If your passion is helping and protecting others, you may be interested in the field of law enforcement. Law enforcement certainly means long, strenuous hours at a time, but it also includes excitement and reward.
Law enforcement is not for the faint of heart—but if you have what it takes, the country needs strong professionals in this field now more than ever. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the need for police and detectives is rising steadily at 7%.
A bachelor’s degree in law enforcement prepares students to be police officers, law enforcement officials, and other jobs protecting your community. Check out this school search for the best bachelor’s for law enforcement degrees and start planning your future career.
What is a Bachelor’s in Law Enforcement Degree?
A bachelor’s degree in law enforcement provides a strong background in the theory and practice of criminal justice. However, because criminal justice is a broad field, choosing an actual degree or concentration in law enforcement is important. The best majors for law enforcement include:
- Bachelor of Science or Arts in law enforcement
- Bachelor of Science or Arts in law enforcement administration
- Bachelor of Science in criminal justice with a law enforcement concentration
- Bachelor of Science in public safety leadership with a law enforcement concertation
The average bachelor’s in law enforcement degree requires 120 credit hours and takes four years to complete. The curriculum is divided into general education courses, criminal justice and law enforcement courses, and electives. The best law enforcement degrees offer concentration options as well as internship requirements.
While universities vary on their admission requirements for a law enforcement degree, most require at least a high school diploma or equivalent and a 2.5 GPA to apply. Some may require ACT or SAT scores.
Careers for Bachelor’s in Law Enforcement Majors
A degree in law enforcement provides required employment skills such as leadership, communication, and critical thinking. Law enforcement majors have the advantage of pursuing a number of career paths. Many think that a bachelor’s in law enforcement is perfect for someone who wants to become a police officer, and they would be right. However, a bachelor’s in law enforcement leads to careers at the local, state, and federal level.
Check out these common career paths for law enforcement majors:
- Police officer
- Police detective
- Police sergeant
- Police captain
- FBI agent
- U.S. Secret Service agent
- U.S. Marshal’s service agent
- DEA agent
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife service agent
- Victims advocate
Some of these fields, such as becoming an FBI agent, will require additional training and certifications. If you are interested in a specific type of law enforcement, look for universities that provide concentrations or certificates that match your future career goals.
Bachelor’s in Law Enforcement Salary Potential
With a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement, your salary will depend on your position, experience, employer, and geographical location. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median pay for police and detectives is $67K per year. Detectives and criminal investigators earn the most—nearly $87K, while fish and game wardens earn the least—around $58K (BLS).
Law enforcement professionals who work for the federal government earn a median average salary of $93K, and those who work for the state and local government earn approximately 65K-70K annually (BLS). Similarly, data from Payscale also reports that the median base salary of someone with a Bachelor of Science in law enforcement is $65K per year.
A master’s degree in a criminal justice program and additional certifications will likely increase salary potential. The University of San Diego states that 35% of police chiefs have master’s degrees based on a recent study. If you are interested in advancing in the law enforcement field, then look at schools that offer both a bachelor’s and master’s in law enforcement. Some universities offer combined programs, which makes them quicker to complete.
What are the Best Bachelor’s in Law Enforcement?
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Florida State University
Founded in 1851, Florida State University is one of the country’s oldest and best research universities. FSU Panama City is part of FSU’s College of Applied Sciences and is where our #1 top bachelor’s degree in law enforcement is housed. At Florida State University you will find a Bachelor of Science in public safety and security with an emphasis on law enforcement intelligence.
FSU’s bachelor’s in law enforcement intelligence is perfect for those who want multiple career options. With this degree, you can find jobs in law enforcement, security, intelligence, and investigations. Expect to take a range of criminal justice courses, such as:
- Ethics in Policing and Intelligence
- Computer Apps in Criminal Justice
- Policing Diversity: Race, Gender, Religion, and Crime
Another perk of FSU’s program is that you can take a combination of online and in-person classes. You will combine classroom skills and real-world experience to get the best training possible here. You can also further customize the program with a certificate in underwater crime scene investigation or pursue a master’s certificate or degree in law enforcement intelligence. If you are looking for online law enforcement degrees your school search may end with this law enforcement degree!
For financial aid for this state university system, check it out here.
Florida Atlantic University
Check out Florida Atlantic University, known for its energy and diversity. FAU is one of the fastest-growing universities in Florida and currently serves over 30,000 students across 170 academic programs. FAU offers a Bachelor of Public Safety Management with a concentration in law enforcement and corrections that can be completed either online or in a hybrid format.
The BPSA—law enforcement/corrections program requires 60 credits hours that are broken into core classes, concentration classes, and electives. Sample coursework includes:
- Public Safety Systems
- Crime in the Schools
- White Collar Crime
- Policing in America
You also have the option of adding an additional concentration in disaster management. Some students complete both concentrations for more career opportunities. FAU also offers a Master in Public Administration.
You will complete a capstone in public safety administration during your senior year. While an internship is not required to complete this program, internships are available and strongly encouraged. For more information, including application details, check out this link.
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is home to the Warhawks, and Warhawks are known to thrive! UW-Whitewater’s Law Enforcement Bachelor’s Degree Completion (LEB) is different from the other rankings because it is designed for police officers who have already earned an associate’s degree and have been working for at least three years.
UW-Whitewater’s LEB program combines credit for prior experience, independent learning, online learning, and face-to-face courses to meet the needs of working adults. In addition to enhanced research and writing skills, you will study topics like the following:
- Patterns and trends of U.S. crime data
- Criminology theory and research
- Key stages of the criminal justice system
All coursework will be either online, hybrid, or face-to-face evening and weekend courses. You can also add a minor in sociology which goes hand in hand with law enforcement.
To apply, you need to be a current law enforcement officer with at least three years of experience and an associate’s degree. If UW-Whitewater’s law enforcement program sounds like you, simply fill out the application form on this link. It only takes a few minutes and is free!
Eastern Kentucky University
If you’re looking for an online bachelor’s degree in law enforcement, check out Eastern Kentucky University. EKU online consistently ranks among the top online universities in the nation. UKU’s Bachelor of Science in Police Studies is perfect for those who either already work in law enforcement or are interested in diving into the field.
The fully online program from Eastern Kentucky University requires 120 credit hours, which includes up to 90 transfer credits. At only $417 per credit hour and reduced tuition for active duty service members and their spouses, EKU offers one of the most affordable law enforcement degrees out there. Courses are presented in accelerated eight-week terms and begin six times each year.
You can expect to take courses such as:
- Police, Order, Maintenance and Crime
- Ethical Decisions and Police
- Criminal Investigation
- Contemporary Police Strategies
EKU’s online bachelor’s in law enforcement degree is both flexible and affordable. Whether you are interested in applying as a freshman or a transfer student, you will find all the important details of admission here.
Metropolitan State University
Established in 1971, Metropolitan State University is part of the Minnesota State’s higher education system. Metropolitan State ranks high in social mobility, providing individualized studies for students and bridging gaps to ensure success. Metropolitan State’s Bachelor of Science in law enforcement holds a successful history—in fact, to date more than 40 police chiefs across the nation are graduates!
Metropolitan State’s BS in law enforcement includes three tracks:
Track 1: for students who wish to become eligible to become licensed police officers in Minnesota
Track 2: for students who have already earned an associate’s degree and wish to complete a bachelor’s degree
Track 3: for Minnesota licensed police officers who wish to complete their bachelor’s degree
The program requires 50 credits, divided into 31 required credits and 19-22 electives. You will also complete either a criminal justice capstone internship or a research project. Areas of study include ethical, legal, and leadership principles associated with policing in today’s world. For more information on all Metropolitan State has to offer, check out this page.
Bemidji State University
Since 1919, Bemidji State University has stood by its mission of “service to others, preservation of the earth, and respect and appreciation for the diverse peoples of our region and world.” While BSU’s Bachelor of Science in criminal justice-law enforcement program is offered both online and on-campus, it’s worth noting that BJU’s campus includes Minnesota north woods, forests, wetlands, and glacial lakes—breathtaking!
BSU’s law enforcement degree combines both theory and practice into a well-rounded program. Among the 120 credit hours, 48 credits are core courses such as the following:
- Criminal Justice and Society
- Research Methods and Statistics
- Criminal Law
- Criminal Investigation
Besides coursework for law enforcement, you complete an internship and research project before you graduate. BSU allows students to complete this program online or on-campus; however, if you attend on-campus, you can finish the last two years completely online.
While this ranking focuses on the law enforcement track, BSU also offers three others to choose from: corrections, victimology, and tribal justice. Whether you are interested in attending BSU on-campus or online, check out the application details here (and apply for free!)
North Carolina Central University
North Carolina Central University has a lot to brag about. NC Central is consistently ranked as a top Historically Black College and Best Regional University in the South by U.S. News & World Report. Not only does NC Central rank well across categories, but it offers an affordable Bachelor of Science in criminal justice online.
At NC Central, you can choose to concentrate on law enforcement alone or combine it with another emphasis:
- Juvenile justice
- Homeland security
Through this program, you will gain valuable law enforcement training through both classroom and field experience. This fully online law enforcement degree leads to any type of career in this field you can imagine, from corrections to forensic science.
NC Central’s bachelor’s in law enforcement is accredited by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). If you’re interested in applying to NC Central, check out application details here. Do note that NC Central holds three admission deadlines:
- May 1 (Summer admission)
- July 15 (Fall admission)
- November 15 (Spring admission)
Purdue University Global
Purdue University Global, a branch of the Purdue University system, offers personalized online programs that meet the needs of working adults. Purdue Global is among the best online colleges for law enforcement. Purdue’s BS in criminal justice is offered with a law enforcement concentration along with five other options:
- Crime scene investigation
- Forensic psychology
- Homeland security
- Juvenile justice
- Socially responsible leadership
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Purdue’s law enforcement program provides a strong mixture of professional skills and criminal justice knowledge. You will take courses for law enforcement such as:
- Philosophy and development of the U.S. criminal justice system
- Applied research methods and techniques
- Development of criminal law
- National law enforcement reform initiatives
While internships are not required to graduate, they are encouraged. They provide real-world experience that cannot be matched! Purdue’s online law enforcement degree is flexible and affordable. Each course is ten weeks, and current law enforcement majors spend approximately 15-18 hours per week working towards this degree. Tuition is just $371 per credit and discounts are available for military students.
Park University is a private, nonprofit university known for its academic excellence and diversity. Among the 54 bachelor’s degrees offered is a BS or BA in criminal justice administration with a concentration in law enforcement. Park’s law enforcement administration degree can be completed at the Parkville campus, the Gilbert campus, or online.
Park’s law enforcement administration program combines liberal arts with modern day professional training. You will study topics such as:
- Criminal law
- Agency administration
- Criminal procedures
Part of the core curriculum is a criminal justice internship and a senior seminar. Park partners with local, state, and even federal criminal justice agencies to offer students meaningful real-world experiences.
In addition to law enforcement, Park also offers concentrations in corrections or security. You have the option of combining concentrations to supplement your degree. You can also add two certificates to customize your program even further. For more information on Park University’s law enforcement administration programs, check out this link.
SUNY College of Technology at Canton
Founded in 1906, SUNY Canton is part of the State University of New York system. SUNY Canton’s School of Health, Science and Criminal Justice offers a unique law enforcement degree. You can earn a bachelor of technology in criminal justice with a law enforcement leadership on campus or 100% online.
SUNY Canton’s bachelor’s in law enforcement leadership is designed for students who either want to become police officers or current law enforcement professionals who want to earn a bachelor’s degree. This program blends both public service and business courses such as:
- Critical Issues in Criminal Justice
- Business Communications
- Managing Law Enforcement Training
- Criminal Justice Agency Management
As a SUNY Canton law enforcement major, you have opportunities to attend the David Sullivan-St. Lawrence County Law Enforcement Academy as an internship. Other internships include the Buffalo City Police, Syracuse Police Department, and the Center for Forensic Science. SUNY Canton’s law criminal justice-law enforcement leadership program boasts a 100% job placement rate. If you’re interested in SUNY Canton’s law enforcement program, check out additional information here.
Baker College is the largest private, non-profit college in Michigan and holds one mission: to succeed. Baker College reaches students where they are by offering accessible and flexible programs. The Bachelor of Science in criminal justice with a concentration in law enforcement and police academy is among the best degrees for police officers.
Baker’s BS in law enforcement and police academy training program entails 120 credit hours, divided into the following:
- 30 credit hours general education
- 78 credit hours major courses
- 12 credit hours law enforcement
- Two 150-hour work experiences (police academy)
This bachelor’s in law enforcement is unique because of the police academy program. When you graduate, you will be a certified police officer with a bachelor’s degree and ready to jump into a career. Another advantage of Baker College’s law enforcement program is that it is offered on five campuses as well as online. You can apply to Baker College through this link.
Lindenwood University is an independent, private school founded in 1827. Lindenwood is known all over the world for its “innovation, entrepreneurship, and extraordinary dedication to students.” Lindenwood’s Bachelor of Arts in criminology and criminal justice with a law enforcement/police academy specialization comes from the university’s College of Science, Technology, and Health.
Lindenwood’s Bachelor of Arts in law enforcement includes core criminal justice courses and the following required courses:
- Police Academy Preparatory and St. Louis County
- Municipal Police Academy
- Research Methods for Criminology and Criminal Justice
- Senior Seminar in Criminal Justice
You will complete 45 credits of major coursework and six credits of electives. This program is offered solely on campus in a traditional format.
Lindenwood University’s Criminology and Criminal Justice Department was born in the early 2000s and boasts over 20 years of excellence. The faculty include law enforcement professionals, researchers, and attorneys. If you’re interested in Lindenwood’s criminal justice program, check out this link for application and admission information.
Frequently Asked Questions
What degree is best for a career in law enforcement/federal law enforcement?
If you’re looking for the best degrees for law enforcement careers, a bachelor’s in criminal justice is your best bet. Look for bachelor’s degrees with law enforcement concentrations and ones that combine police academy training. When you earn a bachelor’s in criminal justice, you will study areas that are directly relevant to a future law enforcement career, including federal law enforcement.
Good degrees for law enforcement include a combined blend of theory and practice. Whether you are already in the law enforcement field or starting from scratch, look for law enforcement college majors that match your future career goals.
Does having a bachelor’s degree help in law enforcement?
While a bachelor’s degree is not always required for a career in law enforcement, having a degree helps. Today, more and more police departments are requiring bachelor’s degrees than in the past. A bachelor’s degree in law enforcement provides the training and skills necessary to have a competitive edge when looking for jobs. Another advantage of a bachelor’s degree is more career opportunities, better pay, and job security.
Can you be a police officer without a bachelor’s degree?
While police agencies vary in their qualifications nationwide, it is possible to become a police officer without a bachelor’s degree. Many police departments will accept previous work experiences or service in the United States armed service to satisfy qualifications. Additionally, some states allow candidates to join the police force with a high school diploma or equivalent. However, it is becoming more common that a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice-law enforcement gives you the advantage over other applicants.
Is a law enforcement degree worth it?
A law enforcement degree is worth your time, effort, and money if you are looking to advance in the field. Law enforcement professionals with bachelor’s degrees are able to climb the ladder quicker than those without. They may begin as an entry-level police officer and eventually land the chief of police position with education and experience. A bachelor’s in law enforcement also guarantees higher pay and more career opportunities.
How long does it take to get a law enforcement degree?
Generally, an associate’s degree takes two years, while a bachelor’s degree takes four. Some people begin with an associate’s degree, work in the law enforcement field for a while, and then return to college for an additional two years to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Others pursue a bachelor’s degree from start to finish and bypass an associate’s degree. A master’s degree is an additional 2-3 years, although many colleges offer combined bachelor’s/master’s programs that can be completed in five years.
You may be looking for a law enforcement or police degree online. Many universities, including several in this ranking, offer online college degrees for police officers. The best online degrees for law enforcement are ones that parallel the traditional learning formats.
Keep in mind that the time frames mentioned above are based on full-time student status. If you work on a degree part-time, it will take longer.
How much can I make with a bachelor’s in law enforcement?
You can make a decent salary with a bachelor’s in law enforcement. Although your salary will depend on your position, experience, and location, you can expect to earn an average income of $65K per year, according to PayScale.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that police and detectives can earn more than $113,860 (the top 10%), and the average salary is $67K. A bachelor’s in law enforcement is a way to go into the field earning more than you would without a degree.
Top Searched Programs:
National University’s Bachelor of Science in criminal justice administration is a highly sought-after program that includes a law enforcement focus. Students can complete this degree on campus or online.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University
If you’re looking for a law enforcement degree from a Christian worldview, check out Southern Assemblies of God University. SAGU features a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement, including a police academy training program.
Manor College is a private Catholic school in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. Here you will find a popular bachelor’s in criminal justice with a law enforcement concentration that is worth checking out.
Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University offers an affordable online bachelor’s in police administration. This program is among the most affordable law enforcement degrees at just $320 per credit and a generous transfer policy.
Salem University, a private college in Salem, West Virginia, offers a top searched law enforcement degree. At Salem, you can earn a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice with an emphasis on law enforcement either on-campus or online.
A private college in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Lackawanna College offers a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice. This program prepares students for future careers in law enforcement and allows students to complete over 200 internship hours prior to graduation.
West Liberty University
West Virginia’s oldest university, West Liberty University, offers a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice. The BS in criminal justice provides an excellent background for future careers in law enforcement and includes a 200 hour internship.