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, internships and affiliations with national organizations exposing students to multiple aspects 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. Internships and research projects may be required for program completion.
A bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for both J.D. and graduate certificate programs. Work experience may also be required and LSAT scores may be considered.
Certificate in 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. Courses focus on the causes of immigration and its effect on society. 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
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 the curriculum. Coursework may include administrative law and proceedings, specific laws for immigration, and constitutional law.
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
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
- Customs official
- Human resources manager
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts job growth for lawyers in general would increase by 6% between 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The median salary for lawyers, as of May 2015, is $115,820 per year, according to the BLS.
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.
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.
Those wishing to pursue a career as an immigration specialist have several education pathways to choose from.
Both J.D. degrees and graduate certificate programs are available to those wishing to pursue a career as an immigration specialist. These programs can prepare students to work in a variety of fields, from law to human resources.