The different law degree types can be a bit confusing, as the law is a complex and multifaceted profession. There are many different law degree types, each with their own purpose, requirements and specifications, so if you want to know , it’s vital to do your research. Within these law degree types, there are many different specializations within the field of the law. Truthfully, there are endless career opportunities. In this blog, we’ll take you through the different types of law degrees, what they mean, how to choose which one is best for you and tips on applying to these different programs.
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There are many different law degree types, but the most common one is the Juris Doctor, or JD. This is a graduate degree and is the one most often required and held by lawyers and legal professionals. To complete a JD, you typically need to graduate from one of the .
However, the law is a vast and complex field, and there are plenty of different law degree types out there, from the more general to degrees focusing on more specialized fields within the law. At and Canada, law degrees are primarily graduate degrees, meaning you first need to complete a bachelor’s degree before applying.
However, some countries offer a bachelor’s law degree type, which you can enter into directly from high school. Furthermore, there are law certificate programs where you can receive specialized training in the legal field. There are also many dual degree or joint programs combining a law degree with another type of degree, such as .
While there are many, many specializations within the law, here are a few you can consider when pursuing a law degree:
- Civil Rights
- Corporate Law
- Criminal Law
- Education Law
- Employment and Labor Law
- Environmental and Natural Resources Law
- Family and Juvenile Law
- Health Law
- Immigration Law
- Intellectual Property Law
- International Law
- Municipal Law
- Real Estate Law
- Securities Law
- Sports and Entertainment Law
- Tax Law
Types of Law Degrees
Within these specialties of the law, there are numerous different career paths you can take, each requiring a different law degree type and level of education. Believe it or not, many jobs require or benefit from a law degree, not just courtroom lawyers and other legal professionals.
Next, we’ll go over some of the main types of law degrees offered in the US and Canada.
Law Degrees in Canada
Law degrees in Canada offer a similar array of law degree types as the US. In previous years, Canadian law schools offered LLB, or bachelor’s degrees in law. However, have now switched to offering JD degrees at the graduate level.
Canadian law schools also offer master’s level degrees in law, including the LLM, Master of Legal Studies and more. While there are in Canada, these are restricted to certificate programs. In other words, you cannot earn a JD degree online in Canada.
A Juris Doctor, or LLB in some countries, is the most sought-after law degree. A JD is the “first” law degree most legal professionals will earn, and it the first step to becoming a lawyer in the US and Canada, after you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree.
A JD student usually spend some time studying all areas of the law and legal procedure, although there are some specialized programs with a specific legal concentration offered at most law schools.
- Bachelor’s degree (JD only)
- Minimum GPA/official transcripts
- LSAT score (JD only)
- Law school admissions interview
How long is a JD degree?
A JD degree is typically 3 years long when completed on a full-time basis. Part-time law students may take four years or more to complete their degree.
An LLB degree, offered in the UK and some other countries, is 2 to 3 years in length.
What kind of jobs are there after a JD?
Most JD graduates become licensed lawyers once they take and pass the bar exam. Lawyers can practice in many different areas of the law, depending on where they choose to specialize. For instance, some lawyers want to be in the courtroom defending or prosecuting cases. Others may prefer to work in corporate law as part of the legal team of large companies. Some may decide to work in civil rights law or for non-profit organizations.
Earning your JD degree also doesn’t mean you need to become the traditional lawyer and find a job at a law firm, corporation or some other organization. Plenty of individuals pursue a JD degree to enter fields like consultancy and advocacy, or they complete a dual degree program such as combining business with law in an MBA-law degree or legal studies and social work with a Master of Social Work (MSW/JD). The possibilities are endless.
Notable JD Programs in the US
Notable JD Programs in Canada
A Master of Laws, or LLM, is the next step from a JD. An LLM was designed specifically for JD-holders who wanted to level up their legal credentials or expand their knowledge in specific areas related to the law.
International applicants who are interested in starting a legal career in the US or Canada, and passing the required bar exam, may also apply to an LLM program. Through an LLM they can gain familiarity with the US or Canadian legal system and gain the necessary qualifications to take the bar exam. An LLB or equivalent is a requirement for international students applying to this law degree type.
- Juris Doctor degree
- LLB (international applicants only)
- Minimum GPA/transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Admissions interview
- English Proficiency Test (international applicants only)
How long is an LLM degree?
Like a typical master’s degree, an LLM is 1-2 years in length, depending on the program.
What kind of jobs are there after an LLM?
With a Master of Laws degree, you can pursue a higher position in your chosen field of law, pursue a career in academia, become a judge, mediator or counselor and more.
Unlike an LLM, this type of legal degree is for non-JD holders. Completing a master’s degree in law, such as a Master of Legal Studies (MLS), Juris Master (JM) or a Master of Science in Law (MSL), does not allow you to take the bar exam and become a practicing lawyer. The focus of these types of master’s degrees with a focus on law is interdisciplinary, meaning you can study certain aspects of the law without committing yourself to a career as a lawyer.
- Bachelor’s degree
- Minimum GPA/official transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Admissions interview
How long is an MLS degree?
These programs are usually shorter, around 1 year in length. There is also a wider variety of part-time and online programs available.
What kind of jobs are there after an MLS?
This type of law degree is especially useful for professionals who want to take the next step in their career, pursue advancement or higher pay, but do not want to become lawyers. Many professions require knowledge of the law or an understanding of negotiation and contracts. Some common jobs which can benefit from an MLS or similar include a corporate executive, human resources manager, paralegal, social worker, compliance officer and more.
With so many options to choose from when it comes to law degree types, it can get overwhelming. You may have started your journey thinking you would earn your JD, only to realize that you may need to upgrade to an LLM. Or maybe you’re torn between getting your MBA and combining your interest in business with a legal angle.
As we know, there are many, many paths to getting a law degree, other than the most common one of going to law school and becoming a lawyer. Legal studies are much more complex and interdisciplinary than that. So, to help you narrow down your decision on what law degree type is best, think about the following points:
1. Define your career goals
Of course, the first thing you should do is define what your career goals are. Are you interested in being a lawyer? Then a JD is the obvious first choice.
Do you want to specialize in a specific area of the law? Is there a field of the law that speaks to you? An LLM might be a boost to your career or even a necessity. Explore what the options are so you can plan your journey from JD to LLM now.
Are you more of a business-minded person but want to add an edge to your skillset? Do you have an interest in the law but don’t want to be a lawyer? A Master of Legal Studies is worth considering once you’re finished your undergraduate degree.
For the more philosophically or research-minded student with a special passion for the law, you may choose to go all the way up to an SJD. But keep in mind, this will mean many years in school and great commitment!
2. Consider how long you want to spend in school
It’s possible that you’re considering and you want to shorten the time it takes to complete your studies. Law school typically takes 2-3 years, but this is on top of a 4-year bachelor’s degree. Completing a master’s degree in law can shorten this timeline by a year or so, but if you plan to pursue an advanced law degree, you can expect to spend 6+ years finishing your studies.
3. See what your curriculum options are
Once you’ve chosen a law degree type, you can start searching for potential programs to apply to. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) has a complete list of program for you to search through and explore, and this is useful when you’re looking at location, the size of a program, faculty and curriculum.
Depending on your interests and career goals, you can start to narrow down your search. For example, if you’re planning to get a degree in international law, look for the . If you’re interested in criminal law, check out the top criminal law programs. Make a list of all the programs that offer the kind of curriculum you want.
4. Plan for the cost
How much is law school? It’s no secret that law school, and graduate school in general, can be expensive. There are law school scholarships and financial aid programs, especially at the top law schools in the US and Canada. It’s worth doing some financial planning before you start applying, since the cost of your degree can vary depending on the school and the type of degree. Be sure to check out the cheapest law schools or law schools with the best financial aid programs if your budget is tight, but don’t restrict yourself if you find a program you’re really interested in.
Once you’ve decided what kind of law degree you want to pursue to achieve your legal career goals, you’ll start the process of applying. Meeting the and choosing the right program for you can take some time, so don’t rush this process. Carefully plan your steps and keep these tips in mind:
1. Research the program requirements
Once you’ve decided on a law degree type, it’s essential to check out the program requirements. While the general requirements might remain consistent, each individual school has their own way of doing things and their admissions processes. If you’re missing a crucial prerequisites or your GPA is below the minimum requirement, it’s best to know now before you begin applying!
2. Choose your ideal programs
Thoroughly research the potential law schools you want to apply to. Each school is unique, from its campus culture and size to its location and program curriculum. Think about the learning environment that suits you best.
Do you prefer a large campus or a small one? An urban school or rural? What kind of student activities, clubs and events are there at a particular school? What is the student body there like? You might think about paying a visit to your top-choice schools to see them in person, but you can find useful information on the school’s website, too.
3. Gain experience in the law
Some programs require you to have prior experience with the law, such as a JD degree. Other admissions committees might not require direct legal experience, but they look for certain qualities in their ideal applicants.
Leadership experience, strong communication skills, professional work experience and volunteerism are all very good qualities to include in your law school extracurriculars or resume. These all tie in well with the legal profession and can indicate to admissions officers that you have the drive and motivation to succeed in law school.
4. Take the LSAT
The LSAT is not a requirement for all law degree types, but it is one of the common requirements for a JD degree. While there are , plus instead of the LSAT, chances are you will be writing this tough exam.
The LSAT is a test of sorts to see if you have the cognitive skills of a good lawyer, and whether you can handle . Law school is not easy, and many admissions committees see your as a reflection of your academic ability and suitability for the law. If you need to write the test, be sure to learn how to study for the LSAT!
5. Ace your applications
Even the take their applications seriously, and you need to make an immediate impression to beat the competition. From your law school essays to recommendation letters to your , everything needs to be top-notch. Getting into law school is about more than your academic record and LSAT score, and you need to stand out to get ahead of the competition.
1. What are the different types of law degree?
There are many specializations within the law, but in general these are the main types of law degrees:
- MSL or MLS
2. Which law degree type is hardest?
Most law degrees are graduate level programs, so they will all be academically demanding. Each degree type may have a unique curriculum, and the specifics can vary from school to school.
3. How do I choose which law degree type is best for me?
To decide which law degree type is right for you, first think about your career goals and what sort of position you want to hold within the legal field, or what interests you about the law. Not all law degrees allow you to practice as a lawyer, and some degrees focus on specific areas within the law.
4. What do I need to apply to law school?
To apply to law school, you will need a bachelor’s degree, a minimum GPA above 3.0 and to take the LSAT. Some programs may also require a personal statement or law school essays, letters of recommendation and an admissions interview.
5. How hard is it to get into law school?
Getting into law school is difficult, with some of the top law schools having acceptance rates well under 10%. However, you can increase your chances of getting into a particular school or program by doing your research, carefully choosing where to apply and tailoring your application to specific programs.
6. Which law degree is the best?
The law degree that is best for you will depend on your career goals, your interest within the field of law and other determining factors, such as how long you want to spend in school, what your budget is and what type of program curriculum best suits your needs.
7. What is the shortest law degree?
The shortest law degree is a Master of Legal Studies or similar degree, which is typically only one year in length.
8. What is an LLB vs JD?
A JD, or Juris Doctor, is the most common law degree offered in the US and Canada. Once you graduate from a JD, you can take the bar exam and begin practicing as a lawyer. An LLB, or Bachelor of Laws, has a similar curriculum and intent as a JD, but it can be entered into directly from high school. It is only offered in certain countries such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand.