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 from Joshua Craven: 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 (Evan’s major) to Finance (Josh’s 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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118 Comments

  1. Im a Grade 8 student andour assignment is make a resume for wha tw e want in the future. I want to be a crimnal lawyer but im not yet sure what pre law I should take. I like chemistry but I think I like journalism too and stuff about politics. What should I choose?

  2. Pingback: Why I Plan to Avoid Pre-Law Like the Plague

  3. Hi. I’m a full time student major in Criminal Justice at college to get my AA and planing to transfer to 4-year university. So I’m wondering what’s the best option for me if I want to get in law school especially inow criminal laws. Thanks.

  4. I’m a senior in high school and I am very interested in either criminal law or corporate law. So far I excel in all of my government related classes ( gov, econ, american history) and I was wondering when college comes around if majoring in something like History and minoring in Finance or even criminal justice will some what prepare me for Law school/ teach me how to prepare for the work load.

  5. MIchelle Gemini on

    Thank you for this article. I have my AA degree and looking for further my education on line with either Umass or PennState. The councilors say Political Science is a good major for me based on my prior credits. What do you think on PoliSci before law school? I am looking to study entertainment law afterwards. TIA

  6. MIchelle Gemini on

    Thank you for this article. I have my AA degree and looking for further my education on line with either Umass or PennState. The councilors say Political Science is a good major for me based on my prior credits. What do you think on PoliSci before law school? I am looking to study entertainment law afterwards. TIA

  7. I am currently a sophomore who is majoring in Finance. Very interested if minoring in Pre-Law. How can the two cross paths, as in where and what can I do with a fiance degree and a minor in pre law.

  8. Hi, I am a sophomore in college and I am considering changing my major to something that would guide me towards law and hopefully result in me attending law school, and I was unsure of which major to take. I am exceptional in history and political science and English is also my strong suit. Should I pick one of the three? Or go for business or finance? Since I eventually want to be a corporate lawyer.

    • Although I didn’t go to law school I did English major/Political Science minor and it was a great combination. I just chose to go with my main passion–writing instead of attending law school.

  9. I am interested in intellectual property law but am not yet sure if law school is the path I want to take. I am passionate about computer systems and was planning to major in computer engineering until my school’s pre-law advising department suggested that law schools look unfavorably upon specialized majors and prefer a broader perspective. I am considering law school because my goal in studying computer systems is to improve Internet access in remote or disadvantaged areas worlwide, and I thought that a law degree could empower me to work with human rights organizations and nonprofits to defend online rights such as freedom of expression, uncensored access, and privacy. Additionally, if I were to choose not to attend law school for whatever reason, I would like to have a practical degree in my field of interest that allows me to pursue personal goals. In light of my long-term goals, would a B.S. in computer engineering cause me to be disadvantaged in the application process?

  10. I’m pretty sure the discrepancy of IQs by major almost perfectly correlates to this. I have yet to take the LSATs, but I’m a math major, and from the prep, I think I will do just fine, as it seems just like a glorified IQ test to me (I’ve scored over 135 on past informal IQ tests I’ve taken). The vast majority seems to be logic games and/or comprehension, which those with higher IQs will clearly be able to tend to work through better.

    So this has nothing to do with prep for the test, where you’d see B (major choice) leading to C (performance on the LSAT). Instead, it is obvious that there is a third factor A (intelligence) that leads to both B and C, i.e. C B and not B -> C.

  11. if criminal justice is really what interests you can you do it and still get into a top law school? Is it worth it to do the one major nobody advises if that’s what you truly want? I still want to get into a highly ranked law school.

  12. Lauren Torres on

    Your study of LSAT scores by major is from almost 10 years ago. Anyway you guys can provide an updated study?

    • I will be going for my bachelors degree this semester and I am not sure of what kind of English degree would help me the most, any input?

      Thanks.

      • I did writing and literature. Each school will vary on the quality of their literature based courses so be sure that you research the school’s curriculum to know if they are a progressive school offering interesting and modern courses based on student needs and the times. The write program is a godsend in developing writing and creative thinking.

  13. Hi, I am currently studying Communications and have been thinking of making a switch into a business program for the upcoming semester. The study of Communications has a rather decent amount of philosophy related programs which are mandatory, and others which obviously focus more on the communications aspect, as well as some English courses, so you could say this would be an all around decent program to be in while thinking of pursuing law school. My only issue is with a couple points you made in this article, and in relation to my program, which is that there is not an ample amount of “serious students,” from what I have seen so far, flocking into my program. Also, the workload that comes with this program is not overly demanding, at least not compared to what friends of mine had said about business programs. Furthermore, most people tend not to consider communications a rather challenging program, and so this worries me in terms of what evaluators would think seeing my degree. Based on this article I can see finance is a good business program to venture into when thinking of law school down the road, but at the moment I am rather conflicted on what to pursue. Thoughts?

    • No, neuroscience would not prepare you for law school. Understand the nature of your question. If you ask, whether it would make a good entry point in your application process, then yes. Neuroscience would be a great major if you are passionate about it and do well in it. Do what you know will make you stand out.

  14. hi i am a grade 12 high school student considering to do a joint major in psychology and forensic science are these decent majors to take as I want to apply towards law school

  15. Hi, i am in the honors program at my University. I am a freshman with a 3.5 GPA. The program does not offer honor classes for my major, psychology, but i have to take three critical thinking and writing classes through the honors program along with other various honor classes. Would being in the program help me get into law school?

  16. Hi, i am a freshman at an average school, Norther Arizona University. I am studying psychology (BS) and i am looking for a minor. I want to pick a minor that will prepare/ give me an edge for law school, do you have any suggestions? I have a 3.5 GPA but plan to get it up. Also, would a criminology class be beneficial when applying to law school?

  17. I have a 3.73 GPA and scored a 165 on the LSAT. I want to go to a school in the Boston area. I think I have a good shot at getting into BU, however, I doubt I will be recieving any scholarship money. This means I’ll have to loan ~60,000k a year. My alternative is going to FSU (where I am now) at a much lower cost, but honestly hate the state of Fl and want to move north. Do you think going to BU will be worth it?

    • I don’t think you can put a price on happiness. If you will be happier outside of Florida, then I suggest that you leave. Attending a school, especially for law, in a setting that does not increase your well-being only makes doing well even more difficult. Putting effort into your own happiness in addition to schoolwork is stressful and unnecessary. I’m not saying that you should completely disregard the benefits of attending a cheaper school and essentially avoiding $180,000 loans, but instead, I am recommending that you weigh the pros and cons. If you care about reducing debt and can manage to disregard your hatred for Florida while maintaining a high GPA, then your solution is pretty obvious. Contrarily, if your happiness is dwindling and you no longer think the loan reduction weighs more than your well-being, leave. You will never be this age while having these experiences ever again. With that said, it’s worth it to make the most out of your time in law school. Do what feels right. Good luck!

  18. Hello!
    I am a high school senior with a interests in the law field as well as science and do not know which path I will pursue. I was thinking about taking a double major for science (preferably chem or bio) and history and depending on how things go, I would either apply to law school or continue pursuing science. I was also thinking that I could just take science and apply to law school after that. I don’t usually get the best grades in science, but for courses like history, philosophy and English I excel. I was just wondering which option do you think would be best for my situation?

    Thank you very much

  19. Hi, I was planning to major in one of the following and possibly in minor in one as well. After reading a few things with a similar message as your article, I’m beginning to reconsider. However, if I had to choose from the following, which would be the most beneficial? Should I consider double-majoring?
    -Economics
    -English
    -Philosophy
    -Political Science
    -Business Management
    -Psychology
    Thank You.

  20. Hi, I’m currently a first year Criminology student in a Canadian university. I made some poor academic decisions in high school and went into this program not having done much research or planning. I am not remotely the same student today and realize that this is not the best undergraduate major for hopeful future law students like myself. I am interested in switching into Economics and Finance and have taken the necessary steps to do so, but I have one major concern; will I be able to achieve a high enough GPA to make it into law school while studying in a much more difficult, rigorous and demanding major? Or should I stay in the Criminology major in which I’ll have an easier time attaining a high GPA? One more thing you should know is that in my junior year of high school I barely passed math and I did not take it in my senior year. That being said, I am currently taking a Grade 12 Advanced Functions class online (while balancing my university course-load) and I plan on taking Grade 12 Calculus afterwards. I am doing so to make up for my previous mistakes and make the transition into switching majors which I truly want to do. Please give me your honest input as to how realistic and reasonable it is for me to achieve a high GPA in this much tougher major. I appreciate it.

  21. Hi, I am a music performance major currently in my sophomore year. I study in a conservatory where keeping a high GPA is incredibly difficult, as most grades become subjective to whether the teacher believes you deserve to pass or not. I have a 3.4 right now. Originally I was told that I should study music performance because law schools look at unique and difficult degrees, but recently I’ve been told I should switch majors. I’m unsure what to do, because I don’t want to waste the time I’ve spent, but my end goal is to get into a top law school so I don’t want to hurt myself by continuing my performance degree. Any suggestions on if I should switch or what I should focus on if I’m continuing my major?

  22. Hi, I’m currently a Philosophy major at Grand Valley State University in my first year of college. (I know really early to start worrying about Law School but I like making plans ahead of time) I’m trying to find another Major or a Minor that would complement Philosophy and help my chances at getting into a t15 school, any suggestions?

  23. How do you think a music major would do? My passion is music but I understand that it’s not always practical to try and make a living in that area. Law interests me as well, but I would still love to study music as an undergrad.

  24. I am a junior studying abroad next semester in Spain. I currently have a 3.2 GPA with a double major in psychology and social welfare and justice, with a Spanish minor. I am planning on taking the LSAT in Sept of next year and am looking to go into law for social advocacy as well as public interest. Any tips on helping boost my shots? Def looking into UChicago because of the inner-city population and diversity of people to work with, but realistically, how feasible is it?

  25. I was thinking about getting a degree in biology then applying to law school. Do you think biology would make a decent degree for law school.

  26. Hello there, I am currently a freshman in college (sophomore by standing) and was wondering if having a double major and a minor has any effect, whether it be positive or negative, on someone’s acceptability? For example, if two people are applying to a certain law school and both have a 165 LSAT and 3.5 GPA, but one has a major and a minor and the other has two majors and a minor, would the chances of the person with a double major being accepted be higher? Would any sort of soft factors such as extracurriculars play more of a role or help admissions staff decide which of the two get in more than the extra major/workload? Thank you.

  27. I am a junior in highschool and eventually want to attend law school, but i am skeptical about a few things. I do not know whether I should go to a small Liberal Arts school for undergrad, or a bigger, more notable university. So far, I have toured Richmond, Syracuse, Ohio University, and University of Cincinnati. As far as I know, all of those schools offer economics majors, which brings up my next concern. Is economics a good major incase I don’t end up pursuing law school? I don’t want to major in journalism or political science and end up unemployed out of college if I don’t go to law school. So, i guess what I am trying to ask is what type of college i should go to and what to major in with the possibility of not applying for law school after undergrad. Thanks

  28. Pingback: Best Double Majors With Finance | Your Stock Market Place

  29. I am currently a first-year in undergrad, and I am considering a major in Neuroscience over a degree in Marketing/Business. I do believe I have a passion for the sciences, but my ultimate goal is to get into a good Law School. Any advice on whether a switch in my major (from Marketing to Neuroscience) is a good idea? Thank you so much!

  30. Allison Armstrong on

    I am about to graduate with a BFA in graphic design and a BA in Art Education with about a 3.7. I have been considering a change in careers for about a year now, and have strongly considered applying to graduate school for biomedical illustration, so I also have a strong science background with around 32 hours of biology prerequisites. Recently I have considered applying to law school instead, but I was curious if my arts majors would hurt my chances of getting into a top school, (provided I did well on the LSAT) particularly because my GPA isn’t extremely high. However it should be noted that my major GPA is a 3.9 and my GPA only lowered with a few of those upper level division biology classes rather than on the basis of my art major. Thanks for your time!

  31. hi, i am a senior in highschool and i really want to become a lawyer and im really not good in science classes do you think i could still become a law student if i were to not take any science classes. or should i take at least one?

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