The cheapest and most expensive law degrees in Australia

How much does a law degree cost in Australia? We’ve collected the data from every law school in the country, calculated the tuition fees and then ranked them from the cheapest to the most expensive.

Why does this matter? To be honest it sort of doesn’t, but law students and lawyers are a competitive bunch, so what better way to spend our time than comparing a whole list of completely pointless numbers!?

The five key findings

The cheapest law degree in Australia is found at the University of Western Australia, and is (surprisingly) a CSP juris doctor! Being a year shorter than the average four year undergraduate bachelor of laws, the UWA JD costs a mere $32,557. That said, any three year straight law degree at the undergraduate level will cost the same.

The cheapest full fee (ie non CSP) law degree in Australia is by TOP Education Institute Bachelor of Laws, a private university, with an estimated cost of $49,830.

The most expensive law degree in Australia is the Bond University Juris Doctor, another private university, at an estimated total cost of $131,790 (full fee place).

The cheapest or most expensive online law degree? Makes no difference – they cost just as much as on-campus degrees!

The shortest law degree in Australia is the Bond University Juris Doctor at 2 years (4 law subjects per trimester – god help those students!)

Check out the table below for all the gory details.

The cost of law degrees in Australia

Note: the table is pretty large so you’ll need a lot of patience if you want to view this on an iPhone! I’d recommend you jump on a computer when you get home to get the best results from this.

The columns are self explanatory, but for completeness:

  • Degree: The name of the university and kind of law degree
  • State: The state in which the university is located (though remember, you can enrol in online degrees from any state)
  • Est. total cost: The cost to undertake all subjects for the law degree. This is calculated by adjusting the cost per subject by the predicted rate of inflation each year (2.5%), and then multiplying that by the number of subjects in the second, third and fourth year, as required. Of course, universities may decide to increase their fees by more, so this is why it’s an “estimated” total cost.
  • Cost per subject: Most universities charge students per subject (and all subjects are the same credit points, eg 6 credit points). There are a few universities that charge per credit point (and subjects will have uniform credit points, eg 6 per normal subject or 12 per subject that spans two semesters) or will have varying credit points (eg a mix of 6 and 8 credit points). I have flagged which universities charge based on a mix of credit points in the footnotes.
  • 1st year subjects: This is how many subjects are taken in the first year of the law degree, as shown in the suggested course structure. Only a few universities fail to provide a suggested course structure or otherwise state how many subjects are studied during first year. For these universities, I have taken the average (eg if there are 24 subjects over 3 years, I have assumed 8 subjects for the first year).
  • 1st year cost: The cost per subject multiplied by the number of 1st year subjects.
  • Est. average cost per year: A lot of universities provide students with an “indicative cost per year”. This can be quite misleading because it does not take into account fee increases, or the fact that the first year can have a lower amount of subjects (law students usually take one or two more subjects per year in their final years). The estimated average cost per year is calculated by dividing the estimated total cost by the number of years.
  • Years (structure): The number of years and whether each year is divided into semesters (two study periods each year) or trimesters (three study periods per year).

If there is one of these in the degree column – (*1) – then see the corresponding footnote number under the table.

DegreeStateEst. total costCost per subject1st year subjects1st year costEst. avg cost per yearYears (structure)
University of Western Australia Juris Doctor
(CPS JD!!)
Western Australia$32,557$1,3248$10,592$10,8593 (semesters)
Average CSP bachelor of laws degreeAny state$43,983$1,324Varies$10,592$10,9964 years (varies)
Legal Profession Admission Board (LPAB Diploma) (*10)New South Wales$18,426$8555$4,275$4,6064 (part-time only)
TOP Education Institute Bachelor of LawsNew South Wales$49,830$1,5008$12,000$12,4584 (semesters) or 3 yrs fast track
University of Canberra Juris DoctorAustralian Capital Territory$60,590$2,4638$19,700$20,1973 (semesters with winter term)
University of Southern Queensland Juris DoctorQueensland$62,251$2,5308$20,240$20,7503 (semesters) (online only)
Flinders University Juris Doctor (*4)South Australia$72,855$2,9617/8$23,688$24,2853 (semesters)
University of Newcastle Juris Doctor (*9)New South Wales$79,367$2,7608$22,080$26,4563 (semesters)
Deakin University Juris Doctor (*6)Victoria$80,385$3,2678$26,136$26,7953 (trimesters)
Australian National University (*5)Australian Capital Territory$90,926$3,8527$26,964$30,3083 (semester)
Macquarie University Juris DoctorNew South Wales$97,888$3,9788$31,827$32,6293 (semesters)
RMIT University Juris DoctorVictoria$106,294$4,3208$34,560$35,4313 (semesters)
Monash University Juris Doctor (*2)Victoria$115,760$4,7007$32,900$38,5873 (trimesters)
La Trobe University Juris Doctor (*7) (*8)Victoria$116,529$4,4068$35,250$38,8433 (semesters)
University of Melbourne Juris Doctor (*1)Victoria$116,529$4,7368$37,888$38,8433 (semesters)
University of Sydney Juris DoctorNew South Wales$116,873$4,7508$38,000$38,9583 (semesters)
University of Technology Sydney Juris Doctor (*11)New South Wales$118,332$6,1416$36,846$39,4443 (semesters)
University of New South Wales Juris DoctorNew South Wales$122,533$4,9808$39,840$40,8443 (semesters)
Bond University Juris Doctor (*3)Queensland$131,790$4,43612$53,232$65,8952 (trimesters)

(*1) University of Melbourne Juris Doctor – This is actually lower than the UOM indicative cost, and I don’t know why. UoM provides the following estimate based on a 2% rise in fees: “The indicative cost of the standard three year program for students commencing in 2017 is $120,668.”

(*2) Monash University JD – The website gives the yearly fee of $37,600 and then states that “Fees are per 48 credit points which represents a standard full-time course load for a year.” This is really unhelpful because the first year only has 42 credit points (according to the structure), so the extra points have to be picked up in later years when the fees would be increased. The end result is that the total course cost will be higher than 3 * the yearly cost.

(*3) Bond University – Bond uni provides an indicative cost of $107,079. The cost is broken down into (what appears to be) 18 JD subjects at $4,436 per subject, 2 JD subjects at half the normal credit points at $2,218 per subject (so when you add the credit points up, it is just another normal subject cost of $4,436), and then 10 other subjects from the Masters of Laws program which are a little bit more expensive – $4,559 per subject. See the “limitations” section in respect of inflation, below.

(*4) Flinders University also offers a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP) (2 semesters, full time) for law students, which means all practical legal training requirements will be satisfied. For undergraduate students, you can commence the GDLP in your final stages of the degree, before you have finished all of your law subjects – a nice way to break up some of the final law units. For Juris Doctor students, it looks like you need to complete the JD before you commence the GDLP. The 2016 cost for the GDLP is $8,280. Also, I can’t tell from the Flinders Uni website whether these are the 2016 or 2017 fees.

(*5) ANU notes that its indicative fee per year is $30,768.00, only a few hundred dollars above my estimate here.

(*6) Deakin University does not provide much information on course structure, other than the fact that students needs to complete 24 units in total. Many universities have a light first year (eg require students to take 6 or 7 subjects to ease in, and then make up for this in later years). As Deakin University doesn’t provide this information on its website then I have assumed that there are 8 subjects per year.

(*7) The La Trobe University Juris Doctor can be fast tracked by taking electives during the semester breaks over summer and winter.

(*8) La Trobe University also has one of the least helpful websites for determining fees out of all the universities in this table.

(*9) The University of Newcastle JD integrates practical legal training into the course so students are ready to go once they leave the university.

(*10) This is the only service provider honest enough to flag how much they intend to increase fees by each year, which is 5%. While the rest of the table is calculated rather conservatively on a 2.5% increase, in line with the predicted CPI over the next few years, I think the 5% increase is more realistic.

(*11) The subjects in the University of Technology Sydney Juris Doctor are either 6 or 8 credit points so the fees need to be calculated from on total credit points rather than subjects. Importantly, the 2.5% increase needs to be calculated on the individual credit points before the yearly totals can be determined. Using the suggested course structure, there are 46 credit points in the first year, followed by 48 and then 50 for the following years. The indicative price noted by the university is based on 48 credit points, so it is higher that the “1st year cost” column in the graph above.

I thought there were CSP places for juris doctor degrees?

When you start researching a little further into what university you want to go to, and what degree you want to pursue, you will see that almost all universities will indicate that CSP places are available for their JD degrees.

Note that there will always (or usually?) be a few CSP places available for JD students, but I’d be surprised if you ever find out how many are available, without some heavy qualifications. 20% of places? 10%? 5%?  Less?

Unfortunately, I haven’t run across a university website that actually provides useful and usable information for students on this point. Universities say that the number changes from year to year, but it wouldn’t be hard to simply state how many places were offered each year over the previous, say, five years, or to provide an average.

There should definitely be some more transparency on this point for prospective students.

What about other fees, and FEE-HELP?

My other post “how much does a law degree really cost?” goes into the details of all the other kinds of hidden fees and costs that you will pay at law school. Head on over if you’re interested.

The post above also covers what you need to know about FEE-HELP, including the “FEE-HELP gap” which you definitely need to know about if you’re applying to one of the high cost universities. But in short, if you’re a full fee paying student you can put your fees on FEE-HELP and pay the fees back later. However, the fee help limit for 2017 is $100,879, so you will have to pay the gap between this and the total cost of your degree before you finish your degree. That could be up to ~$30,000, depending on the university you attend!

The “average CSP bachelor of laws degree”

You will see that I’ve included a catchall row for all bachelor of laws degrees. There is so much variability within undergraduate and graduate entry bachelor of laws degrees that it’s easier to make a few assumptions here.

For the purposes of the table above, the average CSP bachelor of laws degree:

  • is an undergraduate degree;
  • may or may not allow graduate entry;
  • takes four years;
  • is not a double degree (which would increase the length of the degree); and
  • contains all subjects that are required to be admitted as a lawyer, and probably includes a few legal or non-legal elective subjects.

Method for preparing the table

It’s not rocket science – I just looked at each law school webpage, collected whatever information was available and then gave the law faculties a phone call where fees were missing (or unclear). At some points I’ve made assumptions, and these are flagged in the footnotes.

The difficult part in calculating how much a law degree costs is trying to predict how much the tuition fees will increase by each year.  Instead of being helpful and giving an estimated cost of a law degree for prospective students (for example, by averaging out how much each student spent over the previous few years or something), universities only provide the cost of each law subject for that year. Of course, the fees will rise slightly each year so so you need to figure out how many subjects will be undertaken per year and increase each subject cost accordingly.

For the purposes of this post, I’ve increased the cost per law subject by inflation. This is probably a pretty conservative estimation.

Limitations, and what the table doesn’t tell you

There are a few limitations that I should point out.

First, I have no idea how much fees will increase by. Perhaps with so much competition these days the fees will decrease? Here’s hoping. But seriously, there’s not much to hope for on this front so I’ve increased fees by the predicted inflation rate of 2.5 percent per year. It could be more, especially now that the government has announced funding cuts to universities.

The “1st year cost” is the cost for a first year student in 2017 It varies a lot between the different universities because it is based the university’s suggested work load for first year. This is usually what the universities refer to as the “indicative cost” per year of the law degree. I think it’s generally unhelpful because first year students usually undertake fewer subjects. See the “estimated average cost per year” for the average yearly cost across the duration of the degree.

Sorry, I haven’t collected the data on double degrees. Just trying to figure all of this out for straight law degrees was painful enough without having to consider the extra variability that a double degree introduces. It’s another limitation, but I think this post still gives everyone enough to start with.

As for what the table doesn’t tell you (and what you should research yourself if you’re interested), is the number of subjects in later years, how many subjects are undertaken in part time courses, what universities have online law degrees (see this post here for online law degrees), and what other kinds of fees you will be paying throughout your degree.

Universities with CSP law degrees

A number of universities in Australia offer only CSP places for their law degrees. These are all undergraduate or graduate entry bachelors degrees (that is, none of these universities offer JDs). The University of Western Australia is the only exception – it doesn’t have a bachelor of laws, only has a JD, and doesn’t charge full-fee to any of its students.

So how much does it cost for a CSP place in 2017? $10,592!

The following universities offer CSP places (no full fee places) for law degrees:

  • Australian Catholic Univeristy (graduate entry law and undergraduate law degree)
  • Central Queensland University (CQUniversity) (undergraduate bachelors)
  • Charles Darwin University (bachelor of laws – non graduate and graduate entry)
  • Curtin University (undergraduate)
  • Edith Cowan University (undergraduate and graduate entry, double degrees)
  • Griffith University (bachelors of law – non graduate and graduate entry)
  • James Cook University (bachelors of law – non graduate and graduate entry)
  • Murdoch University (undergrad and graduate entry)
  • Queensland University of Technology (bachelor of laws – non graduate and graduate entry)
  • Southern Cross University (undergraduate and graduate llbs)
  • Swinburn University of Technology (undergrad and graduate entry)
  • University of Adelaide (single undergrad, double degree undergrad, grad entry)
  • University of New England (bachelor of laws – non graduate and graduate entry)
  • University of Notre Dame (undergrad with normal and graduate entry, and postgrad graduate entry)
  • University of Queensland (no straight bachelors of laws – UQ only has bachelor of laws (honours))
  • University of South Australia (undergraduate bachelor’s only – no graduate entry)
  • University of Sunshine Coast (non graduate and graduate entry bachelors)
  • University of Tasmania (undergrad and grad entry, undergrad with honours)
  • University of Western Australia (Juris Doctor! I’ve also included this in the table above)
  • University of Wollongong (undergrad and graduate entry)
  • Victoria University (bachelor of laws – non graduate and graduate entry)
  • Western Sydney University (graduate and non graduate entry)

Does anyone even consider enrolling in full fee undergraduate degrees? If so, let me know and I’ll see if I can find the data on those courses – I’ve haven’t included any of that information because I assume it doesn’t happen very often.

The Legal Practitioners Admissions Board diploma

The LPAB diploma isn’t particularly well known among those considering law school, despite being the oldest institution providing all the education necessary to become a lawyer. Further, its by far the cheapest legal educational provider. So what’s the deal?

For some reason or another, the LPAB simply isn’t that well regarded by employers. I don’t know why this is the case, but I suspect it’s mainly due to the fact that it isn’t a university, so it would be difficult for employers to determine how to evaluate applicants with these credentials (though that said, I also suspect some employers would regard applicants from the newer universities less favourably as well).

Further, it’s just not that well known. Unfortunately, people don’t like things that they are unfamiliar with, and employers (especially human resources staff at larger law firms) generally can’t afford to make mistakes, so they go with what they know.

I’m going to write a separate post on this in the future, but in the meantime, do you own research!

Are law degrees worth the money?

What do you think? Is it worth it for people to invest in a law degree these days? Is the difference in price between a private law degree provider (TOP Education Institute) and any of the G08 universities justifiable? Do the different universities price their degrees on the quality of education, employment outcomes, perceived prestige or something else? How much are you paying?

Give us your thoughts in the comments section below!

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