Masters in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies programs represent two sides of the legal system, and depending on your interests, either might provide the foundation for beginning, or expanding, your career.
Crime takes place in our neighborhoods, in the international sphere, in business and in cyberspace. All these sectors need a host of well-trained professionals including those who investigate crime, understand the criminal mind, create and uphold public policy and safety, and work in the legal and paralegal systems. Pursuing a Masters degree in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies may be a great fit if you are interested in advanced and relevant knowledge in any of these fascinating areas.
Masters in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies programs comprise a host of possibilities. You might choose to study about law enforcement, corrections, first responders, politics, paralegal or legal fields. Each program may have its own prerequisites and admissions requirements, and may build on your prior undergraduate education. Graduate programs may be designed for current criminal justice administrators or those who seek a comprehensive understanding of legal procedures and how the judicial system operates. Some masters degrees are used as stepping-stones to PhD in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies fields, it all just depends on what you are studying.
Did You Know?
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are usually lawyers, retired judges, or business professionals with expertise in a particular field, such as insurance[i]
By the time you get to graduate school, you may already have a strong sense of what direction you want to take for your masters’ degree. It is important to differentiate between a Master of Science in Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Legal Studies versus other Masters degrees in the category of ‘Criminal Justice and Legal Studies’.
What is a Master of Science in Criminal Justice program with an Emphasis in Legal Studies? This type of degree is designed for law enforcement, corrections, probation, and parole officers aspiring to other potential career opportunities, as well as individuals who want to learn about the law, social order, and justice in a more in-depth manner. Your program likely involves a capstone project and/or final written proposal, coursework in Legal studies such as international law and methods of legal research.
|Criminal Justice (M.A.)
|Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
|Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
|M.S. in Forensic Science
|Grand Canyon University
|Master of Science in Legal Studies
|MS in Cybersecurity
Some of the other subjects that students in this type of Criminal Justice Masters program might study could include:
As you might see from the subject selection, if you are interested in furthering your learning with an additional two-year commitment, you might choose accredited master’s programs that delve into any number of complex criminal justice topics.
Criminal Justice Masters programs might involve pursuing either a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) with concentrations in various areas such as:
If you aspire to a career in the courtroom, you might pursue a Master of Law (LL.M.), Juris Doctor, Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) or look into a joint MS/JD program from an accredited school. These degrees fall within the category of 'Masters in Criminal Justice and Legal" but they are profession-specific academic paths.
“Becoming a lawyer usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school”[ii]
Once you have determined your field of study, consider whether you are looking at a graduate school you can physically attend, or whether distance-learning is more convenient. Many graduate schools offer online degrees that are the same as their campus format with the exception of the delivery method via web, to appeal to current professionals. It is certainly personal, but keep in mind:
If you are studying something like Forensic Science or Cybersecurity where there is likely some laboratory work, you may not get a fully online program.
Campus programs build interpersonal skills, team building and other necessary skills, so in some cases you might benefit more from being onsite.
Some of the listings you might explore could include:
MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies, Master of Science in Public Safety Administration, Master of Science in Cybersecurity-Intelligence, Master of Science in Criminology, or Law MSW/JD Dual Degree.
Common question: ”What can I do with a legal studies (or fill in the blank) degree? Well, here’s the thing, a degree isn’t a guarantee of a job, but since crime doesn’t stop…you may be interested in some of these statistics:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics actually has a fantastic PDF of potential careers in homeland security. Words of advice? Research the career then choose the academic path that is considered the best preparation.
Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/legal/arbitrators-mediators-and-conciliators.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/legal/lawyers.htm | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm | bls.gov/careeroutlook/2006/summer/art01.pdf
Whether you are drawn to corrections, law enforcement, research, the behavior of criminals, the patterns of crime, DNA testing or legal work, there are numerous directions to take for advanced study. Why not investigate your options for a Masters degree in Criminal Justice or a Masters in Legal Studies degree and find one that aligns with your personal or professional goals!