Is Law School or Criminal Justice Right for You?
The U.S. criminal justice system works to keep people safe from harm while carrying out justice for all. It is a heavy burden for the professionals who work in this field, as demands, policies, and public perceptions evolve. Anyone who has an interest in defending and enforcing the law may consider pursuing a criminal justice degree. Is this the right path for you? What about criminal justice vs. law school?
Careers are on the rise for those in criminal justice. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to see a 7% increase in positions for police and detectives throughout this decade. That translates to more than 67,000 openings on the force. Anyone who has a passion for justice and standing up for what is right may feel compelled to pursue a degree in criminal justice. But what about law school? Read on, as we explore the difference between these two rewarding career paths, and how you can determine which one is right for you.
Know Your #Goals
In a criminal court case, there are many professionals in the criminal justice field who play an important role. There are lawyers sitting on either side of the aisle–representing either the prosecution or defendant. There is a judge who oversees the courtroom proceedings and determines the sentencing of the case. There are also police officers, bailiffs, and probation officers who oversee the safety within the courtroom and handle the accused.
Students considering a career in the criminal justice field have an important choice to make. When deciding on a program of study, it is important to understand the differences between each program and where it will lead you. Law school and criminal justice have similarities, and those unfamiliar with these programs may not know which direction to take.
If you see yourself working as an investigator or a police captain, then criminal justice may feel like the natural path to choose – though there are other degrees that may be pursued, as well.
Those who want to study law and defend the wrongly accused may want to consider legal studies before pursuing law school. The key difference between legal studies or criminal justice vs. law school is that law school is a graduate-level program.
What Does a Criminal Justice Program Entail?
Whether you want to work up the ranks in law enforcement or see yourself working to defend the law in court, a criminal justice program can serve as a great foundation for your career. This type of degree teaches you about how the criminal justice system works in the U.S. and the policies that support it.
At a career-focused criminal justice school like Goodwin University, students gain critical skills that are invaluable for law enforcement, emergency response, security, and investigative specialties.
Courses for this criminal justice program include:
- Criminal Law
- Criminal Procedures
- Introduction to Corrections
- Investigative Report Writing
- Juvenile Justice in America
Graduates of this type of program go on to pursue careers in the FBI, ICE, DEA, local and state police departments, TSA, corrections, and more.
Many students also choose to use a criminal justice degree as the precursor to law school. If you are interested in starting out as a paralegal, you may opt to pursue a criminal justice degree and work at a law office while studying law and preparing for the American Bar Association exam.
What About Legal Studies?
If you are serious about law school—which is graduate-level program—then you may be considering a legal studies major. This area of study focuses on how law impacts and interacts with many areas of our lives. Within this major, students learn how to analyze arguments, think critically about legal issues, assess criminal behavior, and effectively communicate as it relates to the court of law.
The legal studies major is typically a bachelor’s degree program that prepares students for their roles as paralegals and law enforcement officers. Some legal studies grads go on to work in administrative roles in legal offices, law firms, and government agencies.
The Benefits of Criminal Justice
Students interested in criminal justice of any kind, whether it is law enforcement or legal studies, can find value in pursuing a criminal justice program. This type of program, often an associate degree, can get you prepared for the next step in your career while saving you time in school. Unlike a four-year bachelor’s degree, followed by law school, students who pursue an associate degree in criminal justice can earn their degree in about two years.
Students who are interested in law school may enjoy the benefit of getting to law school and taking the Bar exam sooner. They will also feel prepared for law school, as they will have already focused on topics that pertain to law, such as exploration of the law, its enforcement, investigation, courts, and corrections.
On average, a full-time law school program takes about three years to complete. Some students are able to complete accelerated programs in two years, and part-time students need at least four years to graduate.
A criminal justice program at a career-focused school like Goodwin offers flexibility. Classes are offered on campus, during the days and evenings, and in a 15-week format.
Classes are also taught by law enforcement professionals who have spent years protecting and serving their communities. Police officers, military veterans, and attorneys work as professors who pass on their knowledge and expertise to students. Their experience can offer insight that simply cannot be found in any textbook.
Are you ready to jumpstart your career in criminal justice? Learn more about the program at Goodwin University by calling 800-889-3282 or visiting us online to request more information.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.