Legal Studies Degree

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Overview of a Degree in Legal Studies

As an interdisciplinary liberal arts degree program, the legal studies degree will provide students with a working platform to understand the function, procedures, and organization of entities and their interrelationship with the legal system.  Coursework typically will cover necessary aspects of the fundamentals of law, criminal justice system, legal systems, contract management, research methodologies, consumer rights, and the interworking’s of the U.S. court system.

Students pursuing a degree in legal studies will develop the skills necessary to work in a legal profession at the assistant or paralegal level. Students in a legal studies program will be give a broad education on the various facets and methods of law, and how they are applicable in real world settings. The degree is generally given at the associate and bachelor setting, sometimes as part of another discipline, such as business administration or criminal justice. Individuals may also choose to pursue a graduate degree in law, for which a legal studies degree is beneficial though not necessary. Graduate level degrees in legal studies are also available at the master and doctoral level.

What is Legal Studies?

College students enrolled in a legal studies program will be exposed to a number of classes to help illuminate the legal sector in the United States and abroad.  The legal studies degree program is an interdisciplinary, liberal arts major designed to underscore the value, purpose, practice, and entities of our legal system.  The curriculum of the legal studies program helps students understand the relationship between cultural, economic, and political forces on law and vice versa.  Colleges and universities will provide a platform for critical thinking and deep analysis colored by relevant legal theories to better understand social policy, privacy, equality, jurisprudence, morality, democracy, resource distribution, and dignity within a given culture.

Legal studies are designed to examine legality from various points of view such as objective, humanistic, and empirical data in an effort to develop student’s critical thinking and communication skills.  The ability to think holistically about a situation and develop a substantive argument for or against the issue it at the core of a liberal arts legal studies degree.

A curriculum in legal studies may include:

  • Civil Liberties
  • Legal Theory
  • Comparative Law
  • Philosophy of Law
  • Politics of Law

A legal studies degree at the associate or bachelor level allows one to pursue a career as a paralegal or legal assistant. Individuals will be tasked with research, reporting, note taking, and other functions as needed by lawyers within the office. An extensive background in law, along with experience in research methodology is necessary for individuals who choose to apply their degree toward such a career.

Some lawyers will have a background in legal studies as an undergraduate law tract prior to obtaining their juris doctor (JD). Law schools tend to pursue individuals with a variety of educational backgrounds, though those with a legal studies background will have a definitive advantage in regards to strong foundation. Some individuals will have taken legal studies as a focus in business administration, with the intent to enter the business world with a solid understanding of business law.

Top Degrees in Legal Studies

The range of college degree programs in legal studies include a wide number of possibilities for students across the country.  Programs span from undergraduate programs such as certificate, associate, and bachelor degrees to graduate programs that include master’s and doctoral programs.

Undergraduate Degree in Legal Studies

An undergraduate degree in legal studies may include a certificate of completion or an Associate of Science (AS) or Bachelor’s of Science (BS) from an online or classroom based program.  In either case, these programs are geared to assist students be career-ready by exploring the legal, constitutional, and ethical components within the legal system.  Outcomes of these college degrees typically include:

  • Knowledge of the American Judicial System
  • Ability to analyze and synthesize law and legal systems
  • Skills to prepare and interpret legal documents
  • Manage document reviews
  • Conduct legal research and summary reporting
  • Prepare and deliver arguments related to case or topic of interest

Graduate Degree in Legal Studies

Graduate degree programs in legal studies may include both master’s degree programs and doctoral degrees.  There are three primary types of graduate degrees in legal studies:

  1. Juris Doctor – JD or DJur
  2. Master of Law – LLM or LL.M.
  3. Doctor of Juridical Science – J.S.D. or S.J.D.

A complete overview of these three degree programs can be found on our law degree page here for further research opportunities.  In addition to the degree types mentioned above, students may elect to pursue a specialty within the legal studies track.  A specialty or area of concentration may include:

  • Health Care Law – a degree with a focus on health care policy, organizational leadership, and administration.
  • Environmental Law – a legal program with subspecialties such as sustainable development, energy, natural resources, alternative energy, or global warming.
  • JD Law Program – a first-degree law program with a wide variety of legal applications from public policy to torts and federal litigation to patent law.
  • Taxation Law – an upper-level program emphasizing commercial law, tax law, estate planning, or accounting.
  • Constitutional Law – a graduate program emphasizing the understanding and application of the United States constitution and its legal implications.
  • Patent Law – a degree specialty preparing students to prepare legal documentation and protect entities with exclusive rights and requirements associated with patents.
  • International Law – a graduate program with a variety of applications and specialties such as human rights, international banking, trade laws, or treaty laws.
  • Master of Law Degree – a second-degree program in the legal field with global applications from international law to intellectual property.

Online Legal Studies Degree

The fastest growing segment within higher education in the last decade has been online learning or distance learning programs.  The online learning sector is attractive to many students and working professionals given its learning modalities, flexibility, independence, and quality.  By selecting a law degree online in California or an online law degree in Texas or Florida could be the segue you have been looking for the enhance your career or get you into the legal field from an outside industry.  As you research accredited colleges and universities that may be right for you, keep your priority checklist handy and request information from schools as often as you see fit to find the best program for you.  For additional resources from MatchCollege on online learning programs and research articles, visit any one of the following:

Popular Careers in Legal Studies

By earning a college degree in legal studies from an accredited college or university in the United States, you may be ready to launch a career in a number of differing arenas.  While not inclusive of all possible options, you may choose to pursue a career in any one of the following:

  • Arbitration
  • Court Reporter
  • Law Clerk
  • Consultants
  • Professor
  • Reporter or Journalist
  • Politician
  • Judge and Magistrate
  • Government Attorney
  • Mediator
  • Union Representative
  • Data Analyst
  • Compliance Coordinator
  • Legislative Liaison
  • Public Service Administrator
  • Labor Relations Manager
  • Lawyer
  • Private Investigator
  • Legal Assistant
  • Paralegal
  • Research Analyst
  • Court Clerk
  • Government Relations Director
  • Court Administrator

Job growth for law professionals in general is expected to increase over the next decade. This is primarily due to the increasing complexity of the legal system in the face of ambiguous legal territories that are being defined and redefined through the advent of new technologies, resulting in the need for professional who are able to navigate case histories and do research to find precedence.  Individuals interested in legal studies may also be interested in paralegal, pre-law, and law degrees.  Additional resources such as the NLA or ABA can be utilized to help find careers in the legal field from coast to coast.

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Career Summary: Legal studies Major




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