Legal Studies vs. Criminal Justice: Narrowing Down Your Program of Choice

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In March 2019, a retired police sergeant visited his former department’s internal affairs office in Miami to catch up on the latest updates of a case involving a former colleague. Days after this visit, the retired sergeant noticed a thread on an online forum that featured harassing comments from members of the internal affairs unit, who were apparently following his actions and making them known to the public. Since this incident may have involved intimidation, the Civilian Investigative Panel has taken action, thereby resulting in a situation that brings together the worlds of law enforcement and legal practice.

Students considering entering the fields of law enforcement or the practice of law have an important choice to make. When deciding on a program of study, it is crucial to understand the details of each program to determine which may be the best for you. In the case of legal studies and criminal justice, these two programs can appear to be similar, and uninformed students might not know which would be the best direction to take. In the case mentioned above, for example, law enforcement officers, investigators, and legal professionals will play roles in deciding the outcome, and some of them may have pursued legal studies or criminal justice degrees before embarking on their respective careers.

Florida National University (FNU) offers both criminal justice and law studies degree programs at the undergraduate level. If you have questions about these fields of study and their respective career paths, the information below will likely help you with making a decision.

Are Legal Studies and Criminal Justice Sister Career Fields?

As one might expect, criminal justice and legal studies are two programs that can direct students to somewhat similar paths. The difference between these programs depends on what specific details students wish to focus on, along with the career paths they would like to follow. First, let’s take a look at the programs; if you have questions, contact one of our admissions counselors. Keep in mind that FNU is an accredited college where you can complete degree programs online and with the benefit of financial assistance if you qualify.

FNU Criminal Justice and Legal Studies Programs: A Closer Look

FNU offers four programs that fit the bill for students who hope to enter legal fields:

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies
  • Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies
  • Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice

The purpose of the Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies program is to expand students’ critical and analytical thinking skills, advance students’ ability to communicate verbally and written complex data, and to prepare students for higher-level positions within the legal profession. Additionally, this program helps to prepare students to gain admission to law school.

This program requires the completion of a minimum of 120 credits; some of its courses are:

  • Legal Research and Writing I & II
  • Civil Litigation
  • Property Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Bankruptcy Law

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

The purpose of the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program is to expand students’ critical and analytical thinking skills, advance students’ ability to communicate verbally and written complex data, and to prepare students for higher-level positions within the law enforcement, investigative and corrections sectors.

This program requires the completion of a minimum of 120 credits; some of the courses include:

  • Criminology
  • Juvenile Delinquency I
  • Correctional Operations
  • Police Administration
  • Minorities and Crime
  • White Collar Crime
  • Forensic Psychology

Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies

This program has been designed for those students seeking a career in law. Students will take courses that survey the American legal system as well as courses in communication, humanities, behavioral science, mathematics, natural science, and information technology. Florida National University will award an Associate of Arts in Paralegal upon graduation to those students who complete the necessary requirements. Upon graduating, students may pursue upper-level studies, or commence a career within the legal profession.

Courses in this 60-credit program include:

  • Contracts and Business Entities
  • Business Law
  • Professional Ethics and Liability

Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice

This program has been designed for those students seeking an education in the field of law enforcement. It offers students a broad background in the criminal justice system and includes courses in communication, humanities, behavioral science, mathematics, natural science, information technology, fundamentals of the criminal investigation, psychology, and more. Graduating students may continue their education at the bachelor’s level or begin careers in the field including law enforcement, the court system, and private industry. This program requires the completion of a minimum of 60 credits.

Several Programs, Several Fields

As you can see from the descriptions above, the main difference between legal and criminal justice programs is that the latter focus more on criminal behavior, the treatment of this behavior, the reasons behind it, and the best ways to address it. Legal studies focus on the legal side of things, including courtroom procedures and laws. Both programs can be excellent precursors to law school, but legal studies might offer more significant information to an individual looking to pursue this at a later time. All programs will improve the profiles of applicants who are seeking admission into police academy programs, but those who choose criminal justice will have a better understanding of law enforcement topics they may encounter while attending the academy.

Here are some of the professional paths you may be able to take depending on program choice and continued education:

Legal Studies:

Attorney, court administration, court clerk, DEA agent, FBI agent, investigator, legal assistant, legal consultant, litigation analyst, paralegal, politician, professor, and more.

Criminal Justice:

Attorney, border patrol agent, bailiff, CIA agent, criminologist, U.S. Customs agent, deportation officer, deputy marshal, police detective, corrections facility manager, police officer, professor, and more.

In the end, while these two fields are similar, they yield various possibilities for your future. If you are interested in internal affairs investigations, for example, your legal studies degree will come in handy after graduating from the police academy and completing your initial patrol assignments. If criminal defense law is something you would like to pursue in law school later in life, a criminal justice degree will certainly come in handy.

FNU: More Options for You

As you can see, FNU is more than prepared to help you start your education in legal studies or criminal justice. When it comes to which path you should take, the choice is yours.

If you are ready to lay the foundation for your next career, consider starting with an education in one of FNU’s accredited programs. Prospective students who are ready to get started should apply now. FNU is a private institution duly accredited to grant undergraduate degrees by the Southern Association of Colleges. Online education, flexible schedules, scholarships, and financial assistance are some of our benefits. Learn more about what FNU has to offer, contact us today.

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