Online Bachelor’s in Law Enforcement Programs 2021

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Graduates with a bachelor’s in law enforcement degree can pursue roles in diverse areas, including the criminal justice system, the federal government, and forensic science. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that police officers make a median annual salary of $67,290. In addition, the BLS projects jobs for police officers to grow 5% between 2019-2029.

This guide ranks the best online bachelor’s in law enforcement programs. It also covers other important information for prospective students, including common courses and certifications.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Law Enforcement

  • Q. What can you do with a degree in 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.

  • Q. How long does it take to get a bachelor's degree in law enforcement?

    Most full-time students complete a law enforcement bachelor’s degree in four years.

  • Q. How much does a detective make?

    According to the BLS, detectives make a median annual salary of $86,940, with the top 10% of earners making around $146,000 annually.

Why Get a Degree in Law Enforcement?

An increasing number of law enforcement jobs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree, including probation officer, forensic science technician, and emergency management administrator. A bachelor’s in law enforcement qualifies degree-holders for these and several other job opportunities.

Professionals who plan to pursue a master’s degree at some point also benefit from earning an undergraduate degree. A bachelor’s in law enforcement meets the educational requirements of graduate programs in related fields, like law and social work.

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How Much Does a Law Enforcement Degree Cost?

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of attendance at an in-state public college or university for the 2019-2020 school year averaged $21,035. Students who enrolled at private institutions paid $48,965 during the same period.

Students can often save money on their degree by pursuing a bachelor’s in law enforcement online. Many schools offer tuition discounts to online students. Distance learners also save money on some of the secondary education expenses that on-campus students incur, such as housing and transportation costs. Additionally, the flexibility of online learning often allows students to continue working while earning their degree.

Additional Online Student Fees for Law Enforcement

Some colleges require online enrollees to pay technology fees. In some instances, technology fees can substantially increase the cost of a program. Therefore, online students should find out whether a prospective institution requires them to pay this fee.

Some online law enforcement programs require enrollees to come to campus for an orientation session, a comprehensive exam, and/or a thesis presentation. Students should factor in the travel expenses needed to fulfill these requirements when determining their budget for school.

How Much Do Law Enforcement Majors Make?

Salaries vary by factors like industry, location, and experience. According to the BLS, graduates with a bachelor’s in law enforcement who work as detectives and crime investigators earn a median annual salary of $86,940. Detectives and crime investigators who work for the federal executive branch typically earn the highest salaries. Other top-paying employers of these professionals include the postal service, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, and local governments.

Location also affects salary. For instance, detectives and crime investigators in Alaska, Maryland, and Hawaii typically earn the highest salaries. A bachelor’s in law enforcement also qualifies degree-holders for jobs such as probation officer and correctional treatment specialist, sheriff’s patrol officer, and first-line police supervisor. Professionals in these occupations earn median salaries higher than the national median for all occupations.

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.

This course examines the major aspects of punishment and corrections, including deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, retribution, and restorative justice. Students learn how social and ethical factors shape different criminal punishment theories and philosophies. They also study the effect of punishment on criminal justice practice and policies.

This course presents case histories to demonstrate the moral and ethical dilemmas that law enforcement professionals often face in their careers. Students examine moral principles and concepts and learn how to apply them in different real-life situations. Enrollees also explore how factors such as class, gender, and race impact their ethical responsibilities.

This course examines the services and limitations of crime laboratories and the nature of physical evidence. Enrollees study the Federal Rules of Evidence to learn about testimonial and documentary admissibility of evidence in court.

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.

Certifications and Licensure for Law Enforcement

Law enforcement professionals can pursue professional certifications to demonstrate specialized skills and knowledge. These credentials can help professionals advance their career and stand out in the job market. The following list outlines several common certifications for law enforcement professionals.

Certified Financial Crime Specialist

Law enforcement professionals who wish to focus on financial crimes can apply for the CFCS credential administered by the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists (ACFCS). The ACFCS assigns a certain number of credits for eligibility categories such as education, experience, professional certifications, and training. Applicants need at least 40 credits to earn the credential.

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Certified Homeland Protection Professional

The Global Society of Homeland Security Professionals administers the CHPP credential. Applicants must hold an associate or bachelor’s degree and at least four years of professional or volunteer experience in public safety or security. Applicants must also demonstrate knowledge in areas such as incident management, weapons of mass destruction, and risk and vulnerability assessment.

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Police K-9 Certification

The National Tactical Police Dog Association administers this credential, which only accepts active law enforcement professionals. Candidates can choose to focus on one or more specializations, such as article search, explosives, or narcotics detection.

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Online Bachelor’s in Law Enforcement Programs 2021

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