Best Majors for Law School

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In this post, we discuss the best majors for law school applicants. If you are still in undergrad and you are considering law school, this article will give you a better understanding of which undergraduate majors are the most beneficial for law school admissions, and how your choice of major might effect your law school application.

Quick Note: Remember, these numbers represent averages, and regardless of your major you can dominate the LSAT. I was a finance major and I got a 177 on the LSAT (23 points higher than the average for my major).

Click Here to find out how I got a 177 on the LSAT

But First… The Worst Majors for Law School

I want to state an important warning right up front: IF YOUR SCHOOL HAS A PRE-LAW OR CRIMINAL JUSTICE MAJOR, DON’T DO IT. The hard evidence out there is that pre-law and criminal justice majors do worse on the LSAT and have worse outcomes when applying to law school.

According to LSAC, who tracks these things, only 52% of criminal justice majors and 61% pre-law majors were accepted to law school. Compare that with philosophy, economics, and journalism majors, who were admitted to law school at rates of 82, 79, and 76 percent respectively.

Now I agree with other commentators this is likely explained by self-selection. The theory is that poor test takers tend to choose these majors in abundance and this same group would score low on the LSAT even if they chose a different major. Under that theory, it’s not the major itself that’s causing the poor performance, but, no matter the explanation, they are clearly under-performing.

Let’s take a look at a study of LSAT scores by major:

LSAT by Major

(Source)

Of those measured, the two majors supposedly tailored towards preparing students for law school have the worst performance on the exam that gets you in law school!

There is no way to say this nicely, but don’t get lumped in with this group if you can help it. I realize there are great students at great schools pursuing these majors (Berkeley for example has a “legal studies” major), but it’s my firm belief that these majors don’t do anything to prepare you for law school that history, English, or political science doesn’t do better.

We also can’t fully discount the possibility that these majors really are worse at preparing you for the LSAT specifically. A known strategy for increasing your LSAT score is doing a lot of dense reading (think The Economist or The Wall Street Journal). English, philosophy, and history majors have you reading and thinking critically about dense material all the time. People also theorize that hard sciences will prepare you well for the LSAT, a topic discussed later in this post.

Further, criminal Justice and pre-law majors typically carry rampant grade inflation, so a law school admissions department might be inclined to discount a good GPA you receive in such a program slightly. Although Ann Levine, a former admissions dean and an expert in these matters, states that these majors wouldn’t cause any bias against you, she does state that you had better not get a low GPA in these majors. This indicates a belief that these are considered easy majors, such that doing great in them won’t be any real credit to you, and doing poorly is an big strike. [UPDATE: Ann just got quoted in Business Insider saying, “Law schools don’t consider [the criminal justice major]academically rigorous”, so I guess the gloves are off at least with respect to criminal justice.]

Grade inflation, and the attendant possibility that your GPA gets discounted slightly, is a problem for most humanities majors, but I would hazard a guess that it is worse for pre-law and criminal studies majors. While any discounting effect is likely to be very small, (law schools care more about your GPA number than where it came from and how you got it) it might effect you on the margins, especially at the very best law schools. Incidentally, I knew no criminal justice or pre-law majors at University of Chicago. The admissions game is all about maximizing your chances wherever possible, and pre-law and criminal studies majors appear to hurt rather than help.

Just so there isn’t confusion, I am not suggesting that anyone avoid classes that deal with legal subjects. If that interests you, go ahead. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that it will prepare you at all for 1L. The main thing that prepares you for law school in my opinion is taking a heavy workload in a challenging subject. It’s the nature of the work, and not the particular subject matter, which is most important. That brings us to our discussion of the best majors for law school…

The Best Majors for Law School

The matter of picking a good major for law school is a pretty simple. You want a serious subject that interests you and where you think you can obtain a high GPA.

Now what do I mean by a serious subject? I mean one that is challenging and is well-regarded as an area of academic inquiry. This could be anything from English (my major) to Engineering to Philosophy. Generally, if it is a major where you tend to see serious students flock, you are in good stead.

This is important for two reasons: First, more difficult subjects are well-regarded by admissions staff. Though it may surprise some, the hard science majors are particularly in demand at law schools. I think this is partly because they are in short supply and add variety to the class, but more so because these students tend to excel in the law school environment and also are very in demand for employment after receiving a law school education (often for intellectual property law).

Second, dense subjects just prepare you better for the rigors of law school. I noticed that students who did hard majors at rigorous schools had a slight edge in law school because they were used to dealing with a very heavy workload.

On the other hand, students from the humanities such as English, philosophy, or history, had plenty of opportunity in undergrad to develop the critical thinking skills and communication skills that served them well in your first year legal writing class, on law school exams, and especially later in the practice of law. Admissions staff know that these majors are valuable training and admit them to top law schools in large numbers. Just as an aside: take a logic course in your school’s philosophy department, as it gives you a priceless head start on your LSAT study.

Picking The School To Go With Your Major

US News Best CollegesThere are a wide range of schools that can prepare you for law school. Pro-tip: you don’t have to go to an Ivy league school. Each of us went to large state public universities for undergrad and that didn’t prevent us from getting into every school we applied to (that included Harvard Law for Josh). Here’s some good starting places for your school research:

US News and World Report’s Best Colleges and Universities – This well-known guide ranks schools to help you pick reaches, targets, and safeties.

Colleges That Change Lives - A classic guide to the best schools you may not have heard of yet.

The Fiske Guide To Colleges 2014

Princeton Review’s “The Best 378 Colleges”

Click Here To See All College Rankings On Amazon

Looking back up at our chart, we see that science majors are crowding the top 15 spots. There as well are humanities majors studying serious traditional areas of academic inquiry. Law school admissions staff are likely to slightly favor students from all these majors over other areas which we see towards the bottom of the list. What’s more, these majors amply prepare you for the rigors of law school.

Don’t forget though, maintaining a good GPA is still key in the admissions game. If you don’t think you are capable of maintaining around a 3.75 in chemistry, perhaps try something else if you think you may apply to law school.

That said, when you have strong preferences, you should stick with what interests you. Admissions staff look for people that are passionate about what they do and picking a major that you really enjoy will make you a more complete person. If chemistry is the one thing that gets you most excited to go to school, then do that and forget about whether it helps you with law school or not!

Please remember to comment if you have any questions and we will answer them on the double.

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41 Comments

  1. I am a Business Administration major with a political science minor. While I have a strong GPA (~3.9) I am worried by the fact that my major does not demand the kind of reading and writing skills that a humanity major will have. Would this hurt me when applying to T5 law schools?

    • Joshua Craven and Evan Jones on

      In no way is that going to hurt you with admissions so don’t worry about it at all. Plenty of students from business backgrounds go to the top law schools. A 3.9 in any major shows that you know how to work hard and excel, which is the main thing they care about when looking at GPA.

      Get a high enough LSAT score and you will be fine. Good work on the great GPA.

  2. im a freshmen i college and i have a major in international relations is that good bad and what classes do you recommend to take. my advisor told me if i wanted to go in the law field it was best if my major was pre-law . what do you think?

    • Your adviser’s information is outdated and you should send her my article so he/she doesn’t lead others astray. Don’t take prelaw unless you are REALLY REALLY interested in it. International relations is okay as long as you show a strong interest in the subject. Consider getting involved with public interest groups at your school that deal with international issues. I think if you are just taking that major “because you found it interesting” it wouldn’t look as good as a more traditional major.

      Do take a logic course at some point as preparation for the LSAT. Other than that, the most important thing is keeping your grades as high as possible.

  3. I am a criminal justice major and started with no intention of going to law school. I wanted to be an addictions counselor and go to grad school and then I changed my mind in my junior year because I liked learning about law so much. Is this going to hurt me when applying? I wish I would have known this sooner since I am graduating in December.

    • Abbie, I apologize that I never saw your question. While a CJ major may not have been the best move ever, it really won’t hurt you much at all as long as your LSAT is average or better for the schools you are applying to. Trust me, right now law schools are begging for students. They won’t be looking at your major much at all for upcoming admissions cycles.

  4. I’ve got a degree in music performance from a top 3 undergraduate music school. Unfortunately for me, grading at the school I was at was intensely competitive and tight — professors were supposed to give out more C’s than any other grade, and A’s were supposed to be exceptional.

    I graduated with a 3.49 GPA (for reference, grades were difficult enough that 3.5 was cum laude). My cold diagnostic (june ’06) was 162, and I’ve been scoring between 168-174 so far, studying for the Feb lsat, with an eye towards applying for entry to law school in 2015.

    Any ideas if my undergrad might help or hurt me in any way, or specific strategies for min/maxing any effects?

    Thanks!

    • Alex,

      I would expect you’ll fare somewhat better than a typical 3.49. How much is difficult to say. Hit the high end of that LSAT range and the question is a little academic, because you’ll have great admissions prospects/scholarship drawing-power even at top schools with numbers in that range.

      My thinking is that they’ll be biased towards liking you from the beginning, since you already excelled in a tough competitive environment. Add a really great personal statement that brings you across as likeable it will be a winning combination.

      • Thank you for the reply and suggestion! I was hoping it was a bit academic despite my splitter status. Unfortunately I did some PSEO (similar to AP, but actually taking college classes for both college and HS credit) that will bring my LSEC GPA down a bit, I’m finding out. Hopefully I do well enough for that not to matter.

        One more question, if I may: I’ve gotten my tests to a regular 173-176 in prep for the Feb test, but I’ve been struggling to consistently raise them any higher. I usually nail the LG portion, getting maybe one wrong, and split up ~2 wrong in each of the LR and RC sections, without any consistent pattern other than what must be a momentary lapse in concentration.

        I usually finish each LR and RC section with 8-14+ minutes to spare; including time to review difficult questions and transfer my answers. Any suggestions for using that excess time productively? I’ve tried reviewing every single question, both weighted towards my already marked answers, and unweighted, and I really haven’t noticed much improvement in catching those last couple questions I answered incorrectly.

          • Damn Alex, that’s some fast LSATing. I think I usually had max 5 minutes to spare. Maybe you can gain some insight from my strategy as on LR at least I was consistently getting 1 or none wrong through the last month of my prep. That said, I’m kind of loathe to suggest tweaks, since things are already going pretty well for you.

            If you do want to play around with your strategy, you could try slowing things down on the first pass just a little bit. In addition to choosing the answer you think is best, make sure you are able to articulate internally why it is superior to the other candidate answers.

            If doing so is difficult, definitely mark that question down for a second look. Doing this thoroughly, I would typically only have 2-3 questions that I wanted to take a second look at after finishing my first pass.

            Also, you should really try hard to look for any pattern in the ones you are getting wrong. It may be that you just need to focus a bit more on certain question types to avoid mistakes.

          • First off, thanks so much for the advice. I’ve been recommending this blog to anyone who may be interested, and I’ve been following your study plan, as well as purchasing any LSAT prep books/tests through your links to hopefully give you a kickback!

            Second, I’ll try your recommendations, the internal articulation sounds like it could be really helpful. I also just started tracking my preptests on the free 7sage tracker, and it looks like I may have been consistently mis-identifying a few key types of problems, so…back to the books!

            Thanks again for all the help!

  5. Hi –

    I’m considering ED applications for Chicago and Columbia Law in the Fall of 2014.

    A 3.42 GPA estimate by the time I apply is pretty safe (finance major, math and computer science minors at a top undergraduate business school). I scored 176 on the LSAT.

    What are my chances? Should I consider a program like Fulbright or Peace Corps for two years before applying?

    Thanks!

    • Jacob,

      Great job on the LSAT. That’s a killer score. Whether to ED or not in your situation is a bit of a tough call. I think you are likely going to get in at those schools even without the ED, and foregoing ED preserves your chances of getting a scholarship. If money is an issue, I would not apply ED.

      It’s probably not necessary to bolster your resume in your position. You are a fairly top-shelf candidate as is. If you do wish to go right away, I would apply now, and only exercise other options if you don’t like your results this cycle. On the other hand, I’m always a fan of taking time off before law school. If you think you’d really enjoy studying with a Fulbright or doing PC, I say go for it. Law school will still be around.

  6. Hi, I go to a top undergrad school known for it’s practice of grade deflation, and have a 3.6 there. I know this GPA isn’t great, but I was wondering if you think law schools will take into account the difficulty of my undergrad years in their decision process? I’d specifically like to go to a T14 school, preferably T5, and wanted to know if you think admissions will know/acknowledge that my undergrad institution has some pretty tough grading practices. Thanks! :)

    • I’m going to write a longer post on this topic soon, so I’ll certainly add a link to that here when I am done. In the meantime, console yourself knowing that a 3.6 is still a pretty high GPA.

      It’s hard to say exactly what kind of boost you get from having gone to a difficult program at a top school, but a lot of people estimate something like a .1 boost, so you might expect to have outcomes similar to the average person with a 3.7 GPA.

      Also looking on the bright side, this year and next should be the easiest years to get into a T5 in at least the last 20 years or so.

  7. Great post Evan. One thing students might want to consider in choosing a major to prepare for law school is that the grading in hard sciences and engineering tends to be more objective than in the humanities. In order to get an A in a hard science, you simply have to get the answers right. In order to get an A in English, the professor has to like the paper you wrote. I know several English professors who only give one A per year. From what I can tell, this difference in objective/subjective grading means it’s easier to get a B+ in the humanities but harder to get an A. It’s something to consider, depending on what kind of student you are.

  8. Hi, I just had a question. How would a Master of Science in Legal Studies affect my chances of getting into law school. Would law schools look favorably on it or would they frown on it? Thanks!

    • It’s not going to hurt you, but it won’t do much to help you either. If you published any work through the program that will certainly be a good soft, however, undergrad GPA and LSAT alone are going to determine about 90% of whether you get into X school.

  9. Hi,
    I’m currently an undergrad student majoring in Business Law. It’s my third year and I find the classes very challenging because it’s all business and math based but, not law (reading/ writing skills. I’m scared this will affect my GPA as well being math is not one of my strengths. I spoke to a Political Science advisor about my situation and he said he gets students changing there major every semester from business law to political science. I have two more years to go I’m not sure if I should switch or stay, will politic science give me an advantage or business law?

  10. I am getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering with about a 3.5 (below or above depending how finals go). I am planning on taking the LSAT in June and have got around 166 on prep tests, but plan on busting it after school lets out to get to at least the 170 range (your post about prepping is really good Thanks). What level of law schools would be reasonable for me to get into to if I am able to score around a 170. Thanks.

  11. Christina Slaughter on

    Hello, I am a incoming junior at Indiana University. Currently my major is Apparel Merchandising. I do not do well in hard sciences or math, but I want to go to Law School. I was thinking about majoring in social work or psychology. How do you think I should approach this? Do you think I am too far into my college career that I cannot start with a new major? Do you feel that Law School is not for everyone?

    Thank you.

    • I definitely feel that law school is not for everyone. In fact, most people are going to be miserable in the legal profession. It’s sounds to me like you are just starting to think this through, so start learning everything you can about what law school and law practice are really like. Simply not being good at math or science is, by itself, a terrible reason to go into law.

      It’s not too late to change majors but if you are getting good grades in your current major you should not bother switching. The unusual major will not hurt you.

  12. Hello there! I’m currently stuck between the option of going to CSULB or going to a JC and transferring. Are law schools big on which undergraduate school you went to? The reason that I got “shot down” is because I applied to my colleges as a chemistry major, which is crazily competitive and impacted. (I actually got wait-listed at UChicago!) If the latter is better, which schools would you recommend transferring to? I was thinking of changing my major to either comparative literature, philosophy, or economics. Thank you!

  13. Hi there, i’m a junior in college, and i want to go to law school. i also think that i am going to take an extra semester to finish my undergrad (i would be graduating december 2016 instead of may 2016). i just wanted to know if taking longer than the usual 4 years to finish my undergrad will affect me into getting in a top 5 school. i am also planning to double major in History and Art History because these are my two favorite subjects; i heard before that actually a lot of art history majors do pretty well in law school admissions, and the curriculum of an art history undergrad program prepares them well for the lsat and law school, do you think this is true? thanks a lot for your help!!!!! i really appreciate it.

  14. Hi,

    I am a Canadian student at a top school completing a specialization in Biology. I only have a 2.9 GPA but I am hoping to raise it in my final year. I want to apply to the US and am wondering how being an international student will affect my chances. As well, I am considering changing from a specialization in Biology to a major in Biology for my fourth year so I can take more electives and raise my GPA. Do you know if switching to a major would actually lower my chances for admission, as I have heard that professional schools prefer specialization or honours specialization degrees?

    Thanks for your help.

  15. Hi there,

    First of all, thank you so much for these amazing and helpful articles. I’m currently doing a double major of Finance and Accounting in one of the best business schools in Canada. My GPA is around 4.07 on the 4.33 scale. There are some law courses offered at the undergrad level such as Commercial law, Law of business associations and Employment law, do you reckon taking these courses would be helpful for my law school apps?

    Thanks so much for your help,

    • Hi Josh and thanks for saying that! I would just stick with classes you are interested in. Law schools are not going to care whether you do or don’t take a smattering of courses on law topics. The way law is taught in law school is much different from the way it gets treated in undergrad, so they don’t view it as helpful to preparing you for law school or anything like that. That said, if you are interested in the subjects, go ahead and take the classes. Some knowledge of business associations law is a good thing to learn for anyone interested in the business world.

  16. Hi Josh/Evan!
    I just discovered your website and it’s answering all my questions about law school, so thank you so much!
    I may be a little ahead of myself, but right now I’m trying to decide my undergrad major. I am positive that I want to go into corporate law, perhaps international.
    I’m torn between which major to choose, and my top choices are global business, political science, and philosophy. The only aspect tearing me away from global business is the math (calculus) because I’m pretty bad at it. I’m also pursuing French in college, so what do you guys think is the best path for me to take?
    I’m sorry if this is extremely unspecific but I’m so lost! Thanks so much :)

    • Belle, all of those are fine majors so pursue what you want to pursue. I personally would choose poli sci or philsophy over global business, which I think adcomms are a little less likely to be familiar with. Is that basically just a specialization within a business major? Definitely take a language and actually learn it to the level of fluency. That looks positive because you can’t BS your way through language courses. They’ll know that if you did well in them, you were putting in work. Whatever you do, if you want to keep law school as an option, make sure that GPA stays as close to a 4.0 as possible! Best of luck!

  17. Hey guys!

    I love your website very much. These articles have been so worth reading, especially during this big phase in my life! I am a senior in high school, and have been having a hard time thinking of what I want to major in. I thought of pre-law for a long time up until I read this particular article. I want to go into the field of family law, so I am not sure what would be the best major in that sort of field. Any suggestions? I thought of philosophy or psychology, but I’m sure there are many more fields that could help me. Does taking a certain course help me in regards to which field of law I want to go to?

    • Hi Art! Just pursue your other interests. No need to think of how it will connect with your law degree if you do eventually choose to go that route. The important thing is that you take a major that will keep you engaged and that you can do well in!

  18. Question, what is your take on an active duty military member obtaining their Undergraduate degree online then taking the LSAT with plans to obtain a Law degree? What are the chances of being accepted with those factors?

  19. I am now a junior in college and have recently wanted to attend law school after my undergrad I was a history/pre-law major but changed it to sports administration with a minor in business and econ. I was wondering how they would view that as a major.

  20. I’m a high school senior deciding on a major for undergrad. I’m not 100% sure yet that I will go to law school, so I’m trying to pick a major that I could use to get a well-paying job regardless of whether I have a law degree or not. I really don’t like biology and chemistry, so most STEM majors aren’t particularly appealing to me. Do you think that majoring in economics would be a good fit for what I’m looking for?

  21. I’m a high school senior deciding on a major for undergrad. I’m not 100% sure yet that I will go to law school, so I’m trying to pick a major that I could use to get a well-paying job regardless of whether I have a law degree or not. I really don’t like biology and chemistry, so most STEM majors aren’t particularly appealing to me. Do you think that majoring in economics would be a good fit for what I’m looking for?

  22. I am a third year psychology major, and was thinking to pick up a business administration minor. If I do this, I would be taking the max amount of credits my remaining three semesters. My reasoning behind the minor is I am interested in business law. I plan on taking the LSAT next October. Should I forget the minor and concentrate on getting an internship, or would the minor be a good decision? Thank you in advance!

  23. I am majoring in Latin American Studies and minoring in Philosophy. Im toying with the idea of maybe going to law school. I am mainly interested in Immigration Law. Do you think my degree would be be helpful in preparing me for the lsats/law school and being considered for admissions?

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