Crime doesn’t operate on a Monday through Friday 9-to-5 schedule.

Ten-hour or 12-hour shifts, three or four days on duty, and three or four days off – though not necessarily the same days. Spending time in court. Writing reports. Suddenly being dispatched to the scene of an accident, natural disaster, major crime or some other emergency.

Those are some of the challenges that come with working in law enforcement.

Modern law enforcement’s duty to protect and serve goes well beyond what happens on the street every day. College-level courses concerning cybercrime, identity theft, community policing, homeland security and administrative issues can play an important role in career growth within the law enforcement field. A college degree is often a key differentiator police departments use when looking at candidates.

“Research shows that college-educated police officers make better police officers,” said New England College Criminal Justice Professor Frank Jones. “Enhanced skills in areas like writing, communication, research, and time management help officers really connect with their very broad and diverse constituency base.”

Jones, retired member of the New Hampshire Police Association, said having a degree can help an officer advance. “As a new officer moves up the chain of command, more educational achievement is desired from both an academic and job task perspective (i.e., academy and specialized training),” he said.

Although the unpredictability of a law enforcement work schedule is not necessarily conducive to a traditional classroom environment, earning a degree online is a viable option for law enforcement professionals seeking additional education, something NEC graduate Joan Bauer discovered when she completed a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.

Bauer, a police officer with more than 25 years’ experience, decided to complete her degree after watching younger officers advance around her. Although she trains police officers, she realized that her academy training was not enough to aid in career growth.

“The day of just turning 21 and just going through a police academy, that’s not enough anymore. Times are changing and you’re going to get passed up,” she said.

She found the flexibility and convenience of NEC’s online degree format ideal to fit into her schedule, as students are not required to be in a particular location at a specific time to participate.

Online courses are usually accessible 24/7 on a computer and mobile device, an asset for law enforcement professionals who may find it difficult to attend class. NEC’s self-paced format provides students a choice of how many courses to take each term, depending on the demands of their job.

Bauer spread out her assignments during the week to make sure all assignments were submitted on time, as she was determined to never miss a deadline.

“Just being able to balance your time, not putting things off until the last minute. I would work on my corrections and getting everything done, but spreading things out throughout the week made it a lot easier for me with my busy life, than cramming it all in at the end,” Bauer said.

In addition to providing advanced training, Bauer also encourages her fellow officers to consider pursuing a degree.

“For me to be able to stand in front of them and have a degree behind me and showing them that I am educated in all the things that I’m talking about helps tremendously, and it also gives some of them the desire to go back to school,” she said.

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