Traditionally, police officers have not been required to have a college degree – usually police academy or on-the-job training in the local precinct – but in the 21st century, with increased demand and expectations of officers, earning a bachelor’s in law enforcement, criminal justice, or criminology is becoming more valuable. It’s true that part becoming a law enforcement officer is the on-the-job training aspect, but having a bachelor’s degree or some type of education prior to entering the field helps prepare the student to become an effective officer of the law.
Criminal justice classes prepare you for the theoretical and legal aspects of working in law enforcement. That is, students are taught topics that include law enforcement and the related ethics of that enforcement, how the corrections systems work, how to work with victims of crime, police administrative work and how to interview suspects. Police college courses provide a student a foundational education that is brought into use when working as a police officer or in a field that’s related to law enforcement.
How We Ranked The Best Law Enforcement Degree Online Programs
To rank the best online law enforcement degree programs, Security Degree Hub editors searched for fully online and hybrid bachelor’s programs across the US. With a pool in place, editors ranked programs according to their salary potential, reputation, and cost, using data from IPEDS, Niche, and College Scorecard.
1. Florida State University
Florida State University offers a BS in Public Safety and Security with an academic emphasis in Law Enforcement Intelligence or Law Enforcement Operations. These online law enforcement degree programs from FSU are offered by one of the nation’s best national institutions of higher education. Each of the law enforcement degree online programs provided by Florida State University requires the completion of 120 semester credits to meet the program’s requirements.
Florida State University is a sea-grant and space-grant institution of higher learning that was established in 1851. FSU is considered a senior member of the Florida State University system. The university’s campus in the state capital is home to more than 41,400 students. In the national category of public schools, Florida State University ranks 18th among all higher education institutions in the nation by US News & World Report.
Degree: BS in Public Safety and Security – Law Enforcement Intelligence or LE Operations
2. North Carolina Central University
North Carolina Central University offers a law enforcement degree online program with its Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in Law Enforcement or Corrections. Collegechoice.org recognizes NCCU’s online law enforcement degree programs among the best and most affordable law enforcement programs in the nation. Students graduate from North Carolina Central University’s law enforcement degree program and enter the workforce in the fields of corrections, juvenile justice, homeland security, or law enforcement, to name a few.
NC Central University is a recognized HBCU institution of higher learning that was established in 1910. In addition, to be a member of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, North Carolina Central University serves more than 8,100 students. NC Central University began in the Chautauqua movement but became a member school of the UNC – system in the early 1970s.
Degree: BS Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement or Corrections
3. Florida Atlantic University
Florida Atlantic University’s School of Public Administration offers a law enforcement degree online program that is also an affordable online law enforcement degree program as noted by several oversight academic ranking agencies. Florida Atlantic University’s Bachelor of Public Safety Administration with a concentration in Law Enforcement and Corrections requires degree candidates to complete a capstone project during their senior academic year, with an internship strongly recommended but not required.
Florida Atlantic University (FAU) is a public institution of higher education that was founded in1961. The university operates several campuses in the south Florida area in Davie, Jupiter, Fort Pierce, Dania Beach, and Fort Lauderdale. The school’s campuses serve more than 30,100 students. Florida Atlantic University, when it opened in the early 1960s, was the first public university in southeastern Florida.
Degree: Bachelor of Public Safety Administration – Law Enforcement and Corrections
4. Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University’s Police Studies online offers a Bachelor of Science degree program in Police Studies that is considered among the best online law enforcement degree programs in the nation by US News. Students interested in enrolling in Eastern Kentucky University’s law enforcement degree online program can take advantage of the university’s generous credit transfer policy of up to 90 credits.
Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) is a public institution of higher education that was founded in 1874. Eastern Kentucky University operates several campuses in Kentucky in the towns of Lancaster, Corbin, Manchester, Richmond, and Hazard. These campuses are home to more than 15,700 students. US News and World Report recognizes Eastern Kentucky University among the top public regional universities in the southern US.
Degree: BS in Police Studies
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6. Bemidji State University
Bemidji State University offers a law enforcement degree online program with its BS in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in Law Enforcement that is available entirely online. NonprofitCollegesOnline.com recognizes Bemidji State University’s criminal justice program among the nation’s online law enforcement degree programs. Students who complete BSU’s law enforcement degree will have satisfied the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST) Board educational mandates. Coursework for BSU’s law enforcement online degree includes – police process, criminal justice, criminology, forensic victimology, comparative justice, and police & community relations, to name a few.
Bemidji State University (BSU) was founded in 1919 as a teacher training school. Bemidji State University’s campus in Bemidji, Minnesota, is home to more than 6,200 students. Bemidji State University is a member school of the system of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Bemidji State University offers the only indigenous sustainability program in the nation.
Degree: BS Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement
7. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater offers a law enforcement degree online completion program for baccalaureate candidates with a work history that includes three years in law enforcement and already have an associate degree. UW Whitewater’s law enforcement program offers credit for prior or independent learning. Coursework for the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater’s online law enforcement degree programs and classes include criminal investigation, forensics, women and violence, research methodology, the sociology of punishment, plus an internship to meet program requirements.
The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater was established as a state institution of higher learning to train teachers that was established in 1868. The university’s 375+ acre rural campus in Whitewater is home to more than 11,500 students. UW Whitewater has a unique tradition that one day the faculty does not show up, and the students are left to manage the school. It is known as Student’s Day.
Degree: Law Enforcement Bachelor’s Degree Completion
8. Lindenwood University
Lindenwood University offers a BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice with a concentration in Law Enforcement/Police Academy that is recognized among the best online law enforcement degree programs in Missouri. This law enforcement degree online program from Lindenwood University offers internship options for degree candidates that include experiences with victim assistance agencies, law offices, parole agencies, police departments, and juvenile facilities, to name a few.
Lindenwood University is a private institution of higher learning that was founded in 1827 as a school for girls. Lindenwood University’s campus in St. Charles, Missouri, covers more than 475 urban acres and serves nearly 7,500 students. The original school for girls holds the distinction of being the 2nd oldest of all institutions of higher education that are situated to the west of the Mississippi River.
Degree: BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement/Police Academy specialization
9. Post University
Post University offers a law enforcement degree online program with the university’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with an academic track entitled Law Enforcement or Corrections. Degree candidates enrolled in Post University’s law enforcement degree programs are required to complete 120 semester credits to meet the degree’s requirements. Classes include criminal law, research methods of criminal justice, theoretical criminology, and criminal procedure, to name a few. Students are encouraged, but they are not required to complete an internship during their academic tenure. Post University offers college credit for life and work-experiences through the PLA program.
Post University is a for-profit institution of higher learning that was chartered in 1890 to teach students shorthand. Post University maintains multiple campuses in Waterbury, Wallingford, Meriden, and Danbury, Connecticut. More than 7,100 students are enrolled in Post University’s academic degrees. Post University became a four-year university in the mid-1970s.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement or Corrections
10. SUNY Canton
SUNY Canton Online offers a law enforcement degree online program by providing a Bachelor of Technology in Criminal Justice with an academic track in Law Enforcement Leadership. These law enforcement degree programs offer the only opportunity in the state of New York where degree candidates finish their degree at a law enforcement academy that is certified. SUNY Canton’s law enforcement degree is designed for students who wish to be ranking police officers, or for those who hold an associate degree in criminal justice and wish to complete their baccalaureate degree.
The State University of NY at Canton was established in 1906 as a school for agriculture. SUNY Canton’s campus serves more than 3,100 students vying for one of the 50 or so academic undergraduate and graduate degrees. The School of Science, Health and Criminal justice includes facilities for labs, mortuaries, and nursing facilities.
Degree: Bachelor of Technology in Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement Leadership
11. Concordia University Texas
Concordia University Texas offers one of Texas’ best law enforcement degree programs by providing its Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree program in Criminology and Criminal Justice with a concentration in Law Enforcement Management. Students graduate from Concordia University Texas’ law enforcement degree online program and enter the workforce as a special agent, prison warden, game warden, parole officer, security manager, or sheriff patrol officer, to name a few. The law enforcement degree program offered by Concordia University Texas requires students to finish 120 semester credits to meet program requirements. Classes are offered in eight-week formats with four start dates each year.
Concordia University Texas was established in 1926 and is a member school of the Concordia University System. Concordia University Texas’ campus in Austin serves more than 2,500 students on its 375+ acre suburban property. The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, manages Concordia University Texas.
Degree: BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement Management
12. Hampton University
Hampton University is proud to offer a BS in Criminal Justice with an emphasis on Corrections and Law Enforcement that is considered among the best law enforcement degree programs in Virginia. In addition, the law enforcement degree online program is ranked among the most affordable and best online colleges in the state and the country. Hampton University’s law enforcement baccalaureate degree is offered as an accelerated program. Coursework includes victimology, criminalistics of cybercrime, homeland security, terrorism, juvenile delinquency, and forensics crime scene investigation, to name a few.
Hampton University (Hampton U) was established in 1868 and is recognized as an HBCU school that was founded after the United States Civil War to educate free men. The university’s suburban campus covers more than 3—acres and serves more than 4,400 students. Hampton University is home to the oldest museum within Virginia’s commonwealth.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – focus on corrections and law enforcement
13. Park University
Park University offers one of Missouri’s best law enforcement degree programs with a baccalaureate (BS) degree in Criminal Justice Administration that offers students the option of three academic concentrations in Law Enforcement, Corrections, or Security. This law enforcement degree online program from Park University includes a core curriculum like criminal law, criminal investigations, criminal procedure, juvenile justice, and criminal justice administration, to name a few. Additionally, these law enforcement programs require students to complete an advanced placement internship to apply the theoretical knowledge learned in classrooms.
Park University (Park U) was established in 1875 as a private institution of higher learning with an innovative approach to education where students pay no tuition but work for the school instead as they continue their degree. The university’s main campus in Parkville is located on a bluff towering over the Missouri River serves more than 11,400 students. Park University operates more than 40 campuses in more than 20 states.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice Administration – Law Enforcement, Corrections, or Security
14. Upper Iowa University
Upper Iowa University offers one of Iowa’s best law enforcement degree programs by offering a Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA) with an academic track in Law Enforcement. This law enforcement degree online program offered by Upper Iowa University is designed for those who have completed certain coursework or have extensive experience in law enforcement. Eligibility for Upper Iowa University’s law enforcement degree must be able to document the required college credit or experiential learning events. Students graduate prepared to adapt to ever-changing social and political conditions.
Upper Iowa University was established in 1857. Upper Iowa University’s main campus in Fayette covers more than 90 rural acres and serves more than 6,000 students. Upper Iowa University was initially affiliated with the Methodist Church. Upper Iowa University maintains academic centers in Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Degree: Bachelor of Public Administration – Law Enforcement
15. Franklin University
Franklin University offers a BS in BS Criminal Justice Administration with the option for students to select an academic focus in Corrections or in Law Enforcement. These law enforcement degree programs are offered with a curriculum that has been approved by AECT – the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Students enrolled in this law enforcement degree online program are required to complete 120 semester hours, of which 28 semester hours must be from the major curriculum. Core coursework includes criminal justice administration, criminology, and evidence based research, among others.
Franklin University (Franklin) was established in 1902 as a private institution of higher education. Franklin University operates more than 20 locations in the midwestern United States dedicated to serving adult learners studying for degrees from the College of Health & Public Administration, the College of Business, and the College of Arts, Sciences, and Technology. Urbana University was purchased by FU in 2014.
Degree: BS Criminal Justice Administration – Corrections or Law Enforcement pathways
16. Anderson University
Anderson University offers one of South Carolina’s best law enforcement degree programs by providing a Bachelor of Criminal Justice degree program with a concentration in Law Enforcement. AU’s law enforcement degree online program is designed for those new to the law enforcement field but wish to work for local, state or federal law enforcement agencies, corrections facilities, secret service, the FBI, sheriff’s departments, or in private security. Students must complete 123 semester credits to meet the undergraduate law enforcement degree’s requirements.
Anderson University was established as a private university in 1911. The South Carolina Baptist Convention remains affiliated with AU. The school’s campus in Anderson serves more than 2,600 students. Between 2006 and 2016, Anderson University was among the twentieth fastest growing master’s level institutions of higher education in the nation.
Degree: Bachelor of Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement
17. Tiffin University
Tiffin University offers one of Ohio’s best law enforcement degree programs by providing a Bachelor of Criminal Justice with an academic track in Law Enforcement. Tiffin University’s law enforcement degree online program requires degree candidates to finish 121 semester hours to meet program graduation requirements. Coursework for this undergraduate law enforcement degree program includes technology and crime, crime analysis, juvenile justice, forensic investigation of sex crimes, evidence processing, plus a culminating capstone project. Tiffin University offers six online start dates for the Bachelor of Criminal Justice Program.
Tiffin University was established in 1888. Tiffin University operates a main campus in Tiffin on 125+ suburban acres, plus several academic centers in Fremont, Cleveland, and Toledo, OH. The university’s student enrollment exceeds 4,100 students. Tiffin University offers programs internationally at the University of Bucharest.
Degree: Bachelor of Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement
18. Drury University
Drury University offers a law enforcement degree online program that is recognized among the best law enforcement degree programs in the state of Missouri. Drury University’s Bachelor of Science (BS) degree program in Law Enforcement Leadership requires the completion of 45 semester hours of general education, plus classes in victimology, law, and society, forensic science, social science research, conflict resolution, the judicial process, plus a culminating senior capstone project in law enforcement. Students graduate prepared for careers as police officers, sheriff patrol officers, probation officers, or special agents, to name a few.
Drury University was established by the United Church of Christ, Christian Church, in 1873. As a private institution of higher learning, Drury University serves more than 1,500 students on its urban campus in Springfield, Missouri. US News ranks Drury University among the best colleges for the best price.
Degree: BS in Law Enforcement Leadership
19. Ottawa University
Ottawa University offers a BS in Public Safety that is recognized among one of the most affordable Kansas law enforcement degree online programs. Coursework for these law enforcement degree programs includes ethics and rights in public safety, race, crime and social policy, victimology, examining criminal justice and policing in today’s communities, among others. Students graduate from Ottawa University’s law enforcement baccalaureate degree program prepared for careers as a detective, forensic science technician, secret service agent, state police office, or private security officer, to name a few.
Ottawa University was founded in 1865 as a private institution of higher learning, known as Roger Williams University. Ottawa University remains affiliated with the American Baptist Churches of the USA. The school operates two campuses in Kansas and another in Arizona and Indiana. More than 600 students attend classes offered by Ottawa University.
Degree: BS in Public Safety
20. Union College
Union College offers one of New York state’s best law enforcement degree programs with the school’s Bachelor of Science (BS) degree program in Law Enforcement. Students enrolled in Union College’s law enforcement degree online program are required to complete 120-semester credits to meet the program’s requirements, of which 36 credits must be earned at Union College. Coursework for this degree includes juvenile justice, probation, and parole, constitutional procedure, homeland security, and special topics in law enforcement, to name a few. Classes are offered entirely online and are given in eight-week formats.
Union College was established as a private institution of higher learning in upstate New York. Union College’s campus covers more than 100 urban acres and serves more than 2,100 students. Union College holds the distinction of having been the academic campus where three Greek societies were first founded in the United States.
Degree: BS in Law Enforcement
21. Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University offers a BS in Police Administration that is recognized among the best law enforcement degree programs on the northeast coast and online. Southern New Hampshire University’s law enforcement degree online program requires the completion of 120 credit units; however, the Southern New Hampshire University allows for the transfer of up to 90 credits, if eligible. Additionally, those applicants with military training or law enforcement are eligible for up to 12 credits. Southern New Hampshire University’s online law enforcement program offers flexibility for working learners and busy parents.
Southern New Hampshire University was established as a private institution of higher education for business education in 1932. The school’s campuses serve nearly 4,000 students, with another 88,000 students studying online. Southern New Hampshire University operates as an open enrollment university, requiring a GED or high school diploma for admission.
Degree: BS in Police Administration
22. Trine University
Trine University offers a BS in Criminal Justice with an academic emphasis on Indiana law enforcement that is recognized among the most affordable law enforcement degree programs in the tri-state area. Degree candidates enrolled in Trine University’s law enforcement degree online program are required to finish 120 semester credits to meet the law enforcement degree graduation requirements. Coursework for this program includes criminal justice report writing, criminology, criminalistics, criminal procedure, criminal law & justice, American constitutional development, plus an advanced placement internship in a related field. Trine Online’s degree is the perfect stepping stone to law school, an MS in Criminal Justice or academy training in Police, EMT or fire operations.
Trine University was established as a private institution of higher learning for teachers in 1884. The university’s rural campus serves more than 2,000 students on the main campus in Angola. The university serves the states of Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement
23. Baker College
Baker College offers a BS in Criminal Justice program with an academic emphasis in Law Enforcement/Police Academy that is one of Michigan’s best law enforcement degree programs. Baker College’s law enforcement degree online program includes coursework in criminology, community corrections, criminal justice ethical issues, drugs and society, evidence collection, organized crime, plus a 12-hour law enforcement academy which issues the student a credential as a certified police officer for the state. However, students must meet a fitness test to be admitted to the law enforcement academy.
Baker College is a private institution of higher learning originally dedicated to the field of business education exclusively. The first campus opened of Baker College opened in 1911, with the college having twelve campuses located throughout Michigan. Much of Baker College’s growth as a school includes buying and rebranding smaller schools.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement/Police Academy
24. Salem University
Salem University offers a BS in Criminal Justice program with a concentration in Law Enforcement that is recognized among West Virginia’s best law enforcement degree programs. Students graduate from this law enforcement degree online program and enter the workforce as a bailiff, a police officer, a fish & game warden, or an adult or juvenile probation officer, to name a few. Classes included in Salem University’s law enforcement degree are crisis intervention, criminal law, ethics, terrorism, domestic violence, criminal forensics, and constitutional law, plus a relevant law enforcement capstone project.
Salem University is a for-profit institution of higher learning that was established in 1888. The university’s campus, which is home to a building listed in the National Register of Historic Places, serves more than 800 students on its 100-acre property. Salem University offers certain programs to be finished at an accelerated rate, as classes are only four weeks in length.
Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement
25. New England College
New England College offers a BA in Criminal Justice program with a concentration in Law Enforcement that is considered among New Hampshire’s best law enforcement degree programs that can be completed entirely online. Students enrolled in this law enforcement degree online program must complete 120 semester credits in classes like corrections, contemporary law enforcement, criminology, contemporary law enforcement, and statistics for social scientists, to name a few. New England College provides a generous transfer credit policy, which allows upwards to 90 eligible credits to be transferred for any baccalaureate degree program.
New England College is a private institution of higher learning that was founded in 1946. The college’s rural campus in Henniker serves more than 2,500 students and is located about 1.5 hours from downtown Boston. New England College works throughout the state, promoting initiatives regarding environmental education.
Degree: BA in Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement
What Will I Learn in a Law Enforcement Degree Program?
Police college courses teach students how to assess a situation, how to apply the law to a given situation, what steps to take depending on the amount of threat that is presented, and how to use one’s own judgment to make a decision. A student also learns about identifying criminal behavior, apprehension of a suspect, how to properly handle someone when placing them under arrest, and criminal interview techniques.
Criminal justice classes give a prospective law enforcement officer a foundation that prepares them for their role in assisting people when they need help, or apprehending criminals. A degree in law enforcement also opens up career opportunities in fields such as the U.S. Marshalls and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Learning how to enforce the law prior to getting hired by an agency or department gives an advantage in terms of hiring, salary and career advancement.
Do I Need a Law Enforcement Degree to Become a Cop?
No, you do not need a law enforcement degree to become a police officer. Municipalities hire and train their own police forces due to the need for police officers to be intimately familiar with the local laws and their enforcement. Federal law enforcement bodies typically require a college education, but will also train candidates to internal standards. Law enforcement colleges have good degrees for law enforcement and it’s up to the individual to decide if they should attend to earn a degree.
Law enforcement colleges do have their place and it’s worth looking into good colleges for police officers. Someone who enters a police academy with a degree in hand is someone who has an edge on those who are entering the force with little to no college education. An alternative to law enforcement colleges is to enter the military and take a military career path that focuses on law enforcement. However, what is learned in the military may not apply to a civilian role, and the only thing you might have to your advantage over someone with no college education is discipline and weapons training.
The best degrees for law enforcement careers are ones that provide a comprehensive education leading to a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Look for a college that provides the education you need for your chosen career. If you’re not sure about the type of education you need, consult with the police department you’re looking to work for and find out what kind of education is preferred by that department. You’ll be able to pick a program that aligns most closely with the expectations of the department you want to work for and have an edge when it comes to getting hired.
Will I Make More Money as a Cop with a Law Enforcement Degree?
Yes, you will make more money with a law enforcement degree. The average law enforcement salary according to the BLS is $65,170 a year. Most people who have a law enforcement degree are required to attend training at an academy prior to beginning work in the field. However, having a law enforcement degree can assist with gaining promotions more quickly and earning a higher salary than those who do not have a college education prior to entering an academy.
When asking the question of “what is the salary of a police oficer?”, the BLS average cited above is the average salary across the United States. However, law enforcement degree jobs and salaries vary depending on location. Larger towns and cities along with urban environments tend to pay a higher wage on average, and overtime is more readily available. Overtime hours can add a considerable amount to the average income of a police officer. Promotions to higher ranks and specialized roles in the department also increase the average law enforcement salary.
The role of a law enforcement officer is one that tends to be well compensated due to the unique nature of the job. Law enforcement degree colleges and their degrees offer graduates early advancement in their career due to the fact they are more prepared to handle the requirements of the job prior to hiring. Having a law enforcement degree shows an employer that you’re serious about being in law enforcement and you’re ready to do your best to serve society at large.