In a combined M.D./J.D. program, students typically spend the first two years in medical courses, then switch to law school for 1-2 years. The remaining 2-3 years are spent completing the requirements for both degree programs. Both programs include extensive prerequisites that include: A bachelor's degree, pre-medical and pre-law coursework, maintaining a high undergraduate GPA, and satisfactory MCAT and LSAT scores. Graduates of these programs might become medical directors, medical malpractice lawyers, or consultants.
Doctor of Medicine/Juris Doctor Dual Degree Program
A dual M.D./J.D. degree program often requires admission to both the school of medicine and law school within the university. Taken individually, these degrees often take 3-4 years each, but many schools offer the combined program in a six year accelerated format. The program is often a customized format of the schools regular M.D. and J.D. programs.
Doctor of Medicine
A Doctor of Medicine degree typically requires four years of undergraduate studies, 3-4 years of medical school and passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination. Upon completion of classroom studies, graduates must then complete residencies where they choose their area of specialty.
Medical students spend the first two years of training in basic science courses covering the human body structure and its systems. Classes often include:
- Cardiovascular system
- Endocrinology and reproduction
Additionally, during the second year, students take clinical diagnosis courses and are trained in conducting physical examinations. The third and fourth years of medical school are structured into blocks called rotations, where students receive hands-on, clinical training in doctor's offices and hospitals. Rotations are offered by specialty, such as internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics, and pediatrics. During the fourth year, students are able to take electives that are directly related to the students' career interests.
A law degree provides a variety of career options and the opportunity to help people and organizations solve problems. A J.D. program usually takes three years for completion; graduates must then pass the American Bar Association exam to obtain licensure to practice.
Coursework in Juris Doctor program usually starts with required courses in the general areas of law, such as contracts, lawyering, legal writing, and civil procedure. Students may then choose electives based on their area of interest. Common courses include:
- Civil procedure
- Criminal, property and constitutional law
- Trusts and estates
- Business organizations
- Courtroom practices
Popular Career Options
There are some job options which utilize both degrees, including:
- Chief financial officer of a health care organization
- Chief executive officer of an insurance organization
- Medical director
- Malpractice attorney
- Biomedicine ethicist
- Government consultant
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Graduates of joint M.D./J.D. programs often choose to spend a higher percentage of time in one career, as it is difficult to practice as both a physician and a lawyer concurrently. A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that employment of lawyers is projected to increase 6% from 2014-2024, which is about as fast as the average rate for all occupations. The BLS also indicates that the number of working physicians and surgeons is expected to grow 14% during the same period, which is faster than the average of other occupations. Lawyers earned an average annual wage of $136,260 as of May 2015 while physicians and surgeons earned an annual average wage of $197,700 in the same year.
Continuing Education Information
Upon completion of the M.D. degree, students who wish to obtain licensure to practice must complete a residency program. Licensure requirements vary across the United States, but most states require two full years of residency for independent practice. Subspecialty training in areas such as cardiology or neurosurgery requires additional time in residency. Additionally, physicians are normally required to obtain Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits in order to maintain current licensure. The number of credits required is varies by state.
Practicing lawyers are required by most states to complete a specific number of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits each year in order to maintain licensure. Each state has its own guidelines, but 10-20 credit hours per year is the average expectation.
For those wishing to become both a doctor and a lawyer, the combined M.D./J.D. program teaches you the skills you need to earn both your medical and law degrees concurrently. While numerous careers are available upon graduation, both these professions require licensure, with an M.D. requiring a residency program to qualify and both needing continuing education credits to maintain.