Police Chief’s Advice on Earning a Master’s Degree in Law Enforcement Leadership — Do it Now

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Jennifer Tejada, chief of police in Emeryville, Calif., says getting her master’s degree was “always on my to-do list.” But amid the challenges of balancing a busy career and raising a family, “I kept putting it off.”

Once Chief Tejada decided to move forward by pursuing her degree at the University San Diego, she was excited to discover that — from the curriculum and coursework to lessons learned by interacting with her professors and fellow students from around the country — the online USD program exceeded her high expectations.

Why She Chose an Online vs. On-Campus Master’s Program

“I thought I was a brick and mortar student. That learning environment was comfortable to me,” said Tejada. “It was engaging due to the interaction with the professors and other students. That’s what I thought would be the best option for me.”

However, despite the fact that Emeryville is nestled in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, home to countless educational institutions, she could not find a program that matched up with the areas of study that interested her the most. She even explored some hybrid (part on-campus, part online) programs, but “the coursework wasn’t what I was looking for.”

Then she discovered USD’s online master’s program in law enforcement and public safety leadership. After evaluating the curriculum, she found that “all of the topic areas were very relevant to law enforcement, and law enforcement leadership in particular.”

Despite her earlier inclination to enroll in a campus-based program, Tejada quickly realized that the flexibility of the online program would be “a significant plus” as she sought to take on a rigorous academic program while serving as both a busy police chief and a busy mom. “It’s absolutely a better fit for me given the demands of my current schedule,” she said.

The USD Professors Are Very Responsive, ‘Very Hands-On’

Tejada said she is very impressed with the quality of instruction from the USD faculty. For example, Professor Erik Fritsvold, academic coordinator for USD’s online master’s in law enforcement leadership, “has been very hands on, very easy to engage in conversations with — through the learning portal as well as personal email. I love interacting with him and gaining his wisdom and knowledge. He challenges our thinking regularly.”

The constant communication with professors and fellow students “forces you to self-reflect and to question your opinions and theories — and there’s a lot of value in that.”

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Overall, she described the program and the individual curriculum areas as “so well organized and well thought out.” One of the most tangible benefits, she said, is the opportunity to “gain perspective on critical issues from other students.”

Learning from Fellow Students “Will Help Me Be a Better Leader”

In addition to being extremely challenging academically, Tejada said USD’s law enforcement leadership program “exposes you to current best practices; it exposes you to other agencies and the current issues facing those agencies.”

She also spoke of being “pleasantly surprised” to discover how effectively the online format created opportunities to engage in “high-quality discussion” with law enforcement professionals working in a diverse range of agencies from across the nation.

“The program has students from all over the country and it’s really interesting to hear their perspectives, experiences and opinions on issues in law enforcement,” she said. “I feel like I’m connecting with the other students, learning from them and getting to know them.”

[RELATED] View the List of Agencies that Have Enrolled Students in the Program >>

Bottom line: Tejada said she is certain that her commitment to earning her M.S. in Law Enforcement Leadership from USD “will help me be a better leader.”

Why She Believes a Master’s Degree is Key for Law Enforcement Leaders

“There’s experiential learning and there’s academic learning, and I think we need both,” said Tejada. Customarily, while moving up through the ranks into leadership, “we learn on the fly.”

Though she had taken some individual courses on topics like budget management and law enforcement administration, “the difference with doing it in a master’s program is it’s all connected to the rest of the topics. … Even though I have learned a lot on the job, this is really bringing it full circle for me.”

So how important is earning a master’s degree for law enforcement professionals who aspire to leadership roles? “I think it’s very important. I would really encourage people to do this because it gives you the foundation you need to be the best that you can be in law enforcement,” said Tejada.

“My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner,” she said. “All of the topic areas are so relevant to my work. If I had one piece of advice for somebody who’s thinking about doing a master’s — do it now … do this early on in your career.”

How to Get More Information about the USD Master’s Program

Designed to be flexible so students can complete the program in less than two years while continuing to work full time, the USD online master’s degree program emphasizes all of the skills needed to be an exceptional law enforcement leader.

Students report being inspired both by the quality of instruction from the professors and the opportunity to connect with and learn from students working in a range of law enforcement agencies from across the country.

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University of San Diego’s 100% online Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership degree program was the right choice for Chief Tejada. To see how the degree could support your career growth, contact an enrollment advisor today.

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