The 12 Best Degrees for Police Officers in Law Enforcement Work [2024 Guide]

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Pursuing a law enforcement degree that doesn’t align with your aspirations can potentially hinder your chances of securing your dream job or advancing your career as a police officer. To help you make the right choice, here’s a comprehensive guide to the best bachelor’s degrees for police officers.

Best Bachelor’s Degree Options for a Police Officer

For those aspiring to become police officers in law enforcement, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or criminology is often considered the ideal choice. These programs provide a comprehensive understanding of the legal system, criminal behavior, and investigative techniques. Other degrees like psychology, law, or forensics can also be valuable options to enter this field.

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Kelsey Ludeman, an Academic Success Coach at the University of Houston-Downtown, explains what you should look for in a program to ensure it’s reputable and worth your time:

“Check the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to cross-check schools and programs.

Additional accreditations can be found at The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA®) and The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA). Finding a school with a good reputation, experienced instructors, and connections in the field will help you thrive in your new career.”

A police officer riding a motorcycle in the city, patrolling the streets and ensuring public safety

Regardless of the specific major, pursuing a bachelor’s in a law enforcement-related discipline can further enhance your expertise and open up additional career advancement opportunities. While you can eventually broaden your expertise by pursuing a master’s degree, a great career starts with the right bachelor’s degree.

DegreeLaw Enforcement Program SpecialtyPotential Career Options for Police Officers
Criminal JusticeStudying criminal behavior, policy procedures, and the justice system.Criminal Investigator, Corrections Officer, Probation Officer
CriminologyExamining the causes, consequences, and prevention of crimeCrime Analyst, Criminal Profiler, Forensic Psychologist
PsychologyUnderstanding human behavior, mental processes, and emotionsCriminal Psychologist, Hostage Negotiator, Behavioral Analyst
LawStudying legal systems, laws, and their applicationPolice Legal Advisor, Law Enforcement Instructor, Internal Affairs Investigator
ForensicsInvestigating and analyzing evidence from crime scenesCrime Scene Investigator, Ballistics Expert, Fingerprint Analyst
Computer Science and CybersecurityProtecting computer systems and investigating cybercrimesCybercrime Investigator, Digital Forensics Examiner, Network Security Specialist
Public Safety LeadershipManaging emergency response and public safety operations.Emergency Management Coordinator, Public Safety Director, Disaster Recovery Specialist
Forensic AccountingDetecting and investigating financial crimes and fraudFraud Examiner, Forensic Accountant, Financial Crime Investigator
Homeland SecurityProtecting national security and preventing terrorism.Border Patrol Agent, Transportation Security Officer, Intelligence Analyst
Political ScienceUnderstanding political systems, policies, and governmentPolicy Analyst, Government Relations Specialist, Intelligence Analyst
SociologyStudying social behavior, institutions, and social issuesCommunity Relations Officer, Social Services Liaison, Juvenile Justice Specialist
Foreign LanguageUtilizing languages for communication and investigationInterpreter, Translator, Undercover Operative

Choosing the right online or in-person program depends on the student’s work experience and ultimate career goals. Here are popular degrees that can help learners who want to work in law enforcement.

1. Criminal Justice

Learning about criminal law and justice allows students to focus on topics that law enforcement officers deal with every day, including crime deterrence and criminal psychology. With this law enforcement degree, students can find entry-level jobs in security, private investigating, and similar roles.

Obtaining a criminal justice degree can assist students who already work in law enforcement to qualify for positions of increasing responsibility, such as detective or supervisor.

2. Criminology

Criminology is another great degree option for students interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement as police officers. Students develop analytical skills to examine crime patterns, interpret data, and formulate effective prevention and intervention strategies.

Courses in areas such as forensic psychology, victimology, and criminal profiling offer insights that can aid in investigations and enhance the ability to understand and interact with offenders.

3. Psychology

A bachelor’s degree in psychology helps students who want to go into law enforcement gain a better understanding of the thoughts and feelings that lead to criminal behavior.

As law enforcement officers, you’ll learn how taking preemptive actions can minimize the consequences of violent and property crimes. Most criminal psychology jobs are public service positions in the courts, mental health facilities, and correctional facilities.

4. Law

Many schools offer pre-law majors, which are good degrees for law enforcement as well as students who plan to attend law school. With a background in law, students can attract the attention of hiring managers and public and private sector law enforcement organizations. 

It’s important for law enforcement personnel to understand how to execute a clean arrest so that prosecution goes more smoothly.

5. Forensics

A law enforcement agency heavily depends on law enforcement professionals with a background in forensics. With this major, students learn to gather evidence while investigating a crime. Forensic professionals work crime scenes and interview suspected perpetrators of various crimes.
This law enforcement degree will train you in forensic technology that detects chemical substances unique to individuals or places.

Two police officers standing next to a car parked on the side of the road

6. Computer Science and Cybersecurity

Computer science and cybersecurity degrees can train law enforcement professionals to investigate online crimes and crimes with online components.

Law enforcement agencies increasingly have to respond to requests to investigate sophisticated cybercrimes. Cybersecurity is a subset of computer science that helps federal agencies detect and apprehend cybercriminals who hack into computer systems, steal data, or otherwise wreak havoc within public and private networks.

7. Public Safety Leadership

An advanced degree in public safety leadership is a specialized program that focuses on developing the skills necessary to effectively manage and lead public safety organizations, such as police departments and emergency services.

The curriculum emphasizes principles of effective leadership, strategic planning, resource management, and organizational behavior within public safety contexts.

It’s also one of the best master’s degrees for police officers looking to advance their law enforcement careers relating to crisis management, risk assessment, and public safety and security.

8. Forensic Accounting

Do you want to join the ranks of law enforcement professionals working in financial and fraud investigations? A degree in forensic accounting provides specialized training in areas such as forensic auditing, fraud examination, and legal regulations surrounding financial misconduct. 

With this law enforcement degree, graduates can pursue careers as fraud investigators, forensic accountants, or financial crime analysts within federal agencies or regulatory bodies. Forensic accountants help agencies or organizations detect fraud and malicious activity. They may work in law enforcement or for corporations. 

9. Homeland Security

Law enforcement officials with homeland security degrees help protect the country against sabotage, terrorism, and internal security threats. This degree equips students with the technical knowledge and negotiation skills necessary to address national security threats, terrorism, and emergency management situations.

This program’s interdisciplinary nature also makes it one of the best master’s degrees to develop expertise in areas like emergency management, public policy, and international relations.

10. Political Science

A political science degree provides a comprehensive understanding of government systems, public policies, and the intricate dynamics between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.

With a strong foundation in this field, aspiring officers can become well-rounded professionals equipped to navigate the intricate political, social, and legal landscapes they will encounter in their communities.

You can shape your law enforcement career by learning how to analyze legal frameworks, develop advocacy strategies, and provide insights for policies. 

11. Sociology

A sociology degree provides a deeper understanding of societal dynamics, human behavior, and the intricate relationships between individuals, communities, and the justice system. With this degree, you’ll develop a strong grasp of social structures, inequalities, marginalization, and their impact to help promote fair and unbiased law practices.

Law enforcement career opportunities also let you contribute to research methods and data analyses for crime management and policy development.

12. Foreign Language

With America being a melting pot of diverse cultures and communities, officers who can communicate proficiently in multiple languages have a distinct advantage when interacting with the public they serve.

For local communities, having more multilingual officers can help build trust and maintain positive relationships with minority populations who may not speak English fluently. Foreign language fluency is an invaluable skill for federal agents gathering intelligence, interviewing witnesses, and collaborating with foreign counterparts domestically and abroad.

Police officers standing near a car on a city street

How Can I Use a Law Enforcement Degree For Working For a Federal Law Enforcement Agency?

To work for a federal law enforcement agency, a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field is typically required. However, some agencies prefer specific degree programs that align with their operational needs.

Landing a coveted federal agency role is highly competitive. Aside from a college degree, you’ll need to show exceptional skills like leadership, communication, attention to detail, and integrity. 

Many schools offer hybrid, on-campus, and online courses tailored to prepare students for various police work in federal agencies. While degree preferences vary across agencies, programs focused on criminology or cybersecurity can provide a distinct advantage for aspiring federal agents. 

Here’s an overview of degrees preferred by the following federal agencies in the US:

Federal Bureau of Investigation

For a thriving career with the FBI, programs focused on criminal justice, computer science, cybersecurity, counterterrorism, forensic science, and international studies are highly valued. These degrees will teach you skills necessary for crime scene investigation and analyzing complex security threats.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

To pursue a fulfilling career with BATFE or ATF, consider pursuing a degree in criminology, sociology, or psychology. These programs provide a solid foundation for different roles within the agency involving public safety and the investigation of firearms and explosives-related crimes.

United States Secret Service

It’s an advantage to have mastery of another language and prior military or law enforcement experience to become a federal agent with the United States Secret Service. Aspirants can boost their chances with this agency with a graduate-level law degree or education in criminal justice, public safety, or pre-law studies.

Drug Enforcement Administration

For jobs and careers at the DEA, ideal degrees include criminology, computer science, law, and finance. These provide a strong grounding in criminal law, investigations, and regulatory enforcement related to controlled substances.

United States Border Patrol

Fluency in Spanish combined with a police science, criminal justice, or law degree can increase your chances of landing a job with the US Border Patrol. These programs equip you with the necessary language skills and legal knowledge for border security operations.

Police officers in riot gear standing in a park, prepared to maintain public order and safety

United States Marshals Service

For aspiring federal agents interested in careers with the United States Marshals Service, an advanced degree in law, criminology, or sociology can provide the necessary legal expertise. These degrees also instill the investigative skills to carry out duties such as judicial protection, fugitive apprehension, prisoner transport, and witness security programs.

United States Postal Inspection Office

For a career at the USPIS, you need to gain the ability to combat crimes against the postal system while also emphasizing resource management and cyber investigations. You’ll learn these from degrees like computer science, public safety, law, finance, or forensic accounting.

What Are the Benefits of a Bachelor’s Degree for a Law Enforcement Career?

A bachelor’s degree equips aspiring police officers with critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills invaluable in the criminal justice system. Whether you pursue a psychology, forensics, or criminal justice degree, the extensive coursework and academic rigor involved in earning a bachelor’s diploma demonstrate a level of discipline and commitment. 

Aside from that, having a four-year degree can increase opportunities for advancement and leadership roles in law enforcement jobs. It indicates a broader knowledge base and ability to handle complex situations as police officers.

With specialized knowledge and expertise from a particular undergraduate degree, you can become a more valuable member of the police force and be better equipped to protect your communities from crime. You may learn elements of:

  • Political science
  • Police operations
  • Public administration
  • Forensic science
  • Emergency management
  • Legal system
  • Crime scene protocols
  • Forensics
  • Cybercrime
  • Organized crime
  • Juvenile justice

The Job and Salary Outlook for Police Work

Graduates with the best degrees for law enforcement can choose careers as probation officers, private investigators, US marshals, loss prevention managers, crime analysts, and DEA special agents, among many other career choices.

The best colleges for law enforcement degrees provide a solid foundation for students who want to earn lucrative salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, police and detectives earn a median annual wage of $74,900.

Wardens have a median wage of $60,300, whereas detectives and criminal investigators can earn up to $91,100. Transit, railroad, and patrol police make an average of $72,200. Law enforcement officers with a master’s degree or doctorate can expect a higher median salary.

Police officers standing in front of a building, maintaining security and ensuring public safety

Related Questions

What Degree is Best to Become a Police Officer?

While you can get an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related law enforcement degree can provide a solid foundation for those aspiring to become police officers. A bachelor’s degree can facilitate career advancement within the criminal justice field.

What Degree is Best for Criminal Justice Work?

For those interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice, a bachelor’s degree in criminology or a related law enforcement discipline is typically recommended. These degrees provide a comprehensive understanding of the justice system.

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Police Officer?

While having a degree can give you an edge when applying for a police officer job, it may not be necessary in some cases. Depending on the state or jurisdiction, some police departments may require you to go through police academy training or have at least a high school diploma or associate’s degree.

Which Schools Offer the Best Law Enforcement Degrees?

Many reputable institutions, including West Liberty University, Fayetteville State University, University of Pennsylvania, Bellevue University, and CSU Global, offer highly regarded bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in law enforcement or closely related fields.


With the right educational background, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges and responsibilities that come with the demanding roles of police officers. Whether you choose criminology or another law enforcement-related discipline, these degrees can increase your chances of securing rewarding and fulfilling employment opportunities.

Related Rankings to Help Majors for Law Enforcement:

25 Most Affordable Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Top 25 Best Value Undergraduate Criminal Justice Programs

Top 25 Best Value Online Undergraduate Criminal Justice Programs

Top 25 Best Value Online Graduate Criminal Justice Programs

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Aya Andrews


Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

Find your perfect value college is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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