Top Criminal Justice Degree Programs - San Diego, CA

School and Ranking Information

There are about 10 schools in the San Diego area that offer degree programs in criminal justice. The following schools are considered the top three based on school rankings, criminal justice program options and the number of degrees awarded in criminal justice:

  • Winner: San Diego State University is the top pick overall because of its national rankings by U.S. News & World Report and its location right in San Diego. It also had the highest number of degrees awarded in the field in 2011-2012.
  • Runner Up #1: National University in La Jolla secured the first runner-up spot due to the range of program levels offered in criminal justice.
  • Runner Up #2: Southwestern College, located in Chula Vista, earned third place due to it awarding the second most criminal justice credentials in 2011-2012 and its low tuition rates.

School Comparison Chart

Category San Diego State University National University Southwestern College
Rankings (2014) 152nd among top national universities*,
81st among top public schools, nationwide*
Location San Diego, CA La Jolla, CA (11.8 miles from San Diego) Chula Vista, CA (8.5 miles from San Diego)
School Type 4-year, public 4-year, private not-for-profit 2-year, public
Tuition & Fees (2012-2013) $6,578 (undergraduate, in-state),
$18,236 (undergraduate, out-of-state),
$7,844 (graduate, in-state),
$17,390 (graduate, out-of-state)**
$11,736 (undergraduate),
$10,044 (graduate)**
$1,334 (in-state),
$6,654 (out-of-state)**
Criminal Justice Program Levels Offered Bachelor's and master's degrees Certificate; associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees Certificate; associate's degree
Criminal Justice Certificate and Degrees Awarded (All Levels) in 2011-2012 284** 93** 134**
Most Popular Criminal Justice Program in 2011-2012 Bachelor's degree (277 awarded)** Bachelor's degree (88 awarded)** Associate's degree (88 awarded)**
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (in 150% of normal degree time) 66% (for 2006 Entering Class)** 24% (for 2006 Entering Class)** 15% (for 2009 Entering Class)**

Sources: *U.S. News & World Report rankings, **National Center for Education Statistics.

Winner: San Diego State University

  • The Public Administration Center and Institute for Public and Urban Affairs located on campus
  • Students groups include the Criminal Justice Student Association and the Criminal Justice Honor Society
  • Part-time and full-time criminal justice internship opportunities available

A bachelor's degree program in criminal justice is offered at San Diego State University. The lower division classes focus on topics like government and politics, statistics, psychology and sociology. In the upper division courses, students can study applied planning, program and research evaluation, social policy and laws. There are also electives that can be pursued in topics like law enforcement, juvenile justice, delinquency and corrections.

This school also offers a Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology program. This 30-unit program prepares students for careers such as policy analysts and criminal justice researchers. Graduates may also go on to a doctorate program. SDSU's School of Public Affairs also offers a Master of Public Administration program with a concentration in criminal justice. This master's degree program prepares students for leadership and administrative positions in criminal justice, community service and government agencies.

Runner-Up #1: National University

  • Wide range of criminal justice programs
  • Online education options for criminal justice majors
  • Numerous campuses and information centers across California
  • Has a high number of minority students graduating with master's degree programs in comparison to other schools

The criminal justice program offerings at the La Jolla campus of National University include a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration and a Master of Criminal Justice; however, there are additional program options that students can pursue online. Students at this school who complete their programs online can earn an undergraduate certificate, a minor or an associate's degree in criminal justice administration. The bachelor's degree program includes courses in court systems, criminal law, civil investigations and corrections. The Master of Science in Criminal Justice program includes courses related to criminal justice research, security administration and law enforcement management.

Related programs available at this school include paralegal studies certificates, pre-law programs, a bachelor's degree in homeland security, and master's degrees in juvenile justice and public administration.

Runner-Up #2: Southwestern College

  • School's career center to helps students with employment searches
  • Counseling and career guidance is available to students
  • Library located on campus

Southwestern College has an Associate in Arts in Criminal Justice program that is intended for students who want to transfer to a 4-year school. The program includes coursework in sociology, contemporary social problems, community relations and criminal law concepts. Another option is the Associate in Science in Administration of Justice program, which has three specialization options: law enforcement, forensics and corrections. There are also several certificate options in the aforementioned specialization choices. There is also a crime scene investigator associate's degree at Southwestern College.

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