A Juris Doctor (JD) and Master of Public Health (MPH) program is ideal for students who want to practice law or shape policy in the field of medicine and health care.
General Program Information
A graduate with this dual degree who wants to work as a lawyer would be well-positioned to serve as counsel for patient care facilities or as an advocate for people with medical conditions. Those interested in policy work could join a number of government organizations or NGOs that focus on health-related areas such as food and drug regulation or environmental quality issues.
A typical JD program takes about three years, while an MPH on its own typically takes 1.5 to 2.5 years. Some JD/MPH dual degree programs are accelerated such that they can be completed in about 3.5 years.
Students will be enrolling in both the law school and the school of public health at their university of choice, so the course load is heavy. The MPH portion of the degree is sometimes accelerated by having students pick a specific track that their course schedule is designed around. Since it is usually tougher to get accepted to law school and the course load is heavier, some schools encourage students to begin with just the JD program and decide during the first semester whether they want to take on the dual degree option.
Some examples of core courses in these programs include:
Epidemiology is the study of diseases. Students learn how conditions that are both contagious and non-communicable form and propagate. For example, epidemiology would cover both the spread of viruses and factors contributing to obesity in a culture.
Students learn about the unique methods of statistics and data collection that pertain to living things, particularly human beings. Though this is primarily a core public health course, the methods taught may have some use in forming a legal case.
Environmental health courses teach the relationship between human health and various factors in the environment. Some factors that are examined include the presence of chemicals and microbiomes. Some courses may involve field work and/or laboratory exercises.
Environmental law courses center on federal laws and regulations that pertain to the environment. Items that these courses cover include the development of modern environmental law, related constitutional law issues and difficulties in settling disputes. These courses also analyze specific federal statutes such as the Clean Air and Water Act.
Child & Family Law
Courses that center on child and family law cover relevant statutes and cases. Course material covers how to handle the legal particulars of processes like divorce, custody, child support payments and adoption. Students learn how to draft the appropriate documents and handle the process of negotiation between involved parties.
Nearly all law schools require students to have some form of bachelor's degree. The particular subject usually does not matter, but for the dual degree program students may be asked to have some prior coursework in mathematics and quantitative methods so as to be adequately prepared for some of the core public health courses.
Students will have to be accepted to both the law school and the public health school of a university, but they don't necessarily need to be accepted at the same time. As mentioned previously, some schools let the student start with just the JD program to ensure that they are accepted and feel they can handle the course load. They can then apply for the MPH program and dual degree during their first semester or year.
Students can expect to be asked to submit a personal essay or statement, academic references and any previous work or activities done that relate to public health. Students are also required to take the GRE or LSAT, and international students may need to demonstrate English proficiency by taking the TOEFL.
The dual JD/MPH is a good choice for students who want to practice law in the realm of medicine or contribute to health care policy. This dual program can be completed in significantly less time than it would take to earn both degrees independently, but the workload can be very challenging.