From investigating cases to helping probationers get back on their feet, a degree in law enforcement prepares you to help serve and protect every element of society. Studies have shown earning a college degree have a positive impact on law enforcement officer performance, and as technology rapidly advances, a host of new security threats advance with it, making a relevant degree in the sector more useful than ever. As a college-educated law enforcement professional, you enjoy more possibilities, benefit from a greater earning potential, and are best positioned for changes in the field.
What are the best law enforcement programs of 2020? Here are our top 5:
|1||University of Wisconsin Whitewater||Whitewater, WI|
|2||Eastern Kentucky University||Richmond, KY|
|3||Metropolitan State University||Saint Paul, MN|
|4||Tiffin University||Tiffin, OH|
|5||Baker College||Flint, MI|
Currently, most departments do not require entry-level officers to hold a degree, but many require some form of college coursework. As degrees become more commonplace, the need for law enforcement officers is likely to increase over time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in law enforcement are expected to grow 4% between 2014 and 2024.
Choosing a Program
DO I NEED PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET IN?
Students without related work experience are in luck: most online bachelor's in law enforcement programs do not require any previous work experience.
CAN I WORK WHILE I COMPLETE MY ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN LAW ENFORCEMENT?
Typically, online bachelor's in law enforcement programs allow you to hold a job while you're in school. If you're working full-time, however, you may need to take a lighter course load, causing you to take longer to earn your degree.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO EARNING MY MASTER'S IN LAW ENFORCEMENT ONLINE?
There are several advantages to online bachelor's programs versus their traditional on-campus counterparts. Online programs offer more flexibility and convenience for people with busy lives, allowing you to log into programs any time of the week. Tuition for online programs is also frequently less than that of on-campus programs, and you don't have to move away to be closer to a school or make time to commute to campus.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN LAW ENFORCEMENT PROGRAMS?
University of Wisconsin Whitewater
|Whitewater, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
UW-Whitewater offers a comprehensive selection of more than 40 online programs, including a law enforcement bachelor's degree completion program. Prospective students may "test drive" an online course for free before enrolling.
This hybrid bachelor's in law enforcement emphasizes communication, critical thinking, and analytical reasoning skills. The curriculum includes a major in criminology; students complete 36 major-related credits, exploring topics such as the U.S. correctional system, criminality and victimization, and key stages of the criminal justice system. Learners take online, hybrid, and face-to-face evening/weekend courses.
Participants who take courses year round can graduate in three years. Applicants must have an associate degree with a minimum 2.0 GPA and at least three years of work experience. The program prefers applicants who earned their associate degrees at UW-Whitewater.
Eastern Kentucky University
|Richmond, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
EKU offers more than 40 online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs. A provider of law enforcement education for over 30 years, the university also oversees one of the only police studies programs in the United States.
The online bachelor's in police studies program at EKU is suitable for current and aspiring police officers and law enforcement professionals. The 120-credit curriculum includes coursework in crime patterns, contemporary policing strategies, and technology and ethics. Students complete courses in accelerated, eight-week terms.
EKU maintains a generous transfer credit policy, accepting up to 90 transfer credits based on previous experience. Students can enter the program at one of six start dates per year. EKU charges all online learners the same per-credit tuition rate, regardless of residency.
Metropolitan State University
|Saint Paul, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
Metropolitan State serves more than 9,000 students through four physical campuses and an online division, which offers an online bachelor's in law enforcement with a track specifically designed for licensed peace officers.
The program's 120-credit curriculum includes courses like police culture, diversity in criminal justice, and criminology and public policy. Law enforcement students must complete at least 24 major credits in residence at Metropolitan State.
Applicants must complete at least 30 prerequisite credits and maintain a minimum 2.25 GPA to qualify. Metropolitan State accepts applications on a rolling basis and admits students throughout the year. Learners pay the same per-credit tuition rate for online courses, regardless of residency.
|Tiffin, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
Based in northern Ohio, TU operates multiple campuses throughout the state, a satellite location in Romania, and an online division that offers nearly a dozen programs. The university serves over 4,000 students.
TU's online bachelor's degree in law enforcement explores the political process, behavioral sciences, and law. The online program delivers classes through two terms per semester, and students complete a total of 121 credits. TU offers six start dates per year in January, March, May, July, August, and October.
TU does not charge an application fee for prospective students. The university also uses a generous transfer credit policy and offers tuition discounts to military students and members of the Fraternal Order of Police. Students pay the same per-credit tuition rate for online undergraduate coursework no matter where they live.
|Flint, MI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 19%||
Based in Flint, Michigan, Baker began offering online programs in 1996. The college now oversees more than 50 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs across eight academic schools.
Baker's online bachelor's degree in criminal justice features a concentration in law enforcement. Students complete core courses in ethics, criminal justice, and societal duty. The curriculum also includes 12 credits of police academy training.
Program graduates qualify for jobs within federal agencies like the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Baker charges all students the same per-credit tuition rate for online undergraduate coursework, regardless of residency.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Program?
Below, you'll find plenty of information on what you'll learn, how long your degree will take to earn, how programs are accredited, what to expect after you graduate, and how you'll pay for your degree. Keep in mind that details may vary depending on the particular online degree in law enforcement program.
COURSEWORK FOR AN ONLINE LAW ENFORCEMENT DEGREE
Curricula vary by school. Typically, however, the best online bachelor's in law enforcement programs contain coursework such as the following:
- Introduction to Criminal Justice: Providing a broad survey of the field of criminal justice and the careers paths you can take, this is typically the first course you'll take as part of your major. Introduction to Criminal Justice may include the history of law enforcement, the role of police in society, and how police, courts, trials, and corrections operate.
- Ethics in Law Enforcement: Future law enforcement professionals must abide by strict moral and ethical guidelines. As a result, most programs require a course where students study the theories, applications, and methods of ethics in police work. Courses like this often includes a look at how race, class, and gender factor into police work.
- Criminal Law: Most programs require students to take at least one course on the fundamentals of criminal law, particularly issues that are relevant to law enforcement professionals. Such courses generally feature an overview of constitutional law and how it relates to the everyday work of police. These courses survey topics such as the basics of evidence collection and preservation, and criminal law procedures.
- Police Strategies: Law enforcement professionals use several fundamental elements to combat crime, and you'll likely take a course that reviews and analyzes these strategies. This course may include a look at how police strategies have changed over time and how they may change in the future. Course topics may include community policing, prevention, patrol strategies, police reform, and intervention.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN LAW ENFORCEMENT?
Generally, online bachelor's degrees in law enforcement programs consist of 120 semester credits. How long your degree will take you will depend on several factors. Full-time, entering freshman can complete a degree in about four years. Some programs offer accelerated formats, wherein you can complete your degree in less than four years. Most programs feature summer courses, which can also cut down on the time it takes you to earn your degree. Some programs allow you to learn at your own pace, and others require that you complete all classes in a cohort of other students, often at an accelerated pace. Others still are only open to students with transferable credits, so the program can be completed in even less time.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Programs
One of the most important things to look for when you're choosing an online degree in law enforcement program is whether or not the program is accredited, and what type of accreditation the program holds. Accreditation is a process colleges and universities go through to ensure that they meet certain standards for education quality. Most colleges and universities in the United States hold regional accreditation. A much smaller percentage of colleges are nationally accredited. The difference is important: regionally accredited schools tend to have more prestige because they're the best recognized. It's also easier to transfer credits from a regionally accredited college. However, regionally accredited colleges also tend to be more expensive and have more rigorous admissions and academic standards than nationally accredited colleges. Regional accreditation agencies include MSA, NEASC, NCA, NAC, SACS and WASC. National accreditation agencies include DETC, ACICS, and ACCSC.
Several different organizations are involved in accreditation. The United States Department of Education (ED) does not itself accredit colleges and universities, but the ED does recognize and offer guidance to independent accrediting agencies. The ED also publishes a database of the accrediting agencies they deem to be reliable authorities.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is an independent, nongovernmental organization that recognizes 60 accrediting organizations and about 3,000 colleges and universities. The accrediting organizations recognized by CHEA are assured of their quality and legitimacy as degree-granting institutions. You can find a directory of accredited schools on the websites of both the DOE and CHEA.
Employment Outlook for Law Enforcement Graduates
A bachelor's degree in law enforcement is an asset in the job application process. Some agencies even require it: federal agencies like the FBI, the DEA, and ICE all require applicants to hold a college degree. Some state police and local agencies may also require a degree. Agencies that do not require a degree often encourage one, and a degree often gives a candidate a significant advantage in the application process. A bachelor's degree is also often a requirement for promotions.
In many departments, police officers with bachelor's degree earn a higher salary from the start. Below, you'll find a look at the starting salaries of some major police departments across the United States:
|Department||Annual Pay, with degree||Annual Pay, without degree|
|Dallas Police Department||$46,870||$50,470|
|Los Angeles Police Department||$67,505||$70,136|
|Atlanta Police Department||$40,000||$42,800|
|Orlando Police Department||$48,276||$50,121|
|New Orleans Police Department||$40,391||$42,391|
CAREERS AND SALARIES
With a bachelor's degree in law enforcement, graduates are prepared for entry-level positions at local, state, and federal departments and agencies. While policing remains the most popular career path, graduates also pursue career paths in areas such as probation, corrections, and emergency management. Individuals hoping to pursue a career in law enforcement must be inquisitive and empathetic, must display strong communication and leadership skills, and must nurture a solid sense of judgment. Anyone intending to pursue law enforcement should also be in good physical shape. Law enforcement professionals must also work long, odd hours, so an expectation of flexibility is key.
- Police Officer
Police officers enforce the law and help protect people and property. For example, they may respond to calls, patrol neighborhoods, conduct traffic stops, and monitor suspects.
Median Annual Salary $59,680
Projected Growth Rate 4%
Detectives are tasked with, for example, collecting evidence, gathering facts, conducting interviews with witnesses and suspects, observing suspects, and examining records.
Median Annual Salary $78,120
Projected Growth Rate -1%
Bailiffs work in courtrooms to maintain safety, security, and order. They enforce the rules of the court, announce the arrival and close of the court, and may administer oaths and perform other administrative duties.
Median Annual Salary $42,820
Projected Growth Rate 4%
- Emergency Dispatcher
Emergency dispatchers answer 911 calls and other emergency and non-emergency services. They relay information to appropriate agencies; monitor, track, and coordinate dispatch; and provide basic advice and medical instructions to callers.
Median Annual Salary $38,870
Projected Growth Rate -3%
- Probation Officer
Probation officers work with people on probation with the goal of preventing them from committing crimes in the future. They evaluate and monitor probationers and help them access resources like job training and substance abuse counseling.
Median Annual Salary $50,160
Projected Growth Rate 4%
There are a few major professional organizations for law enforcement students that offer a number of excellent opportunities for students. Networking, conferences, career enhancement programs, subscriptions to journals and other publications, job interviews, and online job boards are just some of the benefits these organizations provide students and recent graduates.
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Program
Most bachelor's degree students need help paying for college. Federal loans, private loans, scholarships, grants and work-study jobs are some of the most common ways to make college affordable. Loans provided by the government may be subsidized, with the government paying some of the interest on the loan, or unsubsidized, where the student pays the interest. Filling out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in this process.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.