Majors to Choose for Aspiring Lawyers

The standard academic path for lawyers is a 4-year undergraduate degree, then a Juris Doctor (JD) program at an accredited law school. Options include pre-law majors or concentration areas offered as part of a government or political science degree.

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Essential Information

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), almost any major can prepare students for a law school education, provided they take challenging courses that develop their research and writing skills as well as their critical reading and problem-solving abilities. Pre-law majors combine a handful of legal studies courses with a liberal arts core that's designed to help students develop the skills required for success in law school. For applicants, schools require a high school diploma for undergraduate degree program and LSAT scores for doctoral programs.

Bachelor's Degree for Pre-Law

In addition to science, humanities and English composition coursework, program requirements for pre-law majors or concentrations can include field experiences and senior projects. Opportunities to participate in a mock court might also be available. These programs often include courses on the following:

  • American government
  • Constitutional law
  • Comparative politics
  • Dispute resolution
  • Legal writing
  • Analytical reasoning

Continuing Education Information

After completing their pre-law program, students will need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) before applying to an ABA-approved JD program. These graduate programs typically take three years to complete and qualify graduates to sit for their state bar examinations. Passing scores on the bar exam are among the requirements for state licensure as a lawyer.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( projected a 6% increase in employment opportunities for lawyers between 2014 and 2024, due to the continuing need for legal services among business and government agencies. This should be offset, at least in part, by the growing practice of hiring legal assistants or paralegals to conduct some legal services. The average annual salary for lawyers was $136,260 as of 2015, per the BLS.

Anyone interested in becoming a lawyer should have at least sampled legal studies courses as part of a liberal arts core that developed research, writing, critical reading and problem-solving skills. The most common next step is to take the LSAT before applying to an ABA-approved JD program.

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