Online Law Enforcement Degrees 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.

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.


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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.

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. 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.

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.

Online Bachelor’s in Law Enforcement Programs 2021



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  1. Eastern Kentucky University
    Location

    Richmond, KY

    A public university located in Richmond, Kentucky, EKU offers in-person and online degrees. Through EKU Online, undergrads can earn an online bachelor's degree in police studies. The program focuses on policing strategies, crime patterns, and technology in law enforcement.

    Students take courses on topics like criminal justice research, ethical decision-making, and policing society. Majors can also complete an undergraduate certificate to specialize their degree. EKU offers certificates in homeland security, intelligence studies, and dispute resolution. They also offer a correctional intervention strategies certificate.

    The 120-credit online bachelor's in law enforcement program uses accelerated eight-week terms. EKU grants nine credits to current law enforcement officers who have completed Kentucky's Department of Criminal Justice training.

    Active-duty military personnel receive a tuition discount. Transfer students can apply up to 90 credits toward their degree. The program offers six start dates each year. EKU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. Bemidji State University
    Location

    Bemidji, MN

    Located on the shores of Lake Bemidji in Minnesota, BSU dates back to 1919. The public university enrolls around 5,000 students annually. BSU students can earn a bachelor's in law enforcement online.

    The 120-credit bachelor's degree requires 48 major credits. Students take core courses in the judicial process, criminology, and criminal law. Learners also complete coursework in emergency management, police process, criminal investigation, and community relations.

    The program meets the academic requirements for the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. BSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  3. SUNY College of Technology at Canton
    Location

    Canton, NY

    SUNY Canton is a public university located in St. Lawrence County. The school's online bachelor's in law enforcement leadership combines criminal justice and management training. The degree prepares graduates for leadership roles in law enforcement. SUNY Canton's flexible program lets learners customize their studies with electives.

    Learners study topics like police services, law enforcement communications, and patrol function management. The program incorporates optional training opportunities with a certified law enforcement academy.

    The online program uses a semester schedule without set login times. Students can pursue internships, service learning, and other field experiences to build career-ready skills. The program also offers personal tutors for online learners. SUNY Canton is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  4. Baker College
    Location

    Owosso, MI

    An independent, nonprofit college in Owosso, Michigan, Baker values flexibility and small class sizes in its online programs. The 120-credit online bachelor's in law enforcement program incorporates police academy training.

    Students pursuing the bachelor's in law enforcement online study topics like criminal justice, crime, and ethics. Coursework includes training in criminology, corrections, juvenile justice, and criminal law. The program's work experience requirements give students hands-on experience in the field.

    Students can choose between a synchronous or asynchronous format. The asynchronous program uses eight-week terms. The synchronous program follows eight-week or 16-week sessions. Baker is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  5. Southern New Hampshire University
    Location

    Manchester, NH

    SNHU is a private university that enrolls over 135,000 online students annually. Students can pursue a bachelor's in law enforcement online that provides foundational criminal justice training. The program also focuses on police administration and operations.

    Learners study the modern police force, including the roles of police agencies at the local, state, and federal levels. Undergraduates learn how to study crimes, work within a law enforcement budget, and create policing goals. The program covers effective police service, crisis intervention, and community policing. Another course teaches leadership in criminal justice organizations.

    SNHU does not require an application fee or standardized test scores. Incoming students can receive up to 12 transfer credits for law enforcement or military training. SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.

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