Shop

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 affect 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:

Major CategoryAverage LSATAverage GPA
Engineering156.983.24
Natural Sciences156.793.32
Arts & Humanities154.963.42
Business & Management153.443.33
Social Sciences & Helping Professions152.783.37
Computer Science151.483.23
Health Professions149.293.21
Other148.403.21

(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 a 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 affect you on the margins, especially at the very best law schools. Incidentally, I knew no criminal justice or pre-law majors at the 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 year. 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 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.

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.

Share.

University of Chicago, J.D., 2012 -- CLICK HERE to find out how I got a 177 on the LSAT. Ready to Kickstart your LSAT Prep? Join the LSAT Mastermind Study Group

144 Comments

  1. DIANA H RIVERA on

    Hi I’m currently working towards my bachelors degree in music, but i have been thinking of apply to law school. I know music isn’t really a degree you see in law school, but I have been taking mathematics and English consistently and my gpa is a 3.8. I just want some advice on whether I should change my major or continue with it.

    • Hey Diana! I am currently in my freshman year and am not a law student (yet). But regarding your concern with your major, my opinion is that you should stick with it. I have linked a video that stated that music degrees are great pre-law majors. Reasons being that obtaining such degree requires discipline which contributes to a successful law school experience. Also addressing the article above, law schools rather take someone who is not only passionate about their studies, but who add variation to the student body. It also sounds like you are taking courses that would enhance your abilities in comprehension, communication, etc, while getting good marks.

      The only issue I see with the degree in music is the what if. There is a possibility that you may not get into law school the first time, does the degree offer an obtainable selection of careers? Are you planning to get into music education? What is your plan if law doesn’t work out? If you are not passionate about music enough to take these problems like a grain of salt, then music may not be the right major for you.

      Also keep in mind that if you don’t get into law school, you can apply again. Many law students had worked for a few years after their undergrad and it shows the schools that you have experience outside of reading text books.

      Link to video I mentioned: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8FLYflHnyw

  2. I am pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Political Economy and a Bachelors of Science in Legal Studies in Business (dual degree) with a 3.95 and a 174 LSAT. I understand that one of my majors is a generic “pre-law” major. Does it help that it is a BS (pursued within a business school) or paired with another major? Will this hurt my chances of getting into a top law school?

  3. I’m also planning to change my major for Actuarial Science. Will that major helps me get into law chool and get high LSAT?

  4. I am a student at community college and majoring in Secondary Education in Mathematics. I will transfer for one of the universities to continue on my bachelor degree in Secondary Education “Mathematics”. I am really interested in becoming a lawyer. I was told that once I earn my bachelors in Education, I can apply for law school. Also, English is my second language and I have no one in my family that is a lawyer, so I have been wondering if I still can attend Law school. Also Is it possible for me to get accepted if I major in secondary education in mathematics before I apply for Law school? What other majors I can majors are the best to major in before applying for Law school? and if so, will it be a good option for me since being a lawyer was my dream and I like supporting people.

  5. I have an active law practice and haven’t had the time to read all of the comments above, so please forgive me if the following has already been addressed, but I feel compelled to add my two cents: MAJOR IN POLI-SCI! It is true that most law schools do not require specific undergrad majors, and it is also true that a well-rounded education will be of great benefit in your future practice of law (and your life outside of it) but trust me when I tell you that most law professors assume that all law students either majored in poli-sci, or are at least familiar with the language, and therefore, do not bother to explain what on earth they are talking about. Instead, they just begin quoting the poli-sci greats (whom so ever they may be – I still don’t know!) and whipping off statistical assumptions that an art major such as myself knows nothing whatsoever about. I didn’t even know what it was that I didn’t know, or why it was that most of the other law students had the ability to answer questions that, to me, may as well have been asked in ancient Aramaic! If you don’t want to go full-on with it, at least become familiar with the basic principles by taking a good background course. Trust me – you’ll be ever so glad that you did – especially during your first year in Civil Law. One can always spot the non-poli-sci majors – they’re the students who look utterly bewildered while the rest of the class sits in rapt attention, completely enthralled by the professor’s brilliance as he or she discusses some principle of something or other. Take my advice and either major in poli-sci (if you can stand it) or at least do your very best to develop a passing acquaintance with the lingo so you’ll at least be able to follow the discussion. Those who ignore this advice will be the students who are looking around in wonderment as everyone else seems to be discussing brain surgery.

  6. So I am a 7 year nuclear Navy veteran, and currently an Astrophysics major. As crazy as it sounds, pure math is not at all my strength. But I’m madly in love with THEORY specifically. I have two incredibly lofty “shoot for the moon” style life goals; to win a Nobel for disproving Dark Matter theory, and to eventually be seated on the SCOTUS. I want to go to University of Michigan to study Constitutional Law, but I know the school is incredibly competitive on entry. I’m considering switching my major so that I can “guarantee” myself maintaining a high GPA and making U of M more of a possibility, but I can’t think of what else I could do that I would both love and would provide a decently paying career if I for some reason couldn’t complete or attend Law School. I tend to be an excellent writer, I’m very scientific, I have a STRONG Theatrical background, I’m incredibly personable, and I’m definitely creative. What, in your personal opinion, would you recommend for me as an alternative that would be a decent fit?

  7. Denise Laspina on

    Hi, I studied biology with a specialization in neuroscience and graduated with a cum. of a 3.3 I know that’s on the pretty low end but I have years of work experience in the clinical research field and as a lawyer I plan on going into healthcare. I can definitely break a 170 on my practice LSATS but I’m working really hard for ~173. How much will my 3.3 hurt my applications or should I not be too overly worried about it if I can pull off a high LSAT score?

  8. I am currently a sophomore at the University of Delaware. I’m majoring in psychology (BS) with a minor in political science. I have thought about switching my BS to BA. Is one better than the other for applying to law schools? Should I stick to the BS or change to the BA? I just don’t want to waste my time doing something that won’t benefit my future plans.

  9. Hello Evan, I am in highschool— I know it is pretty early as most would say— and I am having a very hard time trying to chose my major. My love for law has sparked recently and it is leaning more towards family or civil. Corporate is the next closest one. Anyways, I want to be able to bring my major into context when I write my personal statement for law school, so I was wondering if it is best to stick to humanities. I do have a genuine love for English, Psychology, Sociology and social work, but I was wondering which one was the best in your opinion. My father also speaks French fluently and I missed out on the chance when I was younger, but I am committed to learning again fluently. Overall, I am thinking of a major in the areas that I have mentioned and a minor in foreign language. Thank
    you in advance!

    P.S: If anyone else has some advice please do reply to this, I am extremely worried and just need some guidance.