Despite the stereotype, people don’t need a law degree to enter politics.
In the 1960s, less than 60% of members of Congress were lawyers. In 2015, that number fell to under 40%, according to a research paper by the Buffalo Law Review.
Still, experts say having a J.D. can give you the necessary training in analytical reasoning, research, and writing.
If you’re set on going to law school for a career in politics, there are some steps you can take to ensure that you’re on the right path before you even apply.
Julie Ketover, a consultant at Stratus Law School Admissions Consulting, recently wrote a U.S. News & World Report piece on how applicants can use law school to launch a career in politics.
Choosing Your Major
Several majors are considered popular paths to entering politics.
“If you know as an undergraduate that you will pursue a career in politics, consider choosing a major like political science, international relations or comparative politics, each of which would provide a solid foundation of knowledge for you to leverage as your academic and professional careers progress,” Ketover writes.
These majors, Ketover says, can help applicants in writing compelling essays once they apply to law school.
Yet, even if students don’t know what it is exactly that they want to major in, it isn’t the end of the world. The key, according to Ketover, is taking courses that align with politics and figuring out their interests.
“College is a time for exploration and exposure to many different subjects. If you are thinking about holding a political job one day, even if you don’t choose a closely connected major, aim to take courses in politics so that you can at least solidify your interest and reference key coursework as part of the law school application process,” she writes.
Extracurriculars Related To Politics
Choosing courses related to politics is helpful, but having experience in politics is even more valuable. Above all, Ketover recommends applicants “aim for depth over breadth and look to grow your skills and establish your leadership.”
Internships are also good indicators to law schools that students are passionate about politics.
“Consider, for example, working in a congressional office or on a political campaign,” Ketover writes. “If you are able to find these types of opportunities, do your best work and forge relationships with people who could write strong recommendations on your behalf as part of your law school applications.”
Know Your Program Options
Ketover advises applicants to look at specific coursework when considering law school. She notes two that applicants should consider: interdisciplinary programming and joint degree options.
“Many law schools also offer joint degree programs to support students interested in more in-depth studies related to political science,” Ketover writes. “Schools that offer joint J.D./M.A. programs include Duke University, Case Western Reserve University, NYU, the University of Florida, Loyola University Chicago and the University of Kansas. Schools that offer joint J.D./Ph.D. programs include NYU, Stanford University and the University of Southern California.”
While pursuing a joint degree can provide an in-depth education, it also requires high dedication. Ketover advises applicants look at their options carefully before committing.
“If you are considering pursing a joint degree, make sure to understand the scope of the commitment required and do a thoughtful analysis of the importance of the additional degree in your career pursuits,” she writes. “Law school is hard enough, so be sure that a master’s degree or Ph.D. on top of that is worth your while.”