Law Enforcement Topics

Guide to a Career in Law Enforcement

What is Law Enforcement? It used to be that would-be law enforcement officers would enter the Police Academy right out of high school in order to gain the training needed to obtain a job at the local or state level. However, in the past decade, law enforcement and police work has become increasingly complex.


In the past several years, more of a focus has been placed on security. This means that increased funding has flowed into the law enforcement industry, creating new jobs, making advanced research possible, and paving the way for more effective ways to fight crime and increase security.

This increased focus on security and the resulting increase in the complexity of modern law enforcement means that a high school diploma is often not enough to gain entry into the field of law enforcement. Many Police Academies now require at least an associate degree in Law Enforcement or Criminal Justice before a student can apply for admission. It is anticipated that many will require bachelor's degrees in this field before long.

Luckily, many institutions, including many that offer accredited online and distance learning degree programs, have risen to the challenge. While the demand for more educated law enforcement officers has increased, so too has the number of opportunities available to people interested in this field of study.

It is now very common for students interested in law enforcement to achieve degrees as high as a Master's degree in Law Enforcement prior to formally entering the workforce. Moreover, many professionals who already have careers in law enforcement are taking online, distance learning, or evening classes in order to keep up with the rapidly changing law enforcement environment.

Degree programs in Law Enforcement aren't just about learning how to fire a gun or handle a police dog. This sort of training is, in fact, reserved for the Police Academy. A degree in Law Enforcement provides students with an extensive background in all aspects of the criminal justice system, giving them a broad range of career options when they graduate.

The student will not only learn about police procedures and policies, but about the court and judicial systems. They will learn what happens to a criminal from the point of arrest until sentencing. They will also learn about prison systems, as many law enforcement students go on to become prison security guards. This training includes not just how to control prisoners, but how to help rehabilitate and council them.

Psychology and sociology are also two important topics that will be covered by a Law Enforcement degree program. Solving crimes is, after all, easier if you know the reasons why people commit crimes. Understanding mob mentality and how people's behavior changes in groups as compared to individuals is also important in maintaining crowd control.

These human behavior skills can also be implemented when dealing with witnesses or suspects. Knowing how to interview and interrogate can mean the difference between gaining valuable information or a confession and coming up empty handed.

Included in the general law enforcement training is how to handle crime scenes. This includes how to keep the crime scene uncontaminated, how to prepare and present evidence, and what to look for in a crime scene in order to deduce what really happened.

There is more to a Law Enforcement degree than simply becoming a police officer. Students with a degree in Law Enforcement, if they choose, can become entry-level public or private security officers, security guards, corrections officers, or private bodyguards. Since nearly all large businesses need security, there are many different options for educated law enforcement professionals.

Is a Degree in Law Enforcement Right for You?

A career in law enforcement can be very rewarding, but it is not the safest or least physically rigorous career out there. Students who choose to pursue this field of study should understand the risks involved, as well as the physical expectations. Since many people's lives are often at stake, law enforcement officials who work in the field need to be in top physical condition. This includes the ability to chase suspects, restrain criminals, and stay calm under pressure. People in this field must become accustomed to encountering high-stress situations without panicking. This includes the ability to make good decisions at a moment's notice. Thinking on one's feet is a large part of being a law enforcement professional. Law enforcement officials don't usually have the time to sit and deliberate what the best course of action is. They have to know and act immediately. This requires a great deal of focus on the part of the student preparing to enter the law enforcement field. Those in the field of law enforcement must also have a great deal of sympathy and compassion for the victims of crimes, as well as for those who are driven to commit crimes due to adverse living situations. Wanting to help people includes not only protecting them, but also helping them to make the right decisions through public awareness and education. Some characteristics of law enforcement officials include: High moral character Good decision making skills Excellent written and verbal communication skills Cooperation and teamwork skills Peak physical condition Compassion Responsibility Grace under pressure Community-minded Ability to follow instructions No criminal record


Preparing to Enter a Law Enforcement Degree Program

The preparation for entering a Law Enforcement degree program is very similar to the preparation for entering many other college degree programs. Distance learning and online college degree programs in Law Enforcement require you to be proficient in English, both verbal and written, and to have completed at least four years of high school English. Moreover, most colleges want you to have taken three years of social studies, three years of mathematics, and at least two years of science.

Each college has different requirements and some might also require some training in a second language. It might be wise to take as many psychology and sociology courses as your high school offers as well, as this will give you a head start on some of the concepts that will be discussed in the coursework of the Law Enforcement degree program, such as criminal psychology.

Most degree programs in Law Enforcement also require you to pass a physical examination as well as a criminal background check.

Career Education in Law Enforcement

Undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs. There are many different levels of law enforcement education. Law Enforcement degrees are available at the certificate level. Law Enforcement certificates are usually appropriate for professionals already working in the field of law enforcement and who wish to specialize in a specific area. Law Enforcement degrees are also available at the associate, bachelor, and Master's levels. Deciding which level of educational training is right for you can be difficult, particularly if you already have a career or family. However, there are many accredited online and distance learning degree programs available for people who cannot sacrifice their career or time with their family for education. These programs provide quality education with flexible schedules and without extensive travel.


Certificate Programs

Certificate programs in Law Enforcement are generally for those already in the field or for those who wish to gain entry-level positions as security guards. For those already working in the field of law enforcement, these certificate programs can offer a valuable chance to specialize within their field and advance their careers.

The options for certificate programs available to professionals in the field of law enforcement are extensive. They range from crowd control tactics to homeland security, and are often offered via online or distance learning degree programs offered by accredited colleges and universities.

Certificate programs in general security can lead to entry-level jobs as security guards. A certificate program can be a good educational option for someone just out of high school who wishes to pursue a career in law enforcement but does not want to commit yet to a two or four year degree program.

Associate degree programs

The associate degree in Law Enforcement is by far the most popular and most common Law Enforcement degree out there. This is due to the fact that an increasing number of police academies at the state and local level are requiring an associate degree before a student can be admitted.

The associate's degree program is a comprehensive but very general degree program that covers in brief most of the aspects of law enforcement. These programs require students to be computer literate. They often require a great deal of written work.

The subjects covered in most associate degree programs in Law Enforcement include:

Criminal justice
Police administration
Police management
Police organization
Criminal investigation
Criminal procedures
Criminal law
First aid and CPR
Firearms
Police report writing
Interviewing and interrogating
Crime scene investigation
Cultural diversity
Hand-to-hand combat
Physical fitness
Correctional institutions, parole, and probation
Criminal counseling
Crisis control and intervention
Handling hazardous material
Juvenile delinquency
Drugs and Narcotics education
Police rights and ethics
Public safety
As you can see, a lot of ground is covered in what is usually a two-year program. However, this is supplemented by the fact that, in order to become an officer of the law, the student must complete his or her training at a Police Academy. If the student decides not to enter a Police Academy program, they still have several career options open to them, such as entry-level positions as security guards or corrections officers.

Bachelor's degree programs

The bachelor's degree in Law Enforcement is very similar to the associate degree in the material that it covers. However, the bachelor's degree program goes into more depth and detail concerning this material. Also, there may also be more general education requirements needed to complete a bachelor's degree program in Law Enforcement.

It is anticipated that many Police Academies will begin requiring prospective students to have earned a bachelor's degree prior to being accepted in the future. This is due to the increased demand for heightened security, as well as to the increasingly complex nature of law enforcement in general. As computers are used with more frequency in fighting crime, and as science plays a larger role in solving crimes, law enforcement technology is becoming a popular and expanding industry.

A bachelor's degree in Law Enforcement or Law Enforcement Technology gives the student more of an opportunity to learn about and use the latest in police technology. Many law enforcement professionals are pursuing their bachelor's degree so that they may keep up with the increased use of technology and the changing and advancing law enforcement climate.

Professionals already in the industry are able to pursue their bachelor's degree without interrupting their careers or sacrificing their family lives because of the advent of online and distance learning programs. This allows them to advance in their careers while still making a living, learning at home, and not incurring outrageous amounts of student loan debt.

These programs typically last four years from start to finish, but many individuals who already have an associate degree in Law Enforcement or who have completed police academy training can test out of some classes or transfer credits, making the degree attainable in as little as two years.

Master's degree programs

Though it is becoming more common for students to pursue their Master's degree in Law Enforcement straight out of undergraduate school, most Master's degrees are awarded to professionals already inside of the law enforcement community. These individuals choose to obtain their Master's degree in order to advance their careers or specialize in a particular area of law enforcement that interests them.

Master's degrees in Law Enforcement prepare students for high-level careers in the law enforcement field. Planning and maintaining security, crowd control, preventing terrorist attacks, and gathering intelligence are all aspects of the high-level positions for which graduates from these programs are eligible. These individuals are prepared to execute the more delicate and precision-oriented operations that are becoming more commonplace in today's law enforcement environment.

The typical Master's degree program in Law Enforcement lasts for two years and is offered through traditional universities, distance learning programs, and accredited online universities. They require a certain amount of coursework and often require a thesis of some kind.