Introduction to law and national security
Law and national security, or national security law (NSL), is an area of law that deals with matters of national interest. It’s a field where lawyers are in demand, and it covers many different complex aspects. These can include international relations, immigration, human rights, privacy, cybercrime, and terrorism.
The subject also involves areas outside of law, such as public administration, safety, and political science. Anyone who studies law and national security will likely get an overview of civil liberties relating to the protection of citizens’ rights, along with an understanding of how national issues might impinge on those rights. Other key focal points include constitutional law and cyber law.
Anyone who is interested in the law, national security, and civil liberties could benefit from studying this subject. It may also appeal to those who are passionate about justice. NSL involves the nation’s protection against terrorism, cybercrime and the means of improving international relations. It might also interest those who want to better define boundaries between the individual and the government.
As well as its potential impact on society, opportunities in the field of law also look promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment of lawyers will grow 4% from 2019 to 2029.
National security law careers exist in the private sector, and practitioners advise corporations on how to navigate contracts, finance, and trade. They are also often connected to government organizations, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the police, or the National Security Council (NSC).
What will I learn?
You can find Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) programs that focus on law, critical thinking, and information analysis. There are also programs that offer a Bachelor of Science (B.S.), which generally involve forensic science as a core component. A bachelor’s degree in law and national security is usually a 4-year commitment.
Most programs involve theoretical courses on ethics, law, and security that encourage critical thinking. Generally, undergraduate degrees also include broader education modules to provide a foundation in research, statistics, and writing.
Courses may include:
Information systems security
Homeland security and terrorism
Many universities require you to undertake a supervised practicum to gain hands-on experience in the field. After completing the courses and exams, you may also need to take part in a capstone project, bringing together the knowledge gained from the program. You can find online versions of these programs, as well as traditional campus-based formats. A digital course through distance learning may suit you if you have family commitments or work full-time and need a flexible approach.
The requirements for applying to a bachelor’s degree program in law and national security vary by institution. For an undergraduate degree, you’ll likely need to submit your high school transcript or General Equivalency Diploma (GED). Typically, you’ll need to include a personal essay, a letter of recommendation from a teacher, and your SAT scores. You may also be required to submit your ACT scores as well.
The American Bar Association (ABA) acts as an accreditation council for law schools, which applies to JD degrees and higher. You may also find schools that are members of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). However, undergraduate degrees are more likely to be accredited by a regional accreditation board.
Accreditation means that a university meets peer-reviewed quality standards. The program content, financial stability, and student services are evaluated by a board that’s specifically designed to oversee institutions in the field. You can determine if a school is accredited by checking for the initials of an accreditation council on its website.
Attending an accredited school is beneficial because you can expect it to meet high standards and be well recommended in the field. It might also boost your resume, as potential future employers and educational institutions will likely require you to have attended an accredited school.
Cost of degree
Tuition fees are the main costs for degrees, and this can differ by program and institution. On average, tuition costs for undergraduate degrees are around $10,000 for in-state students and $27,000 for non-residents. Online courses are often charged per credit, which could approximately cost between $700 to $1,400 per credit.
If you want to practice law or advance your understanding of the law and national security, you’ll generally need to complete 1 or 2 additional degrees. Attending law school to earn a JD degree is essential to becoming a lawyer. Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs are a popular way for those specializing in NSL to gain the knowledge they need.
JD degree programs
The majority of JD programs are 2 to 3 years long. As well as the theoretical aspect, you’ll likely encounter skills-based courses with teamwork and practical training.
Core courses include:
- Constitutional law
- Criminal law
- Courtroom procedures
- Civil law
The second year usually affords the opportunity to specialize. Some schools might offer national security courses at this time.
Common concentrations include:
- Law and government
- Comparative law
- International law
- Criminal justice
- Law and history
LL.M. programs in law and national security
An LL.M. can be earned in 1 year, although most students require 1.5 to 2 years or longer if studying part time. The programs are for those who have completed a JD degree and have sat the bar exam.
Core courses can include:
- Intelligence law
- Cybersecurity law
- Counterterrorism law
- Homeland security law
- War and law
- Privacy and Information security
- Surveillance law
- Corporate national security law
Ph.D. and Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D) programs for NSL
If you want to contribute to the law as a scholar, you could consider a Ph.D. or S.J.D.
They typically take 3 to 4 years to earn and involve writing a dissertation.
Courses may include:
- Legal scholarship
- Research methodology
- Advanced cybercrime
- Advanced national security law
Most of the government or corporate law roles in NSL are only available to those who have earned a JD degree or an LL.M. Those with a bachelor’s degree won’t be in a position to practice law but could work in one of the following roles:
Licensing and certification
You’ll need a JD degree before you can practice law. This degree prepares you for the state bar exam. You’ll need to pay a fee to sit the bar, which usually involves 1 or more tests from the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), although the requirements vary by state. Once you pass the bar, you can practice as a licensed attorney in that state.
To help with the costs of your law and national security degree, you might seek financial aid. This support could come in the form of scholarships or grants. Many funding programs are set up to assist students at law schools and in graduate degrees rather than those in undergraduate programs.
There are opportunities to receive awards from specific universities or for specific students. For example, the Bridging the Dream scholarship qualifies some students for awards of $10,000. It’s common for students to seek support from the government through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. It can help you determine your eligibility for receiving financial aid.