You don’t require a 4-year Bachelor’s degree to pursue a career in law enforcement; most police academies only have a 60 college credit hour requirement. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to have a degree; in fact, any degrees, diploma, or certification will strengthen your application.
The University of San Diego interviewed the Assistant Chief of the National City Police Department, Jose Tellez, to enquire about his team’s educational background.
In his 28 years of working in the department, Chief Tellez had taken on multiple roles. He worked as a public informational officer, homicide investigator, community sergeant, SWAT commander, and took on supervisory assignments in the department’s Patrol Division. Chief Tellez now teaches a community engagement class at the university as part of a Master’s program.
According to Chief Tellez, in order to secure a management position in any police department, you will need a college degree. He claimed that 15–20% of the law enforcement professionals in his department had obtained a master’s degree, while 30–40% had a Bachelor’s degree. He went on to say that educational expectations have changed in police departments over the last 20 years. Today, police officers are encouraged to pursue higher education. Some police departments even offer tuition reimbursements to officers who choose to complete their Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees, along with higher pay.
According to the National Police Foundation, about 30.2% of law enforcement professionals have 4-year college degrees, 50.1% have 2-year college degrees, and only 5% have graduate degrees, however, the demand for higher education is increasing.
So what is driving this shift in police departments across the country? Why do police academies now insist that officers pursue higher education?
Let’s take a look:
The Importance of Education for Police Officers
An Evolving Profession
There are several reasons why police departments prefer applicants with college degrees over those who only have high school diplomas. Firstly, the profession has evolved tremendously over the last twenty years. Officers are now expected to know a lot more intangibles related to their jobs.
For example, since the country continues to become more diverse, police officers need to be aware of cultural sensitivities. Having a background in intercultural communication—or even psychology—can make them better at their jobs.
Ongoing Professional Development
Even after being on the job for 20 years, police departments must provide ongoing educational support to their officers.
Officers are expected to attend various classes to ensure that they are up to speed. It doesn’t help the police department if criminals are one step ahead of officers because they are more skilled.
The growth of technology has had a major influence on law enforcement jobs. Technology is being used to carry out sophisticated crimes all over the world. So law enforcement officials need to be able to use advanced hardware and software to fight criminal activity.
College programs cover a lot of the technical areas that law enforcement officers deal with. Obtaining a formal college degree prepares you for the many challenges that come with the job.
Those who intend to have a lifelong career in the department and aspire to hold leadership positions will definitely need a Master’s degree.
Leaders in the police department are expected to have a strong background in the economy, technological advances, politics, and community relations.
How Can Law Enforcement Professionals Benefit From Higher Education?
Higher education is an investment for police officers. It opens up new opportunities for them that wouldn’t be available otherwise. It pushes them to think outside the box and try new leadership strategies.
Moreover, taking classes with people from other educational backgrounds allows you to learn from their experiences and look at situations from different perspectives.
Because there’s no framework on how to crack a case, police officers have to come up with strategies on their own, which is why sharing information and learning from others’ experiences is crucial.
Better Prepared to Work In a Team
Law enforcement officials develop kinship over time; if one agency struggles with a case, others will step in to help out.
Police departments are expected to collaborate; working a case involves problem-solving and bouncing ideas off one another—and that’s where college education comes in.
Most college courses will require students to work collaboratively with others; cops that have obtained college degrees are usually better prepared to work in a team.
College-educated cops happen to more well-rounded individuals who are better equipped to take on leadership roles. Colleges encourage students to think critically and embrace wider perspectives—something you don’t learn in a police academy.
In college, police officers will be pushed to find more information to solve problems and make important decisions. Formal higher education arms law enforcement professionals with all the tools they need to take on leadership roles and be better at their jobs.
Police officers who have obtained higher education tend to be better officers. They have a greater understanding of the community and all its issues, and are able to foster relationships with the people they serve.
With ongoing tensions between police departments and community members, it’s more important than ever before to bridge the gap between police officers and their communities.
Civil Services Exam
Although college degrees are still optional for police academies, all aspiring police officers will have to pass a civil service exam that tests their writing proficiency, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities.
Civil Service Success offers a 3-session preparatory course for those applying to police academies in Suffolk County and other parts of New York. Our instructors cover all parts of the Suffolk Country Police Exam, so you can kick-start your career in law enforcement.
Feel free to contact us at +1 631-218-0889 for more information.