Career Paths for Law School Graduates

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Legal training prepares graduates for a variety of in-demand careers. Many law careers pay above-average salaries and report strong job growth. Professionals in the criminal justice and law field interpret and enforce the law. They work in law enforcement, the court system, and the correctional system.

Some law school career paths include high-paying roles like lawyer and judge. An undergraduate or graduate degree in legal studies also leads to opportunities as paralegals, compliance officers, tax examiners, mediators, and human resources managers. In these roles, professionals apply their legal training to interpret laws and regulations.

This article introduces jobs for law school graduates. Read on to learn more about law careers for professionals with an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in legal studies.

Earning an Associate Degree in Law



An associate degree in law, sometimes called a legal studies or paralegal studies degree, provides foundational training in the law, the court system, and the legal profession. Learners study civil litigation, legal research, ethics, and legal writing during the two-year degree.

With an associate degree in legal studies, graduates often pursue careers as paralegals or legal assistants. Students can choose an online paralegal studies certificate or an online paralegal studies degree. Many schools also offer affordable online paralegal studies programs.

Earning an associate degree in law prepares graduates for a bachelor’s degree and law careers that require graduate degrees. After completing an associate degree, students can transfer into a four-year college or university to earn a bachelor’s degree in two years.

Career Paths and Outlook for an Associate Degree in Law



An associate degree in law prepares graduates for careers in the legal system or the criminal justice system. Graduates work as paralegals, court reporters, and legal assistants. In these roles, they assist lawyers and help courts maintain accurate records of legal proceedings. The degree also meets the educational requirements for roles like private detective, investigator, or police officer.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects strong growth for many careers in law between 2019 and 2029.

  • Court Reporters

    Court reporters create transcriptions during trials, depositions, and hearings. They attend legal proceedings and use specialized equipment to create records of the proceeding. Court reporters also record actions and gestures. Courts rely on copies of their transcripts to create court records. These professionals need special training, which can include an associate degree in law and on-the-job training. In some states, court reporters need a license or certification from a professional association.

  • Paralegals and Legal Assistants

    These professionals support lawyers by conducting legal research, drafting documents, and maintaining files. They gather facts for cases, arrange evidence for attorney review, and summarize reports for lawyers. Paralegal and legal assistants also draft contracts and mortgages, secure affidavits from witnesses, and file briefs or appeals with the court. Most paralegals and legal assistants hold an associate degree in legal studies or paralegal studies. They may also hold a certificate in paralegal studies.

  • Private Detectives and Investigators

    These professionals conduct background checks and investigate potential crimes for clients. They look for information about financial, legal, or personal matters by searching public records, interviewing people, and conducting surveillance. Private detectives and investigators may also use court records to determine if someone has a criminal history or civil judgments against them. Most private detectives and investigators hold several years of work experience, and some roles require an associate degree in law or criminal justice and a license.

Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Court Reporters $60,130 9%
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $51,740 10%
Private Detectives and Investigators $50,510 8%

Source: BLS

Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Law



A bachelor’s degree in law trains undergraduates in the legal system, the role of law in society, and the legal profession. Depending on the school, the major may also be called legal studies, pre-law, or paralegal studies. The major trains students in legal research, Constitutional law, and contracts. Students may also take electives in business law, tax law, or environmental law.

Earning a bachelor’s in law generally takes four years for full-time students. In addition to on-campus programs, learners can also choose an online bachelor’s in pre-law or legal studies.

Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies work for law firms, corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies. The degree also prepares graduates for law school and jobs for law school graduates.

Career Paths and Outlook for a Bachelor’s Degree in Law



A bachelor’s degree in law prepares graduates for a variety of career paths. Many job opportunities with a bachelor’s in legal studies offer above-average salaries.

With a legal studies background, professionals can work as arbitrators, mediators, paralegals, claims examiners, and law enforcement officers. Legal studies majors also pursue careers in human resources, tax preparation, and consulting. These fields draw on legal training and an ability to interpret laws and regulations.


  • Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

    These professionals manage negotiations to help opposing parties reach a resolution without filing a lawsuit. They conduct meetings with disputants, oversee communications between parties, and help both sides negotiate an agreement. Arbitrators and mediators also interview witnesses and claimants to learn about the disputed issue. After reaching a resolution, they prepare settlement agreements. A bachelor’s in legal studies helps these professionals apply laws and regulations during discussions.

  • Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators

    These professionals work in the insurance industry where they evaluate insurance claims. They investigate claims to determine whether the policy covers the loss. Claims examiners and investigators make sure clients do not file fraudulent claims. They may interview employers or doctors to evaluate questionable claims. Claims specialists draw on legal training to evaluate the insurance company’s responsibilities according to different laws and regulations. A bachelor’s degree in legal studies meets the educational requirement for these roles.


Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators $63,930 8%
Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators $66,540 -6%

Source: BLS

Earning a Master’s Degree in Law



A master’s degree in law, also known as a master’s in legal studies degree, offers specialized training in the law. However, a master’s degree does not prepare graduates for careers as lawyers. Instead, the degree builds strengths in interpreting laws and regulations, conducting legal research, and writing legal analysis.

Earning a master’s in legal studies generally takes one year. Students take classes in contract law, civil procedure, and legal research. Learners may also specialize their training with classes in tax law, criminal justice, human resources, or employment law.

Many schools offer online master’s in legal studies programs, which offer greater flexibility for working professionals and busy students. Earning a master’s in legal studies can help professionals advance their careers or pursue opportunities in new fields.

Career Paths and Outlook for a Master’s Degree in Law



A master’s degree in law degree prepares graduates for careers in law that do not require a juris doctor (JD). For example, graduates work as compliance officers advising clients on conforming with laws and regulations. They may also work as tax examiners, financial examiners, law librarians, and financial analysts. In these roles, professionals advise businesses and individuals on following the law.

Professionals with a master’s in law degree can also work as arbitrators, mediators, claims examiners, and insurance investigators. A graduate degree in the law can help candidates stand out in the job market.


  • Librarians

    Librarians help patrons find information and conduct research. They create databases to store library materials, add materials to their collection, and research new materials. Librarians work in a variety of settings, including public, academic, and law libraries. Law librarians conduct research on legal matters and help lawyers or law students locate legal resources. They may work in law school libraries or for law firms. In general, these professionals need a master’s degree in library science and some legal training, including a master’s in law.

  • Financial Analysts

    Financial analysts advise businesses and individuals on investment decisions and tax compliance. They may recommend investment strategies, examine financial statements to determine a company’s value, and create reports on financial matters. A master’s in law can help financial analysts advise their clients on financial laws and regulations. For example, a background in tax law helps financial analysts recommend legal strategies to securities companies and brokerage firms. The role also requires experience or training in finance.

Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Librarians $59,500 5%
Financial Analysts $81,590 5%

Source: BLS

Earning a JD



A JD provides focused training in the law. Full-time students typically take three years to earn a JD. To practice law, lawyers need a JD from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) and must pass their state’s bar exam.

During law school, students take courses in contracts, civil procedures, criminal law, and torts. Law students also study legal research and legal writing. Many law students specialize their training by pursuing electives in corporate and securities law, immigration law, or healthcare law. A specialization helps prepare law students for specific career paths after graduation.

While some programs offer hybrid routes to a JD, the ABA does not accredit fully online JD programs. The most common jobs for law school graduates include lawyer and judge.

Career Paths and Outlook for Graduates with a JD



A JD trains students for careers in the law. Most professionals with a JD work as lawyers specializing in areas like corporate law, environmental law, criminal law, and intellectual property law. Some lawyers also advance into positions like judge or hearing officer, which typically require several years of experience as an attorney.

While many law school graduates work as lawyers, jobs for law school graduates include a variety of roles that benefit from legal training. For example, law school career paths include opportunities in corporate consulting, advising clients on compliance with the law. Other career paths for law school graduates include political scientist, legislative analyst, FBI special agent, or mediator. A JD can also help graduates pursue academic careers as law school professors.


  • Lawyers

    Lawyers represent their clients in a variety of legal areas, including criminal law, family law, tax law, employment law, and business law. They advise their clients on legal matters and represent clients in court. Lawyers also negotiate settlements with opposing parties, conduct legal research, and interpret law and regulations for businesses. Lawyers typically need a JD from an ABA-accredited law school and must pass their state’s bar exam to practice law.

  • Judges and Hearing Officers

    These professionals conduct legal proceedings in court and rule on legal issues. They research legal issues, conduct hearings, and rule on motions. Judges and hearing officers also read arguments from the parties in their court, including motions, and apply laws and precedents to reach a decision. After ruling in a court, judges write opinions or decisions about their judgment. Typically, judges need a JD. Federal administrative law judges also pass an examination.

  • Political Scientists

    Political sciences analyze political systems, research political ideas, and analyze political trends. Most political scientists hold a graduate degree. With a JD, political scientists may focus on the legal system and the judicial branch of government. Political scientists research the effects of laws on people and businesses. They also monitor current events to understand trends and create forecasts for the future. Political scientists may publish articles and give presentations to present their ideas.

  • Police Detectives

    A JD prepares graduates for law enforcement careers. While federal law enforcement agencies generally require a bachelor’s degree, a JD can also help graduates work in law enforcement. In fact, the FBI recruits candidates with law school training. As special agents, FBI employees investigate crimes, analyze intelligence, and interview suspects. They also write reports on their findings and testify in court. Legal training can help FBI agents determine the best strategies to bring evidence to trial and secure a conviction.

  • Postsecondary Teachers

    Postsecondary teachers, also known as professors, teach undergraduate and graduate students in a variety of subjects. Professors give lectures, grade assignments, assess student learning, and conduct research. With a JD, graduates may qualify for undergraduate teaching jobs. The BLS reports that law school professors earn a median annual salary of over $113,000. They generally hold a master of laws or Ph.D. in addition to their JD.

Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Lawyers $122,960 4%
Judges and Hearing Officers $120,090 2%
Political Scientists $122,220 6%
Police and Detective $65,170 5%
Postsecondary Teachers $79,540 9%

Source: BLS

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