As an aspiring lawyer, you will spend your undergraduate years preparing to be accepted into a graduate-level law program. Specifically, the major you choose will affect both your ability to earn a high grade-point average (GPA) as well as your performance on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). While law schools and the American Bar Association (ABA) do not require candidates to hold any one particular major, statistics show that some majors are better suited for law school than others.
Some universities and colleges offer a pre-law major, but many do not. While at first glance, pre-law might seem like a good major for future lawyers because it is directly related to the legal field, it is not one of the recommended majors for law school. In fact, pursuing pre-law may have a negative impact on your undergraduate education, particularly because law schools analyze GPAs in combination with the rigorousness of the program. Instead, as you choose your undergraduate area of study, consider one of the following best majors for law school.
What Are the Best Undergraduate Majors to Get into Law School?
Using data from the Law School Admission Council, we looked at the top 10 most popular majors for law school based on the number of applicants as well as the average LSAT score and GPA associated with each major. The figures provided were accurate as of the 2017 to 2018 academic year, which was the most recent data available.
Potential law students may consider pursuing a major in sociology as this field studies society from a big-picture perspective. Students investigate the social issues society faces such as LGBT rights, racial discrimination, economic justice, and poverty. Sociology also looks at how law can help in these areas and how students can develop effective solutions to fight injustices and inequality. Therefore, sociology is one of the best majors for law school candidates who hope to one day use their knowledge of the law to affect public policy.
Number of Applicants: 1,870
Average LSAT: 150.59
Average GPA: 3.30
Students who are looking for the best majors before law school should consider pursuing a degree in philosophy. The big kahuna of all mind-stretching mental exercises, this field is a difficult one that requires students to form logical arguments and think analytically. Law is heavily based on human nature, ethics, and other philosophical elements — subjects that are often found in philosophy-based curricula. The philosophy major also examines legal, political, and moral issues with no clear wrong or right solution while requiring students to render judgement. Due to the often-rigorous program requirements, some law schools look more favorably on candidates who have pursued a philosophy major than those who have earned a degree in a field such as criminal justice.
Number of Applicants: 2,238
Average LSAT: 157.2
Average GPA: 3.44
When we think about a field that continually alters the shape of law on a daily basis, there is one that comes to mind immediately: economics. Many laws are put into place to correct and adjust economic behavior by individuals and businesses. Therefore, legal studies focus on topics founded in economic analysis such as regulations, business organizations, antitrust, property rights, contracts, and torts. To put it simply, one who studies economics also studies the financial impact of the legal system and its laws. As a result, pursuing a major in economics is a fantastic idea for aspiring law school studies because it can be implemented years after law school is over.
Number of Applicants: 2,757
Average LSAT: 158.9
Average GPA: 3.49
7. Business and Management
Majoring in business such as in corporate business or business administration is a viable option for students looking to attend law school and pursue a career in corporate law. Business degree plans are often rigorous, which may make candidates more appealing to law school admissions committees. However, coursework can be more challenging than other majors, so students may find it more difficult to maintain a high GPA. Business coursework prepares students for success on the LSAT, in law school, and into the future. Negotiations, business processes, corporate structure, contract structure, and public speaking as well as writing and reading are heavily covered.
Average Number of Applicants: 2,757
Average LSAT: 158.9
Average GPA: 3.49
One of the most important attributes of successful lawyers is being able to understand how past legal cases are relevant today. Therefore, it is no surprise that history is considered a good undergraduate major for law school. Not only do history majors study past events, but they also investigate treaties, court rulings, legal agreements, and the various ways the legal system has evolved over time. Students also develop their ability to create, develop, and write compelling and clear research papers, drawing on history to establish concise and logical arguments. In addition, history majors may be tasked with researching and analyzing difficult-to-comprehend, dense texts — skills that will ultimately prove useful in law school.
Number of Applicants: 3,138
Average LSAT: 156.3
Average GPA: 3.47
5. Arts and Humanities
The field of arts and humanities is vast and covers a wide range of studies, which is why law schools rely heavily on LSAT scores to evaluate candidates. Since the LSAT does not test for factual knowledge of the legal system and U.S. laws but rather critical thinking skills, writing, and reading, it is up to the undergraduate to choose a major in which he or she is interested. That said, many law schools prefer applicants that have been introduced to a wide range of topics. For instance, a liberal arts major in the humanities would fit the bill as these students typically learn about different societies, cultures, literature, and art forms from around the world.
Number of Applicants: 3,151
Average LSAT: 154.8
Average GPA: 3.44
English is another popular major for applicants seeking admission into law school due to its obvious benefits: persuasive writing skills and advanced reading comprehension. English majors are required to study complex, dense literature in order to make connections, process information, create organized analytical arguments and opinions, and defend their positions. Word roots, grammar, and critical thinking skills are heavily emphasized as well. In this way, the skills learned by English majors mirrors those required of law students. Since strong writing and reading skills are a must for lawyers, the English major is a no-brainer when it comes to choosing the best undergraduate major to get into law school.
Number of Applicants: 3,151
Average LSAT: 154.8
Average GPA: 3.44
3. Criminal Justice
Since the coursework in the criminal justice major focuses on legal and criminal justice topics, this area seems like a natural fit for those pursuing law school. The criminal justice major typically includes courses on the correction systems, court proceedings, and other aspects of the legal system. These programs emphasize the strong writing, analysis, and research skills that are imperative for law school. However, despite the fact that this area relates to law pretty clearly, many law schools prefer candidates to attain a specialization in another area of study. Depending on the undergraduate school chosen, the curriculum requirements may not be as rigorous as other institutions, so law schools may be more likely to scrutinize academic records from these schools far harder for criminal justice majors than those who pursue another area of study.
Number of Applicants: 3,629
Average LSAT: 145.87
Average GPA: 3.23
Want to understand why people act, believe, and think the way they do? Pursue a major in psychology. This field studies not only human behavior but also the mental processes that influence the way people act with each other as well as the world around them. Because the law moderates and impacts human behavior, psychology and the law are intertwined. In other words, having a firm grasp on psychology can help lawmakers understand whether laws will positively or negatively affect society. Psychology majors learn how to recognize behaviors and judgements that can result in discrimination, prejudice, or stereotyping. They also develop the skills necessary to communicate more effectively with coworkers, clients, judges, and social workers. Depending on the program, students may also learn how to prepare for negotiations and network while refining their skills in areas such as statistical analysis and research.
Number of Applicants: 3,736
Average LSAT: 152.5
Average GPA: 3.36
1. Political Science
As we can see by the number of applicants alone, political science is the most popular major among law school candidates. After all, there is a reason why many of our country’s most successful politicians are lawyers: There is a strong link between law and political theory. Political science falls under the social science umbrella, and majors can expect to study how the judicial system works, political behavior, and government systems. Curriculum requirements vary, but most programs cover how laws are created and executed, how the judicial system works, domestic historical cases, and the impact of treaties as well as foreign legal and political systems. Students also develop their public speaking, writing, and reading comprehension skills. In-depth knowledge about the development of the court system as well as the Constitution and its founding principles also provide strong benefits.
Number of Applicants: 11,947
Average LSAT: 153.6
Average GPA: 3.40
What Do Law Schools Look For in Prospective Students?
Law schools are looking for candidates with many different majors from a variety of backgrounds. In other words, a student who is the only physicist in his or her application class will stand a better chance of being admitted than the 400th candidate with a bachelor’s degree in business. Developing knowledge in a specialized field is recommended for future lawyers since there are many different practice areas and types of lawyers. Candidates should not be afraid to embrace this difference and let their true selves and personal interests shine through on their applications. Rather than choosing a major based on what one believes a law school wants to see, it is more important to follow one’s strengths, curiosities, and passions. Take various college courses in contrasting fields to demonstrate a range of academic talents. What matters most is that candidates can excel in their major — not the major itself.
As mentioned earlier, one path that is not typically recommended is that of pre-law. Why? After all, the pre-law major is specifically designed for candidates applying to law school. So why is it not recommended? In short, many law schools feel it is easier to earn high GPAs in pre-law compared to other majors. This is because the pre-law major typically does not require students to demonstrate mastery, excellence, or specialized knowledge in a particular field. In fact, most of the top schools in the U.S. do not offer pre-law as a major at all. However, those who follow the pre-law path may still be eligible for admission into law school so long as they demonstrate good grades and score well on the LSAT.
What is the LSAT and Why is it Important?
The LSAT tests skills relevant to the practice of law and law school: making deductions, understanding formal logic, analyzing arguments, and reading strategically. Moreover, this test is one factor that all applicants have in common. Essentially, it ensures a level playing field for all law school candidates, regardless of major or background. The LSAT does not care where a student earned an undergraduate degree or the major he or she chose.
It goes without saying that law school is an academic program. Therefore, the most important decision an admissions committee will make about an applicant is whether he or she has the intellectual ability to succeed in a rigorous academic environment. This is why law schools rely so heavily on LSAT scores and GPAs. These are the two most significant pieces of information about prospective candidates that admissions committees will consider.
Since most students’ GPAs are essentially set in stone, the best chance to improve one’s odds of admission is to score high on the LSAT — and this score is important regardless of a student’s GPA. In other words, a student who has a high GPA but scores poorly on the LSAT is at risk of having his or her academic record called into question. On the other hand, a student who has a low GPA can see the LSAT as an opportunity to overcome doubts raised by his or her transcript.
When selecting a major, it is important to take several factors into account. While some might choose an area of study based on what others are doing, it is a better idea to choose a major based on personal interests instead. After all, students may be more likely to earn higher GPAs if they are taking classes they enjoy. In addition, most lawyers specialize in one area of law, so earning an undergraduate degree in a relevant area may increase the likelihood of professional success.
Nonetheless, law schools review LSAT scores, GPAs, and the rigorousness of the program to ensure it establishes a well-rounded education. They also look at applicants’ activities outside of the classroom, including extracurricular activities and internships. With this in mind, the major chosen should not be so demanding that it prevents a candidate from pursuing interests outside of the classroom. Ultimately, pre-law students can opt for any major they wish, which provides the opportunity to create an undergraduate experienced based on each individual student. Because the areas of study listed above strongly related to the legal field, they serve as a helpful place to start for students considering attending law school.
Other Rankings of Interest:
The 50 Most Affordable Colleges with the Best Return
15 Best Affordable Sociology Degree Programs (Bachelor’s)
The 30 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s-Granting Historically Black Colleges/Universities
25 Most Affordable Bachelor’s-Granting Historically Black Colleges/Universities
15 Best Affordable Economics Degree Programs (Bachelor’s)
The 50 Best Affordable Business Schools
20 Tuition-Free Colleges
15 Best Affordable Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice Degree Programs (Bachelor’s)
40 Best Affordable Online Political Science Degree Programs (Bachelor’s)
15 Best Affordable Psychology Degree Programs (Bachelor’s)