Associate's programs offer a general look at the American law enforcement system, with courses in criminal behavior, punishment, ethical issues and other practical concerns to law enforcement officers. Bachelor's programs in criminal justice are similar and include courses on terrorism and socioeconomic factors. Undergraduate students also complete general educations courses.
Master's degree students are preparing for jobs as executives and administrators. They study management, training and the organization of a law enforcement department as well as crime prevention programs and criminal rehabilitation.
These degree programs fulfill the education requirements to become certified corrections managers, officers, supervisors and executives through the American Correctional Association, and graduates can apply for certification from the association after obtaining the required amount of experience.
Undergraduate degree applicants must be high school graduates or earn a GED to be admitted. Master's degree programs expect a bachelor's degree, letters of recommendation, satisfactory scores on the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test and prerequisite coursework in statistics and research methods.
Associate of Science in Law Enforcement
Designed for both non-professionals and those currently serving as police officers, this two-year program explores the history of the United States justice system and constitutional laws. The curriculum includes the study of criminal justice topics like corrections, theories of punishment and ethical issues in law enforcement. Students study actual criminal cases, explore the legal process from arrest to sentencing, and examine laws that protect both criminals and their accusers.
Coursework in the program focuses on the many different branches of law enforcement, and how agencies and organizations work together to uphold the law and protect the rights of citizens. Topics of discussion in the program include:
- Juvenile justice
- Probation & Parole
- Field investigations
- Law enforcement administration
Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a Law Enforcement Specialization
This four-year program explores the politics of American government, the role of law enforcement officers and theories of policing and justice. Coursework in sociology introduces students to socioeconomic influences on crime, human relations, and cultural and ethnic dynamics in communities. Topics of discussion include the United States correctional system, federal courts, search and seizures, investigatory practices, and the role that drugs and alcohol have on crime statistics. The law enforcement specialization includes studies in homeland security, global terrorism and illegal immigration.
Coursework introduces students to management theories, methods of enforcing the United States legal system, and statistical evidence of crime and crime reporting. Course topics include:
- Juvenile delinquency
- Criminal behavior
- U.S. Supreme Court cases
- Police administration
Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a Law Enforcement Specialization
This two-year degree prepares students for careers as managers and administrators of corrections facilities, juvenile detention centers, offices of probation and parole agencies. The curriculum explores criminal justice policies, procedures for maintaining order in an institutional setting, and the politics of the criminal courts system in the United States. Studies in intervention introduce students to methods of deterring crime, rehabilitating criminals and preventing criminal acts before they are committed. Studies in police administration include topics like police training, management and organizational theories. Students conduct academic research and complete a graduate thesis or comprehensive examination towards the close of the program.
Students in the law enforcement specialization study the history of the U.S. criminal justice system and review current policies in law enforcement and corrections. Topics that are covered in major coursework include:
- Jails and prisons
- Race and crime
- Community corrections
- Criminal justice agencies
Popular Career Options
Careers in criminal justice range from jobs in policing and security to administrative jobs like police management. Graduates can pursue careers in government, rehabilitation services, homeland security and in local or state law enforcement. Common job titles for graduates include:
- Private investigator
- Security officer
- Parole officer
- Correctional administrator
- Juvenile corrections administrator
- Police administrator
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Graduates go on to careers in law enforcement in a variety of settings, including local, state and federal government, departments of correction and more. Police and detectives were projected to see a five percent growth in employment from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The mean annual salary for police and sheriff's patrol officers was $65,400 in May 2018 according to BLS data .
Continuing Education Information
Graduates can sit for the certified corrections officer (CCO), certified corrections supervisor (CCS) and certified corrections manager (CCM) exams offered through the American Correctional Association (ACA). The ACA requires officers, supervisors and managers to complete between 40 and 80 continuing education hours every three years to maintain certification. Graduates can also enroll in a bachelor's degree program in criminal justice administration or criminology.
Students seeking a career in law enforcement management may learn about American law enforcement with an A.S. in Law Enforcement. Alternatively, a B.S. in Criminal Justice with a law enforcement specialization covers the theories of law enforcement, and a M.S. in Criminal Justice with a law enforcement specialization includes more advanced management and administrative courses.