Best Master's in Law Enforcement Administration Degrees

Nov 05, 2021

What Is a Master's in Law Enforcement Administration Degree?

The law enforcement field encompasses the protection of public safety through the investigation and enforcement of the law. A Master's in Law Enforcement Administration will prepare students for the challenges of senior and leadership positions in the area. Study in this area includes aspects of criminal justice, law enforcement, planning, management, and policy analysis, with most courses providing students with the foundation necessary for advanced careers in the military, law enforcement agencies, and private operations. Although many of these organizations may not require a formal educational qualification for advancement, this qualification will give students an edge when pursuing jobs of this nature in an increasingly competitive job market. Law enforcement has experienced steady growth in recent years, which is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

A master's degree in this field will also unlock opportunities in the military for graduates. For others there are a range of civilian opportunities available.

In addition to the Master's in law Enforcement Administration degree, there are a number of other educational pathways available to students. A Master's in Public Administration specializing in law enforcement is another option.

The Best Masters Degree Programs in Law Enforcement Administration

School Tuition* Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
1 Ferris State University $7608 87% 47% 95% Yes Yes AP Credits
2 University of Mississippi $8828 88% 66% 86% Yes Yes AP Credits
3 University of South Florida-Main Campus $10428 48% 75% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits
4 Salve Regina University $11010 74% 78% 100% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
5 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin $6038 88% 40% 91% Yes Yes AP Credits
6 University of St Thomas $21534 87% 68% 96% No Yes AP Credits
7 University of Central Oklahoma $7853 84% 36% 91% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
8 West Virginia State University $8599 95% 31% 94% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
9 Western Connecticut State University $12758 76% 52% 85% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit our ranking methodology page.

*Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Common Undergraduate Degrees for Master's in Law Enforcement Administration Degree

Undergraduate degrees in law enforcement administration unlock entry-level positions in law enforcement but provide the grounding required to pursue post-graduate study in the field. The wide range of opportunities that present with a master's degree in this field means that the undergraduate degrees students study before commencing the program are very broad.

Common undergraduate degrees include criminal justice, social sciences, law, computer science, and finance. Many of the students starting this course of study will have also gained work experience in the field, although this is not a prerequisite for entry. The undergraduate degrees of master's students in law enforcement administration will often reflect the specialist area they wish to pursue. Finance, human resources, and management are common choices among those looking to work in administration, and legal studies, psychology, criminology, and criminal justice more likely among those aiming to work in the field.

Most programs require the undergraduate degree to be from an accredited school.

Admissions Requirements for Law Enforcement Administration Master's Programs

A bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for entry into most master's programs. Some programs will accept applications from those in the military or law enforcement with a strong work history in lieu of a degree.

The necessary GPA required for entry into most programs varies. The minimum requirement is usually a GPA of 2.5, although a 3.0 or higher GPA is more typical at most schools. Students with lower GPAs are encouraged to include standardized test results in their application as evidence they will cope with the rigors of post-graduate study.

In addition, some programs may require students to submit an admissions essay or up to three letters of recommendation with their application. The weight given to the admissions essay, letters of recommendation, and previous work experience varies between programs.

How to Choose a Master's in Law Enforcement Administration Program

When choosing a school, students should consider the area they wish to specialize in. Program strengths and content vary, so students must ensure that the program they enroll in offers the courses they need to pursue their career of choice.

Location is often a factor and will contribute to the cost of the program. Students attending an in-state school can expect to pay considerably less than out-of-state students.

Another consideration is the program's flexibility, especially if the student is intending to work while studying. Most schools offer full-time and part-time options; however, part-time opportunities will usually have minimum requirements to be completed each year. Students must ensure they can meet those requirements before enrolling. For students looking to accelerate their learning, some schools may offer accelerated learning programs where specific course requirements can be completed online at the student's own pace.

Master's in Law Enforcement Administration Program Accreditation

Students should treat accreditation as a seal of approval. Accreditation is evidence that the school's program is of a high standard, the content balanced, and the means of assessment and evaluation fair. It also means that the program offered is comparable to the programs offered by other schools in the field. In addition, accreditation provides students with an assurance that the school is financially viable.

If transferring credits or seeking financial aid for post-graduate study, undertaking the program at an accredited school will almost always be required.

To advance in law enforcement, students may be required to hold various certifications or licenses. A requirement of some of these certifications and licenses is that the student has completed their undergraduate and post-graduate degrees at an accredited school.

Law Enforcement Administration Master's Degree Courses

A Master's in Law Enforcement Administration will typically require students to complete courses adding up to between 30 and 36 credits. This can usually be achieved by two years of full-time study. This timeframe can be shortened if accelerated learning options are available, or the student can complete aspects of the program over the summer break.

Master's in law enforcement administration programs usually require students to complete a combination of core and elective classes. The number of required core classes will vary between programs. The elective courses give students the opportunity to focus on the areas that interest them. Although less common, work experience options are available at some schools. These options are usually offered as elective credits.

A thesis is not a typical requirement for a master's degree but is offered as an option by some schools.

Law Enforcement Administration Foundational Courses

Core courses ensure that students have the necessary knowledge to complete the electives of their choice successfully. Most law enforcement administration programs require students to complete an advanced learning research course early in their program. These courses are designed to equip students with the research and critical thinking skills necessary to successfully undertake post-graduate studies.

Some of the common core courses include:

  • Law Enforcement Ethics encourages students to consider the moral and professional obligations and conflicts of those working in the field.
  • Organizational Leadership and Communications teaches students the communication and leadership skills essential to managing law enforcement agencies successfully.
  • Police Management and Technology explores the role technology plays in law enforcement and professional responsibilities around data storage and sharing.
  • Criminal Justice Trends will introduce students to the current trends related to the prevention, enforcement, and punishment of criminal offending.

Law Enforcement Administration Specialist & Elective Courses

Elective courses are designed to give students the freedom to take classes of direct relevance to their area of interest or advantageous for a particular career pathway.

Some of the common elective courses include:

  • Police Administration Policy Options, which encompasses the strategic administrative approaches necessary when evaluating and implementing policy and the techniques required to manage a police department.
  • Correctional Leadership teaches students the skills needed in managing a correctional institution, the historical and current approaches, and trends in the area.
  • Counterterrorism and Intelligence provides students with an understanding of the nature of terrorism, risk analysis, the gathering of intelligence, and best practices in prevention.
  • Cultural Competency in Criminal Justice equips students with the skills necessary to deal with various cultures and ethnicities while performing their duties.

Licensure & Certification in Law Enforcement Administration

There are currently no national standards in the US in law enforcement administration. There are varying requirements at a state level. States such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island have no licensing requirements. Some states have minimum requirements that must be maintained to work in the field, while others have licensing or certification requirements prescribed by legislation that must be met and maintained to remain active and can result in decertification if they are breached. Many of the conditions related to maintaining certification relate to the commission (or previous commission) of certain criminal offenses. A felony conviction will typically exclude someone working in the field. Students will need to consider the requirements of the state they wish to work in.

Over the last few years, there has been a movement toward formalizing the minimum standards expected of law enforcement officers. With the current low levels of public confidence in law enforcement agencies, certification or licensing is increasingly being seen as the means for re-establishing trust. However, budget and time constraints have posed problems historically when attempting to institute minimum continuing education obligations.

Most law enforcement officers are licensed to carry a firearm. Although no formal license is required, law enforcement officers may be required to be externally licensed if they carry a firearm off-duty, provide their own firearm, or use a higher-caliber firearm.

Post-Graduate Options After Master's in Law Enforcement Administration

A doctorate in law enforcement administration is available should a student wish to pursue further study after completing a master's degree. For most students, the master's degree is a terminal qualification. Doctorates typically take a student between 4 and 7 years to achieve and require the completion of a thesis and coursework. The usual format would be for the student to undertake two years of coursework before commencing two years of research, with the thesis being the result of their research. Students completing a doctorate usually take up research or academic positions at educational institutions, although several federal enforcement agencies look to those with doctorates to full internal teaching positions.

Law Enforcement Administration Professional Organizations

Both state and national professional organizations provide members with a range of opportunities and support. Most help members keep up to date with the latest developments, advocate for members, and offer networking opportunities, as well as a range of other things. Many professional organizations may be relevant to those in the law enforcement administration field.

The Fraternal Order for Police provides police officers across the US with a voice. The organization is heavily involved in the work conditions and safety on the job of its members.

The National Association of Police Officers ensures that members are kept aware of all legislation currently being considered that has the potential to impact police officers. In addition, the organization hosts a number of social and educational events each year and has negotiated a range of special offers for offices. A lifetime membership costs $50.

For those responsible for police departments, the International Association of Chiefs of Police has more than 31,000 members across 160 countries providing members with a global support network. There are a range of different membership options available to both sworn officers and civilians. Full membership costs $190.

What Can I Do with a Law Enforcement Administration Master's Degree?

For those with a master's degree in the field, a host of opportunities exists both behind the scenes and in the front line of law enforcement agencies. Some of the more elite federal law agencies require a master's degree for entry to specific jobs. These positions include those as special agents in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service.

In the past, on-job experience was considered the prerequisite requirement for leadership and senior management roles in law enforcement, but this has evolved with many key positions looking for candidates with a higher education qualification. Graduates not working in front-line positions would be ideally placed to pursue careers in the management and administration of large police departments, correctional facilities, probation services, and Homeland Security facilities.

Other graduates have pursued careers in government and work to develop and implement policy in the area.

Job Outlook for a Master's in Law Enforcement Administration

The future outlook for jobs in the law enforcement administration field is positive. Although there is no industry-wide data, specific positions within the law enforcement administration field are predicted to experience growth of between 4 and 6% over the next ten years. The exception to this is in the area of corrections. A move toward non-custodial sentencing options and an emphasis on preventative measures have seen experts predict that positions, including correctional officers, will decline by 7% over the coming ten years.

The current high level of scrutiny and demand for reform in law enforcement from the public means that the positions as policy analysts will likely be in demand over the coming years.

How to Become an Emergency Management Director

An emergency management director has a range of different functions. Typically, they are responsible for completing the administrative requirements needed when there is a crisis that could impact public safety. This could include arranging and ordering evacuations or emergency shelters, the distribution of resources, the coordination of law enforcement agencies during an event, and preparing and planning for future events. The ability to work with a team, strong leadership, and good communication skills are vital in this role. Those in the position also need to have good decision-making skills and the ability to think on their feet.

Emergency management directors work for both federal and state governments. There are also military positions of this nature. Some of the other organizations looking to employ emergency management directors include hospitals, aid organizations, colleges, and universities.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a growth rate of 4% is predicted between 2019 and 2029. The median salary of emergency management directors is $82,530. However, there is significant variation depending on whether the role is with a government or private organization, with those employed by state government having an average salary of $70,330. In contrast, those employed by colleges and universities receive an average salary of $99,210.

States that have the most jobs available in this field include California, Texas, and New York.

How to Become a Police Chief

A master's degree in law enforcement administration will open the door to becoming the Chief of Police in a major law enforcement agency. Individuals appointed to these positions are expected to be of good moral character. They are expected to be non-judgmental, have strong communication skills, an addition to detail, resourcefulness, and a history of service.

The responsibilities of the role include the employment, training, and management of staff, developing and implementing departmental policy, performing public relations functions, developing programs to prevent crime, and managing department budgets.

The police chief's role falls under first-line supervisors of police and detectives in the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, with growth predicted at a rate of 5% between 2019 and 2929. Salaries generally reflect the level of responsibility, the size, and the location of the department. The average salary for first-line supervisors of police and detectives was $94,950 in 2019, according to the US Bureau of Labor. The highest salaries for this position are found in California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia.

Master's in Law Enforcement Program Financial Aid & Scholarship Resources

Financial aid is available from federal and state agencies to enable students to pursue a master's degree in law enforcement administration. Both state and federal agencies award financial aid based on need through grants, loans, and work-study programs. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available to prospective students with financial need, who are US citizens or eligible non-citizens, and who are enrolled in an eligible degree program, along with a few other requirements. There are a range of different deadlines for applications depending on the program and proposed start date. Students should ensure they apply early to ensure applications are processed to enable them to commence studies at the proposed date. Study at an accredited school is a requirement for financial aid. Those students that are active in the military or veterans will also be eligible for additional financial aid.

Most schools also offer financial aid packages. The details of financial aid and the deadlines for applications can be obtained at the office of financial assistance or on the website of the respective school.

Several scholarships in law enforcement are available to students studying for a master's degree in the field. These scholarships are merit-based, with the amount of the award varying from $500 to $1,500. The scholarships are sponsored by the Association of Former Agents of the US Secret Service. Students must be a citizen of the US to qualify.

Master's students may also be eligible for a scholarship from the Beaudry Administration of Justice Endowment. Students require a GPA of 3.0 to be eligible. Multiple scholarships are awarded annually based on merit.

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