What Careers Can You Pursue at the Intersection of Law and Government?

“A legal education is an asset for anyone who wishes to pursue a career in government,” says Felicia Heimer, a lecturer in law at USC Gould School of Law.

Those with careers in government and the public sector are able to make lasting impacts on the world, whether they’re drafting policies, upholding constituents’ needs or shaping budgets.

Government positions are also highly competitive, often requiring a diverse set of skills and knowledge just to gain entry into the field. One factor that can help distinguish candidates, however, is possessing legal knowledge.

Law is intrinsically intertwined with government — as creating, upholding and revising laws is a major aspect of governance — so those who have a deep understanding of the legal process are positioned to thrive in the field.

To learn more about the career possibilities available at the intersection of law and government, as well as strategies for acquiring the requisite knowledge in both areas, we spoke with Felicia Heimer, senior attorney with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and lecturer in law at USC Gould School of Law.

How Legal Knowledge Prepares You for a Government Job

In general, grasping the law is essential for understanding how the government functions. The two go hand in hand, Heimer noted.

“A legal education is an asset for anyone who wishes to pursue a career in government. Federal, state and local governments operate within an entirely legal framework, so knowledge of the law – from legislation and policymaking to regulatory enforcement and compliance — translates into strong career opportunities across the government sector,” Heimer explained.

Simply put, having some level of legal study is essential. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean pursuing a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. There are various avenues to gain the legal knowledge necessary to effectively navigate a government position.

How Do You Land a Job That Combines Law and Government?

For the majority of government positions, there isn’t a strict requirement for a specific undergraduate or master’s degree. Still, having a bachelor’s degree is necessary, and many roles may prefer candidates with a master’s degree.

While there’s flexibility in academic backgrounds, individuals often pursue degrees in law, public policy, political science, criminal justice, public health and related fields that emphasize societal welfare.

As previously mentioned, having an understanding of the law is advantageous for preparing for a government career. While pursuing a JD is one route, it’s not the only option. Legal knowledge can also be gained through various master’s degrees and graduate certificate programs.

The online Law and Government Certificate from USC Gould, for example, was specifically designed for those who want to pursue a job at the crossroads of law and government.

“Students in the Law and Government Certificate program will gain a broad understanding of legal principles, the structure, function, and processes of government, and the development of policies, laws, and regulations. The Law and Government Certificate provides a comprehensive education that will prepare students for careers in law, government, public administration and related fields,” Heimer said.

The certificate can be completed in as few as 12 months and provides a comprehensive overview of topics such as administrative law, regulatory compliance and more. If earned through the online Master of Studies in Law (MSL) or online Master of Laws (LLM) programs, then the certificate can be completed within 16 months.

“Students can expect that the academic program will offer courses that not only are interactive and engaging, but also have practical relevance as they progress in their careers,” Heimer explained.

Career Possibilities at the Intersection of Law and Government

There is a vast array of positions that merge law and government. As Heimer noted, “the functions and responsibilities of government are incredibly varied.” Your choice of which level of government to work for will greatly influence the types of available roles.

“At the federal level, they include public health and safety, defense and security, economic regulation, environmental protection, diplomacy and international relations. At the state level, they include regulation of industry, transportation, elections and education. At the local level, they include housing and planning, licensing, and emergency medical services,” Heimer said.

Here are just some of the careers available for those with a knowledge of law and government:

  • Government administrators
  • Criminal investigators
  • National security officers
  • Legal aides
  • Judicial clerks
  • Government attorneys
  • Policy advisors
  • Political analysts
  • Government auditors
  • Politicians at state, local and federal levels
  • Government compliance officers
  • Human rights advocate
  • Public policy researcher
  • Ethics officer

“There are countless opportunities for a rich and meaningful career in government for recent graduates without a law degree, as well as seasoned attorneys with years of experience,” Heimer concluded.

The Bottom Line

The array of career possibilities blending government and law underscores the inherent interconnection between the two fields. As Heimer noted, these roles are diverse and contingent upon factors such as your preferred level of government, geographical scope and area of specialization.

Regardless of your desired position, those who are committed to serving the public and improving their communities will thrive in a government position.

“Government roles often involve complex decision-making skills that need to be applied in a dynamic environment where regulations and policies can regularly or unexpectedly change. Having strong analytical and critical-thinking skills, and being adaptable to these changing circumstances, can be of benefit to a government employee,” Heimer said. “Also, there are high ethical standards that are required of public employees, so those who have a strong sense of integrity and ethical conduct will also do well in their positions.”

If you identify with these qualities, exploring a career in government can be a life-altering path. After all, with a dedication and comprehensive understanding of both law and government, you have the potential to effect genuine societal change.

Learn more about the online Certificate in Law and Government from USC Gould School of Law today.

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