Individuals interested in law careers typically ask a common question, “How long does it take to complete a law degree?” The answer is that the time can vary depending on the individual’s career goals and the type of legal degree they pursue. Becoming a lawyer can take a few years while pursuing a career as a scholar or a consultant may require a different amount of studies. Here is some information on law degrees and how long they can take to complete.

Types of Law Degrees

Determining the length of time to complete law degrees first requires knowing the type of degree the individual wishes to pursue. Here are the most common law degrees:

  • Juris Doctor – Referred to as the original of law degrees, this is for students who want to work as licensed lawyers.
  • Master of Legal Studies – This is for individuals who want a solid understanding of the law but don’t wish to become a licensed lawyer.
  • Master of Dispute Resolution – This non-JD degree program for individuals who want to work for various businesses and deal with negotiations and resolutions.
  • Master of Laws – This degree is for individuals who already have a law degree but want to specialize in a certain area of law, such as intellectual property, family law or immigration to name a few.
  • Doctor of Judicial Science – This high-level degree is for individuals who have already earned the Juris Doctor and the Master of Laws and wish to pursue careers in research, academia or as a legal scholar.

How Long to Complete Law Degrees

When determining the time it takes to earn a law degree, keep in mind that most law degrees require that the student first has a bachelor’s degree, which takes four years to complete. Beyond the bachelor’s degree, the law student can expect the following time periods.

  • Juris Doctor – This program requires three years to complete.
  • Master of Legal Studies – This program can be completed in 16 months of full-time study or 28 months of part-time study.
  • Master of Dispute Resolution – Students can complete this program in 16 to 28 months depending on the level of commitment.
  • Master of Laws – This program can be completed in one to two years.
  • Doctor of Judicial Science – This full-time program can be completed in two years.

Curriculum for Law Degrees

Students earning a law degree complete a curriculum that includes course work, seminars, internships, fellowships and extensive research. They can choose from several programs of study including law and history; criminal justice; international and comparative law; law and government; law and social change, and law, science and technology. Courses can vary depending on the field of law a student may choose. Course topics might include:

  • Administrative law
  • Bankruptcy
  • Capital punishment
  • Constitutional law
  • Cyber laws
  • Evidence
  • Legal research and writing

Related Resource: Top 30 Most Affordable Law Degree Programs Online

Career Outlook for Lawyers

Lawyers continue to be in demand as individuals and businesses are in need of legal services in many areas. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth of eight percent during the 2016-2026 decade. As of May 2017, lawyers earned wages ranging from $57,430 to $178,480 with the average annual wage at $141,890. Legal students who have the highest degree levels generally earn the highest wages.

A legal career can involve a lot of education, training and externships and it’s also a big commitment. Despite how long it can take to complete a law degree, working as an attorney can be exciting, challenging and very rewarding.