What Can You Do With A JD Degree?

Aug 11, 2018

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. View article »

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  • 0:04 Legal and Political Careers
  • 1:42 Public Service Careers
  • 2:16 Creative Careers
  • 2:45 Business Careers
  • 3:22 Educational Careers
  • 3:48 Joint Degree Programs

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Video Transcript

Legal and Political Careers

A wide range of careers are available to individuals who complete a J.D. degree. Besides a legal career, such fields as politics, creative arts, education, and business are open to J.D. graduates. There are several career paths for legal professionals with a J.D. degree. The first option involves general legal career paths. These can include 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 private law firms. Once they pass a state bar exam, individuals can also pursue legal specializations including professional litigator, corporate counselor, and civil defense attorney.

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.

Another option for J.D. degree holders or those with dual degrees in international studies, political science, or public policy is political career options. Professionals may find 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

Public service careers are another career choice for J.D. holders. Social work organizations, human services, and community associations often benefit from employees with legal expertise. Specialized degrees in public service, public health, political science, or urban planning can benefit students interested in one of these types of careers. Employment opportunities may include federal and state government social agencies, city planning commissions, employment assistance offices, and family services organizations.

Creative Careers

There are many non-standard creative career options that exist for students with a law degree. Graduates of a J.D. program may go on to work as screen or television writers, journalists, authors, and publishers. 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

Business careers are one of the most common paths for J.D. holders. 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

Legal educators help 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. A J.D. degree only with education in teaching can prepare you for these careers.

Joint Degree Programs

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. Examples of 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 and family law

Law-related dual degree programs 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

Completing a J.D. degree offers tremendous career possibilities in the field of the law. By enrolling in a dual degree program or focusing their studies on additional areas, students can widen the scope of their future careers to the creative, business, or even educational fields.

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