Online pre-law degree programs are available at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels. These fully online programs provide students with the humanities and basic law courses that are recommended by the American Bar Association to get into a law program. Those seeking an associate's degree and intend to become lawyers will most likely want to choose a program with credits that transfer to a bachelor's degree program. There are several majors that offer pre-law courses including pre-law studies, legal studies, law and society, political science, and government.
Associate's in Pre-law Studies
Pre-law associate's degree programs teach students critical thinking skills and introduce students to the organization of the American legal system. Online degrees include an Associate of Arts in Pre-Law Studies or an Associate of Science in Legal Studies. History and political science are related programs.
Program Information and Requirements
Online pre-law associate's degree programs are 2-year programs consisting of approximately 60 course credit hours. While students must complete liberal arts and legal courses, the majority of coursework is dedicated to general education studies. These programs are delivered online or by e-mail and do not require any in-person work. Students may need to have access to a Web-cam, headset and DVD player as well.
List of Common Pre-Law Courses
Pre-law students must complete liberal arts courses in math, history, English and science as well as political and legal courses. Many classes, such as history, government and political science, fit within both categories. Students in these programs learn how to analyze historical and current legal issues and about the theory behind the structures of different legal systems. Most programs offer a comparative law course that investigates the success and failure of modern legal structures utilized worldwide.
Introduction to Law
This course discusses the role of law in society, with particular attention paid to the setup of a criminal justice system. Criminal law and procedure, judicial codes and sentencing laws are discussed. Attention is paid to the theories behind the need for a legal system.
This course provides students with a basic understanding of the organization and operation of the American legal system. The function and interactions of the three branches of government are investigated. Some programs include local government structures into this course.
Students in this course learn the basics of legal research, including the methods to investigate codes, laws and rules for the most up-to-date information. This course may also include instruction on writing basic legal documents.
Bachelor's in Pre-Law Studies
Bachelor's degree pre-law programs provide students with an extensive education of the American legal system, including all three branches of the government. Students also investigate foreign legal systems and learn how to research and write basic legal documents. Online degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society, a Bachelor of Arts in Pre-Law Studies, a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Political Science or Legal Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Government.
Program Information and Requirements
Pre-law bachelor's degree programs are 4-year programs, and the curriculum in these programs includes both general education and law classes. A student transferring credits from an associate's degree program would only need to complete two years of study. These programs are offered completely online, with course materials delivered over the Web or by e-mail. Students may be able to communicate with instructors and classmates through chat rooms, message boards and instant messenger.
List of Common Pre-Law
The majority of coursework in a pre-law bachelor's degree program focuses on the liberal arts curriculum. One third of the entire program is dedicated to legal studies. Students in these programs learn the foundations and concepts of American and international governments, legal writing skills and how to analyze current political issues.
American Constitutional Law
This course teaches students about the formation and theories behind the U.S. Constitution. Topics also covered include how the Constitution affects racial and sexual status, the workings of the Supreme Court and federalism.
Students in this course compare democratic government organizations in America and Western Europe. Additionally, students investigate the rise, operation and demise of socialist and communist regimes over the last century.
American Judicial System
This course covers the structure, separation of duties and general workings of the U.S. legal system. The Constitution's governance over the number and jurisdiction of courts, the level of responsibility of various courts and the history of the court system are examined.
Career Information for Graduates
Graduates of an associate's degree pre-law program can work as a legal assistant in a law or government office. Legal assistants investigate records and research laws and codes for their employers, but do not perform the same job function as a paralegal. According to the BLS, as of May 2015, paralegals and legal assistants earned a median salary of $48,810 annually (www.bls.gov). Salary for legal assistants increases if employed by a larger firm, a high-ranking government agency and with the amount of experience.
Graduates of a bachelor's degree pre-law degree program can work as lobbyists for a government entity, public interest group or private company. Lobbyists are sometimes called public relations experts because they work to obtain legislation favorable to their employer's interests. According to Payscale.com, as of October 2016 lobbyists earned a median annual salary of $64,500.
Continuing Education Information
While there are no continuing education requirements to work as a legal assistant, graduates may wish to continue their studies and earn a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society or a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies. These programs would require an additional two years of study and are offered online.
A graduate may also continue his or her education and attend law school to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.). To practice law, a student must earn a J.D. and pass a state bar examination. Law school requires an additional three years of study. There are very few accredited online J.D. programs.
Pre-law programs are available online at the associate's and bachelor's levels and educate students in the humanities and basic law courses. Graduates of this program may be interested in working as legal assistants or lobbyists.