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A law degree can be an asset in a variety of careers, including accounting, banking, insurance, real estate and more. There are 205 law schools in the United States approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), with some offering both full- and part-time options.
Average Cost of Law School
According to a recent report by U.S. News, the average cost of a private law school for the 2018‒2019 academic year was $49,095. For public law schools, the cost differences were significant. Students who paid out-of-state tuition spent an average of $40,695; paying in-state tuition brought the cost down to around $36,595.
There can be wide ranges of tuition within a single state. The average cost of law school in Texas, for example, can range from tuition of $36,429 a year for in-state residents attending the University of Texas to $61,782 a year for students enrolled at Baylor University, a private institution.
Wide differences between public and private law school tuitions are not necessarily the case in every state. The average cost of law school in California illustrates the point. For the 2018‒2019 academic year, the cost to attend law school at Stanford University, a private school, was $60,072. In-state tuition at the University of California ‒ Berkeley was $49,325. Tuition and fees for out-of-state residents was $53,276.
Law school typically requires three years of full-time study to complete. That means you have to triple the average cost of a year at law school to determine the final tuition costs for the degree. At 2018‒2019 prices, the average cost of tuition at a private law school would total $147,285. Costs for three years at a public institution would cost an average of $122,085 for students paying out-of-state rates, and an average of $109,785 for the in-state rate.
You must consider all your expenses when planning for law school. Books typically cost $1,200 to $1,500 a year. Living costs vary, depending on your location. Figure in transportation and lost income while you’re in school instead of the workforce, and it’s readily apparent that going to law school represents a significant financial investment.
Typical Law Student Debt
Being able to borrow enough money for law school is seldom a problem ‒ but it can be a challenge to pay it all back. According to the Huffington Post, the average law school debt is $122,000. If you attend a private school, debt can exceed $200,000.
Is Law School Worth It?
The investment in law school is definitely worth it for some, while others can have difficulty finding a job. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether law school is right for you:
- Will you attend a top school? Graduates of the top schools, Yale, Harvard, Columbia and the University of Chicago, have outstanding job prospects. Private sector jobs can pay over $100,000 annually in the first year, with some reported starting salaries as high as $180,000. However, such high salaries are rare, applying to only about 10 percent of the graduates of the nation’s 200-plus law schools.
- Do you plan to specialize? Some areas of law have more job opportunities. Current specializations in demand include cybersecurity, intellectual property and corporate law. A summer internship can help you decide on the type of law you want to practice.
- Is your heart in it? Experts say that if you’re only motivated by the prospect of making a lot of money, going to law school is a mistake. Becoming a lawyer requires dedication and sacrifice. If possible, get a job, even part-time, in a law firm. You’ll be able to gain a deeper understanding of the profession and be better able to determine if it’s right for you.
- Can you make connections? Joining student organizations and events sponsored by the local bar association can help position you for a career. There are no guarantees, of course, but the more legal professionals you know, the greater your chances of finding a job after graduation.
- Baylor University Law: Estimated Costs
- US News & World Report: See the Price, Payoff of Law School Before Enrolling
- Magoosh: How Many Laws Schools are in the US?
- Standford University Law School: Cost of Attendance
- Student Loan Hero: 20 Best Law Schools for Avoiding Six-Figure Student Debt
- Bankrate: 7 Ways to Figure if Law School is Going to Be Worth It
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.
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