Legal studies programs explore the effects of law and legality on economic and political systems. Degree programs in legal studies are available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels and are suitable for students who wish to pursue a legal career other than as a lawyer, as well as for those who plan to go on to law school. Programs combine liberal arts coursework with an extensive study of the legal system.
Four-year bachelor's degree programs require students to have earned a high school diploma or GED, and master's programs need students to have completed a bachelor's degree. In addition, prior academic experience in the field, work experience, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, high GRE scores, and any other life experience related to the field could also be requested for the graduate program.
Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies
Bachelor's programs in legal studies place a strong emphasis on research, writing and critical-thinking skills as well as on the historical and theoretical foundations of law. They prepare students for entry-level positions in fields where knowledge of the legal system is expected or beneficial. Common topics include constitutional interpretation, legal processes, producing legal documents, legal analysis, and ethical principles. Students are encouraged to complete the majority of their general education courses before moving into the core curriculum of a bachelor's degree program in legal studies. Prior coursework in judicial process or American government is recommended.
Many programs also suggest that students take ample writing courses to prepare for the large amount of legal writing that is required. Upon completion of the program, students will have a basic understanding of the constitutional principles of the U.S. legal system, ethical considerations in law, and administrative disputes. Internships are often available with law firms, government agencies and judges. Common coursework of a legal studies bachelor's degree program includes:
- American politics
- Social theory
- Legal systems in American society
- Constitutional and business law
- Legal ethics
- Legal writing and research
Master of Arts in Legal Studies
A master's degree program in legal studies emphasizes legal research, analytical thinking, legal writing, theory and reasoning, and the role of the legal system. In some cases, students pursuing this master's degree take the same exams and courses as students pursuing a J.D. degree. However, master's degree programs do not prepare students to practice law. They equip students with the knowledge necessary for a law-related career, such as paralegal, or they provide them with the legal understanding needed to work in fields as varied as social science, law enforcement, criminal justice, human resources, education, forensics, real estate, and journalism. Legal studies coursework at this level focuses on the legal process, as well as research and analytical thinking. Common coursework includes:
- Constitutional law
- Legal professional ethics
- Legal research
- Civil actions
- Legislative processes
- Business fundamentals
Continuing Education Information
The field of legal studies is a very popular undergraduate major for students who wish to go on to law school. Graduate programs in legal studies are also available for students who wish to work in other fields where knowledge of the law is essential.
Popular Career Options
Graduates of a legal studies bachelor's degree program are equipped with skills in drafting legal documents, performing legal research and interviewing clients. A legal studies degree does not prepare students to practice law. It does, however, equip students with legal knowledge that can assist them in legal fields such as law enforcement, criminal justice and forensics as well as in social science, journalism, education, and human resources. Graduates of a legal studies bachelor's degree program often find employment in occupations such as:
- Legal Assistant
- Court administrator
- Personnel administrator
- Law enforcement official
- Claims examiner
Upon completion of a master's degree in legal studies, popular career options include:
- Paralegal manager
- Trademark law professional
- Dispute resolution professional
- Law office manager
Legal studies degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. While neither degree option qualifies a student to practice law, they lay the foundation for further education in law school as well as prepare you for a large number of other legal careers upon graduation.