So, you want to be a lawyer. That means applying to law school after you graduate.
The American Bar Association requires law schools to require at least a bachelor’s degree, but they don’t specify what majors do and don’t qualify.
This means that universities typically don’t have an official pre-law program; instead, they may offer “tracks” in a variety of majors that will help you prepare yourself mentally and academically for the rigors of your post-graduate studies.
So while technically you can “major in anything,” the right undergraduate major can actually give you a significant advantage both getting into (and starting out) law school. Some would even argue that your undergrad discipline is a good indicator of how successful you’ll be once you get there.
As an aspiring law student, you have a lot of options when it comes to which to major in while you’re still an undergrad—and some might even surprise you.
Political science classes teach you to be mindful of how political and governmental systems at home and abroad work and operate, and how we as a society operate within those systems. A degree in political science can help you train your mind to be not only conscious of how we govern ourselves, but also conscientious of how laws impact individuals and historically marginalized groups.
A bachelor’s degree in history can help you better understand how laws and governance have changed over generations. This can give you a greater perspective on how our understanding of democracy, society, and justice change over time. You’ll learn to think critically about how laws affect us from the viewpoint of a historian.
English degrees are about more than reading Dickens and writing poetry—though those are important too. A bachelor’s degree in English will teach you think critically about language and how meaning can change with just a few words. A solid background in English will help you understand the ways in which laws are written and articulated.
Psychology students learn about the mind, cognitive function and behavior, and how our brains process and interpret information. Understanding how we interpret, process, and act on information, stimulation, and feeling can help us better understand our behavior and what it means to be human. This, of course, can be a huge benefit for those looking to practice criminal law.
Many schools offer an undergraduate program in criminal justice, where you’ll study alongside aspiring law enforcement professionals. If you want to practice criminal law, an undergraduate degree in criminal justice can be a great way to start. Many universities also offer “pre-law” track courses alongside their criminal justice programs, so you may be in these classes with other aspiring law students.
Philosophy classes will train you to think critically and question your assumptions about right and wrong, reality and unreality, and the ethical questions we encounter in our lives every day. Many philosophy programs offer courses related to the legal profession, and others offer concentrations in ethical studies.
When making your decision, it’s probably wisest to pursue the undergraduate degree that resonates best with you. Maybe you’ve always been passionate about literature, in addition to legal studies—if that’s the case, English might be the right choice for you. Or maybe you really like strolling through museums and leafing through old photos from days long gone by—if so, history might make the most sense. Choose what fits your interests and passions, and the rest will follow. At the end of the day, your grades and your LSAT scores are what are going to get you into law school—not your actual major. So pick something you’re interested in and in which you will excel!
If you’re uncertain, make an appointment to chat with your school’s academic or career advisor—they can help you determine the degree that will help you reach your personal and professional goals.
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