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Master’s Degree Programs in Immigration Law Overview

Majors Overview November 5, 2015

Master’s degree programs in immigration law are not usually available through universities and colleges. Law schools do offer programs that include relevant courses.

Information on Immigration Law Programs

A Juris Doctor (J.D.) can be earned by those keen on practicing immigration law. A Master of Laws (LL.M.) program is a form of continuing education for those who want to study comparative immigration law. Three-year JD programs involve the exploration of criminal and civil aspects of immigration law and students may select a clerkship or internship to avail an additional opportunity to learn. Lawyers – often international students – enroll to learn to compare and contrast U.S. law with other countries. Students are allowed to tailor coursework with a focus on immigration law. Students usually complete these programs in about a year.

Juris Doctor (J.D.) Programs

Students take three years to complete JD programs that incorporate the practical applications and theoretical framework of law. Students learn about laws that govern criminal activity, in addition to those that regulate various civil matters including private disputes, commerce, and human rights, among others.

Several classes on criminal and civil aspects of immigration law are available in most JD programs. Internships or clerkships are often completed with law firms or judges respectively before they graduate.

Education Requirements

There are no set undergraduate courses or specific majors that must be completed by law school applicants. However, communication skills and analytical thinking must be demonstrated in their undergraduate courses. Submission of students’ scores on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is also a requirement for admission.


Program coursework is devised to aid the development of the skills necessary for examining complex laws and deciding their application to specific situations. Coursework in immigration law classes incorporates the statutes and precedents relevant to the regulation of moving to and working in the United States. Core coursework may cover subject areas such as:

•Civil rights law
•Criminal law
•Labor Law
•Immigration policy
•Tax law

Career Choices

Many program graduates become practicing lawyers while some enter public service or become educators. Graduates can seek employment with the government or law firms. They may choose from possible job positions such as:

•Immigration consultant
•Immigration lawyer
•Civil rights attorney

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, an average job growth of ten percent has been predicted for lawyers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In 2012, these professionals brought in an average annual wage of $113,530 (BLS).

Master of Laws (LL.M.) Programs

The international, comparative, and theoretical aspects of U.S. law are main subjects in Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs. These programs attract many international students with work experience and legal education in their home countries. The emphasis of LL.M. programs is often on writing skills and legal research, whereby graduates can train for careers in academia. Students keen on studying immigration law can complete coursework that involves the comparison of statutes on immigration in the U.S. and other countries.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to have practiced law previously, either in the United States or another country. Enrollees must have a JD or its foreign equivalent before they are allowed to begin core coursework.


LL.M. program students usually tailor their coursework in collaboration with a faculty member or academic advisor. In most programs, an area of legal interest is allowed to be emphasized; however, a broad array of courses may be taken by students enrolled in a few programs. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Comparative employment law
•Latin American immigration law
•International human rights law
•Comparative Immigration law
•European Union labor law

Career Choices

Program graduates may choose from many career options. Most seek careers in research or academia while some aspire to become practicing lawyers. Program graduates may choose from possible job positions such as:

•Immigration law policymaker
•Immigration law professor
•Immigration law consultant

Continuing Education and Licensure Choices

Membership of their state’s bar is mandatory for aspiring lawyers, although education beyond an LL.M. or certification is not necessary for academic and advising positions. Lawyers must demonstrate their knowledge of federal and state law through the passage of a comprehensive written bar exam. Background checks are also conducted to ensure that lawyers meet moral and ethical standards.

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