Types of Law Degrees and Legal Studies Degrees

A law degree is required for individuals who wish to practice law in the United States. Three types of law degrees prepare individuals for work as a lawyer. These programs include Juris Doctor, Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science. View article »

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

94% college-bound high school students
…said it was important to communicate with colleges during the search process. (Source: Noel-Levitz 2012 trend study)

Select a school or program

View More Schools
Show Me Schools
  • 0:50 Juris Doctor
  • 1:39 Master of Laws
  • 2:56 Doctor of Juridicial Science
  • 4:04 Continuing Education
  • 4:29 Job Outlook & Salary

Find the perfect school

Video Transcript

Essential Information

Program Level(s) Juris Doctor, Master of Laws, and Doctor of Juridical Science
Field of Study Law
Prerequisites J.D. programs require a bachelor's degree, LSAT scores, recommendation letters and a current resume. Master's programs are reserved for those who already practice law outside the U.S. or have their J.D. within the U.S. To qualify for a Doctor of Juridical Science program one must have a J.D. or LL.M. and professional law experience. A dissertation proposal is also generally required.
Program Specializations Human rights law, environmental law, technology law, or taxation
Program Length 3 years for J.D.; 1 year for LL.M.; 3 years for S.J.D.
Other Requirements J.D. must pass the Bar; dissertation and defense for S.J.D.
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 6% growth for lawyers
Annual Salary (2015) $136,260 for lawyers

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Three main types of law degrees are available in the United States. The first degree students can enroll in is a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree program, which can be completed after three years of full-time study. The second law degree is the Master of Laws (LL.M.), and the third degree is the Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.).

Some J.D. programs may be combined with other master's degree programs in specific facets of law, business, or public policy, and these programs might last longer than three years. The first year of study focuses on basic topics, like international law, criminal law, and civil procedure. Second and third-year students may customize their education to reflect their interests, taking electives in such areas as tax and business.

Juris Doctor

Applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree to enter this standard law degree. Prospective students don't need to take any undergraduate law courses or have prior experience with the judicial system. For the application, law schools will request scores for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), recommendation letters, and in some cases a current resume.

The first year of the curriculum covers core courses. Students may then choose a concentration and complete a required number of elective classes. Some possible classes include:

  • Torts
  • Constitutional law and patent law
  • Legal writing
  • Federal litigation
  • Environmental law and public interest law
  • Law and ethics

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Advanced Legal Research
  • Comparative Law
  • Energy and Environmental Law
  • Financial, Banking, and Securities Law
  • Health Law
  • International Business, Trade, and Tax Law
  • International Law
  • Law Degree
  • PreLaw Studies
  • Programs for Foreign Lawyers
  • Tax Law
  • US Law

Master of Laws

Unlike most master's degree programs, which are considered to be the first level of graduate degrees, the Master of Laws is the second professional law degree after the Juris Doctor. An LL.M program takes one year to complete with full-time study, and students may specialize in their interests, such as human rights law, environmental law, technology law, or taxation.

Because there are many different concentrations within LL.M. programs, curricula will differ. For example, a student enrolled in a tax law LL.M. program will gain a strong understanding of U.S. tax law. An LL.M. program mainly benefits international lawyers who wish to become familiar with and legally practice American law, but American lawyers who want to focus their studies on specific areas of law or prepare for an S.J.D. program may be accepted.

Classes depend largely on the type of Master of Laws degree program students pursue. Core courses in a particular area of the law must be completed, and then students choose electives of interest to them. Potential courses may include:

  • Estate planning
  • Corporate tax problems
  • Local and state taxation
  • Intellectual property law
  • Bankruptcy

Doctor of Juridical Science

The most advanced law degree in the United States, the Doctor of Juridical Science program, can be completed on a full-time basis in three years. Many applicants to a Doctor of Juridical Science program are established law professionals with many years of experience. In addition, an S.J.D. program qualifies students to work in academic settings as law professors.

The program, which is research-intensive, requires students to know their research interests before beginning the application process. Most of a student's time will be spent on the completion and defense of a dissertation. The course requirements are typically dealt with during the first year of enrollment and determined by students in conjunction with their advisors.

A majority of the S.J.D. curriculum gets spent researching and writing a dissertation. However, a small number of courses must be completed before students begin their projects. Classes appeal to an individual's interests, and they may include:

  • Legal research
  • Business law
  • Legal advocacy
  • Family law
  • Migration law

Continuing Education Information

Graduates of a Juris Doctor (J.D.) program need to pass the bar exam before they can begin practicing law. Each state administers its own bar exam, but most require candidates to have graduated from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Lawyers may pursue licensure through the state in which they wish to practice law.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of lawyers was expected to increase by 6% from 2014 to 2024. Law firms, corporations, and government agencies often hire lawyers. Fierce competition was predicted due to the large number of law school graduates. The annual salary of a lawyer in May 2015 was $136,260.

Doctoral graduates may work in academia, teaching and writing papers while employed by a major law school. The BLS reported that the employment of post-secondary teachers would increase by 13% between 2014 and 2024. Postsecondary law teachers were listed as making a mean annual salary of $126,230 in May 2015.

What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma or GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

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

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Master of Science in Legal Studies
    • MS in Criminal Justice
    • BS in Criminal Justice
    • AAS in Legal Support and Services
    • AAS in Criminal Justice

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Criminal Justice, M.S.
    • Criminal Justice, B.S.
    • Criminal Justice, A.S.

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • BA: Criminal Justice
    • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
    • AA: Criminal Justice

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • Criminal Justice, BS
    • Criminal Justice, Associate

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Master of Laws (LL.M.) - American Legal Studies
    • M.A. in Law - Human Rights & Rule of Law
    • M.A. in Law - International Business Transactions
    • Master of Arts in Government - Law and Public Policy
    • Master of Arts in Law
    • Master of Arts in Law - General Legal Studies
    • Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies
    • Bachelor of Arts in Government - Pre-Law
    • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Government
    • Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
    • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice
    • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

    What is your highest level of education completed?

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?