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 Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Career Options for Legal Studies Majors?

Students who major in a 4-year undergraduate program in legal studies can find careers that focus on the policies, theories and research of the legal system. Successful graduates may pursue a career as legal assistant, paralegal or legal clerk. A paralegal or legal assistant may work in a variety of areas ranging from probate or estate planning to corporate law. If you enjoy research you may find that being a legal clerk is a good option for you. Legal clerks perform various research and analysis tasks, as well as prepare material required by attorneys.

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 2016, PayScale.com reported that paralegals responding to a salary survey earned base salaries of $31,080-$67,652. 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 2015, paralegals and legal assistants working in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing reported average earnings of $35.00 per hour, while paralegals and legal assistants working in legal services earned $24.17 per hour (www.bls.gov).

The BLS reported that in 2014 there were 12,400 individuals employed as law clerks nationwide. Furthermore, the BLS stated that law clerks earned a median annual wage of $50,740 in 2015.

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.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform certain clerical and administrative tasks that are similar to paralegal workers. Secretaries and administrative assistants may work in a variety of office settings that may include schools, medical facilities, legal or government offices. They are involved in organizing files, preparing documents, coordinating appointments and other office support tasks.

The work of occupational health and safety technicians involve keeping workplaces safe and healthy. Their work may include, collecting data, conducting tests or determining hazards to keep employees and the general public safe. Some companies do offer on-the-job training while others prefer new employees to hold an associate's degree or certification.

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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