If you’re a veteran looking for a rewarding civilian job, the transition to a law enforcement career is a very natural fit. Most veterans like you have the experience needed for law enforcement like working with firearms, being physically fit, and the ability to work on a diverse team.
Even though the skills you receive as part of military training may transfer to some aspects of the college program, you’ll still need to get a degree in the law enforcement field to qualify for most careers. Those careers include jobs as police officers, federal law enforcement agents, criminologists, and forensic scientists. So, let’s take a look at what paths you can choose to get a degree in the law enforcement field, what help is out there to assist you in financing higher education, and what jobs are the best fit for veterans like you.
Pathways to a Degree in the Law Enforcement Field
Nearly 60,000 students get their bachelor’s degree in law enforcement every year, and a degree, post-military, can secure your place in this dynamic and rewarding field. Good News! If you are working in a law enforcement-type job while in the military, you may already have earned some college credits that you can apply towards your degree. Many branches of the military have degree-bearing institutions (like the Community College of the Air Force) where you can earn your associate’s degree.
Where can I go to get help in getting my Law Enforcement degree?
Your GI Bill: All branches of the service offer active-duty tuition assistance to help you on your path to a law enforcement degree, plus The Forever GI Bill and the Post-911 GI Bill are there for you after you get out.
Other Tuition Help: There are also many federal and state scholarships (such as FAFSA) out there to help you with financial assistance to help you pursue your career in law enforcement. There are also other forms of Veterans Affairs benefits and military discounts offered by colleges and universities to help you on your way to earning your degree in law enforcement.
How do I know if a school is veteran friendly?
If you are interested in a law enforcement degree, you’ll want to find military-friendly schools that will support you all the way to graduation. So, what makes a school military friendly?
They should have:
- signed the VA Principles of Excellence.
- a chapter of the Student Veterans of America.
- a full-time veteran’s counselor.
- campus clubs or associations for veterans.
- accept Credit for Military Experience and CLEP Exams.
Best Law Enforcement Degree Programs For Veterans?
A degree in criminal justice or related major is essential to success in the law enforcement field. Without one, you’re not likely to find your dream job. A degree can open many doors to careers as a police officer, FBI investigator, or forensic scientist. Not all jobs require a bachelor’s degree to start, but as your career progresses, a four-year degree and beyond will open up the best jobs in law enforcement.
There are many majors in Criminal Justice to choose from based on your interests and skills. To help you decide the best path to a law enforcement degree for you, we have compiled a list of degrees in the law enforcement field that are the best options for veterans.
A degree in Criminal Justice can take you on a variety of career paths. The basic program is interdisciplinary, and in addition to criminology, you’ll learn all about psychology, sociology, law, and public administration. Many graduates go into law enforcement after graduation and become police officers, private investigators, and probation officers. A Criminal Justice degree also gives you an education in law, legal jurisprudence, and justice for both criminals and victims, and many graduates use this degree to become paralegals or lawyers.
If you major in Forensic Science, you’ll be responsible for collecting and analyzing the physical evidence of crimes and crime scenes. You’ll also work with mobile tools and equipment to help law enforcement agencies in solving crimes.
With a major in Corrections, you’ll serve as a Correction Officer, primarily in jails and prisons. You’ll be charged with overseeing inmate activities and privileges, keeping order, enforcing rules, and reporting on inmate conduct.
With a degree in Forensic Psychology, you will be qualified to work in many jobs in law enforcement and social services. The focus of your degree will be on studying the relationship between human psychology and the law. This field focuses on the criminals themselves. As a forensic psychologist, you’ll try to figure out why certain types of people commit crimes, what type of person committed a crime, and how to prevent people from committing crimes.
Majoring in Criminology, you’ll focus on the nature and causes of crime, criminal behavior, and the criminal justice system. A Criminology degree prepares you for an exciting career as a crime investigator/analyst, medical investigation officer, private detective, or crime researcher.
Top Law Enforcement Job Opportunities for Veterans
Veterans like you have an advantage over other applicants looking for jobs in law enforcement. Because of your prior military training, you are equipped with the skills that potential employers are looking for. Once you are equipped with your law enforcement degree, you are in a great position to land that perfect job.
Here are the top law enforcement job opportunities for veterans:
Police Patrol Officer
This is one of the most popular jobs in the criminal justice field. Police patrol officers are always in high demand. As the population of cities increase and more cars are on the road, the demand for police offers increases. The average salary for police patrol officers is around $58,000 per year.
Also called criminal investigators, detectives investigate specific crimes like homicide, burglary, and domestic violence and usually undercover conducting surveillance on individuals and places. Many police departments seek individuals who have completed college courses. The average salary for police detectives is $63,000 per year.
FBI agents investigate criminal activity that affects U.S. national security. They may investigate bank robberies, organized crime, terrorism, and drug trafficking. Many FBI agents must have some previous experience in the law enforcement field usually have a degree in criminal justice. FBI agents earn an average salary of $65,500 per year.
Crime Scene Analyst
Crime scene analysts look into crime scenes to evaluate physical evidence. They collect various types of evidence, map out crime scenes, test for fingerprints, and send evidence to labs for further analysis. Crime scene analysts also may work in crime labs conducting physical and chemical. You probably will need at least a bachelor’s degree in forensic science to work in this field. The average salary for crime scene analysts is around $47,000.
Cyber Security Analyst
Cyber security analysts work to protect websites and virtual networks from threats, like viruses, malware, and hacking. They identify security weaknesses and carry out efforts to decrease these threats. Many analysts have a degree in cyber security or a related field. This is one of the fastest-growing fields in law enforcement. The average yearly pay for cyber security analysts is $76,000 per year.
A degree in the law enforcement field after your time in the military can lead to an exciting and fulfilling career, and there are many paths to making that happen. Using your veteran’s benefits, state/local financial aid, and the help of military-friendly colleges and universities, a degree in the law enforcement field is definitely within your grasp.
Jim spent 22 years on active duty, climbing the ranks from Airman Basic to a decorated Air Force Major. Stationed all over the world, he held many high-level posts, including Chief of Foreign Military Sales at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Jim earned his Ph.D. through the Montgomery Era GI Bill and spent 13 years teaching African Studies in Pennsylvania. Jim is also an award-winning travel writer.