Sign up to our Newsletter

Esq. Vs. J.D. | Career Options and Differences

April 12, 2024
6 min read


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 4/12/24

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between an Esq and J.D.? In this guide, we’ll be going over Esq vs. J.D. and their different career options. 

A person might get confused with many titles and terms when looking into the legal field, especially if you want to work in it; you must know your terms and the various legal qualifications. 

Some of the many titles people get confused with are “Esq.” and “J.D.” In this guide, we’ll be going over the differences between the two and the various career options. 

The Difference Between Esq. and J.D.

Esq. stands for Esquire and is added to a lawyer's name once they pass the bar exam. J.D. stands for Juris Doctor, which is earned by graduating from law school. Someone given the title of J.D. has received a law degree but cannot practice law because they’re not a bar member. 

What Does Esq. Stand For?

An “Esq.” or “Esquire” is an honorary title for a practicing lawyer. Practicing lawyers are people who have passed the bar exam and are licensed by the bar association. 

Often, lawyers only use the Esq. title when conducting business. They may use it on official court documents, signs, letterheads, and business cards.

Although it’s purely customary to use Esq., some states have disciplined unlicensed J.D.s for using it. However, the majority of lawyers prefer to use J.D. rather than Esq. because they find it old-fashioned. 

What Does J.D. Stand For?

The term “J.D.” stands for Juris Doctor and is awarded to a person who has received a law degree from an accredited law school. Lawyers will use this title for business purposes. They will have it on their resumes, business cards, letters, emails, etc. 

J.D. programs typically last three years. If you take a part-time program, it will typically take longer. 

Having a J.D. means a person is not a bar association member and cannot practice law until they’ve been admitted to the bar. A person can receive a law degree; however, they can only practice law if they’ve passed the bar and therefore become a member of the bar.

Which Degree is Higher - Esq. or. J.D.? 

To some people, being an "esquire" can be seen as having a higher status in the legal profession because they're actively practicing law, whereas having a "J.D." is just the first step toward becoming a lawyer. 

However, it's important to remember that a successful legal career depends on more than just titles or degrees; it also involves experience and expertise in the field.

Pros and Cons of J.D. Degree

Let's look at the pros and cons of earning a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree:


  • Versatile Career Options: A J.D. degree opens the door to a wide range of career opportunities, including practicing law, working in government, corporate settings, academia, and more.
  • Intellectual Challenge: Legal education involves critical thinking, problem-solving, and complex analysis, providing an intellectually stimulating experience.
  • Potential for Financial Reward: Lawyers often earn competitive salaries, especially in specialized fields or prestigious law firms.
  • Advocacy and Impact: Lawyers can advocate for clients' rights and make a positive impact on individuals and society.
  • Prestige: Being a lawyer is often associated with professional respect and recognition.


  • Financial Investment: Law school can be expensive, leading to significant student loan debt for many graduates.
  • Long and Irregular Hours: Lawyers often work long hours, including evenings and weekends, impacting work-life balance.
  • High Stress: Legal practice can be stressful due to tight deadlines, high client expectations, and challenging cases.
  • Ethical Dilemmas: Lawyers may face moral and ethical challenges when representing clients with conflicting interests.
  • Competitive Job Market: Job opportunities for lawyers can be competitive, and the job market may vary by location and legal field.
  • Continuing Education: Lawyers must engage in ongoing professional development and fulfill continuing legal education (CLE) requirements to maintain their licenses.
  • Litigation Risks: Litigators may not always win cases, which can have financial and reputational consequences.

Before pursuing a J.D. degree, carefully consider your career goals, values, and the potential challenges of the legal profession. Speak with practicing attorneys to gain insights into the field and make an informed decision about your path in law.

Career Options for J.D. Graduates

A Juris Doctor or a law degree is what people aim to obtain because they want to pursue a career as a lawyer. However, if you complete your law degree and don’t want to pursue a career as a lawyer, there are other career options you can pursue. 

Insurance Adjuster

Average salary: $64,609 per year

An insurance adjuster works in the claims department of an insurance company. An insurance adjuster investigates insurance claims by conducting interviews with witnesses, obtaining hospital records, and inspecting property damage. 

Once the investigation is complete, the insurance adjuster determines if the insurance company should pay a claim and how much. Becoming an insurance adjuster can be a viable career option for someone who has obtained a law degree. Their legal education and skills can help them out with the role. 


Average salary: $98,344 per year

A mediator is a person who assists and guides parties through negotiations. The mediator's goal is to have the parties settle their conflict. Many mediators work within the court system, while others work in the private sector. 

Those who have completed their law degree have the skills and experience in negotiations and meditations, making this career an excellent one for them. 

Law Professor 

Average salary: $165,536 per year

As a law professor, you'll need an L.L.M. education and have gained experience in a specific legal field. If you have a J.D., you're well-equipped to teach law as a professor at a college. 


Average salary: $77,113 per year

A lot of politicians often have law degrees. If you have a political science degree, you can explore various roles within the government. You could run for office at different government levels, work as a political advisor, policy analyst, or campaign manager. Opportunities also exist in foreign affairs, such as becoming a diplomat. Additionally, you could work in consumer or human rights advocacy, immigration services,


Average salary: $59,731 per year

A lawyer oversees a paralegal, whose main role is to assist the lawyer. Paralegals help lawyers prepare cases for clients, requiring good research and communication skills. They also find witnesses for court cases and often summarize depositions and testimonies.

Law Enforcement Officer

Average salary: $55,930 per year

The main job of a law enforcement officer is keeping neighborhoods and people safe. This job is perfect for people who know much about law, like those who studied law. They write tickets, drive around neighborhoods, and arrest people who break the rules.

Pros and Cons of Esquire Degree

Let's weigh the upsides and downsides of choosing a career in law and earning that "Esquire" title.


  • Prestige: Being a lawyer often comes with respect and recognition in society.
  • Financial Potential: Lawyers can earn good money, especially in certain specialties or at well-known firms.
  • Diverse Paths: With a law degree, you can explore various career options like private practice, corporate law, government, or public interest work.
  • Intellectual Challenge: Law involves solving complex problems and thinking critically, which can be mentally stimulating.
  • Helping Others: Lawyers can make a positive impact by advocating for their clients' rights and well-being.


  • Costly Education: Law school can be expensive, and many students graduate with significant student loan debt.
  • Long Hours: Lawyers often work long and irregular hours, which can affect work-life balance.
  • High Stress: Tight deadlines, high expectations, and challenging cases can create a stressful work environment.
  • Job Market: Job opportunities can vary, and in some areas or specialties, it may be tough to find the right job.
  • Ethical Dilemmas: Lawyers may face ethical challenges, like representing clients with conflicting interests.
  • Ongoing Learning: Lawyers must continue their education throughout their careers to stay up-to-date.
  • Litigation Risks: Trial lawyers may not win every case, which can impact finances and reputation.

Before diving into a legal career, think about what matters most to you and your long-term goals. The law can be rewarding, but it also demands hard work and dedication. It's worth talking to practicing lawyers to get a real feel for the profession.

Career Options for Esquires

As mentioned before, Esquires are practicing lawyers and bar members. That said, they have many career options other than being a lawyer. 


Average salary: $97,244 per year

The role of a judge is to conduct hearings in an unbiased manner. To become a judge, a person must work as a lawyer for some time and then work towards a judgeship. Becoming a judge is a very viable career option for an esquire because an esquire has the knowledge and experience to work as a judge,

Legal Consultant

Average salary: $86,450 per year

A legal consultant is an attorney hired by a law firm to help with a case. Often, they're an expert in a specific field of law. Their specialization in that field of law makes them valuable and qualifies them to be a consultant for that firm. This career option is a great one for esquires because they work as an attorney in a field they specialize in. 

Human Resources

Average salary: $77,650 per year

Many people with law degrees work in executive search, human resources, and law firm recruitment. They may lead teams that recruit summer interns, articling students, and new associates for law firms.

Legislative Assistant

Average salary: $67,876 per year

Legislative assistants mainly help write and understand laws. They help politicians and do things like fixing and changing laws. If you want to do this job, you have to do lots of research, talk to the government, and make presentations about the laws they're working on.

If you need help deciding which legal field to pursue, check out our What Type of Lawyer Should I Be? quiz. It’ll help you find the right legal field for you. 

FAQs: Esq. Vs. J.D.

If you still have questions about the difference between Esquires and J.D., check out these frequently asked questions below. 

1. Are J.D. and Esq. The Same?

No, a person with a J.D. and an esquire are different. A person with a J.D. has a law degree and is not a bar member, whereas an esquire is a practicing lawyer who is a member of the bar association. 

2. What Is the Difference Between Esquire and an Attorney at Law?

There isn't a difference between esquire and attorney at law because they're both synonymous. Attorneys are practicing lawyers just like Esquire; the only difference is that the title "esquire" isn't used anymore, whereas the term "attorney at law" is still commonly used. 

3. Is Esquire Higher Than a J.D.?

An esquire is a practicing lawyer who's a member of the bar. A person with a J.D. has a law degree but isn't a practicing lawyer. In that case, an esquire is considered higher than a J.D. because they're a practicing lawyer.

4. Should I Use the Esquire Title?

Rarely anyone in the U.S. uses the esquire title. It isn't common; however, if you want to use the title, you can. Often esquires use the title for business purposes. 

Final Thoughts

When looking at a career in the legal field, it’s important to know the difference between the different titles. You also need to know who is considered a practicing lawyer and who is not. 

It’s also important to note that you can still work in the legal field with a J.D. without being a practicing lawyer. This guide has shown you the difference between Esquire and J.D. and the many career options available out there. 

Schedule A Free Consultation

Plan Smart. Execute Strong. Get Into Your Dream School.

You May Also Like