United States Masters in Criminal Justice & Legal Studies Degrees
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 as well as 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: Overview
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]
Choosing a Masters in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies Program
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.
Some of the other subjects that students in this type of Criminal Justice Masters program might study could include:
- Law enforcement management
- Criminal justice theories and their applications
- Principles of police administration
- Leadership in the criminal justice system,
- Restorative justice versus
- Traditional punishment,
- Procedures for criminal investigations
- Psychology in the legal system, including
- Understanding the roles of expert witnesses, jury consultants, and criminal profilers
- Crisis management
- Criminal law and the criminal justice process
What Other Criminal Justice and Legal Studies Masters Programs are there?
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:
- Masters of Criminal Justice & Criminalistics Programs
- Masters of Forensic Science Programs
- Masters of Homeland Security & National Defense Programs
- Masters of Law Enforcement, Policing & Investigation Programs
- Masters of Legal Studies Programs
- Masters of Paralegal Programs
Masters in Legal Studies and Law Degrees
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 categry 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]
Campus or Online Masters in Criminal Justice & Legal Studies?
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.
The great thing about the GradSchools.com site is that you are able to search based on either learning format. To pull up a list of graduate schools with Masters in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies programs in a specific location, use the city, state or country settings. Contact the college or university from the site for fuller information. 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. Make sure to search by subject for all the other possibilities.
The Workplace and Your Graduate 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:
- Employment growth for Forensic Science Technicians is projected to grow 27% from 2014-2024[iii].
- Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 8 % from 2014-2024[iv]
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.
Take the Next Step
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!
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
University of New Haven
The Online Master of Science in Investigations is a broad interdisciplinary field in which students learn how to identify, collect and analyze evidence in civil and criminal cases.
Join the ranks of more than 40 alumni serving as police chiefs nationwide. They have two things in common — a rewarding career and a Master of Science in Criminal/Social Justice from Lewis University.
Tiffin University’s Master of Science (MS) degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Crime Analysis, is an outstanding example of how the real world meets the classroom experience.
- Fairfield, CTFairfield, CT
Sacred Heart University
Master of Arts in Criminal Justice with concentrations in National Security, Criminal Justice Management and Victimology...
Saint Joseph's University
Johnson & Wales University
Criminal justice has expanded far beyond courtrooms and corrections. The CIA, FBI, corporations and government agencies are in need of well-educated managers. Set yourself apart with our MS degree in Criminal Justice Management.
California Southern University
CalSouthern’s Master of Laws program (LLM) gives attorneys the opportunity to develop highly specialized knowledge to grow their practices and enhance their legal careers. It’s also a great way for attorneys to distinguish themselves...
Anna Maria College
Designed with law enforcement officials in mind, Anna Maria College’s Master of Public Administration with a Criminal Justice specialization balances the leadership and organizational aspects of public service with the specific needs of the justi...
- Paxton, MA
This MBA degree with a specialization in Homeland Security focuses on the preparation of senior managers of law enforcement,...
- Purchase, NYPurchase, NY
"We are connected globally, financially, and culturally. At Manhattanville, you will be too."...
Our online MS in Criminology offers an advanced analysis of crime through studies of criminal behavior and the many factors—environmental, political, social, psychological, and cultural—that can cause it.
University of the Rockies
Secure your Master of Arts in Psychology, Criminology and Justice Studies Specialization at University of the Rockies. Enjoy courses in correctional philosophy, law enforcement, victimology, and modern theories of crime.
- Chicago, ILChicago, IL
Loyola University Chicago
Representing and advocating for children, families, women and the elderly is enhanced with an understanding of the psychological and social dynamics that characterize these populations.
- Chicago, IL
Stay at the forefront of this evolving field as you study the latest theories and explore today’s increasingly sophisticated criminal justice issues.
- Los Angeles, CALos Angeles, CA
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
- Los Angeles, CA
- Chicago, IL
- Washington, DC
The Master of Science in Criminal Justice is offered 100% online.
Indiana Wesleyan University
Colorado Technical University
Interested in homeland security issues? Explore homeland security policy, decision-making, strategies and real-world scenarios in Colorado Technical University’s Master of Science in Management Homeland Security concentration. Learn mo...
- Colorado Springs, CO
- Greenwood Village, CO
Liberty University Online
Give back to your community when you earn your Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree online from Ashford University. This graduate degree program develops your skills in forensics and cybercrime. In this program, you will evaluate issues of pe...
- Columbia, SCColumbia, SC
- Tampa, FL
- Montgomery, AL
- Austin, TX
- Savannah, GA
- Glen Allen, VA
Grand Canyon University
The Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a Legal Studies emphasis is designed for students seeking to expand their understanding of the law, social order and justice. This program also prepares students for work in legal foundations where in-depth...
The MSL is the first degree to combine legal, regulatory, and policy topics into a curriculum that prepares students to influence and innovate within their respective STEM fields. Offered in on-campus and online formats. ...
- Chicago, IL