Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs

A master's degree in law enforcement can lead to increased career opportunities. Here, we outline the top online programs.

Updated September 16, 2022

Reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for qualified police and detectives continues to rise. In fact, the BLS projects a job outlook growth of 5% between 2019 and 2029 for this occupation. This data marks good news for individuals considering a master's in law enforcement.

Individuals with a passion for justice, an eye for detail, and who enjoy making observations typically thrive in this role. This article examines the top five master's programs for aspiring law enforcement officers, the benefits of pursuing this degree, and certifications for this degree.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Law Enforcement


What can you do with a degree in law enforcement?

Most graduates become police officers. Others pursue careers as detectives, private investigators, or public safety officers. Some of these positions require academy training as well.

What is the highest paying job in law enforcement?

The BLS lists similar occupations for police officers and detectives and their respective salaries. According to BLS data, emergency manager directors make the most with a median annual salary of $76,250.

How much do police officers make with a master's degree?

According to August 2019 PayScale data, professionals with a master's in law enforcement earn an average salary of $65,000. Salary.com reports a salary range of $56,850-$59,260 for these same professionals.

Why Get a Degree in Law Enforcement?

Earning a master's in law enforcement presents many benefits. For starters, this advanced degree allows individuals to qualify for higher-paying leadership positions in the law enforcement field. With this degree, individuals could even apply for high-profile positions with the United States Secret Service or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Or, they could work as head sheriffs for local county departments.

Additionally, this degree translates well to online coursework. This means current police officers can maintain their full-time jobs while pursuing advanced education. Online degrees typically cost less than in-person degrees, and online learners save money on commuting costs.

How Much Does a Law Enforcement Degree Cost?

The exact cost of a law enforcement degree varies by school. For example, public universities tend to cost less than private colleges. The National Center for Education Statistics gathers data on the average tuition rate for graduate degrees. Accounting for each type of school, the average tuition for a graduate degree for the 2018-2019 school year cost about $19,310.

With increasing tuition rates in mind, attending an accelerated program may save students money in the long term. Additionally, online learners typically pay fewer fees than in-person students since virtual students do not use campus equipment or facilities. When creating a college budget, learners should also factor in living expenses. Online learning prevents the need to relocate or find new housing.

Additional Online Student Fees for Law Enforcement

While we briefly mentioned fees for an online law enforcement degree in the previous section, we discuss them in more detail here. For starters, every virtual student must own a quality computer with reliable WiFi access. This degree does not require an expensive or advanced operating system. However, learners should also consider computer maintenance costs, such as repairs.

Textbooks also make up a fraction of a college budget. Purchasing digital versions of books when available saves money. However, learners who prefer physical book copies save money by buying used books or participating in a textbook rental program.

How Much Do Law Enforcement Majors Make?

According to the BLS, police and detectives earn a median annual pay of $67,290. The highest 10% earn more than a median $113,000 annually, and the lowest 10% earn a median $39,130 annually.

Fortunately, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management publishes a helpful law enforcement salary calculator. Researching current job postings that include salary information may also provide a clearer picture of how salaries vary by geographical location. For example, jobs in larger cities may pay more than positions in rural areas to account for the cost of living differences.

PayScale also offers data on how salary varies by years of experience. According to May 2021 PayScale data, police officers with less than one year of experience earn an average salary of $48,000, while police officers with more than 20 years of experience earn more than $76,000.

Courses in Law Enforcement

During their studies, individuals earning a master's in law enforcement learn the correct protocol for tasks like conducting traffic stops, issuing citations, obtaining search warrants, and patrolling. Students fine-tune their observation skills and practice recording statements in detail. Graduates should possess the knowledge needed to uphold the law responsibly and lead teams.

In this section, we examine three common courses included in a law enforcement master's degree. Keep in mind exact courses vary by program, but this list offers a sample curriculum. Additionally, most master's programs also require a thesis or capstone project.

How to Become a Private Detective

Some graduates pursue careers as private detectives with this degree. According to the BLS, 39% of private detectives and investigators work for investigation, guard, and armored car services. However, this career also allows for the possibility of self-employment. In fact, 3% of all private investigators run their own businesses.

BLS data also reveals that the need for these professionals should grow much faster than average at 8% between 2019 and 2029. Private detectives and investigators earn a median annual income of $53,320.

This career typically requires several years of on-the-job experience, typically in the law enforcement field. Pairing years of experience with a master's degree positions professionals to earn leadership positions as private detectives.

Certifications and Licensure for Law Enforcement

Currently, 37 states and the District of Columbia require statutory law enforcement certification. The National Conference of State Legislatures publishes an interactive map to help individuals learn about the specific requirements in their state. Aside from required certifications, individuals can also advance their careers with voluntary certifications. We discuss a few below.

Individuals working in law enforcement can become certified protection professionals by taking an exam. The American Society for Industrial Security administers the exam, but individuals must acquire 3-7 years of experience before qualifying. This certification demonstrates expertise in the seven key domains of security. The American Society for Industrial Security also oversees this certification that demonstrates excellence in case evaluations and security investigations. To earn this certification, individuals must complete 125 scored questions and pay a fee ranging from $335-$485. This certification also requires at least three years of experience in private investigating. The National Sheriffs' Association works with the Global Society of Homeland and National Security Professionals to offer this certification. To prepare for the certification exam, individuals participate in training courses that focus on threat, risk, and vulnerability assessment. This certification distinguishes entry-level professionals from experienced professionals in the Homeland Security field. The National Sheriffs' Association works with the Global Society of Homeland and National Security Professionals to offer this certification. To prepare for the certification exam, individuals participate in training courses that focus on threat, risk, and vulnerability assessment. This certification distinguishes entry-level professionals from experienced professionals in the Homeland Security field.

Online Master's in Law Enforcement Programs

#1

Arizona State University

School Information
Location Scottsdale, Arizona
Admission Rate 64%
Graduation Rate 4%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 98% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Among Arizona State University's academic offerings is a respected criminal justice master's program. Located in Scottsdale, Arizona, the public institution enrolls 44,167 students in its flexible online programs. The online degrees' flexible scheduling options can make it easier for busy learners to complete degree requirements.

The master of public safety leadership and administration with a concentration in executive police administration features a rigorous curriculum and meets high academic standards. Specialized electives allow master's students to customize the program based on their goals and interests. In designing the curriculum, the program prioritizes flexibility and industry-relevant knowledge. Graduates often benefit from increased criminal justice career opportunities after earning their master's degree. Master's students can take advantage of the institution's career services to prepare to transition from their studies into the workforce.

In addition to career advising, learners can access financial aid counseling to ensure they explore all funding options. The school supports online enrollees through affordable tuition rates and institutional funding. Additional financial aid options include private scholarships and fellowships. 

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#2

Michigan State University

School Information
Location East Lansing, Michigan
Admission Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 81%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Michigan State University educates distance learners through accessible, high-quality online graduate programs. The public institution's academic offerings include 19 online master's programs. Degree-seekers can enroll in the school's master of science in law enforcement intelligence and analysis. The online criminal justice program's flexible scheduling options can make it easier for busy students to complete degree requirements.

The graduate-level curriculum features specialized criminal justice classes and foundational core coursework. The rigorous curriculum blends theoretical and practical knowledge, with an emphasis on industry-specific skills. Degree-seekers typically complete the master's program in 1-2 years. An admissions advisor can provide specific application details, including requirements and deadlines.

Online learners at the school pay affordable tuition rates. The institution's graduate tuition rates average $18,858 for in-state students and $37,056 for out-of-state students. Degree-seekers at the school pay a per-credit tuition rate averaging $818. Enrollees at the accredited institution can receive federal financial aid. Of the school's students, 70% obtain financial aid to pay for their degree.

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#3

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Liberty University educates undergraduate and graduate degree-seekers online and at its Lynchburg campus in Virginia. The school's online options include 30 online bachelor's programs and 68 online master's programs.

Degree-seekers interested in law enforcement can enroll in the institution's online master of science in criminal justice with a concentration in law enforcement leadership. After earning the master's degree in law enforcement, graduates can launch a new career in the field. Master's students can access support services such as faculty mentorship and career counseling.

The school charges online enrollees affordable tuition rates. The institution holds accreditation, which means students can submit the FAFSA to receive federal grants and loans. Scholarships and fellowships can also help learners reduce out-of-pocket expenses. Degree-seekers with transferable graduate credits often complete their degree more quickly and save money on tuition.

Liberty University Numbers:

Tuition Per Credit: $750

Students Receiving Aid: 99%

Students Receiving Loans: 57%

Total Online Master's Programs: 68

Transfer Credits Toward Degree: Yes

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#4

The University of San Diego

School Information
Location San Diego, California
Admission Rate 49%
Graduation Rate 81%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A private school located in California, the University of San Diego offers some of the best online courses in the country. The accredited master of science in law enforcement and public safety leadership uses a rigorous curriculum taught by experts. Nontraditional learners can use test scores to bolster their application. The school provides advisors, IT support professionals, and other support staff to help online students. The school's virtual classrooms let participants interact with faculty and peers.

Degree-seekers may be able to lower their cost of tuition through loans or scholarships. Prospective applicants should meet with a financial aid officer to see what funding options they qualify for. In addition to the online criminal justice program, the University of San Diego offers 4 other master's degrees. 

The University of San Diego Facts:

Number of Online Students: 739

Online Master's Offered: 5

In-State Graduate School Tuition: $27,288

Out-of-State Graduate School Tuition: $27,288

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

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#5

Seton Hall University

School Information
Location South Orange, New Jersey
Admission Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 73%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A master's degree from Seton Hall University leads to new career opportunities and increased responsibilities. This institution offers online and on-campus master's program options. Among these choices is the master of arts in law enforcement executive leadership. The curriculum consists of video lectures, assignments, and class discussions. Full-time students complete the program in about two years. The program may also enroll learners on a part-time basis.

Online enrollees pay an average of $1,332 per credit across all programs. About 100% of degree-seekers receive financial aid, and 51% of students take out loans to fund their education. The admission rate for applicants across all programs is 74%.

Seton Hall University Facts:

Number of Online Students: 2,603

Online Master's Program Offerings: 16

Graduate School Tuition: $23,580 in-state; $23,580 out-of-state

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

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