What to study to become a law enforcement officer

It always helps to have college level training in the area of criminal justice if you seriously want to become a law enforcement officer.  Some areas of the country are especially competitive when it comes to hiring new officers, so the more education you have, the more likely you are to get hired.  Many departments now have a requirement of at least 60 credit hours in criminal justice coursework, and others require a full associate’s degree in order to get hired. Even police departments with less stringent requirements will give you special consideration if you’ve become educated in the field of criminal justice because it shows that you’ve taken initiative to become a law enforcement officer. Your advanced studies will also give you an advantage in completing the class work portion of police training academy.

Many police departments now require certification level training for recruits who want to become a law enforcement officer.  These certificate programs consist of 19 or 20 credit hours of course work in criminal justice.  Some of the classes in the curriculum are criminology, juvenile justice, community policing, criminal law, court procedures, interrogation and crisis intervention.

Another path that some people take to become a law enforcement officer is to get an associate’s degree in criminal justice. Most community colleges offer these programs, as do many online universities.  Be sure to find out whether the program you enter is accredited, especially if it’s an online school.  If it isn’t, your degree will be relatively worthless.

Getting an associate’s degree in criminal justice in order to become a law enforcement officer usually takes about two years, or about half the time it takes to get a bachelor’s degree. The degree covers areas such as policing practices, the criminal court system, community relations and juvenile justice. Each course in the program takes about 9 weeks to complete.  A bachelor’s of science degree in criminal justice is essential if you want to advance from patrol officer to higher levels of law enforcement, including detective and supervisory positions.

Furthering your studies at the college level is an important step for those who want to become a law enforcement officer.  If you have a criminal justice degree, either at the certificate, associate’s or bachelor’s level, you’ll not only have a leg up on getting hired by a law enforcement agency, you’ll also have the requirements to be promoted within the agency at which you work.


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