Law Enforcement Schools

The field of law enforcement encompasses all aspects of a state or local government's ability to identify criminal activity and respond appropriately. Those who earn law enforcement degrees online, or on-campus, will study various methods of criminal investigation and crime prevention, in addition to other aspects of criminal justice such as forensic science, the principles of psychology and criminology.

Many students choose to specialize in a specific area of law enforcement, with popular options including homeland security, terrorism, cyber security or federal law. After completing all of the law enforcement degree requirements, graduates can consider applying for work in the FBI, state or local police, or as a private investigator, security officer, park ranger or corrections officer.

What degrees might be used for a career in law enforcement?

There are many options, whether a student wants to earn a law enforcement degree online or on-campus. Students can learn an associate degree in law enforcement, for instance, or even an associate degree in criminal justice with a specialization in law enforcement. Bachelor's or master's degrees are not always required, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that law enforcement professionals who have a degree have been in higher demand than those who don't. Students can also pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field such as law enforcement intelligence and analysis, or forensic psychology. Other schools even offer advanced certificates in law enforcement that may be sufficient for certain careers in police work. However, the BLS reports that most police also graduate from their agency's training academy, complete rigorous on-the-job training and pass certain physical tests before becoming official.

Are there financial aid programs available for law enforcement students?

Students seeking law enforcement degrees should start by applying for federal student aid. They can begin this process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA determines what, if any, sources of financial aid prospective students qualify for. Those might include:

  • Pell Grants
  • Stafford Loan
  • PLUS Loans for Parents
  • Federal Work Study
  • Perkins Loans
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants

Several institutions also offer scholarships specifically for students who choose to pursue a degree in law enforcement, including the group Law Enforcement Opportunities, which doles out several scholarships per year. The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives also hands out scholarships to law enforcement students each year, including:

  • Irlet Anderson Scholarship: $3,500
  • Charles L. Gittens Scholarship Award: $1,000
  • Larry Bolden Scholarship Award: $2,000

Female students pursuing a career in federal law enforcement can also apply for a scholarship via Women in Federal Law Enforcement, or WIFLE.

What does the job outlook for law enforcement professionals look like?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an increase in employment for police and detectives, with average growth expected to reach 5 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022Employment for private detectives and investigators, however, is expected to be stronger, increasing 11 percent nationally during the same time frame.

Because law enforcement budgets are usually based on local factors and vary widely by region, employment for law enforcement professionals is expected to be higher in some areas. The states with the best employment projections for police through 2020, according to state labor department data aggregated by Projections Central, are:

  • Utah: 21.8%
  • Texas: 20.4%
  • Arkansas: 16.7%
  • North Carolina: 16%
  • Tennessee: 15.6%
  • Oklahoma: 14.7%
  • Colorado: 13.2%
  • Idaho: 13.1%
  • Maryland: 12.7%
  • Wyoming: 10.6%

Where can I find more information on law enforcement programs?

Contacting prospective schools about their degrees and concentrations might be a helpful first step in the process of selecting a program. In addition, contacting local law enforcement agencies or organizations can potentially be a good option for finding out about what educational path to pursue for this career. National organizations might have advice as well, about different ways to get started on a career in law enforcement.

Sources:

Correctional Officers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm#tab-1

Police and Detectives, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm#tab-1

Private Detectives and Investigators, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/private-detectives-and-investigators.htm#tab-1

LEO Scholarship Program, Law Enforcement Opportunities, 2014,
http://www.laweo.org/scholarship.html

Scholarship Programs, The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, 2014, 
http://www.noblenational.org/communityoutreach/noblescholarships.html

Long Term Data for Police, Projections Central,
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

Annual Scholarship Programs, Women in Federal Law Enforcement,
http://www.wifle.org/scholarshipprogram.htm