You may be thinking that you want, or even need, to go back to school to earn the college degree that you never received. But you might also be feeling that you’re way too busy. Maybe the cost is concerning to you. All valid concerns. But commitment often requires sacrifice, and it’s never too late for self-improvement.
Some of you may have already received your associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and/or even Ph.D. Congratulations! Earning a degree is quite an accomplishment.
Let me also recognize the hard-working devoted officers that took a different path by enhancing their skills through advanced training. Great work!
Education and training are good—both are better. If you are considering advancing your education then please keep reading.
I believe that past success is not the best determiner of future success. Education must be a constant in our lives. Consider the impact of advanced technology on our profession; the increasing level of violence encountered on the streets; the need to meet higher standards in the performance of our duties. Or: simply consider your own goals and match them up against what organizations are asking for regarding knowledge, skills, ability and formal education.
I can only guess that the bar will continue to be set higher and higher. That’s why I feel it’s important to bring up the need for advanced education and training for those in the law enforcement profession.
How will you keep advancing your education?
You likely know many good officers and supervisors who were not required to hold a degree from a fully accredited institute of higher education to work in law enforcement. Well, times have changed. Today, many of us would not be eligible to compete for our most recent position because we don’t meet current educational requirements written into the competitive testing processes.
That was me.
I was hired and ultimately appointed to the position of deputy chief before educational requirements existed. Nowadays the agency has instituted requirements that include an associate’s degree for lieutenant and a bachelor’s degree for captain.
I had an associate’s degree. But it wasn’t until I was appointed for a full four years as a deputy chief that I made the decision to continue my education. I was able to earn my bachelor’s degree and I’m now completing my master’s degree this spring. And yes, it took me the last consecutive 5 years, one or more classes at a time with many sacrifices to get to this point.
But, it’s been worth it! Let me tell you why.
For one thing, it’s never been easier. Classes today are offered in brick-and-mortars, online or in hybrid form from many quality institutions, giving you flexibility in completing the program in the way that suits you best.
I’m not advocating that everyone get an undergraduate or graduate degree. It all depends what your goals are for the future. But if you are reluctant my caution to you is this: time will pass anyway. If you start now, you may not have to rush to get it done and it certainly won’t diminish your future opportunities.
Here are some pros for advancing your formal education.:
- Encourages global, bigger-picture thinking;
- Improves decision-making;
- Enhances the professionalism of law enforcement;
- Makes us better writers (especially online programs);
- Enhances our ability to articulate our thoughts and ideas; and
- Places us in a better position to take advantage of future opportunities, possibly increasing our income.
Even if you do not seek promotion in your current department you may wish you had the degree at some point, maybe near retirement if you plan to start another career. Here’s a useful exercise: Do an online job search for a position that might somehow interest you. Try Craigslist or Monster or any of the other free services on the net that don’t require you to log in. Do it, but I’ll give you a hint of what you might discover: that most job listings require experience and a formal degree.
The inclusion of educational requirements has been incrementally added into the promotional processes to allow potential candidates plenty of time to earn their credits. Some agencies have been able to reimburse the workforce for the costs of continuing their education, although economic downturns have reduced and/or eliminated that benefit in many agencies.
But there are ways to advance your education from a quality institution, some with lower costs—some that even offer discounts to law enforcement personnel. Many accredited institutions will give you credits for your basic academy and advanced training hours. You may not have that far to go to earn your degree. If you’re so inclined, let me nudge you further in that direction and I wish you luck!
LEADERSHIP JUMPSTART CHALLENGE!
Now’s the time to inquire into what it would take to earn your degree. Many current programs represent the latest in educational offerings, depending upon your interest. Academic advisors are really good about helping you figure out what it would take to get started and ultimately complete the program.
Set aside some time to find one or two institutions you’re interested in attending and take that first step: Call one of the college advisors.
Obtaining previous college records can be done online in minutes. Your department training records are likely also just as easy to obtain.
If you decide that continuing your education is for you, you’ll already be on your way to earning your degree.
Remember: Time will pass anyway. Get started now!