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2023 Best Online Law Enforcement Degrees

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 12/29/2022
2023 Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Law Enforcement Badge

Online law enforcement programs will help prepare students to work in local police departments, federal agencies, national parks, and courts of law. In fact, there is a range of career options open to graduates of online degrees in law enforcement. 

Since there is no specific programmatic accreditation for law enforcement degrees, students should focus on institutions with accreditation when selecting which online schools to attend. All of the schools on our list have been accredited. Furthermore, the schools that made our list of best online law enforcement colleges are ranked by alumni salaries. View our methodology for more details about our list, or learn more about OnlineU.

2023 Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Law Enforcement Badge
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Online Law Enforcement Bachelor's Degrees You May Be Interested In


2023 Best Online Law Enforcement Degrees

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 American Public University System 99 99 $49,354
# 2 #2 Bellevue University 91 $43,733
# 3 #3 Metropolitan State University 87 $42,056
# 4 #4 Purdue University Global 86 $41,882
# 5 #5 Southern New Hampshire University Online 83 $40,917
# 6 #6 Bemidji State University 82 $40,717
# 7 #7 University of Colorado Denver 78 $39,827
# 8 #8 Park University 76 $39,411
# 9 #9 Western Illinois University 70 $38,130
# 10 #10 Ashland University 69 $37,937

2023 Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's Degrees

Ranking Details

#1 American Public University System

  • Salary Score: 99
  • Median Starting Salary: $49,354
  • Locations: Charles Town (WV)
  • Accreditation: HLC

American Public University System (APUS) is a private set of institutions offering a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. This degree has two law enforcement concentrations: (1) Organizational Law Enforcement and (2) Maritime Law Enforcement. This degree requires 120 credit hours, which full-time students can complete in around four years. All applicants are accepted into APUS, with 18% graduating with degrees in hand.

APUS students use MyClassroom as their primary learning management system (LMS), where they can complete courses online. The core curriculum for this program teaches students about the various components of law enforcement, from the different jurisdictions and how they interact with one another to explorations of criminal behavior and crime causation. Among the required classes are Criminology, U.S. Law Enforcement, and Constitutional Law. Students are also required to complete a senior seminar in criminal justice. Career opportunities may be available at local, state, and federal agencies as well as corrections facilities and the military.

#2 Bellevue University

  • Salary Score: 91
  • Median Starting Salary: $43,733
  • Locations: Bellevue (NE)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Bellevue University is a private institution with a Bachelor of Science in Intelligence and Security Studies requiring 127 credit hours. Students studying full time are likely to complete the degree in around four years. Bellevue accepts 100% of its applicants, with half of its enrolled students graduating.

Bellevue uses Blackboard as its LMS to deliver online coursework. This software allows students to finish their degrees completely online and on a schedule that meets their needs. The curriculum takes a broad look at security topics, both nationally and on a global scale, along with close examinations of the functions of intelligence agencies. Required classes include Foundations in Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Rogue Leaders and Outlaw States, and Radical Religion and Political Extremism. Students often graduate feeling prepared for entry-level roles in homeland security, civilian law enforcement, and government agencies.

#3 Metropolitan State University

  • Salary Score: 87
  • Median Starting Salary: $42,056
  • Locations: Saint Paul (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Metropolitan State University (Metro State) is a public university offering a Bachelor of Science in Law Enforcement for Licensed Peace Officers that requires 120 credit hours. This program contains three tracks, depending on how much education or experience a student holds in law enforcement. Typically, students complete this program in around four years while studying at a full-time pace. The acceptance rate at Metro State is 62%, with 57% of students obtaining degrees.

At Metro State, students use the LMS Brightspace for their remote courses, which can be completed 100% online, with courses delivered synchronously and asynchronously. The curriculum explores the legal and ethical principles of policing, criminology theories, and the importance of personnel diversity and community interactions. Required classes include Criminology and Public Policy, Diversity in Criminal Justice, and Ethics and Professionalism in Criminal Justice. For the capstone project, students may choose between an internship or a research project. Graduates may explore roles as law enforcement officers.

#4 Purdue University Global

  • Salary Score: 86
  • Median Starting Salary: $41,882
  • Locations: Indianapolis (IN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Purdue University Global is a public institution with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement requiring 180 credits. The average completion time for this degree is four years for full-time students. Purdue accepts 100% of its applicants while maintaining a 30% graduation rate.

Purdue students use Brightspace as its LMS software that allows students to complete all their courses online. The program offers flexible start dates as well, so students can coordinate courses with their current schedules. The core curriculum for this program teaches students the skills needed to advance their current law enforcement career or seek entry-level positions in the field. This is done by developing an understanding of the philosophy and development of the U.S. criminal justice system. Here are three examples of required courses: Criminal Procedure, Applied Criminal Justice Ethics, and Managing Criminal Justice Organizations. Students must also complete a bachelor's capstone in criminal justice. Career opportunities for graduates include roles in law enforcement and private security.

#5 Southern New Hampshire University Online

  • Salary Score: 83
  • Median Starting Salary: $40,917
  • Locations: Manchester (NH)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Southern New Hampshire University Online (SNHU) is a private university offering a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Police Administration and Operations. In order to earn this degree, students must complete 120 credit hours, which is typically done within four years. SNHU's acceptance rate is 94%, with 40% of students graduating.

Online students at SNHU use Brightspace to complete their coursework. Through this LMS, classes are delivered online in a flexible format. The criminal justice curriculum teaches students crime analysis techniques, best practices for community policing, and how to communicate in a professional law enforcement environment. There are a number of required courses, such as Crime Analysis and Effective Police Service, Crisis Intervention for Police, and Leadership and Management in Criminal Justice Organizations. Students are also required to complete 150 internship hours. Graduates may find employment as correction officers, probation officers, and police detectives.

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What Can You Expect from an Online Law Enforcement Degree?

Want a profession where you are protecting your community? If so, an online bachelor’s degree in law enforcement is a great starting point. Prospective students can expect to explore topics such as law, government, forensics, and more. Typically, an online degree in law enforcement can last four years for full-time students, though the projected graduation date may be extended for part-time students.

The standard admission requirements for online law enforcement degrees are an online application, an application fee, a high school diploma or GED, a minimum GPA, and ACT or SAT scores. In addition, some of the best colleges for law enforcement may require a letter of recommendation and a personal essay for admission.

Are Online Degrees Valid?

Employers and professional schools typically accept an online degree from an accredited college or university as 100% valid. An accredited institution implies that the school meets the minimum requirements to deliver high quality education to its student body.

At OnlineU, we provide the best degrees for law enforcement from accredited institutions only.

Courses for a Law Enforcement Degree Online

Most online colleges for law enforcement provide curricula for students that include many introductory courses. These introductory courses may cover criminal justice, law, psychology, cybersecurity, and forensics. Prospective students who want to dive deeper into a specific topic may be able to add a concentration to their online law enforcement degrees.

Consider the following core courses required among most law enforcement degrees online:

Report Writing

Law enforcement professionals often write reports from crime scenes, court cases, and interviews. With this in mind, these professionals must have strong writing skills. This course helps students develop report writing skills for different contexts. Prospective students can expect to examine crime reports, learn the narrative rules of investigative reporting, and discuss the qualities of an investigator.

Introduction to Law Enforcement

This course looks at the history of the policies enacted by local, state, and federal agencies. In addition, it’ll cover the general responsibilities of law enforcement officers.

Introduction to Criminal Justice

This course provides an overview of the criminal justice process, from law enforcement to corrections. Students learn the history and philosophy of these systems, as well as potential career opportunities within criminal justice.

Introduction to Corrections

In this course, students learn about the major programs within the corrections area of the criminal justice system. Some of the topics that the course covers include probation, parole, community correction, and institutional treatment. Students are expected to understand the components of corrections, discuss the differences between jail and prison, and identify ethical issues within the corrections systems.

Criminal Investigation

This course examines the concepts and theories surrounding criminal investigation. Students learn about criminal investigators and their job responsibilities. The course also covers investigators' methods and strategies when analyzing a criminal case.

Criminology

Students generally explore the concepts of crime and criminal behavior in this course. Specifically, they examine the cause of various crimes, reactions of victims and criminals, and different types of criminal behavior. By the end of the course, students should have the skills to thoroughly investigate and analyze the people, behaviors, and crimes within a case.

Still undecided? Check our similar undergraduate degrees: criminal justice, law, and criminology.

Jobs in Law Enforcement

An online law enforcement degree opens the door to many opportunities in the field. Whether you want to be out in the field or working in a forensics lab, graduates who obtain a law enforcement degree online can choose from several career options.

Police and Detectives

Annual Median Salary:  $66,020
Job Outlook: 3%

Police and detectives are on the front line to handle emergencies and solve crimes. Police officers aim to protect people and property, while detectives gather information to solve crimes. These professionals often work in a police department and frequently travel for their duties.

Forensic Science Technicians

Annual Median Salary:  $61,930
Job Outlook: 11%

If you prefer to be on the back end of a criminal investigation, then a career as a forensic science technician may be a great fit. These professionals collect and analyze evidence from a crime scene. In addition, they may work outside business hours to visit crime scenes and gather evidence. You may also check out the best online degrees in forensic science if this career goal interests you.

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Annual Median Salary:  $60,250
Job Outlook: 0%

Those interested in helping individuals get back on the right track may find roles as probation officers or correctional treatment specialists very fulfilling. These professionals assist criminals in rehabilitating while they are in custody, on probation, or on parole.

Emergency Management Directors

Annual Median Salary:  $76,730
Job Outlook: 3%

Emergency management directors plan, design, and implement procedures that address natural disasters and other emergencies. They are often the leaders who help with the response during and after emergencies. Potential work settings for these professionals include hospitals, the government, colleges, or private businesses.

Private Detectives and Investigators

Annual Median Salary:  $59,380
Job Outlook: 6%

Private detectives and investigators search and collect information to solve crimes and other matters. These professionals often work irregular hours, as they may be required to work early in the day or late at night. The standard work settings for private detectives and investigators are in the police department, a private office, or home.

What Degrees Does the CIA Look For?

Students that aspire to work for the CIA may want to obtain degrees that are popular for the agency. For example, a bachelor’s degree in data science, finance, business, and law enforcement are acceptable majors for a career in the CIA. In general, any relevant bachelor’s degree opens the door for entry-level positions in the CIA. However, those aiming for mid and senior-level positions in the CIA may want to acquire a graduate degree to accelerate advancement.

What Is the Best Degree to Become a Detective?

To become a detective, any degree related to criminal justice is a great stepping stone to entering the profession. Potential degree options include homeland security, cybersecurity, and criminology. However, it seems that a degree in criminal justice may be the most preferred degree for detectives. Fortunately, an online degree in law enforcement covers many of the same topics and courses as a criminal justice degree. With this in mind, an online degree in law enforcement can still provide the skills and training to become a detective.

What Should I Major in if I Want to Work for the FBI?

While there isn’t a specific major you must have to be eligible to join the FBI, it’s recommended that aspiring agents pursue a degree related to criminal justice in some capacity, such as law enforcement. This degree sets a solid foundation for obtaining an entry-level FBI position.

Is a Law Enforcement Degree Worth It?

The best online colleges for law enforcement degrees are a solid foundation for a career in criminal justice. With a bachelor’s degree alone, graduates have various career options. However, there are a few downsides to consider with this degree.

Check out the following pros and cons of an online law enforcement degree:

Pros

Health and retirement benefits: If you’re looking for a job with great benefits, a career in law enforcement may be the best fit. Aside from a solid annual salary, law enforcement employees receive excellent health and life insurance and retirement benefits.

Variety of career professions: As mentioned earlier, graduates with a law enforcement degree can choose from several professions. With a bachelor’s degree, graduates can pursue a career as a law enforcement officer, detective, and corrections officer, to name a few possibilities.

High job growth: There will always be a need for criminal justice professions, so there isn’t much concern about losing your job in this industry. The majority of the careers listed above are significantly above the 8% average of growth across all U.S. jobs, meaning that those working in this field can expect to have high job growth through 2030.

Cons

A job in law enforcement can affect your mental health: Whether you’re in an active shoot-out or working long hours in a lab examining a body, a job in law enforcement can take a toll on your mental health. Research has revealed that at least a large percentage of police officers will experience PTSD.

A bachelor's isn't enough to get you jobs in federal agencies: As mentioned earlier, those looking to get into mid- and senior-level jobs in the CIA may need to acquire a graduate degree in a more niche field. While it’s possible to get a higher-level position with a bachelor's degree in law enforcement, it may take additional time to gain the necessary experience and skills.

Law enforcement careers require working long hours: Criminal justice professionals typically work long hours throughout the work week. For example, law enforcement officers, corrections officers, and deputies often work a rotating 12-hour shift. In addition, these professionals are responsible for constructing incident reports that occur throughout the day, which can be time-consuming.

Bottom Line

Obtaining a law enforcement degree is a great stepping stone for those interested in a career in criminal justice. Prospective students can expect each program’s curriculum to cover topics such as law, criminology, and forensics. In addition, the best degrees for law enforcement provide an abundance of career opportunities. While a career in law enforcement can be stressful and physically demanding, it’s a rewarding field that aims to protect lives.

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