In the past, having a high school diploma or the GED provided sufficient educational credentials to get started on a law enforcement career. However, because of the emphasis on national security and increased risk of terrorism these days, many police academies and departments have imposed higher education and college law enforcement degrees as a criterion for admission.
Nonetheless, the college degrees do not serve as a tie-breaker between the applicants and they do bring a few advantages into play. However, before presenting the benefits of law enforcement college education, let’s summarize the degrees police officers can aspire to achieve.
Associate’s Degree in Law Enforcement
One of the most popular degrees in law enforcement, the Associate’s Degree, is usually the number one choice for candidates who apply for a police officer job that includes college credentials within the requirements.
The programs offering this degree have a typical two-year duration, include a generalized, yet very comprehensive curricula and are ideal for applicants who want a career as a police officer, private investigator or correction officer.
Even though Associate’s Degree programs require a high school diploma (or equivalent) as a prerequisite, it is necessary to point out that candidates who have finished 4 years of English, 3 years of mathematics, 3 years of social studies, 2 years of science and a secondary language will be favored.
The coursework comprised in the Associate’s law enforcement degrees includes the following:
- Standard practices and procedures within a law enforcement organization
- Conducting a police investigation
- The structure and organization of police departments
- Criminal justice
- Criminal Procedures
- Criminal Investigations
- Police Report Writing
- Juvenile Delinquency
- Ethics in Law Enforcement
Bachelor’s Degree in Law Enforcement
Candidates who are interested in building a career at the state or federal levels should consider the Bachelor’s degree in law enforcement.
Even though for the time being, the Bachelor’s Degree is not mandatory in order to work as a police officer, anecdotic evidence suggests that higher education may be imposed in the near future because of the extensive use of computers and advances made in forensics and science.
At its core, the curriculum of the Bachelor’s Degree is not very distinct compared to the Associate’s Degree.
Those who attain this degree can pursue employment as legal assistants, private investigators, secret service agents, wardens, bailiffs and supervisor/manager positions.
However, considering that the programs awarding this degree last over four years, students should expect more in-depth and detailed coursework compared to the Associate’s Degree.
Overall, the extra subjects taught in Bachelor’s Degree programs include:
- Latest police technology
- Minority Relations
- Family in crisis
Master’s Degree in Law Enforcement
Programs awarding Master’s law enforcement degrees open up an even wider array of career possibilities for police officers, ranging from local to global positions.
Law enforcement officers who graduate from Master courses have the opportunity to find a rewarding job in the US Coast Guard, US Department of Homeland Security, CIA, FBI, DEA, and can even assume positions as a federal judge or federal prison guard, police chief or deputy chief.
The admission requirement in a Master’s Degree program comprises of successfully completing a Bachelor’s Degree coursework.
The general duration for this specialty training (criminal justice management or forensic science) is 4 years.
Doctorate Degree in Criminal Justice
Putting it simply, the Doctorate Degree in criminal justice entails that the police officer is an expert in his field.
Even though the choices for a position are practically limitless for officers with Doctorate law enforcement degrees, more often than not, the candidates of these programs are interested in changing their career to start teaching criminal justice. To a lower extent, individuals likely to aim for a Doctorate Degree are officers who want to specialize in administration.
The programs for this particular type of higher education range between 3 to 5 years, depending on the time needed to research on and sustain his doctoral thesis.
The pluses of owning law enforcement degrees
The current recruitment trends suggest that more and more police agencies are seeking candidates who possess great interpersonal skills and have specialized training in criminal justice or law enforcement related subjects.
By having a college degree or specialty training, a candidate can benefit from:
- Versatility in selecting a suitable law enforcement career (based on the level of college education)
- Ensuring qualification for the job of choice
- A college degree can help a police officer advance rapidly in his career
- Receiving a higher salary
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