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 year on year fee increases) and then ranked them from the cheapest to the most expensive.
It has been difficult to find the realistic cost of a law degree from a university’s website in the past. Thankfully, universities are becoming more transparent and most now provide an indicative cost for the first year of study and for the course in total.
This post has been updated to include 2020 fee information.
- 1 The summary – five key findings
- 2 The list – the cost of law degrees in Australia
- 3 How to read the table
- 4 Table Footnotes
- 5 Other comments and themes
- 5.1 Transparency is improving
- 5.2 Unfortunately, law schools don’t disclose the number of CSP places for juris doctor (JD) degrees
- 5.3 If you’re a full fee student then you can’t put it all on FEE-HELP
- 5.4 Where can you find one of those cheap, cheap “Bachelor’s degree” courses?
- 5.5 Why aren’t we all studying through the Legal Practitioners Admissions Board!?
- 6 The boring stuff
- 7 Are law degrees worth the money?
The summary – five key findings
- The cheapest legal education in Australia is provided by the Legal Profession Admission Board (LPAB) in NSW at a total cost of $19,222 over 4 years (part time). This is a diploma but still allows you to practice as a lawyer.
- The cheapest law degree in Australia is the three year Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) degree, which could be a graduate entry bachelor’s degree from any university, or the Juris Doctor from the University of Western Australia – the only university that provides a CSP-only JD! Each will cost $34,070 over three years.
- The most expensive law degree in Australia is Bond University’s full-fee undergraduate degree at $140,301, but only because it’s a four year degree. Monash Uni is next on the list with its Juris Doctor at $132,668 for three years, just pipping the Australian National University’s JD at $131,351.
- Just because it’s a great stat, the shortest law degree on offer is the Bond University Juris Doctor which you can complete in a mere 2 years (4 law subjects per trimester – god help those students!)
- The average fee increase per year (on a per subject / credit point basis) for Australian law schools varies significantly. As a benchmark, CSP fees have increased by an average of 1.73% each year since 2017. The Bond University full-fee undergraduate degree was even lower at an average of 1.06% each year. The University of Melbourne had a surprisingly low average of 2.05% each year, and Flinders University JD was much higher at 8.91%. ANU fees jumped 11.81% from 2019 to 2020, and the University of Canberra obviously implemented some kind of fee correction between 2018 and 2019 with a hike of 33%!
The table below sets out the cost for each law school, along with some other relevant information.
The list – the cost of law degrees in Australia
An explanation of the key columns, and further comments on each of the universities, is below the table.
|Uni / Degree||Total cost of degree||Cost per subject||Fee increase||1st year cost||Avg cost per year||Duration|
|Australian National University JD (*1)||$131,351||$4,830||11.81%||$33,810||$43,783||3 years|
|Bachelor's degree (double degree)||$57,816||$1,394||1.80%||$11,155||$11,563||5 years|
|Bachelor's degree (graduate entry)||$34,070||$1,394||1.80%||$11,155||$11,356||3 years|
|Bachelor's degree (straight law)||$45,837||$1,394||1.80%||$11,155||$11,459||4 years|
|Bond University Bachelor's degree (*2)||$140,301||$4,340||1.17%||$52,080||$50,107||2.8 years|
|Bond University JD (*3)||$121,460||$4,930||0.82%||$59,160||$60,730||2 years|
|Deakin University JD (*4)||$102,934||$4,075||5.16%||$32,600||$34,311||3 years|
|Flinders University JD (*5)||$95,853||$3,825||9.10%||$30,600||$31,951||3 years|
|Legal Practitioners Admissions Board (LPAB) Diploma (*6)||$19,222||$930||2.20%||$4,650||$4,805||4 years (part-time)|
|Macquarie University JD (*7)||$104,198||$4,218||2.89%||$33,748||$34,732||3 years|
|Monash University JD (*8)||$132,667||$5,250||5.00%||$36,750||$44,222||3 years|
|RMIT JD (*9)||$121,369||$4,800||5.26%||$38,400||$40,456||3 years|
|TOP Education bachelor's degree (*10)||$48,000||$1,500||0.00%||$12,000||$16,000||4 years|
|University of Canberra JD (*11)||$86,521||$3,487||3.33%||$27,900||$28,840||3 years|
|University of Melbourne JD (*12)||$125,829||$5,136||2.07%||$41,088||$41,943||3 years|
|University of New South Wales JD (*13)||$126,000||$5,250||0.00%||$42,000||$42,000||3 years|
|University of Newcastle JD (*14)||$91,675||$3,105||5.00%||$24,840||$30,558||3 years|
|University of Southern Queensland JD (*15)||$77,768||$3,080||5.12%||$24,640||$25,922||3 years|
|University of Sydney JD (*16)||$128,195||$5,187||5.00%||$35,437||$42,731||3 years|
|University of Technology, Sydney JD (*17)||$127,281||$5,904||5.00%||$38,640||$42,427||3 years|
|University of Western Australia JD (CSP only!) (*18)||$34,070||$1,394||1.83%||$11,152||$11,356||3 years|
How to read the table
The table can be a little misleading if you don’t consider the variability in fee increases and course structures. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Degree: The name of the university and kind of law degree.
- Total cost of degree: The total cost for the duration of the degree (ie, to complete every subject) including fee increases each year based on the “fee increased” column. See lower in the post for an example. Of course, in the future, universities migth increase or decrease their fees (which means the table will underestimates or overestimate the total, respectively).
- Cost per subject: This is the cost per subject (or the indicative cost where a university charges fees by way of credit points, where each subject is usually 6 credit points). This column is probably a good indicator of the “most expensive” law school at any given time.
- Fee increase: This is the fee increase from 2019 to 2020.
- 1st year cost: The cost of tuition for the first year of law school based on the university’s suggested course structure. Some universities have one or two less subjects in the first year to allow students to get used to studying law. For any university that fails to provide a suggested structure, which aren’t many, I’ve taken the average for each year (eg if there are 24 subjects over 3 years, I have assumed 8 subjects for the first year).
- Average cost per year: This is the “Total cost of degree” divided by the “Duration” in years. The main purpose of this is so you can compare the average cost (including fee increases) against the “indicative cost per year” provided by universities. In the past, the indicative cost provided by universities have been quite misleading because they rarely included any fee increases in the calculation, or failed to follow their own course structure and adjust for fewer subjects in the first year (which means there are more subjects in later years, which obviously cost more because of fee increases). Thankfully, most indicative fees now seem to include these adjustments, but still seem to underestimate the price when compared to my calculations.
- Duration: The number of years to complete the degree according to the recommended course structure.
There is no way to do this well, but the footnotes below correlate to the (*1), (*2) markers in the “Uni / degree” column.
- Footnote #1: Australian National University – Annual indicative cost is $38,520, which is around $5,000 too low (and would still low even if the fee increase was around 5.09%, which is what it was over the previous two years).
- Footnote #2: Bond University LLB – No indicative cost information (though this was provided a few years ago). Already flag 2021 fees so students have certainty there.
- Footnote #3: Bond University JD – No indicative cost information (though this was provided a few years ago). Elective units slightly more expensive than core units. Already provide 2021 fee information which is great.
- Footnote #4: Deakin Uni JD – Indicative cost at $32,600 per year which is around $2,000 too low.
- Footnote #5: Flinders Uni JD – Indicative cost of $31,500 per year which is pretty much right on.
- Footnote #6: LPAB – The Fees for LPAB are to “enrol” in a subject, and include tuition & examination for that subject. They are set on 1 July each year which makes it a little difficult to calculate – for convenience and given they are so much cheaper that universities, I’ve calculated costs in the table on basis that the 1st year fees are those applicable at start of year.
- Footnote #7: Macquarie University JD – Indicative cost of $33,748 per year, which is around $1,000 too low. Fees are based on credit points, where each subject has 10 credit points. Credit point structure has changed from 2019.
- Footnote #8: Monash University JD – Annual indicative cost of $42,000, which is about $2,000 too low. Unfortunately don’t have 2019 fee information so I’ve assumed a 5% fee increase. Very difficult to find subject cost information from the JD webpage.
- Footnote #9: RMIT JD – Indicative annual cost of $38,400, which is ~$2,000 too low. RMIT does a good job at clearly stating that fees will be adjusted with time (and also state they will not exceed 7.5% per subject). RMIT also provides a total course indicative cost of $115,200 (~$6,000 too low).
- Footnote #10: TOP Education LLB – Total course indicative cost of $48,000, which is actually correct because course fees have not increased over the last 4 years (so the fee increase is 0.00%). Unclear why this is.
- Footnote #11: University of Canberra JD – Indicative annual fee of $27,900, which is pretty close (~$1,000 too low). Fees are on a credit point basis (not per subject).
- Footnote #12: University of Melbourne JD – Provides an indicative annual fee of $35,108 for full fee + bursary on the webpage, but following the link it says the indicative cost for the first year is $41,088. The latter is very close. Melb Uni gets bonus points for flagging that this is a “first year fee”, and bonus points again for flagging that the total indicative course fee of $128,320 includes 5% indexation each year. This is actually higher than Melb Uni’s increases since 2017 which have been around 2% per year. The only uni on the list that overestimates the total fee (by around $3,000). Credit point structure for fees.
- Footnote #13: UNSW – The indicative first year fee is $42,000, and the indicative fee to complete the degree is $129,600. Bonus points for stating that there will be a “percentage increase for every year of the program” (though doesn’t say what it is). The indicative total is higher than my total course fee of $126,000 because there was no increase in subject cost from 2019 to 2020 (which means I’ve been multiplying by 0.00% for the “increase”). If you took a 3% fee increase then UNSW’s indicative total would be spot on. Credit point structure for fees.
- Footnote #14: University of Newcastle JD – Indicative annual fee for first year (8 subjects) is $24,830. However, 2nd and 3rd years have 10 subjects each so the first year fee, while correct, isn’t particularly helpful. The average yearly fee is $30,558. Embedded PLT program. Unfortunately don’t have 2019 fee information so I’ve assumed a 5% fee increase.
- Footnote #15: University of Southern Queensland JD – Indicative first year cost of $24,640, which is around $1,000 too low. Flags that fees can vary from year to year. Some electives are a little cheaper than others, so the overall cost of the law degree may end up being marginally cheaper than my calculation.
- Footnote #16: University of Sydney JD – Indicative annual cost of $40,500 which is around $2,000 too low. The uni also states that fees are subject to annual review and will increases each year, and that the indicative fee is for a full time load. Unfortunately don’t have 2019 fee information so I’ve assumed a 5% fee increase. Already flags the 2021 fees which helps provide certainty.
- Footnote #17: University of Technology, Sydney JD – No indicative course cost. The way the fees need to be calculated is quite convoluted, with the course requiring 144 credit points, where each subject is either 6 or 8 credit points, and each credit point costing $861. The suggested course structure has 6 subjects in the first year (totaling 46 credit points of 6 and 8 credit point subjects), 7 subjects in the second year (totaling 48 credit points), and 8 subjects in the third year (totaling 50 credit points). The “per subject” cost in the table is a blended cost. Unfortunately don’t have 2019 fee information so I’ve assumed a 5% fee increase.
- Footnote #18: University of Western Australia JD – The “average” fee per year of $9,094 is totally out (~$2,000 low), but who cares when the university offers all of its JD places on a CSP basis!
Other comments and themes
Transparency is improving
The primary reason for making the first edition of this post (in 2017) was that universities were doing a terrible job at being transparent with overall cost of law degrees. All you would get is a cost per subject, and then you needed to calculate the rest yourself, including trying to predict what fee increases would apply (usually well in excess of inflation).
Universities are providing a lot more transparency now. Most will provide an indicative cost per year (and the better ones provide an indicative total course fee which builds in estimated fee increases). Overall, my calculations show they still underestimate the costs a little, but at least this information is now available for prospective students.
Unfortunately, law schools don’t disclose the number of CSP places for juris doctor (JD) degrees
While most JD places are full fee, universities invariably keep a few places open for CSP students, and many dangle the carrot that if you do well enough in your first year, then you can apply to transfer from a full fee to CSP place in your second or third year.
But how many CSP places are there (20%, 10%, 5%, less?), and how many students successfully transfer from a full fee to CSP place (surely very few)? No university (that I saw) openly discloses this information.
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.
If you’re a full fee student then you can’t put it all on FEE-HELP
My other post “how much does a law degree really cost?” looks at the other kinds of fees and expenses that you will pay at law school. Spoiler – there are a lot. This post also covers what you need to know about FEE-HELP, and importantly the “FEE-HELP gap”.
In short, if you’re a full fee student then you can put your fees on FEE-HELP and pay the fees back later. However, the FEE-HELP limit for 2020 is $106,319, so if you apply for any of the courses listed above that exceed this limit then you will need to pay the gap before you can finish your degree (usually in the last year). That could be up to ~$30,000, depending on the university you attend!
This issue is more well known these days and some universities offer to cover this gap, or provide scholarships to assist.
Where can you find one of those cheap, cheap “Bachelor’s degree” courses?
In the table above, I’ve included three catchall Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) degrees:
- Avg CSP bachelor of laws (graduate entry) – this is a degree that you can apply for if you have already completed another bachelors degree. It’s a 3 year degree.
- Avg CSP bachelor of laws – this is the typical “straight law” degree that will last for 4 years.
- Avg CSP bachelor of laws (double degree) – this is a typical double degree course lasting for 5 years. It does not include the cost of the second degree (which can vary depending on discipline).
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 this table, it’s $11,155 per year multiplied by the number of years in the degree (including the fee increase from last year applied to each further year).
Update: The Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan just announced that these fees could be increased by about 28% next year for law degrees (new students only)! By way of comparison, the fees for CSP places between 2017 – 2018 increased by 1.49%, between 2018 – 2019 by 1.90%, and between 2019 – 2020 by 1.80%.
(Caveat: I’m still working on the list below. I originally excluded the universities listed in the table above, but on reflection, this is unhelpful and I need to go back an include them. DYOR.) 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)
The way universities structure their undergraduate offerings change over time. I can’t quite tell, but I get the impression that more and more universities are not allowing students to enrol into a second undergraduate degree (so if you want to make a change and switch to law, then you will be funneled through the higher cost JD degrees). Make sure you do your own research.
Why aren’t we all studying through the Legal Practitioners Admissions Board!?
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 why aren’t we all studying there?
For whatever reason, the LPAB simply isn’t that well regarded by large private practice employers. I get lots of emails challenging this, and a few people have left comments on the site along the same lines, so I’m just going to say it now – don’t shoot the messenger.
I don’t know why this is the case, but I suspect it’s mainly due to the fact that it’s just not that well known. Unfortunately, people don’t like things that they are unfamiliar with, and employers (especially partners and human resources staff at larger law firms) will stick with the devil they know.
Further, it’s not a university and you don’t get a university degree. Unfortunately, when you combine this with the fact that it’s cheap and not well known, you will find that many people will automatically equate that with a lack of prestige (though that said, many people think the same of the newer universities as well).
I have been meaning to write a separate post on LPAB forever, but in the meantime, do you own research!
The boring stuff
Just for transparency, I’ve set out below how the list has been compiled and calculated. If you think there are any mistakes or that I’ve misrepresented the cost for any university, please let me know!
Method for preparing the table
It’s not rocket science – I looked at the webpage for each law school, collected whatever information was available and then reached out to law faculties where fees were missing (or unclear). If I’ve made assumptions (because I couldn’t find the cost in 2018 or 2019) then these are flagged in the footnotes above.
All the data I’ve collected ends up in an excel sheet, which calculates various fee totals . For example, this is the data for Melbourne Uni:
Rinse and repeat for each Uni.
If you want a closer look at the data, shoot me an email at will at youveenteredlawland.com and I can send you the excel sheet. It’s interesting to browse, but you’ll never get that time back in your life.
Limitations, and what the table doesn’t tell you
The first limitation is that I have no idea how much fees will increase by, so they have been calculated based on the fee increase in the previous year. This might not be the best way to do it and I’m wondering whether I should use an average fee increase based on the previous few years.
For example, if you take the calculations for the Australian National University’s JD, the fees for Year 2 have been increased by 11.81% (because that’s how much the fees increased by in the immediate past year). That is, in Year 2, the 2020 subject cost of $4,830 is multiplied by 11.81% and this new adjusted subject fee is then multiplied by 8 subjects. In Year 3, the $4,830 is multiplied by 11.81% and then again by another 11.81% (because in Year 3 you will have a further set of fee increases), and this new adjusted subject fee is multiplied by 9 subjects.
If the 11.81% is an outlier then this obviously causes problems. You can see below that a fee increase of around 6% might be more appropriate.
A second limitation is around the “1st year cost” – this is for a first year student in 2020 and varies a lot between the different universities because some universities recommend a light workload for the first year. The only reason I include this number is because a lot of universities use this light-workload year as the basis for their “annual indicative cost”. I think that’s a bit sneaky, and the universities should do better. I’ve also included an “Average cost per year” in the table to address this problem (but again, this builds in the issues with fee increases raised above).
A third limitation is that I haven’t collected the data on double degrees. Obviously, there are heaps of people who study law as part of a double degree, but it’s just too hard to sift through all the information. I tried to do it in 2018 as a “first update” to this post, and it was so painful after around 15 or so universities that I just gave up until now. I think this post still gives everyone enough to start with, and if you want some more info, DYOR.
A fourth limitation is that it is impossible to predict how you will travel through your degree. Maybe you take a semester off, or drop a few subjects to maintain your sanity in your final year. This pushes the degree out and you’ll end up incurring fees in an additional year. Maybe you study part-time, in which case the same issues arise again. At the end of the day, you need to do your own research.
Are law degrees worth the money?
What do you think?
As you can see, the cost of a law degree can vary significantly between universities. Does the cost really reflect the difference in quality of education, or employment outcomes? Should law students be considering the total costs a little more closely these days, or is law school still a good investment?
It would be great to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!