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The criminal justice system relies on a pool of competent workers, from police officers and detectives to correctional personnel and wardens. A master’s in law enforcement administration gives students the knowledge and skills to move beyond general duties and into leadership positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports an average annual wage of $66,030 for law enforcement workers. However, administrator service managers earn significantly more, averaging $106,470 in May 2023.

Students can complete their master’s in law enforcement administration in one to three years, depending on course requirements and whether they attend full-time or part-time. Tuition expenses at in-state public institutions averaged around $12,596 for the 2021-22 school year; private schooling costs were more than double at $28,017.

How to Choose a Master’s in Law Enforcement Administration Degree Program

Choose your area of study

Criminal justice lends itself to a wide range of vocations. Students should consider their goals and career interests when deciding on a degree program. Depending on terminology, schools may offer an MA (Master of Arts), MS (Master of Science), or MJA (Master of Justice Administration) in criminal justice, law enforcement administration, or criminology.

If you plan to stay within your current department, review leadership job descriptions to confirm education requirements. Students looking to switch career paths should explore job search sites so they can align their law enforcement administration degree to showcase the skills and knowledge employers demand.

Research schools and programs

Because master’s degree titles may not reflect the comprehensive study of a program, students should carefully review core objectives and curriculum. Another critical factor is flexibility. Check into the possibility of online versus in-person attendance or blended options. Some schools expect you to participate full-time, taking classes in a structured format, while others permit more leeway.

Finally, consider the institution’s reputation and engagement with your degree topic. For example, a college department that offers one or more bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice or law enforcement administration may have more opportunities for internship, networking, and research than one with only a single degree track.

Prepare for tests and applications

Law enforcement administration degree programs may have specific requirements that are not found in other advanced degrees. For instance, you may need prior experience in law enforcement or a related undergraduate degree. Most schools have a minimum GPA requirement, which can vary between 2.75 and 3.5 depending on the type of admission (regular or fast-track).

Online applications typically include a resume (make sure you emphasize previous law enforcement activities), letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a personal goal statement. Students who use English as a second language will need minimum language test scores. Allow plenty of time for the school to process your application and receive transcripts.

Select your program

If your institution offers more than one advanced degree in law enforcement, review the objectives, coursework, and faculty expertise. A significant advantage is the ability to customize your law enforcement administration study toward a particular focus area and the availability of relevant electives.

If your end goal is leadership, ensure the classes provide insight into staff supervision, goal setting, and departmental coordination. Alternatively, if you plan to pursue a career at a university or social justice organization, you may want more information on criminology and research techniques. Finally, consider the program’s structure, including the number of credit hours to completion and the type of final project, which could be a capstone, thesis, or internship.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

The direct cost of your law enforcement administration degree is based on credit hours multiplied by instructional rates. Other expenses such as transportation, fees, and books help make up the total. Even if you don’t need help to meet the final tally, always check with the school’s financial aid office for assistance opportunities.

While federal and state funding is available to help finance schooling, it’s in your best interests to keep loans to a minimum. Depending on your prior work history, you may have access to financial aid through the Fraternal Order of Police or the United States military. Memorial scholarships are another way to help fund your master’s in law enforcement administration.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Law Enforcement Administration Degree Programs

Best Master's in Law Enforcement Administration Degree Programs_2024 badge

Columbia College

University of New Haven

Wilmington University

Ferris State University

University of Mississippi

Saint Leo University

University of North Texas

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin

Eastern Kentucky University

Georgetown Law

University of Cincinnati

National University

University of Central Oklahoma

West Virginia State University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

We reviewed many master’s in law enforcement administration degree programs, including Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Justice Administration (MJA) programs. We also included online and on-campus programs to ensure a wide variety of options that prospective students could research.

All of the institutions listed are regionally accredited. Accreditation guarantees the quality of a program’s curriculum and that credits will be recognized by other institutions if you transfer.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100.

Our top picks for the best master’s in law enforcement administration degree program are affordable, respected, and flexible. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Law Enforcement Administration Degree Program?

Students prepare for career advancement through a comprehensive curriculum.  Introductory courses on the theory and development of law enforcement set the stage for an in-depth look at crime deterrent strategies. Students develop leadership skills through management classes, learning how to motivate and direct employees. Elective offerings in topics such as violence in relationships or gang behavior allow you to study specific interests.

Master’s in law enforcement administration degree programs can have a rotating term start or may only accept students in the fall. Either way, by attending full-time, you should complete your degree in around two years.

Depending on the curriculum, students may participate in a capstone project or an internship. Capstone projects include directed independent study of an approved topic. Internships offer real-world experience in a law enforcement setting, such as a police department, court system, or correctional facility.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in law enforcement administration degree program

  • Law Enforcement Theory. Considered an introductory course, this class gives students an overview of the history of crime and law enforcement. You’ll learn how significant events have shaped our justice system and review crime prevention tactics and punishment through the ages.
  • Criminology. This course provides a comprehensive overview of crime in the United States. Students will discuss types of crime and how they affect society individually and collectively. The distribution of crime among people groups and regions is also covered.
  • Ethics Within the Justice System. Through lectures and research, students explore the moral and ethical standards required for law enforcement administration personnel. Case studies provide a way to apply ethics to leadership roles.
  • Juvenile Justice Administration. This sub-specialty course provides a thorough look at the juvenile justice system. Topics include records sealing and expunging, disciplinary tools, protective strategies, and employee interaction with juvenile offenders.
  • Policing Policies. This essential course looks at the issues facing police employees today, from physical safety to civil lawsuits and administrative leave. Students will discuss best practices for the use of cameras, excess force, and race-related interactions.

Master’s in Law Enforcement Administration Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in law enforcement administration degree program?

First, review all the master’s program requirements, including a bachelor’s degree and minimum GPA, to see if you qualify. Next, arrange to have transcripts sent from your undergraduate college and request letters of recommendation. You’ll also need to write a statement of purpose that explores your interest in a law enforcement administration and your suitability for the program.

Finally, before completing your application, meet with an admissions counselor who is well-versed in your school’s master’s programs. They can provide insight into unique requirements you may have missed, preventing delays. You may need to take additional coursework in statistics or research as prerequisites to certain courses.

How much does a master's in law enforcement administration degree cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, advanced degree tuition costs vary widely among institutions. In 2021-22, the average tuition rate was $20,513. Public and for-profit private institutions had the lowest rates, at $12,596 and $14,161, respectively. Students attending a private nonprofit institution should expect to pay considerably more. These figures are based on attending in-state or online.

Besides the actual tuition dollars, students pursuing a master’s degree also have other expenses. Transportation costs can add up if you’re traveling to school every day. Also, if you must cut back on work to attend classes, consider how the reduced income will affect your budget.

How long does it take to earn a master's in law enforcement administration degree?

Students should plan on spending one to three years earning their master’s degree. Programs in law enforcement administration are varied, with most requiring 30 to 36 credit hours (a typical two-year full-time schedule). However, programs with additional concentrations can take longer. Consider allowing time for relevant elective coursework, which can enhance your resume.

If you plan to take classes at a slower pace, it can stretch out your program length. Online programs may give you more flexibility, letting you work and take more courses than you would if attending in person.

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