The Best Online Bachelor’s in Law Enforcement Programs

by Melissa Sartore
TheBestSchools.org

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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

  1. Florida State University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $16450

    FSU is a public sea-grant and space-grant research university based in Tallahassee. A member of the State University System of Florida, FSU is the state's oldest continuously occupied site for higher education. Boasting more than 110 labs, facilities, and centers, the university holds a high-activity research institution classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. FSU is home to 16 colleges and offers programs in more than 360 areas of study, including a law enforcement degree.

    The university's College of Applied Science offers a bachelor of science in public safety and security with law enforcement intelligence, crime scene investigation, and law enforcement operations emphases. Combining theoretical principles with practical exercises, the curriculum presents the integral skills and knowledge needed to excel in the law enforcement field. Online courses are presented in an asynchronous format, allowing candidates to fulfill program requirements at their convenience.

    Graduates can find work in a variety of settings and positions, including community and residential corrections, government agencies, public and private security companies, and court services. Many candidates choose to pursue graduate-level study or attend law school.

    Prospective students must hold at least 60 transferable credits and complete prerequisite coursework before gaining admission into the program. FSU automatically admits applicants who have earned an associate degree at any public Florida institution.

    Accreditation

    Florida State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. Colorado State University Global
    Location

    Greenwood Village, CO

    Tuition

    $9000

    CSU Global is a public university within the Colorado State University System. Largely focused on distance education, the university offers a diverse array of online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs developed with working professionals in mind.

    CSU Global's online bachelor's degree in criminal justice is an ideal program for prospective law enforcement and corrections professionals. Candidates build investigative, decision-making, and managerial skills as they learn to manage records, respond to crisis situations, develop policies, and handle ethical challenges in the workplace. Emphasizing criminal justice theory, the curriculum explores current and former law enforcement practices, as well as controversial policies and ethical issues in the field.

    The 120-credit law enforcement degree features specialization options such as intelligence and homeland security, criminal forensics, criminology, applied social sciences, and emergency management. Learners complete 30 core course credits and 15 credits within their specialization. Core classes address topics in criminology, laws of evidence, criminal law, and research methods. The program culminates in an applied capstone course, although students who are currently employed in a criminal justice setting may complete a supervised practicum in their workplace instead. Candidates may fulfill any remaining credit requirements through elective coursework.

    All distance learners pay the same tuition rate, regardless of their residence status. CSU Global does not charge student fees. The university provides generous discounts for active-duty military students and maintains tuition reimbursement arrangements with more than 600 partner corporations.

    Accreditation

    Colorado State University Global is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  3. University of Wisconsin - Whitewater
    Location

    Whitewater, WI

    Tuition

    $12422

    A residential university operating within the University of Wisconsin System, UW-Whitewater serves a diverse student body. The institution offers 15 graduate programs and nearly 50 undergraduate degrees, including a law enforcement degree.

    UW-Whitewater's law enforcement degree completion program is intended for law enforcement professionals who hold at least three years of relevant work experience and an associate degree. Developed for full-time workers, this hybrid bachelor's degree in criminology consists of independent study, credit for prior learning, online coursework, and in-person classes available at convenient locations and times. Learners who have previously completed general education requirements and enroll in courses year round can graduate in three years. If necessary, candidates may also take fewer classes per semester.

    This degree completion program offers credit for independent and prior learning, helping students save time and money. Candidates may earn prior learning credit by submitting portfolios, which are graded on a pass/fail basis.

    Advisors are available to help distance learners develop flexible academic plans to fit their work schedules. UW-Whitewater sponsors multiple scholarships for returning and nontraditional students. The university also provides tutoring services, term paper assistance, and outreach programs for students over the age of 25.

    Accreditation

    The University of Wisconsin Whitewater is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  4. Middle Tennessee State University
    Location

    Murfreesboro, TN

    Tuition

    $11916

    Founded as a normal school in 1911, MTSU offers more than 80 programs of study through a graduate school and eight undergraduate colleges, including business, media and entertainment, education, basic and applied sciences, liberal arts, and behavioral and health sciences. Students can access a variety of programs, including a law enforcement degree.

    Well-suited for prospective corrections officials, police officers, and attorneys, MTSU's bachelor of science in criminal justice administration features concentrations in homeland security and law enforcement. The 120-credit program includes 41 credits of general education coursework, 48 major-related credits, 30 credits of concentration courses, and 15-18 credits of minor coursework. Candidates may fulfill any remaining credit requirements by taking classes such as victimology, homicide investigation, and introduction to emergency and disaster management.

    Prior to earning their law enforcement degree, seniors gain on-the-job training by completing an internship. The university maintains internship arrangements with more than 30 criminal justice organizations, including probation and parole offices, police departments, public defender offices, and a variety of federal and state agencies.

    First-year applicants must hold a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher and a composite ACT score of 22 or SAT score of 1020. Candidates with lower GPAs may gain admission by meeting certain standardized test requirements or by applying to receive conditional admission.

    Accreditation

    Middle Tennessee State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  5. Rowan University
    Location

    Glassboro, NJ

    Tuition

    $19246

    A public research university in Glassboro, New Jersey, Rowan maintains medical campuses in Stratford and Camden, an academic campus in Camden, and a virtual campus: Rowan Global. Home to 12 schools and colleges, the university offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies degrees and certificates.

    Distance learners may pursue Rowan Global's flexible online law enforcement degree on a full-time or part-time basis. The 120-credit bachelor of arts in law and justice studies provides the academic framework candidates need to understand the U.S. criminal justice system, criminal law, and social responses to criminal behavior. Students develop logical, reasoning, critical thinking, and writing skills as they evaluate and analyze criminal justice policies, law enforcement strategies, and the root causes of crime.

    Along with general education coursework, distance students complete classes in criminal law, theories of crime and criminality, criminal justice research, and law and human rights. While many graduates go on to work in the courts, human services, corrections, law enforcement, and security agencies, others choose to pursue graduate study or professional training.

    Applicants must hold an associate degree or at least 24 credits of transferable coursework earned with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.0. All online students pay the same per-credit tuition rate, and individuals enrolled in 18 or more credits receive a significant discount. Classes start twice a year in the spring and fall.

    Accreditation

    Rowan University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  6. Drury University
    Location

    Springfield, MO

    Tuition

    $19706

    DU was founded in 1873 when Congregationalist missionaries recognized a growing demand for higher education in southern Missouri. Located in Springfield, this private liberal arts institution offers 54 undergraduate majors. One of the first institutions in Missouri to provide evening and adult education programs, DU continues to offer flexible options, including a hybrid law enforcement degree.

    The bachelor of science in law enforcement with a concentration in leadership builds practical and theoretical knowledge, stressing current investigative procedures and techniques. Developed for working professionals, the program combines online, hybrid, and evening courses. Graduates learn the leadership and communication skills needed to pursue careers in local, state, and federal justice systems.

    Candidates complete a minimum of 42 concentration-specific credits, a three-credit survey course, 15 credits of lower-division courses, 18 credits of upper-division courses, and six credits of leadership coursework. Major and concentration classes address a variety of law enforcement topics, covering law and society, victimology, juvenile delinquency, the correctional system, the judicial process, and public information management. Students must complete their final 30 credits on campus and attend a commencement ceremony.

    DU charges a flat, per-credit rate for its online programs. Distance learners are encouraged to apply for institutional scholarships and federal and state funding opportunities. Military members may qualify for additional financial aid and prior training credit.

    Accreditation

    Drury University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  7. Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University
    Location

    Center City, PA

    Tuition

    $28510

    Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University merged in 2017 to form one private, professional university. Referred to as Jefferson, this institution is known for its medical research and interdisciplinary, experiential approach to learning. The university's distance education division — Jefferson Online — offers a variety of web-based programs, including an online law enforcement degree.

    Distance learners can complete Jefferson's online bachelor of science in law enforcement leadership in as few as two years. The project-based curriculum introduces integral law enforcement concepts and skills, making it a suitable option for students from all academic and professional backgrounds. Each eight-week course explores a pertinent law enforcement topic such as contemporary policing, advanced police management, and crime analysis.

    Undergraduate applicants must provide a letter of recommendation, official high school transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, and a personal essay. Prospective students are expected to complete a series of prerequisite courses before gaining admission to the program. Jefferson Online uses rolling admissions and maintains a generous transfer policy. All candidates pay the same tuition rate, regardless of their residency status.

    Accreditation

    Jefferson (Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University) is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

  8. Texas State University
    Location

    San Marcos, TX

    Tuition

    $13579

    A public research university in San Marcos, TSU was founded in 1899 as the Southwest Texas State Normal School. Today, TSU is the largest institution in the Texas State University System and the fifth-largest university in the state, with nearly 40,000 students enrolled in 50 schools and departments and 10 colleges. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classifies the school as a doctoral university with high research activity.

    TSU's career-focused law enforcement degree develops the competencies needed to pursue careers in policing, parole, probation, and asset protection, as well as non-practitioner roles in rehabilitation counseling and research. The 120-credit curriculum addresses the fundamentals of criminal law, courts and criminal procedure, correctional systems and practices, and police systems and practices. Distance learners who did not complete two years of modern foreign language study in high school must do so as part of the program's general education curriculum. Seniors may fulfill elective requirements by completing an internship at an approved local criminal justice facility.

    Undergraduates may access TSU's academic advising center for course selection assistance, schedule development, and help with transferring credits. As a military-friendly institution, TSU encourages servicemembers and veterans to submit prior training for college credit assessment. Applicants who have been out of high school for three or more years and hold less than 29 transferable credits may apply through an individual review process.

    Accreditation

    Texas State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  9. Regent University
    Location

    Virginia Beach, VA

    Tuition

    $17820

    Founded in 1977 by Pat Robertson as Christian Broadcasting Network University, this Virginia Beach-based institution acquired its current name in 1990. The university maintains a satellite campus in Alexandria and offers traditional and online programs through eight academic schools. Students can pursue associate, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees in more than 70 areas of study, including an online law enforcement degree.

    Offering rigorous academics from a Christian perspective, the bachelor of science in criminal justice with a concentration in law enforcement emphasizes ethics and critical thinking. A core curriculum explores criminal investigation ethics and processes, juvenile justice, constitutional law, and criminal law, while concentration coursework surveys issues in criminal and legal procedure, law enforcement, and public policy. Candidates learn to understand law enforcement operations by examining daily practices in police departments and other agencies.

    Graduates are well-versed in criminological concepts; criminal defense methods; parties to crime; and the trial process, including sentencing and appeals. Many degree-holders pursue careers in probation, customs, policing, border patrol, and detective work.

    Regent's online peer mentorship program helps new distance learners navigate their studies by pairing them with seasoned online students. Learners also receive access to free online tutoring services, a digital research library, and job development resources from the university's career center. Distance students can also participate in Regent's weekly chapel service broadcasts.

    Accreditation

    Regent University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  10. Southeast Missouri State University
    Location

    Cape Girardeau, MO

    Tuition

    $12165

    While SEMO began as a normal school focusing on teacher education, today's students can pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in more than 200 areas of study. Well-suited for working professionals, SEMO's flexible online law enforcement degree provides a path to roles in corrections, juvenile justice, and related areas.

    Distance learners can tailor this online bachelor of science in criminal justice program to meet their career goals by pursuing an academic/university track or a law enforcement academy track. The law enforcement academy pathway is intended for students who wish to complete specialized law enforcement training, while the academic/university track emphasizes theoretical aspects of crime and the criminal justice system. Law enforcement academy candidates must complete 760 training hours over the course of 19 weeks.

    Core coursework for both concentrations explores the challenges and social problems associated with crime protection, prevention, and rehabilitation. Online courses are presented asynchronously through the Moodle learning platform and last eight or 16 weeks.

    SEMO students enjoy a variety of career and internship opportunities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals' Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Missouri Highway Patrol.

    Applicants must provide their high school transcripts and ACT or SAT test scores. All distance learners pay the same tuition rate, and students who submit a FAFSA are automatically considered for need-based institutional scholarships.

    Accreditation

    Southeast Missouri State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Best Online Bachelor's

Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

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

Homeland Security

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

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.

Cybersecurity

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

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.

Top Careers in Law Enforcement With a Bachelor's Degree
Career Median Annual Wage (2020) Projected Job Growth (2020-2030)
Police Detectives $86,940 7%
Emergency Management Directors $76,250 6%
Police or Sheriff's Patrol Officers $65,540 7%
Fish and Game Wardens $58,040 7%
Probation Officers $55,690 4%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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.

SRLEEA focuses on the needs of small, rural, and tribal law enforcement agencies and professionals. SRLEEA offers free symposia and training, hosts an annual conference, and provides industry discounts to members. Law enforcement employees, federal partners, students, and citizen supporters can join SRLEEA at no cost. Dedicated to ensuring equity in the administration of justice, NOBLE offers conferences and training exhibitions each year. Members receive access to NOBLE's continuing education programs, its extensive member database, and representation in federal, state, and local government. NAWLEE is the first organization formed to focus on the needs of women in law enforcement. It provides mentorship programs, job resources, and awards to members. NAWLEE also offers newsletters, partnerships, and committee memberships to law enforcement professionals and students. NLPOA brings together Latino peace officers from around the country through citizenship, mentor, and training programs. Workshops, awards, and job postings are available to chapter and individual members alike.

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.

Portrait of Melissa Sartore

Melissa Sartore

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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