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Immigration Specialist Training and Degree Program Info

Immigration courses exist in several degree and certificate programs, though legal practice requires a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree and passage of a state bar exam. Graduate certificates that focus on immigration theories, laws and issues are available for individuals with bachelor's degree. Read on to learn about certificate programs and courses that cover immigration law and citizenship.

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Essential Information

There are no degree or certificate programs that deal only with immigration, although J.D. programs cover immigration law as part of the curriculum, and a few offer it as a specialization. Many law schools also offer legal clinics to provide law students with experience in the field of immigration law. Graduate certificate programs also offer training in immigration policy, laws and becoming a U.S. citizen. These programs are often offered through online studies, allowing scheduling flexibility and open enrollment options.

Certificate in Immigration Studies

While immigration issues are often in the headlines, there are very few programs devoted solely to immigration studies. Graduate certificate programs can be found that focus on the theories behind immigration, current laws and the citizenship process. Such certificate programs are generally short-term and may be available partially online. Immigration law coursework and specializations can also be found in paralegal certificate programs.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants of a graduate certificate program must have a bachelor's degree, though any major is usually sufficient. Undergraduate performance may play a factor in acceptance. Some schools may require professional experience or a graduate degree. Paralegal certificate programs have very few, if any, prerequisites. Many of these programs are offered online and contain specialized studies in immigration law.

Program Coursework

Courses focus on the causes of immigration and its effect on society. Internship and research projects are typically included. Course topics may include:

  • History of immigration
  • Immigration and social justice
  • Global trends in international migration
  • International and domestic law for refugees
  • Social impacts of immigration

Popular Career Options

A certificate program in immigration studies prepares graduates to become immigration specialists in a number of fields. The following professions may benefit from studies in immigration law:

  • Social worker
  • Paralegal
  • Customs official
  • Lawyer
  • Human resources manager

Continuing Education

For those in human resources, several professional organizations offer one-day seminars in immigration laws and policies. Many law schools operate immigration law clinics that offer public legal services or research institutes devoted to the study and impact of immigration. Graduates of a certificate program may be allowed to apply credit toward an advanced degree program.

J.D. Immigration Law

Several law schools offer an immigration law specialization within their law degree programs. Such programs infuse selective coursework and electives specific to immigration law into a typical J.D. curriculum. Coursework recommended in an immigration law degree program may include administrative law and proceedings, specific laws for immigration, and constitutional law. Additionally, several schools offer legal clinics, internships and affiliations with national organizations exposing students to multiple aspects of immigration law.

Education Prerequisites

Depending on the reputation of the school, enrollment in law school may be competitive. A bachelor's degree is required, and many schools look at an applicant's undergraduate GPA, particularly in major coursework. Applicant scores on the Law School Admission Test are strongly considered during the selection process. Students should have a solid foundation in writing, researching, public speaking and humanities.

Program Coursework

Fundamental courses of a legal program include constitutional law, labor and contract law, civil and criminal procedure, international regulations and property law. Classes generally involve significant research and instruction on preparation of legal documents. Specialized course topics may include:

  • Immigration law and policy
  • International human rights law
  • Refugee law and issues
  • Anti-terrorism law and policy
  • U.S. citizenship issues

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts job growth for lawyers in general would increase by ten percent between 2012-2022 ( The median salary for lawyers, as of May 2012, is $113,530 per year, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education and Certification

Those who want to practice law must pass a state's bar exam. Lawyers and law students may also become members of the American Bar Association, which offers resources on immigration topics and continuing legal education. Law schools also offer master's degree programs in specialty areas of law for lawyers who are interested in a particular area of law.

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