Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies Emphasis

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

Offered By: College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Explore Relationships Between Public Policy, Social Research and Justice Administration

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 at Grand Canyon University is designed for professionals in government positions, as well as 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. The goal of these legal studies courses is to empower working professionals to develop the practical skills that are needed in modern communities.

Earn Your Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice From GCU

Offered by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the legal studies emphasis examines key concepts in crime analysis and strategic planning. Carefully designed learning experiences guide criminal justice students in applying theoretical knowledge to workplace 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.

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This master's in criminal justice degree, offered through GCU's online learning platform, provides working professionals with the opportunity to pursue their educational objectives while meeting their current career demands. All online legal studies courses are taught by knowledgeable faculty members.

You may choose to earn your MS in Criminal Justice by joining an evening class cohort on GCU’s campus in Phoenix. Most evening classes meet one night per week, leaving the rest of the week free for completing coursework and taking care of your other responsibilities. It’s a flexible arrangement designed to meet the needs of working professionals. When you join fellow students on campus for your classes, you can benefit from a strong campus culture, plenty of amenities and a learning environment fully integrated with the Christian perspective.

Legal Studies Course Topics

The coursework for this master’s in criminal justice degree evaluates best practices in legal research and takes a close look at current legal topics. You will explore methodological evaluations of criminal justice policy and the development of legal programs. Some of the course topics covered in this evening or online master’s in criminal justice include:

  • The relationship between psychology and the criminal justice system
  • The constitutional system of criminal jurisprudence, including a look at case law and the constitutional amendments that provide U.S. residents with inviolable constitutional rights
  • The intersections of law and socioeconomic issues as they pertain to the administration of justice
  • The processes and procedures of legal consulting, with an examination of consulting opportunities in the legal field
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]

Prepare to Tackle Modern Challenges in Legal Ethics

There is an emphasis on the integration of moral values and ethics into legal decision-making. You will be encouraged to challenge yourself by engaging with current questions in legal ethics. Additionally, you will examine the role of values, conflict management, personality and power dimensions in organizational behavior and leadership. Other core competencies of this MS in Criminal Justice include the following:

  • The use of hardcopy and electronic resources to perform legal research into regulations, court orders, statutes and court decisions
  • The refinement of ethical decision-making skills when working with ethically complicated situations in the legal field
  • The development of research design and use of statistical analysis, with a focus on practical applications of research
  • Practical applications in legal communication methods for the purposes of information sharing with various agencies and individuals within the legal community

Career Opportunities for Graduates With an MS in Criminal Justice

For students who are currently working within the government field, a Master of Science in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies emphasis may lay a foundation for the pursuit of a leadership or management position that can allow you to serve with integrity.

While working toward your master’s in criminal justice, you will be expected to develop advanced critical thinking, analytical reasoning and communication skills that may transfer well to an array of career paths. Careers that may be related to this master’s degree include:1

  • Compliance officer
  • Management analyst
  • Health services management
  • Labor relations specialist
  • Human resources manager
  • Legal assistant

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

Graduate With an MS in Criminal Justice From an Institutionally Accredited University

GCU is proud to be an institutionally accredited university, which is a reflection of our commitment to quality education and industry-aligned curriculum. The Higher Learning Commission has continually accredited GCU since 1968 and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences shares the university’s commitment to upholding the principles and standards established by our accrediting bodies.

Master of Science in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies Emphasis FAQs

The decision to enroll in a graduate-level program should be made with careful consideration for your future career path and career qualifications. Use the following frequently asked questions and answers as you reflect upon your choices.

Both a master’s degree in criminal justice: legal studies emphasis 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 criminal justice with an emphasis in legal studies is geared for those who need to have legal expertise in order to perform their job duties, but without the requirement of becoming a licensed attorney. This degree does not prepare students to sit for the bar or formally represent clients.2

The answer to whether or not this master’s degree is hard to obtain depends on your professional motivations and goals. At GCU, this degree is available via online or on-campus evening classes to make higher education more accessible and easier to fit into your schedule. Although some of the course competencies may be more challenging than others, you’ll receive the benefit of clear, helpful guidance and instruction from your knowledgeable professors. This degree can benefit those who work closely with the law, but who don’t intend to become practicing lawyers.

To be eligible to sit for the bar exam and become a licensed, practicing attorney you will need either a Juris Doctor (JD) or other similar law degree. While a master’s degree with a legal studies emphasis can provide opportunities to expand your knowledge of the law, the degree alone does not qualify you for practicing law.3

There are no specific degrees required for law school, although a bachelor’s degree is a typical requirement. People come to law school with all types of academic backgrounds, such as degrees in history, economics and philosophy.4 However, earning a relevant degree in legal studies, criminal justice or political science, for example, can offer you foundational classes that may help you prepare for law school entrance exams and coursework.

Immerse yourself in legal research methodologies, criminal behavior analysis and more at GCU. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about earning your MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies emphasis.

1 Grey, S. (2024, Jan. 1). Earning a Master’s of Legal Studies: Common Courses and Careers. Forbes Advisor. Retrieved Jan. 24, 2024.

2 Indeed. (2023, June 30). Master of legal studies vs. law degree: key differences. Indeed. Retrieved Nov. 17, 2023.

3 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, Sept. 6). How to become a lawyer. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved Nov. 17, 2023.

4 American Bar Association. (n.d.). Pre-law: preparing for law school. American Bar Association. Retrieved Nov. 17, 2023.

Course List

38 credits
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.

* 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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