Earn a Law Enforcement Degree Online
- $320/credit (120 total credits)
- Transfer up to 90 credits
- Get up to 12 credits for law enforcement and military training
- No application fee or SAT/ACT scores
- 24/7 online access to the classroom
- Median annual salary of $65,170 for police and detectives1
Online Police Administration Concentration Overview
There are those born to serve their communities on the front lines and those born to lead behind the scenes. The criminal justice system needs both.
Great leaders help police officers, detectives and other branches of law enforcement do great work. They’re a vital element in every aspect of the profession. SNHU's Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Police Administration and Operations can help you become the kind of leader the law enforcement field needs – today and tomorrow.
You’ll explore the demands, functions and evolving state of the modern police force. You'll learn the many roles of police agencies across the country. And you’ll gain a foundation in criminal justice principles as you dive deep into psychology, American politics and criminal law.
At the root of every career in the criminal justice system is a desire to help. As a leader in criminal justice education, SNHU is committed to helping you learn how you can help. Earning your online law enforcement degree is the first step.
Learn how to:
- Analyze crimes using advanced tools and techniques
- Balance real-world demands with tight budgets
- Develop performance evaluations and set goals
- Think critically, solve problems and communicate effectively
- Shape and set expectations for community policing
- Work behind the scenes to make a police agency succeed
The days of going into criminal justice because your father or brother did are fading into the past. The field is changing, and so are degree requirements.
“Now you have highly educated people dominating the field,” said Dr. Jeff Czarnec, associate dean of SNHU’s criminal justice program. “They want more out of life. They want more out of the field.”
As a growing number of employers require a college education from candidates for jobs or promotions, more and more criminal justice students are benefiting. SNHU’s online law enforcement degree was designed to help working officers gain the skills and insights they need to move up in criminal justice.
By earning your law enforcement degree at SNHU, you'll be well-prepared for a number of career paths in this field, including:
- Correctional officers and bailiffs: Correctional officers oversee defendants under arrest and awaiting trial or a prison sentence. Bailiffs maintain safety and order in courtrooms. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics placed the median annual salary for these occupations at $45,300 in 2019.1
- Police and detectives: According to the BLS, detectives and criminal investigators gather facts and collect evidence for criminal cases. Patrol officers, the most common type, have general law enforcement duties. The BLS projects 5% growth for police and detectives through 2028 and reported a median annual salary of $65,170 in 2019.1
- Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists: Probation officers supervise people placed on probation. Correctional treatment specialists develop rehabilitation plans for people on probation or parole. The BLS projects 3% growth for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists through 2028 and reported a median annual salary of $54,290 in 2019.1
- Security guards and gaming surveillance officers: Bodyguards, security guards and gaming surveillance officers all fall into this general category. Their main responsibility is to patrol and protect property and people from illegal activity. The BLS projects 4% growth for these roles through 2028 and reported a median annual salary of $29,710 in 2019.1
Note: Law enforcement positions may involve additional training and eligibility requirements.
Beyond the academic benefits of earning a degree, the police administration program also instills soft skills you'll find critical in the workplace.
"We know studies show that people with higher education, people who have degrees, have better problem-solving skills, they’re more empathetic,” said Ian Moffett, SNHU instructor and retired chief of the Miami-Dade school system police department. “They understand community policing. They can implement it.”
Throughout your online law enforcement classes, you’ll learn from faculty with real-world experience as criminal justice leaders. Their firsthand insights into the field will enhance your education and help you get more out of your own career.
David Lemieux ’18 earned his law enforcement degree – and a raise from the Portland Police Department in Maine.
“Portland has an agency of approximately 150 police officers,” said Lemieux. “I chose criminal justice in police operations to advance through the ranks as I gain experience.”
Lemieux is typical of many online law enforcement degree students, working full time, often on second and third shifts. He liked the flexibility of the online program and appreciated learning from faculty with experience and empathy.
“Every instructor had a vast array of knowledge,” he said. “They also know that life happens and were able to work with you if an incident came up.”
Lemieux gained more than a bachelor's degree in law enforcement. He gained more confidence at work.
“My affidavits have significantly improved,” he said. “My criminal justice degree has also provided me with the knowledge in constitutional law to conduct proper police community involvement.”
In addition, your law enforcement education can prepare you for immediate career advancement or an advanced degree in criminal justice.
If you see yourself in a leadership role in public policy, the online Graduate Certificate in Public Administration is a logical next step. If you’re tech savvy and interested in public safety, the online Graduate Certificate in Advanced Counterterrorism & Homeland Security might be a better fit. Both offer immediate benefits, as well as the ability to apply earned credits toward an online master's in criminal justice.
Earn credits for what you already know: Did you know certain work and life experience – like industry-recognized certifications or law enforcement or military training – could save you time and money at SNHU? Learn how you could get credit for work or life experience.
Start Your Journey Towards an Online Police Administration and Operations Concentration Degree
Why SNHU For Your Law Enforcement Degree
With no set class meeting times, you can learn on your schedule and access online course materials 24/7.
Take advantage of some of the lowest online tuition rates in the nation, plus financial aid for those who qualify. We also make it easy to transfer to SNHU by accepting up to 90 credits for a bachelor's degree from your previous institution.
Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution with over 100,000 graduates across the country. SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), which advocates for institutional improvement and public assurance of quality.
Recently, SNHU has been nationally recognized for leading the way toward more innovative, affordable and achievable education:
- “Most Innovative” regional university honors from U.S. News & World Report each year since 2015
- A $1 million grant from Google.org to explore soft skills assessments for high-need youth
- Recognition as a 2017 Digital Learning Innovator by the Online Learning Consortium
At Southern New Hampshire University, you'll have access to a powerful network of more than 200,000 students, alumni and staff that can help support you long after graduation. Our instructors offer relevant, real-world expertise to help you understand and navigate the field. Plus, with our growing, nationwide alumni network, you'll have the potential to tap into a number of internship and career opportunities.
As a leader in law enforcement education, SNHU hosts the Contemporary Justice Series, which brings in national voices to connect with students on today’s most important criminal justice issues. The forum holds several online events throughout the year on topics like police misconduct, wrongful convictions and domestic violence.
SNHU also offers the Law and Disorder Club, a highly popular online student group that hosts networking and educational events like Serial Killer Month and a Cold Case Mystery Party. The club gives criminal justice students the opportunity to network with industry professionals – one of the main advantages of joining.
96.5% of students would recommend SNHU.2 Discover why SNHU may be right for you.
Part of our mission to expand access to quality higher education means removing the barriers that may stand between you and your degree. That’s why you can apply at any time and get a decision within days of submitting all required materials.
Acceptance decisions are made on a rolling basis throughout the year for our 6 (8-week) undergraduate terms.
How to Apply
Simply work with an admission counselor, who can help you explore financial options, answer all your questions and walk you through the application process. Start by:
- Completing a free undergraduate application
- Providing previous institutions attended – so we can retrieve transcripts for you at no cost
Test scores are not required as part of your application.
Courses & Curriculum
Members of law enforcement hold a unique role in society. Every traffic stop or knock on the door carries with it an enormous responsibility. It also highlights the need for strong communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, along with cultural competency and emotional intelligence.
Community policing is a core component of SNHU’s law enforcement degree. María Daniel, who practices law in Philadelphia and teaches in SNHU's criminal justice program, addressed this topic on a panel of criminal justice experts for SNHU’s Contemporary Justice Series in May 2020. She stressed that the issues facing the criminal justice system go beyond the nation’s police departments to inequities in the treatment of minorities.
“I think that all of us have an obligation to be the change,” Daniel said. “We have to be the light in the darkness, whatever your role in the criminal justice system. We have to treat people as human first, and we have to be transparent in our shortcomings and say, ‘I can do better.’”
In recent years, SNHU worked with faculty and subject matter experts to rethink our whole criminal justice curriculum. Our law enforcement degree reflects that work. It also reinforces our commitment to provide the skills and experiences you’ll need to bring to the workforce.
“We have a bigger responsibility than to just deliver content,” said Dr. Jeff Czarnec, associate dean of SNHU’s criminal justice and social science programs. “Our biggest responsibility is to add value to the program by looking to develop culturally competent public safety people.”
As a criminal justice student, you’ll see this focus on cultural competency in both your online law enforcement electives and your core courses. You’ll gain a solid foundation in cultural awareness, communication, discretion, problem solving and other essential criminal justice principles. You’ll also learn how to align best practices for managing police operations with public safety goals.
The online criminal justice degree program also provides students with the option of earning a criminal justice communication certificate – a bonus if you want to move up the ranks. Designed to develop the knowledge, attitudes and skills to communicate effectively with a range of communities, the certificate focuses on enhancing your ability to accurately convey essential information.
The online law enforcement degree concentration covers topics ranging from crime analysis to policy development and consists of these 4 courses:
- Crime Analysis and Effective Police Service. Explore the assets and tools of progressive crime analysis techniques and their relationship to the delivery of effective police services. Learn to apply theory, data collection methods and basic use of statistics to various goals of policing.
- Crisis Intervention for Police. Study crisis theory, intervention and strategies required for first responders. Learn how to recognize threat levels, listen actively, and conduct effective mediation and negotiations in situations like attempted suicides, hostage taking and barricaded subjects.
- Effective Patrol and Community Policing. Examine the principles and effective practices of police patrol and operations. Discuss and analyze how to prepare and set expectations for patrol officers. Study the fundamental aspects and best practices of community policing.
- Leadership and Management in Criminal Justice Organizations. Learn how to lead and manage in the criminal justice workplace. Explore the traits and characteristics of criminal justice professionals at work. Develop performance evaluations and goals.
SNHU’s online criminal justice degree core and specialized courses are taught by highly regarded, accomplished faculty with years of real-world, hands-on experience. Our online faculty reflect the advanced academic qualifications and practical experience of a top-ranked, accredited university.
Our criminal justice faculty have experience working for major law enforcement agencies, including:
- Atlanta Police Department
- Chicago Police Department
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Homeland Security
- Houston Police Department
- Miami Police Department
- New York City Police Department (NYPD)
Curriculum Requirements & Resources
- General education courses: All online bachelor's students are required to take general education classes, if not obtained in prior coursework. Through these foundation, exploration and integration courses, students learn to think critically, creatively and collaboratively, giving you the edge employers are looking for.
- Technology resources: We provide cloud-based virtual environments in some courses to give you access to the technology you need for your degree – and your career. Learn more about our virtual environments.
- Save time and tuition: Depending on your scores, you could earn up to 12 math credits – the equivalent of 4 courses – toward your degree for less than $50 per assessment with our Pathways to Math Success assessments.
|View Full Curriculum in the Catalog|
|BS in Criminal Justice - Police Administration & Operations|
|Courses May Include|
|BS in Criminal Justice Police Administration and Operations Online|
|CJ 330||Leadership and Management in Criminal Justice Organizations||This course will cover the vital and progressive information concerning workplace performance in the criminal justice profession. It will entail a discussion and analysis of the traits and characteristics of criminal justice professionals at work, along with analysis and development of performance evaluations, assessment and desired objectives for the practitioner.|
|CJ 331||Effective Patrol and Community Policing||This course will cover the principles and effective practices of police patrol and operations. It will analyze and discuss the preparation and the expectations of patrol and how to effectively perform all duties and functions. In addition, the course will entail an awareness and understanding of the fundamental aspects and best practices of community policing.|
|CJ 332||Crisis Intervention for Police||This course will introduce the student to crisis theory, concepts, intervention and strategies required for the first responder. The student will learn how to be personally effective, recognize threat levels, active listening, conduct effective mediation and negotiation for application to situations such suicidal persons, hostage taking and barricaded subjects to cite but a few.|
|CJ 400||Crime Analysis and Effective Police Service||This course provides the student with the assets and tools of progressive crime analysis techniques and the intrinsic relation to the delivery of effective police services. Theory, data collection methods and basic use of statistics will be introduced and applied to various goals of policing.|
|Total Credits: 120|
Minimum Hardware Requirements
PC (Windows OS)
Apple (Mac OS)
Currently supported operating system from Microsoft.
Currently supported operating system from Apple.
8GB or higher
8GB or higher
100GB or higher
100GB or higher
Required for campus students. Strongly recommended for online students.
Required for campus students. Strongly recommended for online students.
SNHU Purchase Programs
5 Mbps Download, 1 Mbps Upload and less than 100 ms Latency
5 Mbps Download, 1 Mbps Upload and less than 100 ms Latency
- Laptop or desktop? Whichever you choose depends on your personal preference and work style, though laptops tend to offer more flexibility.
- Note: Chromebooks (Chrome OS) and iPads (iOS) do not meet the minimum requirements for coursework at SNHU. These offer limited functionality and do not work with some course technologies. They are not acceptable as the only device you use for coursework. While these devices are convenient and may be used for some course functions, they cannot be your primary device. SNHU does, however, have an affordable laptop option that it recommends: Dell Latitude 3301 with Windows 10.
- Office 365 Pro Plus is available free of charge to all SNHU students and faculty. The Office suite will remain free while you are a student at SNHU. Upon graduation you may convert to a paid subscription if you wish. Terms subject to change at Microsoft's discretion. Review system requirements for Microsoft 365 plans for business, education and government.
- Antivirus software: Check with your ISP as they may offer antivirus software free of charge to subscribers.
Tuition & Fees
As a private, nonprofit university, we’re committed to making college more accessible by making it more affordable. That’s why we offer some of the lowest online tuition rates in the nation—and haven't raised our costs in a decade.
We also offer financial aid packages to those who qualify, plus a 30% tuition discount for U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty.
|Online Undergraduate Programs||Per Course||Per Credit Hour||Annual Cost for 30 credits|
|Degree/Certificates (U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty)*||$675||$225||$6,750|
Tuition Rates are subject to change and are reviewed annually. *Note: students receiving this rate are not eligible for additional discounts.
Additional Costs No Application Fee, $150 Graduation Fee, Course Materials ($ varies by course)
Frequently Asked Questions
What skills do you need to become a police officer?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers routinely perform a number of duties,1 including:
- Respond to emergency and nonemergency calls
- Patrol assigned areas
- Conduct traffic stops and issue citations
- Obtain warrants and arrest suspects
- Collect and secure evidence from crime scenes
- Prepare cases and testify in court
While partly administrative, a police officer’s job often involves high-stress situations. That’s why excellent communication, critical thinking, problem solving and decision-making are among an officer’s most important skill sets. Cultural awareness, compassion and emotional intelligence are also key.
SNHU’s online law enforcement degree is designed to enhance these skills. The program also builds leadership skills.
“Wherever you work in the criminal justice system, you’ll need high emotional intelligence, problem-solving skills, excellent stress management and terrific communication ability,” said Dr. Jeff Czarnec, associate dean of SNHU’s criminal justice and social science programs.
Ultimately, says Czarnec, the criminal justice system's mission is to help people. So you’ll want to give some thought to why you’re drawn to a helping profession and what skills or experiences you can bring to the job.
What do I do to become a police officer?
While a law enforcement degree is not necessarily required to become a police officer, more and more police departments are looking for one.
Retired police officer and SNHU instructor Hector Garcia addressed this topic for SNHU’s Contemporary Justice Series in May 2020. Garcia stressed that America’s police force needs to return to basic concepts of policing – police as a part of the community.
“It cannot be us against them,” he said. “It’s not to see how many people you can arrest … it’s how many people can you serve. What’s going to make you a good officer that can connect with the community.”
SNHU’s online law enforcement degree was designed to help aspiring officers get the education they need to succeed in the field. The program’s specialized curriculum focuses on “soft skills” like communication as well as crime analysis, crisis intervention and policy development.
Law enforcement positions may involve additional training and eligibility requirements, which can vary by department.
Can you study law enforcement online?
Absolutely. In fact, there’s no reason not to and plenty of reasons you should. Flexibility is one of the main reasons, especially if you’re already working in law enforcement full time and doing shift work. You’re going to need to sleep at some point!
Even if you’re not in the workforce yet, there’s a lot to like about online education. That’s why so many people decide to become an online student.
SNHU’s online law enforcement degree, like all of our online degrees, lets you create your own schedule. There’s no specific time you need to log in to participate in class. As long as you turn your assignments in by your weekly deadlines, you can fit them in around your schedule.
“I’m really proud of the way SNHU has developed their courses to be more realistic and more helpful,” said Mark Evenson, chief of police in Brentwood, California, and adjunct faculty in SNHU’s criminal justice program. “They do a much better job preparing people for careers in criminal justice than other schools that I’ve seen.”
At just $320/credit (120 total credits), SNHU’s online degree programs are also among the nation’s most affordable. What’s more, we’re one of the most transfer-friendly schools you’ll find. Undergraduates can transfer in up to 90 credits, and students can receive up to 12 credits for basic police, corrections or probation and parole academy training.
What degree is best for law enforcement?
There are many sides to law enforcement and many directions you can take your career. Ultimately, the best law enforcement degree is the one that’s best for you.
In addition to police administration and operations, SNHU’s BS in Criminal Justice offers a choice of 5 other concentrations:
- Homeland security & counterterrorism
- Human services & advocacy
- Substance abuse
In other words, you have options when it comes to law enforcement. If you see yourself as a leader and like the camaraderie of police work, our police administration degree might be your best option. If you’re good with people and your heart pulls you toward family or community work, you might find your fit in human services and advocacy. If you’re tech savvy, you might excel at a career in counterterrorism.
We’re used to seeing police officers and detectives portrayed in the media. Seldom do we see corrections, human services or probation officers in TV series and movies. Dr. Jeff Czarnec, associate dean of SNHU’s criminal justice programs, calls the criminal justice field a “matrix of support,” noting “there are so many different areas (people) may qualify for.”
How difficult is a criminal justice degree?
That depends. Pursuing a college degree, whether online or on campus, can be challenging. But online classes are no more or less difficult than campus classes – just different. Plus, certain criminal justice college degrees might come more naturally to you, especially if you know your strengths (and weaknesses).
SNHU’s law enforcement degree is a 120-credit program consisting of 13 major courses and 4 concentration courses, plus general education courses and free elective credits. You’ll do a fair amount of research and writing in all of these courses. You may also need to take a statistics course to fulfill your general education requirements.
The good news: SNHU provides a ton of support, all included in the cost of your degree.
As an SNHU online student, you’ll have a dedicated academic advisor to help you stay on track every step of the way. If you’re a military student, you’ll get matched up with an advisor who’s served or affiliated with the military. And you’ll get one-on-one counseling from our full-service career development team.
You’ll learn from top-notch instructors who pride themselves on being there for our students. And if you need special help with writing or math, you can always turn to our online writing center or tutoring services.
What college degree is best for FBI?
The intrigue and excitement of working for “the bureau” appeals to many criminal justice students, and little wonder: the way the popular media depicts the FBI only adds to its allure.
Just bear in mind that while crime shows may promise excitement, real-life criminal justice is a different story. “It’s a vast field under the umbrella of service,” said Dr. Jeff Czarnec, associate dean of SNHU’s criminal justice programs. Its mission: to help people from all walks of life.
SNHU’s online homeland security and counterterrorism degree is tailor-made for FBI work. It explores topics like the nature and history of terrorism and how to respond to domestic and international terrorist threats. And it prepares you for employment in government roles such as border patrol agent and federal air marshal.
At the same time, our law enforcement degree can serve as a runway to FBI work. The program’s specialized focus on crime analysis, crisis intervention and police administration and operations sets you up for many facets of law enforcement, including the FBI.
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) as well as several other accrediting bodies.
Sources & Citations (1, 2)
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, on the internet, at:
- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm (viewed June 23, 2020)
- https://www.bls.gov/OOH/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm (viewed June 23, 2020)
- https://www.bls.gov/OOH/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm (viewed June 23, 2020)
- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/security-guards.htm (viewed June 23, 2020)
- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm (viewed June 23, 2020)
Cited projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.
2According to more than 9,200 SNHU online students in survey responses from the fall of 2019.