253-235-9172 for an advisor



Law Enforcement Degree

A law enforcement degree helps to prepare students for the four to six-month agency-specific police academies that act as a law enforcement boot camp. That does not mean that police departments and sheriff’s offices discount these degrees.

In fact, many police departments around the United States require at least 60 credits in college experience. The Philadelphia Police Department, Chicago Police Department, and the New York City Police Department are examples of law enforcement agencies that have a college credit requirement. Two states, Minnesota and Wisconsin, require candidates to have an associate’s degree to become an officer.1 Many hiring officers look highly on those with coursework in criminal justice and law enforcement studies because it gives them a head start on the book work they will experience during academy and also demonstrates qualities like initiative, strong work ethic, and critical thinking skills. According to DiscoverPolicing.org, a website by managed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), “You cannot go wrong with more education. Most departments, regardless of their requirements, give higher pay to recruits with four-year degrees.” Additionally, a degree is often required if you want to get promoted to higher levels of leadership.

CJDS FACT: Law enforcement careers are tied to unions that have not generally yielded positioning during the recession — forcing other departments to trim budget. Municipal budgets for public safety range from 30-40%. Paraphrasing former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr, “Now is great time to go back to school for criminal justice degree. A bulge in hiring in the early 80’s is resulting in a wave of retirements 30 years later. Combine that with small improvement in the economy and those with degrees should be in great shape to start a law enforcement career in a couple years.”

Read more about careers where criminal justice of law enforcement degrees help:
Police Officer career
Sheriff Officer / Deputy career
Corrections Officer career
Fish and Game Warden career
Park Ranger career
Security Guard career

Law Enforcement Training and Courses

To that end, most law enforcement degree programs focus on the application of law to give students an understanding of how to enforce laws. Other key aspects include learning about the chain of evidence and detection of materials to support arrests, as well as the proper application of force given the circumstances.

With an increased focus on community-oriented policing evidenced by many departments, students learning about becoming a law enforcement officer may also take introductory level sociology courses and those on media relations, as well as law history courses.

Examples of courses in a law enforcement degree curriculum include:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Introduction to Corrections
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Introduction to Cyber Crime Investigation
  • Introduction to Criminal Investigations
  • English Composition
  • Criminology
  • Criminal Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Policing in America
  • Modern Policing
  • Investigative Principles
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Evidence and Court Procedure
  • Law Enforcement Operations
  • Victimology

Law Enforcement Degree Program Profiles

Southeast Technical Institute (South Dakota)
Southeast Technical Institute offers an Associate in Applied Science in Law Enforcement Science degree which can be completed in two years of full time study. The first year of the curriculum emphasizes fundamental law enforcement skills and helps students develop a deeper understanding of the law enforcement system. During the second year, students specialize by taking advanced courses in law enforcement. Students who complete the program are eligible to sit for the South Dakota Law Enforcement Standards and Training Commission certification exam through a reciprocity agreement. Graduates of the program are prepared to deploy critical thinking, current law enforcement technology, and theory in entry-level positions in law enforcement and private security.

North Hennepin Community College (Minnesota)
North Hennepin Community College awards an Associate of Science in Law Enforcement to students who complete its 68 credit hour program. Students earn a broad understanding of the complex relationships between law, society, and the criminal justice system by taking courses such as Legal Issues in Law Enforcement, Crime Investigation, and the 10 credit Law Enforcement Integrated Curriculum. The core courses for the program are taught through the school’s Law Enforcement Education Center, which assists students in developing practical skills in effective communication, statistics, and professionalism in law enforcement. Program graduates are prepared to enter the law enforcement profession at the entry level at state and local law enforcement agencies. Students may also choose to transfer to a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement at Concordia University or Metropolitan State University.

Waukesha County Technical College (Wisconsin)
Waukesha County Technical College awards an Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement that takes 70 credit hours to complete. Students enrolled in the program form a deep understanding of issues in law enforcement as they pertain to police operations, terrorism, homeland security, and other current topics in law. The program instructors have real-world experience in law enforcement from a variety of specialties and backgrounds. Students enrolled in the program take criminal justice focused courses such as Psychology of Human Relations, Police Organization and Administration, Forensic Investigation, and Criminal Investigation Theory. Waukesha County Technical College has articulation agreements with various area colleges for students interested in transferring into a four year degree program after earning an AAS degree. Program graduates are prepared for entry-level positions with police and sheriff’s departments, private security agencies, and federal agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration, among other sought after careers.

Job Opportunities for Law Enforcement Degree Program Graduates

These skills, combined with entrance to an academy, will prepare the law enforcement degree graduate to become a police or law enforcement trainee or cadet. Income varies widely throughout the United States and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an annual median wage of $54,230 for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in the US as of May 2011.2 The top 10% of police officers earn a median annual salary of $84,980.2

Top 50 Law Enforcement Blogs

See our top law enforcement blogs to read about what it is like to work as a police officer from current law enforcement professionals.

Online Law Enforcement Degree Programs and Criminal Justice Schools

Searching for Schools...

What Jobs Can You Get With a Law Enforcement Degree?

In addition to getting hired as a police officer, there are several related jobs that are available for graduates of a law enforcement degree program.

Some examples of job titles include:

You can also view our criminal justice job board to find current job openings in your state and research job requirements for different positions.

1. Discover Policing: http://blog.discoverpolicing.org/uncategorized/do-i-need-a-college-degree-to-become-a-police-officer/
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm