I was a member of the 12-year club. That means it took me well over a decade to finish college while working as a cop. Quite often you hear college graduates (civilian types) comment that they were members of the "5-year club," in that it took them at least five years to complete their bachelor's degree. Where they smarter than me? Certainly not; actually they just had it easier. How many of us "pushed black-and-whites" during the early morning hours while working the midnight shift and then went directly to class while our partners went home to sleep during the day? How easy was it to balance working rotating shifts with changing days off, evolving investigative assignments, extra jobs, court time, and writing term papers while trying your best to raise a family? You know who I'm talking about; that select group of cops who were sarcastically referred to as "the professor" by members of the shift or platoon. That cop is you (and me) who busted our rear-ends attending the "State University of Anywhere" and trying to study for that statistical analysis final exam in our patrol car, in the ghetto, while hearing random gunfire in the distance. For those of us still "on the job" and who started their career during the 1980s to early 1990s, the only way to attend college was sitting in a classroom when we should have been sleeping. It doesn't have to be that way anymore.
I learned early on the benefits of being a college-educated police officer, with employment mobility being one of the most notable. As an old friend once told me when drawing the comparison between having academic credentials and not having them, especially when applying for a security management position, "... not having a degree is like trying to enter an expensive restaurant without a suit jacket or a tie … you must have it to get in."
Around 1995, as I was pursuing course work in the "brick and mortar" traditional college, I noticed more and more universities were starting to offer classes online. Although not very popular then, primarily due to the fact that online education was considered relatively new and unproven, the idea of earning a college education via the Web has drastically changed over the last decade. The success of online degree programs and the exponential growth of Internet-based post-secondary education changed when common availability and use of the Internet grew similarly among the general population. In my estimation the prospect of an officer now attaining a college education the way most of us did in the past, by sitting in a classroom, is not effective when compared to the readily available technology-driven models.
The online advantage
Just look at some of the advantages of earning your degree online instead of the traditional classroom:
What to look for in online ed
The list of pro's keeps piling up, especially if you have a spouse who constantly reminds you they do not see you enough due to your patrol schedule. However, there are a couple of issues you need to be aware of when searching for that online degree program.