Is There any Certain Minor to Consider?
No, just take a minor that supports your major and/or is something you’ll enjoy.
Is it Best to Take the Patent Bar Exam in School (Like Law School or Graduate School) or After?
The sooner you can take the exam the better. As long as you meet the requirements to pass the exam, you should start preparing. It’s possible to pass this exam over a summer if you study diligently or even over a few breaks (like summer, winter, and spring break) if you can’t quite squeeze it in over one.
Patent Agent and Attorney Salary Ranges
According to research on PayScale.com, the average pay for a Patent Agent is between $67,000 and $102,000 a year.
If you contrast the average range with the average pay for those in science and engineering fields, you will see that a career as a Patent Agent is usually more lucrative. By as much as $20,000 to $30,000 more per year.
And keep in mind that if you choose to take the Patent Bar exam and become a Patent Agent, you may decide at a later date to attend law school. Once you meet the criteria for an attorney, then you will be able to change your status with the USPTO from Patent Agent to Patent Attorney.
Further research on PayScale.com shows that the average salary of a patent attorney is around $108,000. In a survey conducted by the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), the average patent attorney’s salary was much higher than those reported by PayScale. According to AIPLA, the average salary of their members (all patent practitioners) was over $180,000 a year.
At the top of the pay scale are partners in private firms who reportedly earn about $300,000 a year according to statistics by the AIPLA in a survey of its members.
Associates in private firms will make considerably less. The AIPLA reports that its associates earn an average of $125,000 a year during their first year. PayScale reports that the average starting salary for a patent attorney with between 1 and 4 year of experience is $81,000 to $137,000 a year.
Keep in mind that you do need a background in science and engineering to become a patent attorney. For this reason, many attorneys lack the credentials to practice patent law, which is one reason why the field is more in-demand than many other areas of legal practice.
A Bachelors degree in science or engineering will meet the criteria to take the patent bar exam, but some firms will expect a higher degree (i.e. graduate work) and/or related work experience. In addition to writing and prosecuting patent applications, as a patent attorney, you may also prepare for infringement cases and offer legal advice concerning litigation.
As you can see, patent practitioners, whether agents or attorneys, earn a high salary.