Master of Science in Legal Studies

Master of Science in Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Legal Studies

Offered By: College of Humanities and Social Sciences

What Is a Master of Science in Criminal Justice With an Emphasis in Legal Studies?

A healthy, prosperous community is one that keeps its residents safe and features a thoughtfully designed criminal justice system. The Master of Science in Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Legal Studies degree at Grand Canyon University is ideal for professionals in law enforcement. It is also ideal for decision-makers in the fields of public policy and justice administration. Students who are preparing to enter law school may also benefit from this legal studies degree program. The evidence-based curriculum aligns with current community demands. It empowers working professionals to develop the practical skills that are needed in modern communities.

Offered by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the legal studies degree examines key concepts in crime analysis and strategic planning. Dynamic learning experiences guide criminal justice students in applying theoretical knowledge to real-world situations. The degree covers contemporary legal issues pertaining to public policy, social research and justice administration, with an emphasis on the importance of ethical decision making.

This master's degree in legal studies, offered online at GCU, provides working professionals with the opportunity to pursue their educational objectives while meeting their current job’s demands. All of GCU's online legal studies courses are taught by either full-time faculty members or fully trained adjunct instructors. Evening courses on the GCU campus are also available.

What Will You Learn in a Legal Studies Master of Science Degree Program?

The coursework for the master's degree in legal studies evaluates best practices in legal research and takes a close look at 21st century legal topics. Students explore methodological evaluations of criminal justice policy and the development of legal programs. Some of the courses included with this legal studies degree include:

  • Criminal Behavior Analysis
  • Exploration of Law and Public Policy
  • Exploration of Constitutional Criminal Law
  • Legal Research
  • Legal Communication

There is an emphasis on the integration of moral values and ethics into legal decision making. Criminal justice students are encouraged to challenge themselves by engaging with current questions in legal ethics. Additionally, students examine the role of values, conflict management, personality and power dimensions in organizational behavior and leadership. Other core competencies of the legal studies degree include the following:

  • The relationship between psychology and the criminal justice system
  • The use of hardcopy and electronic resources to perform legal research into regulations, court orders, statutes and court decisions
  • The constitutional system of criminal jurisprudence
  • The intersections of law and socioeconomic issues as they pertain to the administration of justice

What Careers Are Available With a Master’s in Legal Studies Degree?

A Master of Science in Criminal Justice Legal Studies may enable you to pursue a position in law enforcement or government that allows you to serve your community with integrity. Students who are currently working within the law enforcement field may pursue advanced opportunities after earning a master’s degree in legal studies, such as chief of police, shift supervisor or police sergeant.

The legal studies master's degree at GCU guides students in developing critical reasoning, analytical and communication skills that transfer well to an array of career paths. Other careers that may be related to this master’s degree include:

  • Legislative assistant
  • Paralegal
  • Lawyer
  • Mediator
  • Compliance officer
  • Government relations officer
  • Law librarian

Additional academic accomplishments or professional licensure or certification may be required for certain career paths.

Master’s in Legal Studies Degree FAQs

Both a master’s in legal studies (MLS) and a Juris Doctor (JD) degree will prepare students to work in the area of law. However, the program requirements, courses and career outcomes are different. A JD degree is for those who want to practice law. Graduates with a JD are eligible to sit for the bar exam and become licensed attorneys. A master’s in legal studies degree is geared for those who need to have legal expertise in order to perform their job duties, without the requirement of becoming a licensed attorney. An MLS degree does not prepare students to sit for the bar or formally represent clients.

The answer to whether or not a master’s in legal studies is hard to obtain depends on your professional motivations and goals. Many universities offer master’s in legal studies online to allow students the flexibility to complete courses on their schedule. At GCU, the MLS degree requires 38 credits to completion. There are 10 required courses in the program, most of which are eight weeks in length. The master’s in legal studies benefits those who work closely with the law, but who don’t intend to become practicing lawyers.

In order to be eligible to sit for the bar and become a licensed, practicing attorney you will need either a Juris Doctor (JD) or other similar law degree. While a master’s degree in legal studies will provide you with increased knowledge of the law, the degree alone does not qualify you for practicing law.

No, a legal studies degree is very different than a law degree. A master’s in legal studies may provide similar courses to a law degree, but in a more condensed version. A law degree is equivalent to a doctorate and can take at least three years to complete as a full-time student. A law degree qualifies students to sit for the bar exam; a master’s in legal studies does not.

There are no specific degrees required for law school. However, earning a relevant degree in legal studies, criminal justice or political science, for example, will offer you foundational classes that can help you prepare for law school entrance exams and coursework.

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Total Credits: 38
Online: 8 weeks
[More Info]
Up to 12 credits or 1/3 of the total program requirements in transfer (whichever is less)
Online: $575 per credit [More Info]

Course List

38 credits
Total Degree Requirements:
38 credits

Core Courses

Course Description

This course is designed to prepare students for the graduate learning experience at Grand Canyon University. Students have opportunities to develop and strengthen the skills necessary to succeed as graduate students in the liberal arts. Emphasis is placed on utilizing the tools for graduate success.

Course Description

This course provides an examination of the relationship between psychology and the criminal justice system. Students develop an understanding of crisis intervention, criminal profiling, psychopathology, personality assessment, and related research methods.

Course Description

This course explores the interrelatedness of law and socioeconomic concerns and attempts to generate a holistic perspective of society and social control for those charged with the administration of justice.

Course Description

This course explores ethics in the context of criminal justice settings and situations. Various ethical questions are engaged to improve students’ decision-making skills. The responsibility of the individual to act ethically and legally when working in the criminal justice field is emphasized. Some attention is also given to the role of Christian Ethics in criminal justice.

Course Description

This course provides a fundamental analysis of research and a methodological evaluation of criminal justice topics. This course familiarizes students with aspects of statistical analysis and research design relevant to today’s justice environment using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The course focuses on the practical application of research rather than exclusively on the theoretical.

Course Description

This course explores contemporary law enforcement management by examining personality, values, groups, power dimensions, decision making, conflict management, change, and organization development.

Course Description

This course is designed to provide an overview of our constitutional system of criminal jurisprudence. The course provides a comprehensive study of various constitutional amendments and case law as they relate to criminal law. The importance of constitutional rights for the citizens of the United States is also explored.

Course Description

This course teaches students how to do legal research using both hardcopy and electronic resources. Presented from the perspective of a law specialist working for a client, this course allows students to consider a client’s legal issues and to discover how to locate resources that address the problem, including statutes, regulations, court orders, court decisions, and secondary sources.

Course Description

This course explores a variety of legal correspondence methods used to communicate with different persons and agencies within the legal community. The course provides practical application in legal communication methods. Prerequisite: JUS-635.

Course Description

This course is designed to assist students in exploring the different ways consulting can be used to capitalize on the legal knowledge and skills they have obtained. Consulting opportunities in the legal field, as well as the process and procedures of consulting are addressed.


GCU Online Student

Pursue a next-generation education with an online degree from Grand Canyon University. Earn your degree with convenience and flexibility with online courses that let you study anytime, anywhere.

GCU Evening Student

Grand Canyon University’s evening programs cater to the demands of working professionals who prefer an in-person learning environment. Our night classes meet just once per week and offer the interaction and discussion of a typical college classroom.

* Please note that this list may contain programs and courses not presently offered, as availability may vary depending on class size, enrollment and other contributing factors. If you are interested in a program or course listed herein please first contact your University Counselor for the most current information regarding availability.

* Please refer to the Academic Catalog for more information. Programs or courses subject to change.

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