How Earning a Degree Can Make You a Better Police Officer

The Benefits of College Education in Law Enforcement

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There are numerous benefits to earning a college education when looking for or working in a criminal justice or criminology career. For starters, with the right degree path and proper preparation, you can open the door to expanded opportunities right from the start of your job search. And while there are plenty of criminal justice and criminology careers that don't require you to have a degree, the unique experience that a college education provides can impart valuable skills that will serve you well throughout your career.

Perhaps the most striking benefit of earning your degree, though, is the fact that there is research suggesting that a higher education can actually make you a better worker all around. From fewer complaints to increased performance and productivity, earning your degree can mean the difference between an average employee and a rising star, just by virtue of how well you are able to perform your job.

Working Smarter, Not Harder

Don’t misunderstand me here; hard work is essential to the day-to-day job of a police officer. A strong work ethic is vital to successful policing strategies. When it comes to policing, though, there are tasks that are best avoided if at all possible. Specifically, uses of force by police should always be a last resort as opposed to a first choice.

The Police Association for College Education (PACE) cites a plethora of research through the years that suggests officers with a higher level of education are less likely to use force during a citizen encounter than those with only a high school education or GED.

It appears that this correlation between reduced uses of control and education comes from the fact that higher-educated officers are better equipped to identify multiple solutions to problems and communicate more effectively during their interactions.

Less Injury, More Productivity

The fewer times an officer has to use force, the less likely she is to get hurt while on duty.

According to PACE, college –educated officers are less likely to receive on the on-the-job injuries. For the department, this means reduced use of sick leave that would otherwise take valuable manpower away from a shift. For you as an officer, this means more opportunities to be productive, help your squad and your community, and advanced your career.

Curbing Complaints

It appears that not only do college-educated officers use force less often, they are also less likely to receive citizen complaints. With the increased communication and problem-solving skills that higher education can provide come the ability to effectively deal with citizens.

How you handle yourself when you interact with the subjects you encounter on the job is paramount to how you and your department are perceived, and the fewer complaints you receive while remaining a productive officer, the more effective you will be and the more respect you will earn from your peers and your chain of command.

The Write Stuff

A huge component of a law enforcement career is report writing. In fact, an officer’s writing skills can make or break his career, and definitely impacts the outcome of the cases he makes. A poorly written report will very possibly lead to a failure to get a conviction on an arrest.

In some cases, the prosecutor may decline to pursue charges altogether.

On the other hand, a well-written, coherent and logical report or other communication projects an image of competence and professionalism. A college education goes a long way toward developing your writing skills, and officers with college degrees have been shown to be better report writers.

Increasing Your Opportunities

Though a law enforcement career is one of the many criminal justice jobs that don’t typically require a college degree, the benefits to earning your degree are almost too numerous to list. Practically speaking, though, earning your degree can help make you a more attractive candidate and a better, smarter and more productive employee. Over the course of your career, that could pay dividends when it comes to opportunities for advancement and promotion.

It’s never too late to earn your degree, so if the resources are available for you to go to college, take full advantage of the chance to enhance your career.