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Pre-Law Majors: Requirements and Program Options

Read about the curricula and possible majors of pre-law programs. Learn about licensure requirements, continuing education possibilities, and popular career options for aspiring lawyers.

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Essential Information

Pre-law programs are often offered through the political science department at universities, but most schools require students to declare a major aside from pre-law. Common pre-law majors include history, English and political science, however degrees in the sciences serve well for students interested in areas such as patent and trademark or environmental law.

The American Bar Association (ABA) recommends that aspiring lawyers choose a major that will allow them to develop skills in communication, analytical thinking, critical reading and research. A pre-law program usually takes four years to complete, and may include courses to prepare students for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

A high school diploma is generally required for admission to a bachelor's program, and some of these programs are competitive. Some pre-law programs are available online.

Education Prerequisites

College admission requirements typically include a high school diploma and may also include placement exams. Some schools require applicants to have completed rigorous college-prep courses. Additionally, pre-law programs may require applicants to first complete specific lower-division coursework.

Course Topics

Pre-law students are exposed to both general studies courses and law-related courses. Course subjects may include the following:

  • Legal writing
  • Negotiation and dispute resolution
  • Legal analysis
  • American politics
  • Constitutional law
  • Civil rights
  • Criminology
  • Economics

Continuing Education Information

Pre-law programs prepare students for entry-level careers in a variety of areas, however to practice law, additional schooling is required. Graduates of pre-law programs typically seek admission to an ABA-accredited law school to obtain a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree.

After law school, graduates have to meet state licensure requirements in order to practice. While licensure requirements vary by state, generally aspiring lawyers will need to have earned a J.D. and to pass the state bar exam.

Continuing legal education options include graduate degrees, such as the Master of Law (LL.M.) or the Master of Science of Law (JSM), which allow lawyers to specialize in an area of law. Some lawyers choose earn graduate degrees in areas such accounting, engineering, or international law in order to specialize in areas such as tax, patent, or international law.

Popular Career Options

Once the education and licensing requirements are met to become a practicing attorney, career choices include:

  • Patent lawyer
  • Prosecutor
  • Public defender
  • House counsel
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