Many criminal justice professionals who want to transition into the field of law enforcement choose to earn an online Master’s in Law Enforcement degree program. This master’s degree is also a popular choice among law enforcement professionals who want to take on law enforcement administration roles and advance their law enforcement careers.
The advanced knowledge and skills students can acquire in this graduate program open the gate to senior-level positions in criminal justice organizations and law enforcement agencies.
Police and detectives earn $66,020 annually, according to federal data. With a master’s degree in Law Enforcement, they can qualify for higher positions, whether it is in the federal government, executive police administration, homeland security, or public safety leadership field.
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Many criminal justice organizations need the help of law enforcement professionals to ensure the smooth process of law enforcement administration. Law enforcement administration graduates can go on to become law enforcement leaders, police officers, or federal law enforcement officers, among others. If you can remain committed to this physically demanding, stressful, and yet meaningful and rewarding field, pursuing a Master’s in Law Enforcement degree program would be right up your alley.
The field of Law Enforcement is driven by leaders and movers who craft and implement effective policies in a wide range of key areas, from intelligence to administration, and more. The field is demanding and competitive, and the most well-prepared professionals have the best chance of excelling in the field, both in terms of their personal careers and in terms of long-term social impact.
No need to look any further! We’ve put together a list of 5 graduate schools with the best online Master’s in Law Enforcement degree programs! Each program was selected based on the following characteristics:
- Offered primarily online, allowing students and working professionals to progress through their coursework with minimal disruption to their careers,
- Features curricula that cover a wide range of key areas and aspects of the field, with integrated training programs that prepare students for a doctorate program or qualify them for law enforcement leadership opportunities,
- Taught and developed by professionals known for their law enforcement career expertise,
- Offers competitive graduate tuition rates as well as a wide range of federal aid and financial assistance programs,
- Holds the appropriate accreditation credentials at the master’s degree level, while also gaining the approval of organizations in the Law Enforcement industry.
Read our Methodology featuring our online graduate program ranking process.
Best Online Master’s in Law Enforcement
University of San Diego
San Diego, CA
Tracing its history back to 1937, the University of San Diego takes pride in its strong commitment to academic excellence. It offers undergraduate to graduate programs across seven schools and a college. The programs cover various areas of study, including engineering, business, natural sciences, and liberal arts. On top of its on-campus academic programs, the university also offers online master’s degrees designed for working professionals.
- The University of San Diego offers the MS in Law Enforcement & Public Safety Leadership program to help prospective students prepare for leadership positions in the field.
- The online Master’s in Law Enforcement degree is taught by experienced leaders in the criminal justice and military fields, ensuring that students will be equipped with the skills needed by the police department effectively.
- This master’s degree is designed for working professionals who work across various industries and sectors, including law enforcement agencies, probation offices, municipal police, highway patrol, and state agencies, among others.
- The program’s 31-unit curriculum can be completed in as few as 20 months with courses focusing on building critical leadership skills relevant to public safety while dealing with the challenges faced by law enforcement agencies.
Standout Features of the University of San Diego’s Online MS in Law Enforcement & Public Safety Leadership Program:
Unlike other criminal justice graduate programs, this master’s degree curriculum was developed with insights from law enforcement. This means courses featured in the program are practical and designed to help students build their management and leadership skills to lead a department and agency. At the end of the program, students are expected to explore effective leadership integral to modern public safety, media relations and community engagement, and constitutional law and how it can share law enforcement policies.
Did You Know?
The University of San Diego offers career-building degree programs spearheaded by highly supportive faculty members with demonstrated experience in their respective fields. Students are in good hands as they can learn from professors who hold advanced degrees in the field they teach, including cybersecurity, data science, education, healthcare, law enforcement, and technology entrepreneurship, among others.
Grand Canyon University
Founded in 1949, Grand Canyon University has grown from its humble beginnings of having 16 faculty members and approximately 100 students to serving thousands of students on campus and online. In fact, in the fall of 2022, Grand Canyon University housed more than 86,000 online and evening cohort students. The university remained committed to meeting the growing needs of its students while cultivating higher education learning experiences.
- The online Master’s in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Law Enforcement offered at Grand Canyon University provides students with a solid foundation to address law enforcement challenges in the 21st century.
- Online students are expected to examine key issues in crime analysis and strategic planning, allowing them to take a closer look at crime prevention programs, risk management in policing, and contemporary crime trends.
- To earn the degree, students must complete a total of 38 credits, exploring courses such as Crime Analysis and Case Management, Law and Public Policy, Crime Prevention & Public Relations, Strategic Analysis and Organizational Planning, and Advanced Crime Analysis.
- The law enforcement emphasis also allows students to explore and examine criminal profiling, crisis intervention, and psychopathology in the context of the criminal justice system.
Standout Features of Grand Canyon University’s Online Master’s in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Program:
The online master’s in law enforcement degree has a comprehensive curriculum that teaches students to take a holistic view of society while examining how the law and socioeconomic concerns interrelate. Students are also expected to detect the patterns in crime data and examine the techniques, trends, and uses of crime analysis. They must also learn all about strategic analysis and organizational planning practices integral to enhancing agency performance.
Did You Know?
As part of its commitment to providing high-quality and innovative learning experiences to its students, Grand Canyon University has invested billions of dollars. One of its efforts focused on improving the digital platforms with the aim of providing an online learning experience to distance education students.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State University is a public, land-grant, research university located in the city of East Lansing. It began in 1855 as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, and was the first of the country’s land-grant colleges, having gained the designation in 1863. It gained its university status in 1955 and underwent a change to its current name in 1964.
Michigan State University is composed of 17 degree-granting colleges and has a population of almost 50,000 students. It is a member of the Association of American Universities, and is classified among R1: Doctoral Universities with “Very High Research Activity.”
- Michigan State University offers an MS in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis. This program prepares students to take on roles as data-driven subject matter experts in law enforcement intelligence, able to play lead roles in law enforcement operations.
- The 10-course program comprises 30 credit hours and can be finished in two years, although students typically complete it in two and a half years.
- The program covers skills in using intelligence software and leveraging the intelligence cycle and emphasizes conducting ethical field research. Courses in the program include Criminal Justice Research, The Intelligence Process, Comprehensive Threat Assessment, and a wide range of electives.
Standout Features of Michigan State University’s MS in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis Program:
Michigan State’s MS in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis program is taught by arguably some of the most notable professionals and experts in the field. The program is home to Dr. David Carter, a nationally-recognized expert who literally wrote the book on law enforcement intelligence. The program’s curriculum is also informed by the standards set by the Department of Justice.
Did You Know?
Seton Hall University
South Orange, New Jersey
Seton Hall University is a private research university located in the township of South Orange, New Jersey. It is affiliated with the Roman Catholic church and is the country’s oldest diocesan university, founded by Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley in 1856. Seton Hall was turned into a university in 1950 and became coeducational in 1968. At present, Seton Hall University is composed of 9 schools and colleges and has a population of almost 10,000. It is classified among “R2: Doctoral Universities – High Research Activity”.
- Seton Hall offers an MA in Law Enforcement Executive Leadership. This program is geared toward preparing students to take on careers related to overseeing the day-to-day management of public agencies, as well as analyzing a wide range of complex challenges in the public sector.
- The program is delivered 100% online. It contains a total of 30 credit hours and can be completed within six semesters.
- The program features three specialization tracks: Scientist-Practitioner, Emergency Management and Homeland Security, and a Professional Track. Each track adds up to a total of 12 credit hours.
- The program’s set of foundation courses includes Police Executive Leadership, Resilient Policing, Ethical Policing, Crisis Communications & Media Relations, Evidence-Based Policing, and Current Legal Considerations.
Standout Features of Seton Hall University’s Master of Arts in Law Enforcement Executive Leadership Program:
Seton Hall University implements a number of benefits for students who get accepted into this program, including a tuition discount of 50% of the graduate rate. In addition, students can also avail a number of graduate scholarship opportunities, including a Fellowship exclusive to current New Jersey State Troopers.
Did You Know?
Seton Hall University is named after Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, a Catholic religious sister, and the first person born in the United States to be canonized by the Catholic Church. Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, who is the university’s founder, is also her nephew.
The Importance of Law Enforcement in Today’s World
While the law enforcement field had been in murky waters for issues that call for protests and requests for de-funding, there’s no denying its value! Law enforcement administration is at the heart of public safety and welfare.
Law enforcement officers are responsible for preventing life-threatening happenings. They respond to unexpected and often dangerous situations like theft, domestic dispute, or even crimes. In short, they are integral to the safety and protection of communities.
Here are some of the most important roles of law enforcement officers in the community.
Maintaining Law and Order
The primary role of police officers and other law enforcement professionals is to ensure that law and order are in place. They can be assigned to different departments with unique responsibilities. For example, traffic police are expected to enforce the rules of the road in an effort to minimize accidents.
A huge part of law enforcement, crime investigations are made possible because of valiant police officers who are always the first to respond to crime reports. They are expected to investigate the crime scene and apprehend the perpetrator. Their roles are integral in solving crimes.
During traffic accidents or life-threatening crimes, law enforcement officers can often save lives. They can respond immediately to prevent a crime from happening. Most of them are also trained to administer medical care until the ambulance arrives.
Providing Crisis Support
Sometimes, police officers are playing the role of counselor for people in difficult situations. They are trained in situational de-escalation, which means they have the capability to diffuse difficult or even dangerous situations before it can get out of hand
Fostering Strong Communities
Law enforcement agencies often make an effort to build a strong relationship with the community they serve. They seek to understand the fabric of the community and form a strong connection with community leaders, medical professionals, and ordinary members of the community. This can give way to a unique solidarity shared between law enforcement officers and the community, which can be a win-win situation for both sides.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it usually take to complete Law Enforcement programs?
Most online programs in law enforcement are designed to be completed within two years or less. Usually, students are required to complete between 30 to 60 credits, depending on the program curriculum and requirements.
Law Enforcement master’s degree programs that are available online often allow students to work through the coursework at their own pace. The program duration can then largely depend on the number of credit hours they take at a time.
Some universities also offer generous transfer policies, which means students with prior accredited experience can reduce the time it takes to earn a master’s degree.
What are the admission requirements to an online Master’s in Law Enforcement program?
Most law enforcement programs consider students with a bachelor’s degree and a work experience in law experience qualified for admission. In most cases, a bachelor’s degree must be awarded by a regionally accredited institution. Some universities and colleges may need students to meet a particular GPA. Others allow prospective students to submit a graduate-level essay in lieu of the minimum GPA requirement.
Other common admission requirements in the law enforcement master’s degree programs include a short statement of purpose, updated resume, letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and TOEFL scores for international students.
How do prospective students choose the best Law Enforcement online master’s degree?
There are several benchmarks when it comes to choosing the best online master’s degree in law enforcement. The first consideration is often the quality of the program. Some law enforcement programs are accredited by regional organizations like the WASC Senior College and University Commission. A regional accreditation can assure students that the program meets the gold standard when it comes to rigorous and high-quality online education.
Another important aspect that graduate students need to look at include the reputation of the university or college offering the program. Do they offer the master’s degree fully online? Are there no required campus visits? Is the program curriculum of the same quality as its on-campus programs?
Since most law enforcement positions have practical implications, it is important that the program of choice should offer the right blend of theory and hands-on learning. Students should be able to gain practical skills that are readily applicable in real-world situations to help them better prepare for leadership positions in the field.
Other factors prospective students should consider include the program length, cost, federal financial aid options, curriculum, and faculty. Costs often vary between in-state and out-of-state students.
Will a Master’s in Law Enforcement still be a good fit for students without the same academic background?
It depends on a specific program’s design. While some programs are particularly orientated towards active law enforcement practitioners, there are some programs that are more open to students who come from a wide range of academic backgrounds. Some programs are also aimed at serving as a good preparation for those who are planning to launch their careers in the field.
What are some of the alternative Master’s in Law Enforcement but related degree programs?
One of the most common related programs that are also offered is a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice programs. W Law Enforcement programs may have a design that emphasizes policing, a Master in Criminal Justice program has a wider coverage, which includes the court system, corrections, law enforcement, and more.
Alternatively, a graduate degree that focuses on Cybercrime/Cybersecurity may also prove to be a good fit for some students, especially those with a keen interest in computer science/information technology.
Master’s Degrees in Forensics, meanwhile, may prove to be interesting to students who have an interest in investigative roles that also serve as support to policing. These degree programs are a good fit for students who have strong analytical skills, for example.
Going a bit further, students who have an interest in other areas of first response may also want to check out a Master’s in Homeland Security and/or Emergency Management, which cover areas related to safeguarding communities from a wider range of threats and vulnerabilities, from human threats to natural hazards.
- Online Master of Law Enforcement Programs is designed to prepare students for leadership roles, primarily within the context of public agencies that operate on local, state, and federal levels.
- Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs typically feature a wide range of courses that tackle various aspects of policing and managing law enforcement organizations, from effective management strategies to leveraging data, professional practice anchored on ethics, and more.
- While many students of Master’s in Law Enforcement Programs are active members of law enforcement agencies, primarily police officers, many programs are designed to accommodate students who come from a wide variety of academic backgrounds.