Is law school worth $100,433 in loans?

(MoneyWatch) Is law school worth $100,433?

That's the average debt burden that law school students graduate with, according to a US News & World Report survey.

US News obtained law school debt figures from 191 of the 195 law schools that it ranks.

With one notable exception, the 10 law schools producing graduates with the most alarming debt are not among the most prestigious schools. In fact, four of them are lumped in the bottom fourth of all law schools.

Northwestern University, which US News has ranked 12th in its 2012 Best Law School rankings, is the exception. The tuition and fees at Northwestern are $51,920 and the average indebtedness is $139,007.

According to the survey, California Western School of Law in San Diego is the worst offender: The average student leaves owing $153,145.

Law Schools With the Highest Debt

Here is where you can find US News' complete list. The following schools are the top debt offenders:

  • California Western School of Law - $153,145
  • Thomas Jefferson School of Law (CA) - $153,006
  • American University (Washington, DC) - $151,318
  • New York Law School - $146,230
  • Phoenix School of Law - $145,357

Does anybody else think this level of debt is insane?

Unfortunately, too many young college graduates turn to law school as a default career move. They don't know what else to do -- especially in a weak economy when jobs are scarce.

Law school is no longer the route to a steady, well-paying job. According to a report by the National Association for Legal Career Professionals, only 50.9% of 2010 law school graduates who found jobs were employed at law firms. What's more, today the leading source of law firm jobs comes not from the big firms with fat salaries, but mom-and-pop law firms.

If you are tempted to go to law school, think long and hard before making the plunge.

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