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Career Information for a Degree in Police Science or Law Enforcement

Degrees in police science or law enforcement typically cover criminology and investigation methods. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for police science and law enforcement graduates.

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Essential Information

Police science and law enforcement degree programs teach students about criminal justice theory, research and investigation methods, the legal system and criminology. Graduates must complete further training at law enforcement academies after they are hired by their agencies. They must meet physical fitness requirements and age restrictions as well. While a degree may not be necessary for all positions, it can often help with career advancement. Federal jobs generally require a bachelor's degree.

CareerPolice OfficerFederal AgentCorrectional Officer
Education RequirementsHigh school diploma or equivalent, but bachelor's degree is recommended Bachelor's degree High school diploma or equivalent for local and state jobs; federal prisons require a bachelor's degree
Other Training RequirementsLaw enforcement training academy Federal law enforcement training academy Law enforcement training academy
Projected Job Growth (2012-22)*6% for police and sheriff's patrol officers 2% for detectives and criminal investigators5%
Median Salary (2013)*$56,130 for police and sheriff's patrol officers$103,180 for federal detectives and investigators $39,550 for correctional officers and jailers

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Options

Bachelor's degree programs in police science and law enforcement prepare students to work as police officers or correctional officers. Other graduates pursue careers as officers with specialized branches of the federal government.

Police Officer

Many police officers work as patrol officers, responding to accidents and investigating assaults, burglaries or other crimes. They may also work in traffic, where they issue citations to individuals who break traffic laws. Police officers at the state and local levels typically have completed college coursework and, after obtaining employment, complete 12-14 weeks of training in police academies. Officers may complete specialized training that allows them to work in certain fields, like firearms instruction, crime scene analysis or K9 policing.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 635,380 police and sheriff's patrol officers were working in the U.S. in May 2013 ( These workers earned an annual median wage of $56,130 during that time.

Federal Agent

Agents who work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) research and analyze various federal violations. Law enforcement officers may also work for other sectors of the federal government, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Department of Homeland Security or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Qualifications for such law enforcement professionals vary, but generally include 4-year degrees, related experience and extensive formal training.

Salaries vary greatly at the federal level, depending on the position and seniority. The BLS reported in May 2013 that the median wage for detectives and criminal investigators at the federal level was just over $103,000.

Correctional Officers

Correctional officers supervise prisoners and maintain order in jails and prisons. They can be employed at the local, state and federal levels. Requirements vary, with a high school education being sufficient for most jobs, but a bachelor's degree required for federal positions. There are other requirements, including training at a law enforcement academy and on-the-job training as well as in-service continuing education.

The median salary for all types of correctional officers and jailers was $39,550 in May 2013, the BLS reported, with those employed in the federal prison system making the most, about $53,000. State and local officers made mean wages of about $44,000 to $45,000 at that time.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics