Continuing Education for Police Officers (How a Master’s Degree Helps)
Serving in law enforcement or the military can be incredibly rewarding, but also physically and emotionally exhausting. Along with the risks in these crucial and often dangerous jobs, one of the big benefits is the opportunity to retire with a pension at a relatively young age. But for most law enforcement and military retirees, this is not about disappearing into retirement at a secluded beach. If you are at or approaching an early retirement window, you’re far more likely to be seeking out meaningful opportunities to begin earning that second income.
For many public servants looking ahead to retirement after a criminal justice career, continuing education can be a great way to expand your range of potential job possibilities. Whether or not you pursue an advanced degree, your years in law enforcement give you a great foundation to build upon. Many of the skills you’ve developed on the job — leadership, critical thinking, problem-solving and working closely with the public — are in demand.
Your experience in uniform guarantees that you will have many employment possibilities to explore. Below are some specific jobs that are well-suited to retired law enforcement and military veterans.
Career Opportunities for Retired Police and Military
Moving into academia is a common goal for many law enforcement professionals. Teaching not only allows you to share the experience and knowledge you have gained over the course of your career, but it also offers flexibility and the option to work part time. Many retired law enforcement professionals find teaching opportunities in local community colleges, at private training facilities or in technical schools. Though opportunities do exist to get into teaching without an advanced degree, most institutions prefer that you have a master’s. Of course, a graduate degree will also have a direct and positive effect on your earning potential.
2. Background Investigator
Another common career for retired law enforcement professionals is background investigator. These jobs involve a fair amount of administrative work while conducting background checks, but background investigators also spend a lot of time conducting in-person interviews and utilizing investigative skills like those acquired during a career in law enforcement. Background investigators are paid well, generally, have flexible schedules and are employed by federal and state agencies across the country. Employers emphasize experience and most job listings prefer or require at least a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field. In addition to helping you stand out from a potentially crowded field of applicants, an advanced degree can help you better position yourself for upper-level jobs.
3. Corporate Security
Moving into the private sector is another great option for retired law enforcement professionals. Jobs in security operations, security tech and consulting, executive protection, event security, crisis management and more can be found across almost every industry. Corporations looking to hire for these positions typically find applicants with prior law enforcement background particularly appealing, for obvious reasons — especially those who have 20-plus years of law enforcement experience. Many of the skills that are taught in a law enforcement or criminal justice master’s degree program — such as conflict resolution, critical thinking strategies, constitutional law, leadership and communications — will make you more marketable to corporations seeking strong candidates for their security team.
4. Fraud Prevention
Prevention of insurance fraud is big business nowadays. In addition, banks, governments, corporations and smaller businesses also need experienced professionals to minimize the impact of the criminals operating in today’s economy. Such opportunities are regularly mentioned on lists that share information about Top Jobs for Retired Police Officers. Fraud prevention-related job titles may range from fraud risk manager and online fraud analyst to fraud investigator and claims validation officer. Many of the skills used in police work are in demand in the world of fraud prevention, including the ability to conduct investigations, interview witnesses and participants to gather accurate information and put together a case.
Master’s Degree Adds Value, Expands Your Options
No matter what fields you are exploring or careers you are targeting, your employment prospects will be that much stronger if you also invest in bolstering your academic credentials. This is true whether you envision going into teaching or wish to position yourself for today’s high-paying security jobs. (Of course, this is also the case if you decide to put off retirement for now and instead explore ways to advance in your current career.)
If you’re wondering how you would make time to earn a graduate degree while you are still working, you may want to explore an online degree program. Some of the benefits include:
- Flexibility to complete the work based on your own schedule
- Opportunity to work with instructors who have extensive criminal justice and law enforcement leadership experience
- Networking opportunities made possible through online collaboration and learning teams
- Built-in career development support
One program that has proven especially popular and effective for mid-career and retiring law enforcement officers is the 100% online Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership degree.
Alan Mills is an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol who is now working toward his master’s degree in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership at University of San Diego. He said that in addition to strengthening key skills that are making him more effective in his current work (communication, leadership, decision-making, etc.), earning his master’s degree is also opening new possibilities for him for post-retirement.
Asked what advice he might give to other law enforcement officers looking to gain education and training to grow within their field or launch a new career, Mills said, “My advice is to study what interests you and make sure you can commit the time to it. I believe that having more knowledge will not just give you a career advantage; it will make you a better person. The leadership skills gained from this program can be used in any career field.”