How Education Can Improve Your Skills and Advance Your Career in Policing

Whether you are considering switching careers or starting your professional journey, a career in policing can be a very fulfilling job for many. Law enforcement jobs today look much different from those in the past. For a successful career in policing today, you will need a good plan, the right education, and the skill set. Fortunately, there are many degree programs that can equip you with everything you need to succeed.

The changing environment of policing 

The standard operating plans and procedures were relatively clear and simple to follow in the past. These simple solutions worked in most situations. Today, most law enforcement professionals are likely to encounter complex cases early in their careers. Newer threats occur frequently, and new technology has its own challenges, such as ensuring the privacy and safety of the public in data retention. Evidence-gathering practices are also quite different than they were in the past. An officer with quality education is an asset in law enforcement. With emergent and smart practices today, there are more correct solutions available to choose from. The right law enforcement officer can contribute to finding these new emergent solutions.

Policing is not black and white, and the value of having a formal degree is immense. It can help an officer learn how to look at different perspectives, think critically, and evaluate these perspectives in every situation. Training alone is not always adequate when the courts are often years behind the law enforcement agencies. Police academies can teach professionals what to do, but they may not always be able to tell them why. Education allows officers to make the right decisions for the agency, themselves, and civilians.

An increasing number of agencies today are realizing the importance of teaching real-world knowledge other than SOPs. This allows them to introduce critical decision-making skills to officers earlier in their profession. There is a huge range of applications for these skills in the daily job of an officer, including street decisions, strategic decisions, investment in new technology, and creating new SOPs. As officers continue to advance in their careers, advanced degrees will help them develop other skills, such as effective communication and developing budgets. Another crucial reason why it is important for law enforcement officers to pursue a degree is that it helps them gain a broad understanding of public safety and how law enforcement can contribute to it. Collaborating with other disciplines is an essential leadership skill in public safety.     

Getting a degree in the new policing landscape 

Degrees in policing are particularly important today so officers can demonstrate fairness and professionalism in all their interactions with the public. While all roles in law enforcement do not require a degree, recruits that have a degree can help differentiate themselves from other applicants applying for the same position. Many law officers obtain degrees in fields such as public administration, policing, criminology, and emergency management. Intelligence studies may also be valuable for those interested in complex investigations. Programs that can help prepare candidates to transition into emergency management or public safety leadership roles are also very valuable.  

A graduate degree provides students with the framework they need to understand how to apply knowledge in the real world. It helps prime officers become effective leaders at multiple levels such as public information officers, supervisors in specialized units, or fusion centers. A multidisciplinary approach is a norm today, so it is important for students to expect it during their careers.

Advantages of a policing degree 

When you pursue a degree like the Laurier online bachelor of policing from Wilfrid Laurier University, you can improve your chances of advancing your career in a competitive field. The degree can equip you with the leadership skills you need to serve your community more efficiently. There are many other benefits to pursuing a policing degree, as discussed below.

Increased understanding and awareness

Policing is a complex and detailed field. Advanced education in this field can improve your understanding and awareness of the job. A degree can provide you with advanced knowledge of concepts, theories, procedures, and laws so you can perform better on the job. When you understand concepts such as civil rights, and the law at local, state, and federal levels and about the current issues faced by police officers, you will be able to function better at your job.

It broadens your perspective 

A degree in policing will expose you to different points of view, broaden your perspectives, and open your mind. It can help you view ideas and problems from various angles. You may not always agree with the opinions and concepts you come across but being aware of these arguments and opinions can help you change the way you view your world. This can also improve the way you deal with people on a daily basis. It can help you become a better listener.

Better writing skills 

Law enforcement involves a lot of paperwork, and most officers do not like it. Law officers think their job is being out in the community serving the public, and they would rather not deal with complicated paperwork and reports. Paperwork is also quite detailed, and officers need to be focused and accurate because mistakes can impact an investigation. A degree can help you hone your writing skills since it is a major part of all programs. The better your writing skills are, the more efficiently you will be able to use these skills to handle the paperwork on the job.


In the competitive job market today, networking is crucial for success. This is true even for law enforcement officers. Whether you are interested in some information for a case, looking for a change in your career, or interested in a promotion, your chances will be better if you know people. A degree program will not only introduce you to a lot of people in similar fields but will also teach you valuable networking skills that you can rely on in your career.

Better chances of promotion 

If you are interested in advancing your career through a promotion, you want the right skills to help you stand out from the competition. The job market is incredibly competitive and tough today. When filling a leadership position, superiors will look for candidates with stellar job performance. They will also be more likely to choose a candidate that is serious about professional development and continuing education. The right degree provides the edge you need to stand apart from other candidates when the opportunity for promotion comes along.

Higher pay

One of the major reasons why many officers are interested in pursuing advanced degrees is because it allows them to get higher pay. While degrees may not always be necessary for all roles, having a degree improves your chances of getting higher pay compared to someone without a university degree. While this may not be universal, it does exist in agencies at municipal, local, state, and federal levels.

Preparing for a policing degree 

If you are serious about building a career in policing, you will need to take some time to think about what kind of degree will be right for you. Start by thinking about the problem you wish to solve through your career. Many agencies focus on policy and strategy, so they seek emerging and current leaders who can think collaboratively and critically. They want candidates who can solve problems in the community and are strong at the operational and tactical aspects of law enforcement. Think about the real-world issues you see in the community and which degree program can help you solve them. This will allow you to educate your community and agency about the problem and which steps you can take to solve it. These steps are crucial for those who want to be leaders who create policy and strategy for their agencies at federal, tribal, state, and local levels.

You can also seek out other groups that help facilitate strategic thinking, such as interagency groups, environmental protection groups, critical infrastructure, and fusion centers. Officers that can gather information, articulately talk about the issues they see, analyze data, and collaborate with other agencies to bring about change have higher chances of succeeding in this profession. This matters more than simply reviewing career highlights and awards. A degree that can teach you how to solve complex, larger issues is highly sought-after because this is more valuable to agencies. For officers, it is also essential to let go of current biases and be open to new challenges. Officers may have formed certain narratives through their experience and may have limited viewpoints. As a law enforcement officer, you must be able to put that aside to look at information, data, and evidence to change those narratives.

If you are advancing your career to a supervisory or specialized role or just starting your law enforcement career, getting a degree showcases your commitment. It shows agencies that you think of policing not as a trade but as a serious profession. When you apply for a profession or a new job, talk about your money management and budgeting skills, the technological skills you used to complete an online degree, and your time management skills through which you completed your research, exams, homework, and job. These personal skills have value in the professional sphere. A degree can help new corrections and law enforcement leaders to do better at their jobs.

Tips to make the most of your policing degree program 

Once you have decided to enroll for a degree and have selected a program, the next step in the process is to ensure that you are well-prepared for it. There will be many challenges along the way, but with hard work and the right mindset, you will be able to complete the degree program successfully. 

Here are a few important tips to consider to make the most of your degree program:

  • Have a clear plan in place before you start your degree program. Knowing your goals and what you wish to achieve through your education is essential. This will keep you motivated to work harder throughout your program. 
  • Put some time into research when selecting a college or university for your degree. Speak to representatives from the institution, look at the course curriculum and compare the pros and cons of different degree programs. Ask a lot of questions about the program’s demands and requirements, so you have a clear understanding of the program before you enroll in it. 
  • Every university is different, and each one will have something different to offer. Some can be more selective and may have strict program requirements. When you choose a school for your program, you should ensure that it aligns with your career and educational goals. 
  • Think about the money and time requirements involved in the degree program. Also, think about the program quality, the kind of programs the university is offering, if there is any research published by the faculty, and how often the curriculum for the program is updated. 
  • Get more information about any tuition reimbursement your agency may be offering and what are the terms and conditions. Many agencies may reimburse their officers if they pursue job-related degrees. Some may even reimburse degrees in subjects like international relations, mental health, and computer science.
  • If possible, find a mentor in your field. A good mentor can help you navigate the challenges in your career so you can learn the ropes on the job and while you are pursuing your education. 
  • Juggling a degree, a full-time job, and your personal life can be challenging. Think about your priorities. If needed, you may have to say no to some social obligations and hobbies while you complete your degree. Degree programs may be rigorous, and you will need the discipline to complete coursework on time. 
  • Be prepared to write and read a lot. You will need to put in the time to research, work on your communication skills and test your assumptions.