Joseph Libowsky,
former Special Agent

A career in law enforcement is more than simply a job, it is a calling to serve the community in the best possible way using your skills, knowledge, and experience. There is a great variety of positions that you can select from that offer different opportunities for career growth, along with ranges in salary.  

While you can enter law enforcement as a police officer with any specialized education, a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field is certainly a huge advantage and even a requirement for certain positions. While browsing the job openings, you may notice that a bachelor’s degree in a given field is either preferred or required for the position. Hence, it is a good idea to consider getting a law enforcement degree that can give you more opportunities to work for with various agencies at different levels.  

One of the easiest and often more affordable options for getting a degree is to do it online and law enforcement is no exception. Here are a few tips on how to earn an online law enforcement degree with as less hassle as possible.

How important is a law enforcement degree for your career growth? 

There is a great variety of jobs that you can get with a law enforcement degree and any additional level of education can help you advance faster and further in your career. If you want to work for state or federal agencies, you need to be prepared that a degree in law enforcement will be a requirement in order to apply for most positions. The same is true if you want to advance through the ranks in a given agency. Even if you apply for an entry-level police officer, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or related field will be a competitive advantage that can put you on top of the list of applicants. In other words, we can sum up that a law enforcement degree is pretty important for a career growth in the field. The level of your education also impacts your salary in many agencies, so at the end of the day, the investment of a degree is returned.

How to select the right online program? 

There are several factors that you need to take into account when choosing the right online program that will be most beneficial for you. 

Here are three of the most important ones: 

  • Accreditation 

When choosing a law enforcement program make sure to check whether the institution that offers it has an accreditation and if so what type of accreditation it holds. Colleges and universities go through a specific accreditation process to prove that they meet certain standards and offer quality education. There are two types of accreditation – regional and national. Most of the US colleges and universities hold a regional accreditation and only a few hold national. It is important to note that regionally accredited institutions are considered more prestigious and often the fees you pay for education there are higher.  While is doesn’t seem intuitive that regional accreditation carries more weight, this is the certainly correct.

  • Courses offered 

Another important issue is to check the courses offered by each college and to choose those that will be most useful for the career path you have chosen. If you have a chance to opt for a greater diversity in your program, do not miss it.  

  • Duration  

Duration and terms of study are also quite important factors. Generally, a bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete, however, there are also accelerated options that allow you to graduate earlier. Some programs give more flexibility, while others may require you to follow the pace of the group of students. Note, that some colleges and universities may require some time spent in the campus in addition to the online training, which may not be convenient for you in case you live too far away or if you work.

What are the requirements to apply for a law enforcement degree? 

Most of the online law enforcement programs do not require any previous work experience in order to apply for them. If you have any experience, though, or you are currently working as a law enforcement officer, you will find it much easier to accomplish the given tasks and participate in discussions on various topics.  

Working while studying is also not a problem for most of the programs. Keep in mind, though, that if you work full time, it is a good idea to take a lighter course load and this will extend the time it takes you to graduate.

How to finance your online law enforcement degree? 

Nearly two-thirds of college students take out some type of loan to cover their tuition. While online students may have reduced costs in terms of living expenses or travel, there can be some other hidden charges of online study that require additional financing.  

The good news is that the options for financing your online study are now the same as those offered for campus-based programs. There are primarily four sources that you can use: 

  • Federal financial aid – each student can apply with the U.S. Department of education for a Federal Student Aid that comes in different forms. You can get a grant, a loan or a work study, which allows you to work while studying on or off campus. 
  • State-sponsored aid – each state has an education agency that allocates scholarships or other grants.  
  • College-sponsored aid – many colleges and universities provide grants, scholarships and even direct loans for students.  
  • Private aid – different financial organizations provide loans to students under preferential conditions. Some professional associations, community groups, and even religious organizations can provide scholarships that do not have to be repaid.   

In addition to these options, you should know that many online colleges offer specific aid for their students, so it is good to keep this in mind when researching the law enforcement programs.  

Earning an online law enforcement degree is a great way to boost your chances of joining the agency you want to work for. Keep in mind, however, that you still need to prepare for the written exam, the oral interview and the other tests that will allow you to join the law enforcement forces. Sgt Godoy has a very popular and highly rated online Police Exam practice tests to help you get a great score and  Mastering the Police Interview will help you prepare for the Oral Interview. Make sure that you are well prepared for the hiring process and use all of your advantages, such as better education, to land a job that you really love and will do with passion.