9 Best Criminal Justice Schools in Tennessee

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If you have a passion for justice, law, and order, you should consider a career in criminal justice.

Some people choose this field because they want to uphold the law or see that their community is safe.

Others want to advocate for those within the justice system and work with them to improve their lives.

1 Middle Tennessee State University


Middle Tennessee State University, also known as MTSU, offers more than 300 degree programs.

Their slogan is, “I am true blue”.

This stands for the values of the college, which include learning, growth, and service.

Courses Offered/Program Name

MTSU offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration.

You can choose from concentrations in law enforcement, homeland security, or emergency management.

This allows you to study for the specific field you plan on entering after graduation.

You’ll also participate in an internship during your senior year.

MTSU offers internships in 40 agencies, including the district attorney’s office, public defender’s office, courts, and police departments.

This provides you with invaluable real-world experience in your new career.

The program was named one of the 50 Best Online Bachelor of Criminal Justice Degree Programs.

Contact Information

  • Address: MTSU Box 238, 1301 East Main Street, Murfreesboro, TN 37132
  • Phone: (615) 898-2300
  • Website: Visit School Website

2 University of Tennessee Knoxville


The University of Tennessee Knoxville focuses on providing an education for students who are economically disadvantaged.

In fact, 93% of first-year students of first-year students get some type of scholarship or financial aid.

UT Knoxville is the flagship college of the University of Tennessee, and a part of the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.

This program allows students to begin their education at a community college, and then transfer to a four-year institution.

Courses Offered/Program Name

The University of Tennessee Knoxville offers a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a concentration in criminal justice.

Students can also major in criminal justice for their master’s or doctorate degree.

UT Knoxville takes a humanities-focused approach to criminal justice.

The goal of the program is to provide an understanding of crime and crime control, the democratization of the criminal justice system, and the humane treatment of those in the system.

You’ll learn how crime is defined socially, the relationship between societal pressure and criminal law, and the factors that affect criminal behavior.

While it’s not part of the criminal justice concentration, UT Knoxville is famous for its for it’s “body farm”.

The forensic anthropology department uses donated bodies to study decomposition in different conditions and to train anthropologists and forensic investigators.

Contact Information

  • Address: 1502 Cumberland Ave. Suite 282. Knoxville, TN
  • Phone: 865-974-1000
  • Website: Visit School Website

3 University of Memphis


The University of Memphis has more than 40 programs that are nationally ranked.

You can choose from more than 200 [programs of study.

The student population is very diverse, with 88 countries being represented by the student body.

Courses Offered/Program Name

The University of Memphis offers a degree from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Honors College, and a Master of Arts in the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy.

The university focuses on research, community outreach, and crime prevention.

You’ll learn the causes of crime, intervention strategies, and issues that relate to social justice.

Contact Information

  • Address: 101 Wilder Tower, Memphis, TN 38152-3520
  • Phone: 901-678-2000
  • Website: Visit School Website

4 Bethel University


Bethel University is a Christian college.

The private not for profit school was founded in 1842.

It was originally called  Bethel Seminary.

Bethel is affiliated with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Courses Offered/Program Name

Bethel offers several criminal justice programs.

You can earn an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, and a professional certificate.

The college uses Christian teachings of forgiveness and compassion as the basis, and focuses on understanding the reasons for crime, how to prevent it, and how to support individuals in the justice system.

The programs can prepare you to enter law enforcement, become a private detective, or probation officer, or perform community outreach.

Courses include Criminal Law and Procedure in America, Sociocultural Theory, and Christianity in Western Culture.

You’ll spend 4 years at Bethel to get your bachelor’s degree, which requires 123 to 127 credit hours.

An associate’s degree takes 2 years to complete and requires 60 credit hours.

You can choose to take courses on campus or online.

Contact Information

5 East Tennessee State University


East Tennessee State University has a thriving on-campus life.

You’ll find more than 240 student organizations, sports, and fraternities.

These experiences can help shape who you become.

Student support resources include both academic and personal support.

Services include counseling, physical activity center, and health services.

Courses Offered/Program Name

You can choose to pursue a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in Social & Behavioral Science.

You can also earn your Master’s in Criminal Justice on campus in the evening.

You can also take the program online.

The Graduate Certificate in Forensic Document Examination is the only program of its kind in the country.

Contact Information

  • Address: 1276 Gilbreath Dr., Box 70300, Johnson City, TN
  • Phone: 423-439-5346
  • Website: Visit School Website

6 Austin Peay


Austin Peay State University, also known as APSU, offers the options of a large school with the feel and class sizes of a small school.

You’ll develop close relationships with other students, and your professors.

Austin Peay is in Clarksville, which is 2019’s Best Place to Live in America, according to Money magazine.

Courses Offered/Program Name

Austin Peay offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.

The program features experienced faculty, including military officials from Ft. Campbell, and academic scholars in the fields of criminology, political science, psychology, and law.

APSU offers two options.

You can attend classes on campus or online.

On-campus classes follow a traditional 16-week format, while online classes are provided in an 8-week format.

The Department of Criminal Justice sponsors the Phi Kappa Chapter of the Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honor Society.

The Phi Kappa Chapter works to promote academic excellence, community service, and educational leadership.

Contact Information

  • Address: 601 College Street, Clarksville, TN 37044
  • Phone: 931-221-7011
  • Website: Visit School Website

7 Cumberland University


Cumberland University is a private liberal arts university located near Nashville, TN.

The college values diversity and inclusion.

Cumberland does community outreach to give back to local residents.

The school offers undergraduate, graduate, and online programs.

Courses Offered/Program Name

Cumberland University offers two options for students interested in criminal justice.

You can get an Associate of Arts degree in Criminal Justice. This program takes 2 years to complete and requires 60 credit hours.

Upon completing the program, you’ll be ready for an entry-level position in criminal justice.

You can also choose to continue your education.

The other option is a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Academy.

You’ll take general education requirements, including English and Natural Sciences.

Criminal Justice requirements include corrections, policing in diverse cultures, and forensic science.

You’ll choose criminal justice electives and social science electives as well.

You’ll have 12 credit hours of  Law Enforcement Academy as part of your degree as well.

Contact Information

  • Address: 1 Cumberland Square, Lebanon, TN 37087-3408
  • Phone: 615-444-2562
  • Website: Visit School Website

8 Cleveland State University


Cleveland State Community College is a public accredited community college.

They currently have 3,500 students who are credit students, and 1,500 non-credit students.

The campus has 105 acres and features modern classrooms, laboratories, and a stunning library.

Cleveland State is located at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.

Courses Offered/Program Name

Cleveland State Community College offers an Associate of Science degree in Criminal Justice.

This degree is designed to transfer to a four-year college, so you can pursue a bachelor’s degree after graduation.

Required courses include Criminal Law, Correctional Issues, Introduction to Sociology, and Legal Issues in Investigations.

You’ll also need general education classes.

These include composition, Literature, and Natural or Physical Science.

Contact Information

9 Tennessee State University


Tennessee State University is renowned as a research institution.

They’ve received 100 million in funding.

Their motto is “Think. Work. Serve”.

The main campus is located on 500 acres in Nashville.

The secondary campus is in the downtown district.

Courses Offered/Program Name

Tennessee State University has one of the largest criminal justice programs in the nation, with 350 students.

You can choose a bachelor of science in criminal justice or a Master’s degree in Criminal justice.

Courses include Police Science, Social Science, Psychology, Sociology, and Law.

Students receive a well-rounded education in criminal justice, including how the justice system works, and what motivates individuals to commit crimes.

Contact Information

  • Address: 3500 John A. Merritt Boulevard, Nashville, TN 37209
  • Phone: 615-963-5571
  • Website: Visit School Website

Schools Summary Table

Rank School
#1 Middle Tennessee State University
#2 University of Tennessee Knoxville
#3 University of Memphis
#4 Bethel University
#5 East Tennessee State University
#6 Austin Peay
#7 Cumberland University
#8 Cleveland State University
#9 Tennessee State University

Criminal Justice Salary Information

How much you earn in the criminal justice field will vary based on several factors.

Your education and experience play a critical role.

The average salary for criminal justice professionals in Tennessee is $42,980 a year.

Lower-paying positions typically begin at about $41,000 per year.

High-paying criminal justice jobs can pay as much as $110,000.

Your pay is also impacted by the particular area of criminal justice you choose to go into.

A criminal justice specialist has an average salary of $46,000 per year, with salaries ranging from $39,142 to $56,130.

Criminal justice professionals employed by the government make an average of $41,000.

Criminal justice social workers earn $36,000 to $55,000 per year.

Annual Salary Range:
Item Percent

Average Salary in Tennessee

City Name Salary
Memphis $70,650
Nashville $71,080
Knoxville $69,949
Chattanooga $68,736
Clarksville $69,247
Murfreesboro $70,547
Jackson $70,117
Johnson City $66,353
Kingsport $66,602
Franklin $70,832

Regional Salary

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Chattanooga, TN-GA150$73,220$35.2$133,680$45,290
Clarksville, TN-KY40$66,890$32.16$117,960$48,260
Jackson, TN70$67,440$32.43$118,620$41,090
Johnson City, TN60$69,230$33.28$137,610$32,630
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA60$78,960$37.96$137,610$49,940
Knoxville, TN220$74,860$35.99$141,540$42,070
Memphis, TN-MS-AR270$82,950$39.88$137,610$40,340
Morristown, TN40$55,580$26.72$78,030$46,920
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN680$80,800$38.85$145,480$48,520
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Detectives and Criminal Investigators, OCC Code 33-3021, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Criminal Justice Schools by State

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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