Law professor and attorney are two of careers that can focus on constitutional law. Becoming a constitutional law professional requires extensive professional education beyond a bachelor's degree. Attorneys must receive a law degree and usually pass a state bar exam, while law professors usually have experience in their respective area of law and a doctorate in law.
Professions in constitutional law are focused on the interpretation and application of the U.S. Constitution, which is the supreme law of the United States. The U.S. Constitution outlines the role of the federal government as it relates to the states and its citizens. The interpretation of this document is the final authority on how the federal government functions. Individuals interested in a career in constitutional law can obtain a law degree and often seek employment as an attorney or law professor.
|Required Education||Bachelor's Degree and a Juris Doctorate||Bachelor's Degree and a Juris Doctorate|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||6%||22%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$115,820||$105,250|
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Obtaining a law degree requires multiple years of intensive study, but completion of a degree program results in several appealing job opportunities. Read on for a description of two potential careers and the education that each requires.
Attorneys use their knowledge of law to represent the interests of their client, who could be an individual, organization, business or, in the case of attorneys who work for the government, the general public. An attorney may specialize in criminal or civil cases. Further specialization in a particular area of law, such as estate, environmental or probate law, is possible. Constitutional questions may arise in just about any field of law, although they commonly apply to Bill of Rights issues like fair trials, employment, discrimination and due process. Constitutional law issues may also arise in relationships among the federal government, states, judiciary and individual citizens.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect statistics for constitutional law professions separately from other careers; however, the BLS reported that job growth for lawyers in general was predicted to increase 6% from 2014-2024, about as fast as the average job sector, and that jobs would remain highly competitive (www.bls.gov). In May 2015, the BLS reported that the annual median salary for lawyers employed by local government was $90,710; meanwhile, those employed by state government earned a median wage of $82,550, and those working for the federal government earned a median wage of $138,860.
Lawyers must complete four years of undergraduate study and three years of law school in an American Bar Association-accredited program. Law school applicants must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) before applying and admission is competitive. Through analytical reading, writing and oral arguments, students learn civil and criminal law, constitutional law, legal communications and research, legislation and policy, contracts, property law and torts. Students interested in constitutional law may also take classes that cover presidential powers, the Supreme Court, election law and the First Amendment of the Constitution.
During the first year, law students study core classes. In the second and third years, they may choose specialty courses, participate in practice trials and conduct legal work under the supervision of attorneys or professors before earning their Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree and taking their state's bar exam. Students may also participate in judicial clerkships, including U.S. Supreme Court clerkships.
Law professors typically hold a doctoral degree in law and possess work experience in the area of law in which they teach, such as constitutional law. Like other postsecondary teachers, they prepare and deliver classroom lectures, grade student work, perform research and publish articles or books. Law professors also train aspiring attorneys to practice law and conduct legal research.
Tenure-track law school professorships are extremely competitive jobs, with constitutional law positions even more so. Successful candidates typically hold a Doctor of Philosophy in Law degree. They also have clearly defined scholarship goals and extensive relevant work experience that may include publication credits.
The BLS reported for May of 2015 that law professors earned a median annual salary of $105,250, while the lowest-paid 10% earned $42,150 or less, and the highest-paid 25% earned $168,490 or more. According to the BLS, the highest levels of employment for postsecondary law teachers were found in New York, California, District of Columbia, Massachusetts and Texas, while the highest-paying states were Michigan, Tennessee, Iowa, Utah and Massachusetts.
A Ph.D. program in law may take five years or more to complete; however, some schools offer a joint J.D./Ph.D. program, which may take six years or more to complete. Students typically take classes and seminars that focus on topics like legal concepts and institutions, legal philosophy, law and society, legal history and American courts as well as classes in research methods and statistics. Some programs have a foreign language or teaching requirement. Students take qualifying exams and also write and defend a dissertation. Programs may include the opportunity to pursue a doctoral program that emphasizes a particular field of study, such as history, economics, political science or sociology.
Constitutional law professors and lawyers who specialize in the field usually hold bachelor's degrees and law degrees, and professors often earn Ph.D. degrees. While they often work long hours in a stressful work environment, high salaries may compensate for some of the hard work and years of educational toil.