The field of law enforcement is evolving. Today, law enforcement professionals are facing challenges like never before, in areas ranging from cybercrime and corrections, to border protection and school safety. As the field advances, so do the needs of departments and organizations across the United States. They need professionals with a deep understanding of law enforcement and the all-around skills to succeed.
It’s no wonder why so many law enforcement agencies are seeking new hires with a college degree in hand. Generally speaking, law enforcement majors graduate with meaningful knowledge of the U.S. criminal justice system, as well as a great ability to solve problems effectively and rationally. Studies also suggest that college-educated officers tend to:
- Place a higher value on ethical behaviors
- Be less involved with use-of-force events, and more apt to resolve problems without force
- Get higher ratings from their supervisors
- Have strong communication skills, both verbally and in writing
- Have better technology and computer skills
If you are considering a career in law enforcement, pursuing higher education is an commendable first step. By choosing a program that aligns with your goals, you can leave well-positioned to launch a career protecting the greater good. But where do you begin? What options are available to you at the college-level? Below, Goodwin College outlines the three of the top law enforcement majors available today.
- Criminal Justice
Criminal justice is a broad, overarching field that involves preventing crime, controlling crime, and working with/delivering justice to those who have committed crimes. That said, this field of study can prepare you for a wide variety of careers – many that involve law enforcement, as well as those involving the investigation, jurisdiction, and rehabilitation of criminals.
There are varying levels of criminal justice education, including associate and bachelor’s degree programs. These programs will cover topics such as criminal law, criminology, investigative report writing, criminal procedures, and a variety of ethics courses. Usually, an internship – where you can gain experience alongside real-world professionals – is part of the criminal justice major. Students pursuing an associate degree in Criminal Justice at Goodwin, for example, have gotten the opportunity to work at emergency management departments, police departments, juvenile detention centers, courts, and correctional institutes throughout the state of Connecticut.
Upon receiving a criminal justice degree, graduates walk away with:
- An understanding of the function, the structure, and the development of the corrections and criminal justice systems in the United States
- Intimate knowledge of criminal law and procedure
- Empathy and awareness of a culturally diverse society, and its impact on criminal justice
- Understanding of the ethical and legal issues facing today’s criminal justice professionals, as well as modern challenges in policing and corrections in America
- The ability to assess and explain criminal behavior and delinquency
- Homeland Security
Homeland security is a field dedicated to protecting the United States (including its people and places) from outside threats – natural disasters, terrorism, and cyber security are just some of the few. Generally, these professionals work for the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS). They help to anticipate potential threats, prepare prevention or management plans, and actively respond in cases of need. Common homeland security careers include Customs and Border Protection, First Response, Criminal Investigation, and Natural Disaster Management (for an organization like FEMA).
Certain criminal justice schools will offer a dedicated degree in Homeland Security. This program covers a range of specialized subjects, such as emergency planning, domestic and international terrorism, and the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Similar to the above, homeland security majors often require an internship, where you will gain hands-on, on-the-job training.
With a homeland security degree under your belt, you will be well-equipped to:
- Demonstrate the knowledge and skills needed to make an impact in society and in your local community, as well as in larger homeland security operations
- Analyze and address the contemporary issues affecting national, state, and local security
- Assess the impact of Homeland Security operations, a the social, economic, and legislative level
- Reflect the ethical responsibilities of a homeland security professional
- Public Safety
Public safety is exactly what its name entails – protecting the public from harm. Public safety careers range from police officers to fire forces, parole officers to security agents. Ultimately as law enforcement professionals, their goal is prevent danger and to protect the well-being communities, citizens, and organizations.
Public safety is one of the most comprehensive and career-focused law enforcement majors today, in that it prepares you to take on a critically important role in society. Offered at the bachelor’s degree level, the Public Safety degree at Goodwin emphasizes topics such as risk assessment and reduction, policy analysis, evidence-based decision making, safety and security planning, and the multicultural components of society today. At Goodwin, students can also tailor their coursework based on their career goals, choosing between a homeland security or criminal justice specialization.
The public safety program allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree, prepare for law enforcement, and become specialized in the career path of their choosing. Each students walk away with:
- The ability to make informed, evidence-based decisions in any situation
- An understanding of ethical issues in the profession, and how to address them
- Analytical skills in public policy, research, as well as the ability to effectively collect data
- Knowledge of strategic planning, policy development, and policy analysis
- Proficiency in grant writing, policy analysis, and risk management
- Competency in research methods as they apply to public safety and security
- Proficiency in preparing and delivering presentations and written statements
- An understanding of the multicultural society and diverse workplace
- Awareness of the varied roles and responsibilities within the public safety profession
Choosing the right law enforcement major for you will depend on your career goals. Where do you see yourself within the field? Are you on the frontline of the field, protecting others, as a police officer? Are you safeguarding children in school? Are you working within the prisons system, helping monitor and rehabilitate criminals? Are you protecting the nation’s borders or waterways, or helping immigrants and their families become legal, U.S. citizens? Wherever your dream career in law enforcement may be, there is a degree that can help you get there.
Goodwin College is a leader in law enforcement education in Connecticut. To learn more about the different law enforcement degrees at Goodwin College, please do not hesitate to call 800-889-3282.
Goodwin College is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin College was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.