Courses: University

Types of Law Degrees in the United States

Law education in America is a respected and challenging path which culminates with the awarding of advanced degrees which grant the bearer the right to certain privileges and rights. Exploring the available paths through which your education may progress is an excellent way to begin any evaluation of the various choices available to students, and knowing the expectations and requisites of each of the degrees you may achieve can be essential to determining what educational path is right for you. In the United States, there are three main types of law degrees ranging from the basic requirement of a Juris Doctor degree for an individual to qualify to practice law, to a more advanced Master of Laws, to the prestigious Doctor of Juridical Science.

Juris Doctor (J.D.)

For the majority of students, the objective of law school will be to earn a Juris Doctor degree and gain the skills and knowledge necessary to pass the state bar exam and become a practicing lawyer. Gaining entry into a JD program does not require that the student have taken specifically pre-law curriculum as an undergraduate, but instead examines general performance through GPA, LSAT scores, recommendation letters, and personal statements. Completing a JD on a full time basis takes 3 years of study.

Master of Laws (LL.M.)

This degree is primarily for the benefit of foreign attorneys who wish to become more familiar with American law and earn the right to practice in the United States if they are not already permitted to do so. Candidates will typically choose a specific concentration for their one year of curriculum. Students are also sometimes accepted when they simply wish to focus on a particular area of law or prepare themselves for a Doctor of Juridical Science. The program takes one year to complete on a full time basis.

Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.)

The Doctor of Juridical Science is the most advanced law degree it is possible to earn in the United States, and is a research intensive program designed to produce students qualified to work as law professors in a full time academic setting. The curriculum is typically completed within the first year of the three year program, with all remaining time dedicated to research, and the completion and defense of a dissertation. Candidates will be required to submit a strong dissertation proposal as well as hold a J.D. or LL.M.