Best Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs

by Doug Wintemute

Updated October 14, 2022

TheBestSchools.org

thebestschools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Aspiring law enforcement professionals enter the field in various ways, but a master's in law enforcement positions them to obtain the best jobs.

Earning a master's in law enforcement can help graduates acquire senior-level protective services positions and police administration roles. The degree builds off the bachelor's in law enforcement, and it opens the door to the field's most financially rewarding professions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), federal government officers earned median annual salaries of $92,080 in 2020, nearly $25,000 higher than the median annual wage for all officers. The BLS also projects 7% job growth between 2020 and 2030, with the best opportunities going to candidates with more advanced education.

As COVID-19 reshapes how police work on the front line, it has also accelerated the use of technology and innovative ways of policing and protecting communities. With these changes, a graduate degree can lead to a more stable and adaptable career. This page explores the best online master's degrees in law enforcement offered at some of the best online colleges.

The Best Online Master's in Law Enforcement Programs

#1 Best Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs

Michigan State University

  • East Lansing, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Located in East Lansing, Michigan State University enrolls master's students in its top-ranked online law enforcement program. The master of science in law enforcement intelligence and analysis program emphasizes advanced practice skills, training graduates for leadership roles and an increased earning potential. After completing a master's degree, candidates advance in their current field or pursue new opportunities.

The master's curriculum incorporates theoretical and applied approaches to law enforcement. Learners individualize the course of study by selecting electives and concentrations. Applicants without a law enforcement background may need to complete prerequisite courses to enroll in the program.

Online enrollees gain real-world experience through internships offered in their local area. Graduate students expand their professional network through internships and online events.

Michigan State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 71%

Total Online Master's Programs: 19

Program Name: Master of Science in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis

Graduate Tuition In State: $18,858

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $37,056

Average Tuition
In-state
$15,555
Out-of-state
$40,384
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
71%
Students Enrolled
49,809
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 Best Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs

The University of San Diego

  • San Diego, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

From its campus in California, the University of San Diego hosts a top-ranked master's in criminal justice program. The master of science in law enforcement and public safety leadership program emphasizes specialized skills, preparing graduates for increased responsibilities and a higher earning potential. With a master's degree, candidates advance their current career or move into new career paths.

The master's curriculum blends theory and practice to provide an advanced understanding of criminal justice. Learners prepare for focused career paths by choosing electives and concentrations. Applicants without a background in criminal justice may need to complete prerequisite courses before enrolling in the master's program.

Online enrollees work with the program to identify internship opportunities at approved sites in their local communities. Graduate students also build professional connections by attending networking events.

The University of San Diego at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Admission Rate: 49%

Total Online Master's Programs: 5

Program Name: Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership

Graduate Tuition In State: $27,288

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $27,288

Average Tuition
In-state
$50,450
Out-of-state
$50,450
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
49%
Students Enrolled
9,181
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 Best Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs

Colorado State University Global

  • Aurora, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online

Graduate students interested in a master's in law enforcement can earn their degree from Colorado State University Global, based in Aurora. The master of science in criminal justice and law enforcement administration program helps graduates move into leadership roles and increase their earning potential. A master's degree also helps candidates pursue new career paths.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in law enforcement. Learners take electives and other specialized courses to gain career-specific training. Applicants with prior experience in law enforcement or a related field often meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees can often complete professional internships at approved locations in their own community. Graduate students grow their professional connections through internships and virtual networking events.

Colorado State University Global at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 99%

Total Online Master's Programs: 12

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration

Graduate Tuition In State: $9,000

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $9,000

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,400
Out-of-state
$8,400
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
99%
Students Enrolled
12,670
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
Best Online Master's

Online Master'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 Master's in Law Enforcement Programs

What Is an Online Master's in Law Enforcement?

An online master's in law enforcement delves into advanced concepts in intelligence, administration, and management. This program usually appeals to learners wishing to pursue senior positions and specializations within the protective services. Training covers ethics, criminal behavior, and applied intelligence.

Though some programs provide general law enforcement training or offer specializations, many master's degrees emphasize police administration. Regardless of the focus, the programs usually feature 30-45 credits and take 1-2 years to complete.

Among the many abilities gained from a graduate degree, students may pick up advanced research, leadership, conflict resolution, and community relations skills. They may also acquire technological skills in data analytics and cybersecurity or management skills like resource planning.

Choosing an Online Master's in Law Enforcement Program

Prospective students should consider multiple factors when choosing an online master's in law enforcement. They should evaluate program cost, length, and the curriculum, ensuring it offers the appropriate balance of classroom study and field experience. Applicants who wish to specialize should make sure their program offers the necessary pathway or track available.

Online learners can expand the location of their search, especially if the programs offer in-state tuition rates for out-of-state students. They should also look at online programs' delivery methods and see if classes run asynchronously or synchronously or if any on-campus requirements exist.

What Is the Difference Between a Master of Science in Law Enforcement and a Master of Legal Studies Degree?

A master of science (MS) in law enforcement and a master of legal studies (MLS) can overlap in training and available careers. Both programs typically run for two years and offer classes in criminal law, policy, professional ethics, and human rights, but the degrees differ in several ways.

Most MS in law enforcement programs focus on issues specific to policing, such as investigation and public safety. MLS degrees offer a broader perspective, looking at different laws and regulations. Many schools offer both types of programs because of how much they diverge.

Professionally, legal studies graduates tend to move into law and human resources careers, while law enforcement graduates pursue protective services positions.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Law Enforcement Degrees

No matter what prospective students want, they should ensure their chosen school and program has received appropriate accreditation. Regional accreditation guarantees students can access federal financial aid from their school. Programmatic accreditation, when applicable, may help with employment and licensure.

While a master's in law enforcement does not require programmatic accreditation, the American Bar Association accredits law schools, which may offer legal studies programs. Prospective students may also want to look out for program recognition from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, which certifies some criminal justice master's programs.

What Can I Expect in Pursuing a Master's in Law Enforcement Online?

The courses offered in a master's in law enforcement differ depending on program and school, but certain courses tend to appear more than others. Graduate-level courses offer a more expansive look at the American legal system. They also study law enforcement leadership and administrative duties. The following represent common courses students may encounter.

Common Courses in Law Enforcement Online Programs

  • Introduction to U.S. Law: This course covers the structure and functions of the American legal system, including the various institutions and how they work together. Students may learn the history and development of the U.S. law system and its major processes and distinctive features. Within law enforcement programs, these courses may focus more on the role of protective services and how they fit.
  • Community Engagement: This course examines how law enforcement professionals work and engage with the community. The training may observe how community perspectives of the police have shifted over time and how transparency has taken a front seat in many law enforcement interactions with the public.
  • Organizational Leadership and Management: These courses examine the skills and requirements for leaders in law enforcement, including decision-making, communication, and personnel management strategies. The training covers organizational challenges and conflicts and also teaches learners the principles of effective leadership.
  • Property Law: This course teaches students fundamentals of property laws and how they are enforced by professionals within the legal system. Topics covered may include private property, ownership, and privacy, along with the protections that property owners have under the law.
  • Constitutional Law: This course examines the types of governments and structures within the country and the roles they play. It also looks at laws within different jurisdictions and governing bodies and how their positioning impacts law enforcement professionals and the legal system.

Law Enforcement Concentrations

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity concentrations teach students how to prevent, identify, and counteract malicious activity online. They look at the common types of attacks, motivations, and strategies to combat and thwart attempts. Within law enforcement programs, these courses may focus on the criminal and investigative aspects of the field.

Project Management

These concentrations teach learners how law enforcement leaders manage projects. Students look at strategies for planning and building a campaign, along with methods for communicating with senior management. The topics may cover management of resources, team leadership, and community engagement.

Corrections

This concentration teaches students about the roles and responsibilities of correctional facilities and correctional officers. The training may look at prisoner rights, offender treatment strategies, and managerial and administrative functions. Courses may also cover the effectiveness and perception of correctional facilities and the development of alternative punishments.

Leadership

Leadership concentrations equip students with the skills and knowledge to take on management positions, covering such topics as project management and communication. The programs may focus on police administration and leadership roles and responsibilities within protective services. Some courses delve into more advanced law, criminal psychology, and investigative techniques.

Law Enforcement Careers

A master's in law enforcement qualifies graduates for many careers, including police administration and front-line positions. Equipped with a comprehensive understanding of the field and advanced investigative and management training, these graduates can take on diverse leadership roles.

The following information includes popular pathways for master's in law enforcement degree-holders. While graduates can usually acquire the professions listed below without further training, some employers may require a specific level of experience or additional credentials.

Police and Detectives

Median Annual Salary: $67,290
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 7%

Police and detectives provide support and protection to communities, including the people and property within them. They enforce the law during their patrols, investigate crimes and criminals, and respond to calls for help from the public. This job requires perceptiveness, communication skills, and physical abilities.

Police and detectives typically need to complete a training academy program and on-the-job training. They also need at least a high school diploma or its equivalent, though some employers and positions require more advanced training. Federal law enforcement officers usually need to complete a specialized training program.

Police Administrators

Median Annual Salary: $92,970
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 7%

Police administrators oversee administrative and managerial tasks within a law enforcement office, such as budgeting, staffing, and project management. They often handle communications with community organizations and other first-responder units. These professionals need strong communication and leadership skills, along with organizational and analytical abilities.

To qualify for these roles, candidates may need a combination of experience and a bachelor's or master's degree. Most administrators and managers, such as police chiefs, have multiple years of field experience. They may also need experience or knowledge of disparate legal jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies.

Emergency Management Directors

Median Annual Salary: $76,250
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 6%

Emergency management directors oversee the planning for large-scale emergency responses. They work with organizations to create a unified and ordered process in the event of a disaster or hazard. They carry out information campaigns, training, and funding and resource preparation.

Candidates typically need a bachelor's degree at minimum, though each jurisdiction features its own requirements. Years of experience in law enforcement or the military are also generally required. Some states make certification mandatory for these professionals, but emergency management directors can pursue optional certification in most states.

Supervisors of Correctional Officers

Median Annual Salary: $60,910
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): -3%

Correctional officer supervisors manage a team of corrections professionals, overseeing their conduct, ensuring they follow the policies and legal guidelines, and addressing staff concerns and conflicts. They may also take care of administrative duties of the facility, such as training, report writing, and performance reviews.

Corrections supervisors typically need professional experience, academy training, and a four-year degree. Federal facilities often require a bachelor's degree for officers and an advanced degree for management positions. Supervisors may also pursue a management certification through the American Correctional Association or the American Jail Association.

Information Security Analysts

Median Annual Salary: $103,590
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 33%

Information security analysts may oversee the protection of a computer system or help law enforcement organizations investigate cybercrime. They may work to prevent, detect, and resist attacks, or they may help investigators identify the perpetrators and anticipate future attacks. These professionals usually need excellent technological and analytical skills, along with an understanding of cyberlaw.

Most cybersecurity professionals need a bachelor's degree at minimum. They may also need law enforcement experience, depending on the position and employer. Candidates can pursue certifications in cybersecurity and information analysis, some of which employers may make mandatory.

Law Enforcement Professional Organizations

Professional organizations benefit law enforcement students and graduates. These associations may offer master's in law enforcement students access to mentorship programs, industry data and publications, and career opportunities.

FLEOA represents federal law enforcement officers, acting as their legislative voice and advocate. The association offers members access to an emergency support hotline, scholarships, and networking opportunities. NOBLE works with law enforcement organizations to support the development of Black law enforcement professionals. The organization acts as the voice for Black professionals in the field and provides inclusive solutions to protective services organizations. NAWLEE aims to improve the working conditions and opportunities for women in law enforcement organizations. It offers leadership training programs and mentoring opportunities for aspiring executives. NLPOA works toward equality and diversity within law enforcement. The association offers current and aspiring Latino law enforcement professionals access to education, mentoring, and career advancement opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions about Master's in Law Enforcement

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's Degree in Law Enforcement?

The typical master's in law enforcement takes 1-2 years to complete. Including the four years for a bachelor's degree, students will spend 5-6 years in school.

Is a Master's Degree Worth It in Law Enforcement?

Yes. A master's in law enforcement can grant a graduate access to desirable police administration, management, and federal government positions.

How Do I Start a Career in Law Enforcement?

Law enforcement professionals need a minimum of a high school degree and a completed training academy program to qualify for employment, according to the BLS. Many organizations, including several federal agencies, require a bachelor's degree.

Portrait of Doug Wintemute

Doug Wintemute

Doug Wintemute is a Toronto-based freelance writer with professional writing interests in higher learning and entertainment. He completed his BA and MA in English at York University, graduating summa cum laude and earning academic merit, research, and writing awards at both levels. Since 2014, he has contributed content and editorial work for award-winning digital trade publications, global SEO copywriting projects, and hugely popular online brands. He can be contacted through LinkedIn.

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | DigitalVision | Getty Images


Learn more, do more.

More topic-relevant resources to expand your knowledge.

Popular with our students.

Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

woman in an office