All doctoral students of civil law must complete general law degree programs. At some universities, tailoring the law doctoral degree program to specialize in civil law is possible. More commonly, however, online PhD programs in civil law are offered in the form of certificates or diplomas that students take while concurrently enrolled in a law doctorate program or after they complete their law degrees. By offering the Ph.D. law programs in this way, universities are able to ensure that students still get the foundational skills they need to be successful future lawyers or law instructors while also giving them the opportunity to concentrate their studies according to their interests.
Regardless of the path that students take, online PhD programs for civil law expect students to enter the programs with some knowledge of law. Having a pre-law background and some experience with history, government, or a related field is therefore necessary. Once enrolled, students will take classes in the civil laws concerning property, sales, taxes and contracts. Students will also conduct research and write reports.
About Online PhD Programs in Civil Law
In particular, students who enroll in a Doctor of Civil Law program learn about the principles of civil law, the laws concerning property, and civil law procedures. Civil law Ph.D. programs take around four or five years to complete, whereas certificate programs generally take between six months to a year longer than the general law degree. Some specific classes that enrolled students may take include those listed below, which are derived from Tulane University‘s certificate of specialization in civil law program.
- Civil Law Security Rights. This class is concerned with the laws regarding mortgages on immovable items, sequestration, and the privileges associated with security.
- Community Property. By examining the laws of community property, this class explores the property and rights of married individuals.
- Successions, Donations, and Trusts. An exploration of the process of handing down ownership, this class explores trust law and the principles behind inheritance.
- Civil Law Real Estate Transactions. This class is concerned with the laws that govern real estate contracts, purchases, and sales.
- Advanced Civil Law of Oil and Gas. This course is a survey of the laws concerned with oil and gas production and sale.
- Directed Research in Civil Law As a faculty-guided course in research, this class allows students to tailor their civil law studies to an area in which they are interested.
Students who wish to graduate from Ph.D. law programs may be required to complete a dissertation. Dissertations are thorough research projects in an area concerning civil law. Typically, students take dissertation preparatory classes that guide them through the research process and then spend time writing their papers, after which they present their research to faculty members. Once they pass, they are awarded with a doctoral degree. Some past dissertation topics in civil law include reforms in civil law and the reconstruction of marriage law.
Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Civil Law
Specializing in civil law is a good way for students to make themselves more marketable in the law field, especially if they plan on becoming real estate or property lawyers. The skills acquired during civil law classes can also help lawyers to become more effective communicators and writers. However, for students who hope to be marketable across multiple locations, a more generalized Ph.D. program may be a better alternative, as civil law classes are usually concerned with a single geographic area. Civil laws differ across state lines, which means that civil law instruction is often tailored to the state where the university operates.
Though online classes provide a flexible curriculum for students who are already working or for students who are concurrently enrolled in a general law degree program, they are also time-consuming. To be successful, the online student must be highly organized and motivated. Those students who struggle with time management may be better served in a traditional class setting, as campus-based classes provide structure and strict deadlines. As an alternative, however, some universities offer hybrid programs, where students can take some instruction online and some instruction within the physical classroom.
Application & Admission Requirements
Law programs are highly competitive. The best candidates for doctoral degree programs in civil law are those who pursued a pre-law track while enrolled as undergraduate students. Classes in history, English, philosophy, and government are also good preparatory courses for a law degree program. Typically, students need to have maintained a high GPA during their undergraduate studies and, if applicable, master's degree studies. In addition, students must submit reference letters, personal statements, resumes, and LSAT scores to be considered for a law doctorate. Previous work experience in the field of law can also help students stand out among the crowd of applicants.
Career Options & Job Market
The most common career path for students who graduate from civil law programs is that of a lawyer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that lawyers earn an average of $112,760 annually. It is a field that is projected to grow by 10% by 2020. As an alternative, students can also choose to work in academia. The BLS reports that post secondary teaching is a field that is projected to grow by 17% by 2020, with teachers currently earning an average of $62,050 annually. Those salary numbers are not set in stone, however, and will vary based on the candidate's employer, location, and experience.
Where to Find Information
- International Center for Civil Society Law A professional association specifically geared to providing information and networking opportunities for those interested in comparative civil society law.
- The Association for Legal Career Professionals A professional association that provides resources, access to committees, and publications to its members.
- American Bar Association An association dedicated to improving the legal profession and encouraging lawyers and future lawyers to serve the field effectively and knowledgeably.
How to Get Funding
Professional societies like those listed above often provide higher education funding opportunities for graduate students. There are also many private firms and organizations that offer fellowship, grant, and scholarship opportunities. Many states have initiatives that seek to promote advanced education as well. As an alternative, students can also seek tuition assistance from the resources listed below.
- Federal Direct Stafford Loan. This is a loan offered at a low fixed interest rate of 6.8%. Students can earn up to $12,000 annually as they pursue their doctoral degrees.
- Federal Perkins Loan. This is a federal loan awarded based on academic need. Students can receive an award of around $3,500 annually at a fixed interest rate of 5%.
- Campus-Based Aid. Campus-based tuition funding opportunities are also available. Students can learn more by contacting their university's financial aid offices.
- If you are interested in earning a civil law Ph.D., enroll in a pre-law undergraduate degree program. This will prepare you for the classes you will take as a law doctoral student.
- Try to get some work experience in the law field. This will help make you stand out when you begin applying for law Ph.D. programs.
- Even if you don't think you'll be awarded with any financial aid, apply for some scholarships, grants, and loans. You may be surprised, and with rising tuition rates, even minor awards can make a big difference.
- If you have any questions about applying to civil law doctoral degree programs, don't be afraid to contact admissions offices. They are there to help you figure out the application process.