What Can You Do With a Law Degree? Top 12 Law Degree Jobs
Updated February 27, 2023
Those who graduate with a law degree are eligible to pursue careers in the field, and the position you apply for can depend on the level of your degree. From probation officer to patent attorney, there are many careers in the field that vary in skill level, earnings and responsibilities. If you’re interested in joining the legal field, learning more about the different law degrees and careers can be beneficial.
In this article, we detail the different law degrees you can earn, list the law careers you can pursue and review the steps you can follow to earn your law degree.
What can you do with a law degree?
Earning a law degree often allows you to receive the licensure required to practice in the field of law. The degree you earn can influence the positions and licensure you can pursue. Depending on your career goals, there are different types of law degrees you can consider, including:
Bachelor of Science in legal studies (BSLS)
While you won't be able to practice law without additional education, a BSLS can still help you get hired for a job in the legal field. This career can be your end goal or you may want to work in the field using your degree while you decide on the next program to apply to.
Master of Legal Studies (MLS)
An MLS is designed for people who want to work in the legal field in a larger capacity than a bachelor's degree can provide, yet do not want to be a practicing attorney. This degree provides you with legal knowledge so you can work in compliance, federal regulations or as a consultant. This same degree may also be referred to as a Master of Science in Law (MSL).
Read More: How To Write a Graduate School Resume
Juris Doctor (J.D.)
A Juris Doctor degree is a professional graduate-level law degree and one of the most popular options for those who want to practice law. Those who want to pursue a higher-level degree typically earn a Juris Doctor first.
Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.)
An S.J.D. degree is one of the most advanced degrees you can get in the legal field. It's typically pursued by people who want to perform extensive research in an area of law or make a career in legal academics.
What jobs can you get with a law degree?
There are several jobs you can get with a law degree, depending on the level of degree you have. These are some options for those who are interested in being in the legal field:
With a BSLS
These are some jobs you can get with a BSLS:
National average salary:$48,679 per year
Primary duties: A probation officer works closely with individuals on probation to monitor their progress, make sure they don't commit new crimes and connect them with helpful resources and rehabilitation programs.
Read more: Learn About Being a Probation Officer
National average salary:$51,260 per year
Primary duties: A paralegal is responsible for assisting an attorney with legal matters, including preparing correspondence, filing necessary court documents and conducting legal research. They also maintain contact with the client by gathering information, keeping them informed of the next steps in a case and answering any basic questions.
Read more: Learn About Being a Paralegal
National average salary:$51,876 per year
Primary duties: A law enforcement officer keeps a community and its citizens safe from crime. They may do this by patrolling certain public areas, issuing tickets and warnings to those who are breaking the law and responding to emergency calls. Law enforcement officers may also serve as experts or witnesses in court cases.
National average salary:$55,232 per year
Primary duties: A legislative assistant works with a legislator to help draft and edit legislative documents, which can include amendments, memos and policy paperwork. They are also responsible for keeping up to date on pending legislation and conducting legal research.
National average salary:$63,355 per year
Primary duties: A mediator assists with conflict resolution between two parties by taking an unbiased approach to come to an agreed-upon resolution. To do this, a mediator asks each party questions to understand the circumstances of the dispute and offer solutions that could work for both parties.
With a Master's degree
These are some law positions you can pursue with a master’s degree:
National average salary:$77,242 per year
Primary duties: A policy analyst researches policies and political trends, develops government policies and uses their knowledge and experience to inform government officials and recommended new laws.
National average salary:$88,802 per year
Primary duties: A senior compliance officer is responsible for making sure a company is conducting business in a way that is compliant with the laws and regulations of the industry. They also make sure all employees are following a company's standards for employment.
With a Juris Doctor
These are some positions you can pursue with a Juris Doctor:
National average salary:$66,226 per year
Primary duties: Immigration lawyers work closely with people who are entering the United States from another country by helping them obtain a green card and apply for citizenship. They are also very knowledgeable about immigration matters, including the issuance of work visas and the country's deportation laws.
National average salary:$68,987 per year
Primary duties: An attorney-at-law is the general term for someone who is licensed to practice law, and they can work in several fields. For example, an attorney-at-law may be a real estate attorney or an estate planning attorney. They are responsible for advising clients on their legal rights and representing them in legal matters.
National average salary:$76,298 per year
Primary duties: A personal injury lawyer works with clients who have been injured in an accident or another event due to the negligence of another person or entity. Personal injury lawyers work to get compensation for their clients because of medical expenses, emotional distress and loss of work.
National average salary:$83,002 per year
Primary duties: A judge presides over courtroom proceedings. As an appointed person, they are responsible for analyzing evidence and providing a ruling to end the legal case. A judge may also act as a court mediator for larger disputes.
National average salary:$93,312 per year
Primary duties: An adjunct law professor teaches classes and seminars on law topics to college and university students.
National average salary:$93,437 per year
Primary duties: A contract attorney works with different law firms on a contract basis. They may review legal agreements, represent clients for short-term cases and perform other legal work as requested.
National average salary:$100,091 per year
Primary duties: A political affairs officer monitors foreign law and politics and may serve as a liaison between one country and another. They may write policies and implement strategies to keep up strong communication between the two governments.
National average salary:$107,738 per year
Primary duties: A litigation attorney represents clients in court for civil disputes. They are responsible for filing court documents, preparing for trial and going through the appeals process, if needed.
National average salary:$124,788 per year
Primary duties: A corporate counsel works with businesses and their employees to make sure the company is operating legally. To do this, corporate lawyers may review business contracts and applicable regulations. They may also research company partnerships and be a large part of the negotiation process.
National average salary:$125,203 per year
Primary duties: A labor and employment lawyer may work directly with the employees who are part of a union to make sure their rights are not violated. They also work with both employers and employees during any conflict resolution process.
11. General counsel
National average salary:$132,666 per year
Primary duties: A general counsel is responsible for leading a team of attorneys on legal matters. These legal matters may vary depending on the area of law.
Read more: Learn About Being a General Counsel
12. Patent attorney
National average salary:$175,524 per year
Primary duties: A patent attorney works with clients who want to patent an invention, method or other product. They help clients with their patent applications, trademarks and any litigation needs that arise from copyright issues.
How do I get a law degree?
If you're interested in getting a law degree, these are some steps you can follow:
1. Earn your bachelor's degree
You earn your bachelor's degree before earning a law degree. Choose a college or university that offers a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies or a comparable program, make sure it's accredited and earn competitive grades in your courses. Consider completing internships and working with an adviser to make sure you’re as marketable as you can be post-graduation. For some, a BSLS is all you need to get hired in the job you want. If you want to go a step further, you should consider taking the LSAT (Law School Admission Test).
2. Take the LSAT exam
The LSAT exam is a standardized test administered to prospective law school candidates. This is a required test and the minimum score for acceptance depends on the law school's standards. You'll want to earn a passing score to apply for law schools.
3. Get accepted into law school
Once your LSAT scores have posted, you'll want to get accepted into law school. This includes researching and finding the best law school for you based on factors such as program availability and rankings, cost of attendance and ABA accreditation. Before applying, check the admission requirements to make sure you qualify. To prepare for a career in the legal field, study for exams and join networking groups.
4. Pass the bar exam
Once you have graduated from law school, you'll have a law degree, but you must pass the bar exam in your jurisdiction to practice law and provide legal representation. The bar exam differs by jurisdiction, and the difficulty level can depend on how complicated the laws of the jurisdiction are. The purpose of the bar exam is to assess if an individual is knowledgeable about laws and therefore able to practice in the field.
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