What are all these law degrees other than a JD?

Is a Master of Jurisprudence the same as a Master of Law?
Tags: Masters, Doctorates, Academia
Apr 2, 2023

Table of Contents:

  1. Overview
  2. A deeper dive into the categories
  3. Academic masters degrees for non-lawyers
  4. Post-J.D. law degrees
  5. Research and academic-based doctorate level degrees

A lot of law schools offer programs that fall outside of the standard JD, and are usually called out with initialisms so it can get a bit confusing. There aren't many hard and fast rules when it comes to naming or categorizing these programs, so take this all with a grain of salt. This article is meant to provide a helping hand to understanding the options, but University websites and program alums are the best place to look for hard(er) facts.

There are 10 kinds of non-JD degrees separated into 3 categories:

Academic masters degrees for nonlawyers, such as:

  1. J.M. Juris Master
  2. M.J. Master of Jurisprudence
  3. M.S. Master of Science or Master of Studies
  4. M.P.S. Master of Professional Studies
  5. M.L.S. Master of Legal Studies

Post-J.D. law degrees for practicing lawyers and/or foreign lawyers seeking to practice in the U.S., such as:

  1. LL.M. Master of Laws
  2. M.C.L. Master of Comparative Law

Research and academic-based doctorate level degrees, such as:

  1. J.S.D. Doctor of Jurisprudence
  2. S.J.D. Doctor of Judicial Science
  3. D.C.L. Doctor of Comparative Law

A deeper dive into the categories:

Academic masters degrees for non-lawyers:

These degrees are designed for professionals who interact with lawyers and legal issues regularly in the course of their careers. These programs are designed to help people whose day-to-day work life would be better served with a broader understanding of the laws surrounding it? These programs are marketed to any non-lawyer in highly regulated industries who have completed their undergraduate education and are looking for a 1 year advanced degree. Some examples of people who attend these programs include HR professionals, law enforcement officers, and health administration professionals, among others. 

Although these degrees (Juris Master, Master of Jurisprudence, Master of Science or Master of Studies, Master of Professional Studies, and Master of Legal Studies) all have different names, they are generally just different names for the same thing. 

If you are considering a masters degree for nonlawyers. These programs can be helpful to some, but take your time in making the decision. These programs can be expensive and don’t qualify you for a specific job. You should consider them, but make sure you do your research.

Post-J.D. law degrees for US lawyers and foreign lawyers seeking to practice in the US:

These degrees allow qualified attorneys to specialize in a specific area of the law. For international lawyers this means focusing on a specific aspect of US law, and gaining the ability to take the Bar for a US State and practice as an attorney in the United States. 

These programs are predominantly composed of international students, with ~75% of the total LLM population in the United States coming from outside of the US.

While programs vary in quality, LLM programs at prestigious US law schools tend to be prestigious and are competitive to get into. 

Research and academic-based doctorate level degrees:

As the highest level of law degree, these doctorate level degrees (akin to a PhD) are suitable for law professionals who have already earned other advanced law degrees, such as the JD and the LLM. Doctorate degrees provide candidates with the rigorous knowledge they need to go onto careers as professors and scholars of law. 

Doctorate programs typically take two years to complete with a full-time course load, but they are usually followed by additional time to complete a dissertation. Doctoral program candidates typically already have JDs and LLMs so these doctoral programs usually don’t follow an in class curriculum consisting of required courses. Instead, candidates conduct their own legal research by working closely with professors while attending seminars. 

Law specific doctoral programs like the SJD are similar to PhDs, but focused on getting a job in the academic legal field. SJD programs’ goal is to prepare their students for a job in academic study or teaching of law. 

Windsor MIT '22, Harvard College Advisor

I am the half of LSD that didn't take the LSAT, or go to law school (Sorry about that). But I did go to MIT business school while surrounded by law students and lawyers, so I am somewhat qualified to talk about the intricacies of law school apps and finances.

Windsor (the dog) didn't write this but he WAS a Resident Tutor and career advisor at Harvard College with me, so deserves some credit.


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@trox99: my friend who is a 1L at washu law had to wait about a month for scholarship info :/
[] trox99
I’m ED and word on the street was that we would get them back today
fingers crossed!
What is the timeline to submit apps early/in cycle for Duke?
[] trox99
Hopefully guess we shall see, thank you
if anyone needs ideas for hobbies to work on while handling this cycle, i am in the process of writing a freaking dnd campaign
i'm in the same boat -- i'm trying to start running more and playing the new starfield game
@EmptyGoat: have you played Baldur's gate 3 at all?
@ClerkHopeful: I have not! I’m waiting for it to come out on Xbox! Have you?
does having a MA increase your chances in admissions?
[] WhisperingWillingBoar
Popcornlover81 - Almost not at all, but no one can really say for sure.
along the same vein, I understand admissions are hyperfocused on LSAT scores, but about gpa - would it make a diff that my GPA was higher in grad school (MA) vs. my undergrad GPA?
[] trox99
No not really
[] trox99
Undergrad GPA is what gets reported for their stats
Ok, that makes sense
Hey, so my CAS transcript evaluation shows my GPA as Superior (because Im a foreign applicant). Does anybody know what superior means in GPA terms? Like a 3.9 or 4?
[] trox99
I’m not sure if you can really put a number on an international GPA
[] trox99
I think it basically means you are effectively a median GPA candidate since you don’t hurt their stats.
[] trox99
In other words, there becomes a ton of emphasis on the LSAT, so you better be above median
But i have heard that the CAS evaluation for international transcripts is categorised into 3: Superior, above average and below average.
So, considering it is superior it would be some kind of a boost right. Cus atm I'm a super splitter.
@trox99 doesn’t know anything more then the rest of us. Contact the admissions office and ask lol
@EmptyGoat: I have been wanting to get into dnd for years at this point
[] trox99
Just from the research I’ve done and things I’ve read… of course I could be wrong🤷🏼‍♂️
[] trox99
Superior is obviously the best but I still think that the LSAT is far more important and is going to be what ultimately gets you either accepted or denied
[] ararara
Happy Saturday LSD! Hope everyone is healthy and killing it out there!
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