Legal Studies Degrees
There are a few degree options within the field of legal studies. A Paralegal Studies degree is a two year program, and is best suited for students who want to become legal assistants to lawyers and attorneys. Paralegals are prohibited to practice law by themselves, and work under a licensed lawyer or attorney. Paralegals can conduct legal investigations, client interviews, assist lawyers in court, and compose legal documents.
A paralegal associate’s degree takes two years to complete, and provides the basic education in legal studies and business administration. There are also various paralegal certificate programs available, depending on whether you have an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or previous legal experience. Graduates of a Paralegal Studies associate’s degree or a paralegal studies certification program will be eligible to take the National Association of Legal Assistants Exam (NALA). Earning a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies will better your chances for job opportunities, promotions, and higher salaries.
To become a lawyer, you need a Juris Doctorate Degree (J.D.) which is necessary to practice law. To obtain a J.D. you will first need a bachelor’s degree, which will take four years. Individuals will then need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). If you are accepted into law school, you will spend up to four years studying topics such as civil procedure, contracts, patent law, criminal law, constitutional law, environmental law, and intellectual property. Upon graduation from law school, J.D. holders are eligible to take the bar exam, and if they pass they can become certified to practice law.
Job Opportunities for Legal Studies Degrees
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 28 percent between 2008 and 2018. This is due to the growing population, and the fact that law firms will reduce costs by hiring paralegals to do tasks that were once down by lawyers. In 2008, full-time paralegals earned $46,120, where the middle 50 percent earned between $36,080 and $59,310.
Employment of lawyers is expected to grow 13 percent between 2008 and 2018, and is due to population growth, and increased business activities which will create more legal transactions, civil disputes, and criminal cases. For lawyers, the median annual wages $110,590, where the middle 50 percent earned between $74,980 and $163,320.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition