Different law degrees: JD vs. LLM vs. SJD

  • To practice law, as either a judge or lawyer, you will need to pursue an advanced degree.
    To practice law, as either a judge or lawyer, you will need to pursue an advanced degree.

    Different law degrees: JD vs. LLM vs. SJD

    Careers in law are lucrative, respected and important. There are plenty of career options in law for individuals with a bachelor's degree. Paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, legal couriers and court reporters are just a handful of legal careers that typically do not require master's degrees. However, if you'd like to practice or teach law, you will need to pursue master's and/or doctorate programs in Law.

    If you are interested in becoming a lawyer, judge or scholar of law, you should understand the academic requirements you will need to reach your desired level.

    JD degree

    This is considered the first degree in law. Prospective lawyers should graduate from a JD program before sitting for the bar exam. After completion of the degree and a passing bar score, graduates are eligible to practice law in the U.S.

    Students must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible for a JD program. They must have a bachelor's degree and an eligible LSAT score. (Testing standards vary from school to school.) Law graduate students are not required to study law in their undergraduate education; according to the BLS, courses in English, government, history, public speaking, mathematics and economics are useful to JD applicants.

    LLM degree

    The Master of Laws (LLM) is an advanced degree that lawyers can pursue after finishing their JD and passing the bar exam. Students might pursue an LLM to specialize in a specific area of law. There are plenty of different options for LLM students looking to gain expertise in their area. Someone might have an LLM specialty in Tax, Environmental Law, Human Rights Law, Corporate Law, International Law or plenty of other areas.

    When applying for an LLM degree, prospective students should have a JD degree or other first law degree if they studied in a country outside the U.S. They should also have a few years of experience in practicing law. Other factors that are either required or preferred by most LLM programs include:

    • Online application form
    • Personal statement
    • CV/résumé
    • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts
    • Letters of recommendation
    • TOEFL scores, if applicable
    • Application fee

    SJD degree

    The Doctor of Science of Law, also known as the SJD or JSD, is a research-based doctoral degree targeted toward scholars of law. Typically, these degrees are divided into two sections. During the first stage, students will participate in coursework at an advanced level. Then they will conduct research independently, under the guidance of a faculty member.

    Law schools have different requirements for SJD applicants. Typical requirements for admission include:

    • Online application form
    • Résumé
    • Writing sample
    • Research dissertation proposal
    • Letters of recommendation
    • Personal statement
    • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts
    • TOEFL or IELTS scores
    • Application fee

    The SJD is ideal for individuals who want to pursue a career in law that is more academic than hands-on. Rather than working in a courtroom setting, they might work primarily in an office, as a researcher, or in a classroom, as a law school professor.

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