types of law degrees
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What Are The Different Types Of Law Degrees You Can Pursue In US?

| December 29, 2023

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in law, you should know that in the United States, there are different types of law degrees that you can consider based on your career objectives. Similarly, understanding the different types of law degrees available can help you make an informed decision about which degree to pursue. In this guide, we will be talking about the different types of law degrees that you can pursue in the US. 

Top 5 Types Of Law Degrees In The US 

 Here are the primary types of law degrees that you can pursue in the US. 

1. Juris Doctor (JD)

The Juris Doctor (JD) is the foundational and most common law degree in the United States. It serves as the primary qualification for individuals seeking to practice law. Similarly, JD programs typically span three years of full-time study, covering a comprehensive range of legal subjects. 

Moreover, students learn the basics of legal theory, analysis, and practical skills essential for legal practice. Graduates of JD programs are eligible to take the bar exam in their respective states, a crucial step in becoming a licensed attorney.

2. Master of Laws (LLM)

The Master of Laws (LLM) is a postgraduate degree designed for individuals who already hold a JD or an equivalent foreign law degree. Similarly, LLM programs provide an opportunity for specialization in a specific area of law. Moreover, it allows graduates to deepen their expertise. 

Similarly, common specializations include tax law, international law, environmental law, and intellectual property. Moreover, the LLM degree is often pursued by attorneys looking to enhance their skills or by international students seeking exposure to U.S. legal principles.

3. Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) or Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD)

The Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) or Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD) represents the highest level of legal education and is a research-based doctoral degree. Similarly, individuals pursuing an SJD or JSD are typically interested in legal academia or advanced legal research. 

Moreover,  the program involves in-depth independent research and the completion of a doctoral dissertation. Moreover, graduates with an SJD or JSD are often positioned to contribute significantly to legal scholarship and academia.

4. Joint Degree Programs

Many law schools offer joint degree programs that allow students to earn a JD along with another advanced degree, providing a multidisciplinary approach to education. Similarly, popular joint degree programs include JD/MBA (Master of Business Administration), 

Similarly, JD/MPA (Master of Public Administration), and JD/MA or JD/PhD in related fields. Moreover, these programs cater to individuals seeking a broader skill set and increased career flexibility.

5. Online and Part-Time JD Programs

Recognizing the diverse needs of aspiring legal professionals, some law schools offer online or part-time JD programs. 

Moreover, these programs cater to individuals who are working or managing other responsibilities while pursuing a law degree.

Moreover,  they provide flexibility, and completion times may be longer than traditional full-time programs.

Which Types Of Law Degrees Should You Pursue?

Embarking on a legal education journey involves selecting the right type of law degree that aligns with your career goals and aspirations. Moreover, consider the following types of law degrees and their respective advantages to make an informed decision.

1. Juris Doctor (JD)

Who Should Pursue It:

  • Aspiring attorneys seeking to practice law.
  • Individuals are interested in a comprehensive legal education covering diverse areas of law.

Advantages:

  • Essential for bar admission and legal practice.
  • Moreover, it provides a broad foundation for various legal careers.
  • Ideal for those focused on litigation, legal analysis, and client representation.

2. Master of Laws (LLM)

Who Should Pursue It:

  • Attorneys are looking to specialize in a specific area of law.
  • Moreover, international law graduates seeking exposure to U.S. legal principles.

Advantages:

3. Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) or Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD)

Who Should Pursue It:

  • Those aspiring to contribute to legal academia.
  • Individuals with a passion for advanced legal research.

Advantages:

  • Highest level of legal education.
  • Moreover, enables in-depth research and dissertation completion.
  • Positions graduate for academic and research-oriented careers.

4. Joint Degree Programs

Who Should Pursue It:

  • Individuals are seeking a combination of legal and other disciplines.
  • Moreover, those interested in expanding career opportunities beyond law.

Advantages:

  • Moreover, it provides a broader skill set.
  • Enhanced career flexibility and diverse job opportunities.
  • Moreover, appeals to those interested in the intersection of law and other fields.

5. Online and Part-Time JD Programs

Who Should Pursue It:

  • Moreover, working professionals are looking to earn a law degree.
  • Individuals are managing other responsibilities alongside legal studies.

Advantages:

  • Flexibility in scheduling and location.
  • Accommodates individuals with work or family commitments.
  • Moreover, allows for a more gradual completion of the JD program.

FAQs On Types Of Law Degrees 

Here are some of the frequently asked questions related to types of law degrees. 

Q1: What are the most common types of law degrees in the US?

The most common types of law degrees include:
Juris Doctor (JD): The standard law degree required for practicing law in the United States. It typically involves three years of full-time study.
Master of Laws (LLM): A postgraduate degree for individuals who already hold a JD or its equivalent, allowing specialization in a specific area of law.
Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) or Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD): A research-based doctoral degree for those interested in legal academia or advanced legal research.
Joint Degree Programs: Combine a JD with another advanced degree, such as an MBA, MPA, or MA, allowing for multidisciplinary expertise.
Online and Part-Time JD Programs: Offer flexibility for working professionals or those managing other responsibilities alongside legal studies.

Q2: What types of degrees do most lawyers have in the US?

Most lawyers in the United States hold a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. Moreover, the JD is the standard and primary law degree required for individuals to practice law in the U.S. 
Similarly, it is earned through the completion of a three-year full-time program (or its equivalent in part-time or online programs) at a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Some lawyers may pursue additional degrees, such as a Master of Laws (LLM) for specialized expertise or a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) for advanced research. Moreover, these are often pursued by individuals with specific career goals, such as entering academia or specializing in a niche area of law. Moreover, the JD remains the standard entry-level degree for the legal profession in the U.S.

Final Thoughts 

Choosing the right law degree depends on individual career goals, whether it’s practicing law, specializing in a specific area, entering academia, or integrating legal studies with other disciplines. Moreover, each type of law degree serves different purposes, offering a variety of educational paths for aspiring legal professionals.

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nilanjana basu
nilanjana basu

Nilanjana is a lawyer with a flair for writing. She has a certification in American Laws from Penn Law (Pennsylvania University). Along with this, she has been known to write legal articles that allow the audience to know about American laws and regulations at ease.

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