Best Online Bachelor’s in Law Enforcement 2021
Updated September 20, 2022
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A bachelor's degree in law enforcement prepares you for work in corrections, policing, and forensics. This degree equips students to lead, help others, and protect their communities.
Students who want to help others, protect their communities, and promote social change may enjoy a bachelor's degree in law enforcement. Law enforcement work also includes excitement, some danger, and a sense of reward.
An online bachelor's degree in law enforcement prepares graduates for work as police officers and detectives, security guards and surveillance officers, and corrections officers. Additional employment opportunities include security consulting, law enforcement education, and private investigations. Degrees in law enforcement also help current criminal justice and corrections professionals advance in their positions.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, police officers and other essential workers continue to work in towns, cities, and communities around the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that protective service occupations will add nearly 286,400 jobs by 2030.
To find out more about the best online law enforcement degrees, review the rankings below.
The Best Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Programs
Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
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Featured Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Programs
What Is an Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Degree?
An online bachelor's degree in law enforcement builds a fundamental understanding of the criminal justice system, policing, and correctional services. Students foster critical thinking and communication skills while exploring technical, psychological, and social aspects of law enforcement.
A law enforcement bachelor's degree typically includes four years of coursework and practical requirements. This degree is ideal for individuals looking to enter a law enforcement position. Current police officers, corrections personnel, and comparable protective service workers who want to advance within their professions also benefit from earning a degree in law enforcement. A bachelor's degree in law enforcement also serves as a pathway to a master's degree in law enforcement.
What Is the Difference Between a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Law Enforcement and a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Law Enforcement?
Some schools offer a bachelor of arts in law enforcement, a bachelor of science in law enforcement, or both. Most coursework in both programs is identical, but a BA emphasizes humanities courses like psychology, economics, and sociology.
A BS in law enforcement integrates technical aspects such as forensics, information technology, and natural science as they relate to the field. Individuals looking to work as a criminologist or detective benefit from a BA, while crime scene investigators are better served by a BS.
Choosing an Online Program
When choosing the right online bachelor's degree in law enforcement, consider cost, length of degree, and specializations. Ensure the program meets your personal and professional interests and goals. Prospective students should also consider regional accreditation, resident tuition eligibility, and program structure.
What to Expect From a Degree in Law Enforcement
Law enforcement degrees include comparable coursework and requirements, but no two programs are alike. Core classes emphasize law enforcement theory and practice, but some programs may include specialization options. Many law enforcement bachelor's degrees integrate research courses and practical components as well.
Law Enforcement Concentrations
A homeland security concentration focuses on the role of law enforcement as it relates to the policies and functions of the Department of Homeland Security. Students learn how law enforcement prevents and combats domestic and international terrorism. Coursework also introduces learners to tools and techniques used by Homeland Security, investigation practices, and legal considerations.
Criminal forensics specializations emphasize the science behind crime scene investigation. Students learn how to locate, collect, and analyze evidence. Additional aspects of criminal forensics, such as psychology, build an essential understanding of crime, criminals, and criminal investigation practices.
A cybersecurity concentration explores both sides of cybercrime. Students learn about common crimes like identity theft while gaining skills to investigate and prevent cybercrimes. Cybersecurity coursework trains students how to protect computer systems, networks, and data breaches; follow laws related to cybersecurity; and identify potential cyber threats.
Juvenile justice concentrations teach law enforcement students to understand juvenile behaviors as they relate to crime and criminal activities. Coursework emphasizes prevention and rehabilitation, law and policy, and intervention for juvenile suspects and offenders. A juvenile justice specialization prepares learners to work as juvenile corrections officers, counselors, and probation officers.
Law Enforcement Curriculum
Common coursework in law enforcement programs emphasizes fundamentals of the legal system, corrections institutions, and court and judicial processes. Students learn theoretical and practical aspects of law and justice in local, state, and federal contexts.
- Criminal Law: Criminal law classes explore types of crime, evidence, and resulting punishments. Students learn about legal classifications, criminal procedures, and defenses associated with specific criminal laws.
- Criminal Justice and the Constitution: This course focuses on how the Constitution defines rights as they relate to criminal behavior, arrest, and judicial procedures. Students learn the nature of the Constitution, its role in shaping the criminal justice system, and its continued influence.
- Corrections: Corrections coursework introduces students to types of jails, prisons, and related corrections facilities. Learners gain the knowledge and skills to carry out the duties of corrections officers. Corrections classes also explore theories, techniques, and changes to corrections practices and institutions in the U.S. and around the world.
- Courts and Judicial Process: Individuals learn about the structure of the court system in the U.S. and how it operates at local, state, and federal levels. By exploring courts and judicial processes from political, social, and legal perspectives, law enforcement students understand the reasoning behind the court system in the U.S.
- Ethics for Criminal Justice Professionals: Students explore decision-making and ethical dilemmas in issues of justice, punishment, and law. Classes in ethics also focus on the role law enforcement professionals play within their communities, in the general public, and in daily interactions.
Joint/Dual Degrees in Law Enforcement
Students enrolled in an online bachelor's degree in law enforcement may want to double major or pursue a joint degree. A double major in law enforcement and information technology would optimize opportunities to work in cybersecurity, while a dual degree in biology or chemistry and law enforcement can lead to careers in forensics.
Some schools also offer joint degrees, which are programs that lead to a bachelor's and a master's degree in law enforcement. This five-year program may attract students who want to continue on to law school.
Law Enforcement Careers
A law enforcement bachelor's degree is versatile and can lead to jobs in private and public sectors alike. An online bachelor's degree in law enforcement opens employment opportunities in criminal justice, police work, and corrections.
Some positions available to law enforcement students may require additional training or certification from a local, state, or national body. This list represents common careers for individuals with a bachelor's degree in law enforcement.
|Career||Median Annual Wage (2020)||Projected Job Growth (2020-2030)|
|Emergency Management Directors||$76,250||6%|
|Police or Sheriff's Patrol Officers||$65,540||7%|
|Fish and Game Wardens||$58,040||7%|
Law Enforcement Organizations
Professional organizations for law enforcement workers offer networking opportunities, career guidance, and resources for career development. Some professional organizations operate at the national level, while others provide regional and local opportunities to make connections. Within the larger scope of law enforcement, professional organizations can also allow for exploration of specializations within the field.
Frequently Asked Questions About Law Enforcement Degrees
How Do I Start a Career in Law Enforcement?
First, determine the requirements necessary at the law enforcement agencies in which you are interested. Many entry-level careers in law enforcement do not require a degree, but a bachelor's degree gives you a great start to a position in the field.
What Is the Best Degree for Law Enforcement?
The best degree for law enforcement is the one that prepares you for the career you want. A degree in law enforcement builds knowledge and skills for positions in policing, corrections, and protective services.
How Many Years Does It Take to Study Law Enforcement?
The length of time you study law enforcement depends on your goals. Students can earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four, and a master's degree in two years of study.
Melissa Sartore holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her BA and MA in history are from Western Illinois University. A medievalist by training, she has published on outlawry in medieval England with additional publications on outlaws in popular culture and across geographic and historical boundaries.
Header Image Credit: kali9 | Getty Images
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