Best Online Law Enforcement Degree Programs

Explore top-rated, flexible online programs that can give you the training to begin or advance your law enforcement career.

Last Updated: 05/11/2022

While some entry-level careers in law enforcement require only a high school diploma and completion of a police academy program, a college credential can help you stand out among candidates and qualify you for higher-paying positions and leadership roles. From certificate programs to graduate degrees, there are options at every level. Accredited online programs are also readily available, providing a convenient option for those already working in the field and others who can benefit from the added flexibility of remote learning. Read on to explore this year’s best online law enforcement degree programs, learn about the curriculum and the different types of programs offered online, and much more.

Best Online Colleges for Law Enforcement in 2022


With so many options available in law enforcement education and training, how do you know which one is right for you? To help you decide, we looked at a variety of programs across the U.S. in terms of online program availability, accreditation, and affordability. Program availability and overall affordability played a more significant role in each school’s placement. This guide highlights the best online colleges for law enforcement in 2022.

About the ranking

Methodology for the STEPS Best Online Programs in 2022

Generate List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

Assign Impact of Data Points

After generating the list of eligible schools, the STEPS data team then assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability. Online program availability and overall affordability received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. When unable to verify this number, a star-based system was used to signify the number of programs relative to peers.

Affordability

  • Cost:
    Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid:
    Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

All STEPS rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 0%
Online Students 696
2
Century College

White Bear Lake, Minnesota

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 24:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 1%
Online Students 1,075
About the ranking

Methodology for the STEPS Best Online Programs in 2022

Generate List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

Assign Impact of Data Points

After generating the list of eligible schools, the STEPS data team then assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability. Online program availability and overall affordability received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. When unable to verify this number, a star-based system was used to signify the number of programs relative to peers.

Affordability

  • Cost:
    Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid:
    Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

All STEPS rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 86%
Online Students 1,568

How Do Online Law Enforcement Degree Programs Work?

Law enforcement online degree programs are available at every educational level, from undergraduate certificates to graduate degrees. The online program works well for busy working professionals since most formats allow for asynchronous learning, which means you can complete the work at your own pace as long as regular deadlines are met to keep you moving toward completion of credentials. Formatting such as online textbooks, lectures, and video chats provide a solid foundation of knowledge, while hands-on training takes place at local corrections facilities and police departments. In addition to classwork, students who want to work in a police department often need to complete their state’s police academy program, which sometimes is included as part of the school’s graduation plan.

Common Classes in Online Law Enforcement Degree Programs

All law enforcement programs teach certain aspects about the profession and the field at large. As a result, many of the courses taken are similar from one school to another, though professors present material in varying ways. The courses detailed below are representative of what you can expect to find in a typical law enforcement program.

Introduction to Criminal Justice or Criminology

This introduction to the field of criminology, criminal justice, and policing covers the history of law enforcement, how the corrections system operates, and the role of police and other law enforcement officials in society.

Ethics of Law Enforcement and Policing

Introduction to Criminal Justice or CriminologyClimate Science

This course looks at the sometimes thorny ethical and moral issues those in law enforcement might face. In addition to guidelines, theories, applications, and methods that have ethical requirements, students learn about the legal cases that govern changes in the field.

Fundamentals of Criminal Law

This course includes a strong overview of Constitutional law, the rights of the accused and the victim, how to abide by the laws during policing work, and how to follow procedures to ensure staying with that law. For example, students might learn the intricacies of probable cause and evidence collection.

Policing Strategies

This course looks at how strategies for dealing with the public, including victims or offenders, have changed throughout history. It includes a review and discussion on prevention of crime, patrol strategies, intervention in a variety of situations, and how strategies should change over time in response to new laws and events.

Statistics in Criminal Justice

This course studies research data across the criminal justice field and teaches students to read it in-depth, review it with a critical eye, understand the analysis of results, and be able to present their understanding to colleagues and the public.

Popular Law Enforcement Degrees Offered Online

Law enforcement degrees are offered at every educational level, from short certificates that take a few months to degrees at the graduate level that take a few years and lead to higher pay and significant advancement opportunities. Below you’ll find a rundown of the most common law enforcement degrees online, including what they entail and whom they’re best for.

Online Associate Degrees in Law Enforcement

The associate degree in law enforcement is great for those wanting to move into the workforce quickly. Many associate degree programs prepare students for entry-level work or to move on to police academy programs. Expect to take general education courses as well as those that are targeted toward police studies. This degree takes about two years to complete.

Examples of Accredited Colleges with This Online Law Enforcement Degree Program

Truckee Meadows Community College – Law Enforcement, AAS

Eastern Kentucky University – Police Studies Associates Degree

Baker College – Associate of Applied Science Criminal Justice (Concentration in Law Enforcement & Police Academy)

MacCormac College – Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree

Colorado Christian University – Criminal Justice Associate Degree, A.S.

Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Law Enforcement

A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years of full-time study to complete, though it may only take two years if a student already has an associate degree. The bachelor’s degree in law enforcement is for those just entering the field, but local police departments and agencies might not require any degree at all. You will need a bachelor’s degree if you want to work at the state or federal level.

Examples of Accredited Colleges with This Online Law Enforcement Degree Program

Southern New Hampshire University – Bachelor’s in Police Administration

Eastern Kentucky University – Police Studies Bachelor’s Degree

Campbellsville University – B.S. Criminal Justice Administration

Arizona State University – Online Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice – Policing

American InterContinental University – Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Degree with a Specialization in Law Enforcement

Online Master’s Degrees in Law Enforcement

A master’s degree in law enforcement is designed for those already working in the field and looking to improve prospects for advancement or income. This program takes one to three years to complete, depending upon whether you choose accelerated, full-time, or part-time studies. In many cases, a master’s degree allows for targeted specialization, so those in a particular area (e.g., corrections) can hone their skills and knowledge to become more of an expert in their niche.

Examples of Accredited Colleges with This Online Law Enforcement Degree Program

University of San Diego – Online Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership

Grand Canyon University – Online Masters in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement

Arizona State University – Online Master of Public Safety Leadership and Administration – Executive Police Administration

Michigan State University – Master of Science in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis

Eastern Kentucky University –Justice, Policy and Leadership Master’s Degree

Online Certificates in Law Enforcement

Certificates in law enforcement take a few months to a year to complete, depending upon the focus. Undergraduate certificates help boost knowledge and skills to complement degree programs, while graduate certificates are good for those wanting to learn more about a certain area for advancement or moving into a different area of the field. Post-graduate certificates are like graduate certificates in that they provide advanced knowledge and skills in a particular area.

Examples of Accredited Colleges with This Online Law Enforcement Degree Program

Northern Arizona University – Leadership in Criminal Justice Administration, Graduate Certificate

Rasmussen University – Law Enforcement Certificate

Purdue University Global – Online Crime Scene Technician Certificate

University of Maryland Global Campus – Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigation Graduate Certificate

Arizona State University – Online Corrections Management Graduate Certificate

Accreditation for Online Law Enforcement Degrees

There are two types of accreditation to consider when looking at a law enforcement degree. Institutional accreditation is offered by regional accrediting bodies as well as some national ones, and programmatic accreditation looks at the program itself. Schools usually tout regional or national accreditation on their websites. If not, you can find accreditation status through the U.S. Department of Education.

Most schools with law enforcement degrees do not have programmatic accreditation. The exception comes with certification for law enforcement degrees through the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. There are only 15 bachelor’s and master’s programs in criminal justice certified by this organization, and they have stopped taking applications for further certifications. Given this, it is best to rely on choosing a school that is fully accredited on a regional or national level.

What Can You Do with a Law Enforcement Degree?

Many entry-level jobs in law enforcement only require a high school diploma and completion of the police academy. However, police departments and law enforcement agencies across the nation often give preference to those with at least some formal education, such as a certificate or associate degree and especially an educational background in law enforcement, criminal justice, or criminology.

For those who want to work in state or federal agencies, a bachelor’s degree is usually the entry-level requirement. Advanced roles and administrative positions often require master’s degrees. A graduate degree also allows for specialization, which paves the way for work in a particular area of law enforcement, such as corrections or as a detective.

When someone thinks of policing or law enforcement, they usually think of those in uniform at sheriff’s offices or police departments across the nation. However, those with law enforcement training also often work for the federal government as agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation or in the private sector where they handle security services for businesses, organizations, and individuals as security experts, cybersecurity specialists, or private investigators.

We’ve highlighted 5 potential careers below to give you an idea of the demand and potential earnings for work in law enforcement.

Median Annual Earnings (2020)Job Growth
(2019-2029)
$67,2901%
Median Annual Earnings (2020)Job Growth
(2019-2029)
$58,0401%
Median Annual Earnings (2020)Job Growth
(2019-2029)
$48,0000%
Median Annual Earnings (2020)Job Growth
(2019-2029)
$65,5406%
Median Annual Earnings (2020)Job Growth
(2019-2029)
$53,3208%

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Licensing and Certification After Your Online Law Enforcement Degree

There are about 18,000 police departments in the United States, not including law enforcement agencies existing at the state and federal levels. With so many departments across all states and territories, there’s no surprise that licensing and certification for police officers and others in law enforcement varies widely.

Generally, aspiring law enforcement graduates must meet their state’s educational and training requirements. Some states require graduation from the police academy while others require a formal degree before attending the academy. Regardless, working as a police officer involves passing the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) exam. Since each state administers its own test, requirements and content vary. Examples from Missouri and Minnesota provide an idea of what to expect on the POST exam.

Additionally, earning extra certifications or credentials might help your standing in your department or agency and prepare you for a lateral or upward move in the field. They might also enhance your chances of promotion. Visit your state government’s law enforcement council or training board website to learn more about education and training requirements and availability.

Online Resources for Law Enforcement Students and Professionals

Those who are already in law enforcement and those who are still in school can find a wealth of information through the following online resources geared toward law enforcement students and professionals.

Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences

In addition to offering certification for criminal justice programs, the ACJS hosts a career center, annual meetings for members, awards and grants, and a publication to keep members updated on happenings in the field.

Federal Bureau of Investigation: Resources for Law Enforcement

The FBI offers this page full of resources for those in various areas of law enforcement, from lab services to training to crisis response.

Fraternal Order of Police

This well-known organization focuses on advocacy and help for police officers across the nation. This includes training, wellness information, benefits help, a national conference, and much more.

International Association of Chiefs of Police

With a wealth of member resources, an annual meeting, awards, and a variety of events, the IACP is designed for those who lead the nation’s police forces.

International Police Association

Divided into regions and serving police officers across the world, the IPA has a variety of benefits, including a scholarship fund, training opportunities, a rundown of the latest international news for officers, and much more.

National Association of Police Organizations

Representing the impressive number of officers and departments across the U.S., the NAPO offers events, information on officer rights, regular reports on advocacy, and helpful seminars.

National Sheriffs’ Association

To help sheriffs’ departments across the nation, the NSA offers funding for conferences and meetings, targeted training, news reports, and information on helpful supplies.

U.S. Department of Justice: Law Enforcement Resources

This helpful website from the DOJ provides information on the latest news and studies, advice on how to handle emerging issues in policing, toolkits, and supportive resources for those in the field.

United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association

This site promotes a variety of programs designed to improve and bolster police work. Training for particular situations, news, scholarships, and advocacy are just a few of the ways this organization helps members.