When you hear the phrase "law enforcement," chances are you envision uniformed police officers hauling dangerous criminals off the streets. While it is true that this describes one large area of law enforcement, the field is really much more diverse. In addition to becoming a police officer, a person with law enforcement training could become a detective, a correctional officer or even a college professor. Still, many law enforcement school grads begin their careers as police officers serving a local, state or federal agency, then advance through the ranks via merit and experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the vast majority--about 79 percent--of police officers in 2008 were employed by local governments and another 11 percent worked at the state level.
How to launch a law enforcement career
The BLS reports that law enforcement officers who work at the local or state level can often get by with a high school diploma and completion of an agency-sponsored law enforcement program or academy rather than with a bachelor's-level law enforcement degree. However, a significant number of applicants for entry-level police jobs are college graduates. Those who wish to work for federal agencies or advance to detective positions would benefit from formal training in criminal justice or police science training through a law enforcement program. Those who want to teach criminal justice or law enforcement at the collegiate level should consider a master's degree. Common law enforcement courses include constitutional and civil law, evidence collection and criminology.