International Law Programs and Law Degrees Overview

Apr 24, 2020

Essential Information

International law programs are designed for those who wish to pursue a career in law as it pertains to the international community and global affairs. A degree in international law can lead to a career practicing law for large international agencies, such as the World Trade Organization or International Court of Justice, as well as advocating for human rights and environmental causes.

A Juris Doctor (J.D.) with a concentration in international law takes three years to complete and requires students to have a bachelor's degree prior to enrollment. A Master of Laws (LL.M.) in international law is for students who already have a J.D. and adds another two years.

Doctor of the Science of Law J.S.D. in international law is a typically the next step. Most J.S.D. applicants typically must have an LL.M. degree, though exceptional JD graduates are sometimes accepted. They typically last four years and require the completion of a dissertation.

All of these programs usually require the completion of internships and study abroad programs.

Juris Doctor with a Concentration in International Law

Some law schools allow students to specialize in international law while earning the Juris Doctor (J. D.) These programs typically include instruction in areas of comparative law, as well as international law. Some programs may offer successful graduates a certificate while others award honors in international law along with the J.D.

Applicants to J.D. programs need a bachelor's degree, LSAT scores and may need to supply personal recommendations. While normally there aren't specific prerequisites for declaring international law as a specialization, students may need to signal their intent to pursue this option when applying to law school.

Course options cover broad topics, as well as niche topics specific to international law, such as:

  • Criminal law
  • Intellectual property law
  • Global trade
  • Climate change
  • Law of the European Union

Master of Laws in International Law

Upon completion of a J.D. program, one can pursue a Master of Laws (LL.M.) program. At some law schools, students can earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and LL.M. in international law jointly. It is common to have a combination of American graduate students and foreign-trained lawyers enrolled. International internships and study abroad programs enable students to gain practical experience.

Prerequisites typically include a professional law degree (J.D.) from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. Some programs will accept the equivalent from a foreign law school. Some programs prefer candidates with work experience after earning their J.D.

Coursework exposes students to core areas of international law, such as global trade relations and regulation, dispute resolution and human rights. Students may also be able to specialize their coursework in areas like:

  • Ocean resources law
  • Human rights
  • International taxation
  • Business law
  • Environmental law

Doctor of the Science of Law (J. S. D.) in International Law

Those interested in international law who wish to pursue a career in teaching and research can earn a J.S.D., the highest law degree available. Like Ph.D. programs, those awarding the J.S.D. require students to complete coursework and exams before writing a thesis based on original research under the guidance of faculty advisers. Often students must have a research topic and prospective adviser in mind when applying. Normally, this program is undertaken after completion of the LL.M. program and requires at least another four years of study.

Coursework will generally be determined based on the structure of the program and a student's research focus. Students may be required to take a course or two in something like colloquium law, for example, but for the most part students will focus on research and a dissertation, with faculty advisers working with the student to determine any other specific coursework needed.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of lawyers in general would grow 6% between 2018 and 2028, or about as fast as average compared to all occupations ( On average, lawyers earned an median salary of $122,960, as of May 2019.

J.S.D. degree programs are a prime route toward teaching positions in law schools, especially overseas. The median salary for law school teachers was $113,530, as of May 2019, according to the BLS. In general, post-secondary teaching was expected to grow much faster than average, or 11%, between 2018 and 2028.

Career Options

Graduation from these programs can lead to employment in various government agencies, international agencies and tribunals, nongovernmental organizations, intergovernmental organizations and private law firms. Career settings can be as varied as:

  • European Court of Human Rights
  • Amnesty International
  • European Commission
  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • Department of Justice

A J.D. with a concentration in International Law will give law students the fundamentals of practicing international law. While a LL.M. in International Law allows students to specialize in specific areas, a J.S.D equips students with the tools needed to teach and research international law.

Next: View Schools
Created with Sketch. Link to this page

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?