How Long Does it Take to Get a Law Degree?

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If you are thinking about going to Law School you may wonder how long does it take to get a Law Degree? Well, that all depends on how long do you want to be in Law School. Joking aside, here are the details.

Bachelor what?

First things first, you must obtain a bachelor degree. Granted this is a criminal justice blog, the bachelor degree program doesn’t have to be in criminal justice. But in the end, you must have one. The degree can take anywhere from 2 and 1/2 years to 4, or more. Read my post on how long does it take to complete a degree (it applies to all degree types – not only Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, Political Science, or Public Safety degrees).

Thus far, you have a minimum of 2.5 years of education, and the national average of 4 years, before you can even dream of being in Law School.

Now onto Law School

Generally, a law degree takes 3 years. Three years of your life which you will have to devote entirely to school. No girlfriends, no boyfriends, no social life, no liberties, nothing. You don’t believe me? You will!

Law schools are adamant that you complete your degree in a timely manner and rarely do they allow you to take longer to complete your Juris Doctor. Some individuals may take four years to complete a JD degree, but that is usually with prior permission from the college or university granting the Law Degree.

So a law school degree can take anywhere from 5 and 1/2 years to 7 years – from scratch. Well, you know by now that the graduate level program takes 3 years by itself. This applies for nearly all law school programs, including the ones from: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and other elite law schools.

NEW – check out one of my latest posts: Thinking of a Law Degree Online? Think Twice About Online Law Schools

Some Useful Advice… You’ll need it!

So if you are just graduating from high school or are beginning your quest of obtaining a bachelor degree you have the best odds. Why? Because if you have your BA or BS completed and your GPA is not high enough than your chances of becoming a Lawyer may dwindle. Therefore, you better have a high GPA, amongst other factors, if you want to make it through the Law School application process.

Here are some points you should take to heart before you go to Law School:

  • High GPA in your undergraduate studies – try to keep it 3.5 or above if you want to compete for a place in the best Law Schools in the country

Donna S-McDonald August 10, 2009, 9:23 pm

I have a MBA in Business Management. GPA is 3.00. How long do I have to go to law school.

Unfortunately, even if you had a PhD in something other than Law you would have to spend 3 years in law school. Some find it unfortunate, while others consider law school to be a highly specialized prep for practicing law. The MBA in Business Management can help you, however. It is a testament to your continual effort to educate yourself and bring yourself to the forefront of occupational demand. Your GPA is not wonderful, but it’s not bad either. As you may know, even Tier 2 law schools may be competitive enough to accept favorable applicants with GPA’s higher than yours. But if you read this post, you know what to do to offset any GPA fiasco.

How was your undergrad GPA? All ABA accredited law schools look for any and all college transcripts you had – even from those schools where you didn’t complete your degree or transferred from. If you had a great GPA don’t worry, but if you had a lower than 3.2 I would include a small addendum to state your case. Good luck on your quest and I hope that you will make a sagacious decision when the right time comes.

thesi green October 10, 2009, 7:38 pm

I’m in 8th grade, and i’m deeply passionate in law, criminal justice, and journalism. I hope to one day get a degree in both, and start a news paper or small business. Then if that dream doesn’t work, fall back on a law degree.

The colleges I am looking at are: University of Phoenix, St. Thomas University -MN, Metropolitan State College of Denver, and Western International University -Phoenix, AZ.

I go to Wayzata schools (Minnesota) and their teaching is very high, do you think that because I go to Wayzata my chances of getting into a good college or any of these Colleges are pretty good?

My mom always says that I work too hard and that I shouldn’t be looking at colleges in 8th grade, but I don’t listen to her because anything is possible if there are footprints on the moon.

Radek M. Gadek October 12, 2009, 11:47 am

Hi Thesi,

I’m glad you are so passionate about your college and career goals. Some of the colleges you are considering are OK while others are great. I could write an e-book about these colleges, so I will give you two resources you should check out.

1. – go to the Education section and research these and other schools – Superb tool for college research.

2. – go to the college search / research section – I also use this tool to research schools.

These two sites will give you a perspective on the colleges you want to attend. My usual criteria for colleges and universities are:

regional accredited school – that’s a must

tier ranking – for example Harvard University or Boston University is a Tier 1 school (Tier 1 and Tier 2 are most advised) – check out the two sites for Tier information

sometimes the Tier ranking may not matter too much as long as the program itself is ranked very well. However, it is usually the Tier 1 and Tier 2 schools that have the best programs – usually, but not always

believe it or not, the school name itself is a big factor. I also consider that, but look at rankings and other academic evaluation data. For example, University of Phoenix may be a well known school, but is it a well ranked and respected school? You gotta find out.

Your chances of getting into a great college or university depend mostly on the grades, GPA, and extracurricular activities you participate in while in high school. See my post on high school classes you may need to get into a criminal justice college (type in: “high school” in the search feature).

Good luck with everything and let us know how everything goes.

Emily Walker January 29, 2010, 10:27 am

Hey, I’ve got a question on online school. What if you get a bachelor’s degree from

an accredited online school, and then move on to your law degree? How long would that take? I’m a sophomore in high school, with a 4.0 GPA for the past 2 years.

All scenarios should be covered above. The time it takes you to complete your undergrad depends on your school and the pace you want to keep. Four years is the norm, but it is common to finish an online degree in as little as 2.5 years. You can count on law school taking no less than 3 years and no more than 4 years (the latter usually requires permission). Majority of law school grads take exactly 3 years to complete their JD. hope this helps and I wish you all the best in your educational pursuits.

P.S. when picking an online or traditional college or university I highly recommend a regionally accredited school vs. a nationally accredited one. Despite the names given to the type of accreditation, it is the regional accreditation that is the better standard. You can read more about it here by running a search for “accreditation.” Make sure to put this in your notes when you start searching.

Hi i am in the 8th grade i love criminal justice I get along with people good and i have always been with everything i do i never give up! Even my mom says so i always get my stuff done i looked at some schools and i dont really know whats right for me can you tell me what schools are good for me.

HI, im only 13 yrs old and going to the 9th grade every since I was in the 3rd grade I had my mind set going to college to major in Criminal Justice, I have done my research but i have’nt found the answer to my question… What if you want to learn more about the career you majoring in like if you want to go on trips and colleges so important people can give you an insite on what college you would want to go to because im not sure where I want to do right now… My question is what college would be okay 2 go to?

Radek M. Gadek July 9, 2010, 6:20 pm

If you want to learn more about certain programs, like Criminal Justice, or certain schools, like University of Cincinnati, you or your parents can request information straight from their website. Also, if you have the money you can go to the schools that interest you, to see what programs they have, and sometimes, they may allow you to sit in on a class to take in the mode of learning they provide.

First option is usually free and the second option is usually expensive. Thus far, I don’t know of any traveling services that take you from college to college to check them out.

However, there are traveling representatives from colleges and universities nationwide who may come to a town or city near you (usually once a year). That’s a great time to go and check out what’s on the market. Usually these events are reserved for high school students (mostly juniors and seniors – but if you really wanted you might get to go earlier). It’s also good to ask for some guidance from your school counselor or maybe even your parents. Although, most of the time you’ll probably have to take matters into your own hands (unless you truly have great mentors).

Here are some of the best Criminal Justice schools in the nation:

Pennsylvania State University – University Park

Florida State University

Michigan State University

University of Pennsylvania (Ivy League)

University of Maryland – College Park

University at Albany – SUNY

University of Cincinnati

There are a few more and you can find posts about them by typing: “best colleges” – without quotes – in the search feature on this site.

Hope this helps and I wish you all the best.

hi there l have lots of question to ask well l am a junior and my whole life l was telling myself l want to be a lawyer and go to law school which now l really scared but l hope l can do it but my question is how long is it going to take for me to be done with law school all together. The thing is l scared if l don’t make it all my way to law school what am l going to do l don’t want to give up on my dream but l know is hard really hard and plus l scared to put my family down on this l want to make them happy as l want to make my self happy. l want to know what can l do. HELP ME lol ahh thinking of my future

Radek M. Gadek July 9, 2010, 5:34 pm

Rule # 1: In order to get to law school your writing / speech has to become pristine

Rule # 2: Do it for yourself, and only yourself – it’s your life and your decisions will impact the way you live it.

Rule # 3: Grades have to be very high – I recommend all As, but a few Bs are OK – minimum 3.5 GPA in college (not high school)

Rule # 4: Choose an undergraduate major that will make you happy, but is practical enough for law schools admission

Rule # 5: Keep your professors close as you’ll need their help in writing letters of recommendation when it’s time to apply

Rule # 6: At least a year before you apply you want to study for the LSAT or Law School Admission Test – this is very important

Rule # 7: Rent / buy books on law school admission process and life of a typical law student. This will give you some substance to take away from.

There are more great Rules, as I call them, but in general: keep your grades up, write and speak well, and enjoy your college experience. Rules are also meant to be broken and certain universities will accept students with lower grades OR lower test scores, often based on a personal statement (A letter of intention or why you want to attend law school – there are variations of questions, but usually they land on the same topic ).

All together, on average, it takes 7 years from the time you start college to the time you graduate with your Bachelor’s degree (4 years) and get into Law School (Graduate degree which takes 3 years). It may take a little longer.

After you graduate from law school, you still have to take the BAR examination for which many people spend a considerable time studying (1-2 years). Then, after passing the BAR, you will be licensed to practice law in the State you took the BAR in.

Good luck with everything.

hana July 9, 2010, 7:24 pm


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