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Legal Studies & Education

When someone says "legal career," the automatic tendency is to think "lawyer." But there are actually quite a few other careers in the legal field that do not require a law degree.

What are some legal careers, besides being a lawyer?

  • Arbiter, conciliator, mediator
  • Corrections officer
  • Court reporter
  • Judge
  • Hearing officer
  • Local/state/federal law enforcement
  • Paralegal/legal assistant
  • Private detective/investigator
  • Probation/parole officer
  • Security guard
Most judges and hearing officers have law degrees and experience as lawyers, but some states do not require a law degree. Some arbiters/conciliators/mediators also have law degrees but it is not a requirement.

Options/requirements for people looking for a legal career without a law degree

Educational options for legal careers without a law degree include the following:
  • Associate degree: Entry-level paralegals and legal assistants are usually required to have at least a 2-year associate degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. Some employers prefer a bachelor's degree and provide on-the-job training if the degree is in a discipline other than law. Some entry-level law enforcement as well as local law enforcement positions require an associate degree plus training at a law enforcement academy.
  • Bachelor's degree: Probation/parole and state law enforcement officers and most federal law enforcement agents are generally required to have at least a bachelor's degree and some law enforcement experience.
  • Other: Court reporters usually have postsecondary certificates and may need to be licensed in some states. Most states require private detectives/investigators to be licensed but most do not have specific education requirements. Qualifications for security guards vary substantially among employers.

What does it take to earn a law degree and become a lawyer?

Education for a law degree includes a 4-year bachelor's degree plus 3 years of law school culminating in a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), the J.D. is the equivalent of a Ph.D. Candidates must then pass a written bar examination in the state in which they plan to practice law. Requirements vary by state.

Can you become a lawyer through an online law degree program?

In order to sit for a state bar examination, students must have graduated from a program that is accredited by the ABA. Although some classes can be taken online, they are highly regulated by the ABA. Only California currently allows graduates of unaccredited online programs to sit for the California bar exam. However, not all states recognize law degrees that include unaccredited course work. According to an Inside Higher Education article, some colleges and universities are offering online master's degree programs in U.S. law. The ABA is also reviewing its accreditation standards with the goal of eventually increasing the number of courses a law student can take online, but it is unknown whether the ABA will accredit fully online law degrees in the near future.

What are the advantages of a degree in law or legal studies?

In addition to relatively high salaries for lawyers, other advantages for those with a law degree or with a legal studies background include the following:

  • Credibility: Getting a law degree is not easy and takes at least 3 years. Having a law degree may demonstrate intelligence and perseverance.
  • Skills: Graduates of law programs generally learn how to logically reason out an argument and develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills so crucial to recruiters.
  • Altruism: Graduates of legal programs have an opportunity to help others by representing them as lawyers or through other legal outlets.

What are some of the disadvantages?

While there are advantages to a legal education, there are also some potential disadvantages, especially for those wishing to earn a law degree, such as the following:

  • Quality of life: Being a lawyer can be personally grueling, as the profession can be stressful and highly competitive.
  • Huge debt: According to an article in The New York Times, even a mediocre law school is going to cost around $43,000 per year.

Studying the law or legal studies, much as with any other discipline, has its pros and cons. Whether a student is studying to be a lawyer or for a career in another legal profession, it's necessary to do some serious research before heading down what may potentially be a difficult and possibly expensive road.


Legal Degrees & Schools

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            Criminal Justice
            Platt College , Anaheim
            • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
            • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
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            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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            Criminal Justice - Bachelor
            • Average class size is 25, allowing for more one-on-one time with instructors.
            • Has a 97% employment rate among available graduates.
            • All  graduates receive Lifetime Employment  Assistance—free and forever.
            • Michigan's largest independent college.
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            Bachelor of Science: Criminal Justice: Homeland Security
            • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
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            Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice

            See What’s Possible When You Earn a Degree at Florida Tech 100% Online

            Whatever your motivation for considering an undergraduate or graduate degree, Florida Tech offers programs online that can meet your needs. Here are a few reasons Florida Tech may be the right choice for you.

            • Online Courses
            Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
            • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
            • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
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            Criminal Justice (11-Month Diploma Program)
            UEI College , Bakersfield
            • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
            • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
            • Provides flexible class times including weekends.
            • Offers curriculum that ranges from 8 month diploma programs to 16-month Associate of Applied Science degree programs.
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            Applied Criminology (Master of Arts) - Online
            • For the 12th consecutive year, Cal U was named one for the best schools in the Northeast by The Princeton Review 
            • Recognized by the U.S. News and World Report for: Best Online Programs, Bachelor’s 2017, Best Online Programs, Grad Education 2017 and Best Online Programs, Bachelor’s for Veterans 2017
            • Quality Online courses at Cal U have the same objectives, content and learning outcomes as campus-based programs and are taught by the same expert professors.
            • Offers private school amenities at a public school cost. Student-to-teacher ratio of 20:1
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            B.S. in Criminal Justice
            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Founded in 1890, it has a campus in Waterbury, CT and offers online degree program in eight-week modules, six times a year.
            • About 800 students are enrolled at the main campus, and about half of them commute.
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            Fremont College traces its roots to Platt College’s founding in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1879, and the Southern California branch campus was established in 1986. The most significant evolution of the College started when its third CEO, Dr. Sabrina Kay, assumed leadership in 2007. Fremont College became an innovative center adopting the framework of Work-Based Learning Leadership at the Wharton School and Dr. Kay’s thesis on improved learning through practice and collaboration.
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            Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
            • Founded in 1951 by World War II veteran Donald Grantham to provide affordable, higher education for service members and their families.
            • Approved by all branches of the United States Armed Forces for Tuition Assistance (TA), and for benefits payments by the Department of Veteran Affairs benefits (VA).
            • Reviews applicants’ military and professional training for possible transfer credits, and honors credit earned through successful completion of Defense Acquisition University (DAU) courses.
            • Participates in GoArmyEd, Marine Corps Academic Explorer, The Air University Associate to Baccalaureate Cooperative (CCAF), and many other virtual gateways.
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