Do You Need A Degree To Be A Cop
A college education isnt a strict requirement if you want to become a police officer somewhere, but not going to college could restrict you from pursuing this career path in certain states, municipalities and agencies. This may sound complicated, but its because different police departments and law enforcement agencies have different requirements. Whether you need a degree to be a cop depends on where youre trying to get hired as a police officer.
Generally, the demand for a college education is stronger in more competitive law enforcement job roles. Youre least likely to need a degree to be a cop working in an entry-level role in a rural area of a state where law enforcement hiring is less highly regulated. Youre most likely to need a degree if you want to work in a prestigious precinct in an area with high competition for jobs, especially in a state like New Jersey, Nevada, North Dakota or Illinois, where state law requires officers to hold a bachelors degree. Youre also likely to need a degree if you want to advance to a higher-level role, like police chief or police captain. If you want a federal police job, no matter which state you would want to be headquartered in, then a bachelors degree is typically required.
How Much Money Can I Make With A Bachelor’s In Law Enforcement
Graduates with a bachelor’s in law enforcement can pursue a variety of jobs in criminal justice and emergency management and earn a lucrative salary. According to the BLS, probation officers make a median annual wage of $55,690. Police officers and detectives earn $67,290 per year, while emergency management directors are among the field’s highest earners, drawing an annual salary of $76,250.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor’s In Law Enforcement Programs
A bachelor’s in law enforcement qualifies students for public service and safety careers. Bachelor’s degree-holders can pursue jobs in fields, such as policing and investigation that usually offer salary and pension benefits.
While the cost of higher education varies, the National Center for Education Statistics calculates the cost of earning a degree at a four-year institution at more than $27,000. Many online programs, however, offer benefits, such as flexible enrollment and set or in-state tuition rates.
Law enforcement is a common major among candidates for police academy training, which is required by most police agencies for new officers.
Emergency management directors can earn a median annual wage of more than $76,000. Among law enforcement officers, detectives and criminal investigators earned the highest salary at nearly $87,000, with earnings exceeding $92,000 for federal government workers.
Corrections is one area of specialization under the broader category of law enforcement. Aspiring correctional, probation, or parole officers may study corrections, while a bachelor’s in law enforcement can lead to careers in policing, investigation, and public safety.
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Bachelors Degrees In Criminal Justice
A bachelors degree is a four-year program that is around 120-semester credits . Students often enter a bachelors in criminal justice straight out of high school. Others complete an associate program first, meaning they have already completed roughly half of the required credits for a bachelors degree.
Students entering from high school must cover all the same lower-level coursework from an associate program . The final two years cover upper-level courses, which could include the following:
- Criminal law: Officers need to understand the U.S. Constitution so they can properly collect evidence, protect suspects rights, and arrest them.
- Applied research: Youve already learned what statistics mean this class is about using collected statistics to make decisions. For instance, you might be asked to determine how to deploy officers and use department funds to best prevent crime.
- Criminal psychology: This class is about getting into criminals heads to learn why they behave the way they do. Its important for crime prevention as well as rehabilitation efforts.
Weve laid out all the details on bachelors degrees in criminal justice on our site. You may want to take a look if youre interested in careers outside patrol. The FBI, for example, requires special agents to hold a bachelors degree. Fish and game wardens also need a four-year degree.
How Important Is Accreditation
Accreditation refers to an outside organization reviewing a particular school or program to ensure it meets certain standards of quality. Accreditation is important for police training programs because it serves as a mark of quality graduates who complete their education and training can be confident that what they have earned will be accepted by future employers and peers. The specific entities that offer accreditation will vary depending on the program. For instance, many associate or bachelors degree programs will not be accredited at the program level, but the school offering the degree will be accredited. This will usually be a regional or national accrediting organization recognized by the US Department of Education.
As for the accreditation of police training academies, the most prominent is the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA.
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How To Complete Police Courses Online
Lauriers online police degrees are administered via the schools online learning portal. Lectures are recorded, and you can access the videos 24/7 through the portal.
The professors notes and additional instructions are posted each week, and most textbooks are digitally accessible. Courses also include discussion boards so you can talk about lessons with your fellow students. You can also contact instructors through the messaging system, and the library offers extensive online resources.
To assist you throughout your entire time as a student, you will be assigned a student success advisor to ensure youre able to access all the materials and resources you need.
Police Officer Preparation Beyond The Degree
Before an officer officially joins the police force and regardless of their college major and level of education they go through intense training at one of the many police academies. Police academy training programs can take anywhere from 12 to 24 weeks, so new officers should plan to spend months training for their role in law enforcement. Training in a police academy typically involves learning about local ordinances, constitutional law and civil rights, as well as the skills to investigate accidents and crimes. Everything aspect of police work, from traffic control to self-defense, is taught in the training academy to make sure that new officers are prepared for work on the job. Being a cop is tough, so for training to be valuable, it must be comprehensive and challenging, too.
If you have a good education, earn great grades and pass the police academy training program, you will likely find success in getting hired as a police officer, no matter what major you choose. Being familiar with the law and the criminal justice system prior to applying to work as a police officer can certainly hold value, but choosing a specific major isnt a prerequisite to the academy training program where you will learn the fundamentals of police work.
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Best Online Masters In Law Enforcement Administration Programs
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.
Police Officer Job Growth
Police officers are a vital component to maintaining a peaceful society. While still subject to cost cutting like any other private sector industry, the demand for police officers remains relatively steady for the foreseeable future. For more detailed job growth information, please see the below chart.
What Types Of Career Advancements Can A Bachelors Degree In Policing Lead To
Besides the knowledge that you gain, the skills youll develop can lead to many exciting career paths. The list below is a small sample of the careers Laurier police studies degree graduates have gone on to:
- Chief of Police / Commissioner / Chief Constable
- Deputy Chief of Police / Deputy Chief Constable
- Staff Superintendent
- Sergeant / Detective
- Police Constable 1st Class / Detective Constable
In the curriculum guide, you’ll find:
- Complete curriculum listings
How To Become A Detective
Requirements vary by state, but most states require police officers and detectives to hold at least a high school diploma. However, some states require applicants to show completion of some college credits or a bachelor’s degree, preferably in law enforcement, criminal justice, or a related field.
Candidates must also complete a training program from a federally recognized facility. The training program must include classroom instruction on subjects such as constitutional law, police ethics, and civil rights. It must also include supervised experience in firearm use, emergency response, and self-defense.
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Preparing For A Police Officer Career: Find The Right Environment
When an aspiring police officer chooses to go to school to obtain formal education, a world of possibilities opens up. Here are some of the potential places where the certificate or degree can be earned.
Some vocational or trade schools have certificate programs that may count towards college credit, such as for a future associate or bachelors degree. Some might offer associate degrees. Vocational or trade schools can provide a way to save money on college costs while receiving necessary college course instruction.
Military experience is well regarded by law enforcement agencies and police departments. Familiarity with firearms, mental toughness, physical conditioning, discipline and an understanding of command structure and culture are all benefits that come with hiring a recruit with military experience.
Community colleges provide multiple options for students who want to become police officers. Students can complete their associate degree in two years or a certificate in a few months. As an added bonus, many community colleges allow credits earned in a certificate program to go towards an associate degree.
Law Enforcement School
Departments that require a bachelors degree are often found at the federal level. However, even if a four-year degree isnt required, getting a bachelors degree can be a prudent decision: it can increase the chances of getting hired and promoted.
Continuing Education And Career Advancement
Once you have completed all of these steps to becoming a police officer, you will still have plenty to learn. Nothing beats on-the-job experience to show you all of the specialized areas police officers might want or need to learn more about. The best officers are never done learning.
Similar to other industries, officers must meet continuing education requirements in order to renew their license. For example, Minnesota police officer requirements mandate a minimum of 48 hours of continuing education within the three-year licensing period in order to maintain their license.
In addition, active officers are required to train annually in use of force and once every five years in emergency vehicle operations/pursuit driving. Specialized training may also be directed by your police department based on federal and local needs. Departments might also incentivize other education opportunities to encourage their officers forward. Additional training or credentials may be required for those looking to climb the police ranks.
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Common Classes In Online Law Enforcement Degree Programs
All law enforcement programs teach certain aspects about the profession and the field at large. As a result, many of the courses taken are similar from one school to another, though professors present material in varying ways. The courses detailed below are representative of what you can expect to find in a typical law enforcement program.
Introduction to Criminal Justice or Criminology
This introduction to the field of criminology, criminal justice, and policing covers the history of law enforcement, how the corrections system operates, and the role of police and other law enforcement officials in society.
Ethics of Law Enforcement and Policing
Introduction to Criminal Justice or CriminologyClimate Science
This course looks at the sometimes thorny ethical and moral issues those in law enforcement might face. In addition to guidelines, theories, applications, and methods that have ethical requirements, students learn about the legal cases that govern changes in the field.
Fundamentals of Criminal Law
This course includes a strong overview of Constitutional law, the rights of the accused and the victim, how to abide by the laws during policing work, and how to follow procedures to ensure staying with that law. For example, students might learn the intricacies of probable cause and evidence collection.
Statistics in Criminal Justice
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Where The Jobs Are
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has detailed information at www.bls.gov for the states and municipalities with the highest employment levels of police officers. Local governments employ the greatest numbers but state and federal agencies employ a significant number. Checking with the desired agency will inform a candidate of the optimum qualifications for an entry level position.
Acquire A Degree Or Academy Training
The requirements for this step will vary substantially depending on the state in which you plan on becoming a police officer. Some states do not require their officers to be college-educated, even if they may prefer it. Other states, like Minnesota, an Associates degree or equivalent training is one of the requirements to become a police officer.
Generally speaking, the training process for aspiring police officers follows two routes:
- Completing training by earning a two- or four-year degree in Criminal Justice or similar field from a Peace Officer Standings and Training -certified college or university, or
- Completing training through a government-approved police academy or training program.
Since police officer requirements differ, youll want to be sure to check with the agency that sets the standards for law enforcement training and licensure in your area. Some also have arrangements for military reciprocity, allowing candidates who served in the military to follow a different process in acknowledgement of the training they already have.
Whichever path you take, your training will include classroom instruction in state and local laws, covering topics like constitutional law, civil rights and police ethics. Recruits also receive training and supervised experience in areas such as patrol, traffic control, firearm use, self-defense, first aid and emergency response.
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The Best Degrees For Law Enforcement Jobs
Erik Fritsvold, PhD
There are many opportunities in federal, state and local law enforcement for both current law enforcement professionals and those hoping to enter the field. But because these positions can be highly competitive, candidates must do whatever they can do to differentiate themselves.
One of the most appealing qualifications for hiring committees is an applicant with a law enforcement degree. Both undergraduate and advanced degrees help position law enforcement professionals as a first-choice option for a current job opening, as well as future leadership positions.
Depending on which branch of law enforcement youre looking to enter, there are certain degree programs that will set you up for success in federal, state or local law enforcement agencies. Because many federal jobs deal with highly sensitive information, there is generally a long list of preferred and required qualifications that each agency looks for in candidates. For local and state level departments, qualifications can be less stringent or specialized. To help differentiate between the groups, here is a breakdown of the education and skill requirements for select federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Courses In Law Enforcement
Online law enforcement degrees cover topics like police strategies, the juvenile justice system, and corrections. Some universities offer law enforcement specializations in areas such as forensic science, American courts, and probation and corrections. Many programs also include an internship experience and a culminating activity, such as a thesis, a comprehensive exam, or a capstone project. Online enrollees can usually complete the internship requirement in their home region with approval from the program director.
Courses vary by program, but the following list outlines several courses commonly found in online bachelor’s in law enforcement programs.
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What Do Related Occupations Make
If youre interested in how to become a police officer, you might also be interested in related professions. Working as a correctional officer, EMT or paramedic, firefighter, probation officer, security guard, gaming surveillance officer, game warden or firefighter might be on your radar. If thats the case, you can peruse the list of related occupations below, which includes average salaries:
What you earn depends on where you live, including the region, state or city. To help determine what you can expect to make in your particular area, our handy salary comparison tool can help.
Frequently Asked Questions About Law Enforcement
Graduates with a bachelor’s in law enforcement can pursue jobs as police officers, FBI agents, crime scene investigators, and forensic science technicians.
Most full-time students complete a law enforcement bachelor’s degree in four years.
According to the BLS, detectives make a median annual salary of $86,940, with the top 10% of earners making around $146,000 annually.
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