Earning a degree in law enforcement can help students enter a wide range of law enforcement professions, such as police officer, corrections officer or probation/parole officer. Many police departments require candidates to hold at least an associate degree, while others require candidates to have a bachelor's degree in law enforcement or criminal justice.
Students interested in careers in law enforcement can use the resources on this page to find the best colleges for law enforcement degree programs, as well as scholarships available to law enforcement majors and common career paths for graduates of law enforcement degree programs. These featured colleges offer both associate and bachelor's degrees in law enforcement. Many programs are campus based, but some are offered entirely online. While graduates of any one of these programs may have the strong academic foundation needed to succeed in entry-level positions in law enforcement, candidates typically also need to complete a training or cadet academy prior to being hired as law enforcement professionals.
Best Colleges for Law Enforcement Degree Programs
Students who want to pursue careers as police officers or corrections and probation/parole officers often obtain degrees in criminal justice to lay a solid academic foundation for their law enforcement careers. The following list of the top colleges for law enforcement degree programs was compiled using data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. We created a unique methodology that blends many different data points to rank the best colleges for law enforcement. Read on for detailed insight into the 10 best universities for law enforcement degree programs, or click the button below to learn more about the methodology used to create this list.
Justice underscores every academic program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. B.A. and B.S. degree programs in criminal justice are the most widely pursued programs at the college, which has an annual enrollment of about 15,000 students.
Students who wish to work as police or correctional officers can pursue many degree paths at the college, including:
- Criminal justice-crime control and prevention
- Criminal justice-institutional theory and practice
- Criminal justice management
- Law and society
- Correctional studies
John Jay Online, meanwhile, offers seven master's degree programs, including criminal justice and international crime and justice.
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice heads our list of top colleges for law enforcement degree programs based on many factors, including its low cost of in-state tuition of $6,810, and high number of law enforcement degrees awarded to students. The college also offers the flexibility of online study, evening and weekend classes, and placement services for graduates.
Grantham College is a completely online institution that offers a wide range of academic pathways in criminal justice.
The Associate of Arts in criminal justice program requires 61 credits and 24 months to complete. The B.A. in criminal justice, meanwhile, requires 121 credit hours. First-year students in the bachelor's program can expect to put in at least 38 months of study, while transfer students can significantly reduce that time depending on previous college credit. Courses for both programs begin monthly to help facilitate new students.
At $6,500, Grantham University had the second-lowest cost of in-state tuition among our 10 featured institutions. It also had the fourth-highest graduation rate and a favorable open admissions policy.
The No. 3 college in our list of best colleges for law enforcement degrees has provided education to residents of Columbia, Mo. since 1851. Columbia College has 35 campus locations nationwide, as well as its online campus, and serves more than 29,000 students each school year. Students have the option of earning nearly every degree type, including:
- A.S. in criminal justice administration
- B.A. in criminal justice administration
- B.S. in criminal justice administration
- M.S. in criminal justice
The A.S. and B.S. degrees in criminal justice administration are offered at many campus locations and online, while the B.S. in criminal justice is only offered at the Columbia campus. The master's level program can be completed online or at the main Columbia campus, as well as campus locations in Orlando and Hancock Field, N.Y.
Columbia College makes our rankings based on its modest cost of tuition of $6,999, a strong graduation rate, open admissions policy, and high number of students enrolled in distance education classes.
Located in the town of Joplin, Missouri Southern State University serves nearly 6,000 students each school year.
The university offers many different majors and minors in criminal justice, but two programs are designed specifically for students interested in careers in law enforcement. The Associate of Science degree in criminal justice provides students with an academic foundation in the study of police procedures, criminology and corrections. Students must complete 60 credits to satisfy degree requirements. The second option also culminates in an A.S. degree but includes 26 credit hours of basic law enforcement academy. The university also offers a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration.
Additionally, MSSU offers a 600 hour certified basic law enforcement training academy for students who want to be licensed peace officers in the state of Missouri.
MSSU had the lowest cost of in-state tuition — $5,877 — of any institution in these rankings. The university also had a favorable 94 percent admissions rate, and students are provided with a wide range of support services, including job placement and academic and career counseling.
This regionally accredited non-profit university headquartered at Cincinnati has additional campus locations in Vermont, Florida and California. The university offers an online bachelor's degree program in criminal justice management.
The program is designed to prepare students for supervisory or management positions within the law enforcement and criminal justice system. Instructors are current or former line employees, support personal and executives in the criminal justice community. Curriculum was developed by law enforcement professionals. The program requires 120 credit hours to complete, with classes starting every eight weeks. Students can transfer up to 90 credits into the program.
Union Institute & University makes our rankings in the fifth spot based on its open admissions policy and the high number of students enrolled in distance education classes — 87 percent of students at Union take classes online. It also had the highest number of law enforcement degrees awarded of any of our 10 featured colleges and universities — nearly half of all degrees conferred in 2015 were related to criminal justice.
This regional community college has its flagship campus in Nashville. Students can pursue a diploma or associate degree in criminal justice at any campus location, or through the Daymar Institute Online.
The A.S. degree requires 96 quarter-credit hours to complete, while the diploma program requires 64 quarter credits. Both programs are designed to provide students with the educational foundation needed for entry level positions within the criminal justice system.
Daymar Institute Online also offers a B.S. degree in criminal justice administration that provides high-level instruction in criminal justice, as well as extensive coursework in business communications and management. It's a richer educational path for potential corrections officers, police officers, and others who want to work in the criminal justice system.
Daymar Institute had the second-highest graduation rate of any institution in our rankings, as well as the second-highest number of law enforcement degrees awarded. It also tied for first with a low 10:1 student-faculty ratio. However, the college had the highest cost of in-state tuition among our 10 featured institutions.
This landmark military institution in Charleston, S.C. was founded in 1842. It leads our list of best colleges for law enforcement degrees with an exceptional 67 percent graduation rate, and it also has a strong 76 percent admissions rate.
The Citadel offers a B.A. degree-completion program in criminal justice that can be completed either on campus or online. Students must complete 65 hours of general education and criminal justice coursework at a partnering technical college, and 55 credit hours of upper-division coursework at The Citadel. Distance learners outside of the Charleston area work with an academic advisor to determine transfer credits and coursework required by The Citadel.
Morris College is a small, private historically black college located in Sumter, S.C. It lands in the eighth spot in our rankings based on its open admissions policy, low 15:1 student-faculty ratio, and total number of law enforcement degrees conferred to students in 2015.
Morris College was founded in 1908 by the Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina, and although its doors are open to students who meet admissions requirements the college retains strong ties to its theological roots with many programs in ministry and pastoral education.
The college's division of social sciences offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice that requires 127 credits to complete. Students must take 30 credit hours of study in the program major, as well as 61 credit hours of general education coursework. Students who wish to minor in criminal justice must complete 18 credit hours of coursework in the program.
This historically black college in Tyler is affiliated with the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and the United Negro Fund. Educational programs embody the principles of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
The college's criminal justice degree program is designed to prepare students to work in a variety of law enforcement roles, from corrections to police to court-related agencies such as parole and probation. The program requires 125 total credits to complete, including 61 credits in criminal justice coursework.
Texas College has a favorable open admissions policy and offers a great deal of flexibility in course scheduling with night and weekend classes. Graduates also enjoy career placement services.
University of Phoenix, which has campus locations in 23 states and the District of Columbia, rounds out our list of top colleges for law enforcement degree programs. The university has an open admissions policy, and students can expect a more personalized educational experience based on the university's low 11:1 student-faculty ratio.
University of Phoenix Online offers an Associate of Arts in criminal justice and Bachelor of Science in criminal justice administration degree pathways. Graduate students also can pursue a Master of Science degree in administration of justice and security. The A.A. degree is designed for students who wish to complete academy training and work as police officers, corrections staff, or parole and probation officers. Students who complete the B.S. degree often pursue careers as police supervisors or detectives.
Law Enforcement Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Although a college degree is not required for some entry-level officer positions, students who complete law enforcement degree programs have an excellent academic foundation and deeper understanding of criminal law and procedures, correctional systems, judicial processes, human services, and other key aspects of law enforcement that can help advance their careers. Let's take a look at the skills students learn in law enforcement degree programs, as well as several common career paths.
Career Outlook for Law Enforcement Majors
There will always be a need to ensure the safety of the public, which ensures solid job prospects for trained law enforcement, probation/parole and correctional officers. Demand in these fields is driven largely by location and state and local budgets. Job prospects are expected to be best for applicants who have graduated from a law enforcement degree program, the BLS reports. In the following section we've compiled some career projections for common career paths in law enforcement.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers||$65,400||661,330||5%|
|First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives||$93,100||116,660||4.8%|
|Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists||$58,790||87,660||3.3%|
Financial aid and scholarships for Law Enforcement Majors
Students interested in completing law enforcement degrees can apply for federal financial aid and grants, or one of numerous scholarships dedicated to criminal justice and law enforcement majors. A few of the many scholarships available to help prospective law enforcement officers pay for college include the Martin Luther King JR. Scholarship, America's 911 Foundation college scholarship, and the Women in Federal Law Enforcement annual scholarship.
Renewable annually if recipient meets academic requirements.
Renewable if requirements are met
Renewable for up to four years.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Majors, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/majors
- Criminal Justice, Bachelor of Arts, Grantham University, https://www.grantham.edu/online-degrees/criminal-justice-bachelors/
- Degrees and Programs, Columbia College, https://www.ccis.edu/degrees/all.aspx
- Law Enforcement Degree, Missouri Southern State University, https://www.mssu.edu/academics/arts-sciences/criminal-justice-administration/degree-law-enforcement.php
- Criminal Justice Management, Union Institute & University, https://myunion.edu/bachelors-degree/criminal-justice-management/
- Online Criminal Justice Program, Daymar Institute, http://online.daymarcollege.edu/online-programs/justice/criminal-justice
- B.A. In Criminal Justice, The Citadel Military College of South Carolina, http://www.citadel.edu/root/eveningundergraduatestudies-2-2-programs/criminal-justice
- Criminal Justice, Morris College, http://www.morris.edu/Data/Sites/1/media/pdf/MorrisCollege_Catalog_07-08.pdf#page=128
- Criminal Justice Degree Plan, Texas College Course Catalogue, Page 69, http://www.texascollege.edu/uploads/tinymce/2014-2017%20College%20Catalog..pdf
- Criminal Justice, University of Phoenix Online, https://www.phoenix.edu/criminal-justice.html
- Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists, Occupational Outlook Handbooks, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm
- Police and detectives, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm
- The History of Policing in the United States, Eastern Kentucky University, http://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/history-policing-united-states-part-1
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.