Health Care Law: Is This The Right Choice For You?
Lawyers are some of the well-respected professionals probably because of the services they provide and the great investment they made on their education and training. When it comes to jobs related to law, one of the most lucrative areas considered by experts is the health care law. This area is flourishing which offers great job opportunities and high salaries.
However, this profession also entails big investment in terms of education, time, and financial resources. Careful thoughts and decision-making are important before deciding on pursuing a career in health care law. To help you decide, here are the basic job description, education requirements, top health care law degree programs, salary information, and job outlook for future health care lawyers.
Health Care Lawyer Job Description
Health care law is just one specialty area of law practice but within this field is also wide range of specialties that future lawyers can choose from. Most attorneys specializing in health care law represents various health care facilities like hospitals and nursing homes. They also provide services to health firms, pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology firms, and individuals like insurers, patients, and doctors. Some work for the public institutions, government offices, and academia.
The practice settings for health care attorneys are also very varied. They can cover all issues related to health care but the most common practices include medical malpractice cases, privacy cases, benefits claims, insurance fraud, and health and safety in various workplaces. Health care law is a very broad area of law this is why most professional consider it as an industry rather than just an area of law.
Health care lawyers usually also need to have in depth knowledge about taxes, employment, antitrust, and other bodies of law and how these factors affect and are related to the health care organizations and industry in general. Because of the wide range application of their knowledge and specialties, most health care attorneys can be considered to have dual specialties.
Education, Training And License Requirements
One of the first steps to take in becoming a health care lawyer is to finish a 4-year bachelor or undergraduate degree in college. This is the main requirement when applying for admission in various Law Schools. A lot of 4-year degrees can qualify for law school but if you want to gain advantage, choose the courses that are more preferred by Law Schools preferably those courses related to law and health care.
Admission to Law Schools is very competitive so it is crucial to gain good grades during your undergraduate studies or high GPA scores in order to be selected. You should also pass the Law School Admission Test or the LSAT, which are given to aspiring Law students before they can enter Law School.
After finishing your 4-year degree program in college, you will then need to finish your law degree which usually requires 3 to 4 years of study depending on the school and the curriculum offered. There are different types of law degrees offered today and one of the most popular is the J.D or Juris Doctor Degree. Some schools also offer master’s degrees such as the LL.M. or the Master of Law degree.
In Law School, you will be taught all the fundamentals and principles of law and ethics, and basic topics like constitutional law and civil procedure then you will be taking specialized courses depending on your preferred specialization like health care law.
Specialized courses or electives are usually given at the last years or semesters of your program. Law students will also be required to participate in debates and practice trials to gain experience in legal clinics.
Bar Exam And State Licenses
No matter what the specialty is, every lawyer must have a license in order to legally practice in the country. To have a license, attorneys must first pass the national bar exam. Your Law school must be accredited by the ABA or American Bar Association so you can qualify for the bar exam and candidates must also meet some character standards before they can qualify for the exam.
Aside from the national bar exam, states in the US may also have additional licensing requirements before attorneys are allowed to practice in their state. Requirements may vary from state to state plus most states in the country also have continuing education or CE requirements. However, if you are planning to practice abroad, it may require another bar exam depending on the country you are being employed.
Reputable Law Schools Offering Health Care Law Degree Programs
U.S News and World Report ranked law schools based on their health care law degree programs and here are some of the top schools for 2013.
- St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri
- Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts
- Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia
- University of Maryland (Carey) in Baltimore, Maryland
- Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio
Distance Education In Health Care Law
Just like in many courses and degree programs available through online education, Juris Doctor Degree programs and Master of Law degrees are also offered online by many accredited Law schools. Most of the online law degree programs require 3 to 4 years just like the traditional degree programs. However, coursework may not be ultimately online since students may be required to maintain personal contact with their instructors and faculty advisors to complete required projects and practice trials.
Most reputable Law schools nowadays offer distance learning especially for professionals who want to pursue a career in health care law or in law in general but are quite busy with their current jobs.
Salary And Employment
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers in various practice settings earn average yearly income of $130,000 in 2011. Based on the study conducted by the American Health Lawyers Association or AHLA, lawyers specializing in health care law earn median income of $176,000 with the middle 50% earning about $138,000 to $224,000 every year.
However, experts also note that employment will be competitive especially for entry-level health care lawyers because of the large number of law school graduates every year. Employment growth within this field is projected to be about 10 percent but experts also consider health care law as one of the most promising fields in law because of the evolving regulations in health care industry.