Surveys of law enforcement supervisors routinely identify written communication as one of the top competencies they look for when selecting officers for promotion or transfer to specialized units. Among the many advantages of a college diploma or advanced degree is that it demonstrates in-depth training and experience in different forms of writing. Pursuing higher education can be one of the most effective ways to develop your writing abilities and show that you have the communication skills it takes to advance your career.
Writing is a crucial part of most officers’ jobs. Your report may be your first or only chance to make an impression on a citizen, attorney or judge. Poor writing can lead to questions about the quality of your work — typos imply carelessness, factual errors damage your credibility and disorganization obscures important information about a case. A clear, accurate, well-worded report, however, establishes that you are capable, knowledgeable and prepared. Strong writing not only represents you well, but it also saves valuable time and energy by documenting facts efficiently and preventing confusion, which means less hassle for your busy supervisors. It can give you an edge in the promotion or transfer process too, enhancing your performance on tests and applications. Best of all, solid written communication skills boost professional confidence, taking some of the stress out of paperwork and making you secure in the knowledge that you can get your point across successfully.
You might hope to hone your writing gradually through on-the-job practice, or take a class through community education or a local college. But higher education can build written communication skills more thoroughly while also enhancing your overall credentials. Although course requirements vary by program, many degrees — especially at liberal-arts schools — include general education classes such as English composition, or offer you the chance to take them as electives. Other programs may have writing classes geared specifically for the unique needs of a specialized subject area. For example, Liberty University’s B.S. in Criminal Justice students must take “Criminal Justice Research and Writing,” while Bellevue University’s M.S. in Criminal Justice Administration and Crime Management curriculum includes “Writing for the Criminal Justice Professional.” And while nearly all course work involves some amount of writing, colleges and universities are increasingly emphasizing writing across the curriculum by developing writing-intensive classes in many different disciplines, sometimes requiring a certain number of these credits for graduation.
In addition to regular coursework, enrolling in a degree program gives you access to writing help outside the classroom. Most schools have writing centers that offer a vast array of resources, from reference information to trained peer tutors who will coach you free of charge. They can guide you through all stages of the writing process, review your papers, aid you in discovering your strengths and weaknesses, and assist you in improving where needed. This level of personalized support has traditionally been provided through face-to-face sessions, but options are multiplying as distance learning becomes more and more popular. Many writing centers post useful online tools, blogs and webinars. University of Phoenix offers Web applications like a thesis generator and a plagiarism checker, as well as the Writing Help community on its social network where students, faculty and staff come together to provide support. A number of schools, including American Military University, Bellevue University and Liberty University, have online writing centers that give peer consultations to remote students via email or Skype. Others, including Upper Iowa University, Mineral Area College, Regis University, Monroe College and University of Cincinnati, provide their students with free access to online tutoring services such as the Smarthinking Writing Center, MyWritingLab and eTutoring.org. Much of this help is offered both synchronously (in live, real-time sessions) and asynchronously (submitting a written assignment or question at any time and receiving a detailed response in return) to fit students’ hectic schedules.
Improving your written communication skills is just one benefit of higher education. Explore more tips to help you succeed, along with specific schools and programs, at Education Connect.