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Law enforcement administrators are experts in organizational management as it applies to criminal justice and public law enforcement operations. The Bureau for Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that first-line supervisors of police and detectives earn an average salary of $99,410. Protective service occupations overall are expected to grow about 2% between 2021 and 2031. BLS also reports that approximately 72,600 new jobs will be created over the 2021-2031 decade.

Depending on the program, most online master’s degrees in law enforcement administration require between 31 and 36 credit hours for completion, which can take approximately 20 months to two years to complete for a full-time student. On average, tuition and fees for master’s degree programs in 2020-2021 were $12,394 for public schools and $26,621 for private schools.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Administration Program

Choose your area of study

A master’s degree in law enforcement administration can open up many opportunities. Students looking for advancement opportunities into management can move up the ranks in police departments, FBI offices, and state or local government offices. Students looking to teach can enter post-secondary education, combining their experience and skill to become criminal justice or law enforcement teachers.

There are various master’s degree programs that can prepare you for a law enforcement administration career. It’s essential to keep your long-term goals in mind as you explore what each degree offers. They are all regarded as equal in terms of professional education, but there are some differences in the concentration of courses. These degree programs typically fall into the following categories:

  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration
  • Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Administration
  • Master of Science in Homeland Security Administration
  • Master of Science in Law Enforcement
  • Master of Legal Studies

Research schools and programs

First, always research your potential school’s accreditation status. Online programs should be accredited and just as rigorous as on-campus programs. For accreditation information, the U.S. Department of Education lists accrediting agencies and what to look for in your program.

The best way to begin your research is by searching your school’s website and contacting an admissions counselor who can help answer any questions. Some questions to start with might include:

  • How are courses taught, and what are the technology requirements?
  • What is the course sequence?
  • Are mentorship opportunities and faculty support available to online students?
  • What is unique about your school and this program?

Prepare for tests and applications

Each school has different requirements in place for admissions, but ideally, you will have a bachelor’s degree in a related field and at least a 3.0-grade point average. However, some schools may make exceptions if you have fieldwork or other practical skills in the area of study.

In addition, some schools ask for standardized test scores, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).

Select your program

Before you apply to your chosen program(s), be sure you have answered the following questions:

  • Will you be attending part-time or full-time?
  • Are there any cost limitations (i.e., can you afford the program)?
  • Do you prefer synchronous or asynchronous classes?
  • Do you have access to the necessary technology?

Once you have answered these questions, contact your admissions counselor for each program and ask about the admissions process. They will walk you through all the materials needed and how to submit them.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Various factors will come into play as you determine how to pay for your degree. Your state residency can determine what financial aid programs are available and your program’s cost. In-state students often receive tuition discounts, but it’s important to note online programs might also include other fees, such as software and technology costs.

Most students begin with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which will let you know if you are eligible for affordable loans and federal assistance. Your financial aid advisor can also inform you of any payment plans, grants, or other tuition assistance programs that might be available.

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

Best Online Master's in Law Enforcement Administration Degree Programs

UCI School of Social Ecology

Sam Houston State University

Michigan State University

Arizona State University

University of New Haven

University of Cincinnati

University of Nebraska

University of the Cumberlands

University of Central Florida

University of San Diego

University of North Texas

DeSales University

Texas A&M International University

Loyola University New Orleans

Pace University

Colorado State University Global

Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies

Chaminade University of Honolulu

Bellevue University

Columbia College

Metropolitan State University

Florida State University

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Southern New Hampshire University

Eastern Kentucky University

CU Denver School of Public Affairs

Seton Hall University

Park University

Western Illinois University

Saint Joseph's University

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How We Rank Schools

For this list, we concentrated on finding the best graduate-level programs in law enforcement administration and related fields. These programs grant Master of Science (MS) degrees.

To guarantee accessibility for all types of students, we focused on programs delivered entirely or primarily online. Several programs are also offered on campus. In some instances, students can earn the degree through a combination of online and in-person classes.

We only included programs that regionally accredited institutions offer. This criterion confirms that the schools and their programs meet high-quality standards for postsecondary education. Credits and degrees earned from regionally accredited institutions are often the most widely recognized by other schools and employers.

After compiling our list, we reviewed each program based on its flexibility, faculty, cost, outcomes, and reputation. Then we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Administration Program?

A master’s in law enforcement administration combines business and budgeting with protective services and criminological theory. You can expect to delve deeper into public safety while also including administrative courses such as human resources and leadership within a law enforcement environment. Topics covered might include policy development, correctional agency administration, and the roles and duties of law enforcement agencies.

Most online programs to earn your master’s in law enforcement administration can be finished between 20 months and two years, or 31-36 credit hours. While online programs are more flexible, remember that graduate school will still command a significant time commitment as you work toward your educational goals.

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

  • Issues in Law Enforcement. Students examine the legal interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and how the legal system interprets the rights of government versus protecting civil liberties. Students will examine Supreme Court cases and reflect on past and current criminal justice policies.
  • Law Enforcement Management and Organizational Leadership. Students examine the various challenges involved in safeguarding personal rights and enforcing laws. This course looks at the evolution of law enforcement and how professional training and management should be designed.
  • Financial Resources Administration. Students consider budgeting, financial planning, and key budget formulas. This course teaches students to make financial decisions amid political influences and resource allocation.
  • Law Enforcement Ethics. In this course, students explore ethical issues faced by law enforcement agents and organizations. Students consider ethical guidelines and how to apply them situationally.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Administration?

Career outlook

Law enforcement administration is a critical field that plays a pivotal role in maintaining public safety and upholding the rule of law. Pursuing an online master’s degree in law enforcement administration can open doors to a range of rewarding career opportunities. Although the pay scale varies depending on the job responsibilities, location, and other factors, individuals with this degree can earn a robust salary. Police supervisors working in state government positions, for example, make a median salary of $105,450, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There will be limited growth in this field over the coming decade, but the BLS projects that there will still be roughly 409,500 openings each year.

Career paths

The career outlook for individuals with a master’s degree in law enforcement administration is promising, with ample opportunities for growth and advancement. This growth is attributed to the continued need for law enforcement agencies to adapt to evolving challenges, such as cybersecurity threats, terrorism, and community policing initiatives.

Here are some common career paths that are open to individuals with a master’s degree in law enforcement administration:

  • Sheriff — enforces county laws, manages jails, and provides court security
  • Public safety director — coordinates law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, and other related functions
  • Criminal justice professor — teaches courses related to criminal justice, law enforcement, and leadership
  • Internal affairs investigator — conducts investigations into allegations of misconduct or ethical violations within law enforcement agencies
  • Corporate security director — protects a company’s assets, employees, and facilities by implementing security measures and protocols

Police Chief

Earning Potential: $70,000-$130,000 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in law enforcement administration or a related field

A police chief is the highest-ranking officer in a police department and is responsible for the overall leadership and administration of law enforcement operations. Their primary role involves setting department policies, managing budgets, and making strategic decisions to maintain public safety. Police chiefs also engage with the community, addressing public concerns and ensuring officers adhere to ethical standards and legal regulations. They play a crucial role in implementing crime prevention strategies, overseeing investigations, and responding to emergencies. A police chief’s leadership is pivotal in fostering effective collaboration within the department and with other agencies to uphold the rule of law and protect communities.

Homeland Security Specialist

Earning Potential: $62,960-$160,520 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in law enforcement administration, homeland security, or a related field

A homeland security specialist safeguards the nation against a wide array of threats, including terrorism, natural disasters, and cybersecurity breaches. They work closely with government agencies, law enforcement, and emergency responders to develop and implement security measures and response plans. Homeland security specialists analyze intelligence, assess vulnerabilities, and coordinate emergency responses. They may oversee critical infrastructure protection, border security, and disaster preparedness efforts. Additionally, these professionals play a pivotal role in ensuring the nation’s resilience by evaluating and enhancing security protocols, conducting threat assessments, and fostering collaboration among various agencies to maintain safety and security.

Emergency Management Director

Earning Potential: $55,380-$119,290 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in law enforcement administration, emergency management, or a related field

​​An emergency management director coordinates and oversees disaster preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. They develop and implement emergency plans, conduct drills and exercises, and manage resources to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and other emergencies. These professionals collaborate with government agencies, first responders, and community organizations to ensure effective responses to incidents such as hurricanes, wildfires, and pandemics. Emergency management directors also communicate vital information to the public, providing guidance and assessing damage to facilitate recovery efforts. Their leadership and strategic planning play a crucial role in safeguarding lives and property during times of crisis.

Online Master’s Degree in Law Enforcement Administration Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s degree in law enforcement administration program?

Some students may settle on one school or submit applications to several schools to keep options open. Remember to budget for application fees and contact an admissions counselor or financial aid advisor, as some schools offer fee waivers.

In the meantime, gather all the necessary documents to apply, which will likely include the following:

  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation (usually 2-3)
  • GRE or GMAT scores
  • Curriculum vitae

Some schools will ask for an essay or personal statement as well, which allows students to highlight why they are the perfect candidate for the program.

How much does an online master’s degree in law enforcement administration cost?

An online master’s in law enforcement administration will cost between $325 and $700 per credit, which brings the total tuition to between $10,000 and $25,000. However, each program’s policies are different, and the nature of the program can affect the total cost. For instance, some programs are technology-heavy, which may mean an investment in specific software or computer specifications. Some programs may include labs, library fees, or out-of-class fieldwork, which must also be included in the tuition.

It’s essential to speak with a college representative who can help you figure out the most accurate estimate of costs. Researching the school’s catalog can also help to determine what additional fees, if any, are absent from the per-credit cost of the program.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s degree in law enforcement administration?

Both full-time and part-time students will be required to complete the same number of credit hours, typically between 31 and 36. While full-time students can expect to finish within one to two years, part-time students usually need between three and five years to complete a master’s program fully. However, some schools offer accelerated programs and accept transfer credits from relevant undergraduate work, which can speed up completion time.

Is an online master’s in law enforcement administration worth it?

Earning an online master’s degree in law enforcement administration is undoubtedly worth it for many individuals. The degree can lead to career advancement, leadership positions, and higher salaries within law enforcement agencies. A master’s-level sheriff or police chief, for example, can earn a median salary of $117,596, according to data from

Earning a master’s degree demonstrates your commitment to professional development and equips you with advanced skills for administrative roles.  Many online programs offer specialized courses that allow you to focus on areas of law enforcement that align with your career goals. Whether it’s community policing, cybersecurity, or emergency management, you can tailor your education to your interests.

Online programs often provide opportunities to connect with fellow students, faculty, and professionals in the field. Networking can lead to valuable contacts, mentorship, and job opportunities. Online programs offer the flexibility to balance your studies with work and personal commitments. This flexibility is especially beneficial for current law enforcement professionals seeking to advance their careers.

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