A degree in either legal studies or law is vastly different. Students interested in the legal profession who do not wish to take the long road to a law degree have a choice. Legal studies may afford the comprehension to seek a job in areas associated with the law. We will examine some of these in this article, as well as illustrate the differences between the two degrees.

legal studies 3 pixLegal Studies

You can pursue a degree in legal studies and the bachelor and master’s levels. The former provides students a condensed version of some of the coursework at law school. The courses may deal with a wide variety of subjects, history of law in the U.S., criminal law, property law, politics, and constitutional law, for example.

Students beginning with an undergraduate program have choices in this field. One example is a Bachelor of Science in Legal Support. Similar in subject matter to legal studies, this degree will benefit individuals seeking jobs in legal services. Corporations, insurance firms, consulting firms, and healthcare institutions often hire legal support and services staff. A typical curriculum includes the study of the basic theories, and principles of law, such as justice, torts, contract law, civil rights, and the social contract between a citizen and the government.

In addition to the jobs above, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies, or related major can work in law firms as a paralegal, legal assistant, and legal administrator. Other career opportunities exist in criminal justice and law enforcement. These include a correctional officer, police officer, investigator, and detective. A degree is not a requirement to work in law enforcement. However, it may help with your advancement.

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Law Degree

A law degree is the equivalent of a doctorate: the Juris Doctor or a Doctor of Jurisprudence refers to a law degree (J.D., JD, D.Jur., or DJur). The graduate degree requires a bachelor’s degree before you can apply to law school. Upon receiving your JD, you have to pass the bar exam in the state where you will be practicing law.

The divergence in legal studies and law occurs after earning your bachelor’s degree. In legal studies, your undergraduate program can be your destination. Your formal education can stop there-not so in law. Before applying to law school in the United States, you need the minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. You are free to choose any degree. However, one suited to your intended specialty in law would be beneficial. For example, if you want to enter criminal defense law, an undergraduate program in criminal justice is an option. You could also apply your bachelor’s in legal studies or legal support for your future in law.

Even if you decide to advance to a master’s degree in legal studies, the differences are distinct from a law degree. For one, the prospective student must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) administers the exam, which assesses reading comprehension, logical, and verbal reasoning proficiency. The LSAT score is on a scale of 120 to 180 points. Your score can determine your acceptance at upper echelon law schools. Adding to the stress of an LSAT exam is your GPA. The latter is another grade that can influence which schools will accept you.

After submitting your grades to your law school of choice, you need to be accepted. Unlike a bachelor’s or master’s program, this process can be harrowing. Acceptance rates vary from 10% (Yale University) to Creighton University (80%). Private law schools for the 2017-2018 academic year averaged $47,112, inclusive of tuition and fees. There is a considerable difference between private and state schools. According to U.S. News, it costs about $20,000 less to attend the latter. (US News March 2018).

Salary Difference

According to U.S. News, law school graduates in 2016, working in the private sector, had an average income of $68,375. This data based on a survey of 180 law schools in the U.S. The reported salaries ranged from $45,000 to $180,000. Somewhat surprisingly, only 19.4 percent of the graduates had a median income greater than $100,000.

For comparison, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary for Paralegals and Legal Assistants at $50,410 (May 2017) with an Associate’s degree. This wage is not much less than the lawyer working in the public sector. A bachelor’s degree may afford a slightly higher salary. There is the potential for your law degree to reap greater financial rewards in a prestigious metropolitan law firm. However, as stated, the cost of the 7-year journey (bachelor + law degree) is expensive and time-consuming.

Additional Resources:

Why should I consider a degree in Law?

20 Non-Law Firm Jobs with a Law Degree

What degree do I need to be a Paralegal?

Why should I consider a degree in Intellectual Property Law?

What is a Master’s Degree in Legal Studies?

What is the Difference in a Degree in Legal Studies and Criminal Justice?