If you want to build a career around fighting crime, promoting order, or advocating for justice, then a law enforcement degree might be a good match for you.
In a law enforcement degree program, you can learn about both criminal justice principles and crucial skills for ensuring public safety.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
Law enforcement professionals—from police officers and intelligence analysts to paralegal and regulatory specialists—play a crucial role in society. Many law enforcement careers have higher than average median salaries, with plenty of opportunities to make a positive impact.
Online Law Enforcement Degrees
A bachelors degree in law enforcement is geared toward those who want to work as investigators, police officers, and security agents as well as regulatory and compliance officers in private sectors.
With this degree, many graduates end up working in the following institutions:
- Police agencies
- US Marshals Service (USMS)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE)
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation
- Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP)
Law enforcement roles require a lot of specialized knowledge as well as on-the-job training, and a law enforcement degree can help you develop key competencies while you’re still a student.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
Law enforcement programs instill one main goal in their students: to uphold law and order and maintain security while acting professionally and responsibly. Most law enforcement programs feature a mix of theoretical and hands-on classes, usually with experienced police and investigation officers as teachers.
To start off, you’ll examine justice as a concept by looking at common kinds of crimes as well as the laws for handling them. You’ll then delve into the components of the US justice system and get a foundational understanding of the court procedures for dealing with crimes and offenses.
Most law enforcement programs explore different branches of law enforcement, from rehabilitating young offenders to conducting investigations and analyzing evidence from crime scenes. Beyond this, you will also be taught how to manage high-risk situations, how to assist crime victims, and how to run and lead law enforcement teams.
Throughout this type of program, you’ll constantly study complex scenarios and professional codes of conduct to improve your decision-making. Some programs already incorporate police training into their coursework, while others have a more generalist approach, with several electives for you to choose from.
Common Online Law Enforcement Bachelor’s Concentrations
Law enforcement is a broad field, so there are often a variety of concentrations to choose from. Common law enforcement concentrations include:
- Law Enforcement Administration. Law enforcement administration focuses on leadership and management responsibilities—such as policy creation and staff recruitment—in federal and state agencies, courts, and police departments.
- Juvenile Justice. Juvenile justice deals with youth offenders who are younger than 18 years old. It’s considered a separate branch of the justice system because it emphasizes rehabilitation instead of imprisonment.
- Homeland Security. Homeland security is an umbrella term for protecting the country from major threats, such as terrorism, disasters, cybercrimes, and epidemics.
- Corrections. Corrections involves the supervision and rehabilitation of adult offenders. This can mean overseeing inmates in prison, working with offenders on probation, or checking on released inmates to make sure they’re complying with the law.
- Forensic Science. Forensic science is all about using scientific techniques to collect and analyze crime-related evidence. It covers both physical evidence, such as DNA, and digital evidence found in devices.
Most programs will introduce you to all of these concentrations so that you can have a clearer idea of which type of law enforcement career you would be interested in.
Law Enforcement Careers & Salaries
With a law enforcement degree, there are many possible careers related to the justice system that you can pursue. Many law enforcement graduates go on to work as police officers and detectives. In fact, many police agencies look for recruits who have a degree in law enforcement or a related field.
As a police officer, you could work at the local, state, or federal level. Some police officers patrol the areas they’re responsible for, investigate crime scenes, or interview witnesses. With experience, some professionals are promoted to being a detective or private investigator.
You can also consider other roles in law enforcement agencies. Some graduates work in homeland security, for example, as immigration officers or emergency coordinators. Others may work as forensic science technicians who analyze evidence from crimes.
Some people become game wardens, making sure that hunting and wildlife laws are being followed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the median yearly salaries of common law enforcement careers.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Detectives and Criminal Investigators||$83,640|
|Emergency Management Directors||$76,730|
|Social and Community Service Managers||$74,000|
|Transit and Railroad Police||$64,930|
|Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers||$64,610|
|Forensic Science Technicians||$61,930|
|Fish and Game Wardens||$60,730|
|Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists||$60,250|
|Correctional Officers and Bailiffs||$47,920|
Another possible track is working as a probation or correctional officer. Probation officers supervise offenders who have committed more low-level crimes, while correctional officers supervise inmates in jails or prisons.
Some law enforcement graduates go on to become bailiffs or court officers who are in charge of security and order in the courtroom. Alternatively, law enforcement professionals may venture into legal careers with additional training, entering roles like paralegals, court reporters, or even lawyers.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
Out of the careers mentioned here, the fastest growing occupation is forensic technician. Private detectives and investigators and paralegals are in high demand as well.
Bachelors in Law Enforcement Curriculum & Courses
A degree in law enforcement administration typically consist of around 120 credits, with courses such as:
- Criminal Justice: This course gives an overview of the US criminal justice system and its branches as well as the stages of a criminal case.
- Introduction to Criminology: You’ll learn about different types of crime, the psychological, social, and biological factors that potentially cause crime, and policies for responding to it.
- Leadership in Law Enforcement: This course trains you in administrative and decision-making strategies that can be applied to law enforcement teams, including stress management and crisis handling.
- Crisis Interventions: You’ll practice using de-escalation tactics and emotional first aid for people who have experienced trauma from crises such as crime, abuse, and natural disasters.
- Introduction to Forensic Science: This course will teach you how to process crime scenes and analyze both digital and physical evidence using specialized techniques such as infrared (IR) and cross-drive analysis.
- Organized Crime: You’ll delve into the dynamics of organized crime, which include gangs, drug cartels, and weapon dealers, and you’ll study how the criminal justice system currently addresses this.
- Criminal Law: This course breaks down crime into its basic elements and tackles the logic behind different state and law formulations and the Model Penal Code.
- Court Systems and Practices: You’ll examine the federal and state court systems in the US as well as the steps of the criminal court process, from pre-trial to sentencing and appeals.
- Corrections: This course focuses on the practices and objectives of the correctional system, with topics like incarceration and institutional and community corrections programs.
- Juvenile Justice: You’ll look into current procedures of the juvenile justice system and then explore the trends, psychology, and environmental factors that influence delinquency in youth.
Towards your last year, you may be required to do an internship and work on a capstone project.
Most law enforcement bachelor programs will require the following admissions criteria:
- High school transcripts. If you took advanced placement classes in high school, these may be credited for your undergraduate studies.
- References. You might have to submit two or three reference letters from professors, supervisors, or mentors.
- Personal essay. Most schools will give you a few writing prompts to gauge your personality, achievements, and goals.
- Test scores. While a growing number of schools no longer require SAT or ACT scores, some still request them.
Many law enforcement programs will also have a minimum GPA requirement.
Law Enforcement Colleges Accreditation
Given all of the law enforcement programs in the country, you can narrow down your options by focusing on the best criminal justice schools that are regionally accredited.
Regionally accredited schools have gone through a thorough assessment and been vetted for educational quality by an outside accrediting organization. You can learn more about the accreditation process on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s website.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
By attending a regionally accredited school, you might be eligible to receive federal financial aid. Plus, if you change schools, you might be able to get classes credited more easily. Many employers place greater value on degrees from accredited schools.
Law Enforcement Majors Financial Aid and Scholarships
As a law enforcement major, you may have a variety of financial aid resources to explore. You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if you’re eligible for grants, student loans, and work-study programs from the government.
Student loans are the most widely available form of financial aid, but they’ll require repayment after you graduate. While you can also get loans from private sources, federal aid loans tend to have lower interest rates. On the other hand, grants offer free aid based on your level of economic need. Work-study programs allow you to take on part-time jobs to help pay off your tuition.
Another source of free financial aid is scholarships. Unlike grants, scholarships tend to be merit-based. Scholarships can come from external organizations or be awarded by schools to qualifying students.
Is Law Enforcement a Good Career?
Yes, law enforcement is a good career for many professionals. There are many job options in law enforcement, whether you’d want to work at a government agency, become an investigator on the federal level, or lead correctional and rehabilitation programs.
Because there will always be a need for protection and security, new jobs are constantly opening up in law enforcement, especially for forensics specialists and private investigators. Many people who work in law enforcement have work benefits such as pension plans and additional allowance.
Do You Need a College Degree to Be a Cop?
To become a cop, it’s necessary to join a police academy, which has different admission requirements per state. The minimum educational requirement for entering a police academy is a high school diploma. A bachelor’s degree, though, is often required for more specialized positions, such as working in intelligence analysis, financial fraud, cyber criminology, and forensic science.
Whatever area of police work you’re interested in, a bachelor’s degree may give you an edge in applications and make advanced job roles more accessible as you gain experience.
What Can You Do with a Law Enforcement Degree?
A law enforcement degree is a natural fit for entry-level jobs in security and criminal justice agencies at the federal, state, and local levels.
Many law enforcement graduates become police officers, investigators, and probation or correctional officers. They may work on the frontlines of reducing crime, with the goal of catching criminals, maintaining safety, or gathering evidence for cases.
Alternatively, they may focus more on rehabilitation or inmate programs or become victim advocates. Some law enforcement graduates go on to attend law school and become attorneys.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Law Enforcement Degree?
If you’re studying full-time, you can usually finish a law enforcement degree in 4 years. Some online programs allow for accelerated options. For example, there are programs with 8 week semesters, so you can often earn your degree faster by taking classes continuously throughout the year.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
Students who take classes part-time will often take longer to finish their program. Still, it’s possible to get your degree faster if you’ve completed a related associate degree or if you already have college classes that can be credited.
What’s the Difference Between a Bachelor of Law Enforcement vs. Criminal Justice Degree?
Law enforcement and criminal justice degrees have some major differences.
|Law Enforcement||Criminal Justice|
Criminal justice degrees have more theoretical courses, while law enforcement degrees put more emphasis on hands-on skills.
Is a Degree in Law Enforcement Worth It?
Yes, a degree in law enforcement is worth it for many students. With a bachelors degree, you may have better chances of getting into jobs in police agencies and other related organizations. Some job roles, such as working as a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), require a bachelors degree.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
Many law enforcement jobs are considered stable, with good pension benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects 8% job growth for protective service occupations overall. Having a college degree may help you qualify for more high-level positions down the road as well.
Universities Offering Online Bachelors in Law Enforcement Degree Program
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Baker College offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Law Enforcement and Police Academy. The program provides opportunities to gain hands on experience from veteran law enforcement officers. Students can attend the program in a synchronous, virtual format or an asynchronous, online format. Most students can complete the curriculum in 4 years of full-time study.
Baker College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at Bemidji State University offers 4 specialty areas: Law Enforcement, Corrections, Victimology, and Tribal Justice. This 120 credit, fully online program can typically be completed in 4 years and consists of 48 credits of major-specific coursework.
Bemidji State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Drury University offers a Bachelor of Science in Law Enforcement. It is designed for students interested in taking on leadership roles within law enforcement and justice systems. The curriculum covers topics like forensic science, victimology, and the judicial process. Students can attend using a blend of evening, online, and hybrid courses.
Drury University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Eastern Kentucky University offers a Bachelor of Science in Police Studies. The curriculum is designed to provide students with the theoretical, ethical, and practical knowledge needed to succeed in contemporary law enforcement. The program is housed entirely online. Accepted students can transfer up to 90 qualifying credits from outside institutions toward the 120 credits needed to graduate.
Eastern Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Florida Atlantic University offers a Bachelor of Public Safety Administration. It is an interdisciplinary degree intended for students planning to enter fields like law enforcement, homeland security, or disaster response. The curriculum covers key concepts like public safety systems, crime prevention, administrative processes, and ethics. Most classes can be attended online.
FAU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Students hoping to enter a law enforcement profession or deepen their existing knowledge may find an ideal fit in the Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice program at Hampton University. All classes are attended fully online. The curriculum covers widely applicable skills, like communication and statistics analysis, and field-specific fundamentals, like criminal law, victimology, and emergency preparedness.
Hampton University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Metropolitan State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Law Enforcement for Licensed Peace Officers. It offers multiple curriculum tracks intended to meet students where they are, regardless of previous experience in the field. The curriculum aims to teach students how to police ethically, apply contemporary leadership principles, utilize criminology theory, and work through a diversity-informed lens.
Metropolitan State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
At North Carolina Central University, the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program emphasizes both theoretical classroom and hands-on field experience learning. This 120-credit program can be completed 100% online. It aims to help students develop the knowledge and skills needed to enter professions such as corrections, law enforcement, criminology, and forensic science.
North Carolina Central University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Students in the Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Administration program at Park University have 3 concentrations to choose from: Law Enforcement, Corrections, or Security. The program covers theoretical, philosophical, and practical knowledge. It aims to prepare students for a variety of justice careers in public and private sectors at local, state, federal, and international levels.
Park University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Post University offers a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. The program aims to help students develop the fundamental knowledge needed to succeed in various roles within the broader criminal justice system.
Students may choose from concentrations in Law Enforcement, Legal Studies, Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Correctional Counseling, or Corrections. All of these can be completed either on-campus or online.
Post University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Regent University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Law and National Security. It is designed for students interested in careers in law enforcement, legal, intelligence, public safety, and government administration sectors. The program offers all courses online and allows students to transfer up to 90 qualifying credits from outside institutions toward their degree requirements.
Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Rowan University offers an online program for a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Justice. It aims to equip students with the necessary theoretical, practical, and ethical knowledge for professions within the criminal justice field. Major-specific courses comprise 51 of the total 120 required credits. The curriculum covers key concepts such as law, human rights, corrections, criminal law, statistical literacy, and ethics.
Rowan University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The Bachelor’s in Police Administration at Southern New Hampshire University seeks to prepare students to protect and serve their communities. The program is housed entirely online. Accepted students may transfer in up to 90 qualifying credits from other schools, and up to 12 of the program’s credits can be applied toward future law enforcement and military training.
Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
State University of New York—Canton offers a Bachelor of Technology in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in Law Enforcement Leadership.
The program is designed to prepare students for most entry-level positions within the law enforcement profession. To graduate, students must complete 122 credits. Courses are offered in an online, asynchronous format to help ensure the flexibility that many professional students need to continue their education.
SUNY Canton is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Tiffin University offers a Bachelor of Criminal Justice in Law Enforcement. It is designed for students pursuing careers in corrections, highway patrol, intelligence, fraud investigation, and security. The program offers two start dates a year for on-campus students and six starts dates a year for online students.
Tiffin University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Getting Your Bachelor’s Degree in Law Enforcement Online
Studying law enforcement can lead to a rewarding career. Many professionals in this field tackle important issues, such as maintaining national safety, leading disaster responses, or being at the forefront of fighting crime.
Through a law enforcement degree program, you can pick up crucial skills that can help prepare you for entry-level work in the field. Now that there are a number of accredited online colleges for law enforcement, you don’t even have to go to campus anymore to study for your degree.
Online programs, such as those offering online criminal justice degrees, could also help you tailor your undergraduate experience to meet your own needs and schedule. A growing number of universities also offer online masters in law enforcement programs for students interested in studying law enforcement at the graduate level.
The sooner you start exploring accredited schools, the sooner you may find the law enforcement degree program that’s right for you.