Bachelor's programs in legal studies provide students with the technical skills required of legal assistants and paralegals, but also serve as preparation for law school or careers in government, law offices and corporations. The BSLS may also be an appropriate program for current legal professionals who wish to earn a bachelor's degree. Graduates may be eligible for voluntary professional certification, which could increase their value in the job market. Students explore principles and systems of the legal system and, in many programs, gain professional experience through internships. Admission to a legal studies program generally requires a high school diploma or GED certificate and, in some cases, a minimum grade point average.
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Bachelor's Degree in Legal Studies
Bachelor's level legal studies curricula include an introduction into many different types of law, legal research, and analysis. Some programs include mock trials. Possible course topics include the following:
- The basics of American law
- Principles of legal research
- Legal analysis and writing
- Law office technology
- Environmental law
- Torts and contracts
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Possible career paths for graduates of a baccalaureate program in legal studies include corporate investigator, paralegal, lobbyist, judicial assistant, and mediator. The median salary for a paralegal, as reported in May 2015, was $48,810, as indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov).
Job growth for paralegals or legal assistants between 2014-2024 was projected by the BLS to be about as fast as average. The BLS expected that the 8% job growth would be due in part to organizations and law firms hiring paralegals to perform basic law work in place of lawyers, as well as the growth of particular areas of law, such as intellectual property and environmental law.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
While certification is voluntary for paralegals, candidates may find that it offers employment advantages. According to the BLS, there are many organizations that offer certification programs, including the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc., the National Association of Legal Assistants and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. Certifying organizations generally require a combination of educational training and professional experience as a paralegal, though candidates may also be required to pass an exam.
Graduates of bachelor's programs in legal studies are well prepared to pursue further education. Those individuals interested in practicing law may pursue a number of graduate degrees, including a Master of Laws, Juris Doctor or Doctor of Science of the Law, through law school. Students with a background in legal studies may also on to earn graduate degrees in business, public administration, or public policy.
BSLS programs prepare individuals for careers as paralegals or lawyers by offering coursework in technology, research, and law. Voluntary certification is available to improve employment prospects and many graduates go on to earn additional degrees.