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Do I need a Law Degree to be a Lawyer? (Part 1)

Nov 29, 2022 - Legal, Finding the right job

There are many reasons why you might be asking yourself this question.

Whether you’re a student figuring out your career path, someone looking for a change of career, or just trying to stay on top of all the recent changes to legal qualifications, this question can be pretty daunting once you start looking into it. 

So here’s our three-part guide to break down the question of…


Do You Need a Law Degree to Be a Lawyer?

I have good news and bad news. 

The Good News: you can become a lawyer without a law degree!

The Bad News: you’ll need a Level 6 qualification, followed by a Level 7 qualification.

There are three routes into law: no Degree, a Non-Law Degree, and a Law Degree.

While your Level 6 qualification doesn’t necessarily have to be an undergraduate degree, this tends to be the most common option, as it’s the most well-known route. There are fewer options for your Level 7 Qualifications.


What Does a Level 6 or Level 7 Mean?

The levels system was set out by the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It was designed to indicate comparable qualifications across different difficulty levels. There are nine levels in total. Scotland differs slightly from this, as it has 12 Levels, set by the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF).

To give you a quick rundown of the levels:

  • Entry-Level - any entry-level certification - e.g. Entry Level Award; Entry Level Certificate (ELC); Skills for Life.
  • Lower Secondary Education - any Level 1 certification - e.g. GCSEs with grades 3, 2, 1 or grades D, E, F, G; Music Grades 1, 2 and 3.
  • Higher Secondary Education - any Level 2 certification - e.g. GCSEs with grades 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 or grades A*, A, B, C; NVQ Level 2; O level with grade A, B or C; music grades 4 and 5.
  • Tertiary Education - any Level 3 certification - e.g. A-Levels; BTEC Nationals; NVQ Level 3; Access to Higher Education Diploma; Advanced Apprenticeship.
  • Higher Education - any Level 4 certification, equivalent to 1 year of full-time undergraduate study - e.g. Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE); Higher Apprenticeship; Higher National Certificate (HNC); NVQ Level 4.
  • Foundation Level - any Level 5 certification, equivalent to 2 years of full-time undergraduate study - e.g. Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE); Higher National Diploma (HND); NVQ Level 5.
  • Graduate Level - any Level 6 certification, equivalent to 3 years of full-time undergraduate study - e.g. Bachelor's Degree with Honours; Degree Apprenticeship; Graduate Certificate; Graduate Diploma; Degree without Honours; NVQ Level 6.
  • Postgraduate Level - any Level 7 certification, equivalent to a Master’s degree - e.g. Master’s Degree (e.g. MA, MSc, MLit, MLang); an Integrated Master’s Degree (e.g. MEng); Postgraduate Certificate (e.g. the PGCE); Postgraduate Diploma; NVQ Level 7.
  • Doctoral Level - any Level 8 certification, equivalent to a Doctorate degree - e.g. a Doctorate degree (e.g. a PhD); Level 8 Award; Level 8 Certificate; Level 8 Diploma.

If you have a qualification from elsewhere in the UK, the EAL has made a helpful table to compare your qualifications to the levels


How Do I Become a Lawyer?

As mentioned before, there are three main routes.

The first is the Law Degree Route. For this route, you’d need to:

The second route is the Non-Law Degree Route. For this route, you’d need to:

  • Complete a Level 6 BA or BSc Degree in a Non-Law Subject at an accredited university.
  • Complete a Level 7 Law Conversion Qualification:

- You may opt to take the SQE qualification

- You may opt to take a Law conversion degree, such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), the Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL or PGDip Law), the MA Law (Conversion), or the Law Conversion LLM. These are all equivalents to each other.

  • Complete a PRT.

Note: If you go down the conversion route, you’d then need to follow this qualification up with a Level 7 Solicitor’s Qualification: the LPC, the SQE, or the BPC.

And the third route is the Non-Degree Route:

  • Complete a Level 6 Qualification such as the CILEx qualification or an accredited Level 6 Apprenticeship.

 - Or, in some cases, if you have substantial professional experience, such as having worked as a Paralegal or Legal Assistant, you may be able to apply for an exemption to certain parts of the qualification, such as not needing to take a unit, or receiving the whole qualification.

  • Complete either of the Level 7 Solicitor’s Qualification: the Legal Practice Course (LPC), the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam (SQE), or the Bar Practice Course (BPC).
  • Complete a PRT.


How Do I Decide?

It can be tricky deciding which route to take. Each one has its own pros and cons, and making this decision could impact your future career (no pressure!).

To help with this decision we'll go into further detail on the different qualifications of your Level 6 Options (coming soon) and your Level 7 Options (to follow!)

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Alex Bull is the content writer for the legal division of Harvey John.

For expert advice on how to get the best out of your Legal career, contact Hayley Rose for recruitment of jobs within the legal sector, both in-house and private, across the South East and beyond. 

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