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Learn criminal law with online courses and programs

Explore the intricate workings of justice, investigate complex criminal cases, and learn to safeguard people’s rights. Learn more about criminal law with courses on edX.

What is criminal law?

Criminal law is a branch of law that focuses on defining and addressing actions that are considered offenses against society, known as crimes. It encompasses the rules and regulations that govern the behavior of individuals and organizations, outlining what actions are prohibited by law and the consequences for committing those actions. Criminal law involves investigating, prosecuting, and adjudicating cases involving crimes such as theft, assault, murder, fraud, and more.

Studying criminal law involves understanding the various elements of crimes, from the principles of culpability and investigation, to the trial process and the criminal justice system.

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Criminal law course curriculum

Learning about criminal law provides a deep understanding of the legal system's role in maintaining social order, protecting individual rights, and ensuring justice. Some examples of topics an introductory criminal law course could cover include:

  • Elements that constitute a crime

  • Different categories of crimes

  • Various defenses used in criminal cases

  • Stages of criminal proceedings

  • How the U.S. Constitution protects the rights of individuals in criminal cases

  • Factors that influence sentencing decisions

Start building the knowledge you need to work in the criminal law field with edX. From accelerated boot camps to comprehensive programs that allow you to earn a bachelor’s degree or (for more advanced learners) a master’s degree, there are many different learning formats available to fit your needs. You can also explore executive education courses specifically designed for busy professionals. Find the right course for you.

Explore criminal law jobs

By studying criminal law, individuals can actively contribute to a just society, whether as legal professionals, law enforcement officers, policymakers, or informed citizens advocating for fair and equitable legal processes. Some potential career paths for someone knowledgeable in criminal law include:

  • Criminal defense attorney: Represent individuals accused of crimes, ensuring their rights are protected and providing legal counsel throughout the legal process.

  • Prosecutor: Work for the government, presenting evidence against individuals accused of crimes and seeking convictions.

  • Legal researcher: Conduct in-depth research on criminal law, statutes, and legal precedents to support attorneys' arguments.

  • Victim advocate: Support and advocate for victims of crimes, helping them navigate the legal process and access resources.

Each of these roles will have different education and skills requirements. Some employers may seek candidates with a law degree depending on the role. Before deciding on a specific learning path, research the positions you hope to pursue and align your coursework with your career goals.