Online Law Enforcement Degree

To respond to the need, more online schools today offer law enforcement degrees. Law enforcement pros work in the broader field of criminal justice. They keep order, uphold the law, prevent and sleuth crimes. If you plan to study this area and need a flexible format, an online degree in law enforcement may be perfect.

A law enforcement degree studies the U.S. justice system, laws and crime. Then puts them in the context of keeping people and property safe. As a result, grads could gain the skills to identify threat levels, negotiate and patrol a community.

When looking into this field, you may find online programs in law enforcement at all levels. Bachelor’s, master’s and PhDs. At each level, you may learn about law and how to enforce it. At the bachelor’s level, a law enforcement degree is basic. You are likely to study crime and how to respond to a range of situations.

Once you graduate, you may have a solid grasp of effective community policing. Master’s in law enforcement programs go deeper. They tend to study policy, how to craft and apply it. As you may work on leadership skills, such programs aim to prep for the duties of a manager role. PhD in law enforcement programs are research based. You may spend time studying crime dynamics, law and victimology in depth. Then, using this knowledge, may be able to propose a new policing theory or strategy.

Bachelor’s Degree in Law Enforcement

Many schools award a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS). Either the BA or BS is likely to be in criminal justice degree program. Though you major in the area of law enforcement. Police studies, for example. Or, emergency management. Of them, the BA may focus on race, crime, and social policy. While a BS tends to bring in more analysis of crime, budgets and tactics.

No matter the program, many often cover about 120 credit hours. So, unless you have transfer credits, expect to need about four years to get through them. Coursework varies, but you tend to study the principles and practices of policing. Things like how to recognize threat levels, listen and mediate crisis. To apply you may need to have a high school diploma or its equal. Some online schools may also look at GPA, SAT or ACT scores.

Another variable is cost. The cost off attendance on average for the academic year 2018-2019 was $14,600 per year for public colleges. . For the same academic year the average cost of attendance at private nonprofit schools was$41,100). And at for profit schools  was $22,700.

Master’s Degree in Law Enforcement

An online master’s in law enforcement is a grad degree. It may appeal to those who want to reach a next stage in their career. Many schools award a Master of Science (MS) or MBA. The degree is likely in criminal justice with your added focus area. Of the two, an MS tends to be more technical. You tend to study critical data analysis tools and tactical ways to manage a policing team. These areas may hone decision making skills.

The MBA looks at a range of business classes first. These may cover marketing, IT, finance, HR and info systems for managers. Either kind of program may entail about 30 to 36 credits. These may take from one to two years, depending on your course load. To apply, you need a bachelor’s. Some online schools may look at your undergrad major and GPA as well.

Many could also want to see reference letter(s), resume and application essay. GRE scores are a possible ask, but not all schools look at. Tuition varies too. If you choose a public college, the average cost of attendance for the 2018-2019 academic year was $11,617

PhD in Law Enforcement

An online PhD in Law Enforcement is typically a research degree. It is also the highest kind of criminal justice program. Many students opt for a PhD if they want to teach, consult or impact policy. Because of these elements, not every program is online learning only. While each program is different, PhD formats are often the same. A few terms of classes, extensive exams, research and a final dissertation.

This process typically  involves lots of analysis and how CJ data informs policy. So, you may look at drugs, race and crime. Then see how they link to crime control. There is no hard and fast rule, but many programs cover these areas in 40 to 60 credits. That may take at least two years, if not longer. To get into most PhD programs, you are likely to need a master’s degree. Some schools may also want to see the research you produced during that time. Other possible requirements include letters, references, resume and an essay. Your grades, test scores and a writing sample may be necessary too.

What could I do with an Online Law Enforcement Degree?

This degree may be a portal to a range of current and up and coming jobs. Law enforcement takes place at local, state and federal levels. And as new issues arise, there may be jobs for all levels of education. Apart from having a bachelor’s, one may need a state license. It may also be useful to add a certification. Or, may be necessary to go through some on the job training.

1. Correctional Officer and Bailiff

Both correctional officers and bailiffs often work in the CJ system. Correctional officers may also watch over defendants under arrest who are waiting for trial. And bailiffs often keep courtrooms safe and orderly.

2. Emergency Manager

Emergency managers often lead during crisis. Managing crisis means knowing how to assess a threat or disaster. Then, crafting a plan to deal with the fall out in a coordinated way.  

3. Police Officers and Sheriff

Police officers wear a uniform and often aim to keep people’s lives and property safe. That means responding to calls including 911s. Many also patrol a specific area, conduct traffic stops and watch suspects. Many work in local police departments. But others may work for other agencies such as the FBI.

4. Private Detective

Private detectives often search and gather facts and evidence. To do this, they may check backgrounds, stakeouts and interviews. Other methods could depend on who they work for and the goal. Whether to find a missing person, look into fraud or track computer crime.

5. Criminal Investigator

Criminal investigators (CIs) are another kind of detective. They may work in a specific niche. Like criminal defense investigation or negligence. To amass evidence, CIs may run stakeouts to watch suspects and recreate crime scenes.

6. Intelligence Analyst

Intelligence analysts also go by the title, Crime Analyst. Their goal is often to gather and assess info about crimes. Especially ones that involve narcotics, gangs, money laundering, auto theft rings and terrorism. To do this, they may draw from surveillance, databases, intel networks and GIS.

7. Transit and Railroad Police

Transit and railroad police aim to uphold the law on public yards and transit stations. They try to protect thefts and other crimes. Some may ride the subway to look for suspects or deal with incidents.

8. Law Enforcement Professor

Law enforcement and CJ professors often teach what they know. To do this, they may craft both lessons and an entire syllabus. Many may also research, consult or lead. As such, many have a master’s degree or PhD.

Is an Online Degree in Law Enforcement worth it?

Expertise in law enforcement may yield a range of skills, prospects and above average earning potential. Some jobs in protective services (policing is one) are growing at a steady pace. Keeping the public safe is usually always a concern. So, jobs in these areas promise about a 5% growth over the next few years, reports the BLS. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also suggest prospects may improve if your resume boasts:

  • A bachelor’s degree 
  • Law enforcement or military experience 
  • Prior investigative work history 
  • Another language 

If you prefer to sleuth, this is one of the faster growing sectors. Per the BLS, the job outlook for private eyes is on the rise by 8% through 2028. They credit this to the constant flow of lawsuits, fraud and crimes. Salaries for various jobs vary as they may tie into gov’t budgets. But median annual wages for detectives and CIs was $83,170 in May 2019. Police and sheriff’s patrol officers earned a median annual salary of  $63,150.

Online Law Enforcement Degree Jobs & Salary

Occupation Average Salary Jobs
Police Officer $63,150 34,500
Probation Officer $54,290 3,000
Intelligence Analyst $83,170 2,800
Detective (Fed. Gov’t.) $88,060 2,800

Top States for Jobs as a Detectives and Criminal Investigator

State Jobs Annual Mean Wage
TX 16,810 $79,490
CA 11,810 $107,760
NY 9,010 $92,600
FL 6,890 $76,220
AZ 5,690 $83,650

What classes will I take with an Online Law Enforcement Degree?

Many online law enforcement degrees draw from criminal justice (CJ) topics. CJ is a system that keeps social control, prevents crime and penalizes the people who commit them. As a result, you may study criminal law and process as well as the U.S. constitution. Many programs may n also look at crime statistics and what drives criminals to act.

These areas generally set a context for law enforcement topics. Such as the ethics, practices, policies and tech systems typically used to keep the public safe. You may study even more when you go for a law enforcement degree online. That said, each level is likely to do this in a unique way. Below are some of the classes you may find at the bachelor’s, master’s and PhD levels.

Bachelor’s Degree Courses

BS in law enforcement classes are practical. First, a history class may be required to learn how law enforcement evolved. Then on to the role of police in society and various policing models. Most programs may also cover CJ in depth. That means studying how police, courts, trials and corrections operate. To do this, you might have courses from other fields. Like psychology, U.S. politics, criminal law and admin practices. To fill out your study plan, you may also need to complete gen ed classes and a final paper.

The following classes may also be part of your program:

Intro to Law Enforcement

Often an overview of the ideas, processes and functions. Some of the topics typically involved are politics, labor relations and budgeting. As a result, it may frame hiring, training and employee support.

Crisis Intervention

In this class, you may study crisis theory, ideas and ways police step in to resolve issues. These issues may include hostage taking and suicidal persons. Alongside, you tend to learn how to listen, mediate and negotiate.

Crime Statistics and Analysis

A class that often studies the tools and tech needed to collect crime statistics. Things like monitoring, facial recognition software and closed circuit TV. You may also learn how to glean insights from data and apply them on the job.

Law Enforcement Ethics

At its core, this type of class may frame moral guidelines and ethics. To do so, it may cover the links between race, class and gender. You are also likely to learn about misconduct by looking at case studies.

Graduate Degree Courses

MS in law enforcement classes tend balance core CJ topics with your major. And many students choose a major that lines up with their career path. Common topics are ones that frame the skills, tools and ideas needed to lead. That may include ways to apply any theory into tactical, data driven policy decisions. Since policing is evolving, many programs also discuss modern issues. Areas like homeland security, cyber crime and serial offenders.

You tend to look at these areas from a problem solver mindset. That may involve looking at case studies and working on a research project. If you seek a PhD later, research classes are staples. Such programs aim to draw out a new insight and approach to crime and policing. The following classes may also be part of your program:

Crime Causes, Prevention and Control

This type of class may review the theories about crime. Then studies ways to link these ideas to prevent and control crime in the US. Students may also learn how to apply CJ policy to real time scenarios.

Law Enforcement Administration

In this class, one may learn how to take on a leader or manager role. Things like how to supervise police officers and handle incidents. You may also learn how to make strategic decisions about ops and policing at the community level.


A class that covers terrorism often looks at the history, ideologies and movements. Other topics may include terrorist targets, motives and dynamics. In looking at these areas, learners may study and assess responses to attacks and groups.

Criminal Justice Research

Learning how to research is vital to be able to think and solve problems. So, this type of class may provide the tools to design, conduct and use CJ research in decisions. It may also help you assess programs and develop policy using data.

How long does it take to earn a Law Enforcement Degree online?

The time it takes to earn a law enforcement degree varies. Variables include any experience you are able to swap for credits. Degree level and the amount of time you devote (full or part time) also impact length. To earn a bachelor’s in law enforcement tends to take four years. From there, you may need an extra 1 to 2 years to earn a master’s in law enforcement. For a PhD in law enforcement, expect 2- 3 years more. You have to factor in research time, so this may add time.

University Level of Degree # of Credits Required Starts Per Year Minimum Months to Complete
Southern New Hampshire University Bachelor’s 120 6 24
Metropolitan State University Bachelor’s 120 3 24
Tiffin University Bachelor’s 120 6 24
Michigan State University Master’s 30 3 24
University of Cincinnati Master’s 33 6 12
Eastern Kentucky University Master’s 30 6 12
Eastern Kentucky University PhD 83-130 12 30
Liberty University PhD 60 6 36
California University of Pennsylvania PhD 42 6 24

15 Schools with Online Law Enforcement Degrees

Many online schools offer law enforcement as a focal area of Criminal Justice. But prospective students have other options too. To help you narrow online school search results, here are 15 colleges where you might study law enforcement online.

  1. Southern New Hampshire University  
  2. Metropolitan State University 
  3. Tiffin University 
  4. Ashford University 
  5. Purdue University Global 
  6. Michigan State University  
  7. University of Cincinnati 
  8. Eastern Kentucky University  
  9. University of the Southwest 
  10. University of San Diego  
  11. Walden University  
  12. Liberty University  
  13. California University of Pennsylvania 
  14. Nova Southeastern University  
  15. Northcentral University


The next step is to look closer at the individual programs these 15 online colleges offer.

This program entails 120 credits. It may explore the demands, processes and functions of the police force. At the same time, you may learn about the criminal justice system, US politics and law. While studying these topics, the program aims to nurture the way you solve problems and communicate. Sample courses might include:

  • Crisis Intervention 
  • Crime Analysis 
  • Community Policing

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $31,136
Grad $18,810
Special rates available for military students.

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Metropolitan State University

Bachelor of Science in Law Enforcement

Online, Campus, Hybrid

This program entails 120 credits. It often comes with a choice of three tracks. One is a POST certified path. It is often for those who strive to be licensed police officers in Minnesota and preps for the exam. Another option is for transfer students who already have an associate degree in law enforcement. A third is for MN police officers who want to complete their BS degree. Sample courses might include:

  • Diversity in CJ 
  • Criminology 
  • Ethics and Professionalism  

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $15,428
Grad $16,164

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This program entails 120 credits. It often takes a wide view of criminal justice topics while zooming in on law enforcement. That means, you may learn about U.S. law enforcement through time as well as practices for today. Grads may leave with an understanding of how local, state and federal law agencies work. And, know how to prevent crime and keep the peace. Sample courses might include:

  • Technology and Crime 
  • Crime Analysis 
  • Police and Society 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $26,110 
Grad $12,600
Special rates available for military students.

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Ashford University

Bachelor of Arts in Law Enforcement Administration

Fully Online

This program entails 120 credits. It often studies the skills and ideas needed to manage and direct police and other law enforcement agencies. Along with ethics, there are classes that explore rights, race and crime. Plus, other topics that may explore leadership and policy. Sample classes might include:

  • Policing Models 
  • Ethical Leadership 
  • Supervision and HR

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $12,400 
Grad $12,060 
Special rates available for military students.

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Purdue University Global

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement

Fully Online

This program entails 180 quarter credits. The bulk of your classes may focus on the U.S. CJ system, law and juvenile justice. Learners may also get to know about the diverse types of criminal offenses. For those who want, there is an internship option and fast track path to a master’s degree. Sample classes might include:

  • Criminal Procedure 
  • Managing CJ Org’s 
  • Computers, Tech & CJ Info Systems

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $14,358
Grad $9,768
Special rates available for military students.

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Michigan State University

Master of Science in Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysis

Fully Online

This program entails 30 credits. The classes, usually informed by the DOJ, may cover practical aspects of law enforcement intel. Things like how to do ethical field research, use intel software and make use of the intel cycle. Sample classes might include:

  • GIS Tech 
  • Open Source Info Analysis 
  • Advanced Policing

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $39,766
Grad $37,056

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This program entails 33 credits. It often covers core aspects of CJ in depth. These may help you grasp the decision points from police, the courts and corrections. Apart from broad CJ topics, the classes may zoom in on terrorism, digital security, serial offending and white collar crime. Sample classes might include:

  • Correctional Rehab 
  • Crime Prevention 
  • Cybercrime

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $26,994
Grad $24,532

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Eastern Kentucky University

Master of Science in Justice, Policy & Leadership

Fully Online

This program entails 30 credits. It often infuses a criminal justice core with a social justice focus. You may look at both areas in context of policy, leadership and ethics. And, may choose one of three focal areas. Police policy, corrections policy or juvenile justice policy. Sample classes might include:

  • Criminological Theory 
  • Advanced Justice Admin 
  • Program / Policy Eval 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $19,948
Grad $13,950

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University of the Southwest

MBA in Law Enforcement & Corrections

Fully Online

This program entails 36 credits. There are often two aspects to the study plan. The first is a business admin core. Through it, students may learn how to budget, manage officers and use IT systems. Second, are key law enforcement classes. These often tackle specific admin issues for corrections and CJ org’s. Sample classes might include:

  • Law (Criminal)
  • Crime Mapping 
  • Admin of Corrections Org’s

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $16,200
Grad $22,500
Special rates available for military students.

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This program entails 31 credits. It often targets seasoned students who want to step into a manager role. As such, the classes may cover leadership skills, legal and policy matters. You could also study current public safety topics including ways to resolve conflicts. Sample classes might include:

  • Budget and Finance 
  • Communication Skills  
  • Org’l Leadership

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $51,186
Grad $27,288
Special rates available for military students.

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Walden University

PhD in Criminal Justice

Online with Residency

This program entails about 83 quarter credits. There may be a few themes to choose from that tailor your studies and research. All are distinct but usually do cover policy, leadership and admin. For e.g., if you focus on homeland security, you study it through the lens of planning and public policy. Sample classes might include:

  • Terrorism 
  • Critical Incident Planning 
  • Policy and Analysis

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $12,150
Grad $12,039
Special rates available for military students.

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Liberty University

PhD in Criminal Justice

Fully Online

This program entails 60 credits. It aims to prep grads for senior leadership roles in gov’t. As a result, the classes may cover advanced research and analysis of common CJ practices. You may look at these areas through a Christian lens and may focus on leadership or homeland security. Sample classes might include:

  • Issues in Cyber Security 
  • Counter Terrorism 
  • Infrastructure

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $22,747 
Grad $7,980
Special rates available for military students 

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California University of Pennsylvania

PhD in Criminal Justice

Fully Online

This program entails 42 credits. The focus may be on professional growth and practical ways to look at CJ issues. These include federal consent decrees, use of force and wrongful convictions. In tandem, you may study policing, corrections and leadership. Sample classes might include:

  • 21st Century Policing 
  • Leading CJ Agencies 
  • Advanced Criminal Law 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $15,726
Grad $3,631
Special rates available for military students  

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Nova Southeastern University

PhD in Criminal Justice

Online Hybrid

This program entails 60 credits. The bulk of these are often in criminal justice. In them, you may look at theories of crime, criminal law and the dynamics of policing. Apart from research, you may be able to choose an anchor point. There are three options: Org’l leadership, behavioral science and juvenile justice. Sample classes might include:

  • Data Analysis 
  • Crime Theory 
  • Police and Society 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $32,210
Grad $19,665

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Northcentral University

PhD in Criminal Justice – White Collar Crime

Fully Online

This program entails 54 credits. Built for law enforcement pros, it may go into white collar crime in depth. How to identify it, accounting and fraud examination methods. You also may explore ethics, HR admin and strategic planning. Sample classes might include:

  • Public Budgeting and Finance 
  • Ethics and CJ 
  • Forensic Accounting Theories

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $11,604
Grad $16,963 
Special rates available for military students.

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*Unemployment Earnings.  Sources for school stats and data include the NCES and IPEDS.