Immigration Law: Introduction to a Career in Immigration Law

Immigration law is a diverse field that employs a variety of professionals, including lawyers, paralegals, and law professors. Read on to learn more about these career options and the education needed to become involved in this growing field.

Essential Information

There are a variety of occupational options available to students interested in immigration law. The obvious career path is to become an immigration lawyer; however, students interested in careers in this branch of law may also go on to become paralegals or law school professors. Immigration lawyers must have a law degree and pass the bar exam. Paralegals must have at least an associate's degree and it is helpful to have a certificate in paralegal studies. Law school professor are usually required to have a doctoral degree in law.

Immigration Lawyer

Required Education Bachelor's degree and law degree
Other Requirements Pass bar exam
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 10% for all lawyers*
Median Salary (2012) $113,530 for all lawyers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Duties

Immigration lawyers offer their services in a number of different legal settings, such as private practice, small and large firms, corporations and legal rights organizations. These professionals represent clients involved in the immigration process, including illegal and legal citizens who want to stay in the country, as well as refugees.

In corporate settings, they might represent clients who are trying to gain work visas to obtain employment. Immigration law issues are also present in a variety of other branches of law. For example, labor lawyers representing illegal citizens must have a strong knowledge of immigration law to preserve their clients' rights.

Requirements

Aspiring immigration lawyers must complete three years of law school in addition to undergraduate study. During the first year of law school, students learn legal basics, such as civil procedure, torts, constitutional law and legal writing. The remaining years consist of electives specific to students' interests.

Those interested in becoming immigration lawyers might take electives in international litigation, civil rights, labor law and immigration law. After earning their Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, graduates must pass the bar exam and any other state-specific exams to obtain licensure.

Salary and Outlook Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that all lawyers earned a mean salary of $113,530 per year in May 2012 (www.bls.gov). BLS also reported that job opportunities for lawyers were projected to increase 10% between 2012 and 2022, an effect of population growth and increasing commerce.

Paralegal

Required Education Associate's or bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Certificate in paralegal studies recommended
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 17% for paralegals and legal assistants*
Median Salary (2014) $46,990 for paralegals and legal assistants*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Duties

Immigration law paralegals assist immigration lawyers in resolving legal issues. Their duties are generally restricted to research and organization of information related to cases, and they typically cannot present cases in court or advise clients.

An immigration law paralegal might, for example, investigate and analyze the Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 and prepare the findings for use in a trial. Paralegals may also compose contracts, court agreements and other documents.

Requirements

These professionals generally hold an associate's degree for paralegals, though many also enter the profession with a bachelor's degree in unrelated majors coupled with a certificate in paralegal studies. Paralegals who wish to advance in the field may complete a bachelor's or master's degree program in paralegal studies, though these programs are rare. While not mandatory, certification may enhance paralegals' chances of gaining employment.

Salary and Outlook Information

In May 2012, paralegals earned a mean salary of $46,990, according to the BLS. BLS reported that employment of these professionals was expected to increase 17% from 2012-2022; however, the job market is still expected to be competitive due to the high desirability of the career.

Law Professor

Required Education Usually doctoral degree in law
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 19%*
Median Salary (2014) $109,980 for post-secondary teachers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Duties

Some immigration law professionals dedicate their careers to teaching rather than practicing law. They instruct students and stimulate thinking regarding issues in immigration policy. Along with giving lectures, this job entails preparing course materials, administering exams and evaluating students' performances.

They typically work in law schools, though some work in departments of universities, colleges and junior colleges. Some law school professors conduct research in addition to teaching.

Requirements

While requirements vary by academic institution, most law professors are required to hold a doctoral degree in law. These degree programs can entail up to six years of full-time, graduate-level study. Many schools also offer combined J.D.-Ph.D. programs, which also take six years to complete and culminate in dissertation projects.

Salary and Outlook Information

The BLS reported that law teachers at the post-secondary level earned a mean salary of $109,980 in May 2014. BLS reported that jobs for post-secondary teachers in general were expected to increase 19% from 2012-2022. This projected growth is an effect of increased enrollment among colleges and universities in the coming years. Professors who hold a Ph.D. are expected to see the greatest job prospects.

Related to Immigration Law: Introduction to a Career in Immigration Law

Search Degrees, Careers, or Schools

Two days in a row, nice! Keep your streak going to get the most of your learning and reach your goal faster.