Top Online Criminal Justice Schools
Online criminal justice schools offer a range of study options such as certificates and associate, bachelor's or advanced degrees. Depending on the program, students can explore a wide variety of courses on topics like law, political science, sociology, criminology, justice, forensics, psychology and security. Students may choose to focus on one specific area, such as crime scene investigation, corrections, law enforcement, adjudication, forensic psychology or criminal prosecution.
Master's or doctoral degree programs studies may cover research, theory, administration and policy, with specialized courses such as white collar crime or terrorism. Graduate programs can help students to develop leadership skills for fields such as investigation, corrections and social services.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) recognizes some of the top criminal justice schools with research grants, and it awarded 2012 NIJ fellowships to scholars at universities including the following:
1. University of Illinois
2. University of North Texas
3. University of California
4. Michigan State University
5. Northwestern University
6. University of Michigan
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Criminal justice studies may feature an interdisciplinary approach to society or a targeted specialization such as computer information security or homeland security. Within the category of law enforcement, the NIJ outlines potential subjects of study such as communications and information technology, crime scene and evidence handling, or crime mapping and analysis. Below are examples of some of the many criminal justice courses available.
Coursework in corrections typically introduces students to the criminal incarceration process, the justice system, ethics and professionalism, community services, legal issues and related subjects. The National Institute of Corrections describes some relevant topics, such as crisis intervention, jail administration, security audits for prisons, and parole and probation. Other subjects of study could include behavioral treatment for offenders, corrections and mental health, or faith-based and community initiatives in correctional programming.
Training for crime scene investigation (CSI) may cover photography procedures, fingerprint classification, evidence gathering or criminal psychology. The NIJ describes some other topics related to CSI, for example, firearms examination, DNA analysis, laboratory management and administration, medicolegal death investigation, or toxicology and controlled substances. Specialized programs may examine aspects of homicide investigation, computer crime, arson or insurance investigation, and so on.
Studies in justice include a broad range of courses such as law enforcement, psychology, human relations, violence in society, ethics, legal systems, government, civics and social science. Specialized studies might dig deeper into topics like juvenile delinquency, counterintelligence, terrorism prevention and homeland security. Justice studies could be of interest to aspiring social workers, police officers, prison guards, paralegals, victim advocates, criminal psychologists, public defenders, prosecutors or judges. Some justice-related occupations require several years of education, for example, law school or graduate studies in psychology.
While criminal justice studies can offer an overview of law enforcement, most aspiring officers attend a police academy or training program, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012). Police training typically includes constitutional law, civil rights, state laws and ordinances, police ethics and many other subjects.
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Select a program of interest from the menu above to find criminal justice schools. Feel free to request information from more than one college so you have a number of choices to consider. For online schools, a good credential to look for would be approval from the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). Schools should be accredited by accrediting organizations that are approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), or both.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (Police and detectives)