Better Education = Greater Advancement

Diploma and graduation cap with red ribbon

Dr. Stephenie Slahor

You can reach new heights in your law enforcement career if you plan carefully and add supplementary education to your abilities.

The traditional routes to a bachelor’s and master’s degree are now common. Many colleges and universities offer programs tailored specifically for the skills and procedures needed in law enforcement specializations and administration. Fortunately, most such programs are now offered on a schedule which can match your availability of time for courses and for completing a degree, rather than having to attend classes in person on a campus. With study done at home, you get more flexibility in scheduling your classes and your homework time.

Traditionally, a route of criminal justice and policing education might begin with an associate of arts (usually two years) degree, or a bachelor’s degree (usually three to four years). A stint at a police academy rounds out the basics for an officer.

For many, that’s where the formal education ends and the practical experiences begin. But, for those who want to advance on the pay scale, or step up to administrative work, or develop expertise in a specialization, a master’s degree is the next option in education. Most often, the curriculum focuses on administration or advanced specific studies such as computers, forensics, homeland security, disaster management, cybersecurity, or psychology.

Doctorate Degree

Beyond that degree is the powerful step of pursuing a doctorate in a general or specialized area of law enforcement. That degree poses major educational challenges unmatched by the way bachelor’s or master’s degree courses of study occur. Besides taking advanced level coursework, a doctorate also involves committee meetings between you and your faculty advisors; oral and written examinations; a new and creative project for the dissertation; and, of course, your time and money. Most doctoral programs take at least two years to complete and, sometimes, even longer. Is it worth the effort? Yes, but it takes personal discipline and patience to achieve a doctorate. It is a new “mindset” about the ways you will learn and the ways you’ll “learn how to learn.” Bottom line: Doctoral degrees are not easy. Should you want to teach at the university level, a doctorate will likely be a requirement in your qualifications. The same applies for helping establish your credence as a writer in police procedures and administration.   

College Certificates

While these are the established routes in higher education, a fairly recent addition to the traditional bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate has come in the form of certificates. These programs offer a very specific field of study in administration, analysis or special skills which can advance a career for the person completing such a program. Like many other professions, specializations are being added and developed in law enforcement and security methodologies.

Some certificate programs can be done as a standalone course of study, but, in other universities and colleges, credits earned from the courses taken in a certificate program can be applied to future degree programs, usually at master’s or doctorate levels.

A starting point for learning about certificate programs which might match your interests can be found at The Web site also provides tabs for bachelor, master and doctoral programs at a variety of universities in criminal justice, corrections, technology, administration, and specialty fields. 

The following are a few examples of certificate programs:

  • Fairleigh Dickinson University: Graduate certificates are available in a number of different areas; some are offered on campus, some are offered online – and some are both. To earn certificates, such as the Law and Public Safety Administration Graduate certificate or the Leadership Theory and Practice Graduate certificate, students complete a certain number of courses chosen from the master’s program course offerings. The credits earned can then be applied towards the master’s degree program. Other certificate programs include Homeland Security Administration and Homeland Security Leadership, among others. (
  • George Mason University: The post-bachelor’s certificate programs are offered in computer forensics and counterterrorism; and forensic science and technology.  (
  • George Washington University: Post-bachelor’s degree certificates are currently offered in computer forensics and counterterrorism; forensic science and technology; law enforcement intelligence analysis; and securities services administration. (
  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice – CUNY: The school offers certificate programs in computer forensics and counterterrorism; corrections administration; criminal justice and law enforcement administration; criminalistics and criminal science; financial forensics and fraud investigation; and law enforcement intelligence analysis. (
  • University of Virginia: Presently offering two certificate programs, the University has both one year and less than two year courses of study and post-bachelor’s degree programs in criminal justice and police studies and in criminal justice and safety studies. (

More detailed certificate programs can be found at Arizona State University (

The school’s certificate programs center on control and operation of police administration, management, program analysis, and policy development. The emphasis is on developing supervisory and administrative skills.

The Crime Analysis Certificate identifies and analyzes patterns and trends in crime through the collection of data and the using of crime mapping, statistics, management, and related techniques. The certificate is appropriate for analysis of crime data, intelligence and investigations, and in creating strategies in technology and research.

The Certificate in Domestic Violence and Evidence-Based Practice provides instruction in safe and effective intervention through policies and processes for safe and effective case management.    

Related is the Certificate in Homeland Security which includes such topics as domestic and international terrorism, global security, intelligence analysis, cybersecurity, and prevention.

The Certificate in Law Enforcement Administration is a comprehensive course of study in organization, program analysis, leadership, and policy development. 

For further information about degree and certificate programs, visit  

Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D., J.D., is a writer in the fields of law enforcement and security. She can be reached at                                             

Online Education:  Keeping it Manageable and Efficient

Dr. Stephenie Slahor

Online education is a viable and respected way to attend classes, complete courses and earn a degree without ever setting foot on the campus.

Off campus learning has made a quantum leap from the days of “correspondence school” when courses were taught through a series of mailed lessons, projects and answers. With the rise of the Internet and its associated technologies came such “innovations” as computers, laptops, tablets, E-mail, conference calls, and messaging.  Then came two-way videoconferencing, interactive TV, and now mainstay communications such as Zoom, Skype and smartphone apps.

Whether off campus education could equal being in an on campus program gave rise to some skepticism about “fly by night” or “instant degree” stigmas, but they were countered when it was found that the requirements and quality of teaching were being maintained by reputable colleges and universities, just as though the course was taking place on their campuses. Not only did that eliminate any qualms a student might have when learning online, it also helped assure employers and academia that online programs were reliably conducted according to high standards in content, student-to-teacher, and student-to-student interaction and progress.    

Not all faculty members like online programs and not all subject fields lend themselves to the online setting. But, most schools have adapted large portions of their curricula to the online format. Students are usually required to attend orientation meetings to “learn how to learn” online. 

If you are embarking on a course or degree program which will be taught online, be prepared for the school’s requirements in terms of the learning management mode of operation; student identity verification; student portals; course content and scheduling; textbook(s), references and reading lists; access for your computer/laptop/smartphone/ tablet devices; integration of supplemental library resources; course methods in lecture, readings, graded discussions, writing assignments, projects, quizzes, and examinations; and how your professors will track your participation, assignments, use of reference and resource materials, and in following and meeting the requirements of the course. 

Consider exactly which online programs are best suited for your career or personal goals. If you have a bachelor’s degree or want to work from that degree toward a future master’s, certificate or other graduate program, see if the college offers both undergraduate and graduate level courses because you may want the benefit of continuity with the professors and your program. Undergraduate courses are your foundation and most students will share nearly similar learning experiences in those courses, but, at the graduate level, the advanced study will be more specific to a particular area such as forensics, technology, administrative leadership, etc. If you aren’t sure about the available programs and degrees, use the school’s E-mail links and online chats for the answers you need. 

If you need to brush up your knowledge of computer and Internet skills, get some tutoring from a community center, library or computer savvy friends or businesses which can help. Know how to type; how to manage files (name, save, copy, paste, spellcheck, save in a different format, backup, delete, etc.); how to use software (Word®, PowerPoint®, etc.); how to E-mail and chat (discussion boards, messengers, etc.); and how to use search engines and library databases.

You’ll need a high-speed Internet connection and a recent model of computer, laptop or tablet and software. Your college or university may be able to evaluate if your device and technical requirements are capable and it may even have technical support 24/7.

For Zoom or similar “meetings,” be well acquainted with the process of joining a meeting, and how to share your documents or Dropbox or Google Drive files. Be sure you have yourself muted unless you’re actually speaking. Everyone will hear the dog bark, the doorbell ring, or the kids shout if you’re not muted!  For your background, a simple screen, blanket or a few yards of fabric will look better behind you instead of that window or a lot of clutter. Determine whether you must appear on camera or not. Your professor may want to see you. When joining a meeting, be sure to test your audio every time. And, be aware that your professor just might be using Zoom’s “attention tracking” capability in which you can be monitored to determine if you’re doing something other than paying attention such as answering E-mails or text messages or being away from your desk!    

Beyond the technical side, be sure your personal reading and writing skills are strong. Most of what you will learn in an online format will be written and text-based communications, besides the professor led lectures and discussions. Have the self-discipline to stay on track with your attendance, coursework, and homework. Most three credit hour courses need about ten to twelve hours or more per week of study. Budget your time well because your motivation and learning are up to you alone. Follow through with every assignment, discussion, messaging interaction with the professor and/or students, and the full substance of the course.