Law Enforcement Degree
People rely on law enforcement officials to protect their communities and respond promptly to life and death emergencies. Working in law enforcement can be dangerous, but most people pursuing law enforcement careers have a strong desire to assist people in distress and prevent criminals from harming others - even at their own peril.
Those interested in municipal police officer jobs are usually required to complete a short training program, in addition to intense physical fitness training. Many police departments also require police officers who've completed the necessary training to undergo a short probationary period to determine whether they're up to the job. Those interested in working for the FBI or other federal police agencies, working as a detective, or working in a supervisory or management position with a law enforcement agency should earn a master's degree in public administration, criminal justice, computer science, forensic science, psychology or other applicable discipline. In many cases, police agencies will pay the tuition for law enforcement officers obtaining additional education.
Why Earn a Degree in Law Enforcement?
Modern law enforcement is more complex and competitive than ever before. Historically, a high school diploma was sufficient to qualify for many entry-level positions in law enforcement, but not any more. Even local police academies require candidates for their training program have at least an associate's degree before applying - and it won't be long before a four-year college degree will be required by many police academies.
The good news is that while the demand for educated law enforcement professionals is increasing, so is the number of available job opportunities for those who are willing to get the right education. In fact, for specialized fields of law enforcement, such as computer forensics, forensic accounting, psychology, and foreign languages, there are more positions that need to be filled than there are qualified job applicants.
Earning a degree in law enforcement or criminal justice not only qualifies job seekers for a larger breadth of career opportunities, it will provide them with the education, training and experience they'll need to be successful in a rapidly changing and ever evolving law enforcement environment. Students who pursue a college degree will learn about all aspects of the criminal justice system and acquire highly specialized skills and knowledge required to perform their duties.
Associate Degree in Law Enforcement
An associate degree has become the degree of choice among aspiring police officers. This is due in large part to the fact that a growing number of police academies across the United States now required candidates to have completed at least two years of college before they can be admitted. The associate degree in law enforcement is a general degree that covers the fundamentals of law enforcement, including the U.S. judicial system, criminal law and the courts. While somewhat comprehensive in nature, the associate degree does not provide the depth or focus offered in a bachelor's or master's degree program.
Some of the more common topics covered in a law enforcement associate degree program include policing, introduction to criminal law, the courts, firearms, law enforcement management, crisis control, and juvenile delinquency.
If after completing an associate's degree a student decides not to pursue training at a police academy, they have several options. An associate's degree in law enforcement qualifies students for various entry-level positions in law enforcement and criminal justice. It's also a great stepping stone into a four year bachelor's degree program. If you think you might be interested in transferring to a four year college upon graduation to pursue a bachelor's degree, make sure to earn your associate degree from a community college or vocational school that is regionally accredited. Only credits earned at regionally accredited institutions are tranferrable to a four year college or university.
Bachelor's Degree in Law Enforcement
The bachelor's degree is the degree of choice among aspiring criminal justice and law enforcement students. A four year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university is often the minimum requirement for entry-level law enforcement and criminal justice career positions. It also prepare students to pursue graduate education opportunities down the road.
A bachelor's degree in law enforcement is similar to an associate degree in the material it covers. It does, however, offer much more depth and detail than an associate degree. Most bachelor degree programs have a general, core and elective education component. General education courses typically include math, science, English and business communication. General education courses are intended to provide students with a well rounded education as well as the fundamental skills and knowledge required to attack more advanced coursework.
A bachelor's degree in law enforcement and criminal justice from a reputable college or university will introduce students to the latest criminal investigation and police technology, and the most current law enforcement procedures and advancements in criminal investigation and aprehension.
It usually takes four years of full time study to complete a bachelor's degree in law enforcement, but some schools offers accelerated programs that can be completed in at little as 3 years. For those who've earned an associate degree from an accredited community colleges, a bachelor's degree only requires two more years of schooling.
Master's Degree in Law Enforcement
While a bachelor's degree is the most common degree obtained by aspiring law enforcement professionals, a master's degree is growing in popularity among both law enforcement professionals and employers. Earning a master's degree in law enforcement or criminal justice may be advantageous for the following reasons.
- Increased Marketability
A master's degree uniquely qualifies candidates for a myriad of career positions and opportunities not available to bachelor's and associate degree holders. In fact, many federal law enforcement positions require a master's degree. Master's degrees in computer science, accounting, criminal justice, forensics, business and psychology are the minimum entry-level requirement for various specialized law enforcement positions.
- Enhanced Skills and Knowledge
A master's degree helps students develop more specialized skills and knowledge that will help them excel in their chosen field of law enforcement. Forensic examiners, forensic technicians, cybersecurity analysts, crime scene investigators, laboratory technicians and law enforcement managers typically have a master's degree or higher.
- Prerequite Education
A growing number of specialized law enforcement positions require a master's level education or higher. Obtaining a position with the CIA, FBI, DEA or U.S. immigration service typically requires a master's degree in a specialized law enforcement discipline, or a specialized skill set.
Having a bachelor's degree is a prerequiste to admitance to a master's degree program. However, many master's degree programs in criminal justice related disciplines will accept applicants with bachelor's degrees in diverse fields.
Earning Your Degree Online
The last decade has seen a phenomenal growth in the popularity of online degree programs - especially in the field of criminal justice. Consequently, most major colleges and universities that offer law enforcement programs on-campus also offer online programs. Online law enforcement degrees are convenient and flexible - ideal for working professionals and non-traditional students who are unable to attend a campus-based college program.
Distance learning programs are available in fully online environment or via a hybrid format. Where online degree programs are fully online, hybrid programs combine online education with campus-based learning. Hybrid programs are popular among students who want to have a traditional college experience complimented by the ability to complete certain courses remotely via the Internet.
Law Enforcement Degree Programs