As public awareness of the importance of conservation increases, knowledge of environmental law may be a career booster for a young attorney. Law school provides a basic foundation in the law rather than a specific legal concentration. After you complete law school, you can pursue a Master of Laws degree in environmental law or, if you're simply interested in environmental law but don't want to be a lawyer, get an associate or bachelor's degree in conservation law.
Choosing a Degree Path
If you want to pursue a career in conservation law, you'll need to decide exactly what you want to do. Environmental attorneys may sue polluters, work for the Environmental Protection Agency or write legislation and policy. But a degree in environmental law without a law degree can prepare you for a career as a park ranger or an investigator for the EPA or park service or give you the skills you need to lobby for environmental changes. It's wise to decide what you want to do before you begin college because this will guide your degree choices.
College Degree Programs
Several colleges offer associate or bachelor's degrees in environmental law. Vincennes University, for example, offers a degree in conservation law enforcement for future law enforcement officers. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst offers several environmental programs such as environmental science and natural resource conservation. Students enrolled in these programs can also seek a certificate in conservation law enforcement by taking a year-long course at the college.
Master of Laws Programs
If you choose to go to law school, a Master of Laws -- commonly called an LL.M. -- can give you the additional training you need to become a conservation attorney. George Washington University, Lewis and Clark College Law School and Pace Law School each have high-ranking programs. An LL.M. usually takes about a year for full-time students, but if you opt to do internships or legal clinics, it could take slightly longer.
Bachelor's Degree Courses
In addition to core courses in math, English and science, you'll take a wide variety of conservation courses and courses in the legal system. At Vincennes University, for example, students take courses such as an introduction to criminology, plant and animal management, fish management, conservation enforcement, criminalistics and procedures in criminal law.
LL.M. programs typically have required courses as well as several electives from which you can choose. At George Washington University, for example, students must take air pollution control and control of hazardous waste in addition to completing a research paper. Students can then choose from a wide variety of elective courses such as wildlife and ecosystems law, water pollution control and natural resources law.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.