Best Online Bachelor’s in Law Enforcement Degree Programs
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Part of the broader criminal justice system, law enforcement includes professionals that safeguard our communities through policing and correctional services. An online bachelor's program in law enforcement can prepare students with the skills necessary to ensure public safety while upholding the law. Earning this degree offers greater advancement opportunities, increased earning potential, and a wider range of potential career paths for professionals.
Graduates can pursue careers in numerous areas of law enforcement, including police departments, federal and state agencies, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. According to PayScale, individuals with a bachelor's degree in law enforcement earned an average annual salary of $61,000.
Most online bachelor's in law enforcement programs take about four years to complete. However, some online programs offer accelerated tracks, which can reduce the completion time. Tuition costs vary by type of school and a student's resident status and average $285-$460 per credit.
What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Program?
Many professionals in law enforcement have a strong sense of justice and call to duty. Some graduates put their lives on the line to serve their communities. People who succeed in this profession often possess empathy, mental agility, and the ability to diffuse conflict.
Some programs offer a concentration in law enforcement under the broader major of criminal justice. Additional specializations include crime scene investigation, homeland security, emergency management, cybercrime, and corrections. These concentrations enable students to develop specialized skills and direct their education toward their career goals.
Most online bachelor's in law enforcement programs require 120 credits and take four years of full-time study to complete. Some online programs offer accelerated options that can reduce completion times. Many schools also offer part-time enrollment for professionals in the field pursuing a degree for career advancement.
Most programs also require or offer optional internships. Interns may complete hours of service in a criminal justice setting or gain experience with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), or local law enforcement agencies.
Many online bachelor's in law enforcement programs culminate in capstone projects. Additionally, some schools gear their law enforcement program toward licensed police officers with several years of experience.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Program?
Law Enforcement Leadership
This course introduces students to teambuilding and the responsibilities of supervisors in a law enforcement agency. Covered topics include motivation, coaching, working with difficult people, and conflict resolution.
Introduction to Criminology
This class explores criminal behavior and the possible causes. Students learn theoretical and rational explanations in order to examine the nature of crime. Additional topics include the role research plays in a criminal investigation.
Criminal Investigation and Forensics
This course addresses the fundamentals of criminal investigations. Students learn about evidence and the proper collection and preservation techniques, as well as the processes involved in making reports and statements, as well as collecting physical evidence.
This course focuses on collecting and analyzing data from various sources to predict and prevent future criminal activity. Students explore the different methods of data collection and the process of forming a crime analysis unit.
Ethical Decision Making
This course explores the ethical decisions police officers face daily. Covered topics include unquestioned assumptions, morality, the law regarding ethical violation, and prevention strategies.
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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Program?
While programs vary, most on-campus and online bachelor's in law enforcement programs maintain similar admission requirements. Some programs require some experience in the field, a certain number of transferable credits, and completed prerequisite coursework. The following represent typical admission requirements.
Previously, most schools requested that students send their applications through the institution's website or online portal. Today, many colleges and universities utilize platforms that allow students to send one application to multiple schools. Many institutions also accept paper applications. Because the application process varies, make sure to check with each school.
While some schools request SAT or ACT scores, many online bachelor's in law enforcement programs do not require students to take standardized tests for admission purposes. Instead, some request them for proper placement in English and mathematics courses. When optional, students should consider whether their scores enhance their application.
Letters of Recommendation
Many schools require 2-3 letters of recommendation. These references should come from high school guidance counselors, teachers, or employers who can attest to a student's academic achievements or work ethic. Make sure to ask for letters of recommendation early to ensure they arrive before the application deadline.
Most schools require students to write an essay or personal statement. These documents allow colleges to get to know students and provide a more holistic approach to admissions. Schools may ask specific questions for students to answer in their essays. Generally, students discuss their interest in law enforcement and career objectives, as well as how the program facilitates these aspirations.
All programs require official high school transcripts or GED scores. Generally, schools require a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0, while more competitive programs may prefer a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Most programs also accept transfer credits, with some accepting up to 90 credits, significantly reducing costs and degree completion time.
What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Degree?
An online bachelor's in law enforcement program can prepare students to work at numerous law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the FBI, and the DEA.
Graduates may pursue roles as police officers at the national, state, county, or local level. With work experience, degree-holders can advance up the ranks to detective, sergeant, and captain. Others go on to work as federal agents, fish and game wardens, or probation officers.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) projects 7% job growth for police and detectives between 2020 and 2030, resulting in about 67,100 job openings each year. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $67,290 in May 2020.
If you're still uncertain about your career goals, take a look at the most popular college majors.
Police officers protect the lives and property of the people in the communities they serve. Most patrol their area, respond to calls for assistance, and investigate crime scenes. While not always required, a significant number of applicants hold college degrees, and all must complete police academy training. Officers at the federal level must hold bachelor's degrees.
Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $67,290
A probation officer supervises criminal offenders as part of their release process. They may monitor their location, recommend social service or rehabilitation programs, and conduct drug tests. Typical duties include assessing a probationer's progress, finding job training and housing resources, and testifying in court.
Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $55,690
Fish and Game Warden
Fish and game wardens work for state and federal agencies. These law enforcement officials protect and conserve wildlife and fish by patrolling areas and enforcing regulations. Their tasks may include educating the public, tracking poachers, performing search and rescue operations, and investigating accidents. They typically work in natural settings that may require navigating challenging terrain.
Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $58,040
Detectives gather evidence to solve or prevent crimes. They may utilize informants, surveillance, interviews, and interrogations to help develop a case and gather enough evidence to support arrests. Some specialize in homicide, narcotics, or cybercrime. Those with additional education and experience as patrol officers may have greater promotion opportunities within the detective profession.
Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $86,940
Crime analysts analyze data, including arrest records, crime reports, and police calls to establish patterns, and anticipate and prevent future crimes. They compile this data into reports to provide crime intelligence to law enforcement officers. Some employers may require applicants to be certified law enforcement analysts or criminal intelligence certified analysts. Professionals can achieve these titles via national certification.
Average Annual Salary (August 2021): $47,790
Law Enforcement Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.
While earning a bachelor's degree and gaining work experience qualify candidates for many roles in law enforcement, some professionals continue their education. A master's degree program can provide specialized knowledge in a field of interest and prepare graduates for leadership roles in that area.
Some common graduate degrees for law enforcement professionals include master's degrees in law enforcement administration, criminal justice, emergency management, and law enforcement intelligence and analysis. These graduate degrees can lead to advancement opportunities and greater earning potential. Additionally, some employers, particularly at the federal level, prefer candidates with higher degrees.
How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Program?
Tuition costs for an online bachelor's in law enforcement program typically range from $285-$460 per credit. In-state students attending public colleges usually pay lower fees, while private universities tend to charge more. However, some online programs charge students in-state tuition. Additionally, some programs offer fraternal order of police and active duty service member discounts.
Many online bachelor's in law enforcement programs are geared toward working professionals and offer fully online asynchronous classes. Unlike asynchronous courses, synchronous learning requires students to attend lectures and classes at specific times. Other programs have part-time and accelerated options for busy students. And some schools offer hybrid learning formats, which require online and in-person commitments.
Location can make a difference, even for those pursuing an online vs. on-campus degree. Some schools offer significant tuition discounts for in-state online students. Additionally, some programs have on-campus requirements, even though the majority of coursework is completed online. While most schools allow learners to complete their internships locally, some request students complete these experiences on-campus or near the school.
Proper accreditation ensures that a school adheres to the highest educational standards. Generally, look for programs in law enforcement from schools that hold regional accreditation. In addition to academic standards, regional accreditation ensures that other schools accept transfer credits. Currently, there is no widely-recognized programmatic accreditation for bachelor's in law enforcement programs.
Many online bachelor's in law enforcement programs offer similar student support services for campus-based and online students. Look for programs that provide free online tutoring and career services assistance. Some programs also assign students advisors that can support you until graduation. Also, look for colleges with mentorship programs and assistance for internship placements.
Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Programs
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Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Programs
Is a bachelor's in law enforcement worth it?
Today, approximately 30% of police officers in the U.S. hold bachelor's degrees, and over half have associate degrees. As policing strategies become more complex, trends indicate more officers will possess bachelor's degrees. In California, legislation is in the works to require law enforcement officials be a certain age or have a bachelor's degree.
Cal Matters reports that officers with bachelor's degrees receive fewer disciplinary actions and use lower levels of force. An on-campus or online bachelor's program is highly recommended for officers interested in advancing their careers and increasing their earning potential. Additionally, those looking to pursue positions in the federal government need at least a bachelor's degree.
What can I do with a bachelor's in law enforcement?
Graduates with a bachelor's in law enforcement can pursue many different law enforcement positions in multiple agencies. A few of the many organizations that hire those with undergraduate degrees include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Border Patrol, and the U.S. Secret Service.
Graduates can also become police officers at the national, state, county, and local levels. Others find careers as fish and game wardens, FBI and DEA agents, detectives, federal air marshals, and probation officers. Some become secret service agents who protect government officials.
Are law enforcement majors in demand?
Due to the vast nature of the criminal justice system, law enforcement majors may find varying levels of demand for different positions. The BLS projects 7% job growth for police officers between 2020 and 2030. This growth is about as fast as average for all occupations and amounts to 67,100 job openings every year.
Demand also varies by state. For example, California employs 74,310 police and sheriff's patrol officers, the largest number in the nation. Texas comes in second with 57,830 professionals, and New York follows with 55,590 of these workers.
How much money can I make with a bachelor's in law enforcement?
Salaries vary based on position, employer, experience level, and location. For example, the BLS reports that police and sheriff's patrol officers earned a median annual wage of $65,540 in May 2020, whereas transit and railroad police earned $72,580.
Of course, degree-holders pursue many other careers in law enforcement. Examples include fish and game wardens who earn a median annual salary of $58,040 in May 2020 and probation officers and correctional treatment specialists who made $55,690 during the same period.
What are the highest paying jobs with a bachelor's in law enforcement?
The highest-paying jobs for those with a bachelor's in law enforcement usually require some experience in the field. These include detectives and criminal investigators who earned a median annual wage of $86,940 in May 2020, according to the BLS. Detectives who work for the federal government boast even higher earnings, with an average annual salary of $111,880 during the same period. Those employed in California also receive higher incomes, with an average yearly wage of $111,480.
PayScale reports that FBI agents earned an average yearly salary of $65,690 in October 2021. The top 10% made over $100,000 per year.