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Degrees of Tomorrow: Public Policy & Criminal Justice

The fields of public policy and criminal justice are constantly evolving. The implementation of new laws, concerns surrounding racial justice, and ever-changing campaign regulations make staying abreast of these fields a true challenge.

Public policy degrees will focus on the analysis and evaluation of government and non-government organizations, the political process, and society’s response. Criminal justice, on the other hand, is the study of the laws already in place, how they are applied, and how they are enforced. Both degrees can examine how political, economic, and cultural patterns affect the application of laws and the implications of bias.

Aspiring professionals in these fields will need future-proof degrees to adequately prepare them for long-term work. Here are some of the degrees of tomorrow in public policy and criminal justice that get students started in these exciting careers.

Online Degrees in Public Policy

Students who want to get involved in the political process and help create programs to bring about change can earn a degree in public policy. Public policy majors are the ultimate big picture problem solvers. Working in this field involves tackling the biggest societal issues from a legislative and legal standpoint.

Degrees are offered at all levels, from bachelor’s through PhD. Graduates of public policy programs work at all levels of government, at non-profits, for political candidates, and in consulting. Jobs students can pursue with this degree include economist, sociologist, lawyer, and more. The highest demand for public policy majors currently are as market researchers and non-profit program directors, according to (2022).

Oregon State University (BS in Public Policy)

The online bachelor’s of science in public policy at Oregon State University is a four-year program that prepares graduates for a career working in politics. This degree combines economics, sociology, and political science to provide students with an interdisciplinary education. There is a strong emphasis on learning how to collaboratively solve problems and understanding the nuances behind every issue.

  • Cost: $346 per credit

Northwestern University (Master’s of Public Policy and Administration)

Northwestern University’s online master’s of public policy and administration provides students with the analytical, leadership, and administrative skills to excel in a career in public policy.

Graduates are prepared to work on either the analysis or administrative side of this field with classes such as statistics for research, theory of public policy, and ethics and leadership. Woven throughout this program is an understanding that policies change, and professionals in this field must be flexible and open to new interpretations.

  • Cost: $3,698 per course

Online Degrees in Environmental Policy

A specialization within public policy that is receiving a lot of attention is environmental policy. Climate change is deeply affecting our planet, and it is critical to implement policy changes that will help slow, stop, and eventually reverse the negative impact humans have had on the planet.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) estimates an 8 percent growth in job openings for environmental scientists and specialists nationally between 2020 and 2030, which is on par with the national average. While most professionals in this field work in consulting services, a large number work in local, state, and federal government.

Purdue Global (BS in Environmental Policy and Management)

The four-year online bachelor’s of science in environmental policy and management uses case studies and current research to ensure students are up to date with the latest in this field.

Students will learn the environmental policymaking process and develop a working understanding of how policies are implemented and enforced. There is an accelerated bachelor’s to master’s option for students pursuing additional education.

  • Cost: $371 per credit

Everglades University (BS in Environmental Policy and Management)

The Everglades University in Boca Raton, Florida, also offers an online bachelor’s of science in environmental policy and management. Graduates of this program are prepared for entry-level work in environmental policy and management. The curriculum includes business management, environmental policy, and technical skills that are critical to this career.

  • Cost: $755 per credit

Online Degrees in International Law and Diplomacy

A degree in international law and diplomacy can prepare graduates for any public policy career that requires a thorough understanding of international legal frameworks. Career options for professionals in this field include international lawyers, mediators, and policy analysts. After many years of experience, professionals may advance to roles as international prosecutors, ambassadors, or diplomats.

United Nations Institute for Training and Research (MA in International Law and Diplomacy)

Earning a master’s in international law and diplomacy through the UNITAR is an excellent way to jumpstart a career in this field. This degree is offered in both a completely online and hybrid format allowing for flexibility for students.

Students will analyze all aspects of international law, including armed conflicts, lawmaking, human rights, economic relations, and more.

  • Cost: $13,000 for the entire course

Schiller International University (MA in International Relations and Diplomacy)

Schiller International University offers an online or on-campus master of arts in international relations and diplomacy. This degree can prepare students for careers in foreign service, international business, and government relations. On-campus options are available in Florida, Paris, or Madrid.

Coursework and credits are based on the US educational system, and students must complete at least 36 credits to earn this degree.

  • Cost: $19,080 for the entire course

Online Degrees in Professional Politics

Students who aspire to become politicians or want to work in elected officials’ offices can earn a degree in professional politics. Many of these programs focus on the hands-on skills that are necessary to be successful in this very specialized field. Topics students may cover during their program include lobbying, campaigning, interest group management, public relations, and advocacy.

Georgia State University (MA in Political Science with an Emphasis in Professional Politics)

The online master of arts in political science with an emphasis in professional politics at Georgia State University provides students with the necessary skills to pursue a career in politics or public service.

Only 30 credits are needed to earn this degree, which can be completed in 15 months. Students can complete up to six credits of experiential learning where they complete ten to 15 hours of work a week in this field.

  • Cost: $11,680 per year (Georgia residents); $15,108 (non-residents)

The University of Akron (Master of Applied Politics)

The focus of the online master’s of applied politics at the University of Akron is on giving students the practical skills they need to enter politics. This program is a collaboration between the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics and the University of Akron Political Science Department.

Required classes include the fundamentals of political strategy, fundamentals of electoral messaging, campaign finance, fundraising and budgeting, and voter contact and elections.

  • Cost: $492.10 per credit

Online Degrees in Criminal Justice

While many criminal justice degree holders pursue a career in law enforcement, some graduates may find work in social work, criminology, forensics, and more. According to the BLS (2021), this is a growing field with an anticipated 7 percent increase in jobs for police officers and detectives between 2020 and 2030.

Aspiring criminal justice professionals can enter this field with a high school diploma, although an associate’s or bachelor’s is preferred and often required for career advancement.

Southern New Hampshire University (BS Criminal Justice)

The online bachelor’s of science in criminal justice at Southern New Hampshire University covers current criminology theory, discrete decision making, effective communication strategies, and global trends. Students who already work in law enforcement and have completed training can receive up to 12 transfer credits.

Concentration options include corrections, criminology and crime analysis, cybercrime, homeland security and counterterrorism, human services and advocacy, police administration and operations, security management, and substance abuse.

  • Cost: $320 per credit

California State University, San Bernardino (BA Criminal Justice)

California State University, San Bernardino School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, in partnership with the College of Extended and Global Education, offer a completely online bachelor’s of arts in criminal justice. There is even a Homeland Security Certificate option for students who want to work in that field.

This program takes two years to complete, so applicants must have at least 60 semester-hours (or 90 quarter-hours) of coursework already completed.

  • Cost: $420 per credit

Online Degrees in DNA Analysis

DNA is a critical forensic tool utilized to solve many crimes. Being able to analyze DNA and draw critical conclusions is a skill that is in high demand in this field. Many professionals in this field also have education and training in forensic serology, which is the study of blood at a crime scene.

University of Florida Health (MS in Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences in Forensic DNA & Serology)

Students can gain a strong understanding of blood splatter and DNA analysis through the online master’s of science in pharmacy pharmaceutical sciences in forensic DNA and serology. Most students can complete the required 32 credits in two to three years of part-time study. Classes are offered asynchronously for maximum flexibility.

  • Cost: $575 per credit

University of New Haven (Graduate Certificate in Forensic Genetic Genealogy)

The University of New Haven offers a unique online graduate certificate in forensic genetic genealogy. This 12-credit program covers the skills and knowledge necessary to be able to carry out forensic genealogy investigations.

Students will learn advanced methods to extract and analyze DNA and how to use that information for genealogical investigations. At the end of the course, students will use a mock forensic genetic genealogy case to demonstrate proficiency.

  • Cost: $990 per credit

Online Degrees in Forensic Accounting

In the past 30 years, financial crimes have become a large concern. Everything from fraud to money laundering, insider trading, terrorism financing, and bribery are subject to investigation by forensic accountants. These astute professionals can analyze financial data to determine where and how the crime occurred, and provide prosecutors with the necessary evidence to convict the criminals.

Southern New Hampshire University (BS in Accounting in Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination)

The online undergraduate bachelor’s of science in accounting in forensic accounting and fraud examination at Southern New Hampshire University prepares students to become Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE). Students can even pursue a certified public accountant (CPA) certification with this degree.

This program typically takes four years to complete, although the time required can be reduced by transferring credits from previous institutions. What sets this degree apart from general accounting programs is the strong emphasis on analysis and fraud detection.

  • Cost: $320 per credit

Florida Atlantic University (Master of Accounting in Forensic Accounting)

Aspiring forensic accountants can earn their master’s of accounting in forensic accounting online through Florida Atlantic University. This two-year program is designed for working professionals and can be completed while employed full-time.

While all classes are offered asynchronous, students do have the option of attending live Saturday morning lectures to get a more traditional classroom experience. There is an option to complete this degree in a hybrid or on-campus format as well.

  • Cost: $900 per credit

Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.