Do Advanced Degrees and Certificates Help in Law School Admissions?

Despite unfounded assumptions about a “typical law student” whose life has never strayed from a legal path, plenty of incoming law school students already have other advanced degrees.

Master’s degrees are most common, either in academic subjects like the humanities or social sciences or professional programs like an MBA or master’s in public policy.

More rarely, a student may have earned a doctorate or medical degree before law school or may be completing both programs concurrently.

[Related:Combined M.D.-J.D. Degrees: What to Know]

Those students may be older applicants who changed careers or applicants in their twenties who felt a graduate-level degree in another field might broaden their career options. For example, an aspiring intellectual property lawyer might benefit from advanced training in science or engineering.

Law school applicants with advanced knowledge can provide an expert perspective that improves their classmates’ learning experience. This is one of the ways that law schools seek a balanced class. There is no substitute for discussing medical malpractice with a health professional in the classroom, or debating international law with a classmate who completed a doctorate in security studies.

However, even though graduate-level coursework can help your law school education, it is not a wise investment purely for the purpose of getting into law school.

Why Advanced Degrees and Certificates May Not Be Worthwhile for Law Applicants

If you are looking for ways to use your brain to boost your chances of law school admission, the answer is clear. Put your time, energy and money into LSAT preparation. The LSAT is one of the most important factors in law admissions, even more so for applicants who have been out of college for some time.

[Related:6 Deciding Factors in Law School Admissions]

In contrast, earning a graduate degree is more of a soft factor that gives applicants an edge, like military service or impressive work experience. Applicants who have completed graduate-level academic work in a rigorous field are better prepared to handle the challenges of law school.

However, while law admissions officers will absolutely see and consider your transcripts from all institutions of higher learning you have attended, graduate school grades will not replace your undergraduate grades, which can be more easily compared between applicants.

What about nondegree training programs like certificates? Those would factor into your candidacy only at the margins. Even if you earn a certificate in a relevant field like conflict resolution, admissions officers will not weigh this experience highly, since you are going to law school to learn these skills.

[Read Law School Admissions Process: A Month-By-Month Guide.]

Certificates in law-related fields like paralegal studies or mediation tend to be a better fit for individuals not seeking to attend law school; they are not perceived as a steppingstone to law school.

By all means, if you have an intellectual passion or career interest that leads you to another graduate program before law school, do not hesitate to pursue it. It will only help your law school application, particularly if it can help you secure a strong recommendation letter or gain valuable experience in research and writing.

However, these programs are not going to be enough of a tipping point to justify the investment required solely as a means to get into law school. If you want to go to law school and feel ready to hit the books, choose LSAT test prep books.

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Do Advanced Degrees and Certificates Help in Law School Admissions? originally appeared on

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