Designed to tackle the challenges of leadership and public administration, the best online master's in law enforcement programs prepare students for advanced opportunities in a wide range of law enforcement careers. These multidisciplinary programs cover theories of criminal justice and incident response strategies. Coursework explores real-world case studies and statistical research methods so graduates can approach any situation with critical insight and analysis. Many schools offer specializations in areas such as emergency management, corrections, cyber intelligence, and homeland security. Supervised capstone projects and internships allow students to demonstrate skills gained during their studies.

What are the best law enforcement administration programs of 2020? Here are our top 2:

Rank School Location
1 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
2 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY

Law enforcement professionals with advanced degrees earn introductory salaries ranging from $60,00 to $84,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even experienced enforcement professionals can enhance their job prospects by earning a master's degree in law enforcement.

2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Law Enforcement Administration Programs

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Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

Based in East Lansing, Michigan State University enrolls more than 50,000 students annually, many of whom earn their credentials remotely. Graduate students can earn an online master of science in law enforcement intelligence and analysis. While completing this 30-credit degree, graduates prepare to work as money laundering investigators, federal intelligence specialists, and law enforcement leaders.

The curriculum divides evenly into core classes and electives. Required coursework covers topics like comprehensive threat assessment and the counterterrorism process. Students may pursue specialized topics like globalization of crime, comparative criminal justice, and open-source information analysis. They can also use elective credits to complete an internship or practicum.

This online master's program waives GRE requirements for applicants with a minimum 3.2 GPA. Prospective students do not need any work experience.

2

Eastern Kentucky University

Richmond, KY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 47%

Eastern Kentucky University delivers distance education through the Blackboard platform. Online students pick from over 40 academic programs, including a master of science in justice, policy, and leadership. This program features six yearly start dates and eight-week classes.

The 30-credit curriculum covers fundamental topics like criminological theory and applied research methods. This degree offering stands out from other online master's degrees in law enforcement administration by offering three concentration options: law enforcement, corrections, and juvenile justice.

Applicants must submit GRE scores. This program accepts up to nine transfer credits, and candidates can graduate in 16 months. The university provides a variety of financial aid, including tuition discounts for active-duty military members and foundational scholarships.

Choosing a Program

WILL THIS PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

A law enforcement administration master's degree helps professionals reach the next stage in their careers. Students learn professional legal and regulatory responsibilities, best practices of organizational management, and strategic methods of public law enforcement. An online master's in law enforcement teaches students comprehensive methods of protection and public service, while also developing leadership skills.

DO I NEED PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET IN?

While many applicants have military or police experience, previous work as a law enforcement agent is not required. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Contact each school directly for admission and application requirements.

HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT ONLINE PROGRAM FOR ME?

The best program for you will have strengths aligning with your career goals. Review each school's course offerings, program structure, and specializations. Choose a school that offers opportunities to develop your skills and passion, such as professional leadership or counterterrorism and intelligence. Consider the program's length and credit requirements, and communicate with admissions teams about your financial needs.

CAN I WORK WHILE I COMPLETE MY ONLINE MASTER'S IN LAW ENFORCEMENT?

Most online master's in law enforcement administration programs offer flexible scheduling so you can continue working. Schools understand that on-the-job experience complements classroom education. Many schools offer individual pacing so you can complete your degree based on your timeline and schedule internships around your work.

What Can I Expect from an Online Master's in Law Enforcement Program?

Program requirements vary by school, but the best online master's in law enforcement programs train students to apply theories of organizational management and criminal justice administration. Graduates work in a variety of public law enforcement agencies. Programs often require capstone projects or internships that blend research with real-life training.

CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN LAW ENFORCEMENT

Graduate students complete general coursework in the field of criminal justice, as well as concentrated, seminar-style classes in specialized areas of law enforcement and administration. Sample courses in both formats are listed below.

  • Police administrative policy operations: This course provides an overview of strategic administrative approaches to evaluating and resolving internal management concerns. Students learn to make decisions involving the application of law enforcement policies. Topics include management and supervision of police personnel, critical incident management, technology for law enforcement, and community-oriented policing.
  • Research methods in criminal justice: Application of law enforcement policies requires an understanding of criminal justice statistics and conceptual data. This course exposes students to psychological and social scientific research techniques and equips students to apply this research to their work in the field. Case studies and research projects are required.
  • Correctional leadership: Students review the history and law of correctional institutions, punishment and rehabilitation, correctional practices, and current trends. Coursework explores best practices for institutional management and offender supervision with regard to contemporary shifts in the field of corrections.
  • Counterterrorism and intelligence: Students evaluate the concept of political terrorism in both domestic and international settings. Risk analysis is integrated with the study of intelligence gathering and best practices of counterterrorism.
  • Cultural competency in criminal justice: This course investigates race, gender, economic, and ethnic diversity within public law enforcement. Students use qualitative and quantitative research methods to review topics such as racial profiling, bias-based policing, and disparities in the demographics of court and correctional system populations.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN LAW ENFORCEMENT?

Time required to complete an online master's in law enforcement program depends on the student's transfer credits and academic status, along with the program's credit requirements. Programs typically require 30 to 36 credit hours, which full-time students complete in 18 months to 4 years. Many schools allow students to transfer in graduate credits, which can accelerate degree completion. Online master's in law enforcement administration programs are structured to support individual pacing, allowing students to complete courses on their own time. Full-time and part-time students may choose to take courses one at a time or simultaneously. In cohort-based programs, students complete coursework alongside peers. Applicants should contact schools directly for specific information on program length.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Law Enforcement Programs

When choosing a program, thoroughly review the school's accreditation standing. Accreditation signifies that a school or specific program meets standards established by the United States Department of Education (DOE). Accreditation may be granted by a regional agency or a national agency. Regional accreditation is more demanding and is therefore more highly regarded. Universities reviewing transfer credits and employers offering tuition reimbursement typically require that coursework be regionally accredited. For students, these programs are often more costly and tend to require additional humanities coursework.

Nationally accredited schools often have dedicated certificate and vocational tracks, in addition to traditional degrees. While often less expensive, credits from nationally accredited institutions are typically ineligible for transfer and do not meet licensure requirements. For students seeking tuition assistance from a nonprofit organization or an employer, review reimbursement provisions to ensure your school qualifies.

Professional organizations recognize schools with field or industry accreditations. Because law enforcement administration degrees may be linked to criminal justice programs, prospective students should look for accreditation from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). However, very few programs are linked to the ACJS, so candidates should focus primarily on regional or national accreditation.

Alongside the DOE, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversees and catalogues the standing of universities nationwide. The CHEA advances higher education quality through its partnership with the U.S. government and educates the public on education standards. Further information regarding the demands of accreditation and a national registry of accredited institutions are available on the CHEA and DOE websites.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Law Enforcement Graduates

JOB PLACEMENT

Earning a master's degree in law enforcement online prepares students for lifelong leadership and creates a competitive résumé. Because law enforcement degrees are commonly housed within criminal justice programs, a recent report by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce is helpful for determining the degree's marketability. The study found that college graduates with no work experience and a degree in criminal justice or fire prevention had an unemployment rate of 8.4%, while graduate degree holders with experience faced only a 3.3% unemployment rate.

Graduates with a Criminal Justice and Fire Prevention Major Unemployment Rate
College graduate (no work experience) 8.4%
College graduate with experience 4%
Graduate degree holder (no work experience) 4.6%
Graduate degree holder with experience 3.3%

In recent years, higher education for law enforcement professionals has become a national priority. In its 2015 recommendations, the national Task Force on 21st Century Policing included more than 10 pages dedicated to incentivizing higher education for law enforcement personnel. Because of this federal focus and graduate degree holders' enhanced employment benefits, both experienced officers and new agents benefit from higher education.

MASTER'S IN LAW ENFORCEMENT SALARY

Professional experience increases annual earnings for law enforcement personnel. The following chart reviews reported and expected salaries for law enforcement agents at different stages in their careers, including police lieutenants, immigration officers, and other administrative law officers.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
Police Lieutenant $77,809 $49,000 $61,000 $70,000
Immigration Officer $54,072 $50,000 $82,000 $86,000
Intelligence Analyst $65,430 $55,000 $67,000 $80,000
Federal Special Agent $76,394 $65,000 $75,000 $92,000
FBI Agent $64,613 $64,000 $75,000 $97,000

MASTER'S IN LAW ENFORCEMENT CAREERS

An online master's in law enforcement administration prepares candidates for an array of protective service positions. Graduates work in corrections, homeland security, local police administration, and emergency response teams. They also pursue roles as senior analysts for diverse government agencies. Jobs may demand physical agility, meticulous data review, or precise leadership of internal personnel.

First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives

Police and detective supervisors coordinate criminal investigations, enforce police procedures, and manage subordinate personnel. These roles require knowledge of policing techniques, organizational leadership, employee recruitment, and public safety.

Median Annual Salary $84,840

Projected Growth Rate 4%

First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers

Correctional supervisors maintain order, security, and discipline within correctional facilities, while overseeing the operational needs of their institutions. These positions require thorough knowledge of emergency response techniques and correctional procedures. Correctional managers demonstrate effective command leadership and hold budgeting, administration, and operational responsibilities.

Median Annual Salary $60,560

Projected Growth Rate 3%

First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers

Fire prevention and control supervisors coordinate and oversee firefighters and fire prevention officers. Specialized education in firefighting techniques is paramount. Training, staff management, and regulatory adherence are also important skills.

Median Annual Salary $74,540

Projected Growth Rate 5%

Emergency Management Director

Emergency managers perform administrative responsibilities for communities during times of public safety crises, such as opening public shelters, ordering evacuations, and implementing emergency response procedures. They stay apprised to new techniques in public safety and disaster preparedness and coordinate with public and law enforcement agencies during emergencies.

Median Annual Salary $70,500

Projected Growth Rate 6%

Police and Detectives

Police and detectives protect property and lives and preserve public safety. Those with advanced degrees may specialize as criminal investigators, border patrol officers, or intelligence analysts. In these roles, agents identify threats to public safety, investigate crimes, and develop procedures and responses for government agencies.

Median Annual Salary $61,600

Projected Growth Rate 4%

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

As you begin earning your master's degree in law enforcement online, connecting with professional organizations will support your education and future career. Below are a few organizations for law enforcement professionals, which will help you build relationships, stay up to date on legislation, and find scholarship opportunities.

Financing Your Online Master's in Law Enforcement Program

To finance your online master's degree, explore the scholarships and funding opportunities at your prospective schools. Online master's in law enforcement programs may offer additional funding for prior military experience, through the Yellow Ribbon program or the GI Bill. Those with police experience should contact the Fraternal Order of Police for tuition assistance information. Applicants may be eligible for private grants or scholarships through nonprofit organizations or employers. For information on federal funding opportunities, such as grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study options, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

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.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

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 STUDENTS

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.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

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.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

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.