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Graduate Programs in Environmental Law: Program Overviews

Environmental law involves the legal policies and procedures that enforce how citizens interact with, and protect, the natural environment of the earth. Individuals interested in environmental law may consider a Juris Doctor in Environmental Law (J.D.) or a Master of Laws in Environmental Law (LLM).

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Essential Information

Individuals interested in a graduate law degree dealing with environmental issues might seek to specialize in environmental law with a Juris Doctor in Environmental Law or a Master of Laws in Environmental Law. Such programs provide you with a comprehensive understanding of how to use the legal system to better protect the environment. Program lengths vary depending on the level.

A J.D. degree is a professional doctorate degree and is the first professional graduate degree available to aspiring lawyers. While specializing in environmental law, you'll be encouraged to research and explore particular aspects of environmental policy that concern you, such as coastal zone management or global warming. You'll often have the opportunity to intern with environmental groups, government agencies or public interest groups to apply your knowledge of law towards protecting the environment. Students interested in earning their J.D. must hold a bachelor's degree and submit their GPA and LSAT scores to be considered for admission.

A Master of Laws degree program requires that you have a J.D. degree. An environmental law LLM program will prepare you to go on to either practice environmental law or pursue positions in the research or education branches of the field. You'll be encouraged to study the laws and policies revolving around a particular environmental issue, such as climate change or biodiversity protection.

Juris Doctor in Environmental Law

While enrolled in a J.D. program in environmental law, you'll learn about fundamental aspects of the legal system, including constitutional law, federal court systems, international law, legal rights, state law, local government law and legislation. You'll also spend time learning specifically about environmental laws and policies currently in place.

Many of the courses involved in a J.D. program in environmental law provide a thorough background in law and the legal system, such as science and regulatory policies and laws regarding dangerous waste and ocean and water-use. Electives that relate wholly to the environment include:

  • Environmental law and policy
  • Land-use
  • Environmental law writing seminar
  • Renewable energy and climate change
  • Biodiversity law
  • Environmental justice

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Master of Laws in Environmental Law

Once enrolled in an LLM in Environmental Law program, you may be required to write an analytical paper or thesis. Although many environmental law LLM programs allow you to design your own curriculum based upon your personal preferences and professional goals, they do still have similar core seminar classes that all environmental law students must complete. Courses might include:

  • Environmental law
  • Law and natural resources
  • Administrative law
  • Ecology
  • International environmental law
  • Thesis seminar

Popular Career Options

There are more than a few career opportunities available to graduates of a J.D. program in environmental law. After graduating, you can go on to work as a lawyer or policy-maker. Some possible careers include:

  • Environmental attorney or litigator
  • Environmental claims analyst
  • Corporate environmental counsel
  • Environmental contract specialist
  • Ethics program manager

After graduating from an environmental law LLM program, you'll have many of the same professional opportunities as graduates of a J.D. program in environmental law. However, LLM programs also will also prepare you for positions in academia, advocacy and research, such as the following:

  • Professor of environmental law
  • Associate professor
  • Environmental advocate
  • Clean air and energy advocate
  • Development consultant
  • Director of environmental projects

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide data for environmental lawyers specifically, it does offer career-related statistics for lawyers in general. The BLS predicted that job openings for lawyers would increase by 6% between 2014 and 2024, and it reported that lawyers earned a median salary of $115,9820 as of May 2015.

Students interested in environmental law can either earn their J.D. with an environmental law specialty or an LLM degree in environmental law, depending on their career goals.

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