How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice?How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice?How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

Criminal justice is the government system that focuses on proceedings related to criminal law and protecting communities, including law enforcement, the courts, and prisons.

The criminal justice process begins with investigation and arrest and continues through any sanction or rehabilitation a court orders. As an example: A police officer might receive a report of a burglary. Based on observations, investigation, and witness interviews, the officer might get a warrant approved by a judge, make an arrest, and present a report to prosecutors. A prosecutor then would decide whether to file criminal charges. The case might proceed to court for hearings, a trial, and sentencing, ending with any prescribed punishment.

Along the way, a variety of professionals work with those accused of crimes, as well as victims. The criminal justice system requires people to serve in many different roles throughout law enforcement and the court system. Support services such as social work are another important component of the criminal justice process.

With its many different professions, criminal justice offers a variety of opportunities to make a difference in reducing crime, serving justice, and helping victims. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can provide the tools needed to pursue these important, rewarding careers. But how long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice?

Criminal justice program completion timeline

Bachelor’s in criminal justice degree programs typically include between 120 and 128 credit hours of coursework. On-campus programs generally take four years to complete, with online degree programs taking a similar amount of time. Degree programs may take longer if students choose to complete their coursework at a part-time pace. Online programs often accept transfer credits from students with prior college experience, which can help students earn degrees in a shorter time frame.

Online vs. on-campus criminal justice programs

On-campus programs generally offer classes on a set schedule, with in-class sessions dedicated to listening to lectures, asking questions, and participating in discussions. Online programs often feature flexible class times and options for interacting with instructors and students, and many provide opportunities for accelerated learning.

Online programs’ flexibility can not only make it easier for students to schedule their education around work and other commitments, but it also can allow them to finish the program at their own pace.

How long is a criminal justice program at Maryville University?

Maryville University’s online bachelor’s in criminal justice program requires 128 credit hours of classes. While Maryville’s online programs generally take up to four years to complete, the flexibility of online programs allows students to take more time to complete the programs if they choose.

Students with eligible transfer credits often can apply those toward bachelor’s in criminal justice degree work. Additionally, students who have completed training at select police academies may be eligible for 12 hours of college credit. Furthermore, students who plan to continue their studies beyond the undergraduate level can get a head start through the Early Access program that can earn them 12 credit hours toward select master’s programs.

Benefits of an online criminal justice program

Criminal justice graduates can pursue a variety of jobs, from police officer, to fish and game warden, to court bailiff, to border protection officer — and that makes it a versatile degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts about 95,200 new jobs will be created in protective services between 2019 and 2029. The BLS projects that police and detectives’ jobs, for example, will increase at a greater than average pace during that period, with 5% growth expected.

A bachelor’s in criminal justice can be a wise choice for financial reasons as well. For example, the BLS reports that police and detectives’ median annual salary in May 2020 was $67,290, with the highest earning 10% making more than $113,860. For those positions’ first-line supervisors, the median salary was $97,180, with the top 10% earning more than $152,090.

Anyone interested in working toward this degree — and the solid job and earning opportunities it can bring — may find that an online program is a good choice. While online learning does bring potential challenges, its benefits abound.

In fact, online learning’s flexibility may help decrease how long it takes to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Advantages of online learning

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that, in fall 2018, 2.3 million undergraduate students in the U.S. were pursuing their degrees exclusively through online education. The reasons students select online education often center on balancing work and life demands.

According to a 2019 report from online program management company Learning House, 63% of online program students surveyed selected online programs to accommodate work and life responsibilities. Among the benefits of online learning are the following:

  • Flexibility — Online learning typically allows students to choose when they begin their programs and take their classes, allowing them to balance work and family obligations.
  • Convenience — Online programs generally don’t require travel to campus or relocating to attend a particular institution.
  • Affordability — With many online programs offering opportunities for eligible credit transfer and accelerated learning, students may spend less time and money on their education.

Maryville University’s online criminal justice program credit breakdown

Maryville’s online bachelor’s in criminal justice program can help students qualify for jobs in places like police departments, community organizations, and schools. The program focuses on a deep understanding of the law and its enforcement, with courses addressing issues such as multicultural policing, the study of crime, and critical thinking.

Students may choose a police academy track, with successful completion of a police academy training program earning them up to 12 credits. Or, they can opt for the non-police academy track, which includes a senior project, an internship, and an additional criminal justice/criminology elective in place of the police academy credits. Also among the required 128 credit hours of courses are:

  • Criminal justice/criminology core courses — Includes courses such as Corrections in Society, Criminological Theory, Criminal Law and Procedure, and Multicultural Policing.
  • Criminal justice/criminology elective courses — Classes such as Criminal Investigations, Domestic and International Terrorism, and Family Violence Through the Lifespan.
  • Social science research sequence — Courses include Critical Thinking in Social Science, Research Design, and Understanding Statistical Inference.
  • General education courses — Covers topics such as psychology, biology, and English composition.

Credit breakdown for police academy students

The number of credits required within each sequence of courses depends on whether students choose the police academy track or the non-police academy track. For police academy students, the required number of course credits in each sequence is:

  • General education — 42
  • Criminal justice/criminology —15
  • Social science research — 12
  • Police academy training program — up to 12
  • General electives — 47, or as needed to reach 128 credits

Credit breakdown for non-police academy students

The curriculum for non-police academy students includes an internship and seminar courses. The curriculum breakdown, by sequence, for these students is:

  • General education — 42
  • Criminal justice/criminology core courses — 15
  • Social science research and internship — 21
  • Criminal justice/criminology electives — 3
  • General electives — 47

Pursue a dynamic career path

Criminal justice is a broad field that can provide many opportunities to make a difference in keeping communities safe. If you’re ready to take the brave step toward starting or advancing in this important field, explore Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program.

The program’s combination of theoretical and field-based learning will help you pursue your professional ambitions, whether your plans include police academy training or other career and education goals. Discover the quality, flexibility, and convenience of Maryville’s online bachelor’s in criminal justice program.

Recommended Reading

Criminal Justice Careers

What Is Criminal Justice? How Technology Is Rewiring the Field


Bureau of Justice Statistics, “The Justice System”, “How Long Does It Take to Complete a Degree in Criminal Justice”

Inside Higher Ed, “Online Is (Increasingly) Local”

Maryville University, “Online vs. Traditional Degrees”

National Center for Education Statistics, “Fast Facts: Distance Learning”

SAGE Publications, “An Introduction to Crime and the Criminal Justice System”

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “10 Advantages of Taking Online Classes”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Police and Detectives”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Protective Service Occupations”

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