Criminal Justice Financial Aid Advice

Let’s face it: paying for your criminal justice degree can be expensive. If you’re looking for financial aid to help pay for your degree in criminal justice, it’s essential that you look into all possible sources.

Where to Start

As with any discipline, the place to start your criminal justice financial aid search is with the federal government. First of all, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA in order to determine the types and amount of federal aid for which you qualify. Federal aid includes grants, work-study awards, and loans. It’s also the largest single source of available aid. To get your share, complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 of the year in which you intend to enroll.

After you have filed the FAFSA, it’s time to look into grants and scholarships, especially those earmarked for criminal justice students. Online scholarship search engines abound and can often provide details on scholarships about which you may not be aware. Also try entering terms such as “criminal justice scholarships” or “criminal justice awards” into a search engine, such as Google. This is a particularly good way to gain an overview of the many school-sponsored awards for which you may qualify.


Indeed, a number of criminal justice and criminology programs award merit-based scholarships to their most promising college and graduate students. Once you have compiled your list of target criminal justice schools, look into the availability of scholarship money at each. As you identify potential opportunities, make note of all scholarship application deadlines. Also, remember that you may need to apply separately for award consideration. Every criminal justice program determines its own policy for awarding aid, be it merit-based or need-based in nature.

Additional Sources of Aid

In light of recent national and local emphasis on homeland security and public safety, it may also pay off to research sources of financial aid for criminal justice majors in your local community. Towns and municipalities have a vested interest in encouraging the study of criminal justice. After all, it is criminal justice grads who will eventually fill important positions in police departments, courts, and other institutions.

Graduate School Financial Aid

At the graduate level, fellowships and assistantships are the most common forms of financial aid. Such awards may or may not require a work commitment on your part, whether serving as a teaching assistant in an undergraduate criminology course or helping out a professor with a research project. In addition to recognition in the form of funding (often tuition remission and/or a stipend), fellowships and assistantships can provide invaluable experience that looks great on your resume when you apply for that first criminal justice position.

When seeking financial aid for your criminal justice degree, the most important piece of advice is to begin your search as well in advance as possible. Financial aid for criminal justice majors is out there, but it takes a bit of work to find it, especially if you have set your sights on a scholarship. Good luck!