Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs 2021

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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


  • Q. 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.


  • Q. 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.


  • Q. 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.

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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.

Police officers sometimes arrive at accident scenes before emergency medical care professionals. In this course, learners acquire the knowledge needed to care for injured individuals and temporarily sustain life. Class participants learn how to identify traumatic injuries and respond accordingly under pressure using basic life support actions.

This course examines best practices for searching crime scenes and protecting the integrity of investigations. Students learn how to preserve and collect physical evidence and dust for fingerprints. Learners also practice documenting sites using photography and diagramming. Upon course completion, individuals should know the correct protocols for leading teams on successful crime scene investigations.

A patrol procedures class discusses how to conduct proper duty tours in assigned areas. Learners take notes on what to observe and ways to spot potential crimes. This class also discusses the proper techniques and protocols for police response. Part of a patrol procedures course examines the theories behind today’s procedures in community policing.

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.

Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs 2021



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  1. Arizona State University-Skysong
    Location

    Scottsdale, AZ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    ASU offers an online master's in public safety leadership and administration. The 33-credit program prepares law enforcement professionals for executive police administration roles. 

    Enrollees complete courses in several core areas, including budgeting and finance. The executive police administration concentration explores criminal justice planning and program evaluation. Learners also study criminal justice organization and management. Participants finish the master's degree with an applied project that links theory to practice. Graduates may work as detectives or special agents. 

    Students enrolled in the online master's in law enforcement pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires a bachelor's degree in a related field. Candidates also need a minimum 3.0 GPA and law enforcement work experience.

  2. Michigan State University
    Location

    East Lansing, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    MSU features an online master's in law enforcement intelligence and analysis. The program incorporates the latest practices in safety and security. Enrollees learn how to use local, state, and national data in law enforcement operations. Applicants do not need law enforcement experience.

    The 30-credit degree explores topics such as crime analysis and comprehensive threat assessment. A course provides training in social science research methods. Students use elective credit to complete an internship at a criminal justice agency. Degree-seekers can earn the degree in about 2.5 years. 

    Students pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

  3. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    One of the nation's top Christian colleges, Liberty offers an online MS in criminal justice (CJ). The 36-credit program prepares police professionals for administrative roles. The law enforcement leadership specialization focuses on effective and ethical leadership.

    The curriculum's core explores concepts such as CJ integration and HR management. All enrollees complete a course on leadership, ethics, and policing. The law enforcement leadership specialization examines strategic intelligence for law enforcement leaders. Learners study homeland security organization and administration. Degree-seekers can complete elective courses or use the credit to develop a research thesis.

    Students may transfer up to 18 credits toward the online master's in law enforcement. Enrollees can earn the degree in 1.5 years. All participants pay the same tuition. Military personnel receive a tuition discount. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

  4. University of San Diego
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    USD's online master's in law enforcement and public safety leadership teaches practical managerial skills. Students with some professional law enforcement experience may apply. Active-duty military members may also apply. Participants can complete the 31-unit degree in 20 months.

    The program explores topics such as public policy innovation and organizational leadership for law enforcement. One course focuses on law enforcement management and conflict resolution. Students finish the program with an online portfolio that showcases their knowledge.

    Graduates from law enforcement training programs may qualify to transfer up to 12 units. Students in the master's in law enforcement program pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Police union members may receive a tuition discount. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.75 GPA.

  5. Seton Hall University
    Location

    South Orange, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Seton Hall has offered a police graduate studies program since the 1990s. The master of arts in HR training and development (HRTD) enrolls law enforcement officers and criminal justice employees. Students learn how to advance careers in law enforcement and public administration. Enrollees complete the 36-credit program in six semesters. Seton Hall provides an online option or blended format with classes at one of five locations in New Jersey.

    Coursework explores topics such as personnel administration and leadership dynamics. Enrollees learn how to design and evaluate HRTD programs. They explore the ethical foundations of professional helping relationships. A course focuses on the principles of public sector bargaining. Participants finish the online master's in law enforcement with directed research.

    Law enforcement officers receive a 50% tuition discount. Current New Jersey state troopers receive a $1,000-$3,000 scholarship. Admission requires all college transcripts and references.

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