Find the Best Criminal Justice Schools in California (2024 Enrollment Guide)

Are you considering a career in criminal justice and seeking the best education options in California? Look no further! From top-notch universities to online programs, the Golden State offers a variety of high-quality criminal justice degrees to suit your needs and aspirations. With a range of degree options and a thriving job market, there’s never been a better time to pursue a criminal justice education in California.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the top criminal justice schools in California, including both campus-based and online programs. We’ll also discuss the types of degrees available, financial aid opportunities, resources for students and professionals, and the importance of program accreditation. By the end, you’ll be well-equipped with the knowledge to make an informed decision about your future in the criminal justice field.

So, are you ready to embark on an exciting and rewarding journey toward a career in criminal justice? Read on to discover the best educational opportunities California has to offer and set yourself up for success in this dynamic and growing field.

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • Three top criminal justice schools in California are CSULA, SFSU and SDSU.

  • Online programs are available for students seeking flexible course formats.

  • Graduates can expect strong job prospects with lucrative earning potential and access to resources that support their success in the field.

Top Criminal Justice Schools in California

When it comes to criminal justice education, California boasts some of the nation’s best schools. These institutions are known for their quality education, diverse course offerings, and research opportunities, preparing students for a wide array of careers in the field. From law enforcement to corrections and beyond, California’s top criminal justice schools provide the foundation for success in this exciting and ever-evolving industry.

Some of the best criminal justice schools in California include California State University, Los Angeles; San Francisco State University; and San Diego State University. Each of these institutions offers comprehensive criminal justice programs designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in their chosen careers. We’ll examine the unique offerings of each of these California criminal justice schools.

California State University, Los Angeles

California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) takes pride in its comprehensive criminal justice program. With a focus on research and hands-on experience, CSULA prepares students for a variety of careers in law enforcement and corrections. The university offers a Bachelor’s of Science, a Master’s of Science in Criminal Justice, and a Master’s of Science in Criminalistics, providing students with multiple options to further their education in the field.

The faculty at CSULA are experienced criminal justice professionals who focus their research on various areas, such as:

  • Forensic evidence

  • Youth gangs

  • HIV/AIDS issues

  • Drug addiction

This research emphasis ensures that students receive a cutting-edge education that is both relevant and applicable to the real-world challenges they will face in their careers.

For those interested in pursuing a graduate degree in criminal justice at CSULA, applicants must submit the following:

  • A score of 4 or higher on the analytical writing section of the GRE exam

  • A personal statement outlining their interests and goals in the criminal justice system

  • Three letters of recommendation

Additionally, incoming master’s students must possess a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be considered for admission.

San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University offers a well-rounded criminal justice education that emphasizes critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The curriculum includes courses in:

  • Criminal law

  • Criminal procedure

  • Criminology

  • Juvenile justice

This comprehensive education prepares criminal justice majors for various roles within the criminal justice system.

To gain admission to San Francisco State University’s criminal justice program, applicants must possess a high school diploma or GED, maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0, and submit official transcripts and test scores. This ensures that students entering the program have a solid foundation in the subject matter and are prepared for success.

Upon completion of the program, graduates are well-equipped to pursue careers in:

  • Law enforcement

  • Corrections

  • Probation

  • Parole

The skills and knowledge acquired at San Francisco State University set students up for success in the competitive and ever-changing field of criminal justice.

San Diego State University

San Diego State University offers both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice, preparing students for various careers in law enforcement, parole and probation, corrections, and social services. The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program is designed for undergraduate students, while the Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology program caters to graduate students seeking advanced education in the field.

Incoming bachelor’s students should have a GPA of 2.8 or higher and have accrued a minimum of 60 transferable semester units to be considered for admissions. The master’s program is composed of 36 units, including coursework in research methods, criminal justice and criminological theory. Additionally, it contains 6 units of electives. Graduate students are also required to complete a thesis or capstone project.

Upon graduation, students from San Diego State University’s criminal justice program may pursue careers in:

  • Law enforcement

  • Parole and probation

  • Corrections

  • Various social service agencies

The university’s comprehensive curriculum ensures that graduates are well-prepared to excel in these roles and make a positive impact on their communities.

Online Criminal Justice Programs in California

For those seeking a more flexible and convenient educational option, online criminal justice programs in California provide the perfect solution. Ideal for working professionals and part-time learners, online programs offer the same high-quality education as their on-campus counterparts, with the added benefit of being accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Two of the top online criminal justice programs in the state are offered by California State University, San Bernardino, and National University.

Online criminal justice programs often feature:

  • Asynchronous course formats, allowing students to access and complete their coursework at any time that suits their busy schedules

  • The ability for students to study at their own pace

  • The opportunity to balance education with work, family, or other commitments

In addition to the flexibility and convenience offered by online programs, many also focus on providing a balanced combination of theoretical and practical application. This ensures that students are well-equipped to take on leadership roles in law enforcement and correctional agencies upon graduation.

California State University, San Bernardino

California State University, San Bernardino offers a comprehensive online criminal justice program that allows students to tailor their degree with elective courses and complete their studies at their own pace. In order to get admission in this program, prospective students must meet certain requirements. These include:

  • Having 60 semester units of transferable coursework at any accredited university or community college

  • Having a minimum GPA of 2.75

  • Having taken courses in introductory criminal justice classes

The cost per unit for classes offered by this criminal justice program is $420, with an approximate expenditure per semester of $6,300. This investment in education pays off in the long run, as graduates are well-prepared to excel in various criminal justice careers.

California State University, San Bernardino offers several online criminal justice programs, including a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. Students can complete their degree from the comfort of their own homes, making this an ideal option for those who require flexibility in their education.

National University

National University, a private, non-profit institution located in San Diego, California, provides a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs in criminal justice, both online and on campus. The university offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration, a Master of Criminal Justice, and a Doctor of Criminal Justice, providing students with a variety of options to further their education in the field.

The Master of Criminal Justice program at National University can be completed within a period of 12 months, making it an appealing choice for working professionals seeking to advance their careers quickly. The university’s online and campus-based courses ensure that students have access to the same high-quality education, regardless of their preferred learning format.

With a focus on both theoretical and practical aspects of criminal justice, National University prepares its graduates for success in a variety of roles within the field. Whether studying online or on-campus, students receive a well-rounded education that equips them with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in their chosen careers.

Types of Criminal Justice Degrees Offered in California

California’s criminal justice schools offer a diverse range of degree options, including a criminal justice degree, to suit the needs and aspirations of students at all levels. From associate degrees providing a fundamental understanding of criminal justice, to doctoral degrees for advanced research and education, there are numerous academic paths available for those interested in pursuing a career in this field.

Associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees each come with specific academic requirements and career opportunities. For example, an associate degree in criminal justice may provide preparation for professions such as probation officer, corrections officer, investigator, and police officer. Those with a PhD in criminal justice have many career options available. These include roles in higher education, research at private or government research institutions, forensics science, and homeland security.

Choosing the right degree level is paramount in meeting career objectives and optimizing earning potential. Pursuing higher degrees can open doors to advanced positions with attractive salaries. Therefore, weighing the long-term benefits of each degree option is a crucial step before deciding.

Financial Aid Opportunities for California Criminal Justice Students

Financial aid opportunities for criminal justice students in California are widely available, ensuring that individuals can access the education they need to excel in their chosen careers. At the federal, state, and local levels, students can find grants, loans, and work-study programs to help cover the costs of their education.

In addition to government-sponsored financial aid, many professional organizations and colleges offer need- or merit-based scholarships for students pursuing criminal justice degrees. These scholarships can make a significant difference in the affordability of a criminal justice education, helping to reduce the financial burden and make higher education more accessible to all.

Students can optimize their financial aid opportunities by applying for numerous scholarships and grants, as well as completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to assess their eligibility for federal support. Utilizing these resources can make criminal justice education more cost-effective and accessible for students, paving the way for their success in the field.

Employment Prospects for Criminal Justice Graduates in California

Criminal justice graduates in California can expect a bright employment outlook, with healthy growth in job numbers and earnings anticipated in the coming years. This growth is particularly notable in major metropolitan areas, where demand for skilled criminal justice professionals is expected to remain strong.

The average annual salary for lawyers in California is $176,610, reflecting the lucrative earning potential for those who pursue advanced degrees in the field. However, even entry-level positions in criminal justice, such as police officers and corrections officers, can offer competitive salaries and benefits, making it an attractive field for those looking to make a difference in their communities.

The myriad of career paths open to criminal justice graduates in California ensures a promising future for those who venture into this dynamic and constantly evolving field. Investing in a top-notch criminal justice education empowers students to forge a successful career path and significantly contribute to their communities and beyond.

Resources for Criminal Justice Students and Professionals in California

Numerous resources are available for criminal justice students and professionals in California, providing valuable support and networking opportunities throughout their educational and career journeys. Some of these resources include:

  • Membership associations

  • Job boards

  • Research centers

  • Training opportunities

These resources offer a wealth of information and support to help individuals succeed in the criminal justice field.

Some key resources available in California for criminal justice students and professionals include:

  • California Attorneys for Criminal Justice

  • California Law Enforcement Association

  • Western Society of Criminology (WSC)

  • Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ)

These organizations provide valuable resources, such as networking events, conferences, publications, and scholarship opportunities, to enhance the professional development of individuals in the field.

Taking advantage of these resources allows criminal justice students and professionals to stay abreast of the latest trends, developments, and opportunities in the field, fostering continuous growth and evolution in their careers. With the support of these organizations and the wider criminal justice community, individuals can thrive in this exciting and ever-changing industry.

Criminal Justice Program Accreditation in California

Accreditation of criminal justice programs in California plays a vital role in guaranteeing quality education, securing financial aid eligibility, and satisfying employer prerequisites. The primary accrediting bodies for criminal justice programs in the state are the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

The accreditation process involves colleges and universities adhering to the stringent standards set forth by regional accrediting bodies and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Schools and programs seeking accreditation must undergo a self-review process and provide evidence that they meet the established standards of quality.

Enrolling in an accredited criminal justice school in California ensures that students have access to federal financial aid, qualify for additional transfer credits, and fulfill graduate school and employer requirements. By selecting an accredited institution, students can be confident in the quality of their education and the value of their degree in the criminal justice field.


In conclusion, California offers a wealth of opportunities for those looking to pursue a criminal justice education. From top-ranked schools to flexible online programs, the state provides diverse options for students at all levels and stages of their educational journey. With a range of degree options, financial aid opportunities, and resources available, there’s never been a better time to embark on a career in criminal justice in California.

Whether you’re just starting your educational journey or seeking to advance your career with a higher degree, California’s criminal justice schools provide the foundation for success in this dynamic and growing field. By investing in a high-quality education from an accredited institution, you’ll be well-equipped to make a meaningful impact on your community and beyond.

So, are you ready to take the next step toward a rewarding career in criminal justice? Armed with the knowledge shared in this blog post, you can confidently make an informed decision about your future in the field, and embark on an exciting journey toward a fulfilling and successful career in criminal justice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What colleges offer a criminal justice degree in California?

California is home to many prestigious schools with criminal justice degree programs, such as the University of California-Berkeley, the University of San Francisco, and California State University-Fresno.

Which CSU has the best criminal justice program?

CSULB is widely regarded as the best school in California for criminal justice majors, boasting an impressive 39,400 students.

What is the difference between criminal justice and criminology?

Criminal justice and criminology are both integral components of the law enforcement, judicial, and correctional systems. However, criminal justice studies the operations and system of law enforcement, while criminology focuses on the psychological and sociological behaviors of criminals to understand why they commit crimes.

Can you study criminal justice at UCLA?

Yes, you can study criminal justice at UCLA through the Criminal Justice Program.

What are some of the top criminal justice schools in California?

California State University, Los Angeles, San Francisco State University, and San Diego State University are some of the top criminal justice schools in California.

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