The Best Online Master's in Law Enforcement Programs

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A law enforcement master’s degree can open the door to well–paying, rewarding careers at senior levels of law enforcement and justice administration. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts steady annual job growth for several senior–level positions like police lieutenant and detective lieutenant over the next decade. Both positions pay, on average, $23,240 more per year than their bachelor’s–level counterparts. Master’s programs teach real–world examples that prepare graduates with the advanced skills they’ll need to make a difference. A master’s in this field can also open the door to several important and exciting federal positions in investigations and counterterrorism.

Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Degree Program Ranking Guidelines

We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The Best Online Master's in Law Enforcement Programs

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Michigan State University 

East Lansing, MI Apply Now

About this school

Based out of East Lansing, Michigan State University is one of the Great Lake State’s two flagship universities. The school’s online department offers two distinct law enforcement master’s degrees: a master of science program in criminal justice and a master of science program in law enforcement intelligence and analysis. Both programs are offered entirely online, without any in–person requirements.

The criminal justice program has been offered online since 1998. Students in the 30–credit program may choose between security management and judicial administration concentrations. Students are not required to write a master’s thesis — although they do have the option — but they must complete a policy analysis course as capstone experience. Transfer students may apply up to nine credits toward their degree, provided that they earned a grade of “B” or higher. The program is offered primarily asynchronously. Applicants must submit GRE scores if they earned an undergraduate GPA of lower than 3.2, which is the preferred threshold for acceptance.

The law enforcement intelligence and analysis program is also offered also asynchronously and has the same requirements in terms of GPA and GRE scores. The program also requires students to complete 30 credits and includes a policy analysis course as a capstone. Coursework differs, however, as students complete studies in terrorism, counterterrorism, and the globalization of crime.

Non–resident online students can pay the same per–credit tuition rate as Michigan residents in both programs.


Saint Joseph's University 

Philadelphia, PA Apply Now

About this school

A Jesuit–affiliated university based in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Saint Joseph University has grown rapidly since the turn of the millenium. This growth includes a new physical campus, new buildings, new programs, and some unexpectedly competitive basketball teams, given SJU’s small size. SJU’s distance learning department has also expanded, and it now offers an excellent master of science program in criminal justice, which includes a concentration in federal law enforcement.

SJU’s online law enforcement degree highlights a specific focus on federal law enforcement, relative proximity to Washington D.C., and connections with agencies like the CIA, DHS (Department of Homeland Security), and FBI as unique program elements. The 30–credit curriculum includes a total of 10 courses: four core courses, two specialized courses, two federal law enforcement (concentration) courses, and two electives. Federal law enforcement coursework includes studies in federal criminal justice, terrorism, homeland security, and federal criminal law/prosecution. The curriculum does not include a capstone requirement, and students can complete their degree from home, as coursework never requires students to visit the City of Brotherly Love. The program offers its courses asynchronously.

A typical post–graduate job for top graduates of the program is FBI profiler. Most students complete their degree in about 18 months, and each student in the program pays the same per–credit tuition regardless of location. SJU does not list minimum GPA or standardized test requirements in its admissions requirements, but all applicants must submit transcripts and two letters of recommendation.


University of San Diego 

San Diego, CA Apply Now

About this school

University of San Diego ranks among The nine Best Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs!

A private, Roman Catholic–affiliated university based in the eponymous Southern California city, the University of San Diego operates a focused distance learning department, offering a total of four online programs. Fortunately, for students seeking a law enforcement master’s degree, one of these programs is USD’s master of science degree in law enforcement and public safety leadership. Designed primarily for professionals already working in the law enforcement field — FBI workers, TSA employees, marshals, and campus safety officers, for example — the program aims to help working students gain the skills necessary for leadership positions.

The program’s 11–course, 31–unit curriculum requires five semesters — or about 20 months — to complete, and students can earn their degree without ever having to travel to San Diego. The curriculum includes studies in organizational leadership, community assessment, and conflict resolution. In addition, all students must complete an integrative capstone course, during which students create a professional portfolio of projects, papers, and presentations, which ultimately becomes a tool for students’ post–graduate employment search. USD’s online programs are offered almost exclusively asynchronously.

In order to gain admission to USD’s law enforcement and public safety leadership program, applicants should have earned an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.75. Students who don’t meet this requirement must also submit GRE or MAT scores. USD also prefers applicants who have some professional experience in law enforcement. Transfer students may apply up to six approved credits toward their degree.

Though all students in the program pay the same per–credit tuition rate — regardless of whether they are citizens of the Golden State — individuals who are members of law enforcement or public safety unions or professional organizations receive discounted tuition.


Colorado State University Global 

Greenwood Village, CO Apply Now

About this school

Colorado State University Global ranks among The nine Best Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs!

Colorado State University Global is one of the Centennial State’s flagship universities. The Master’s in Law Enforcement requires a total of 36 credits and allows the student to specialize their criminal justice focus, as students may choose between one of 14 four–course (12–credit) specializations. These specializations include finance, project management, healthcare administration, and human resource performance.

The curriculum’s remaining 24 credits come from an eight–course core, which is relatively standard for an online law enforcement degree. Coursework includes studies in criminological theory, restorative justice, analytical methods, and applied research. The program also includes both a capstone experience and an internship, offering a unique focus on field experience. Aiming for flexibility, CSU Global delivers all its coursework asynchronously, eschewing set class times. All students in CSU Global’s online programs benefit from tech support, access to the school’s virtual library, and SMARTHINKING tutoring services.

Applicants to CSU Global’s criminal justice and law enforcement program must have earned a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Students who do not meet that GPA requirement may apply for provisional admission. Out of state students can pay the same tuition rate as Colorado residents in all CSU Global’s online programs.


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


University of New Haven 

West Haven, CT Apply Now

About this school

University of New Haven ranks among The nine Best Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs!

Primarily recognized for its engineering programs, the University of New Haven — based out of West Haven, Connecticut — also offers a couple of online law enforcement degree options. Those options include a master of science degree in criminal justice as well as a master of science degree in investigations, which includes optional concentrations in criminal investigations, financial crimes investigations, and digital forensics investigations.

The two programs share certain commonalities. Both programs do not have any in–person requirements, as online students at New Haven never need to visit campus. Out of state students can pay the same tuition rate as Connecticut residents in both programs. In addition, active Connecticut police officers and firefighters receive a tuition discount in both programs. Neither program lists minimum GPA or standardized test requirements for admission, although applicants to both programs must submit letters of recommendation.

However, that is where the similarities between the two programs end. While the investigations curriculum consists of 30 credits (10 courses) and requires a year of full–time study to complete, the criminal justice curriculum consists of 36 credits and generally requires two years to complete. Coursework in the two programs also differs greatly, as students in the criminal justice program learn about policing, victimology, and policy, while investigations students study contemporary fraud schemes, civil litigation, the Dark Web, and money laundering. In addition, students in the investigations program can earn professional certificates in their chosen concentration of criminal investigations, financial crimes investigations, or digital forensics investigations, while the criminal justice program does not offer professional certifications.


Tiffin University 

Tiffin, OH Apply Now

About this school

Tiffin University ranks among The nine Best Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs!

Serving cities throughout Ohio — including Tiffin, Cleveland, Toledo, and Fremont — Tiffin University offers a wide variety of online law enforcement degrees. The school’s master of science in criminal justice program includes optional law enforcement–related concentrations in crime analysis, homeland security, homeland security administration, criminal behavior, and justice administration. The program’s top priority is flexibility, offering six start dates throughout the year and providing its coursework asynchronously.

Though each concentration requires different coursework, they share certain elements in common. The crime analysis, homeland security, homeland security administration, criminal behavior, and justice administration concentrations generally take full–time students around one year to complete, as most students in the programs are working professionals with obligations beyond their schoolwork. Students in the homeland security and justice administration concentrations can earn transfer credit (three credits in homeland security, nine in justice administration) for completing certain professional certifications.There are no in–person requirements for any of the concentrations. Sample courses in the curricula include:

  • Crime analysis — Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Applications in Criminal Justice
  • Justice Administration — Budget and Finance for Criminal Justice Administrators
  • Homeland Security — Cyber and Technology in Homeland Security
  • Homeland Security Administration — The Intelligence Community
  • Criminal Behavior — Criminogenic Psychopathology

All applicants to the criminal justice program must have earned an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 to be considered for admission. Whether they live in Ohio, all students in Tiffin’s graduate criminal justice program can pay the same per–credit tuition rate.


End of list, bravo!

Choosing a Program

Online law enforcement degree programs explore the finer details of criminal justice administration, enforcement, and policy. Specific curricula vary, so it is important to consider your career goals and interests prior to selecting a program. Some curricula allow you to choose a concentration after you enroll, which may include criminal behavior, counterterrorism, emergency management, homeland security, justice administration, leadership and administration, and others. Other curricula are more narrowly tailored to a specific topic. If you’re unsure of your career goals, examine each school’s course offerings to get a sense of what you will learn. Also consider each program’s credit load and duration, as these tend to vary between schools.

Many law enforcement master’s degree programs require at least one advanced research course, which is meant to enhance critical thinking and hands–on learning. Students should also expect to complete a thesis or capstone project to earn their degree. These are designed to take the criminal justice theory you’ve learned and apply it to concrete, real–world problems.

Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Careers

Law enforcement officials with a master’s degree typically work in senior–level supervisory roles that coordinate the efforts of police officers, detectives, and other law enforcement professionals. Specific responsibilities include personnel management, scheduling, evaluating investigatory progress, writing reports, preparing for court, and more.

Police Lieutenant
Police Lieutenants supervise and work alongside police officers, often acting as departmental managers. They ensure proper procedures are followed when police officers respond to calls or book suspected criminals. Lieutenants also serve as schedulers and shift supervisors.
  • Median Annual Salary: $84,840
  • Projected Growth Rate: 7%
Detective Lieutenant
Like their police lieutenant counterparts, detective lieutenants supervise lower ranked detectives who investigate crimes to gather evidence for use in criminal cases. Detective lieutenants coordinate and review ongoing investigations, and develop them along the way as necessary.
  • Median Annual Salary: $84,840
  • Projected Growth Rate: 7%
Commanding Officer Homicide Squad
Commanding officers of homicide squads coordinate the efforts of homicide detectives. A commanding officer’s job is administrative, but they must also visit scenes of homicides to lead the investigation and assign specific tasks to subordinates.
  • Median Annual Salary: $84,840
  • Projected Growth Rate: 7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics