Grad School Hub - Most Affordable Online Programs-01
Professionals are clamoring for more online Master’s in Law Enforcement degrees to be made available. That’s because as America’s law enforcement departments and agencies evolve, the need for adept professionals in the field is becoming clear. Many agencies are facing a shortage of viable candidates for necessary positions and therefore there is a call for online graduate education in this field to become more available.

Many people speculate as to why an online degree in criminal justice is so attractive to professionals. Flexibility, affordability, and the fact that there are no residency requirements are just some of the many reasons working professionals prefer the online format. Employers are also finding that online degrees are just as high-quality as a traditional program, so the stigma is gone and professionals pursue these degrees with rigor.

This ranking was created using the National Center for Education Statistics and its College Navigator database.  From an initial pool of 40 schools, 10 were selected based on their affordable in-state graduate tuition rates. They are listed below in descending order.

Ranking Low-cost Law Enforcement Master’s

10. University of Houston Downtown

Houston, Texas

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Website

Tuition: $6,602

The University of Houston Downtown confers a Master’s in Law Enforcement online degree that will provide professionals with the leadership and critical thinking training they need to become leaders in the field. This program is delivered 100 percent online with asynchronous courses and no residency requirements. The MSCJ is designed to give students the chance to choose either a thesis or creative project for graduation. The curriculum is designed to give students maximum flexibility for electives and provides students with the chance to create their own specialization. Currently, the program offers students without an educational background in criminal justice the chance to take on the degree; they will be required to complete noncredit prerequisite courses prior to entering the program. Students can expect to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a project or thesis, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation, Advanced Criminology, and Administration in Criminal Justice.

9. Delta State University

Cleveland, Mississippi

Online Master of Science in Social Justice and Criminology (MSJC)

Website

Tuition: $6,298

Students at Delta State University will find a great online master’s in law enforcement degree. The Master of Science in Social Justice and Criminology is a degree designed to provide working professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to become administrators and executives in government agencies, law enforcement, and nonprofit organizations. This is a 100 percent online degree that offers asynchronous and synchronous courses through the virtual portal. Courses are taught by the same faculty that teaches the classes on campus. The curriculum also provides students with the chance to choose either a practicum or a thesis for their final project, subject to approval from the department. This degree requires 36 credit hours of coursework, a final project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Introduction to Advanced Criminology, Criminology and Forensics Investigation, and Law and Ethics in Criminal Justice.

8. Lamar University

Beaumont, Texas

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Website

Tuition: $6,048

Lamar University confers a law enforcement master’s online degree that is built with a practical focus. The MSCJ is conferred entirely online with asynchronous courses and there are no residency requirements. Students will find that the curriculum is designed to give them freedom in the curriculum, allowing them to create a cognate area of special interest. The degree also provides students with a solid understanding of how research and administration work in the field. Students who do not have a background in criminal justice may not be eligible for this program; they are advised to discuss their options with the graduate admissions office. Students will be expected to complete 30 credit hours of coursework, a thesis or final project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Criminal Justice System and Policy, Criminal Justice Leadership, and Quantitative Methods in Criminology.

7. Texas A&M International University

Laredo, Texas

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Website

Tuition: $5,784

Texas A&M International University confers an online Master’s in Law Enforcement that has a stated focus in theory, ethics, legal studies, and policy. All graduate students in this 100 percent online program will engage in an applied research project and be prepared to defend their research in front of a committee. All courses are delivered asynchronously and taught by the same working professionals who work on campus. This program has two tracks: thesis and special project. Students who opt for the non-thesis option will be required to take on more courses than those who choose to do a thesis. This degree requires 30 credit hours of coursework, a research project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Criminological Theory, Law and Criminal Justice, and Advanced Methods of Social Research.

6. University of Cumberlands

Williamsburg, Kentucky

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration

Website

Tuition: $5,670

The University of the Cumberlands offers an online Master’s in Law Enforcement that was designed by top industry experts to help working professionals advance their career. This is a 100 percent online program that delivers its courses asynchronously is the eight-week format. Students will be taught by renown experts who have extensive experience in the field and work to keep the curriculum updated with current issues and trends in the field. This program does require applied research and students will be expected to complete a research project prior to graduation. The MSJC also offers a variety of different specializations, including Investigator, Corrections, and Juvenile Justice. The degree requires 30 credit hours of coursework, a research project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Ethical Issues in Justice Administration, Criminological Theories in Justice Administration, and Law Enforcement Administration.

5. University of North Alabama

Florence, Alabama

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Website

Tuition: $5,598

Students at the University of North Alabama will find an exceptional online law enforcement master’s degree that is rigorous in scope and depth of knowledge. This is one of the few programs that require students to possess a master’s or higher degree in order for unconditional admission; conditional acceptance is possible for students who just have a bachelor’s degree. This is a 100 percent online program that offers asynchronous courses in the traditional 16-week format. The MSCJ also provides an option for a non-thesis graduate degree; students will be required to take a comprehensive written and oral exam in lieu of the thesis. Students can also expect to complete 30 credit hours of coursework and a research paper. Sample courses include Management and Policy in Criminal Justice Organizations, Contemporary Issues in Corrections, and Methods of Research in Criminal Justice.

4. University of North Texas

Denton, Texas

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice, Justice Policy and Administration

Website

Tuition: $5,450

Professionals interested in an online master’s in law enforcement will be happy with the 100 percent online MSCJ-JPA program from the University of North Texas. This program can be completed in just two years with full-time study and provides students with a comprehensive understanding of criminal justice, administration, and management. All courses, which are delivered asynchronously, are designed by full-time faculty who also are working professionals. This is a non-thesis program that focuses on research and policy throughout its curriculum and gives students flexibility in terms of their electives by providing them with the opportunity to go outside of the department to fulfill requirements. Students are expected to complete 36 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Advanced Criminological Theory, Seminar in Criminal Justice Administration, and Criminal Justice Policy.

3. Sam Houston State University

Huntsville, Texas

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Website

Tuition: $5,139

Sam Houston State University confers an amazing online master’s in law enforcement. This is a 100 percent online program that comes with the distinction of having the most productive researchers in the field of criminal justice. The school also offers $1,000 for brand-new, 100 percent online students, making it a little easier to afford the degree. Courses are taught asynchronously by working industry scholars and follow the traditional 16-week format. Students will not have to complete a thesis to graduate with this degree. Students who are accepted into the program who do not hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or an allied field may have to complete prerequisite courses prior to entering the program. Students will be required to complete 36 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Research Methods and Quantitative Analysis, Communication Theory and Administration of Justice, and Emergent Issues in Criminal Justice Leadership.

2. Missouri Southern State University

Joplin, Missouri

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Website

Tuition: $4,500

The Master of Science in Criminal Justice at Missouri Southern University is a unique program that allies the school with Southeast Missouri State University. Students who participate in this 100 percent online program will be able to enroll in courses taught at both schools; these courses are delivered asynchronously and taught by campus professors who are also working professionals. Students will find that the majority of the curriculum is focused on the overall view of the criminal justice field. This program offers different choices for the final project: thesis, internship, or additional coursework. This enables students to choose the right project for them. Students will be expected to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a final project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Overview of the Criminal Justice System, Criminal Justice Theory, and Research Methodology in Criminal Justice.

1. Angelo State University

San Angelo, Texas

Online Master of Science of Criminal Justice

Website

Tuition: $3,783

Angelo State University confers a cheap law enforcement master’s degree that focuses professional on preparing for a career in government law enforcement. The MSCJ is open to all students but preference is placed on working professionals with a bachelor’s degree in criminology. This is a 100 percent online program that can be completed in around two years. Courses are designed and taught by working professionals who also teach on campus. Both asynchronous and synchronous courses are delivered through the school’s online portal, which keeps to the traditional 16-week term schedule. Students will be expected to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a capstone seminar, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Criminal Justice Agency Ethics, Critical Analysis of Justice Administration, and Legal Aspects of the Criminal Justice System.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Career Options for an Online Master’s in Law Enforcement Degree?

With an online Master’s in Law Enforcement, professionals can work in just about any court, correctional system, police department, intelligence agency, or government department. These professionals are in high demand, especially from the government sector, and can find work as:

  • Police Officers
  • Foreign Intelligence Agents
  • Counterterrorism Analysts
  • State Trooper
  • Corrections Officer
  • Probation Officer
  • Chief of Police
  • Detective
  • Constable

Nearly every position in the government can be held by someone who has a degree in law enforcement. It is possible to find even more career options, but these are just a few. Professionals who wish to seek a specialized position are encouraged to research that position to see if there are any other requirements associated with that position.

How Much Can You Earn in this Field?

Law Enforcement professionals make anywhere between $29,000 to over $125,000 a year. The range takes into account working for the private or public sector, all career positions, the area of residence, and level of work experience.

Most professionals will begin their career by making anywhere between $45,000 to $55,000. There are several exceptions, including truancy officers, social workers, and probation officers. Women also make substantially less, often averaging $20,000 less than their male counterparts when education and work experience were equal.

It is possible for a professional to earn up to $125,000 a year, but this is after years of work experience and choosing a high-paying position. In the end, actual salaries are dictated by the employer and the nature of the work. Professionals interested in specific jobs and their salaries are encouraged to do more research.

What are the Various Disciplines of Law Enforcement?

Law enforcement is a field that requires a vast knowledge of psychology, criminology, sociology, law, government, and more. It can be incredibly complex and depending on a professional’s actual career path, can require specific knowledge in one or more of the following areas:

  • Cybercrime
  • Counterterrorism
  • Finance
  • Politics
  • Linguistics
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Forensic Science
  • Computer Science
  • Security

What Other Things Will Help a Professional Get a Job in Law Enforcement?

There are several things that professionals can do in order to prepare for a job in law enforcement besides earning a graduate degree. While these are all optional, they can be beneficial when searching for employment.

Many law enforcement positions require a professional to be proficient with a gun. If a professional wishes to be a police officer or an agent with the federal government, it may be useful to learn how to use a gun prior to entering the workforce. It is not necessary to become a marksman, but a few lessons with a trained instructor may make training easier once a job offer is in place.

Something else that is useful is to participate in volunteer work. While law enforcement, as a rule, does not accept volunteers, it may be beneficial to work with a nonprofit organization or a local agency that works with underserved populations or who may provide legal assistance to those going through the criminal justice systems. Community outreach is also a great choice because many law enforcement agencies are looking for people who have experience in working with different populations within their community.

Physical training or sports is also a good idea. Because many professionals work as law enforcement officers, whether as police officers or special agents, they are required to be in good physical condition. Staying fit or even joining a sports club can look good both on a resume and also help with training later on in a professional’s career.

Finally, many law enforcement officers have worked in the military before or serve as reserve or auxiliary officers. While this can be a time commitment, it looks great on a resume. It also demonstrates a commitment to serving the community and the country.

Is it Necessary to Take on an Internship While in School?

No, it is not necessary to take on an internship while in school. However, if it is available as an option in an online program and a professional has the time to participate, they should.

Internships are a great idea because, in the law enforcement field, work experience is necessary in order to be considered for employment. Unfortunately, experience in the field is hard to come by while in graduate school unless a student is already actively working in the field. It becomes especially difficult if a professional graduates with absolutely no internship or work experience to provide evidence they can do the job.

Internships are generally one semester long; some schools require a year-long, part-time internship. This provides students with the job experience they need. It can also lead to job offers from local and federal agencies; both the CIA and FBI offer full-time paid internships that often come with an exit interview. If the professional has done well, they may be invited to work for the agency.

Do All Law Enforcement Jobs Require Training After Accepting the Position?

Yes, all law enforcement agencies and departments require some sort of training after a professional has been hired. For some professionals, it could require attending an academy and field training and for others, it could be on-the-job training. It simply depends on the nature of the position.

For example, CIA and FBI agents, police officers and ATF officers all must attend their respective position’s training academy. This culminates with field training. Most of the time, a professional isn’t considered truly hired until they have successfully completed all training. Training times range from agency to agency and may include additional specialized training.

Another example would be that of a probation officer. Physical training is encouraged, but not required for this position. Most training happens on the job and under the supervision of a superior. On-the-job training can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to six months.

Ongoing training is normal for law enforcement professionals and may even be compulsory for many positions. It is important to remember that as threats emerge and technology advances, professionals will continuously need to train in order to be at their best.

Law enforcement is a big issue in America; with over 500 million residents and 2.3 billion acres of land to protect, it’s no wonder why the country strives to educate law enforcement officials. With so many different crimes to think about and various law enforcement agencies to manage, professionals who wish to advance in their career often go to graduate school. With an online Master’s in Law Enforcement, professionals will be prepared to take the next step in their career.

GSH Staff
July 2018

This concludes our ranking of the Top 10 Most Affordable Master’s in Law Enforcement Online for 2018.