Florida contains some of the most dangerous cities in the United States. But Florida also has a secret weapon against rising crime: Some of the most prestigious and top-ranked criminology programs in the country. The 2014 College Board's "Book of Majors" reports seven Florida universities offering bachelor's degrees in criminology. What sets Florida apart is that three state schools -- which offer the full range of bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees -- all rank in the top 25 criminology schools on the esteemed U.S. News and World Reports rankings. Similarly, the four private colleges that offer undergraduate degrees in criminology provide tremendous opportunities for education and work experience.

Florida State University

Florida State University, located in Tallahassee, boasts a separate college of criminology and criminal justice, a rare find in higher education. Students can earn a bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree from this thriving and flexible program. Both online and campus-based master's degrees are granted. The faculty is highly regarded in academic circles. For instance, two of the top ranked U.S. criminologists are faculty members at FSU. The college faculty is also ranked first for scholarly productivity, according to the Journal of Criminal Justice Education.

University of Florida

Moving southeast, University of Florida is located in Gainesville. It offers a bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees out of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. A unique aspect of the program is its emphasis on law. This means students spend more time taking courses like criminal law, law and society, law enforcement, juvenile law or psychology and law. Because of its emphasis on the legal aspects of criminology, the university says its students often pursue careers within criminal or juvenile justice systems.

University of South Florida

Located in the idyllic city of Tampa, University of South Florida established its criminology department in 1972. Housed within the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, this separate department awards undergraduate, master's and doctorate degrees in criminology. It also grants a master's in criminal justice administration. Similar to Florida State, the faculty at University of South Florida are known for their research. According to the Journal of Criminal Justice Education, the faculty ranked seventh in the nation in scholarly publications. The department also maintains a wall of fame where faculty, alumni and ambassadors are honored. Undergraduate teaching awards are prevalent.

Independent Colleges and Universities

The University of Miami, Florida Southern, Barry University and University of Tampa all offer undergraduate majors in criminology. The University of Miami has a separate department devoted to criminology and criminal justice and offers a bachelor's of science in the field. The department has a tradition of experiential learning and runs comparative summer studies programs in countries throughout Europe. Internships are offered prior to graduation, including an FBI mentoring program. Florida Southern offers a criminology major within social sciences. Students can study abroad and participate in internships. At Florida Southern, students have the opportunity to conduct their own criminology research study. Barry University houses criminology and sociology in a combined department. With a focus on teaching, their class sizes are limited to 20 students. University of Tampa offers a separate department in criminology and criminal justice. Its graduates can earn a B.S. in criminology or a minor, or choose from additional programs in forensics or pre-law.

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