Online Colleges for Law & Criminal Justice

In his book American Law and the Legal System, Thomas Van Dervort describes the "mass of rules and regulations" created by the U.S. federal and state governments. Lawyers (also called attorneys) are knowledgeable about this complex "mass" and so act as guides, advising individuals about their legal rights and obligations and acting on our behalf during trials and other legal proceedings. But attorneys are not the only professionals who are called on every day to apply their understanding of the law. Legal assistants (or paralegals) and clerks who staff law offices and courthouses have studied law. And in order to enforce the law by identifying and apprehending offenders, police officers, detectives, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists often have a background in criminal justice.

Law & Criminal Justice Degree Programs and Careers

In a criminal justice degree program, you can learn about the fundamentals of the legal system, criminal behavior and psychology, methods of policing, systems of incarceration, and ethical treatment of offenders. Many colleges offer online criminal justice degree programs, and these can be a great choice for those already working in a law enforcement career, since you can go to work and school at the same time.

To become a lawyer, you must first get a bachelor's degree and then go to law school. Lawyers must have excellent critical thinking skills and be able to communicate clearly and persuasively, so applicable undergrad degrees include history, political science/government, logic/rhetoric, philosophy and English. Law schools are very selective, but today there are many options, including online programs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts strong growth for law & criminal justice careers, including legal assistant and lawyer. In 2009, legal assistants earned a mean annual salary of $50,080 and lawyers earned $129,020.

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