Legal studies programs give students a foundational understanding of the law and prepares them for law-related careers. A bachelor’s degree in legal studies typically takes four years to complete. Some schools offer BA-to-JD programs conferring a legal studies bachelor’s degree and a law degree in six years. Besides law school, legal studies degree graduates may pursue positions as arbitrators and mediators, paralegals and legal assistants, trial consultants, and court reporters.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in legal occupations will grow 5% between 2019-2029, faster than the average rate. Legal occupations promise strong earning potential with a median annual salary of $81,820.
Legal studies program admission requirements include a high school or GED diploma, a competitive GPA, and satisfactory test scores. Many programs and schools have adopted a test optional policy through all 2021 admissions cycles.
What Can I Do With a Legal Studies Degree?
Legal studies program graduates choose from various career paths available to them. Many legal studies degrees prepare students for law school or an entry-level law-related career. An interdisciplinary field, legal studies draws on sociology, criminology, history, political science, and philosophy.
A bachelor’s degree in legal studies may include law school preparation, such as application assistance, advising, and internship opportunities at local law offices. Alternatively, graduates may pursue jobs as mediators, court reporters, file clerks, or paralegals and legal assistants. Most of these entry-level positions require a bachelor’s or associate degree.
A degree demonstrating an interest in and dedication to the study of law can distinguish candidates for non-lawyer legal positions, giving legal studies program graduates an advantage. Students who start working upon graduation can always decide to pursue a law degree after gaining a few years of experience.
What Are the Requirements for a Legal Studies Program?
Most legal studies degrees require 120 credits and take four years to complete. Courses cover topics such as criminal law, law and society, and civil practice and procedure. Coursework also includes trial advocacy and rhetoric and the law.
To gain admission to legal studies programs, candidates must hold a high school or GED diploma, along with a competitive GPA and satisfactory test scores. Other application requirements may include a personal essay and recommendation letters.
To graduate, learners must complete all the degree requirements while maintaining a minimum GPA. Some legal studies programs require a senior capstone, internship, or honors thesis. Prospective students should consult an advisor for a given program’s specific requirements.
Is legal studies the same as pre-law?
Yes and no. Schools typically offer legal studies as a major, while pre-law indicates an intention to pursue law school upon graduation. Not all pre-law students will major in legal studies, but legal studies students might choose pre-law.
What bachelor's degree do you need to become a lawyer?
Law schools do not necessarily require a bachelor’s degree in particular disciplines. Pre-law students generally benefit from a liberal arts education emphasizing skills such as logic and reasoning, effective communication, and research methods.
What can you do with a bachelor's in legal studies?
Legal studies bachelor’s degree-holders can pursue law school or gain employment in multiple legal support services.
What are the best states for lawyers?
States with the highest employment of lawyers include California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Illinois.
Courses in a Legal Studies Program
Legal studies programs provide an understanding of the law and the U.S. legal system. Students learn the skills necessary to support the functioning of this system. Through required courses, enrollees develop legal procedure knowledge and the research skills necessary to discover specific information related to cases, statutes, or a legal topic.
Some programs allow learners to tailor their electives to a specific concentration area. For instance, students interested in criminal justice may take courses related to criminal law, crime and society, and criminology.
The list below provides an overview of courses found in many legal studies programs. Not all programs offer these courses, but we have provided a representative sample.
This course introduces U.S. laws, systems of law-making and administration, and processes for resolving legal conflicts. Students gain familiarity with the U.S. Constitution and law categories. They study civil litigation, alternative dispute resolution, and contemporary issues related to justice in law and society. Learners gain an understanding of the legal system structure, the relationship between state and federal courts, and the relationship between case law and statutes.
This course introduces the basic principles of legal research. Students learn to understand legal citations and find full texts based on a legal citation. Learners find information about a case given a statute and locate secondary sources given a specific legal topic. Enrollees become familiar with various tools for locating legal information and learn how to use them.
Introducing criminal law and criminal procedure, this course outlines policy issues related to the fourth, fifth, sixth, and 14th Amendments. Students learn about incorporation theory, right to counsel, and the exclusionary rule. Coursework also covers search and seizure law, interrogation law, and pre-trial identification procedures. Learners gain an understanding of how the criminal justice system operates and the legal parameters of police and defendant conduct.
This course covers the procedural law regulating how government agencies make decisions. It also outlines the law relating to how courts monitor these agencies and hold them accountab-itemle. Administrative law prepares students to deal with government agencies at the federal, state, or local level as a legal professional. Enrollees learn about the history of administrative law, varying models of agency operation, judicial review, and changing policies around deregulation and review.
This course introduces the procedures, laws, and practices in court used to resolve civil disputes rather than criminal cases. Many versions of this course focus on civil law at the federal level. They examine the federal rules of civil procedure, the judicial code, the Constitution, and previous Supreme Court ruling on civil matters. Students learn about the strategic, ethical, and professional considerations related to civil litigation and the skills necessary to understand and support these processes.
Professional Organizations for Legal Studies Students
Organizations for legal professionals provide resources and career advancement opportunities to their members. Many professional organizations offer students a discounted membership. By joining, they gain access to a network of colleagues and peers, career services, and scholarships. Learners can also take advantage of credential programs and certifications, continuing education seminars, and other resources.
- NALS, the association for legal professionals Dedicated to enhancing the careers of legal professionals, NALS advances the legal support industry. The organization offers multiple national certifications. Members enjoy access to educational resources and publications.
- Association of Legal Administrators ALA provides support and resources to professionals involved in the management of law firms and the legal industry. ALA offers the certified legal manager program, a credential in the field of legal management. Members enjoy career assistance, webinars and online workshops, conferences, and networking opportunities.
- American Bar Association The ABA connects lawyers dedicated to improving administration of the law. Membership provides benefits such as free continuing legal education, access to exclusive resources, and networking opportunities. The ABA publishes a peer-reviewed journal containing quality legal analyses.
- Federal Communications Bar Association The FCBA comprises lawyers and other professionals involved in the development and practice of communications and information technology law and policy. The organization hosts conferences, seminars, job services, and members-only networking events.
Scholarships for Legal Studies Students
Legal studies students qualify for general needs-based and merit-based scholarships. Some scholarships specifically support students pursuing professions in legal support or law-related administration. Pre-law programs may offer their own scholarships. See the list below for a few scholarships specific to the field.
Who Can Apply: The Law School Admission Council partners with law schools to offer this scholarship for rising sophomores and juniors from underrepresented minorities. PLUS awards a stipend and provides resources to navigate the law school application and admissions process. PLUS programs occur over the summer.
Who Can Apply: Individuals pursuing careers in the legal field outside of law school may apply for the scholarship. Applicants need California residency and may apply as a high school senior, college student, or career change student. College applicants must have completed at least one year of their undergraduate degree and be pursuing a legal-related field of study.
Best Bachelor's in Legal Studies Programs 2021
#1 University of Central Florida
Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies
The University of Central Florida offers a bachelor’s degree in legal studies that prepares students for law school or other law-related careers. Students work with faculty with degrees from American Bar Association-approved law schools and experience practicing law. Students can choose between pursuing a BA or BS in legal studies on campus or entirely online.
The 120-credit legal studies program takes four years to complete. Students must complete 33 major credits at UCF and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA. Core courses cover topics such as law and the legal system, legal research, and legal writing. Elective courses include the law of torts, criminal law, and trial advocacy. Other classes cover law and emotion, and law and human behavior. Students also complete a capstone experience or internship.
Applicants need a high school or GED equivalent and adequate test scores.
UCF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
#2 Keiser University
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies
Keiser University offers a bachelor’s degree in legal studies designed for students pursuing careers in law or law-related fields. Through the program, students learn the skills necessary to work in a law office and how law impacts other fields.
The 120-credit legal studies degree takes 3-4 years to complete. Students take courses such as criminal law, contracts, civil litigation, torts, and family law. Keiser offers a law office management concentration, which trains students for paralegal and law office manager positions.
Applicants must provide verification of high school graduation or the completion of a GED credential. Students can easily transfer credits from other regionally accredited institutions provided they earned a “C” grade or higher in the course. Students must complete their degree’s final 25% at Keiser.
Keiser University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
#3 University of South Florida
Bachelor’s with a Pre-Law track
University of South Florida allows students of all majors to participate in the pre-law track through the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies. The program does not confer a major, minor, or certificate. It comprises a series of law-related courses to supplement any major leading to law school. Students gain access to workshops, career advising, LSAT preparation, and law school application preparation.
The pre-law track does not require a set number of credits. Instead, students take law-related courses in disciplines of law and politics, criminology, communication, and philosophy. These courses include international and constitutional law, crime and justice in the U.S., and legal writing. Pre-law advisors help students navigate any questions about law school.
USF applicants must hold a high school or GED equivalent. The average admitted student GPA falls between 4.1-4.4.
USF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
#4 University of Arizona
Bachelor of Arts in Law
The University of Arizona features a bachelor of arts in law that trains students in key law foundations that help one make logically sound arguments. The program offers a fast track path to law school through the 3+3 program. Qualified students can start law school after their junior year. The University of Arizona delivers the program face to face or entirely online.
The 120-credit degree includes 39 major credits and takes 3-4 years to complete. The core curriculum comprises courses on topics such as the U.S. national government, procedure, torts and contracts, and constitutional and administrative laws.
First year applicants need a high school diploma or GED equivalent. They must rank in their graduating class’s top 25% with a 3.0 GPA or higher.
The University of Arizona is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
#5 Northwestern University
Bachelor’s in Legal Studies
Northwestern University provides a legal studies program open to undergraduates in all schools. Students must apply to the major because demand often exceeds enrollment limits for the competitive program. Applications typically open in the winter quarter, and students apply during their sophomore or junior year.
The legal studies bachelor degree requires 12 courses, including four core courses and eight electives. Core courses include law and society, research methods in legal studies, and two advanced research seminars. In the research seminars, students design and execute an original socio-legal research project and produce a thesis. Each seminar caps the student numbers at 25 to ensure individualized attention from professors and teaching assistants.
Applicants must submit a current unofficial transcript and a writing sample. The legal studies program does not require a minimum GPA, but considers grades received in legal studies courses and related disciplines.
Northwestern University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
#6 University of Memphis
Bachelor’s in Legal Studies
The University of Memphis equips legal studies program students to provide legal support services or pursue further legal education. The University of Memphis features an accelerated BA-to-JD program where students earn their bachelor’s and law degree in six years. The university delivers the legal studies degree entirely online.
The 120-credit legal studies bachelor degree includes 30 core credits in legal studies and takes 3-4 years to complete. The curriculum emphasizes theory and application of the law, legal research, law-related technologies, and professional communication skills. Core courses cover topics such as legal ethics, contracts commercial law, torts, and civil procedure.
All UofM students complete a senior thesis or project in their final semester. For their senior projects, learners analyze a case file, conduct independent legal research, and draft a full-length trial brief.
University of Memphis is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
#7 Bay Path University
BS/BA in Legal Studies
Bay Path University provides a legal studies program to students with a strong foundation in legal communication, leadership, technology, and ethics. The program prepares graduates for careers in law, law school, or graduate school. Graduates meet the requirements for the American Bar Association-approved certificate of advanced paralegal studies.
Bay Path partners with the Western New England School of Law to offer a 3+3 program. Students qualifying for the program begin their first year of law school at Western New England after their junior year at Bay Path.
The legal studies degree comprises 120 credits over 3-4 years. Students take courses such as business law, principles of litigation, principles of criminal procedure, and tort law. Students must complete an internship as a part of the curriculum.
Applicants must hold a high school or GED equivalent. During the 2021 admissions cycles, candidates may submit unofficial transcripts and self-reported grades.
Bay Path University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
#8 University at Buffalo
Bachelor of Arts in Law
The University at Buffalo features a bachelor of arts in law for students pursuing careers requiring a sound understanding of the law. The program prepares students to continue their legal education in law school or other related graduate programs. Graduates qualify for careers that support lawyers, including paralegals and trial consultants. The University at Buffalo offers an accelerated BA-to-JD program.
The 120-credit degree includes 42 major credits and takes 3-4 years to complete. Core courses include common law, public law, legal reasoning, legal research methods, and contract law. Students can participate in supervised undergraduate teaching and conduct independent studies during their degree.
Applicants need a high school or GED equivalent. Competitive candidates hold a minimum 2.0 GPA and completed two legal studies courses with a minimum 2.5 GPA.
University at Buffalo is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
#9 University of Massachusetts Amherst
Bachelor’s in Legal Studies
University of Massachusetts Amherst offers a bachelor’s degree in legal studies emphasizing the relationship between law, politics, and society. Most classes limit student numbers to 25 so each student enjoys a high interaction level with faculty members and peers. Graduates attend law school or pursue careers in court administration, law enforcement, or education.
The legal studies bachelor degree requires 120 credits and takes four years to complete. Students can specialize in comparative and international law, conflict resolution, constitutional law, and law and social justice. Students enjoy the opportunity to pursue internships with courts, district attorney offices, private law firms, and public interest groups.
Candidates must complete the common application and an essay. UMass has adopted a test optional policy through Spring 2023.
UMass Amherst is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
#10 Wichita State University
Bachelor’s in Pre-Law
Wichita State University offers a pre-law program that issues a broad liberal arts education alongside courses providing an understanding of the law. Since the program does not confer its own degree, students may choose to major in any discipline. Advisors provide pre-law students with recommendations for courses that build the skills necessary for law school. These skills include quantitative research and statistical techniques, communication skills, and logical reasoning.
A bachelor’s degree on a pre-law track requires 120 credits and takes four years to complete. Students might take courses such as criminal law, courts and the judicial system, philosophy of law, and public law. Students enjoy access to internship opportunities and a cooperative education program giving them hands-on experience.
Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED. Candidates need a minimum 2.25 GPA and adequate test scores.
Wichita State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.