Legal Studies vs Law: Career ROI

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Updated: March 17, 2024, Reading time: 10 minutes

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Legal Studies and Law careers are among the best paths for those who want to impact society positively. These degree programs are a way to become an advocate for justice and a protector of human rights. 

The most recent FBI report shows a concerning increase in criminal activity in America, particularly property crime. In light of these statistics, the demand for professionals in Legal Studies and Law careers is also skyrocketing. If you’re seeking both a challenging and rewarding career, these degree programs and career paths offer a promising avenue for the best of both worlds. 

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While Legal Studies and Law sound like the same programs, their differences are rooted in focus and scope. Before choosing which path to pursue, it’s essential to understand the distinctions between the two fields. 

Legal StudiesLaw
Average Salaries$59,200$135,740
Job Growth 2022-20324 percent8 percent
FocusStudents who want to participate in the practice of the law but don’t want to become lawyers.Students who want to become lawyers.
License/s RequiredCareer-specific licensure/certificationState licensure
Education RequiredBachelor’s and MLSJD and LLM
What is Legal Studies - Image

Legal Studies is a similar degree to Law. However, in a Legal Studies program, you’re more likely to have a broader approach to studying the law. It offers foundational knowledge of law terms, processes, and regulations. Moreover, this degree program will cover laws pertaining to individual, national, and international concerns. 

As a Legal Studies student, you’ll explore various topics like contract and constitutional law that allow you to understand the fundamental principles that govern legal systems. Legal Studies degrees can be obtained at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. 

If you want to pursue a career in Legal Studies, you must possess the following skills:

A degree in Legal Studies will train you to become an influential person in society. Ultimately, a degree in this field will equip you with the following essential skills: 

Most legal undergraduate degrees offer concentration options. This opportunity will help you customize your program to align with your future goal. Among the most popular Legal Studies concentrations include: 

Legal Studies: Education and Career Path

You can find Legal Studies at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels. The job opportunities open to you will significantly depend on which degree level you’ve completed. Nevertheless, since all Legal Studies degrees will be interdisciplinary, you’ll have access to various career paths unrelated or related to law or legal employment.

Bachelor’s degrees in Legal Studies will teach you the fundamental law principles, ethics, problem-solving, and legal research methods. These programs can be used as pre-law training or internships in school-approved facilities, lasting up to 120 hours. A bachelor’s can help you apply as a Paralegal and Claims Adjuster. 

Although you might not still be able to practice law by pursuing a graduate-level degree, you should still consider earning a master’s and doctorate. A master’s degree will prepare you for specialized and senior-level positions, such as: 

If you want to pursue careers in academia and research, you should have a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) degree. A Ph.D. will help you land opportunities as a teacher in postsecondary institutions, which is expected to grow 8 percent. 

You must pursue a certification depending on your chosen career path. The National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) grants paralegal, legal secretary, and legal professional qualifications as further certifications for jobs in Legal Studies. Other notable certifications include the National Association of Legal Assistants and the National Contract Management Association

Even beyond working in the legal field, knowing legal issues can be helpful for many careers, such as:

Legal Studies ROI: Education Cost and Salaries

On-campus bachelor’s degrees can be expensive compared to online programs, so many aspiring Legal Studies professionals now opt for an online degree. According to the US News and World Report, the range of an online bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies is $30,000 and $70,000.

On the other hand, a Master’s in Legal Studies enables students to specialize in Human Rights, Intellectual Property, Sports Law, Regulatory Law, and Risk Management. A master’s program costs roughly $19,500 and $67,008

If you pursue a doctorate, you should expect to spend $81,900 for a Ph.D. This degree level is expensive and very time-consuming. You are less likely to find a doctorate online. However, several schools offer a part-time study that allows you to graduate in 6-8 years and offers teaching assistantship opportunities to help you offset the cost of your Ph.D. 

Your average annual income will also depend on your academic attainment. Here are average salaries by degree level:

The most common career option for Legal Studies graduates is paralegal. According to the US BLS, paralegals and legal assistants earn an average of $59,200 and have an expected growth of 4 percent from 2022 to 2032.

Ultimately, the higher your academic attainment, the greater your earning potential will be in your legal profession. Salary figures also vary based on location, years of experience, area of specialization, and the type of employer.

A career in Legal Studies is for you if:

A career in Legal Studies is Not A Great Fit if:

What is Law?

What is Law - Image

Law degrees are commonly found at the master’s and doctorate levels. These programs are created for those who want to become practicing lawyers. As a law student, you’ll study several subject areas, including Criminal Law, Public Law, and Company Law. 

The curriculum of Law degrees is to help you understand legal theory and how to apply it to real-life circumstances. It equips you with the education and skills required to help create a governing law to maintain a just and fair society.

As a lawyer, you have a great responsibility to the public. The numerous opportunities in the field of law require specialized legal expertise. Regardless of your specialization, your primary duties are: 

Being a lawyer requires years of hard work and intense study; consequently, if there weren’t some outstanding rewards, not many individuals would pursue this job. The benefits of becoming an attorney for individuals who put in the necessary work exceed the expenses of earning a Law degree and obtaining a license to practice Law.

Law: Education and Career Path

Before pursuing a Law career, bear in mind the long and expensive journey ahead of you! Obtaining a license to practice law in the United States takes years and will often result in a large student debt loan. According to EDI, 74% of law school students graduate in debt.

Pursuing a bachelor’s degree is the first path to becoming a lawyer. Fortunately, you can pursue any major as long as it is from a regionally accredited institution. The most common undergraduate degrees used to apply to law schools include Economics, Criminal Justice, Political Science, and Philosophy.

A Master of Laws (LL.M.) program provides advanced education to law professionals in many industries, immersing themselves in intensive research and analysis and taking a step closer to a legal career.

Law graduates take prep courses for the LSAT. They must pass this 35-minute, five-choice exam covering reading comprehension, critical thinking, and argumentation, administered at a testing location and completed online. If you pass the LSAT, you can apply for a JD program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). This degree typically takes three years, which means you’ll be in school for at least seven years to become a lawyer.  

After a bachelor’s and JD, you should pass the bar examination, which will differ for every state. Contrary to popular belief, this test will not only look at your test scores. The state’s bar examiners will also evaluate your educational background, character, and ability to represent legally to determine if you are acceptable for a law license. 

Upon having your license, you should consider pursuing a Master of Laws (LLM) degree. This degree program allows you to specialize in law, increasing your earning potential. Although you can practice the law after a JD and state license, you still won’t be competitive enough; hence, the LLM degree. 

There are several kinds of law careers you can pursue as a licensed lawyer. Here are some of the most common career specializations you can pursue:

You should consider pursuing a PhD if you’re interested in mentoring and teaching other aspiring lawyers. However, most colleges and universities accept lawyers without a Ph.D. for academic and research positions. Although, you must secure at least ten years of professional law practice. 

Law ROI: Education Cost and Salaries

According to NCES, the average undergraduate tuition fee is $21,854 for in-state public schools and $34,041 for private institutions. You can expect to spend around $220,335 in law school. 

The salary you’ll receive as a lawyer will depend on your chosen career specialization. On average, lawyers in the United States earn an average of $135,740. Employment for lawyers has among the fastest growth rates at 8 percent from 2022 to 2032.

A career in Law is for you if:

A career in Law is Not A Great Fit if:

Legal Studies vs Law - fact

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