Earning a Master's in Law Enforcement Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in Law Enforcement Online?

Working in the demanding and dangerous field of law enforcement requires individuals with excellent leadership, communication, and analytical skills. Some individuals who excel in entry-level law enforcement positions may ultimately decide to pursue graduate education in search of greater opportunities. Indeed, a couple of years of academic commitment can secure one's access to a lifetime of advancement opportunities, job satisfaction, and upward mobility.

An online master's degree in law enforcement typically requires 30-36 credits of coursework, and flexible scheduling often allows students to complete all courses while working full time. Graduates commonly pursue employment in leadership positions at their local police department, in schools, hospitals, or corrections facilities, or even for government agencies like Customs and Border Patrol, Homeland Security, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In the sections below, discover information on master's degree salaries, careers, program curriculum, and student resources.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Law Enforcement Graduates

Master's in Law Enforcement Salary

Law enforcement professionals with a master's degree receive an increased number of job opportunities and a higher salary potential. Top-paying employers of police officers with master's degrees include state governments, general and specialty hospitals, municipal governments, and the federal government, with median average salaries of $56,000-$71,000. Salaries for local police chiefs offer similar earning potential, with professionals of 20+ years earning average annual median salaries of $86,000.

While the tables below list representative information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and PayScale, remember individual income levels may vary depending on job location, experience, and additional qualifications.

Top-Paying Industries for Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

Industry Annual Mean Wage
State Government, Excluding Schools and Hospitals $71,370
Specialty (Except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals $66,650
Local Government, Excluding Schools and Hospitals $64,380
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $57,200
Federal Executive Branch $56,620

Master's in Law Enforcement Careers

Graduates of an online master's law enforcement program generally pursue leadership roles within the criminal justice system. Available employment options for a master's program graduate include supervisory roles in a local police department, law enforcement jobs with the federal government, and in some cases, college teaching positions. Leaders in law enforcement tend to possess strong skills in communication and logic, as well as a passion for justice and ethics.

Police Chief

Annual Median Salary: $73,930

The chief ranks highest in a police department. These hard-working professionals oversee department training, hiring, and policy creation, as well as managing budgets and communicating with the public and media. Police chiefs work primarily in an office, with some time spent out in the field.

FBI Agent

Annual Median Salary: $64,170

As the official investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI agents are law enforcement officers tasked with investigating federal crimes. FBI agents accomplish this task by collecting evidence, conducting interviews, and analyzing data. Agents typically work out of one of 56 field offices around the U.S.

Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist

Annual Median Salary: $51,410

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists promote rehabilitation of offenders by providing vital resources and social services to individuals either in custody or on probation. Although entry-level jobs typically require only a bachelor's and success with competency exams, a master's degree opens the door to supervisory positions.

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teacher, Postsecondary

Annual Median Salary: $51,640

Postsecondary criminal justice and law enforcement teachers work in college and university settings. These professionals create lesson plans that adhere to state requirements and engage student attention in the classroom. University teaching jobs typically require a doctorate, but law enforcement professionals with extensive experience can land certain jobs with only a master's.

Source: PayScale

What Can I Expect from an Online Master's in Law Enforcement Program?

During an online master's degree in law enforcement, you can expect to encounter the study of multiple areas and issues within criminal justice. The courses listed below provide a representative look at a graduate curriculum, but note that details may vary depending on your school and chosen electives.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Law Enforcement

Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice

Any public safety professional must possess a firm ethical foundation. Through the examination of case studies and other real-world examples, students in this course gain an understanding of contemporary ethical issues relating to criminal justice and law enforcement procedures. Courses may focus on ethical leadership, ethical theories, and/or ethical methodologies.

Public Policymaking

To understand how an issue or problem can instigate the creation of new policies, this course places a focus on the participants of the criminal justice policymaking process. Students study the role of law enforcement in identifying indicators that elevate a problem to the point of public policy discussions.

Introduction to Forensic Science

Ideal for the aspiring FBI agent or other top detective, an introduction to forensic science course exposes students to current technologies and procedures used in this specialized criminal justice field. Course content covers the identification, protection, documentation, collection, laboratory analysis, and court acceptance of physical evidence.

Globalization of Crime

This important survey course requires law enforcement students to consider crime on a global scale through the study and investigation of international crime, organized crime, and criminal activity that transcends national borders. Topics covered may include human trafficking, drug trafficking, firearms violence, money laundering, and corruption.

Research Methods in Criminal Justice

To teach law enforcement professionals and administrators to design and conduct projects, analyze crime data, and evaluate research, this graduate-level course introduces students to common research methods and techniques used in criminal justice as well as best practices for the evaluation and presentation of findings.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Law Enforcement Prepares For

  • State Certifications: Professionals with required experience and an online master's degree in law enforcement may pursue state proficiency certifications in specific areas, including instructor development, crime prevention, and firearms training. Note that available law enforcement certifications and training requirements vary from state to state.
  • Firearms License: A variety of certifications and licenses exist for law enforcement professionals who carry weapons. Individuals may decide to pursue instructor certification from a third-party organization or a certification within their state, like this Texas certification in firearms proficiency for juvenile probation officers.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Being part of a community empowers us all to strive for more in our professional, academic, and personal lives. Students and graduates of an online master's law enforcement program can find this sense of community and access numerous benefits from joining one or more professional organizations like those listed below. Common membership benefits include online networking, annual conference discounts, financial assistance and funding, and access to exclusive industry publications, news, and research.

  • American Correctional Association: The oldest membership association for corrections professionals in the U.S. boasts thousands of members from around the world who work to shape the future of corrections with progressive leadership.

  • National Association of Chiefs of Police: NACOP provides assistance to officers and police families, including scholarships, medical reimbursement, and a K-9 placement program. Membership benefits include gun range discounts, a membership card and decal, and magazine access.

  • American Society of Criminology: This international organization promotes the exchange and dissemination of scholarly, scientific, and professional knowledge of criminology. Members, including students, teachers, and researchers, receive access to two scholarly publications and a newsletter.

  • International Association of Women Police: Since its founding in 1915, the IAWP has grown to include members from 73 countries around the world, each dedicated to embracing increased diversity and inclusion in policing.

  • National Criminal Justice Association: NCJA represents local, state, and tribal governments on issues of crime control and prevention. Members receive access to a library of grant funding opportunities, conference discounts, and exclusive content.

  • Federal Bureau of Prisons: The BOP offers numerous online resources ideal for student or professional research, including published reports on recidivism, prison management, drug treatment programs, and diversity issues.

  • Prison Legal News: A project of the Human Rights Defense Center, the monthly, 72-page magazine, Prison Legal News, provides analysis and review of prisoners' rights, court rulings, and criminal justice news.

  • Corrections.com: Corrections.com first appeared online in 1996 and has been providing a wealth of resources ever since. Access daily news, links to online resources, job postings, and a business directory.

  • Center for Substance Abuse Research: CESAR consists of a multidisciplinary research team based at the University of Maryland. Students, professionals, and the public can access CESAR's massive online database of drug-related academic research and publications.

  • U.S. Department of Justice: The DOJ strives to enforce law and ensure public safety throughout the U.S. On the DOJ website, access law enforcement grant opportunities, publications and data, and the Justice Manual.

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