Careers in Law

A legal studies or law degree can lead to many different careers. Here, we outline types of law degrees, available majors, and potential occupations.

February 4, 2022 • 5 Min Read

edited by Veronica Freeman

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Thrive with a Law Degree Working in Your Career Field

People with strong communication skills and a passion for justice often thrive in careers in law. With a law degree, graduates can work as lawyers, mediators, or compliance officers. Law degree-seekers study the inner workings of the United States justice system. This versatile degree helps students hone public speaking skills and stay current on laws.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for all legal occupations will grow 9% between 2020 and 2030. Professionals working in law jobs earn median annual salaries of $84,910. This figure surpasses the median annual salary of $41,950 for all occupations.

Read on to learn about law degrees, law majors, and careers in law.

What Does a Degree in Legal Studies Mean?

Students pursuing a legal studies degree learn how to guide conversations between disputing parties. They study courtroom etiquette and negotiation protocol outside of the courtroom.

Degree-seekers also memorize laws. They read case studies and learn how to research relevant laws quickly. A degree in legal studies often includes course discussions, mock trials, and essays. Many law degrees require internships at local firms.

The length of time to complete education requirements depends on career goals. Lawyers complete about seven years of full-time study after high school. Paralegals can practice after earning an associate, which takes two years of full-time study.

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Types of Law Degrees

Different careers in law require different degrees. Students can pursue a certificate in legal studies or earn associate, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees. Learners should consider their career goals when choosing law programs. The section below provides more information on types of law degrees.

  • Certificate

    Certificate programs offer brief overviews of law basics and courtroom proceedings. Students focus on day-to-day practice rather than exploring the history of law or theories. Full-time learners can earn a certificate in about nine months.

    Many learners use a certificate in legal studies as a stepping stone to law degrees. Students with a bachelor's degree unrelated to law may earn a certificate in law before applying to a graduate program. Professionals with a certificate in legal studies can work as court reporters and simultaneous captioners.

  • Associate

    An associate degree in law provides more in-depth information than a certificate. Associate programs include brief overviews of the field and cover theories that guide the practice. Full-time students can earn an associate degree in about two years.

    Associate in legal studies degrees rarely offer specific concentrations or minors. However, programs may feature potential specializations, like constitutional law or contract underwriting. Many associate programs cover job responsibilities for various law careers.

  • Bachelor's

    Bachelor's programs go beyond foundational knowledge and allow enrollees to choose concentrations. Common options include litigation, tax law, and family law.

    The cost of earning a bachelor's degree varies by school. According to EducationData.org, students attending public, in-state schools spend an average of $9,580 in annual tuition. Learners attending out-of-state schools spend $27,440. Bachelor's programs take full-time enrollees four years to finish.

  • Master's

    Master's programs focus more on the theories that guide the practice. Learners need foundational law knowledge before applying to graduate school. Most master's programs focus on one specialized area, like business law.

    Master's degree-seekers work on a thesis. This research paper cites subject area research and aims to justify a theory. Papers range from 40-80 pages. Full-time learners can complete a master's degree in two years.

  • Doctorate

    Aspiring lawyers must pass their state's bar exam. Doctoral programs prepare learners for this exam. The curriculum covers topics like civil procedure and criminal law. Enrollees need 4-7 years to earn a doctorate.

    Doctoral students work on dissertations. These original research projects aim to answer knowledge gaps in the field. Doctoral degrees cost an average of $114,300.

Law Majors

The U.S. justice system includes various types of laws. Students interested in law careers often specialize in one area. See below for popular law majors.

  • Business Law

    This major covers all federal and state laws involving business licenses and taxes. Business law also covers labor rights and LLC and corporation regulations. Enrollees explore the regulations behind the opening, running, and closing of businesses. The curriculum also covers intellectual property and bankruptcy.

    Students learn how to write contracts and prevent contract breeches. Business law graduates may represent small and large corporations in court. Some work as consultants. Business lawyers sometimes focus on resolving consumer complaints through settlements.

  • Constitutional Law

    This major focuses on federal laws and hallmark Supreme Court cases. Learners examine the various interpretations and implementation of the U.S. Constitution. Some courses view constitutional law from a historical perspective. Learners study state constitutions, the Bill of Rights, and government branches.

    Graduates can pursue government law jobs. They may represent the state or nation in court. Most graduates work as attorneys in federal courts. Some may earn jobs working in the Supreme Court.

  • Criminal Law

    Criminal law majors learn about actions that harm society. The curriculum covers crimes like theft, homicide, and assault. Enrollees learn how to represent perpetrators and survivors of violent crimes. Learners study how to build enough evidence for a verdict and when to suggest a guilty plea. Students also learn how to evaluate evidence and create persuasive counterarguments. The curriculum highlights how to address juries.

    Criminal lawyers often work in federal and state courts. Some graduates pursue jobs as FBI agents, prohibition officers, or mediators. Others work as lobbyists or forensic psychologists.

  • Environmental Law

    The environmental law field originated in the 1970s. Degree-seekers learn how to uphold laws that protect the environment. The curriculum covers topics like clean energy, water, and public land. Students learn how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plays a role in these laws. Coursework highlights federal and state laws.

    Graduates may work at state conservation agencies or the EPA. Some degree holders work as consultants for manufacturing companies and large corporations.

  • Healthcare Law

    Students learn how law influences the nation's insurance policies and healthcare systems. The curriculum covers transactional actions in healthcare and privacy rights. Learners explore the Healthcare Quality Improvement Act of 1986 and the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program. They also learn about Medicare and Medicaid.

    The curriculum highlights the potential future of healthcare laws. Learners discover how universal healthcare would impact daily operations at healthcare facilities. Graduates can pursue law jobs such as health lawyer and personal injury attorney.

  • Intellectual Property Law

    This law major focuses on upholding rights surrounding creative work such as art and music. Students learn how to represent clients in court and make proactive recommendations. The curriculum covers concepts like branding and likeness.

    Enrollees study the differences between patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Graduates represent people who violate these laws and infringement victims. Some degree holders work for businesses and draft cease-and-desist letters. They ensure their clients do not unknowingly infringe upon others' intellectual property rights.

  • Patent Law

    This law major covers laws protecting inventions. Learners discover patents' exclusions and limitations. They also learn how to renew patents after they expire in 20 years. Coursework covers common patent actions like granting licenses to manufacture and sell inventions.

    Patent laws involve three types of patents. These include utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Some patent law lawyers specialize in one patent type. These professionals also oversee cease-and-desist letters.

Law Careers

This section highlights specific careers in law. Read below for the job outlook and median salary for each.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

These professionals help lawyers conduct research to build cases. They gather testimonials and research laws. They also record notes during trials.

Paralegals and legal assistants earn a median annual salary of $52,920. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 12% between 2020 and 2030. Unlike most careers in law, this role only requires an associate degree.

Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners

These professionals create transcriptions for trials in word-for-word formats. They may also provide closed caption typing services for live events like news broadcasts.

Court reporters and simultaneous captioners earn a median salary of $61,660. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 3% between 2020 and 2030.

Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

These professionals help settle disputes outside of the courtroom. They often help arbitrate divorce settlements or business dissolutions. They coordinate meetings between parties and advocate for clients. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must understand relevant laws and precedents.

These professionals earn a median annual salary of $66,130. The BLS projects jobs for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators to grow 10% between 2020 and 2030. This law career requires a bachelor's degree.

Lawyers

Lawyers represent businesses, individuals, and nonprofits. They plead cases in courtrooms and may settle disputes outside of court. Lawyers interview clients and witnesses and interpret laws and rulings.

These professionals earn a median annual income of $126,930. The BLS projects jobs for lawyers to grow 9% between 2020 and 2030. Lawyers need a doctorate to practice.

Judges and Hearing Officers

These professionals oversee the legal process in courtrooms. They ensure order and announce jury decisions. They also apply judgments to settle disputes between parties. Judges and hearing officers determine if enough evidence exists to warrant a trial.

These professionals earn a median annual salary of $124,200. The BLS projects jobs for judges and hearing officers to grow 3% between 2020 and 2030. They need a doctorate to practice.

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