Study Police Administration: Bachelor's and Master's Degrees at a Glance
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of police and detectives was expected to increase by 7% from 2010 to 2020. Salary and job projections may vary depending on your intended career path. Although demand will still be high for individuals in this field, state and federal jobs may be becoming more competitive. Bilingual applicants who have a bachelor's degree and relevant professional experience are poised for the best job opportunities in federal agencies, which typically offer high pay and more opportunities for both promotions.
Depending on the position, education requirements will range from a high school diploma to a college degree. Additionally, police and detectives typically graduate from their agency's training academy and complete a period of on-the-job training, which may include demanding physical components.
|Who is this degree for?||- Students who want to eventually pursue a graduate degree in police administration or a related field|
- Individuals who want to pursue careers in federal government agencies
|- Individuals who want leadership positions in police administration, criminal justice administration or a related field|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary)||- First-line supervisor of police and detectives ($81,000)*|
- First-line supervisor of correctional officers ($59,000)*
- First-line supervisor of firefighters ($72,000)*
|- Similar to bachelor's, but salary may vary with experience|
|Time to Completion||Typically 4 years (full-time)||Typically 2-3 years full-time)|
|Common Graduation Requirements||- Satisfy approximately 120 credits of academic coursework|
- Maintain GPA standards
- Complete internship requirement, if applicable
|- Satisfy approximately 36 credits of academic coursework|
- Thesis, if applicable
- Meet GPA standards
- Pass qualifying exam, if applicable
|Prerequisites||- Typically a high school diploma or equivalent|
- SAT/ACT test scores
- Meet GPA requirements
- Undergraduate-level general education coursework may be required before admission into a major program
|- All of the bachelor's requirements plus|
- Undergraduate transcripts
- GRE scores
- Letters of recommendation
- Interview, if applicable
- Personal statement
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean figures).
Bachelor's in Police Administration
Students in a police administration bachelor's degree program learn the knowledge and skills required to succeed as criminal justice and law enforcement personnel. Students typically study general education courses, core (required) major coursework and electives. Degree formats may vary with each school, but are generally formatted as a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Arts (BA) in police administration, criminal justice administration or similar titles/fields.
Bachelor's degree programs are typically designed for students who want to obtain solid foundations in criminal justice or police administration. Upon graduation, students who obtain bachelor's degrees may choose to enter graduate programs or begin their careers in the field.
Pros and Cons
- A bachelor's degree in police administration can lead to a variety of career paths, including employment in law enforcement, criminal justice or government service.
- Some bachelor's degree programs recommend or require an internship, which provides students with practical professional experience.
- Students who plan to continue their studies in graduate school will typically need a bachelor's degree in a relevant field.
- A high school diploma is the entry-level education requirement in this field.
- Professional experience is important to employers, and it can be challenging to land your first relevant job even with a bachelor's degree.
- There may be some barriers to employment, such as a lengthy criminal background check.
Common Courses and Requirements
You can expect a police administration bachelor's degree program to include variety of courses, including general education requirements, major courses and electives. In addition to coursework, you may be encouraged to participate in an internship to gain real-world experience or complete a capstone paper.
Common courses in a police administration bachelor's degree program may include:
- Introduction to criminal justice
- Ethics in law enforcement
- Fiscal administration in law enforcement
- Technology in law enforcement
- Criminal justice writing/composition
Online Degree Options
Online police administration bachelor's degrees are available. Online programs generally feature curriculum and coursework requirements that are similar to traditional on-campus programs. If you find an online bachelor's degree program, ensure that it is part of an accredited academic institution. Curricula will vary with each school, so be sure to check if your program requires some offline components, such as an internship.
Getting Ahead with this Degree
Because this is a popular major, consider ways in which you can stand out from your peers. For example, some programs allow students to specialize in a minor or concentration that particularly interests them, such as homeland security or information security. Extra coursework may be required, but obtaining a specialization allows you to enter niche markets you may not otherwise be qualified for.
Master's in Police Administration
As a student in a typical police administration master's degree program, you will learn advanced public and private-sector law enforcement skills required for practitioners, including risk management. Students should note that it may be challenging to find master's degrees in police administration; however, criminal justice administration master's degree programs typically provide similar curricula. Degree programs may vary with each school, but they are generally formatted as a 36-credit Master of Arts (MA) or Science (MS).
Pros and Cons
- A master's degree may set you apart from other applicants and qualify you for more advanced leadership positions.
- Students in a master's degree program are likely to have access to experienced faculty with practical experience in the field.
- You may be able to focus on a specialization of your interest, such as juvenile corrections or homeland security.
- Graduate-level courses are often more rigorous than undergraduate studies.
- Because the baseline academic credential is a high school diploma, you may be over-educated for some positions in this field.
- Police department funding comes from local, state and federal government budgets, so job prospects may be slowed in poor economic times.
- Experience is an important qualification in police administration. If you attend a master's program immediately after undergraduate studies, you may be delaying valuable on-the-job experiences.
Common Courses and Requirements
As a master's candidate, you will likely complete academic coursework and pass a qualifying examination. In addition, some programs may require students to write an original research paper called a 'thesis.' Depending on the nature of your program, you may be able to specialize in a concentration (such as forensic science) that highlights your individual interests and career goals.
In a typical police administration master's degree program, you can expect coursework to include the following topics:
- Crime and organizational theory
- Budget analysis
- Data analysis
- Research methods in criminal justice administration
Online Course Options
Commonly, online programs are reading- and writing-intensive, with a focus on independent coursework and online lectures. The coursework in online programs is generally very similar to that of a traditional academic institution. Some programs may be designed for experienced professionals and may require applicants to have prior work experience.
Getting Ahead with this Degree
Acquiring new and relevant skills is a great way to show potential employers that you are a well-rounded worker who is up to date on the latest trends in your field. Consider obtaining certifications in technology programs that are popular in your field, or learning a foreign language, which is considered an asset in many federal agencies and urban law enforcement communities.
Students who are interested in police administration degrees may also consider obtaining an alternate degree, a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Some schools may offer an integrated bachelor's and master's degree program in criminal justice or its related fields, which can be completed in approximately five years and result in an MS, MA or MBA.