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Best Graduate Degree for Police

Police officers may seek graduate programs in order to progress into leadership positions, move into forensic investigation, or transition into academic or research roles.

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Police officers may consider earning a graduate degree to increase their career options or to develop an academic underpinning for their experiences as a police officer. Depending on why they wish to pursue a graduate degree, there are a range of master's and doctoral programs that may appeal to police officers for graduate study.

Master's Degree Options for Police Officers

Police officers who wish to seek promotions or investigative positions within their police forces may seek to earn a master's level degree as an additional credential. Read on to learn more about some master's degree programs that may help a police officer fulfill his or her career ambitions.

Master of Public Administration

For those police officers who aspire to leadership positions within law enforcement, particularly those that involve policy-making or financial responsibilities, the Master of Public Administration (MPA) would be a great choice. MPA programs can typically be completed in two years of full-time study; however many programs have part-time options for working professionals. MPA programs focused on criminal justice or law enforcement administration are available. Courses may include public budgeting and administrative law. An internship may be a requirement for students who do not have professional experience. Admissions requirements typically include transcripts, a resume, references a personal statement, and GRE results.

Master of Criminal Justice

Police officers who hope to analyze problems within the criminal justice field and develop solutions to those concerns might consider earning the Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ). MCJ programs may focus on the theories behind a range of criminal justice approaches and help students carry out and evaluate research regarding criminal justice programs. Approximately two years of study is required to complete an MCJ program. Courses may include criminology and criminal justice administration. A capstone or final project, to apply learning to a real-world problem by collaborating with a criminal justice agency, may be required. Admissions requirements may include a goal statement, resume, references, and undergraduate transcripts.

Master of Science in Forensic Science

Police officers who wish to move into roles focused on forensic investigation could consider earning a Master of Science (M.S.) in Forensic Science. M.S. programs in forensic science focus on the application of the sciences, including biology, chemistry, and physics, to police investigative work. The M.S. often takes two years of full-time study to complete. Courses may include forensic DNA technology/analysis, drug chemistry, and forensic investigation of firearms. A research-based thesis may be required. Applicants should expect to provide transcripts and GRE scores. A strong background in science and mathematics, including undergraduate courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and statistics, may be prerequisites to enrollment.

Doctoral Degree Options for Police Officers

Some police officers may seek graduate education at the doctoral level in order to move into research-based or academic positions. Learn more about two Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) options that enable police officers to put their experience into an academic context.

Ph.D. in Criminology

A Ph.D. in criminology allows students to study the theory, policy, and research behind criminal justice. Courses may include theoretical approaches to criminal behavior and statistical analysis. In addition to coursework, Ph.D. students may be expected to complete qualifying examinations and a dissertation. Applicants may be expected to hold a master's degree. They should provide transcripts, GRE results, a resume, a statement of purpose, and a sample of written academic work.

Ph.D. in Sociology

Ph.D. programs in sociology enable students to focus upon research, advocacy, and leadership around a wide range of social issues. Students may wish to identify a program with a concentration or faculty interests in areas of criminal justice, law, and punishment. To complete the degree, students should expect to complete coursework, comprehensive examinations, and a research-based dissertation. Courses may include sociology of law, theories of deviant behavior, and complex organizations. Applicants may need to hold a master's degree in sociology or a closely related field. They should provide transcripts, a statement of purpose, recommendations, GRE results, and a writing sample.

Depending on their career goals, a wide range of graduate degrees may appeal to police officers. Careful consideration of these options can aid in identifying the best program.

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