’s degree more or less affordable than an in-person program?

An online master’s degree is almost always more affordable than an in-person program. It costs less for a university to run an online degree than to find classroom space and pay utilities and other expenses for in-person classes, and that translates into lowered overall costs for an online master’s in criminal justice. Plus, you’ll spend less on transportation since you won’t have to commute back and forth to campus—a savings for both money and time.

Q. Can job experience count towards your online master’s degree in criminal justice and help cut costs?

This depends on the school and program, though most programs want you to go through their rigorous training instead of counting job experience toward credit hours. If a program has an internship or work experience requirement, current or previous job experience will often fulfill it. That could make one program more affordable than another for your situation.

Q. How can I know if the cheapest online master’s in criminal justice program is right for me?

Whether or not a program is right for you is a highly individual decision. When looking at different programs, jot down a list of what matters to you. Then, compare the programs and see which offer the most from your list of qualities to find the cheapest online master’s in criminal justice that suits your needs.