The challenges facing the criminal justice landscape continuously morph highlighting the need to have advanced skills to thwart the threats.
The invaluable role of law enforcement professionals is evident in the growing size of the workforce, with more than 800,000 professionals working as police officers, investigators, intelligence officers, and other law enforcement roles.
Due to the rising number of new challenges disrupting the smooth functioning of our society, a law enforcement degree will always be in demand. Below we highlight some of the best degrees for law enforcement careers in 2023 and beyond.
Best Degrees for Law Enforcement Careers
The best degrees for law enforcement careers include criminal justice, criminal law, forensics, cybersecurity, computer science, foreign language, and degrees in social sciences such as criminology, psychology, and sociology.
1. Criminal Justice
Criminal Justice is one of the best degrees for a career in law enforcement. It focuses on shaping students into experts on matters such as criminal laws, courtroom procedures, and criminal processes from arrest to incarceration.
A law enforcement degree in criminal justice is ideal for law enforcement professionals who intend to take on leadership roles later in their careers. The degree gives you an opportunity to work in correctional institutions, join the military, and even investigate crimes.
2. Social Sciences (Criminology, Psychology, Sociology)
Anyone working in law enforcement can pursue a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in any of these social sciences. Psychology focuses on how the human brain works while sociology focuses on how humans interact and why they behave the way they do.
On the other hand, criminology focuses on theoretical and conceptual reasoning with the goal being to understand and explain criminal behavior. As a law enforcement officer, your aim is to understand why criminals do what they do, the way they think, and their likely “next moves“. This will not only help you uncover their plans but also mitigate future crimes.
3. Criminal Law
A degree in law or criminal law is one of the best degrees for law enforcement careers due to a shortage of real law enforcement talent with a background in criminal law. While most law enforcement professionals understand the laws and legal procedures, not many have a solid background in criminal law.
Getting a degree in criminal law will open new opportunities for you in your career. You can become an academy educator or instructor for new recruits with the goal being to avoid certain things/actions that could compromise criminal investigations or the reputation of law enforcement agencies. Alternatively, you can pursue a career as an attorney.
The role of forensics in determining a crime was committed and ensuring law enforcement agencies get their hands on the right perpetrators can never be overstated. As a forensic expert, your skills will enable you to detect crimes and ensure proper procedures are followed at crime scenes and on handling evidence.
With significant advancements being made in forensic technologies, it’s now possible to detect unique identifies and chemical substances at crime scenes and trace them back to specific individuals. As a forensics expert, your computer skills will also come in handy, including the use of advanced computer programs and applications.
Although most forensics professionals work in the field conducting forensic works at crime scenes, there are opportunities to work on forensic research projects as a law enforcement agent.
Cyber Security is also among the best degrees for law enforcement careers due to the rise in cybercrimes and criminals getting smarter. Government agencies have suffered from dozens of cyberattacks lately, and your skills as a cybersecurity expert could help law enforcement agencies thwart both internal and external cybercrimes.
The role of cybersecurity experts is undeniably crucial given the rise in sophisticated cybercrimes and the need to detect and thwart attacks on important national institutions, failure to which sensitive information could fall into the hands of cybercriminals.
As a cybersecurity expert working in law enforcement, your additional skills will make you more valuable and virtually indispensable compared to anyone who just does traditional law enforcement work.
6. Computer Science
As discussed in the previous two options above (Forensics and Cyber Security), your computer science skills will make you a crucial piece of the law enforcement puzzle. You will have more to offer to any law enforcement agency compared to those with nothing other than conventional skills.
If you wish to enroll in a computer science program as a law enforcement officer, you can choose between computer criminology and network security. Computer criminology involves cyber forensics to detect digital crimes while network security will task you with ensuring computer systems of your law enforcement agency are secure.
7. Foreign Languages Degree
Although the United States remains a largely English-speaking country, there are towns and cities where citizens predominantly speak other languages, notably Spanish. With this comes the challenge of law enforcement personnel upholding the law and communicating effectively with these communities.
For any law enforcement agency, officers who speak at least two languages are invaluable. They often help make communication easy and maintain a positive relationship with the public. That’s why pursuing a degree in a second language is important for law enforcement professionals who seek to advance their careers.
8. Homeland Security
The growing range of domestic threats the country faces has given rise to the need for homeland security experts. The demand for their expertise will continue to rise since the domestic threats the country faces are unlikely to go away any time soon.
Their roles include protecting the nation against terrorism, sabotage, and other internal security threats. You’ll primarily focus on detecting and investigating suspicious activities and identify any domestic threats.
While most jobs will involve working directly for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, you can still work for government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. A degree in homeland security is also useful for law enforcement officers, including police officers, as the skills will come in handy and help you detect potential threats while on duty.
You can enroll in the program at your university of choice or take advantage of the U.S. Department of Home Security’s FLETC College Intern Program. The 12-week program is open to students who major in criminal justice-related fields.
Best Degrees for Law Enforcement Careers
Although we have highlighted just a few of the best degrees for law enforcement careers, there are a few more you can consider. We recommend you take your time to do in-depth research to ensure you enroll in a program that aligns with your career path objectives.