5 Different Law Degrees

  • Juris Doctor
  • Master of Laws
  • Doctor of Judicial Science
  • Master of Legal Studies
  • Master of Dispute Resolution

Most people know that becoming a lawyer requires years of college to earn a law degree, but many people don’t realize there are several types of law degrees. The type of law degree an individual pursues depends mostly on what type of career they want to have. Each type of law degree prepares the student for a certain type of job, but each one also requires a different type and amount of training. Here are five types of law degrees.

1. Juris Doctor

Most individuals who are lawyers in the United States have the Juris Doctor (JD) degree. The Juris Doctor degree is not only considered the first law degree in the United States but is also the most well-known and one that’s offered through the American Bar Association. It’s also offered by non-ABA-approved schools and by Canadian law schools according to Law School Admission Council. To be eligible to enroll in law school to earn the JD, the applicant must have a bachelor’s degree and must pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The law program required to earn the JD is a full-time program that takes about three years to complete.

2. Master of Laws

The Master of Laws (LLM) degree is a one-year (full-time) or a two-year (part-time) program for students who already have a degree in law. This program may have more than one type of curriculum depending on the area of specialization the student may choose. Some examples of the curriculum include American law, international law, the United States legal system, the Canadian legal system, and comparative Law. Additionally, the LLM student may be able to choose from subfields such as intellectual property, taxation, international environmental law or human rights law. The LSAT is not a requirement for students enrolling in the LLM program in the United States.

3. Doctor of Judicial Science

Considered as the highest level of a law degree, the Doctor of Judicial Science (SJD) is a two-year program aimed at lawyers who have earned the JD or LLM and wish to advance their legal education. The SJD is a doctoral degree intended for legal education, legal scientists, law professors and similar law scholars who wish a career in legal research. Rather than offering typical legal courses, this program requires students to participate in seminars and conduct one-on-one legal research with law professors. This program has a strict admission policy which requires, the JD or LLM degree, a personal statement, resume, letters of recommendation, a research proposal and personal interviews.

4. Master of Legal Studies

The Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree is for individuals who want knowledge of the law but do not aspire to become practicing lawyers. Candidates who deal with legal issues and procedures regularly often choose this degree program. Graduates may work in law enforcement, human resources, regulatory agencies or business. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and may be required to provide letters of recommendation, personal statement, resume and a personal interview. This program usually takes 16 to 28 months to finish and may include courses in administrative law, contracts, negotiation theory and regulatory compliance.

Related Resource: Top 30 Most Affordable Law Degree Programs Online

5. Master of Dispute Resolution

The Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR) degree is for individuals who want to work in organizations where they can provide resolution and negotiation skills needed to deal with a difficult situation. This program usually takes up to two years to complete and includes courses in dispute resolution, mediation, negotiation, arbitration practice, identifying workplace issues and conflict management. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and must provide letters of recommendation, resume and a personal statement.

Since the Juris Doctor is the only law degree accredited by the American Bar Association, students interested in the other law degree types should contact the bar association in the state in which they wish to practice law to learn about the bar admission requirements. With so many types of law degrees available, individuals can choose their program and career based on their aspirations and how long they want to be in school.