Best Colleges For Criminal Justice and Criminology Majors

Justice Statue holding Scales of Justice for ranking of Best Colleges for Criminal Justice and Criminology

Criminology and Criminal Justice majors typically involve developing expertise in fields such as psychology of the criminal mind, the role and functioning of law enforcement, criminal defense and the courts. Although these two fields are not identical, typically the top universities cover both. Some, but not all, require a specialization in one or the other.

20 Best Colleges for Criminology and Criminal Justice

1Florida State UniversityTallahasseeFLVisit
2Arizona State UniversityTempeAZVisit
3Penn StateUniversity ParkPAVisit
4University of MarylandCollege ParkMDVisit
5University of CincinnatiCincinnatiOHVisit
6University at Albany - State University of New YorkAlbanyNYVisit
7Michigan State UniversityEast LansingMIVisit
8University of Central FloridaOrlandoFLVisit
9University of Nevada - Las Vegas (UNLV)Las VegasNVVisit
10John Jay College of Criminal Justice - City University of New YorkNew YorkNYVisit
11University of South FloridaTampaFLVisit
12University of AlabamaTuscaloosaALVisit
13University of South CarolinaColumbiaSCVisit
14Rutgers UniversityNew BrunswickNJVisit
15University of FloridaGainesvilleFLVisit
16Washington State UniversityPullmanWAVisit
17Sam Houston State UniversityHuntsvilleTXVisit
18University of California - IrvineIrvineCAVisit
19Liberty UniversityLynchburgVAVisit
20Indiana UniversityBloomingtonINVisit

More information on our RealRankTM analytics used in creating this ranking can be found on the About page.

Have you attended any of these programs? What is your experience at these universities?

What is the Difference Between Criminology and Criminal Justice Majors?

A shorthand way to look at these two majors is that one focuses on the criminal mind, and the other focuses on the practical aspects of policing and the courts.

Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice is like the business aspects of the criminal justice system. It focuses on how the criminal justice system operates. That includes policing, police systems and ethics, correctional systems and how the court system works.


Criminology is like a social science that focuses on the workings of criminal minds, the root causes of crime and how society can and should deal with the issues of law enforcement and dealing with criminals. It has become a hot political issue as well, with public debate on the best techniques for dealing with the issues of crime, policing and punishment versus rehabilitation of criminals. The field of criminology therefore focuses on the subjects like sociology, economics and psychology, but with a focus on crime.

Criminology and Criminal Justice Careers

Students who major in these fields typically have career opportunities in all aspects of the criminal justice system. Many also go on to advanced degrees, such as in law or psychology. These careers may involve policing, the courts, corrections, criminal defense, private security, and investigations. Examples of careers open to students who major in criminology and criminal justice as an undergraduate are:

  • Criminologist
  • Police officer
  • Corrections officer
  • Probation officer
  • Detective
  • Crime lab operator
  • Corrections officer
  • Detective
  • Court Reporter
  • Paralegal
  • Criminal Defense Attorney (with law degree)
  • Prosecutor (assistant District Attorney, assistant U.S. Attorney, all with law degree).
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