Some law enforcement careers, for example police officers at the local level, can be obtained with a high school diploma or two-year associate’s degree. Many law enforcement agencies, however, are now requiring recruits to have additional education, including a four-year bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, police science, or a related field. With ever-changing law enforcement technologies as well as advances in crime-solving techniques, many law enforcement professionals continue their education in order to expand their knowledge and improve their interpersonal and technical skills.
The benefits of continuing education in law enforcement to both the police officer and the police department are clear. The officer gains the satisfaction of having improved him- or herself and has increased levels of professionalism and confidence. The department benefits because the officers now possess new skills, which ensures the officers are following the latest and best practices available. Police departments are learning that officers who possess a bachelor’s degree tend to perform better, require less discipline, have fewer on-the-job injuries, use less sick time, are more accepting of minorities, receive fewer citizen complaints, and have greater career aspirations than those officers with less formal education. For this reason, law enforcement agencies everywhere encourage and promote the ongoing and continuing education of their force.
Another reason why an individual would want to continue his or her education is to improve and increase one’s chances of obtaining a promotion to a higher rank or better paying job. The median annual income of the average police officer is approximately $51,000. An increased level of education opens the door to jobs with larger salaries and enhanced benefits. The median annual income of a detective, for example, is approximately $60,000, and the median annual income of a police supervisor is approximately $75,000. These two law enforcement careers often require a four-year college degree. And individuals aspiring to a law enforcement career at the federal level must have a bachelor’s degree.
There are numerous programs for continuing education in law enforcement available from accredited colleges, universities, academies, and career schools. They offer law degrees, specialized certifications, and enhanced training seminars. Courses are available in the classroom, online, and in some cases on the job. For law enforcement professionals who already work full-time, having a flexible “classroom” setting is important. This allows them to complete their continuing education program based upon their work and home schedules. In some instances, too, the student could be eligible for tuition reimbursement upon successful completion of the student’s continuing education program.
One example of continuing education in law enforcement that could be beneficial to police officers who are looking to advance their careers is Rapid Deployment training. This training provides the officer with technical and tactical skills to respond to an active shooter effectively. Another example is a course in Tactical Handgun Operations, in which the officer is able to fine-tune his or her handgun and tactical operations skills while in the midst of an emergency situation. Other valuable training includes courses in public speaking, to enhance communication and community-based policing skills, psychology, to understand better the criminal mind, logic, accounting, and computer courses.
For those professionals who already possess a bachelor’s degree, there are graduate programs available that allow the student to specialize even more. One program, for example, is in law enforcement administration and supervision. There are excellent opportunities for continuing education at all levels of law enforcement. While the officer and the officer’s department clearly benefit from continued studies and coursework, so too does the community at large, as officers are interacting with citizens more and more to address crime in their community.