How Useful is a Postgraduate Degree in Law?

Elisabeth Haub School of Law
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Employment in the legal sector is projected to grow by around 6% (from 2018 to 2028), which is average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this is good news for recent graduates, research also shows that there is a significant difference between earnings of the top and lowest-paid professionals (around $183,000 vs $79,160). Landing a top position at a firm or gaining a solid reputation in a specialist field depends as much on experience as it does on education. Those seeking to get ahead and hone specific skills are looking to postgraduate courses (including LLMs and PhDs) to either build a resume that stands out from those of graduates from the same university, or to build a career as a university professor in law.

Specialization In Your Area Of Interest

Arguably the top reason that a graduate might pursue an LLM, is the chance to specialize in one key area – anything from Human Rights to Labor Law, Entertainment, Media, and Intellectual Property Law. Some universities offer graduates a chance to specialize in two areas at once – for instance, Criminology and International Human Rights. Often, the nature of Masters degrees offered are inexorably tied into the area in which respective universities are located. Thus, UCLA logically offers Masters in areas centered on the entertainment industry. Postgraduate degrees are ideal for lawyers who may already be working at a firm but who identify a gap they could fulfil with further specialization.

The Chance To Teach

PhDs are a good choice for those wishing to specialize in legal scholarship and teaching. It gives students the chance to contribute to the development of law as an academic field and serves as a bridge to a career within a university setting. Of course, not all professionals pursuing a doctorate wish to take up a purely academic post. Some pursue their doctorate externally while fulfilling their role at their firm, keen on making academic contributions to their area of interest while continuing to serve clients.

A Higher Salary

In addition to dedicating your professional life to an area of specialty you love, salary expectations are also key when deciding whether or not to invest time and money in postgraduate studies. The average LLM degree salary stands at around $133,000 per year – a big rise from the average law graduate salary of around $82,000. Specializing in one field can further your chance of promotion or employment, depending on the demand for your chosen area.

As is the case with all postgraduate degrees, an LLM or PhD is an investment that can pay off handsomely in terms of earnings – so much so that taking a sabbatical for study purposes may be a good choice depending on your long-term goals. To complete a postgraduate degree in the least amount of time possible, time is often taken off work. However, if you wish to keep your progress at optimal level, part-time or external postgraduate study may be an ideal choice.

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