What Can You Do With A JD Degree?

Students interested in all aspects of practicing law must earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree to meet eligibility requirements for a state's bar examination. Some graduates pursue a career as a lawyer, while others follow different career options.

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Careers for Juris Doctorate Degree Holders

Professional litigators, corporate counselors, or civil defense attorneys are just a few of the many legal specializations open to graduates of a J.D. program who have passed a state bar exam. Many other career paths exist for legal professionals with a J.D. degree.

Legal Careers

Students in J.D. degree programs may choose to specialize in a single aspect of the law or acquire a general legal education. Many graduates find entry-level careers as research lawyers, public defenders, or junior associates of a private law firm.

After years of long hours and simple assignments, lawyers may earn partner or senior associate status, though competition for these positions is fierce. High working standards and ethics play a part in a lawyer's likelihood of being promoted, along with having good contacts and references.

Political Careers

J.D. degree holders, or those with dual degrees in international studies, political science, or public policy may find likable careers in government agencies, embassies, and international organizations. Careers in politics may require many years at an entry-level or probationary position before escalating to a higher office. Legal knowledge provides an advantage to professionals looking to advance in the political arena.

Public Service Careers

Social work organizations, human services, and community associations often benefit from employees with legal expertise. Professionals may find employment with federal and state government social agencies, city planning commissions, employment assistance offices, and family services organizations, which may utilize their awareness of the law. Specialized degrees in public service, public health, political science, or urban planning can benefit students interested in one of these types of careers.

Creative Careers

Many non-standard career options exist for students with a law degree. Screen or television writers, journalists, authors, and publishers take advantage of the extensive writing required during a J.D. program. Creative students supplement a writing career with an understanding of legal issues related to copyright law, media law, and intellectual property laws. Additionally, graduates who pass a state bar exam may also choose to legally represent professionals in the creative field.

Business Careers

A Master of Business Administration degree combined with a J.D. degree is one of the most popular dual degree programs. Students with both a legal and business management education can excel in a corporate environment.

Many large companies retain a legal department to handle business issues as they arise. Banking institutions employ lawyers to ensure compliance with financial regulations, both domestically and internationally. Entrepreneurs may save start-up capital using their legal education to begin their own business venture.

Educational Careers

As long as there is a need for lawyers, colleges and universities will continue to offer academic programs in law. Legal educators ensure that the next generation of professionals understand the letter of the law, as well as the ethical and moral standards of the law. The Association of American Law Schools provides academic hiring conferences for graduates or experienced teachers with a passion for research and shaping the future of the legal profession.

Joint Degree Programs for Alternative Careers

Many law schools offer dual degree programs in conjunction with a J.D. program. Students interested in professions other than the law, or specializations within the law, may enroll in master's or doctoral programs designed to compliment a J.D. program in law. Some degrees, such as the Master of Laws (LL.M.), provide specific education within a distinct area of the law. Others offer education in a completely different field, where a legal degree may support or enhance professional studies.

Joint degree programs offered within the realm of law include:

  • Master of Laws - Students study a specialized field of law, such as taxation, finance, or environmental law
  • Master of Criminal Justice - Provides a study of the court system, enforcement services, or correctional institutions
  • Master of Arts in International Law - Teaches legal principles and practices of different countries and cultures
  • Master of Social Work - Educates students for careers in juvenile representation and child/family law

Dual degree programs with studies related to law may include:

  • Master of Business Administration - Unites management, leadership, and legal skills
  • Master of Sports Administration - Offers skills for contract negotiation, legal compliance, and sports management
  • Master of Education - Qualifies graduates for careers involving education policy or academia
  • Master of Arts in Political Science - Designed for students interested in public policy, political office, or international law
  • Master of Science in Labor Relations - Provides an understanding of corporate law and human resource management
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