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What Is Legal Studies?
Legal studies is an interdisciplinary field that focuses primarily on the law and the legal system. Students who enroll in a legal studies degree program can expect to come away with a firm understanding of the origins of American law and its function, including a broad knowledge of criminal and civil law and procedure. Legal studies degree programs are also designed to help students sharpen their critical thinking, research, and writing skills.
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What Can I Do with a Degree in Legal Studies?
If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in legal studies, it’s important to know what potential career paths may be available once you graduate. In general terms, legal studies majors may seek employment in a number of different sectors, including policy development, community education, research, legal services, or social planning. Within the criminal justice system, a legal studies degree could qualify you for employment with local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies, the court system, or prisons and detention centers. You could use your degree to work as a clerk of court, police officer, paralegal or legal assistant, court administrator, magistrate, or correctional officer. An undergraduate degree in legal studies can also prepare you for advanced study at the graduate level if you’re planning on seeking a master’s or doctoral degree or attending law school.
What Courses Do I Need for a Legal Studies Degree?
A legal studies degree is designed to give you a broad knowledge of the law and as such, the curriculum covers a wide range of topics. The specifics of individual undergraduate programs vary but, generally, you can expect to take classes in criminal law, legal research and writing, criminal and civil procedure, legal analysis, the American court system, business law, and administrative law. If you’re planning on studying at the graduate level, your coursework will be designed to provide a more in-depth study of the law. Examples of the classes you may be required to take include criminal justice organization and management, law and public policy, legal ethics, corrections, policing, and constitutional law. Most graduate-level programs also require you to complete an independent research project, such as a thesis or dissertation.
Career Outlook for Legal Studies Majors
Overall, the job prospects for legal studies majors are good, although some jobs tend to be more in demand than others. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of paralegals and legal assistants will increase by 18 percent through 2020, while employment of police officers is only expected to increase by 7 percent. The demand for attorneys is expected to be somewhere in between, at 10 percent overall, while employment of court clerks is also expected to increase by 7 percent. In terms of annual salary, the median wage for attorneys was $112,760 as of May 2010. Wages tended to be highest among attorneys working for larger private firms.