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Undergraduate Law Programs Overview

Read about undergraduate programs that teach various aspects of the law. Get info about potential topics of study and review the employment prospects for paralegals and legal assistants. See continuing education details for graduates.

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Essential Information

Undergraduate law educational options such an associate's degree program in paralegal studies or a pre-law field of study offered as part of bachelor's degree program can vary in scope and intention. Students may prepare for supporting careers in the legal field and later pursue careers as lawyers by continuing their education with enrollment in a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree program at a law school.

Associate's degree programs in paralegal studies prepare participants to assist attorneys by preparing legal paperwork and performing relevant research. The American legal system and law office procedures are areas of emphasis. Students of this 2-year program might complete an internship. Pre-law 4-year bachelor's degree programs are for aspiring lawyers. In addition to learning constitutional law and jurisprudence, pre-law students might participate in legal workshops.


Associate's Degree in Paralegal Studies

Associate in Arts or Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies degrees are available to undergraduates who are interested in working as legal assistants or paralegals. Students are provided with an understanding of the American legal system and how it works. They learn how to conduct legal research and write legal briefs under the direction of a licensed attorney, how to prepare legal documents and how to perform various administrative duties common to working in a law office. An internship is frequently required. Applicants to this program are required to hold at least a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Course Topics

The paralegal studies curriculum is often tightly focused on topics related to the federal, state and local legal system. Students may be required to take the following:

  • Litigation
  • Interviewing and investigations
  • Computation
  • Legal communication
  • American law basics
  • Legal research
  • Law office management

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals and legal assistants could expect to see 28% employment growth between 2008 and 2018 (www.bls.gov). The agency also reported that paralegals could find work at law firms, corporate legal departments, banks, title companies, insurance companies or real estate companies. In May 2010, the BLS reported that paralegals and legal assistants earned a median annual salary of $46,680.

Continuing Education

Working paralegals may pursue voluntary professional certification through organizations like the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc., National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS). Each of these organizations offers its own certification credential, which typically requires a minimum of education and work experience and passing an exam. Certification is usually valid for several years and renewal requires continuing education.


Bachelor's Degree with Pre-Law Emphasis

While law schools don't typically require that applicants hold a bachelor's degree in a specific major, many colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree options with a pre-law emphasis for students who want to pursue careers as attorneys. This may be a formal pre-law track within a degree program or simply access to specialized academic advisement. Career preparation programs and services in pre-law programs may include legal workshops, pre-law student organizations or assistance with the law school admissions process, including preparation for the required Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

Pre-law advising isn't usually restricted to any specific major course of study; however, several, such as political science, criminal justice, sociology and English, may be recommended, along with course suggestions that stress critical reading, quantitative reasoning, problem solving, independent research, time management and effective writing. Some schools offer a set pre-law curriculum that's flexible enough to be completed as part of a variety of majors. Other schools offer a legal studies minor that includes classes in government, law and politics. Schools that offer bachelor's degree programs with pre-law options typically require applicants hold a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Course Topics

The courses that students in this program take may differ depending on their chosen major. Nonetheless, courses in certain topics that may be particularly beneficial to aspiring law school students. These may include:

  • Constitutional law
  • Business law
  • Jurisprudence
  • Philosophy of law
  • Economics
  • Psychology
  • American history
  • Financial accounting

Popular Career Options

While many law school graduates do go on to become licensed, practicing attorneys, others may find employment in other professional settings, working in fields like criminal justice, energy, financial services, human resources, insurance, regulatory affairs, management or real estate. Some careers may require additional training or education. Career options other than attorney may include:

  • Estate tax examiner
  • Mediator
  • Arbitrator
  • Legal investigator
  • Law librarian
  • Bankruptcy analyst
  • Contract negotiator
  • Environmental policy analyst

Continuing Education

Students who complete a pre-law program may apply to law schools and earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, a first professional degree. This typically takes three years and the curriculum covers contracts, property, torts, litigation, legal research and writing, business law, criminal law and property law. Concentrations are commonly available in areas such as constitutional law, health law, business law and intellectual property law. Upon completion of law school, graduates typically take the required bar exam for the state in which they want to practice law.

Lawyers who'd like to continue their education at the graduate level may earn a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree or Doctor of Science of Law (J.S.D.) degree. Areas of specialization may include international business law, litigation and arbitration, corporate law, information law, taxation, environmental law or legal theory.

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Popular Schools

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Eligibility and relevancy of sample programs below will vary by article and program
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (3 campuses)
    • California (16)
    • Colorado (3)
    • Florida (6)
    • Georgia (5)
    • Illinois (7)
    • Indiana (2)
    • Maryland (1)
    • Michigan (1)
    • Minnesota (1)
    • Missouri (2)
    • North Carolina (2)
    • New Jersey (3)
    • Nevada (1)
    • New York (2)
    • Ohio (4)
    • Oklahoma (1)
    • Oregon (1)
    • Pennsylvania (4)
    • Tennessee (2)
    • Texas (7)
    • Utah (1)
    • Virginia (3)
    • Washington (3)
    • Wisconsin (1)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    What is your classroom preference?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Currently not accepting applications from Texas residents
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Which subject are you interested in?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must complete an application online and submit transcripts for their highest degree earned.
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must live within close proximity to school locations
    • Must be graduated from high school by 2011
    School locations:
    • Minnesota (1 campus)

    Classroom-Based Programs

    • Bachelor
        • Bachelor of Science - Criminal Justice Brooklyn Center
    • Associate
        • Associate - Criminal Justice Brooklyn Center

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 18 years of age or older
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

  • School locations:
    • Georgia (3 campuses)
    • Illinois (1 campus)
    • Pennsylvania (2)

    Classroom-Based Programs

    What year did you graduate from high school?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Miami include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Legal
      • Legal Research and Professional Studies
        • Energy and Environmental Law
        • Financial, Banking, and Securities Law
        • International Law
        • Law Degree
        • Programs for Foreign Lawyers
        • Tax Law
  • School locations:
    • Michigan (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Michigan State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Legal
      • Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement, and Corrections
      • Legal Research and Professional Studies
        • PreLaw Studies
  • School locations:
    • Illinois (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Northwestern University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Legal
      • Legal Research and Professional Studies
        • Advanced Legal Research
        • Law Degree
        • Programs for Foreign Lawyers
        • Tax Law
      • Legal Support Services

Popular Schools

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