If you have a passion for public safety and criminal justice, an online bachelor’s in law enforcement could be the right choice for you. Police officers are in high demand in communities across the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), projects that job opportunities for police and detectives will grow 7% between 2016 and 2026. Law enforcement is an exciting and often lucrative field, with police officers and detectives drawing an annual median salary of nearly $63,000. While law enforcement professionals face new challenges each day, most find it rewarding to make their communities safer.
Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.
The Best Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Programs
1. Pennsylvania State University-World Campus
University Park, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1855 as the state’s first agricultural college, Pennsylvania State University has grown and expanded. The university now consists of 24 physical campuses across the state, and its World Campus offers more than 150 different programs in a flexible, online format. One of these online degree options is a bachelor of science in criminal justice, an ideal option for distance-learning students looking to earn an accredited online law enforcement degree. This program is open to students at all different levels, including those just starting out and students who may have already earned credits or an associate degree elsewhere. The one basic requirement for applicants is that they need to have earned their high school diploma or GED.
The BS in criminal justice at Penn State requires students to complete 120 credit hours. For those with transfer credits, at least 36 of the final 60 hours of the program must be completed through Penn State. In addition to general education courses, the major courses in the criminal justice program cover subjects like ethics in criminal justice, police administration, sociology, alternatives to incarceration, and the juvenile justice system. There is also an option for students to pursue a minor in homeland security, which requires an additional 18 credit hours and prepares students for a career in security.
The criminal justice program at Penn State’s World Campus is accredited by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.
Pennsylvania State University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
2. University of Massachusetts - Lowell
The University of Massachusetts-Lowell is about 40 minutes outside of Boston, and the campus hosts more than 17,000 students earning degrees at all levels. With more than 100 undergraduate majors, UMass Lowell provides high quality education across a range of subjects. The university’s division of online learning offers more than 50 degrees and certificates that students can pursue entirely online or through a mix of online and on-campus coursework. One of these programs is a bachelor of science in criminal justice. This 120-credit hour program includes core general education courses, criminal justice core courses and electives, and classes in major-based computer skills. Some of the electives include topics like juvenile delinquency, criminal profiling, violence in America, and substance abuse and crime.
The law enforcement online degree at UMass Lowell prepares students for careers in a variety of sectors and fields, and offers a range of electives and minors to allow students to customize their degrees. UMass Lowell also offers a BS to MA program that allows students to complete both their bachelor of science and master of arts degrees at an accelerated pace.
UMass Lowell’s unique program structure gives local students the opportunity to take courses both online and on-campus, or they can select to complete their degree entirely online. The online learning program also offers a virtual open house for prospective students, with support specialists in place to help students plan and navigate their programs.
The University of Massachusetts is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE).
3. City University of Seattle
With its main campus headquartered in Seattle, Washington, City University of Seattle also offers satellite locations around the state. CityU is a private, not-for-profit university, and has partnered with other private institutions around the globe to provide high quality education. Many of the programs offered at CityU are available either on site, online, or a combination of both. The bachelor of science in criminal justice at CityU can be completed entirely online and provides students with the same coursework and education as on-site degrees. This program gives students the additional flexibility to complete coursework on their own time from any location.
The criminal justice program consists of 180 required credit hours. Students can choose from three different concentrations: corporate security and investigation, cyber forensic investigation, and justice administration. Each pathway leads to the same criminal justice degree, but allows students to pursue a specialization based on their ultimate career goals. Students in the program who have already completed a law enforcement training academy program or have military experience may even be eligible to earn up to 25 elective credits towards the degree. Alumni from CityU’s criminal justice program have landed careers in corrections and juvenile justice, criminal and fraud investigation, and law enforcement.
The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have designated the criminal justice program at CityU as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.
City University of Seattle is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
4. Washington State University
In 1890, Washington State University became the state’s first land-grant institution. With its main campus based in the city of Pullman, WSU has many campuses across the state, including an online education community that offers 12 undergraduate degrees and eleven graduate programs. WSU’s Global Campus offers an online criminal justice degree designed to equip students with the skills needed to work in all sectors and areas of law enforcement.
The faculty members in WSU’s criminal justice program often work with all kinds of local and federal law enforcement and investigative agencies, making them valuable sources of information and experience for students entering the field. Students earning their law enforcement degree online at WSU take courses in a wide range of areas outside of general education requirements, including criminological theory, crime control policies, criminal law, criminal procedure, and juvenile justice and corrections.
Transfer students are welcome to apply. The university analyzes transfer transcripts to determine which courses apply towards the completion of a degree at WSU. Courses in the program take place entirely online on a normal semester schedule, but students also have the opportunity to enroll in three-week intensive winter and intersession periods to earn credits while traditional semesters are on break. Most online coursework is completed asynchronously, as it is rare that instructors will ask students to be online at designated times. Additionally, online students often receive invitations to social engagements to help them feel a part of the community at WSU.
Washington State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
5. Excelsior College
Albany, New York
Excelsior College is a private, regionally-accredited distance learning college dedicated to providing students all over the world with access to flexible, innovative education. On average, students at Excelsior graduate with degrees of all levels in just under three years, even while more than 70% of enrolled students are employed full time.
The fully-online bachelor of science in criminal justice at Excelsior is ideal for students who want to earn their degree faster, and on their own time. The bachelor’s program requires a total of 120 credit hours for graduation, but with Excelsior’s generous transfer policies, students who have earned degree credits at other institutions can likely apply most of those credits towards their degree at Excelsior. Students with military and/or law enforcement training may also qualify for academic credit towards the degree, allowing them to graduate even sooner.
The criminal justice bachelor’s program at Excelsior emphasizes a concentration in law enforcement and public safety to prepare students for their careers. Students in the program study and explore subjects like criminal procedure, community policing, forensic pathology, public and private security, and evidence handling. The major requirement in criminal justice is a minimum of 33 required credit hours, spread between core courses and electives in the area. A capstone course is also required. Students may choose to specialize in areas like homeland security, criminal justice administration, and investigative forensics.
Excelsior College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
6. Rowan University
Glassboro, New Jersey
Students who have earned an associate degree and wish to complete a bachelor’s degree will find Rowan University’s degree completion programs to be an excellent alternative to traditional four-year options. Rowan offers both bachelor of science and bachelor of arts degree completion programs in several majors and subject areas, with 40 graduate level programs for students looking to earn advanced degrees. The online BA in law and justice program offered at Rowan is available entirely online, and requires just 60 semester hours of coursework, in addition to transfer credits and/or earned associate degree hours from previous institutions. The BA in law and justice program is ideal for students hoping to begin careers in corrections, law enforcement, security services, or court services.
The coursework in this degree completion program prepares students for careers in law and justice by emphasizing skills in critical thinking, logic, writing, and reasoning. Some of the required courses students take at Rowan include classes in corrections, international terrorism, human rights, juvenile justice, and theories of criminality. A writing intensive seminar in law and justice is also required.
Students interested in completing their bachelor’s degree in law and justice at Rowan must have already earned either an associate degree or a minimum of 24 transferable credits with at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA. Students who choose to enroll in 13 or more credit hours at Rowan have the opportunity to pay a flat rate for tuition. Many students complete their degree at Rowan in four-to-five consecutive semesters of full-time enrollment.
Rowan University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
7. Webster University
Webster Groves, Missouri
Originally founded as a Catholic university for women, Webster University has grown exponentially in the decades since. Today, Webster is a not-for-profit university based in St. Louis, with over 17,000 students throughout numerous US and global campuses and a growing online learning community. Webster offers a BA in criminology that students can opt to complete either fully or partially online. The 128-credit hour program emphasizes skills in critical thinking to prepare students for careers in criminal justice and law enforcement.
Students must complete 128-credit hours, including 43 within the criminology major. Students complete three semester hours worth of international language study prior to graduation — a requirement that may be waived for students who have completed adequate substitutes before entering the program. The criminology department at Webster emphasises interactions with special populations, with courses covering white collar crime, victimology, radical violent extremism, and gang and small group deviance. Electives include adolescent psychology, urban sociology, and forensic science. All students complete a senior capstone course prior to graduation.
Webster University educates students to become global citizens. Even students taking exclusively online courses can still be engaged in a vibrant and action-oriented community of peers and faculty.
Webster University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
8. Saint Leo University
Saint Leo, Florida
Saint Leo University is a private university located near Tampa, Florida, with almost 15,000 enrolled students at their home, satellite, and online campuses. Despite its Catholic affiliation, Saint Leo welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds. Core general education requirements at Saint Leo emphasize a strong foundation in the liberal arts, with coursework in areas like sociology, cultural studies, and creative arts. In line with the university’s religious foundations, other required general education courses include topics in world religions, spirituality, and Christian studies.
Saint Leo offers a fully online BA in criminal justice, made up of 120 required credit hours. Beyond the general education requirements, coursework explores topics in criminal law and procedure, police administration, criminal behavior, and criminal ethics. All criminal justice students complete a senior seminar capstone course in criminology and must pass comprehensive examinations to graduate.
Students applying to online programs at Saint Leo may have the opportunity to pass exams in place of earning certain foundational credits towards their degree. There is also an opportunity for students to apply learning, work, and service experiences towards undergraduate degree credits. The school offers six different academic start dates with rolling admissions, so students can apply, be admitted, and potentially begin classes at any point throughout the year.
Saint Leo University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
9. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Northwestern State University of Louisiana’s home campus is located in north-central Louisiana, south of Shreveport. The city of Natchitoches has the same charm and similar architecture as New Orleans, while maintaining a smaller, quieter feel. In addition to NSU’s physical campus, the university boasts a flourishing online learning community, offering a long list of associate, bachelor’s, and graduate level degrees that can be completed entirely online. One of these programs, the bachelor of arts in criminal justice is a great option for students looking to earn a law enforcement degree without the hassles associated with classroom-based education. The program is composed of 120 required credit hours that students can generally complete within eight consecutive semesters of full-time enrollment.
Coursework for the criminal justice bachelor’s degree at NSU consists of courses that prepare students for careers in all areas of law enforcement, public safety, and corrections. Required courses include subjects like criminal justice seminars, sociology, political science, and even psychology. NSU hosts a yearly job fair for students in the major, where professionals and recruiters from various criminal justice and law enforcement agencies come to offer interviews and potential employment.
For students living in Louisiana, NSU is part of the Louisiana Transfer program, which allows for simplified and easy transfer of credits earned at other institutions in the state. Students have the opportunity to apply work, learning, and even service experiences toward their undergraduate degree, allowing for a potentially more accelerated path to earning a degree. Online students at NSU can also take advantage of flat rate tuition.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
10. Hampton University
Hampton University’s campus in Virginia is home to the famous Emancipation Oak, where in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was read in the South for the first time. Aside from its impressive and lengthy history as an educational institution in the United States, Hampton now offers several online degree programs. Hampton U Online offers degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, and graduate levels, with many certificate programs available, as well. Students looking to pursue a flexible, accessible degree in law enforcement can earn their online accelerated BS in criminal justice at Hampton. The accelerated option allows students to set their own pace and potentially earn their degree at a faster rate than at traditional four-year programs.
The program prepares students for careers in law enforcement, public safety, and corrections. Coursework is diverse and varied, covering a range of subject areas and fields, including behavioral sciences. Students can expect to cover forensic crime scene investigation, issues in law enforcement, terrorism and national security, and emergency preparedness. In total, the program requires 120 semester credit hours that include general education courses like writing, science, mathematics, health education, and world civilizations.
Online coursework at Hampton is offered asynchronously. However, some instructors may require students to take tests during specific timeframes. Hampton’s eight-week sessions allow students to complete required courses at an accelerated pace.
Hampton University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
11. Bellevue University
Founded as Bellevue College in 1966, Bellevue University now serves around 9,000 students each year. Its home campus is in Bellevue, Nebraska, situated on a sprawling 46 acres, where students from all 50 states and abroad earn degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, and graduate levels. In addition to its extensive on-campus offerings, Bellevue is a leader in online education, with over 75 different degree and certificate programs available for distance learners. Bellevue offers a fully online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, intended to provide students with all the skills and experience they need to be successful in criminal justice.
Of the 127 required credit hours to this program, 40 are within the major, 51 are elective, and the remaining 36 cover general education requirements. The coursework within the major emphasizes skills and topics that current and future criminal justice professionals need, including crime in America, criminal behavior and victimology, criminal procedure and public policy, and contemporary social justice issues. Students can choose to work within an accelerated small cohort of peers or at a more traditional pace on their own.
Unique to Bellevue is the nine-credit Kirkpatrick Signature Series of courses required for all students at the university. This program enhances skills and information necessary for students to become active and informed citizens of the global community.
Bellevue University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
12. Midway University
Students looking for religious law enforcement schools online may feel right at home at Midway University. Midway’s mission and core values center around pillars of the Christian faith, such as acting with integrity, being a part of a community, and providing service to others. These core values play a strong role in the university’s BS in criminal justice degree, enhanced by courses in ethics and human differences. General education requirements for online students include coursework in environmental and global issues. Within the criminal justice major, students have the opportunity to explore important subject areas, such as criminal procedure, kinesic interviewing, criminal organizations, and corrections. Midway’s criminal justice bachelor’s program strongly emphasizes skills in psychology, with 12 required credit hours in the area, including psychology courses in forensics, psychopharmacology, and abnormal psychology.
Midway offers students the opportunity to earn credit for previous work and service experiences. This prior knowledge can be proven through transfer credits, portfolio assessments, examinations, and even military experience. Courses at Midway take place in five, eight-week sessions each year, allowing students to complete required coursework at a faster pace than on a traditional semester schedule. Some courses may also be offered in four or six-week session.
Midway offers affordable tuition rates for online students. Students enrolled in at least two classes per eight-week term are eligible to receive financial aid.
Midway University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
13. Eastern Kentucky University
Even students who aren’t local to Eastern Kentucky University’s home campus in Richmond, Kentucky can take advantage of the school’s affordable programs. Regardless of whether an online student at EKU resides inside or outside of Kentucky, online tuition is assessed at the same rate, making degrees like the bachelor’s in police studies especially affordable. The 120-credit hour program is available entirely online through EKU’s asynchronous delivery system that emphasizes important and frequent interactions between online learners, their peers, and instructors. The bachelor’s in police studies program prepares students for careers in law enforcement, such as federal or state officers, security professionals, corrections officers, and victim advocates.
In addition to EKU’s standard 40 required general education credits, the police studies major consists of 24 core course hours, 24 major elective hours, and 23-26 free elective hours. Within the major requirements, students examine topics that include contemporary policing strategies, criminal justice analysis and research, perspectives on crime and delinquency, and ethical decision-making. Students can also choose to pursue a minor and/or a certificate to earn more credentials. At EKU, online courses take place in two, eight-week terms in the fall and spring, and two, six-week terms each summer. Full-time continuous enrollment can help students earn their degree faster.
Eastern Kentucky University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
14. Anderson University
Anderson, South Carolina
Anderson University offers a criminal justice bachelor’s program ideal for students hoping to earn an online law enforcement degree. This online degree is just one of many options for students seeking a more flexible option for earning an associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degree. Anderson’s online programs are taught by the same faculty as the courses offered at their physical campus, based outside Greenville, South Carolina. Anderson University offers students smaller class sizes due to the school’s enrollment of around 3,400 students. Anderson’s religious foundations align with the Christian faith. Students in the online criminal justice program benefit from the university’s comprehensive approach to law enforcement topics, including religious issues concerning criminal justice.
Anderson’s criminal justice program requires 123-credit hours to complete, including general education, electives, and major requirements. The program emphasizes a concentration in law enforcement and benefits students looking to begin careers in law enforcement and/or first year students who don’t possess a background in criminal justice. Some of the explored subjects include abnormal psychology, American police systems, criminal law, and judicial systems and practices. Students also take a course in the Christian worldview. A senior seminar in criminal justice is required.
Courses at Anderson are offered in eight-week sessions, ideal for working adults. All students entering online programs at Anderson receive a Journey Coach, or a special advisor available to the student should they need help or guidance during their program.
Anderson University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
15. Wilmington University
New Castle, Delaware
Of the over 20,000 students enrolled in undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs at Wilmington University, 41% take courses online. The next largest majority attends classes at the school’s primary campus in New Castle, Delaware.
The bachelor of science in criminal justice program is one of WilmU’s 26 bachelor degree options, and students can complete this degree entirely online. Students have the ability to select courses and paths that best serve their academic and career goals. For example, WilmU offers this degree as a completion program, which assists students who may have already earned an associate degree and need the remaining major coursework to earn their bachelor’s.
Since WilmU’s criminal justice program is able to be changed and molded to fit each student’s needs, the major requirements can somewhat vary. However, most students in this program take courses in subjects like principles of criminology, juvenile justice, criminal law, community corrections, and multicultural issues in criminal justice. Students at WilmU can also take part in a unique co-op program, which allows them to get work experience while earning credit towards their degree. The work experience coincides with supervised educational work through a local partner in criminal justice.
In addition to flexible course scheduling options for students, WilmU allows students the opportunity to gain academic credit for prior work and service experiences they obtained after high school.
Wilmington University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
16. Charter Oak State College
New Britain, Connecticut
Charter Oak State College was established in 1973 and is now Connecticut’s foremost online college. The school enables adults who may have earned prior credits or valuable work experience to return to school and finish their post-secondary degree. Charter Oak offers degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, and graduate levels.
Students hoping to earn a law enforcement degree may benefit from Charter Oak’s fully online bachelor of science in criminal justice, which prepares students for careers like corrections, rehabilitation, substance abuse counseling, and law enforcement. The entire bachelor’s degree requires 120 credit hours. However, many students are exempt from general education requirements through transferring previously earned credits, taking examinations, and earning credit for work and service experience outside of school.
The criminal justice major consists of 42 credits beyond the general education requirements, and students have the opportunity to select a concentration within the major. Available specializations are general criminal justice and victim advocacy. Courses within the concentration consist of 15 required credits. Required courses students in Charter Oak’s criminal justice program can include criminology, ethics in criminal justice, constitutional law, and psychology. Students must also complete a capstone course prior to graduation.
Charter Oak has special programs in place to further assist members of the military, single working mothers, and students facing financial difficulties in completing their degrees.
Charter Oak State College is regionally accredited by by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE).
17. Franklin University
Franklin University is dedicated to helping adult students earn a postsecondary degree. Its home campus in Columbus, Ohio is just one of its many physical locations where students can take classes and earn credits on their own schedule. However, the vast majority of students enrolled at Franklin take their classes online, in one of the university’s many accredited online programs.
Franklin offers a fully online bachelor’s in criminal justice administration, designed with working professionals and transfer students in mind. One of Franklin’s most notable qualities is that students can tailor their degrees to meet academic goals and interests. They may also earn credits for previously achieved work and life skills to put toward their degree.
The 120-credit hour bachelor’s in criminal justice administration includes 28 core major course credit hours and eight major area elective hours. Students in the program can choose a concentration in corrections, homeland security, law enforcement, or public administration. These concentrations help narrow and focus the program to better prepare students for their desired career. All students in the major must complete a capstone in criminal justice, as well.
As one of the largest, nonprofit private universities in the state of Ohio, Franklin is an affordable option for students. Payment plans and financial aid options are available to students.
Franklin University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
18. Point Park University
Point Park University’s home campus is nestled in the center of downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1960, Point Park, a nonprofit liberal arts college, enrolls over 4,000 students in degree offerings of all levels. As its core mission, Point Park emphasizes student needs, and aims to equip graduates with skills in civic engagement, ethics, and integrity. As part of this mission, Point Park’s online criminal justice program fosters career advancement by preparing students to serve their community through careers in law enforcement, corrections, and security.
In total, the criminal justice bachelor’s program consists of 120 required credit hours, including 36 credit hours within the major. Some of these courses include evolution of policing, constitutional law for law enforcement, professional responsibility, criminal law and procedure, and court organization. Students can choose electives in the major that cover valuable topics, such as sex crimes investigation, juvenile justice, and organized crime. Faculty in the program are experienced criminal justice professionals hailing from all fields and roles. Generally, the program takes between two and four years to complete.
Students transferring from other institutions must be able to provide transcripts that show completion of 12 credit hours minimum.
Point Park University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
19. Tiffin University
Centrally based in Tiffin, Ohio, Tiffin University has campuses across the state, including Columbus, Fremont, Toledo, and Cleveland. While many students take advantage of the accessibility Tiffin’s many campuses provide, others choose to earn their degree entirely online. With enrollment around 3,500, Tiffin provides all students with the attention they deserve in small classes of around 10 to 15 students. Tiffin’s fully online bachelor of criminal justice degree is just one of many online programs available at TU. This 121-credit hour undergraduate program provides students with a practical education to prepare them for careers in law enforcement.
Within the 36 required major credit hours, students will encounter coursework intended to foster a comprehensive, well-rounded criminal justice foundation. Some of the program courses include technology and crime, juvenile justice systems, criminology, victimology, and criminal investigation. There are no specific concentrations available, but students have the opportunity to choose electives within the major that best serve their academic and career goals.
All online courses at Tiffin take place in two, seven-week sessions each semester, with sessions beginning in January, March, May, July, August and October, making enrollment times flexible. Tiffin also gives students the opportunity to complete their degree at their own pace, taking one class or two classes at a time each session.
Tiffin University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
20. New England College
Henniker, New Hampshire
Students looking for a liberal arts-based education at a private school will find exactly what they need at New England College. This regionally-accredited college enrolls around 1,700 undergraduate students, keeping classes small with a student to faculty ratio of 16:1. NEC’s home campus is located in Henniker, New Hampshire, but many students choose to pursue one of the fully online degrees offered, including the bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. This BA provides students with a foundation in law enforcement and public safety. Emphasis is placed on methods and theories in areas like criminology, ethics, and corrections.
Within the criminal justice degree, students can choose to select a concentration. The options at NEC are cyber security and information assurance, homeland security and emergency management, human services, institutional and community-based corrections, and law enforcement. Each concentration gives students an opportunity to specialize in an area based on their individual career and academic goals. This bachelor’s degree requires 120 total credit hours to complete, with 32 hours required within the major and 16 hours within the student’s chosen concentration. Some of the major-specific courses available include criminal justice ethics, contemporary law enforcement, and criminal law.
To apply, provide a regionally- or nationally-accredited or state-approved high school diploma or GED. Military credit is also accepted, with no need for additional fees or standardized test scores.
New England College is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE).
Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement Overview
Typically, the first half of a bachelor’s program consists of prerequisite and general education coursework in English, mathematics, science, and history. During the second half of the program, candidates focus on major-specific studies. In a law enforcement program, these classes include police ethics, investigation, law, and criminology. An online law enforcement degree provides a comprehensive introduction to the criminal justice system, crime management strategies, and policing practices.
Students planning to work in a particular law enforcement subfield often choose to pursue a concentration, or specialized academic track. Popular specializations include criminology, forensics, cybercrime, and juvenile justice. A specialized degree may help current law enforcement professionals gain a promotion or change career paths. Concentrations vary from school to school, so students interested in a particular specialty should consider concentration availability before selecting a program.
In addition, it is important to review any on-campus requirements prior to choosing a program, and make sure to check your state’s licensing guidelines. Many states require police officers to obtain licensure. However, most graduates who complete a law enforcement degree online qualify to pursue any state licensing exams or procedures.
What Can I Do With an Online Law Enforcement Bachelor's Degree?
Graduates with a law enforcement online degree usually seek careers as police officers, corrections officers, detectives, and probation officers. Candidates for these positions must demonstrate strong communication skills, make sound decisions, exhibit patience during surveillance operations, and remain calm during emergencies. They must also be physically fit to execute their job duties.
- Police/Sheriff Patrol Officer: Patrol officers police communities in urban and rural areas, working with the public to make cities and towns safer. They execute warrants, make traffic stops, investigate crimes, and respond to emergencies. Most police and sheriff's departments require applicants to hold at least a bachelor's degree. Candidates must attend police academy classes after completing an online law enforcement degree.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent: These agents work for the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigative branch. Working from offices in cities and hubs across the country, these professionals examine federal crimes, collecting evidence and making cases. FBI agents must hold a bachelor's degree, and graduates with a degree in law enforcement online must complete specialized FBI training.
- Correctional Supervisor: Correctional supervisors manage correctional facilities, such as jails and prisons. They oversee personnel, make schedules, and ensure that staff meet training standards. They hire, fire, and counsel employees. Most continue their education after completing a bachelor's in law enforcement administration degree online, attending academies for firearms, self defense, and detention training.
- Park Rangers: Law enforcement park rangers patrol state and national parks, national forests, and public lands. They check permits, enforce fish and game laws, and monitor park safety. Like police officers, they hold commissions and may arrest and detain offenders. Many also serve as first responders in wilderness areas.
|Job Title||Entry Level (0-5 Years)||Midcareer (5-10 Years)||Experienced (10-20 Years)||Late Career (20+ Years)|
|Police/Sheriff Patrol Officer||$38,000||$41,000||$54,000||$63,000|
Choosing an Online Law Enforcement Bachelor's Degree Program
All online law enforcement degree programs feature slightly different curricula, concentrations, and graduation requirements. Law enforcement encompasses many occupations, each of which maintains different training requirements. Some schools offer concentrations in areas like forensics, public administration, homeland security, or computer security. Others offer foundational degrees, which allow graduates to pursue a variety of career paths. Some include internships or training that can fulfill certain police academy training requirements. As you explore schools and online programs in criminal justice, you may find it helpful to consider the following factors.
- Program Cost: Cost is a primary concern for many college students. Online programs offer substantial savings, eliminating expenses such as travel or room and board. Many schools extend in-state tuition to distance learners or charge one flat rate for all online students.
- Transfer Policies: Some students dramatically reduce college costs by taking general education classes at a local community college and completing their degree at a four-year school. Many smaller institutions maintain transfer agreements with state universities to simplify the process. If you wish to pursue this option, be sure to research your prospective school’s transfer policies before applying.
- School Size and Type: While many students assume that large, prestigious universities provide the best instruction, many smaller schools offer more individual attention and peer collaboration. Although larger, public schools are known for their affordability and program diversity, private schools often feature generous financial aid packages.
- Program Length: The time it takes to earn your degree depends on multiple factors, including enrollment status, program format, and delivery method. Students who enroll part time often take longer to finish their degrees. Some web-based programs offer accelerated, self-paced classes, which enable students to fulfill course requirements quickly. Learners who transfer credits from previous coursework may also earn their degree in less time.
- On-Campus Requirements: Certain law enforcement skills require a hands-on approach, making them difficult to teach remotely. Some online criminal justice programs include on-campus components, such as residencies, labs, or in-person seminars to build this kind of experience. Before you select a program, be sure to account for any on-campus requirements and factor in any associated expenses.
Accreditation for Online Law Enforcement Bachelor's Degrees
A school's accreditation is one of the most important aspects to consider when selecting a college or university. The accreditation process ensures that an institution upholds the highest quality standards. The best colleges and universities tend to hold accreditation from one of seven regional accrediting agencies, including the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Most technical and vocational schools receive national accreditation from organizations like the Distance Education and Training Commission or the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. In addition, some individual programs, curricula, or academic departments hold discipline-specific programmatic accreditation from professional organizations.
While the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) do not accredit schools themselves, they monitor accrediting bodies and standards. Made up of representatives from over 3,000 colleges and universities, CHEA is a private, independent agency dedicated to accreditation advocacy and consumer awareness. Both ED and CHEA maintain comprehensive databases of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's Degree in Law Enforcement?
Most bachelor's degrees include around 120 credits and require approximately four years of full-time study. However, many factors affect the length of time it takes to earn a degree, including graduation requirements, enrollment status, and course pacing. While part-time distance learners typically require more time to complete an online law enforcement degree, a lighter course load often allows students to work and fulfill family obligations. Others prefer accelerated programs, which feature rigorous schedules with shorter terms and self-paced coursework.
Program format can also influence a degree’s duration. In cohort-based programs, candidates progress through their courses alongside the same group of students, adhering to a strict class schedule. While cohort programs provide greater opportunities for faculty and peer collaboration, they often take longer to complete. In contrast, self-paced programs feature flexible schedules without set class times, enabling students to study when convenient and quickly meet degree requirements.
Courses in an Online Law Enforcement Bachelor's Program
Introduction to Sociology
Understanding human social behavior is crucial to efficient police work. Examining culture, behavior, global systems, stereotyping, and the stratification of norms, this course introduces basic sociological concepts. Students learn fundamental empirical methods and challenge their own thought patterns by viewing human societies through a scientific lens.
Writing in Criminal Justice
Law enforcement professionals write more than just speeding tickets. Officers compose arrest reports, incident reports, crime briefs, evidence summaries, and outcome papers. They must also interpret legal and court documents. Most online law enforcement degree programs include some version of this course, which builds and strengthens field-specific professional writing skills.
Introduction to Criminal Justice
Taking a broad view of criminology in the United States, this class explores foundational criminal justice concepts. Candidates survey topics in law enforcement, courtroom procedures, and corrections, along with each institution’s role in crime prevention. Distance learners also examine ideas related to delinquency and modern criminology.
In this class, students learn patrol and local police work strategies from established law enforcement professionals. Learners examine how communities function, public expectations and the police, and the ways in which current controversies affect an officer’s duties and ethical obligations.
This course presents a variety of issues surrounding the U.S. Constitution, including its history, interpretation, and influence on political matters. Lectures emphasize the Bill of Rights, and the First, Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth amendments. Students examine the ways in which constitutional rights impact local, state, and federal policing strategies.
Law Enforcement Professional Organizations
Professional organizations offer an array of benefits for student members and new professionals alike. These associations provide opportunities to collaborate with and learn from others in the field through mentoring opportunities and networking events like conferences and seminars. Many of these groups sponsor professional development and continuing education workshops to help law enforcement experts keep their skills and credentials current, along with career services and job boards.
- Fraternal Order of Police: Founded in 1915, the FOP boasts more than 330,000 members at over 2,200 lodges throughout the United States. The massive organization hosts its own "FOP University," which enables members to take career-enhancing classes and offers training webinars. The order also provides college benefits, wellness training, and labor education. The FOP disseminates salary information, advocates on behalf of police, and provides discounted insurance, banking, and other services.
- Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association: FLEOA represents more federal law enforcement professionals than any other organization, with more than 26,000 members nationwide. This nonpartisan, nonprofit association boasts chapters throughout the U.S. and serves as an advocate for customs workers, FBI agents, and other federal law enforcement professionals. FLEOA members receive access to around-the-clock emergency and legal services.
- United States Deputy Sheriff's Association: This Wichita-based organization provides its members with comprehensive survival training, including hand-to-hand combat instruction and active shooter response protocols. USDSA provides its life-saving education free of charge. The association also sponsors scholarships, citizen awareness programs, and donates safety equipment to underfunded law enforcement entities around the country.