Sign up to our Newsletter

What Is a Juris Doctor (JD) Degree?

April 12, 2024
4 min read


Reviewed by:

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

Reviewed: 4/12/24

If you’re considering joining the legal field, you’ve likely come across the term “JD.” To learn more about this term, read on! This guide will go over one of the most popular legal degrees pursued, a JD, and how it can be used. 

What Is a JD Degree?

A Juris Doctor (JD) is a three-year professional graduate degree required to become a licensed lawyer. It signifies an advanced level of expertise and specialization as the highest degree that can be achieved in the legal field.

Juris Doctor Degree Requirements

Preparing for your JD will require meticulous groundwork to fulfill the lengthy list of application requirements and adhere to your desired law school’s application timeline:

Students often spend months of hard work perfecting their applications to ensure they stand out!

How Long Does It Take to Get a JD Degree?

You should know what you’re getting yourself into by pursuing a JD! They typically take three arduous years to complete as a full-time student and are incredibly demanding. 

However, there are several part-time JD programs that take four years to complete. These programs offer the same curriculums and opportunities as full-time JDs but have more flexibility!

What Can You Do With a JD Degree?

The majority of individuals who complete a Juris Doctor degree go on to work as practicing lawyers. For graduates seeking to practice law within the United States, it's also necessary to gain admission to the Bar in the specific jurisdiction you plan to practice.

The most common legal specialties Juris Doctor candidates pursue are:

  • Animal law: handling cases involving animal cruelty, farming, natural land use, entertainment, and the rules around exotic animals
  • Alternative dispute resolution: solving disputes without litigation
  • Construction law: protecting construction workers, industry workers, architects, planners, and financial institutions; and ensuring construction organizations follow ethical work, safety, and administration regulations
  • Maritime law: focuses on regulations affecting the economic transactions between sailors and maritime traders 
  • E-commerce law: supporting businesses and consumers navigate online transactions
  • Criminal law: learning about liberties and violations of rights and public safety
  • Corporate compliance: ensuring companies abide by all laws, regulations, and policies to avoid lawsuits or violations
  • Cybersecurity law: protecting public and private information systems
  • Family law: representing individuals within family units, most commonly handling divorce cases and those involving child welfare
  • International law: involving the rules governing international relationships, such as those between the UN states and individuals
  • Environmental law: protecting the environment by advocating for it and pushing for policies and regulation changes
  • Education law: involving the policies involved in education systems
  • Health law: involving any legislation that applies to healthcare systems and those within them
  • Sports law: working with sports organizations, leagues, teams, or individuals to mainly ensure they receive fair contracts or represent them when accused of committing crimes
  • Labor and employment law: ensuring employee-employer relationships follow the necessary standards and regulations
  • Tax law: involving all regulations pertaining to state and federal taxes
  • Real estate law: supporting buyers, sellers, and organizations in transactions involving properties
  • Trust and estate law: protecting clients’ assets during their life and after their death
  • Intellectual property law: protecting the intellectual creations of organizations and individuals, including art, music, inventions, brands, patents, trademarks, and more
  • Civil rights law: advocating for and protecting the rights and liberties of individuals in areas related to social justice
  • Human rights law: protecting the universal rights considered to be inherent to all human beings
  • Personal injury law: providing compensation and justice to those injured due to the negligence of another party
  • Immigration law: providing legal guidance and services to individuals, families, and businesses regarding various immigration matters
  • Prosecution: prosecutors are district attorneys (DAs) who represent the government in criminal cases
  • Public defense: public defenders are employed by the government to provide legal representation to individuals who cannot afford private attorneys 

Alternatively, many law school graduates choose not to pursue licensure or leverage their degree in different career paths, including: 


Lawyers can eventually also become judges without any further education. However, this typically involves over a decade of experience working as an attorney and is a highly revered and selective career.


Some JD holders may choose to become mediators instead of lawyers. Mediators are neutral third parties that help resolve conflicts to reach agreeable settlements.

Jury Consultant

Jury consultants assist attorneys in identifying and evaluating potential biases, attitudes, and perceptions of prospective jurors. Through careful research and consideration, their goal is to ensure the right and least biased jurors are chosen.

Legal Secretary

Legal secretaries play an integral role in any law firm by helping with administrative tasks to ensure smooth operation. 


While paralegals often only hold degrees or certificates in paralegal studies, JD students are more than qualified to pursue this role. Paralegals work closely with attorneys and provide them with a range of support services.

Teachers or Professors

You may also pursue a teaching career with a JD but will need to obtain higher education to teach at the postsecondary level.

Now you know what careers are open to Juris Doctor graduates, book a call with a law school admissions expert to secure your spot at law school today!

Are There Other Law Degrees Besides a JD?

While schools offered bachelor’s degrees in law in the past, the main types of law degrees besides a JD are master’s, such as a Master’s of Law (LLM), and doctoral degrees, such as a Doctor or Juridical Science (JSD). These degrees allow students to gain more in-depth knowledge of a specific specialty. 

FAQs: What Is a JD Degree?

For any remaining inquiries, here are the answers to frequently asked questions about this legal degree.

1. What Is a JD Equivalent To?

A JD is unlike any other degree. It is a graduate-level degree that offers you specialized training in law and valuable experience to prepare you for your career. In this way, it can be compared to an MD, as an MD also offers advanced training in medicine and considerable hands-on experience.

But, MD students must also complete residencies to practice medicine. Lawyers can begin practicing right after their JDs, assuming they pass the bar exam!

2. Is a JD Equivalent to a PhD?

No, a JD is not equivalent to a PhD. PhDs require research, independent study, and thesis components that JDs do not. While PhD holders are considered doctors, JD holders are not.

3. Is a JD the Same as a Bachelor’s Degree?

No, a JD is much more extensive than a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite to a JD.

4. Is a JD a Doctorate?

Yes, a JD is considered a professional doctorate degree.

5. Should I Pursue a JD for a Non-Lawyer Career?

Getting into a JD program will be difficult. It will require you to write the LSAT, maintain a high GPA, and submit a standout application to admissions committees that have seen thousands of applications. Once you’re in a JD program, the difficulty will only increase. These programs are also extremely expensive

Considering these factors, pursuing a career as a lawyer ensures all of this time, effort, and money is not spent in vain. Lawyers are well-paid and can often handle their student debt when working full-time. However, if you pursue another job, such as a mediator, you will not make as much and may struggle with your student loans.

Additionally, you do not need a JD to pursue other legal careers! There are other cheaper and less competitive options that would serve you better.

Final Thoughts

Bearing in mind the high costs and competitiveness of these programs, it’s essential you carefully consider if this degree is right for you! After going through this guide, you should be able to come to a decision easier!

Schedule A Free Consultation

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

You May Also Like