Criminal Law Colleges and Universities in the U.S.

Students interested in criminal law typically attend law school and earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Most J.D. programs can be completed within three years of full-time study, and students can focus on criminal law by choosing relevant advanced courses after completing the core requirements.

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Criminal law is a field of law focusing on criminal acts such as drug use, fraud, abuse, assault, theft, murder or robbery. There are many colleges and universities that cover this aspect of the law in their J.D. programs.

Top Ten Law Schools

According to U.S. News & World Report, these ten schools had the best law programs in 2016:

College/University Location Institution Type Tuition and fees (2015-2016)*
Yale University New Haven, CT Private $58,050
Harvard University Cambridge, MA Private $58,242
Stanford University Stanford, CA Private $56,274
Columbia University New York, NY Private $62,700
University of Chicago Chicago, IL Private $56,916
New York University New York, NY Private $59,330
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA Private $58,918
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA Public $48,679 in-state, $52,630 out-of-state
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI Public $53,112 in-state, $56,112 out-of-state
University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA Public $54,000 in-state, $57,000 out-of-state

Source: *U.S. News & World Report

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University Selection Criteria

Consider the following when choosing a law school:

  • It is important to select a law school that is accredited by the American Bar Association.
  • Students may want to research what percentage of graduates pass the bar exam, since aspiring lawyers must pass this test in order to earn state licensure.
  • Students should find out if the school offers hands-on opportunities in criminal law, such as criminal defense clinics.
  • At some schools, it is possible to choose criminal law as a concentration within a J.D. program; students should find out if the option is available at the schools they consider.

Juris Doctor (J.D.) Programs

J.D. programs provide fundamental training for aspiring lawyers. These programs last three years and provide a comprehensive overview of the legal field. They begin with foundational coursework in key topics of law, including criminal law. From there, students have the chance to take more advanced electives in specialized coursework; those who are interested in criminal law can direct their studies toward the field. At some schools, law students be able to declare criminal law as a formal concentration. In addition, there are schools that provide criminal defense law clinics, in which JD candidates can gain real-world experience researching and arguing criminal law cases.

J.D. applicants who are interested in criminal law can find many schools that include the subject within their curriculum, including some of the nation's top universities.

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