Is an Online Criminal Justice Degree a Good Investment?

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At first glance, the difference in pay between police officers of varying education levels does not seem significant. According to, a police officer’s salary ranges from $50,663 to $59,109. Playing with the slider tool on this page, you’ll notice that the salary does not increase much when you increase the level of education. This might lead you to assume that even with an affordable degree in criminal justice, salary per hour will rise only a small amount.

This assumes that after earning your bachelor of arts in criminal justice, your salary will remain at the police patrol officer level. The reality, however, is that higher education is an important factor in determining who gets promoted. With an online degree in criminal justice, your salary and pay per hour can rise significantly as you work your way up the ranks.

Although entry level criminal justice jobs don’t vary much in pay by education level, having that degree will give you an edge when competing for promotions with applicants who don’t have a bachelor of arts in criminal justice. Your salary as a police sergeant, lieutenant or eventually chief will be much higher than that of a patrol officer, and earning an affordable criminal justice degree online will give you a definite edge when it comes to getting promoted.

Are There Entry Level Criminal Justice Jobs Near Me?

Entry level criminal justice jobs are everywhere. Just about every town in America, no matter how small, has at least one police officer. In addition, with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice—or even an associate’s degree—jobs like private security guards and child protective services caseworker can be found in just about every county.

Other 2-year criminal justice degree jobs, such as border patrol agents or customs and immigration officers, are only needed in certain areas of the country. Other jobs, like corrections officer or victim advocate working with a nonprofit organization, are more likely to be found near large cities.

How Much Difference Does a Criminal Justice Degree Make?

While criminal justice associate degree jobs tend to come with fairly good starting salaries even at entry level, income can rise significantly over the span of a person’s career due to promotions within the organization. For example, the average base salary for a police patrol officer is $54,255. This jumps up to $71,774 for police sergeant, $89,843 for lieutenant, and $105,308 for police chief or sheriff.

How much difference a criminal justice degree makes depends on the degree level. Since your chances of earning a promotion rise with education level, it’s likely that the college degrees with the best return on investment will be higher-level degrees such as a master’s in criminal science. You should expect a lower ROI from 2-year criminal justice degree jobs. Having a high-level degree increases your chances of landing a high-paying leadership position.

Earning a degree in criminal justice can impact your career in other ways as well. Officers with 4-year degree tend to be more professional on the job and do a better job of de-escalating situations without having to resort to arrest. They have fewer disciplinary problems than their peers and are less likely to be the subject of citizen complaints.

Should You Choose the Cheapest Criminal Justice Degree?

Choosing the cheapest criminal justice degree may improve the return on your investment, but only if you achieve the same results. Beware of programs run by unaccredited schools and degree mills. To ensure that you are getting a quality education, always choose a college or university with regional accreditation when pursuing an affordable criminal justice degree online. The college degrees with the best return on investment are low-cost degrees from schools with a reputation for providing a quality education.

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