26 Jan Law Enforcement Career Advancement, online JD Degree | ALU
In the past, a career in law enforcement with state and local police forces generally only required a high school diploma or equivalent GED certification for employment, but now, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, many state and local departments require at least one or two years of college coursework in law enforcement, with some requiring an associate degree and others, particularly on the state police level, requiring a bachelor’s degree.
While many law enforcement officers do not pursue a juris doctor (JD) degree before entering a state or local police force, many do pursue that law degree once employed as an officer.
While a JD degree is not often required for advancement within state and local police departments, it can be a benefit when competing with other officers to move up in the ranks, or when seeking to make the jump to a detective role. Police officers who are also law school graduates can also make the jump to a department’s legal affairs department, and may find upward mobility into the office of the district or state’s attorney as an investigator.
While the law degree is helpful for those already employed as police officers or detectives at the state or local level when it comes to promotion and upward mobility, an advanced professional degree such as the juris doctor degree is nearly essential to obtain a job at the middle or higher levels of federal law enforcement. Many police officers seeking to make the move from state or local police departments into federal law enforcement, to work as a special agent in the FBI, ATF, DEA, or in Homeland Security, obtain a law school degree just for this purpose.
Take, for example, the information gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To be considered for employment as an FBI special agent, an applicant must be a college graduate (with a bachelor’s degree) and have at least three years of professional work experience, or must have an advanced degree and two years of professional work experience. Applicants must have one of the following:
- College major in accounting, electrical engineering, information technology, or computer science
- Be fluent in a foreign language
- Have a degree from an accredited law school
- Three years of related full-time work experience
Requirements vary throughout the federal law enforcement agencies, but having a law degree and work experience in law enforcement goes a long way toward landing one of these coveted jobs.