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There are subtle differences and overlapping college courses at some levels. We will look at some of the similarities and differences in this post.

The purpose of the Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies (LSBA) program is to expand the students’ critical and analytical thinking skills, advance students’ ability to communicate complex data, both verbally and written, and to prepare students for higher-level positions within the legal profession. Whether an individual wants to be a law enforcement officer, an FBI agent, a paralegal, a court clerk, a lawyer, a judge, or any other of the numerous professions in the legal field, a legal studies major can put students on the path toward professional success.

A bachelor’s program typically begins with a liberal arts foundation. The major coursework delves into subjects you would expect to find in a pre-law curriculum. Examples of the core courses are:

  • Foundations of Legal Studies
  • Theories of Law and Society
  • Theories of Justice
  • The Supreme Court and Public Policy
  • Law and Economics I
  • Punishment, Culture, and Society
  • American Legal and Constitutional History
  • Law, Politics, and Society
  • Sociology of Law

Other schools may also include legal research and writing, litigation practice, and legal ethics.

Undergraduate Specialties

There is a host of departments associated with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies. Some of the names are the Department of Political Science, Department of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies, and Homeland Security, Department of Legal Studies, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and more. Despite the related department, most of the coursework is similar.

An undergraduate degree affords opportunities to specialize. There are programs with eight options: Law and Society; Litigation and Advocacy; Public Law; Sports and Entertainment Law; Criminal Law and Individual Liberties; Estates and Property Law; Comparative Law; and Commercial and Transactional Law. With numerous specialization options, students have the opportunity to pursue a diverse array of general and niche careers in law, meeting many different interests.

criminal justiceCriminal Justice

If law school is in your career plans, either legal studies or criminal justice can be beneficial. However, most bachelor’s degrees are acceptable when applying to law school.  For students not interested in law school, then the decision depends on your career plans, Criminal justice, as the name implies, is about fighting crime. The criminal justice graduate strives to prevent, investigate, and enforce the law. The legal studies graduate may face the aftermath of the crime. He/she is more focused on the how the legal system handles crime.

There is considerable diversity in criminal justice programs and the courses they offer. Typical courses include Criminology, Juvenile Delinquency, Correctional Operations, Police Administration, Minorities, and Crime, White Collar Crime, Forensic Psychology, and others. Available specializations include management, forensic science, human behavior, and juvenile justice. Students develop competencies in research, analytical thinking, and communication to prepare for a variety of positions in criminal justice.

The similarities in the coursework of both degrees are in the inclusion of law-related classes. In criminal justice, you may have courses in criminal law, ethics in law, legal aspects of evidence, and the American judicial system.

The main difference between the programs is that criminal justice focuses on criminal behavior, the treatment of this behavior, and the reason behind it, along with the best ways to address it. Legal studies focus on law, including courtroom procedures and litigation. Either degree will provide job prospects in law enforcement.

How to Choose

The bachelor’s degree in legal studies may grant you an entry-level position as a paralegal in a law firm, bank, insurance company, governmental agency, or corporation. A curriculum of general education, fundamental theoretical legal concepts, and practical applications enrich your knowledge of the legal system. Some programs supplement this with relevant experience investigating cases, researching the law, and preparing documents for litigation or business transactions while working under the supervision of a licensed attorney.

If you want a career in law enforcement, then consider the criminal justice degree or defer your degree. You can always earn it later online. Most metropolitan police departments do not require a degree. To apply to any of the federal law enforcement agencies (FBI, DEA or ATF), you will need the minimum of a bachelor’s degree. It is difficult to secure employment in these agencies. The application process is stringent.

Due to the wide range of roles available in law enforcement, you can find a job that is a good fit for your unique interests, skills, talents, and salary expectations. With a CJ degree, you can work as a probation officer, corrections officer, state trooper, detective, a forensics specialist, U.S. Marshal, and more.

Additional Resources

What are the Benefits of pursuing a Degree in Law Enforcement?

What Government Jobs are there with a Criminal Justice Degree?

How can I boost my Education after earning a Criminal Justice Degree?

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What degree do I need to be a Paralegal?

What is a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

Why should I consider a degree in Law?