Police Officer Degree & Career Center
This page focuses on the degrees typically required for police officers as well as law enforcement career information. If you think you may want to enter into a career in law enforcement, you should first decide what kind of education will be required. You might decide to pursue a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, a master's degree in criminal justice, a criminology degree, or a law enforcement degree. Once you decide which degree to pursue, you should consider which type of police officer you would like to be: from a homicide detective to a narcotics officer to a detective to a state trooper. Continue reading below for more helpful information as you embark on your new law enforcement career.
Police Officer Degree Information
A college degree is typically recommended or required by police departments for employment as a police officer. The requirements of a college degree can often be waived if the candidate has prior law enforcement or military experience but a degree is still helpful in gaining a competitive edge against candidates without one. A degree can also lead to higher pay and a quicker path to promotion in some police agencies. A bachelor's in criminal justice is a common type of degree to pursue if you are interested in getting started in law enforcement, although other related degrees in homeland security or sociology are good alternatives.
View the following pages to learn more about specific police degrees.
Police Officer Career Information
Aside from a classic career as a police officer, people entering careers in law enforcement may end up being detectives (homicide detectives or police detectives), state troopers, or in specialty positions like narcotics officers. Learn more about specific police officer careers in the law enforcement field including job descriptions and salary below.
Advice from Leaders in the Police Field
Learn the best police career advice for being successful in a police career by reading the responses from 35 leaders in the law enforcement community.
Police Career Interviews
We interviewed several experienced police professionals including police chiefs and gang investigators as part of our criminal justice career interview series to learn what qualities and skills are important for a police career and to hear advice for starting a career in law enforcement.
- Interview with David Couper, former Police Chief of the Madison Police Department
- Interview with Peter Moskos, former Baltimore police officer, author of Cop in the Hood, and Assistant Professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice
- Interview with Ron Hampton, President of the East Coast Gang Investigators Association
Sheriff Career Interviews
We interviewed eight sheriffs for our sheriff career interview series. Read these insightful interviews to learn about a career at a Sheriff's Department.
- Interview with Sheriff Gary Raney of Ada County in Idaho
- Interview with Sheriff Steve Boyer of Kitsap County in Washington
- Interview with Sheriff Frank Rogers of Okanogan County in Washington
Top 50 Police Blogs
Check out our list of Top 50 Police Blogs which feature the best blogs on the Internet by current police officers who share their thoughts, experiences, and tips for a successful police career.
Police Officer Requirements by Metro
Learn about the police department officer requirements for employment at some of the largest police departments in the country including New York City and Los Angeles.
State Trooper Requirements
Read about the trooper requirements by state to learn about becoming a state trooper or highway patrol officer in your state.
Criminal Justice Schools by State
Find a directory of criminal justice schools in your state to learn about online and on-campus criminal justice programs in your area.
Free Criminal Justice Lectures
View our list of free criminal justice college lectures that you can view or listen to online for free. The lectures are from some of the top universities in the country including Harvard and Yale and include classes on psychology, sociology, and law.
Police Officer Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median salary of $60,270 for all police and detectives in 2015.1 Of these, police and sheriff's patrol officers specifically reportedly earned a median salary of $58,320.1 Geographic location, years of experience, military experience, and education are common factors that will inform how much a police officer is paid. Those prospective officers with a bachelor's degree and law enforcement or military experience will have the best job opportunities in the field and have a competitive edge over other candidates.1
The outlook for cops is somewhat complicated. While new police officer jobs are expected grow a bit more slowly than average, with only a 5% growth (34,200 new jobs) in police and sheriff's patrol officer positions expected between the years of 2014 and 2024, the growth in this field is further determined by local and state budgets, which have a tendency to change often.1 Also not reflected in these numbers is job replacement for existing jobs, which will be required as the Baby Boomer Generation of cops begin to retire. If you look at the bigger picture for job growth that includes both new jobs and replacement jobs, the national average is expected to be around 29%, while the growth expected for police and sheriff's patrol officer jobs is expected to be around 36% during the same period.2 In this light, the outlook for future police officers is brighter than average.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Police and Detectives: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections: https://www.bls.gov/emp/