Getting A Degree In Law: Different Directions You Can Take
When most people hear someone is going to law school, they conclude they must be planning to attend the standard three-year curriculum for what is known as a Juris Doctor. This degree qualifies a lawyer to sit for the bar exam in most states.
However, there are many options available to law students. There are graduate programs for those planning to teach and still other programs for students interested in international or specialized fields.
This is the degree held by the majority of practicing attorneys in the United States. Some jurisdictions allow those who have not earned degrees to sit for the bar exam and, if they pass, become a practicing attorney. In most jurisdictions, however, it is necessary to attend a three-year law school after earning a baccalaureate degree, graduate, and then apply for admission to the bar in the state where they wish to practice.
Master of Science in Law
The MSL degree is an academic program designed for baccalaureate degree holders who are interested in a graduate study of law, but who may not be pursuing only a legal education. An online masters of science in law can be earned by specializing in various fields like education law, employment law or health law.
A Master of Science in Law is technically a graduate degree equivalent to a J.D. but it is also technically different from a law degree because of the subject matter each of the two academic programs covers.
Master of Laws
The LLM degree is an intermediate degree designed to offer holders of law degrees the opportunity to continue their legal education beyond the Juris Doctor curriculum. In some jurisdictions, it is necessary to earn an LLM (Legum Magister) in order to be eligible to practice law. In most U.S. jurisdictions, a graduate can become a practicing attorney by earning only a J.D. degree.
Doctor of Juridical Science
The SJD or Scientiae Juridicae Doctor degree is the equivalent of a PhD in law. It is often referred to as a "Doctor of Laws" degree, although that designation is generally only bestowed as an honorary degree. Either the Master of Laws degree or the SJD degree could be the foundation of a career as a Law Professor in most U.S. law schools.
Like any other profession, law is complex and requires many different kinds of academic programs. Understanding which program is right for your career path is the key to earning the right degree.