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Criminal Justice Degree and Certificate Programs in California

Jul 28, 2019

There are more than 100 schools in California that have criminal justice degree and certificate programs. Read an overview of 10 of the largest schools' programs, requirements and tuition info and find out which school is the right one for you.

Essential Information

Individuals interested in criminal justice programs in California have many 2-year colleges and 4-year universities to choose from and a variety of program options. From 21-credit certificate programs allowing students to focus on fields within criminal justice, such as forensic science or administration of justice, to undergraduate and master's-level degree programs, students will be able to choose the program that best fits their needs.

Associate's programs might span two years and consist of about 60 credit hours. Bachelor's-level programs could be completed in 4 years after earning about 120 credits, whereas master's degree programs might require 36 credits and take approximately 19 months to complete. Depending on the level of the program, students might participate in internships, independent study experiences, thesis projects or experiential learning programs. The types of programs include:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Administration of Justice
  • Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • Master of Public Affairs with a concentration in Criminal Justice
  • Justice Studies
  • Forensic Science

Listed below are brief overviews of criminal justice programs at ten of California's largest schools, followed by a table comparing each schools' tuition and describing what each school offers.


California State University - Fullerton

California State University's Fullerton campus offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminal Justice and a minor in the field, both of which are administered through the Division of Politics, Administration, and Justice. The 120-credit bachelor's program consists of 45 credits within the major, including core classes and electives. Program coursework may include women and crime, correctional rehabilitation, crime analysis, capital punishment, and criminal justice policy. Students interested in earning a minor in the field must complete 18 credits, including introduction to criminal justice, crime and delinquency, and criminal law.

California State University - Long Beach

The Long Beach branch of California State University's Department of Criminal Justice offers several degree programs in the field, including a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminology and Criminal Justice and a Master of Science (MS) in Criminology and Criminal Justice, as well as two minor options. The university also offers certificate programs covering basic applied forensic science and crime scene analysis, and internet-based crime and identity theft. The BS program requires students complete 48 credits of major-specific coursework, including core classes, electives, and an integrative experience. Program coursework includes white collar crime, victimology, crime and inequality, correctional environments, and legal aspects of corrections. Students can fulfill the integrative learning requirement by participating in one of the following four options: an internship, independent study, experiential learning program, or research and thesis project. The master's-level program consists of 36 credits and allows students to either complete the program in two years by attending full-time in the traditional setting, or 18-19 months by taking classes strictly on Saturdays. All students are required to complete a series of core classes and electives, such as crime analysis, legal issues in criminal justice, and police administration.

California State University - Sacramento

Sacramento's California State University campus offers a BS in Criminal Justice and an MS in Criminal Justice, both of which are administered through the Division of Criminal Justice. The baccalaureate-level program requires students complete 120 total credits, including 60 credits within the major. In addition to general education coursework and criminal justice core classes, students will choose electives based on an area of interest, such as criminal justice administration, investigation, corrections, offenses and offenders, and law. The 30-credit master's program integrates core classes, electives, and a final thesis project. Coursework may include management of complex justice organizations, criminal justice policy analysis, contemporary issues in policing, and administration of juvenile justice.

City College of San Francisco

Located in San Francisco, the City College of San Francisco has an Associate of Science (AS) in Administration of Justice and six certificate options, including administration of justice, and criminal and constitutional law. The associate-level program requires students complete 21 credits of major-specific courses, including juvenile procedures, concepts of criminal law, legal aspects of evidence, and narcotic investigations. Individuals who are interested in the administration of justice field but do not plan on pursuing an associate degree can complete the 15-credit certificate in the field. Coursework for this certificate option includes organized crime and gangs, criminal identification, and physical evidence. The school also offers a 21-credit certificate in criminal and constitutional law, designed to give students a strong foundation in law, the courts, and the criminal justice system. Coursework for this certificate may include concepts of criminal law, American government, and ethnic politics.

East Los Angeles College

Located in Monterey Park, East Los Angeles College has an Associate in Arts (AA) in Administration of Justice and certificate options in administration of justice, and administration of justice with either a law or sociological emphasis. The associate-level program requires students complete 60 total credits, including 24 credits within the major. Program coursework includes ethics in forensic science, criminalistics, police organization and administration, concepts of criminal law, and fingerprint classification. Students who would like to pursue a career in criminal justice may be interested in the 18-credit certificate in administration of justice. Coursework for this option includes community relations, report writing for peace officers, and concepts of criminal law. Additional certificate options focus on law or sociology and both require students complete 15 credits. Coursework may include legal aspects of evidence, business law, and juvenile delinquency, depending on the chosen emphasis.

Long Beach City College

Long Beach-based Long Beach City College offers an AA in Administration of Justice, a certificate of achievement in the field, and a certificate of accomplishment in criminal forensics. The associate-level program consists of 60 total credits and 24 credits within the major. The curriculum integrates core classes and electives, including police field operations, defensive tactics, understanding domestic violence, and writing for criminal justice. Students enrolled in the certificate of achievement option will complete 30 credits of general education and major-specific courses, such as criminal law and introduction to evidence. The criminal forensics certificate consists of 15 total credits and requires students take courses covering topics within the criminal justice field, such as evidence, investigation, and forensics.

San Diego State University

Based in San Diego, San Diego State University's School of Public offers a BS in Criminal Justice, an MS in Criminal Justice and Criminology, and a Master of Public Adminnistration (MPA) with a concentration in Criminal Justice. The bachelor's program requires students complete 36 credits within the field, as well as a criminal justice practicum and two upper division public administration courses. Major-specific coursework may include ethics, law and criminal justice, corrections, and juvenile justice. The 30-credit master's program integrates core classes, research-based courses, electives, classes focused on the theoretical aspects of criminal justice, and a final thesis or research project. Graduate-level coursework may include criminal justice and the community, organized crime, and contemporary issues in law. The MPA program emphasizing criminal justice is geared towards individuals who are interested in gaining concentrated training in the criminal justice system as it relates to social policy, the government, and administration of public affairs. This is a 36-credit program that requires students complete 15 credits within the criminal justice field. Coursework will cover urban administration, the justice system, and youth violence.

San Francisco State University

Located in San Francisco, San Francisco State University offers a BA in Criminal Justice and a minor in the field through the School of Public Affairs and Civic Engagement. Students are required to complete 35-44 credits within the major and courses will cover topics in administration of justice, crime and delinquency, legal studies, and diverse communities. This program also includes core classes in criminal justice and a fieldwork experience that is to be taken at the end of the program. The minor option consists of 16-20 credits and requires that at least 13 credits are upper division courses, such as criminal law and social process, youth gangs, and extremism as crime.

San Jose State University

San Jose State University is based out of San Jose and has a BS in Justice Studies, a BS in Forensic Science, and MS in Justice Studies, and several minor options, all of which are administered through the Department of Justice Studies. The BS in Justice Studies consists of general education coursework, core classes, and 45 credits within the major. Major-specific coursework will address to theories, methodologies, analytical research, and critical thinking aspects of the justice system. The BS in Forensic Science option allows students to either concentrate in biology or chemistry. Students enrolled in either option must complete the general education requirements in addition to a handful of justice studies classes and coursework specific to their chosen concentration. The master's-level program offers two, 30-credit tracks that both require students complete core classes and electives in addition to an internship and final project. Students who plan on enrolling in a doctoral program in the field should choose the pre-doctoral/research track, whereas individuals who would like to pursue a career with a justice agency can opt for the professional/policy track. The university also offers three minor options: human rights, justice studies, and legal studies. Both the justice studies and legal studies program consist of 18 credits, and the human rights option requires students complete 15 credits.

Santa Ana College

Santa Ana College is located in Santa Ana and offers an AA in Administration of Justice as well as certificate options in the five areas within the criminal justice field. The associate degree program consists of 27 credits within the major, including concepts of criminal law, corrections, evidence, criminal investigation, and crime scene investigation. Students can earn a certificate in law enforcement, corrections officer, law enforcement custody, law enforcement reserve officer, or law enforcement advanced officer. Credit requirements and coursework varies depending on the program.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting Criminal Justice Degree Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)
California State University - Fullerton University, public; large suburb Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice $6,886 for in-state and $18,766 for out-of-state residents*
California State University - Long Beach University, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice,
Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice
$6,798 for in-state and $18,678 for out-of-state residents*
California State University - Sacramento University, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice,
Master of Science in Criminal Justice
$7,310 for in-state and $19,190 for out-of-state residents*
City College of San Francisco Two-year, public; large city Associate of Science in Administration of Justice $1,696 for in-state and $10,372 for out-of-state residents*
East Los Angeles College Two-year, public; small city Associate in Arts in Administration of Justice $1,220 for in-state and $7,746 for out-of-state residents*
Long Beach City College Two-year, public; large city Associate in Administration of Justice $1,174 for in-state and $7,750 for out-of-state residents*
San Diego State University University, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice,
Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology,
Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Criminal Justice
$7,488 for in-state and $19,340 for out-of-state residents*
San Francisco State University University, public; large city Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice $7,260 for in-state and $19,140 for out-of-state residents*
San Jose State University University, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies,
Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science,
Master of Science in Justice Studies
$7,796 for in-state and $19,676 for out-of-state residents*
Santa Ana College Two-year, public; large city Associate of Arts in Administration of Justice $1,160 for in-state and $8,960 for out-of-state residents*

Source: *NCES, College Navigator.

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