10 things you can do with a legal studies degree

Whether you already have a degree or you’re thinking about pursuing one, it’s natural to wonder exactly what you can do with a legal studies degree. After all, “legal studies” is a general topic, and the US legal landscape is wide.

The importance of the legal system to American culture cannot be understated.

True crime shows, once the fodder of obscure cable channels, now generate hundreds of millions of dollars for major streaming services.

In 2022, Court TV shattered its viewership records when it aired a civil lawsuit between two celebrities.

Even YouTube has gotten into the law game with some of its most popular law-related channels boasting over 200,000 subscribers.

Of course, popular culture tends to influence society at large. It’s no surprise then that legal studies programs have become so popular in the United States. In 2023, legal studies was the 126th most popular major for college students.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what legal studies programs are and, more importantly, what you can do with a legal studies degree.

What is a legal studies program?

A legal studies program examines the practical application of laws as they impact different segments of society including business, government, culture, and criminal justice.

Although some students may continue on to law school after earning a legal studies degree, there are many fascinating careers one can pursue without spending the time and money required for a Juris Doctor.

In addition to supplying a base legal knowledge that is helpful across industries, a legal studies degree also provides several core skills that give legal studies majors an advantage in business, like:

  • Concise writing and communication abilities
  • Investigation and analysis skills
  • Advanced research capabilities
  • Legal research experience
  • Understanding of courtroom procedure
  • Experience reading and understanding legalese

These skills are valuable to lots of companies that aren’t in the legal space. Of course, you can pursue a position within the legal industry, too. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular jobs for legal studies graduates.

What can you do with a degree in legal studies?

While the skills you learned in your degree program are highly applicable, these careers are natural choices for legal studies majors.

#1: Police officer

Police officers with a legal studies degree come to the profession with an exceptional grasp on civil and criminal rights, constitutional protections, criminal investigations, and proper evidence gathering.

Policing jobs are available at the city, county, state, and federal levels. Entry level jobs tend to include routine patrol duties, while advanced jobs include detective work and departmental management.

Average salary in the U.S.: $59,632

#2: Paralegal

Paralegals probably benefit from a legal studies degree more than another other profession as they typically serve as the right arms of attorneys.

A legal studies degree will provide an extraordinary understanding of procedural rules and customs, the discovery process, and trial preparation and presentation.

Entry level jobs may be focused on administrative tasks such as document review and calendaring, while more advanced paralegals can serve as an integral part of a trial team. Paralegals may also work on a freelance or contract basis.

In some states, paralegals are allowed to practice substantive law in limited practice areas such as family law or landlord-tenant law.

Average salary in the U.S.: $56,444

#3: Real estate agent

Real estate agents facilitate the purchase and sale of real estate including residential, commercial, and undeveloped properties.

While you don’t need to obtain a degree in order to become a realtor, a legal studies degree does prepare real estate agents for contract negotiations and execution, analysis of zoning laws and other local regulations, as well as for more esoteric issues, such as property line disputes and fraudulent omissions.

Having a legal studies degree is especially beneficial for those who want to pursue a specialty like short sales or specific types of commercial property.

Average salary in the U.S.: $95,015

#4: Legislative assistant

Legislative assistants assist state and federal lawmakers with their day-to-day responsibilities. Duties may include legal research and drafting memoranda regarding proposed laws, policies, and positions.

An entry-level assistant is likely to work on administrative tasks such as scheduling, whereas experienced legislative aids can play a critical role in policy analysis.

Average salary in the U.S.: $49,521

#5: Claims adjuster

As employees of insurance companies, claims adjusters will principally benefit from the broad understanding of contracts and torts that they receive as part of their legal studies degree.

Claims adjusters evaluate claims made to insurance companies, inspect property damage (or other documentation of a claim), and make decisions about how much the insurance company will pay on each claim.

Entry level jobs involve simple claim decisions such as deciding on payouts based on diagnostic codes. More senior positions involve inspection, analysis, and decision making on major claims, such as building fires or damages resulting from natural disasters.

Average salary in the U.S.: $58,814

#6: Cybersecurity analyst

A legal studies degree will help a fledgling cybersecurity analyst understand critical concepts like privacy laws and white collar crimes.

Jobs in this industry range from working in the IT department of major companies to working in an investigative capacity on things like counterfeiting, money laundering, and human trafficking via the dark web.

Average salary in the U.S.: $89,579

#7: Corporate compliance officer

A legal studies degree will help a corporate compliance officer with reading and understanding how laws are practically applied to industries.

Corporate compliance officers are responsible for keeping up to date on all laws impacting the company they work for and helping steer the company’s policies so that they comply with applicable laws.

Average salary in the U.S.: $89,900

#8: Criminalist

Most criminalists will need some sort of science or information technology degree in combination with their legal studies coursework.

Criminalists perform key investigative functions for law enforcement. These include things like blood spatter analysis and computer forensics. Senior criminalists are often called upon to testify in trials.

Their legal studies degree will be most useful for concepts such as evidence gathering and preservation.

Average salary in the U.S.: $68,403

#9: Law librarian

As the title suggests, law librarians are responsible for maintaining law libraries.

Their legal studies education will prepare them for one of the key functions of the job – assisting attorneys with complex legal research questions.

Senior law librarians are more likely to take positions of management and oversight whereas junior librarians perform much of the research.

Average salary in the U.S.: $65,209

#10: Bounty hunter

Bounty hunters are private citizens who help law enforcement by capturing people who have skipped out on their bail.

Although bounty hunters are not bound by the same legal constraints as police officers, their work is still impacted by various laws and regulations. A legal studies degree can help navigate that complex regulatory landscape.

Bounty hunters work hand-in-hand with police and courts and therefore need the solid understanding of criminal law that a legal studies program can provide.

Average salary in the U.S.: $94,000

What else is a legal studies degree good for?

When it comes to career opportunities for people with legal studies degrees, these 10 jobs are just the tip of the iceberg.

Truthfully, a baseline knowledge of law is helpful in almost any industry, which makes legal studies one of the more practical undergraduate degrees out there. Your skills are highly transferable and give you an advantage for any kind of job that involves writing, research, and critical thinking.

If you want to pursue an advanced legal degree, go for it! It’s a good idea to check with the graduate programs in which you’re interested to find out what kind of experience and undergraduate degrees are most likely to help you get accepted.

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