Legal Studies Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Find out how a major in legal studies can help to prepare you for a career as a paralegal. Learn more about this and other job options, as well as professional certifications and potential earnings. Schools offering Legal Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Legal Studies Majors?

A legal studies major is a 4-year undergraduate program that focuses on the policies and theories that drive the legal system. To complete this degree, you can expect to take courses in legal research and writing, exploration of culture and theory in relation to the law, and due process. The College Board notes that choosing this major doesn't make it easier to get into law school (www.collegeboard.com).

What Careers Are Available To Me?

As a graduate of a legal studies major, you are prepared to become a paralegal, which is an individual who works in a law office, assisting a licensed lawyer with preparation for the various stages of a trial. The California Alliance of Paralegal Associations (CAPA) states that paralegal duties may vary based on the area of law in which one works. For example, a paralegal in probate or estate planning law is responsible for reviewing the records of the deceased, assisting clients in collecting death benefits and preparing tax returns and asset valuations (www.caparalegal.org).

A paralegal working in corporate law is responsible for obtaining information to draft partnership documents, preparing calendars and meeting minutes for stockholders, and preparing documents for the IRS, Secretary of State and other agencies that regulate partnerships and corporations.

If you are a graduate of a legal studies program and are attending law school, you could consider a job as a legal clerk; however, some firms require that applicants hold a Juris Doctor to qualify for the position, according to the National Center for State Courts (www.ncsconline.org). A law clerk is responsible for the collection and analysis of legal research, preparation of legal documents and research of laws cited by other attorneys.

How Much Can I Earn?

In 2009, Payscale.com reported that paralegals responding to a salary survey earned base salaries of $35,428-$53,335. These earnings may increase, depending on bonuses and profit-sharing potentials. While paralegals often work in law firms, other popular industries for paralegal employment include real estate, government and insurance. Your industry may affect your pay, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For example, in 2009, paralegals working in the manufacturing of petroleum and coal products reported average earnings of $39.02 per hour, while paralegals working in legal services earned $23.30 per hour (www.bls.gov).

The BLS reported that in 2009 there were 32,360 individuals employed as law clerks nationwide. Furthermore, the BLS stated that law clerks in federal government positions earned an average of $26.60 per hour in 2009, while those employed in the legal services industry earned $19.28 per hour.

What Are My Certification Options?

The American Alliance of Paralegals Inc. offers the American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) designation. This certification lasts for two years; to earn this certification, a paralegal must provide documentation of five years of professional experience and education, in addition to an application (www.aapipara.org). Recertification requires the completion of 18 continuing education credits, every two years.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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