How Many Years of College Does IT Take to Become a Lawyer?
To become a practicing lawyer, you will need to complete about seven years of college education, including an undergraduate degree and law degree, and pass a state-administered bar exam in order to practice. Read on to learn more. Schools offering Courts & Legal Systems degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Description of Duties for Lawyers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), lawyers, or attorneys, are an important part of modern-day society because they serve as advisers and advocates for the public (www.bls.gov). They fill the roles of counselors, mediators, defenders or prosecutors. As a lawyer, you'd be responsible for offering guidance to individuals on their legal rights, such as advice on how to defend against civil and criminal charges or file charges against another party. Additionally, you could represent individuals and corporations in business and personal legal affairs, often in court.
Entrance to law school is highly competitive. You first need to complete a bachelor's degree program, which typically takes four years. If you're planning to attend law school, you might consider a major in English, history, politics or business, though there is no particular required major. After earning your bachelor's degree, you must complete law school, which can take 2-4 years, lead to a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. During your first year in law school, you study broad subjects, such as constitutional law and legal writing, before you choose a concentration for your later years of study.
Areas of Study
While in law school, you have the option to concentrate in an area of interest. Private practice lawyers generally specialize in criminal or civil law, but you may specialize in other areas, such as:
- International law
- Environmental law
- Probate law
- Tax law
- Bankruptcy law
After completing a J.D. degree program, you need to pass the bar examination approved by your state, usually the Multistate Bar Examination. When you pass the bar exam, you demonstrate you've achieved the level of mastery mandated by your state of residence. Ethics testing is also required for licensing by many states.
Employment and Earning Potential
As a lawyer, you could have excellent earnings and employment opportunities. According to the BLS, employment of lawyers had been expected to grow 10% from 2012-2022. Salary.com reported that the expected median salary for a lawyer with 0-3 years of experience was $80,059 in February 2014. Lawyers with 2-5 years of experience had an expected median salary of $108,818, with that number rising to $146,376 for those with 5-8 years of legal experience.
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