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Law Enforcement Degree

A law enforcement degree helps to prepare students for careers as police officers, detectives, and other law enforcement personnel. Many police departments now require at least 60 credits of college coursework for entry-level police officers.

Hiring officers look favorably on those with coursework in criminal justice and law enforcement studies because it gives these candidates a head start on the book work they will experience during police academy training, and also demonstrates qualities like initiative, strong work ethic, and critical thinking skills.

CJDS FACT: 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.”

Law Enforcement Training and Courses

Most law enforcement degree programs focus on the application of law and due process. Other key aspects include learning about the chain of evidence and detection of materials to support arrests, as well as the proper use of force.

With an increased focus on community-oriented policing in 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
CJDS FACT: 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.”

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 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.

Job Opportunities for Law Enforcement Degree Program Graduates

Completing a degree program in law enforcement helps prepare graduates to become police or law enforcement trainees or cadets and complete police academy training. O*Net OnLine reported an annual median wage of $58,320 for police and sheriff’s patrol officers as of May 2015.1

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

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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. O*Net OnLine, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3051.00