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What Can You Do With A JD Degree?

Students interested in all aspects of practicing law must earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree to meet eligibility requirements for a state's bar examination. Many graduates intend to pursue a career as a lawyer, but what about those who have other interests? Read ahead about the kinds of career options that are available for graduates with a J.D. degree.

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Careers for Juris Doctorate Degree Holders

Professional litigators, corporate counselors or civil defense attorneys are just a few of the many legal specializations open to graduates of a J.D. program who have passed a state bar exam. Many other career paths exist for legal professionals with a J.D. degree. A few examples include:

Legal Careers

Students in J.D. degree programs may choose to specialize in a single aspect of the law or acquire a general legal education. Many graduates find entry-level careers as research lawyers, public defenders or junior associates of a private law firm.

After years of long hours and simple assignments, lawyers may earn partner or senior associate status, though competition for these positions is fierce. High working standards and ethics play a part in a lawyer's likelihood of being promoted, though contacts and references are just as important as knowledge and skills.

Political Careers

J.D. degree holders, or those with dual degrees in international studies, political science or public policy may find likable careers in government agencies, embassies and international organizations. Careers in politics may require many years at an entry-level or probationary position before escalating to a higher office. Legal knowledge may provide an advantage to professionals looking to advance in the political arena.

Public Service Careers

Social work organizations, human services and community associations often benefit from employees with legal expertise. Professionals may find employment with federal and state government social agencies, city planning commissions, employment assistance offices and family services organizations which may utilize their awareness of the law. Specialized degrees in public service, public health, political science or urban planning can benefit students interested in one of these types of careers.

Creative Careers

Many non-standard career options exist for students with a law degree. Screen or television writers, journalists, authors and publishers take advantage of the extensive writing required during a J.D. program. Creative students supplement a writing career with an understanding of legal issues related to copyright law, media law and intellectual property laws. Additionally, graduates who pass a state bar exam may also choose to legally represent professionals in the creative field.

Business Careers

A Master of Business Administration degree combined with a J.D. degree, is one of the most popular dual degree programs. Students with both a legal and business management education can likely excel in a corporate environment.

Many large companies retain a legal department to handle business issues as they arise. Banking institutions employ lawyers to ensure compliance with financial regulations, both domestically and internationally. Entrepreneurs may save start-up capital using their legal education to begin their own business venture.

Educational Careers

As long as there is a need for lawyers, colleges and universities will continue to offer academic programs in law. Legal educators ensure the next generation of professionals understand the letter of the law, as well as the ethical and moral standards of the law. The Association of American Law Schools provides academic hiring conferences for graduates or experienced teachers with a passion for research and shaping the future of the legal profession (www.aals.org).

Education Options for Alternative Careers

Joint Degree Programs

Many law schools offer dual degree programs in conjunction with a J.D. program. Students interested in professions other than the law or specializations within the law may enroll in master's or doctoral programs designed to compliment a J.D. program in law. Some degrees, such as the Master of Laws (LL.M.), provide specific education within a distinct area of the law. Others offer education in a completely different field, where a legal degree may support or enhance professional studies.

Joint degree programs offered within the realm of law include:

  • Master of Laws - Students study a specialized field of law, such as taxation, finance or environmental law
  • Master of Criminal Justice - Provides a study of the court system, enforcement services or correctional institutions
  • Master of Arts in International Law - Teaches legal principles and practices of different countries and cultures
  • Master of Social Work - Educates students for careers in juvenile representation, family law mediation and child support enforcement

Dual degree programs with studies related to law may include:

  • Master of Business Administration - Unites management, leadership and legal skills
  • Master of Sports Administration - Offers skills for contract negotiation, legal compliance and sports management
  • Master of Education - Qualifies graduates for careers in legal academics
  • Master of Arts in Political Science - Designed for students interested in public policy, political office or international law
  • Master of Science in Labor Relations - Provides an understanding of corporate law and human resource management
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  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Legal
      • Legal Research and Professional Studies
        • Advanced Legal Research
        • Law Degree
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Legal
      • Legal Research and Professional Studies
        • Advanced Legal Research
        • Law Degree
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    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Legal
      • Legal Research and Professional Studies
        • Advanced Legal Research
        • Comparative Law
        • Law Degree
      • Legal Support Services
  • School locations:
    • Rhode Island (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Legal
  • School locations:
    • North Carolina (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Legal
      • Legal Research and Professional Studies
        • Law Degree
  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Notre Dame include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Legal
      • Legal Research and Professional Studies
        • Advanced Legal Research
        • Law Degree
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    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Georgetown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Legal
      • Legal Research and Professional Studies
        • Law Degree

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