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Psychology Career Path: Pre-Law and Legal Professions

Potential Career Paths

  • Lawyer (J.D.)
  • Non-profit Advocacy (J.D.)
  • Lobbyist (typically J.D.)

Action Steps for Students

To become more involved in Psychology Pre-Law or learn about the profession, here is what students can do:

  1. Visit the American Bar Association to learn more about law school and legal careers. Also visit the Law School Admission Council regarding the law school admissions process.
  2. Volunteer in criminal justice or other legal settings.
  3. Schedule a meeting with a lawyer to discuss the legal profession.

What is Psychology Pre-Law?

The purpose of the psychology pre-law track is to provide students with a comprehensive background in psychology while ensuring that students who want to become lawyers complete the recommended coursework for law school.

Psychology is a natural major for someone interested in a career in law. First, lawyers must interact with people of various kinds, including clients, judges, jurors, and other lawyers. Second, lawyers are often expected to deal with cases that rely on complex scientific evidence. It is to a lawyer?s benefit to have a strong understanding of research methodology and statistics, which are both fundamental to the field of psychology. Third, lawyers often find themselves interacting with those in the social service system, including psychologists, social workers, and so on. An understanding of these professions should be helpful to a lawyer.

Unlike medical school, there are no specific required courses for law school. Instead, the Pre-Law Committee of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar recommends that students complete coursework that they find interesting and that helps them to develop certain critical skills. The psychology pre-law track has been developed with these recommendations in mind.

Typically, a pre-law student begins the application for law school during fall of their last year of undergraduate coursework. Nationally, the average GPA of a student entering law school is 3.2 and only original grades (not retaken grades) are considered in the GPA calculation. Law school typically lasts three years.

To practice law, a lawyer must complete a law degree from an accredited law school, pass a national licensing exam, and complete the licensing requirements of the state in which the lawyer wishes to practice.

Undergraduate Course Requirements

Students who are interested in pursuing a career in Psychology Pre-Law should be sure to work with an adviser to develop an academic plan that is tailored to their interests. The plan should lead to the completion of coursework that leads to the acquisition of basic knowledge and the development of core skills required for law school.

University and College Requirements

In addition to the suggestions for the Psychology Pre-Law, be sure to complete all other university and college requirements, including the foreign language requirement.

The center staff recommend beginning the foreign language requirement in the first year. NOTE: Students may begin with a class higher than 1110 depending on foreign language placement test results. It is possible to place out of the foreign language requirement. Therefore, it is recommended that students take the placement test for any foreign language completed in high school.

Required Courses in Psychology

The following courses are highly recommended for students planning on pursuing a graduate degree in degree in Psychology Pre-Law:

  • PSY 3210 Sensation & Perception (3)
  • PSY 3310 Human Memory (3)
  • PSY 3330 Human Judgment & Decision Making (3)
  • PSY 3520 Social Psychology of Justice (3)

Oral Communication/Listening Abilities

Below are additional courses outside of the Psychology Department that may be relevant to those interested in Psychology Pre-Law.

At least two of the following are recommended:

  • COMS 1030 Fundamentals of Public Speaking (3)
  • COMS 2150 Argumentative Analysis and Advocacy (3)
  • COMS 3601 Courtroom Rhetoric (3)
  • COMS 3602 Political Rhetoric (3)
  • COMS 3603 Contemporary Culture & Rhetoric (3)
  • COMS 3610 Advanced Argument & Dabate (3)
  • COMS 4604 Responsibilities & Freedom of Speech (3)


At least three of the following are recommended:

  • HIST 2010 Survey of U.S. History, 1865 - present (3)
  • HIST 3060 U.S. Environmental Hist (3)
  • HIST 3070 Famous Trials in American History (3)
  • HIST 3090 American Constitutional History, Part 1 (3)
  • HIST 3095 American Constitutional History, Part 2 (3)
  • HIST 3100, 20th Century America (9)
  • 3102, 3104

Human Behavior

At least three of the following are recommended:

  • SOC 1000 Introduction to Sociology (3)
  • SOC 2000 Contemporary Social Problems (3)
  • SOC 2600 Criminal Justice (3)
  • SOC 2610 Deviant Behavior (3)
  • SOC 3600 Criminology (3)
  • SOC 3630 Juvenile Delinquency (3)
  • SOC 3640 Police and Society (3)
  • SOC 3660 Punishment and Society (3)
  • SOC 3670 Corporate and Governmental Crime (3)
  • SOC 4620 Sociology of the Courts (3)
  • SOC 4640 Law in Societies (3)
  • SOC 4690 Crime, Risk, and Governance (3)
  • SOC 4710 Gender and Justice (3)
  • SW 3243 Social Welfare Law (3)


The following courses are recommended:

  • ACCT 1010 Foundations of Accounting (3)
  • ACCT 1020 Decision Making with Accounting (3)
  • PHIL 1200 Principles of Reasoning (3)

Political Thought

At least three of the following are recommended:

  • POLS 1010 Politics in the United States (3)
  • POLS 2200 The Politics of Law (3)
  • POLS 2300 Democracies & Dictatorships (3)
  • POLS 2500 International Relations (3)
  • POLS 4010 American Constitutional Law (3)
  • POLS 4100 Public Policy Analysis (3)
  • POLS 4210 Politics of Law & Sexuality (3)
  • POLS 4250 Environmental & Natural Resources Politics (3)
  • POLS 4550 International Law (3)
  • POLS 4555 Transitional Justice (3)
  • POLS 4770 Legal Theory & Social Problems (3)
  • POLS 4880 Environmental & Public Policy Dispute Resolution (3)

Note: Be sure to check prerequisites for all coursework.

Fieldwork and Research in Psychology

It is highly recommended that students interested in Psychology Pre-Law participate in research in a psychology lab and engage in fieldwork in settings related to the student?s particular area of interest.