Associate Degree Options for Aspiring Police Officers

Oct 20, 2019

Associate's degree programs in criminal justice prepare students for real-life scenarios when dealing with the law and individuals in the community. These programs often offer specialty tracks designed to train prospective law enforcement officers.

Essential Information

Students in criminal justice associate's degree programs are taught how to react to crisis situations and learn the fundamentals of criminal investigative practices, ethics in law, the psychology of a criminal, and skills for interpersonal communications. Graduates are prepared for the key aspects of being a police officer, including legal processes, in addition to the physical requirements needed to perform the job functions of a law enforcement agent. A high school diploma is required for entrance. Some programs may be completed in 18 months of full-time study and sometimes provide extensive online coursework.

Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice

Law enforcement associate's degree programs are comprised of 60-64 credit-hours and usually have an equal split of general education requirements and law enforcement coursework. Core courses cover areas such as investigations, the court system, and criminal law. Subjects may include:

  • Investigative skills
  • Criminal law practices
  • Dealing with domestic violence
  • The law and juveniles
  • Use of firearms
  • Pursuit driving techniques

Employment Outlook

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary of police and sheriff's patrol officers was $61,380 in 2018 ( The employment of police and detectives is expected to increase 5% between 2018 and 2028, which is as fast as average for all professions. The BLS also states that law enforcement opportunities are available to individuals who qualify psychologically, personally, and physically as decided by various tests given to applicants by law enforcement agencies.

Continuing Education

Bachelor's degree programs, typically in criminal justice, are available to help prepare students for supervisory roles within a law enforcement agency. The curriculum provides training in areas relating to prevention of crime, cultural aspects of law enforcement, gang activity, forensic methods, and homeland security issues. Coursework totals 120 credit-hours, including 45 credit-hours of core curriculum.

Associate's degree programs that prepare individuals for careers in law enforcement offer coursework in topics like law, investigation, and psychology. Graduates can also enroll in more advanced degree programs that provide training in crime prevention and homeland security.

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