There are no online courses that lead directly to certification as a law enforcement officer, but there are distance learning programs that offer general information about law enforcement topics. These programs are aimed at first-time students or law enforcement officers seeking specialized knowledge in criminal justice, counter-terrorism or intelligence operations.
Certificate programs in law enforcement may be offered at the graduate or undergraduate level. All coursework can usually be offered online. Some colleges offer courses as part of a criminal justice or criminology degree program. An internship in a law enforcement agency may be required.
While these classes are not required for certification as a police officer, they may help candidates gain entry to a training academy or advance in other law enforcement careers. In most cases, a recruit attends the agency's training academy, where he or she studies the law and law enforcement procedures.
Law Enforcement Certificate
There are many online undergraduate certificate programs available in law enforcement fields such as criminal justice and criminology. These programs cover the justice system at the juvenile and adult level, the behavior of a criminal, correctional facilities, rehabilitation methods, criminal psychology, criminal types and the societal impact of crime. Students learn theoretical concepts that can stop future criminal behavior. In addition, they study the history of crime and potential causes of criminal behavior.
Information and Requirements
Criminal justice certificate programs are available entirely online as well as in hybrid format (with some portions completed on campus). They can be taken in conjunction with a criminal justice bachelor's degree program or on their own. They usually last between 10 and 20 credit-hours in length, depending on the depth of content in a given program. These programs can generally be completed at the desired pace of the student.
Courses are interactive, often encouraging students to communicate via email with instructors, who are often working professionals in the field. Content is often delivered through an online interface such as Blackboard. Students must have a computer that has access to the Internet.
Students generally enroll in anywhere from three to six courses, depending on the length of the certificate program. There are no required general education courses. Sample classes are outlined below.
Sociology of Violent Behavior
Societal factors play a role in violence; these may include race, social class and religion. This class emphasizes the need for communities and government to improve living situations in hopes of decreasing violence.
Students learn the history, theory and constitutional requirements of criminal law. They gain an understanding of the basic limitations and regulations of evidence. Enrollees also study basic criminal offense definitions.
This class touches upon the history and societal impact of young criminals. Discussions and materials outline the basics of the juvenile justice system and society's response to juvenile offenders.
Legal System in the United States
This course covers constitutional laws, the process of making a law and the role the government plays in the criminal justice system. In addition, in teaches the legal rights of the various criminal processing institutions.
Career and Salary Information
Those with a certificate in a law enforcement field can often find an entry-level career as a private detective. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between the years of 2014 and 2024, the number of private detectives nationwide is expected to increase by 5%. The average wage for a salaried private detective was $52,840 annually as of 2015.
The same source reports that some states hire police officers with only a certificate, while others require further schooling; academy training is also necessary. The average annual salary for patrol officers was $61,270 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov).
Some states require law enforcement officers to have a college degree. Those who wish to further their education can find criminal justice programs at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. Other collegiate options include undergraduate-level paralegal and legal assistant degree programs.
While law enforcement certificates are not required to become a police officer, they may facilitate entry into training academies as well as allow for advancement in other law enforcement fields. Courses in these programs involve criminology and sociology topics.