The Doctor of Jurisprudence, or Juris Doctor (J.D.), is the standard entry-level law degree for practicing attorneys in the United States. J.D. degrees can have concentrations in areas like family law, environmental law, business law, intellectual property law and tax law. Graduates of these three-year programs can sit for their state's bar exam and become licensed lawyers.
The bachelor's degree is the standard minimum educational credential accepted by law schools. Most law schools do not require students to have pursued a particular major, though a major in pre-law or related discipline may be seen as an asset. Additionally, all law schools accredited by the American Bar Association require applicants to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Performance on the LSAT is particularly important for admissions to competitive law schools.
Doctor of Jurisprudence
The first year of the J.D. program in most law schools is dedicated to a set curriculum of law basics like comparative law, constitutional law, torts, civil procedure, and criminal law. The following two years of J.D. programs are typically dedicated to a student's chosen area of concentration. While earning a Juris Doctor degree, law students might take courses in the following areas:
- Legal research and writing
- Jury trials
- Conflict of laws
- Human rights
- Sociology, psychology or history and law
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that job growth for lawyers will be about as fast as average from 2014-2024, with employment increasing by 6%. Job competition during this decade will be intense for lawyers, according to the BLS. Earnings for lawyers vary by employer and industry, and the BLS reports that the median annual income for attorneys in May 2015 was $115,820.
Continuing Education Information
After completing the Doctor of Jurisprudence degree and passing the bar exam, working lawyers may want to supplement their legal knowledge with further legal education. The most common continuing education option for practicing lawyers is the Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree, which is offered in a variety of concentrations. Some law schools also allow J.D. program graduates to earn post-J.D. certificates or to audit courses on a non-credit basis.
Students interested in law who want to to pursue a profitable career may want to see about applying to a J.D. degree program. These doctoral degrees prepare students to take a state bar exam and practice as a lawyer in their state.