Online undergraduate criminal justice & law degrees

October 01, 2018 · 6 min read · By ASU Online

Criminal justice is one of America’s most important issues, reaching everything from emergency response to prison reform to the legal system and beyond. What seems like a simple statement — upholding justice for all — is quite complex to put into action. Those on the front lines, such as police officers, first responders, counselors, legal aides and others, need a comprehensive understanding of the theories and laws related to criminal justice.


The system is evolving as officials at local, state and federal levels seek ways to reduce crime rates, protect communities and deter potential offenders. Some have worked well. For example, data from the California Department of Justice showed the state’s crime rate steadily declined from 1993 to 2017 to reach historic lows thanks to prison system reform.

However, this is just one example from one state. Individual communities and the nation still have to deal with shifting crime rates, and hate crimes are on the rise, increasing 12.5 percent within America’s 10 largest cities from 2017 to 2018.

Furthermore, crises like the opioid epidemic and the threat of cyberterrorism mean soon-to-be first responders and security specialists need the practical and theoretical knowledge to adequately address these and other issues that were previously unknown.

An online criminal justice bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University can help students prepare to enter one of the many career fields related to law enforcement. These positions are often strenuous yet rewarding, both in terms of impact and compensation. For example, the median salary for police and detectives is $62,960 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Firefighters earn a median of $49,080 per year, while arbitrators, mediators and conciliators make approximately $60,670.

ASU has several online criminal justice degree programs that can help aspiring professionals enter this exciting, ever-changing field.


Criminology and Criminal Justice (BS)

The online Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice can help students learn about the impact of crime and effective ways to reduce it.

The program covers the policies and practices of major areas of the criminal justice system, including law enforcement, courts and corrections. Through coursework and classes provided by expert faculty, students can strengthen their research, analytical and communications skills, which are integral to working in almost any criminal justice profession.

Graduates may start working or pursue an advanced degree in areas such as law, criminology or other social sciences.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Corrections
  • Domestic violence
  • Gangs
  • White collar crime

Possible careers include:

  • Detective
  • Corrections officer
  • Crime scene investigator
  • Forensic specialist
  • Sociologist

Justice Studies (BS)

Students who want to learn about the cultural, historical and social aspects of criminal justice may want to pursue the online Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies program. The coursework and lectures can prepare them to design solutions that more effectively address various criminal justice issues, including bias, incarceration rates and poor crime deterrents. Students may study a variety of topics, such as serial killers, racial justice, genocide and media’s effect on public perception of justice.

The program focuses on five core areas:

  • Citizenship, migration and human rights
  • Globalization, sustainability and economic justice Law, policy and social change
  • Media, technology and culture
  • Social identities and communities

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Social-behavioral science
  • Theory of justice
  • Statistical analysis
  • Research in criminal justice

Possible careers include:

  • Behavioral health specialist
  • Criminal investigator
  • Mediator
  • Judge

Political Science (BA)

The online Bachelor of Arts in Political Science program is designed to help students link theoretical politics to real-world issues and lead effective change initiatives. With a curriculum that centers on contemporary geopolitics, economics and events, students can emerge prepared to enter a variety of professions. Students will also study a foreign language, which can help them adopt a global viewpoint and prepare them for an international role.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Comparative government
  • Global politics
  • Political ideologies Historical awareness

Possible careers include:

  • City planner
  • Community specialist
  • Logistics manager
  • Political analyst
A male lawyer researching in a library.

Political Science (BS)

The online Bachelor of Science in Political Science is a rigorous program that can help students learn about politics at local, national and global levels. This knowledge will allow them to create or advocate for programs and policies that better serve citizens in their countries and abroad.

A bachelor's degree in political science suits students who aspire to careers in politics, education, law, public service, journalism and government.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Science and society
  • Political statistics
  • Global controversies
  • Public opinion

Possible careers include:

  • Regulatory affairs manager
  • Social services director
  • Urban planner
  • News director

Psychology - Forensic Psychology (BA)

Forensic psychology is an important element of the criminal justice system, as understanding the mental health or state of mind of an offender can help judges and prosecutors hand down an appropriate sentence.

The online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology can teach students about the numerous roles psychologists fill in the legal system, including criminal justice administrator and mental health technician. The bachelor’s in forensic psychology faculty are well-renowned, with several winning distinguished psychology/law awards and others contributing to research that has been cited by many state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Criminology
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Psychology and law
  • Neuroscience

Possible careers include:

  • Addictions counselor
  • Behavioral health specialist
  • Medical social worker
  • Psychiatric aid
  • Social services director

Psychology - Forensic Psychology (BS)

The online Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology emphasizes lab work and advanced statistics to help students better understand the field’s biological and neuroscientific elements, both of which are commanding more importance for research and clinical practice.

Graduates can also enter a variety of related psychology, advocacy and legal policy careers upon finishing their degrees. These professions can provide value for students interested in forensic psychology bachelor’s degree programs but not necessarily practicing clinical psychology professionally.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Research methods
  • Abnormal psychology Substantive criminal law
  • Forensic psychology

Possible careers include:

  • Detective
  • Intelligence officer
  • Lawyer
  • Neuropsychologist

Public Service and Public Policy (BS)

The online Bachelor of Science in Public Service and Public Policy degree helps students understand policy development and can prepare them to lead and manage public organizations. This program can suit those interested in working in government and nonprofit groups.

Students may study public policy, administration and service, learning from practical solutions that address modern challenges of communities and organizations. Studying under award-winning faculty with years of professional experience, students may graduate feeling empowered to effect change at various levels of government.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Sociology
  • 21st-century public service and policy
  • Government and politics
  • Leadership

Possible careers include:

  • Community health worker Fire chief
  • Community outreach specialis
  • Government programs specialist

Public Service and Public Policy — Emergency Management Homeland Security (BS)

As emergency incidents like domestic threats increase and extreme weather events get more severe, local, state and federal governments need qualified workers ready to meet such complex challenges. Students can prepare for these positions by completing the online Bachelor of Science in Public Service and Public Policy with a concentration in Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

The degree covers science, technology and management to give students the skills and qualifications they need to assess and mitigate today’s disasters while preparing for potentially devastating events in the future.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Writing on public issues
  • Economics and public policy
  • Public service research methods
  • Community leadership

Possible careers include:

  • Security manager
  • Emergency manager
  • Disaster relief manager
  • Politician

Homeland Security (Undergraduate Certificate)

After the events of 9/11 and the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, many public law enforcement groups broadened their organizations to prepare for potential terrorist threats. Similarly, private companies created or expanded their security offerings to take on new work from government security contracts and other groups.

The online Homeland Security Undergraduate Certificate can prepare students to enter careers in this important, rapidly evolving area. The degree includes courses on criminology and criminal justice, so students not enrolled in an undergraduate degree, but who still wish to study homeland security, can receive a well-rounded education relevant to the needs of the field.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Criminal justice
  • International terrorism
  • Cyberterrorism Violence in America

Possible careers include:

  • Security guard
  • Remote sensing technician Information security analyst
  • Emergency management director

Earning a criminal justice online degree with ASU

People striving to enter criminal justice and law professions require a solid background in existing theory and tactics, as well as the critical and analytical thinking skills to adapt to new issues. Choosing to pursue one of the ASU Online criminal justice or law degree programs can help equip students with the tools they need to begin a successful career.

Program details are subject to change. Current information can be found by visiting individual ASU Online degree pages.

State of California Department of Justice by OpenJustice
Police and Detectives: Occupational Outlook Handbook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Firefighters: Occupational Outlook Handbook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Arbitrators, Mediators and Conciliators Occupational Outlook Handbook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
ASU Online — Online Criminal Justice & Law Degree Programs

Police officers working in criminal investigation department.


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