MS in Law Enforcement & Public Safety Leadership

Best Online Criminal Justice Program 2024 2023 Ranking by US News & World Report 2022 Ranking by US News & World Report Officer Tested & Field Rated

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Recognized as one of America's Best Online Programs by US News & World Report

At a Glance

A leadership degree designed specifically for law enforcement, the MS-LEPSL program is ranked by US News & World Report as one of the best online criminal justice master's degrees in the country.

20 Months
31 Units
$679 with discount
September 3
August 2

Transfer Credit for LE Training

Get 6-12 units of transfer credit from FBI National Academy, PERF's SMIP, FBI-LEEDA's Trilogy, Sherman Block SLI or Command College.

100% Online

Trust the program that is endorsed by law enforcement & highly rated by students

Ranked as One of the Best Online Criminal Justice Master’s Degrees in the Country

Prepare yourself for the leadership opportunities that lie ahead with the MS in Law Enforcement & Public Safety Leadership (MS-LEPSL). Designed and taught by experienced criminal justice and military leaders, the MS-LEPSL program will help you develop the skills you need to lead your department effectively and with purpose.

Recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best online criminal justice master’s degrees in the country, the curriculum in the MS-LEPSL program focuses on the real issues your agency faces every day. Develop practical skills in communication, technology, change management, community engagement and data fluency – all in a flexible online format that adapts to your schedule.


Number of law enforcement professionals who have enrolled in the LEPSL program


Average number of years LEPSL students have worked in law enforcement


Percentage of law enforcement CEOs who have earned at least a master’s degree


Who is this program for?

The prestigious MS in Law Enforcement & Public Safety Leadership program is ideal for law enforcement professionals working in command positions as well as those who aspire to leadership roles. It is designed to sharpen your leadership capabilities to make you a more effective leader and prepare you for promotional opportunities. Law enforcement professionals who enroll in the MS-LEPSL program generally fit into one of these categories:

  • Command staff and law enforcement executives seeking to become even more effective leaders
  • Mid-career law enforcement professionals on a trajectory for advancement
  • Early-career officers who aspire to leadership and see earning their master’s degree as a step toward that goal
  • Late career professionals nearing retirement who want to build up their resume to expand their second-career opportunities

The online MS-LEPSL program is designed to be an invaluable professional growth experience for those currently working in agencies from across the country, including:

  • Municipal police
  • Sheriff’s offices
  • State agencies
  • Campus public safety
  • Federal agencies, including CBP, DHS, US Marshals and others
  • Tribal agencies
  • Probation offices
  • DA investigators
  • Tribal police
  • Highway patrol


What a fantastic program and instructors. I learned a lot about leadership and shared it all in the academy with the newly hired deputy sheriffs. This program is second to none, and very the courses/assignments made me think outside of the box.

I have to say in my 24-year law enforcement career, this experience ranks up there with the FBI National Academy as one of the most rewarding and insightful ones of my career and life. The program learning outcomes of LEPSL have equipped me with the tools needed to advance, not only in my career but also in my personal life. The program critically addresses the challenges arguably facing law enforcement in modern times, it covers the inward examination of the organizations, and conflict resolution to name a few. It is highly recommended for ALL law enforcement leaders, both present and aspiring ones, who care about the profession and are committed to the improvements needed as we face today’s challenges, and diligently focus on rebuilding relationships and trust with the public we swore to protect!

I have been involved with two Master Level programs in the past five years. This program is by far the best program I have seen. The Professors and staff truly care about you and your learning experience. If you are looking for a great program look no further, you’ve found the best.

For those who say they don’t have the time or ability to continue their education, I wholeheartedly disagree with them. The LEPSL degree is not only manageable, but its applicability to real-world career dynamics has also already paid me dividends! The interaction with top-notch professors and students alike adds to the value this program delivers. I am so glad I took the leap to pursue my master’s degree and believe the same is true for anyone that puts forth the effort!

There is a huge focus on relevant and timely issues that are affecting law enforcement today, and that really differentiates this program from many other criminal justice programs. I also like that the class is mostly composed of high-ranking law enforcement officials. Their feedback in the course is just exceptional. The stuff that you can get from their experience is tremendous – you don’t get that in normal classes.

The LEPSL program at USD is both challenging and rewarding. I started the program at the end of my law enforcement career and couldn’t be happier about the decision. I love the interaction with fellow students throughout the country and enjoy the feedback provided to me. I find the coursework challenging, contemporary, and interesting. I highly recommend the program.

As a past President of the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA), I first became aware of LEPSL during our annual conference in Los Angeles, CA. Having been enrolled in other graduate-level programs, I was immediately impressed with LEPSL’s progressive and relevant curriculum. I’m currently only a few courses away from graduation and wish I would have known about this program years ago. As a career 35-year law enforcement leader, with both local and federal government experience, I unequivocally endorse this program for aspiring law enforcement leaders.

When I completed POST Command College, I was motivated to further my education. After researching a variety of master’s programs, I learned that the University of San Diego offers graduate level credit for Command College coursework that was transferable to the MS-LEPSL program. I definitely recommend this program to those who are desirous to promote. Managing a contemporary police agency is a complex, demanding profession that requires a motivated and educated individual. The MS-LEPSL program prepares you for these challenges and responsibilities.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in the LEPSL program. While there are other Master’s degree programs out there, I believe the LEPSL program is the most applicable to a career in law enforcement. Everything I learned has been very practical and relevant to my career goals. The online format is very flexible, I was able to do my schoolwork on my own time and at any time of the day (or night!). I highly recommend this program to anyone wishing to improve their leadership capabilities and advance their careers.

I am convinced that the skills amassed throughout the program were largely responsible for my appointment to Chief of Police. From all-inclusive budgeting practices to reformist community engagement ideologies, I have successfully applied those principles toward the transformation of an agency starved for change.

Admission Process

If you have a bachelor’s degree and work in law enforcement, you probably qualify for admission. Learn more about the application process and upcoming deadlines.

Police Officer teaching child how to become a dispatcher

Practical, Relevant Curriculum

Unlike a traditional criminal justice degree, the MS-LEPSL program curriculum focuses on building critical leadership skills specific to public safety while exploring solutions to the most urgent challenges facing law enforcement agencies today.

The MS-LEPSL program includes 31 units of coursework that can be completed in 20 months. You’ll take a total of 10 three-unit courses as a one-unit capstone.

While many criminal justice graduate programs are designed by academic criminologists, the MS-LEPSL curriculum was developed with extensive input from law enforcement. The result was a highly practical set of courses designed to build the management and leadership skills needed to successfully lead a department or agency in today’s climate. This skills-centric approach allows students to explore current and relevant topics while developing as leaders.

Throughout the 5-semester MS-LEPSL program, you’ll explore:


Course Calendar

Awards and Partnerships

Best Online Criminal Justice Program 2024
Best Colleges Online Master of Education Programs 2019
Deputy Sheriff's Assn.
Riverside Sheriff Association badge


The Master of Science in Law Enforcement & Public Safety Leadership program is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. Accreditation is an important quality indicator for college and university degree programs, and regional accreditation is generally regarded as the gold standard that assures you will receive a rigorous education and be able to apply for federal financial aid.

program Faculty

The faculty is led by its hands-on academic director, Erik Fritsvold, PhD, who has worked to assemble an all-star team of criminal justice professionals who hold advanced degrees and possess practical leadership experience from the law enforcement and military sectors.

Preview image of Erik Fritsvold, PhD
Erik Fritsvold, PhD
Academic Director, MS-LEPSL Program
Preview image of Kristine Allison, MS
Kristine Allison, MS
Chief (Ret.), Central Point Police Department
Preview image of Jay Bishop, MS
Jay Bishop, MS
Major (Ret.), United States Marine Corps
LEPSL Instructor Tyler Blondi
Tyler Blondi, MA
Field Training Officer (Ret.), Beverly Hills Police Department
Preview image of Denton Carlson, MS
Denton Carlson, MS
Chief of Police, San Ramon Police Department
Preview image of Tom Chaplin, MS
Tom Chaplin, MS
Police Chief (Ret.), City of Walnut Creek, CA
Bernie Colon
Bernie Colon, MPA
Assistant Chief of Police, San Diego Police Department
Preview image of John Cregan, MS
John Cregan, MS
Police Captain, Santa Rosa Police Department

Tuition & Funding

Program tuition is competitive with other top universities, and is greatly reduced from the standard USD graduate tuition.

Paying for your degree

Monthly interest-free payment plans and federal financial aid can help you fund your degree. Scholarships and grants may also be available.

Earn Transfer Credit for Leadership Training

You may be eligible to receive transfer credit toward your master’s degree from training programs like FBI National Academy, SMIP, Command College and FBI-LEEDA.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will it take me to complete my degree program?

The MS-LEPSL is a 31-unit program designed to be completed in 5 semesters (20 months). If you need to take a break from your coursework for any reason your path to graduation will be delayed.

What is the online course format?

Coursework is taken year-round, with three 14-week semesters each year (Fall classes start in September, Spring classes start in January, and Summer classes start in May.) Each 14-week semester consists of two courses running for seven weeks each back to back, allowing you to focus on one course at a time. Each class is broken into week-long modules, and students can log in and complete their assignments anytime within the week. This is what’s referred to as asynchronous learning because you will not be required to join class on a specific day and time each week.

Does the program have to be completed within 20 months?

The curriculum schedule functions on a carousel system, meaning that if you miss a course you will have to wait for the rotation to complete before jumping back in. Each course is offered once every five semesters. We encourage you to speak with an enrollment advisor or your program coordinator if you think you might need to take a leave of absence.

What is the cost of tuition for the MS-LEPSL program?

Tuition for the MS-LEPSL program is $729 per unit, which is discounted to $679 per unit for members of a law enforcement association or union, military personnel and veterans (documentation is required at the time of enrollment). The total discounted tuition cost for the 31-unit program is $21,049.

Reduced tuition begins in the semester in which approval is granted and cannot be retroactively applied.

Tuition amounts shown on this website, or in other university publications or web pages, represent tuition and fees as currently approved. However, the University of San Diego reserves the right to increase or modify tuition and fees without prior notice and to make such modifications applicable to students enrolled at USD at that time as well as to incoming students. In addition, all tuition amounts and fees are subject to change at any time for correction of errors. Please note that the displayed tuition covers only the cost of courses, and additional expenses such as books and other fees are not included.

Do you accept transfer credit from professional leadership training programs?

Yes! USD has entered into formal partnerships with several law enforcement training and professional development organizations to make it easier for graduates of those programs to seamlessly transition into the LEPSL program. Current transfer credit opportunities include:

  • FBI National Academy (up to 12 units)
  • FBI-LEEDA’s Trilogy (6 units)
  • PERF’s Senior Management Institute for Police – SMIP (6 units)
  • California POST’s Command College (12 units)
  • California POST’s Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute (6 units)
  • San Diego County Regional Leadership Institute (6 units)
  • Marine Corps University’s Command and Staff College – CSCDEP (6 units)

We are constantly evaluating new partnerships – check the transfer credit page on this website for more details.

Can I still apply if I don’t meet all of the admissions criteria?

Please work with your enrollment advisor if you are interested but do not meet all published admissions requirements. The two most important and least flexible criteria are that you must have completed your bachelor’s degree and you must have at least two years of experience working professionally in law enforcement. Military experience may also be considered. Beyond that, if your bachelor’s GPA falls short, or if you earned your undergraduate degree from a nationally accredited school rather one that is regionally accredited, we encourage you to speak to an enrollment advisor about your specific circumstances. Sometimes a low undergraduate GPA can be offset by exceptional experience and/or the completion of prestigious leadership training programs like the FBI National Academy. Alternately, you may be given the opportunity to write an additional graduate-level essay to demonstrate your readiness to take on the writing demands of a rigorous master’s degree program.

Is there any requirement to come to campus?

The MS-LEPSL program is 100% online. There is no on-campus requirement. However, we do hope you and your family can join us on campus for commencement. And if you are ever in the San Diego area we hope you’ll stop by for a tour of our beautiful campus.

Who teaches the MS-LEPSL program?

We often say our faculty is our secret sauce. Students appreciate the extensive criminal justice and leadership experience of our accomplished practitioner faculty, who collectively have a diversity of professional experience in law enforcement and military leadership. Please view our faculty page for complete profiles.

What is your graduation rate?

More than 90% of the students who enroll in the LEPSL program graduate. This is far above the national standard and a true testament to the quality of the program and the commitment to student success shared by our faculty and staff. This is a unique hallmark of USD. You will never be a number here. We value our relationship with each student and alumnus, and we truly care about helping you reach your goals.

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