Career Information for a Degree in Police Science or Law Enforcement

Police science and law enforcement degree programs prepare students to work as police officers or federal agents. Some pursue careers as officers with specialized branches of the federal government. Read on to learn more about potential careers in police science and law enforcement.

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Career Options for Police Science or Law Enforcement Graduates

Universities and colleges across the country offer degree programs in police science and law enforcement. These programs teach students about criminal justice theory, research and investigation methods, the legal system and criminology. Students who major in police science and law enforcement may go on to become uniformed police officers, federal agents or officers of other federal departments.

Police Officer Career Overview

Many police officers work as patrol officers, responding to accidents and investigating assaults, burglaries or other crimes. They may also work in traffic, where they issue citations to individuals who break traffic laws. Police officers at the state and local levels typically have completed college coursework and, after obtaining employment, complete 12-14 weeks of training in police academies. Officers may complete specialized training that allows them to work in certain fields, like firearms instruction, crime scene analysis or K9 policing.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 632,000 police and sheriff's patrol officers were working in the U.S. in May 2012 ( These workers earned an annual median wage of $55,270 during that time.

Federal Agent Career Overview

Agents who work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) research and analyze various federal violations. They may, for example, investigate Internet crimes, organized crimes or incidents related to national security, according to the BLS. Duties include observing suspects, reviewing documents and administering wiretaps. FBI agents often work out of uniform or undercover. According to the FBI, aspiring agents must be between 23 and 37 years old and hold bachelor's degrees ( Candidates must also have three years of work experience and driver's licenses.

Other Federal Law Enforcement Careers

Law enforcement officers may also work for other sectors of the federal government, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Department of Homeland Security or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Qualifications for such law enforcement professionals vary, but generally include 4-year degrees, related experience and extensive formal training. Aspiring DEA agents, for instance, must be between 21 and 36 years old and hold at least bachelor's degrees, according to the DEA (

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