Pre-Law Majors: Requirements and Program Options

Pre-law programs are often offered through the political science department at universities. They usually take four years to complete, and may include courses to prepare students for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

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Essential Information

While some online schools do allow students to major in pre-law, 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 can serve students who are 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.

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  • Advanced Legal Research
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Pre-Law Programs

College admission requirements typically include a high school diploma and may also include placement exams. Pre-law programs are competitive and 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. Pre-law students are exposed to both general studies courses and law-related courses. Course subjects may include the following:

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

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

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.

Pre-law programs can act as the first step to a career in law and are often completed in a related discipline that will aid communication and critical thinking skills. Graduates are prepared for entry-level careers in several fields; they can also apply to law school.

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