Study Policing & Investigation: Master's Degree & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with a master's degree or courses in policing and investigation? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses and law enforcement master's degrees and training.
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Policing and Investigation: Master's Degree and Course Information at a Glance

Master's degree programs in policing and investigation are designed for existing law enforcement officers or professionals who have completed bachelor's degree programs in related fields. Policing and investigation master's degrees include coursework in criminal justice policies and theory, dispute resolution techniques, law, criminal psychology, cultural sensitivity and law enforcement administration. Students also learn practical skills in crime scene investigation, evidence collection and courtroom techniques.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the employment outlook in state and local police departments will be below average, at 7%, with even more competition for positions within federal agencies. Once employed, layoffs for law enforcement staff are rare, and laid-off officers and agents can frequently find work in other agencies.

Master's Training
Who is this program for? Individuals developing their education beyond the bachelor's level to enhance their career in law enforcement Police officers and other law enforcement officials looking to engage in professional development activities or fulfill mandated training
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Police detective ($72,000)*
- Police supervisor ($78,000)*
- Police officer ($54,000)*
- College law enforcement teacher ($59,000)*
Same as master's
Time to Completion 1-2 years full time Varies
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 10-15 graduate level courses
- Master's thesis available in some programs
- Master's exams
Completion requirements vary from course to course
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in policing and investigation or related law enforcement degree Some courses may require that applicants be currently sworn as police officers
Online Availability Yes Some

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Policing and Investigation

Law enforcement graduate programs are designed for mid-career professionals who have either taken on or are looking to take on further responsibility through promotion. Law enforcement officials looking to become leaders may go further and undertake a graduate program to further enhance their promotional prospects.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Completion of policing and investigation graduate programs can lead to increased chances for promotion
  • Some departments may be willing to assist with educational costs for employees
  • Programs provide an opportunity to network with other law enforcement leaders

Cons

  • Completing the requirements of a master's program while working law enforcement's rotating schedule can be challenging
  • Master's programs vary significantly in content, so officers must carefully compare each program to their needs
  • Some programs with thesis options and non-thesis options may require department approval before making this choice

Courses and Requirements

Courses in law enforcement graduate programs may cover a number of areas. As they are focused on professional development, courses may address anything from legal and bureaucratic aspects of leadership to advanced theories of policing and research methods for those who plan to move towards teaching. There are significant differences between programs, from the focus of coursework to the requirement of a thesis. Completing a thesis may be necessary for those interested in moving to teaching law enforcement topics at the college level.

  • Criminology theory
  • Police and investigation research and theory
  • Statistics and research methods for law enforcement
  • Law enforcement computing applications

Online Degree Options

Especially if you are a mid-career law enforcement professional, you might want to consider a master's degree program that is delivered online. These programs can be offered asynchronously, which makes them easier to juggle with a busy work schedule, and may be taken at a distance, preventing the need for lengthy commuting. Online programs are available both with and without thesis options, sometimes from the same program.

Stand Out with This Degree

If you are looking to stand out with this degree, you may want to select a program with a thesis option. Writing a thesis will involve learning how to perform research, and your completion of a thesis may help open up academic career options. Additionally, these programs can provide opportunities to study alongside other police either in, or looking to join, leadership ranks. Competing for and receiving grants to assist with study or research can not only reduce the personal cost of the program, but can also provide opportunities for recognition by the wider police field.

Courses in Policing and Investigation

A number of courses are available for training both those interested in policing and current police officers. These courses can cover a range of topics relevant to police work, such as investigation of specific type of incidents and development of skills relevant to police work. Some courses go further, training police officers to become trainers in specialized areas, such as firearms use. Requirements for courses may vary, with some only available to sworn police officers.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • These courses generally target specific areas of professional development and address challenges police officers may face on the job
  • Not all police training courses are bound by the semester system, but are instead offered as stand-alone courses
  • These courses may be an excellent opportunity to network with law enforcement professionals from other jurisdictions

Cons

  • Though they may be available through colleges and universities, not all training courses are designed to offer college credit
  • If costs are not paid through institutional, departmental or state funding, these programs can be of considerable expense to the officer
  • Intensive seminars may last several days, and will need to be scheduled around work requirements

Common Courses and Requirements

Courses may cover a range of topics, and may be targeted to specific audiences with such offerings as firearms tactics specific to female police officers, or forensic training for officers looking to expand their duties toward crime scene investigation. Other courses address both common and rare occupational challenges, including interviewing, interrogation, police tactics and strategy, proper documentation in 'use of force' incidents, supervision and field officer training. Some courses may be mandated by state law, while others are voluntary and aimed at professional development.

Online Course Info

Online courses and training are available, and police officers may be able to use these resources to complete mandatory training requirements. As many police skills are necessarily hands-on, only certain types of classes can be offered in online formats. Officers are more likely to find courses updating legal knowledge online rather than surveillance techniques. Nonetheless, officers may also find that some courses that have both classroom and hands-on requirements may be offered in hybrid format.

Stand Out with This Training

In order to stand out with courses and seminars in police topics, you may want to focus on becoming a recognized expert in a needed area of police work. Whereas training to become a crime scene investigator may be done through seminars and coursework, the practical aspects of the role are developed over time and should be reinforced through field experience. To that end, you may consider discussing with supervisors ways to create opportunities to combine training seminars with practical application in order to reinforce training. This can have the dual effect of increasing both skill retention and departmental recognition of your achievements.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS: Criminal Justice
      • MS: Criminal Justice - Corrections
      • MS: Criminal Justice - Critical Incident Management
      • MS: Criminal Justice - Forensic Science
      • MS: Criminal Justice - Legal Studies
      • MS: Criminal Justice - Criminal Investigation
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Liberty University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS: Criminal Justice
      • MS: Criminal Justice: Homeland Security
      • MPA: Disaster Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • Richmond, KY

    Eastern Kentucky University

  • Storrs, CT

    University of Connecticut

  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Criminal Justice, M.S.

Featured Schools

Saint Leo University

  • MS: Criminal Justice
  • MS: Criminal Justice - Corrections
  • MS: Criminal Justice - Critical Incident Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Purdue University Global

  • Master: Criminal Justice

Which subject are you interested in?

Liberty University

  • MS: Criminal Justice
  • MS: Criminal Justice: Homeland Security
  • MPA: Disaster Management

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement

What is your highest level of education?