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Why college educated police officers make more money

Having a college degree could means thousands more in income each year

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Cops are encouraged to get degrees to improve their salary and career; many departments even require them.

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By Police1 Staff

While it may not be required, having post-secondary education under your belt as a police officer will net you a higher salary and make it easier for you to move up in the ranks.

Police officers with more education may also be better able to adapt to proposed community policing initiatives, including public outreach and crime prevention initiatives.

Police officers with degrees earn a higher salary

Minimum education requirements for new police officers range from a high school diploma to having a four-year college degree. Many officers receive an education bonus just for having an education beyond the required high school diploma or GED.

Dallas PD, for example, automatically gives officers with a bachelor’s degree an additional $300 per month, and also offers a bonus payment of $110 to $150 per month for knowing specific foreign languages. Depending on your level of proficiency, a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) certification can net you an additional $50 to $600 per month.

The LAPD likewise offers an educational incentive bonus amounting to $4,560 per year for officers with associate’s degrees and $6,960 for those having earned a bachelor’s.

Police officers with degrees are easier to promote

According to a 2013 study published on the FBI’s website, only about 1 percent of all police departments required a college degree. However, almost half of all respondents reported that they had either taken classes or earned a bachelor’s degree while serving as an LEO.


Surveyed police officers were educated at a higher rate than the average American.

While four-year degrees may not be required to get hired, law enforcement’s trend towards higher education may persuade officers to enroll in classes just to keep up with their peers. This is reflected in the data, as 48 percent of police respondents had a bachelor’s degree compared to 27.9 percent of all Americans who had a bachelor’s degree in 2010.

Officers who favor “street smarts” and experience over textbook knowledge will say that, regardless of studies, a university education alone doesn’t necessarily make officers more skilled or more competent at work. While that could be true, given two equally skilled and experienced officers, education may be the deciding factor that promotes one candidate over the other. Some police respondents in Minnesota even reported that a bachelor’s degree was necessary to be promoted to ranks of sergeant or higher.

Though your department may have only required a high school diploma or just a few credit hours’ worth of classes, finishing out a bachelor’s degree opens up the door for additional promotions. This is a natural transition into higher paying, less physically demanding work as you grow older.

Educated officers perform better in the field

Research suggests that possessing a college degree may improve certain aspects of field performance, including using less verbal and physical force than officers of the same experience without a degree.

Police departments place a greater value on educated officers because of the changing nature of law enforcement. In the community policing model that’s gaining traction worldwide, police officers not only enforce the law but reach out to communities to organize events and find common solutions to local problems.

The ability to adapt to new developments and critically solve problems in the rapidly-changing police profession is a must for any candidate. Officers with degrees will bring a diverse skill set to their department, earn a higher salary, and make themselves more eligible to further their careers through promotional opportunities.

This article, originally published November 2016, has been updated.

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