Legal Careers Guide to Government Work

Government entities, from federal to state and local, hire candidates with legal studies and law degrees. As the government is the originator, gatekeeper and enforcer of the legal system, there are a multitude of careers available therein. From patents to law enforcement and from food and drug administration to immigration, government careers are plentiful for legal studies graduates.

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Master of Legal Studies (MLS)

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Government agencies operate within complex regulatory constraints. A legal studies degree, such as a Master of Legal Studies (MLS), may help equip graduates with the tools to operate within these organizations and help prepare them to work in the government sector as public servants. Students learn how laws are formulated and modified over time as well as the theories and concepts that form the basis for the law.

We’ve compiled a list of government work opportunities that involve knowledge of law and regulations that do not require a professional law degree:

Law Enforcement and Protective Services

Police, probation officers, correctional officers and agency investigators are all considered part of law enforcement. Whether you hope to work as a law enforcement officer or an FBI special agent, a legal studies degree may prepare you for a career at the intersection of criminal justice and social services of government. These are occupations in which  knowledge of the law and skills in conflict resolution and negotiation are useful. 

There are multiple laws and regulations that serve to protect vulnerable populations and secure critical information. The proper legal foundation and the soft skills of interpersonal communication are helpful for success.

Some agencies of law enforcement may include: 

Court Administration

Court administrators manage the court’s calendar of hearings, respond to official correspondence and, in general, serve as a liaison between the court and parties in a trial. A legal studies degree may help court administrators understand the function of the judicial system, such as the process of complaint resolution, and the powers of the court, such as how a court oversees disputes and what a court can order to resolve them.

Responsibilities for court administrators vary depending on where they work. Some may work at district courts, appellate courts, courts of appeal, and local and municipal courts while others may work at specialized court offices such as the federal Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Federal Regulatory Agencies

Federal regulatory agencies cover a variety of areas, from the environment to communication and from the media to financial transactions. These agencies enact and enforce laws that govern activities and transactions within their area of oversight.

Students who are interested in government work at federal regulatory agencies may look for opportunities at the organizations below:

An example of a career with a federal regulatory agency would be an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection officer. Inspection officers must know all the intricacies of OSHA regulations and how they are applied in practice. They then must go onsite to inspect any reported violations and communicate with the company leaders how to correct the problems, remedy existing dangers and explain the overall theory and purpose of the regulation to aid compliance in the future.

Criminal Justice

From corrections directors to police detectives, a legal studies degree may support success in a criminal justice career. Law enforcement intersects with the law on a daily basis as police departments prepare and transfer cases to the district attorney to prosecute. Special investigations officers are members of the U.S. military branches and are responsible for investigating crimes and complaints involving military property or personnel. Special agents in the FBI analyze criminal intelligence and create profiles and analyses of offenders to aid in solving open cases. A master of legal studies may help equip these investigative agents and criminal justice professionals with knowledge of criminal code and its application, as well as the methods and procedures required to prepare cases for prosecution.

Additional Career Options in Government

Apart from the career options introduced above, there are also other jobs available in government sectors:  

  • Legal studies graduates may consider working in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to become a patent agent who works with inventors, researchers and attorneys to evaluate an invention disclosure and assess patentability. 
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report on paralegals and legal assistants in 2019, 11% of paralegals in the United States work in federal, state and local governments; among them, paralegals in the federal government may expect the highest median annual wage, which was $67,080 in 2019. Government paralegals work with regulatory agencies, law enforcement or politicians.

If this career sounds interesting to you, learn how to become a paralegal.

Are you ready for a new legal career? See our guide on how to become a lawyer and the common requirements to practice law.

Research Resources for Government Jobs

Government jobs are typically posted on the specific agency’s website, and there are numerous organizations you can use to search for jobs. How should you start and conduct research if you have a legal studies degree? To make the work easier, we compiled a list of websites with helpful resources from federal, state and local governments:  

Sponsored Online MLS and Law Programs

Master of Legal Studies (MLS)

Sponsored Online MLS Program

Online MSL in Corporate Compliance

Sponsored Online Law Program

Master of Legal Studies program

Sponsored Online MLS Program

Master of Legal Studies (MLS)

Sponsored Online MLS Program

Last updated: January 2021