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Case Closed: 4 Prelaw Fields to Study

How many lawyers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Perhaps a better question is: How many lawyers does it take to found a nation? Lead a civil movement? Ensure your drinking water is safe? Because for every lawyer jibe -- and there are plenty -- there is an Abraham Lincoln, Thurgood Marshall or Barrack Obama making history. When you tally them up, more than half of U.S. presidents were attorneys. Not too shabby for a profession that takes so much heat around the water cooler, eh?

Law is a high-potential, but high-skill career. Good attorneys get to know their way around a court room, not to mention the law. They know how to argue a case (and when to keep quiet). They write and research as well as any investigative journalist. You might think the obvious place to start law training is through campus-based or online pre-law degree programs, but The College Board notes that those specific programs are few and far between. The reality is that law schools accept applicants from virtually any field of study, but that doesn't mean they don't have preferences. Want to improve your odds of getting into a great law program? Look into the fields below that can provide your pre-law ticket to a law-school career.

1. Political Science

Love 'em or hate 'em, politics make the world go round. Political science majors learn how to navigate the three branches of the U.S. government, all of which have a hefty say in the creation or upholding of the nation's laws. They also spend a great deal of time researching and understanding varying political philosophies and ideologies, which is excellent training for professionals whose success depends on their ability to understand and influence clients', judges' and jurists' minds.

2. Criminal Justice

Where political science majors study how laws are made, criminal justice majors learn how they are enforced. They read countless court cases, study the law and learn how to interpret it. They learn how law enforcement agencies and criminals work. All of these skills translate nicely not just into a law career, but also to a career as a police officer, detective or federal agent. In other words, criminal justice degrees provide some level of job security (even if you decide to scrap law school all together).

3. Forensic Science

From fictional blood-spatter-expert-turned-serial-killer Dexter Morgan to a number of primetime crime scene investigation dramas, the field of forensic science has moved out of the lab and into the realm of American consciousness. Part criminology, part biology, forensic science programs teach students how to use technology and the power of reason to analyze blood, DNA and similar evidence for law enforcement and courtroom use. These skills are invaluable to a future lawyer whose understanding of such evidence can make or break a case.

4. Paralegal Studies

Want to get a sense for what it's like to be a lawyer before investing years to law school? Consider paralegal studies. Paralegals are often thought of as the support cast for attorneys, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they increasingly perform the same tasks as lawyers, like researching cases or filing motions. A paralegal studies program will sharpen your writing and research savvy, teach you about different areas of law and deepen your understanding of legal processes, all skills that could serve you well in law school

Think outside the box

Each of the careers on this list serve as an obvious segue to law school, but you do not have to limit yourself to law-oriented fields of study to get into a great program. Online pre-law degrees provide excellent training, but a discipline like English where you learn to read and analyze literature and write argumentatively is also solid choice. The same can be said for journalism, which nurtures writing and research skills, or psychology, which helps you to get into the minds of others. Our advice? Choose a major that you truly enjoy and can excel in -- law schools will appreciate your enthusiasm (and stellar grades). Should you already have a four-year degree, you can also find any number of online pre-law degrees available at the master's level.


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