Every police officer takes on a leadership role when they start working. They could be giving a newer officer training on the job, managing the aftermath of a dangerous road accident, or making a public presentation. However, officers who are eager to develop their careers in terms of changing departments or gaining a promotion may need to expand their current skills. A bachelor of policing degree is a great springboard for furthering officers’ careers, particularly those who hope to progress on to a more specialist position, change direction or earn a higher rank.
Expanding career options
Policing degrees are designed to offer an excellent range of general knowledge, so they remain useful even if a student’s current career aspirations change. For serving and retired officers with busy lives, the online bachelor of policing at Wilfrid Laurier University is an excellent option. The subjects that are taught and the resources that are provided inspire students to refine and enhance their skills. Upon graduation, they will be equipped for a leadership role in the modern world of law enforcement.
Career development allows officers to explore new roles
Once qualified, a policing graduate can seek out promotion from within their department or choose to relocate to a larger agency. Each department has a different number of promotional opportunities to offer per year. Naturally, the larger the police agency, the more openings tend to appear, while smaller agencies have fewer chances for advancement. However, officers who prefer to work in a smaller department and can demonstrate a continued level of excellence will eventually be rewarded as older high-ranking officers retire.
Whatever the size of a department or agency, promotions that come from within the organization are beneficial to officers and the force as a whole. In addition to recognizing great work, they also enable law enforcement to maintain a good level of operational continuity. People moving through the ranks have had experience in other roles and now understand the challenges faced by those they are leading.
Upskilling keeps the job fresh
By seeking promotions, officers have the chance to add new skills to their repertoire and take on additional duties. Expanding the role of older officers means the entire organization can benefit from their insight and experience. New opportunities can also prevent long-serving officers from becoming tired of their job and could even renew their sense of commitment to law enforcement.
Why do police officers choose to move through the ranks?
Not every serving officer is hoping to advance into a leadership position, but some set career goals at an early stage. Whether it’s because they want to have more career paths open to them, earn a higher salary, or they’ve been encouraged to be ambitious by their department, a degree is a sensible place to start.
The value of a degree
Although entry-level police roles do not require a bachelor’s degree, they are almost always needed for positions in advanced law enforcement. For example, federal-level roles in immigration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or the FBI are usually filled by graduates with law enforcement experience.
Even in areas of policing where degrees are optional, police recruiters are more likely to favor applicants with a high level of education, such as a degree. Therefore, even officers who are not sure where their policing career could take them but hope to have the potential for a leadership role will increase their chances of success by earning a policing degree.
Where could a bachelor of policing degree lead?
Depending on their personal preferences, a law enforcement qualification can lead graduates into a wide range of careers. Even if the roles they eventually hope to obtain require a probationary period, they will be in the ideal position to rise through the ranks and excel in their specialist area of choice. Career opportunities can be sought in local, county, state, or federal law enforcement.
Local law enforcement roles
Uniformed officers working at a local level take responsibility for a specific area, which could be a town or an entire city. Some enforce the law by investigating crimes such as homicide, burglary, and car theft. In addition to monitoring suspicious activity, they chase and arrest potential suspects. Some manage a set area or facility, while others work closely with the District Attorney’s office.
School Resource Officer
A school resource officer supervises other school police officers to maintain a safe environment for children and staff in an educational setting. They are a point of contact for the school’s security team, teachers, and administrators. In addition to presenting assemblies to students on a range of topics, they get involved with student and staff relationships and work to prevent conflicts.
Local detectives follow up on robberies, homicides, and narcotic crimes. When required, they make arrests, or they may choose to call in a different agency if the situation becomes too dangerous. They may also be assigned to cases involving juvenile crime, traffic accidents, and internal affairs.
A good standard of education is usually a stipulation, as detectives often plan their own actions and set priorities. Detectives work to get justice for grieving families and listen to the victims of crime, which means it can be a demanding role.
Transit Police Investigator
Investigators in this division solve crimes that have taken place on the transit services they cover. They carry out investigations on the scene and follow up on leads after the fact. Some are experts in crash reconstruction and work with a team to understand how transit accidents were caused.
District Attorney’s Office Investigators
Investigators who work under the district attorney’s office look into misdemeanor offenses such as trespassing, shoplifting, and vandalism. They also investigate more serious felony crimes that could result in up to a year of incarceration. The tasks they take on are assigned to them by the district attorney. In collaboration with this office, they evaluate individual cases and prepare them for court.
Airport Police Special Response Officer
As part of a team, special response officers are the first to deliver a tactical response in serious situations. These could be hostage situations, hijackings, or high-risk warrant executions. They are highly trained and competent in the use of specialist equipment. They frequently aid federal law enforcement agents and may be assigned to high-risk security details.
County law enforcement roles
At the county level, deputy sheriffs, sheriffs, and many other law enforcement officers take responsibility. The most senior position, the sheriff, is comparable to the role of a local police chief. In county courts, deputy sheriffs will be called on to provide security, although they will also have a managerial role to maintain in their department.
A sheriff is the highest-ranking county law enforcement officer. They are also the “oldest continuing, non-military, law enforcement entity in history”, according to the National Sheriffs Association. They are elected by the public, and candidates who have a degree can certainly find themselves looked upon favorably. They will police the local area, keep the county jail in good shape, and serve warrants as required. Some sheriffs act on court orders to evict residents or seize property.
Chief Deputy Sheriff
Chief Deputy Sheriff is the highest appointed rank, and they are chosen by a sheriff. They oversee the operations of their department by supervising the team and its work. Part of this can include improving the department by drafting long and short-term goals. Their role also includes recommending new ordinances to local authorities, reviewing work processes, and disciplining staff.
In a management position that is one of the highest in a county department, majors supervise many divisions and ensure police work is carried out appropriately. In busy departments, a sheriff may appoint more than one major if there are a lot of divisions to cover. These could include child protection, investigations, and transportation.
State law enforcement roles
Sometimes referred to as state troopers, state police officers patrol the highways of their local area and enforce vehicular law. Higher-ranking troopers are asked to assist law enforcement professionals from other agencies when required. They also have a range of duties in their local courthouse, which could be in administrative roles or as investigators.
Trooper First Class
The role of Trooper First Class is varied. They patrol highways and enforce criminal and motor law, but they also investigate accidents and prepare reports for other agencies. They can interview witnesses or suspects and collect evidence to support a case. If a Trooper First Class visits a station that they feel is violating procedures, they are authorized to suspend its operation.
Master Troopers patrol the highways that fall under their jurisdiction, and they also become involved in general law enforcement, traffic control, and administration. They can supervise other troopers and are often assigned work that is challenging or sensitive. Along with a high standard of education, new Master Troopers tend to have a year of experience in police work.
Like other experienced state police officers, Senior Troopers perform a range of tasks. These include law enforcement, crime prevention, and highway patrols. They have full police power and will take command when approaching a serious event. Seniors must have an excellent knowledge of state law and police procedures.
Federal law enforcement roles
Roles in the federal police force and federal special agencies represent the highest levels of law enforcement. Federal departments can enforce the law in any part of the nation, dealing with matters of national security, official secrets, and cybercrimes. Their reach also extends to the National Park Service and the Department of Justice. Most positions in federal agencies are given to graduates with plenty of relevant work experience.
Working for the FBI, an intelligence analyst tends to be a talented IT expert who possesses excellent communication and critical thinking skills. Once information has been gathered by local, national, or global FBI agents, they dissect it to identify any potential threats. To report their work, IAs prepare complex briefs that will be sent to senior members of various law enforcement agencies, as well as their FBI colleagues.
Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations
The key purpose of an FBI agent is to safeguard national security. They carry out their work in several ways. On a day-to-day basis, they could be involved in surveillance missions, gathering evidence, or analyzing data. As the work is at such a high level, recruits need to have excellent problem-solving skills, along with the ability to think critically. When recruiting special agents, only graduates with at least two years of experience are considered by the FBI.
Agent in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
ATF agents concentrate on illegal explosives, firearms, alcohol tracking, and tobacco smuggling. This is a great job for anyone who likes to be on the road while they work because the ATF has field offices across the country and abroad. There is an element of personal risk involved in the job, and the daily schedule is irregular.
Deputy U.S. Marshal
Working for the U.S. Marshals Service, deputies arrest and transfer federal prisoners. During high-profile cases, they also protect federal judges. In the same vein, they develop and manage Witness Security Programs, so anyone who agrees to cooperate with the government can do so safely. Working throughout the country, they work in one duty station for at least three years when first taking on the role.
Gaining the advantage with a bachelor’s in policing
A bachelor’s degree in policing can pave the way for a more successful career, and there are many more reasons to enroll in a degree program. Graduates gain the chance to grow as a professional and as a person. Leadership roles deliver a high annual salary, which improves a person’s quality of life and that of their family. Moreover, in a competitive market, qualifications can provide job security and a wider range of options. It may seem like a huge commitment, but a degree can place the greatest professional opportunities within a person’s reach and set them up for a more fulfilling career.