Legal studies can open the door for you to work in a challenging and high-paying career. Read on to learn more about education and earnings for paralegals, lawyers and judges.
An interest in legal studies can lead to a wide range of education and career opportunities, including a job as a paralegal, lawyer, judge or arbitrator. While education requirements can vary according to your career choice, completion of a 2-year associate degree program may qualify you for an entry-level job as a legal assistant or paralegal. However, many legal positions require at least a 4-year bachelor's degree. A graduate degree, such as a Master of Arts in Legal Studies or Juris Doctor, may lead to higher-level opportunities or a career as a licensed attroney.
In a legal studies program, you may take courses in constitutional, commercial and developmental law. Students that attend law school typically choose an area of concentration, such as litigation, environmental law, or government law.
Nationwide, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected an average growth in employment for lawyers from 2012-2022. Minimal to change in employment was expected for judges and hearing officers during the same period; however, paralegals can look forward to a much-faster-than average increase in opportunities through 2022.
According to the BLS in May 2013, the mean annual income for paralegals was $51,170, with those employed in software publishing earning $77,140 a year. As of the same month, lawyers earned a mean annual salary of $131,990; those who were associated with physician's offices were paid over $235,000 a year. In May 2013, judges working at the local and state levels earned mean annual salaries of $88,650 and $123,770 respectively. As reported by the BLS, the mean annual salary for an arbitrator, mediator or conciliator in May 2013 was $76,840 (www.bls.gov).
Some career options, such as paralegal positions, do not have extensive education requirements. An associate degree program in paralegal studies could qualify you for this type of job. If you already have a bachelor's degree, you can become a paralegal by obtaining a paralegal certificate, which usually only takes a few months to complete.
If you'd like to become a lawyer, you could prepare for law school by completing a bachelor's degree program that focuses on critical thinking, public speaking and writing, such as political science or criminal justice. After obtaining a 4-year degree, you'll need to continue on to law school to earn a law degree. During your law program, you'll be able to customize your coursework to learn about the kind of law you'd like to practice.
Becoming a judge generally requires years of experience in the legal field, usually as a lawyer. Depending on the type of court over which you want to preside, you might need to earn a law degree, pass a bar exam and obtain political support. You'll also have to participate in a preliminary orientation and pass one or more judicial examinations. Earning a master's degree in mediation, dispute resolution or legal studies can prepare you for private, public and corporate jobs in arbitration.