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Best Online Bachelor's in Law Enforcement

Explore the top schools for an online law enforcement bachelor's degree program. Learn what programs are available, what courses are included and discover some of the jobs you can pursue after graduation.

Top Schools for Online Law Enforcement Bachelor's Degrees

When determining the top schools for online law enforcement bachelor's degree programs, students should review admissions requirements, cost and flexibility. The top schools that offer law enforcement bachelor's degree programs online are listed below.

1. University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Norman, OK $11,763 96%

The University of Oklahoma's (OU) Norman Campus offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program that consists of 120 credit hours and has a tuition rate of $160 (in-state) or $672 (out-of-state). OU has a student population of over 28,000 but maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 18:1; 33% of those students participate in the school's online programs. The criminal justice program includes courses in American justice, American history, ethics and policing. Students in this program should gain an understanding of law enforcement policies, activities and issues.

2. Citadel Military College of South Carolina

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Charleston, SC $12,620 87%

The Citadel Military College of South Carolina has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) since 1924. The school offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice program that is structured as a 2+2 program, meaning it is open to students who have completed 65 credit hours at a 2-year college or university. Students will take courses in criminology, correctional systems, and policing, and can select many of their courses from approved electives. This program has a tuition rate of $500 per credit hour regardless of student residency.

3. University of Louisville

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Louisville, KY $11,928 98%

The University of Louisville (UofL) has more than 15,000 undergraduate students, 23% of whom are enrolled in online courses. The school's online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program is open to students who have previously completed a high school diploma/GED or an associate's degree program and has a tuition rate of $539 for all students. The program consists of 121 credit hours (54 credits for transfer students) and includes courses in criminal behavior, research, corrections and U.S. justice.

4. Trine University-Regional/Non-Traditional Campuses

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Fort Wayne, IN $9,576 0%

Trine University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program that allows students to select one of five concentrations within their program, one of which is law enforcement. The program consists of 120 credit hours of coursework, which includes courses in forensic psychology, corrections, evidence and criminalists. Students can choose a capstone within their program or a law enforcement internship. Tuition rates are $399 per credit hour. The school offers 8-week and 6-week course terms, enabling students to advance through full-time programs quickly or spread courses out via part-time study.

5. University of Massachusetts-Lowell

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Lowell, MA $15,648 90%

The University of Massachusetts at Lowell has a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1 and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. The school offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program that has a tuition rate of $380 per credit hour and consists of 120 credits. Students take courses in policing, corrections and criminology and can select more than a dozen of their courses from approved electives, giving them a good degree of flexibility. Students also have the option to use some of their electives to add a minor to their program, such as political science, business or psychology.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY $9,876 98%
7 St. Joseph's College-Long Island Patchogue, NY $29,200 98%
8 University of Memphis Memphis, TN $9,912 97%
9 Ashland University Ashland, OH $21,980 99%
10 Husson University Bangor, ME $18,940 100%
11 Roger Williams University Bristol, RI $36,978 100%
12 University of Central Missouri Warrensburg, MO $7,969 94%
13 Mississippi College Clinton, MS $18,800 100%
14 Indiana Institute of Technology-College of Professional Studies Fort Wayne, IN $10,224 39%
15 North Greenville University Tigerville, SC $21,120 99%
16 Amridge University Montgomery, AL $6,950 100%
17 University of Maine at Fort Kent Fort Kent, ME $8,295 94%
18 Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale, FL $21,008 89%
19 Greenville University Greenville, IL $27,910 100%
20 Austin Peay State University Clarksville, TN $8,303 99%
21 Robert Morris University Moon Township, PA $31,200 99%
22 University of South Carolina-Upstate Spartanburg, SC $11,558 98%
23 Anderson University Anderson, SC $29,230 100%
24 Middle Tennessee State University Murfreesboro, TN $9,070 96%
25 University of North Alabama Florence, AL $10,620 96%
26 Concordia University-Wisconsin Mequon, WI $30,352 100%
27 Mercer University Macon, GA $37,808 100%
28 Indiana University-East Richmond, IN $7,527 92%
29 Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL $4,879 82%
30 Philander Smith College Little Rock, AR $13,014 99%

All table data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition represents the 2019-2020 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Online Law Enforcement Bachelor's Degree Programs

Online bachelor's degrees focused on law enforcement typically have a criminal justice title, although some schools also offer online bachelor's degrees in criminology, public safety and law. Within online law enforcement bachelor's degree programs students become familiar with the American justice system, criminal behaviors and law enforcement policies. Depending on their program, students might have an internship as part of their curriculum and/or other practical requirements. However, a large number of online law enforcement bachelor's degree programs can be completed entirely online.

For many of these programs, students log into one or more websites to complete assignments, view videos and other resources, converse with peers in forums and contact instructors. While a significant number of online courses consist of asynchronous learning, some courses can require students to log in at specific times for schedule items (like live lectures). Many classes will have weekly due dates that students will need to meet; students in fully asynchronous courses can work on their assignments and submit them at their convenience, whether it's n the small hours of the morning, a lunch break or late at night.

Prerequisites

The admissions requirements for these programs depend on the school. However, students will need to have a high school diploma or its equivalent (like a GED) at the minimum. In fact, many online law enforcement bachelor's degree programs are open to students with a high school diploma/GED and typically require (or prefer) students to have a qualifying high school GPA (such as 2.5). Some schools require students to already have some college credits and/or an associate's degree in order to be admitted to the law enforcement program, but this is not a prerequisite for most schools.

Practical Requirements

While many programs can be completed entirely online, some law enforcement bachelor's degree students will need to complete practical requirements. Oftentimes, this will be an internship experience in a criminal justice/law enforcement setting as part of a course. Within practical experiences, students take on an entry-level position at a real law enforcement organization to gain hands-on experience.

Program Length

The length of online law enforcement bachelor's degree programs is traditionally four years, based on standard semesters and course loads. However, many online programs feature shorter class terms built within standard semesters that allow students to have around 6 class cycles per year instead of the traditional 3 semesters. Class term length makes a notable difference in program completion time as well as the number of credits taken each semester.

For example, a student enrolled in a traditionally-structure academic year would complete 30 credits each year and finish their program in four years. They would likely take 15 credits in the fall and spring or take 12 for each of those and 6 over the summer. A student enrolled in accelerated terms, however, could take 36 credits during a school year (the equivalent of taking 12 credits in the fall and spring) or 45 credits (the equivalent of taking 15 in the fall and spring). In this scenario, students could finish in around 3 years rather than four years.

Transfer Students

Students who have already completed some college courses can often have those classes transferred into their new programs. Bachelor's degree programs in law enforcement typically include 120 credit hours of coursework. Students who have already completed an associate's degree may be able to have around half of those credits waived/transferred and students who have even a few previously taken classes can still decrease the number of credits required for the program. Transferring in courses decreases the number of credit hours needed to complete the degree and therefore decreases both the time it takes to earn the degree as well as the cost of the degree.

Common Courses

Courses within online law enforcement bachelor's degree programs vary by school. However, these programs typically contain a combination of general education classes and program-specific classes. The general education requirements typically include courses in mathematics, English, social sciences, science and the arts. Depending on their program, students may be able to choose the specific courses for their general education requirements from a list of choices.

In addition to the general education requirements, students have a significant amount of criminal justice-related courses for their degree. Although these vary by school, online law enforcement bachelor's degree students typically include some of the courses listed below.

  • Criminal Justice Fundamentals - This course explores introductory topics and procedures in the criminal justice system, U.S. crime, laws and law enforcement.
  • The U.S. Justice System - Students learn about the justice system within the U.S. as well as its relationship with government agencies, courts and police forces.
  • Corrections Systems - In this course, students develop an understanding of corrections within the U.S., including their function, issues, inmate cultures and administrative concerns.
  • Criminology - This course explores theories and research on criminal behavior as well as criminal organizations, subcultures and societal influences on behaviors.
  • U.S. Law Enforcement - Students review the history, regulations and current issues relating to law enforcement, developing an understanding of the purpose and responsibilities of police.
  • Juvenile Justice - This course explores the justice system for juvenile offenders, from the moment of intake to the time of conviction and release, as well as reform and current issues.
  • Evidence and Investigation - Students learn about various crimes, including those against property and people, as well as evidence investigation and interviewing methods.
  • Criminalistics - This course teaches students about crime scene processing practices, including evidence documentation, collection, handling and analysis.

How Much Does an Online Law Enforcement Bachelor's Cost?

The cost of an online bachelor's degree in law enforcement depends on a few factors: school tuition and fees, student residency and student prerequisites.

Tuition and Fees

Each school sets its own tuition and fees. Tuition is typically charged per credit hour while fees may be charged per credit hour, course or semester. As discussed previously, online law enforcement bachelor's degree programs typically include around 120 credit hours of coursework. Based on the schools highlighted above, total program tuition for a 120-credit-hour program would range from around $19,000 to $84,000. Keep in mind that tuition varies, so programs could cost less or more than the estimated range. While not available at all schools, some institutions offer flat-rate tuition options that allow full-time students to have discounted per-credit tuition. In addition to the program tuition, students typically have other applicable fees that can include fees for course registration, class materials (such as books or online access), distance learning fees and more. These vary by school and can add up to several thousand dollars.

Student Residency

While many schools offer one rate for online students, regardless of where they live, other schools have lower tuition rates for in-state students than out-of-state students. For example, an in-state student might pay $200 per credit hour for the same program that an out-of-state student pays $700 per credit for. Students should review the tuition rate that applies to them from each school they are reviewing; you may be out of state but still qualify for in-state tuition.

Student Prerequisites

Students who have already completed some coursework can decrease both their program length and program costs. A student who has completed one 3-credit class would save $480 to $2,100, based on the above-estimated cost range. A student who has already completed an associate's degree program that transfers into their new law enforcement program could save $9,500 to $42,000.

Accreditation for Online Law Enforcement Bachelor's Programs

Online law enforcement bachelor's degree students can potentially be affected by two types of accreditation: programmatic and institutional.

Programmatic Accreditation

Programmatic accreditation applies to a specific program (or department). For law enforcement bachelor's programs, programmatic accreditation is not mandatory nor common. A handful of criminal justice programs are accredited by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). Enrolling in one of these programs means that you'll receive an education that meets that agency's standards. However, programs that do not have ACJS accreditation aren't necessarily lower quality. In many cases, schools do not acquire programmatic accreditation because it is optional and it can be an expensive prospect.

Institutional Accreditation

Institutional accreditation applies to an entire school and shows that the school meets a set of standards that can include things like curriculum and graduation rates. Schools can have either national accreditation (accredited by a national accrediting agency) or regional accreditation (regional accrediting agency). Both types mean that the school has met specific quality criteria, but students interested in returning to school later will benefit more by attending a regionally accredited school because credits earned are easier to transfer to other schools.

Careers for Law Enforcement Bachelor's Degree Graduates

Although graduates of online law enforcement bachelor's degree programs can work in a variety of fields, the top careers relating to law enforcement are listed below.

  • Correctional Officers and Bailiffs - Correctional officers watch over people who are waiting on their trials and/or convicted offenders who are serving time in prison/jail. Bailiffs are in charge of security inside of courtrooms.
  • Private Detectives and Investigators - These individuals collect information regarding different cases or activities as requested. Their duties can include interviewing people, surveillance, researching online and collecting evidence.
  • Police and Detectives - Police are responsible for providing protection to property and people while detectives collect information relating to crimes. Their duties can include patrolling specific areas, collecting evidence and writing reports.
  • Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists - These professionals help offenders who are in custody or released from custody get back to regular life. Their duties can include drug testing, interviewing parolees and providing resources to parolees.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2019) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Correctional Officers and Bailiffs $45,300 -7%
Private Detectives and Investigators $50,510 8%
Police and Detectives $65,170 5%
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $54,290 3%

All career data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics