Online Colleges for Criminology Degrees: How to Choose

Many schools offer online programs in criminology. Choosing a program will depend on the level of degree you wish to pursue, as well as where you wish to take your career with your degree. You will also want to determine whether or not you want a completely online program, or if you can work a hybrid program into your schedule, where some classroom attendance is necessary.

How to Select an Online Criminology School

Online programs in criminology are typically available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Earning a degree in criminology can afford graduates opportunities for careers in law enforcement, corrections and parole. Criminology and criminal justice are similar fields, but criminology programs approach the study of crime from a more sociological perspective. Criminology programs tend to cover the same topics as criminal justice programs, but they also present more in-depth societal perspectives on crime and criminal nature.

Award Level and Career Goals

When choosing a distance-learning program in criminology, students should first consider their desired award level and professional aspirations. Bachelor's degrees can qualify individuals for a wide range of entry-level positions related to criminal justice, including in probation, private security and victim advocacy agencies. Earning a master's degree, meanwhile, can open doors to higher-level positions in the legal and justice systems.

Program Type

Prospective criminology students should find out whether their selected program is online or hybrid. While usually more expensive, online programs offer the convenience of being able to complete coursework from the student's own home. The minimum requirements for online learning are typically a computer and Internet access, although some courses may ask students to have a microphone and Web camera so they can participate in real-time online discussions. Hybrid programs, which offer a combination of online and on-campus courses, can be beneficial for those who allow for more flexibility in their schedules and prefer some amount of in-person interaction.

List of Online Criminology Degree Programs

Online Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Distance-learning programs in criminology and criminal justice are designed to give students a solid foundation in the field. Curricula cover concepts that relate to crime, including detailed study of criminal behavior, criminal lifestyles and crime analysis. Students will also spend time examining the function, organization and structure of the American justice system. Sample course topics might include:

  • Punishment and corrections
  • Policing in America
  • Advanced criminological theory
  • Research methods
  • Crime control

Online Master's Degree in Criminology

Earning an online master's degree gives individuals the credentials needed for many leadership positions in the criminal justice field, as well as the education level needed to teach criminology. Typically consisting of about 36 credit hours, this type of program emphasizes research heavily and sometimes requires a thesis. Students will also have the opportunity to take elective courses in areas such as crime prevention, community action, probation counseling, comparative criminology, penology and forensic science. Core classes can examine:

  • Research methods in criminology
  • Criminological theories
  • Computer applications
  • Ethics in criminal justice
  • Criminal justice administration

Schools with Online Programs in Criminology

Florida State University contains two fully online criminology programs - a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science. The bachelor's program requires the student to already have an associate degree from another school in Florida, or complete the liberal studies requirements of FSU. Bachelor's students will also need to earn a minor in another area through the Interdisciplinary Social Science program. The master's program mandates that students earn a bachelor's degree prior to enrolling, and up to six credits can be transferred from an outside institution to use toward the degree. Master's students will study classes that include research methods, social justice, and computer applications.

Southern New Hampshire University offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a focus area in Criminology. Students have access to their courses at all times, and can work during six different eight-week terms throughout the year. Up to 90 credits can be applied through transfer to the degree. Course topics include the sociology of crime and violence, ethics in leadership, and criminal psychology.

Students seeking an online degree in criminology have options based on their preferred level of study, and might also find areas of focus to explore within criminal justice programs.

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