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Degrees in the legal field

Juris Doctor, JD

To practice law in the United States, a Juris Doctor degree is usually required. The JD is considered a first degree in law and is a professional degree program. A bachelor’s degree is required for admission to the JD program.

  • Full-time programs are three years; some law schools offer part-time or evening programs. Part-time and evening programs lengthen the time to graduation, usually to four years.
  • No accredited law schools offer a fully online program, though some law schools do offer some online coursework. Students considering law school should be prepared to enter a program with no or limited online options.

The JD is a general degree and while focus areas may be pursued at law schools, they are not necessary for employment in a particular area of the law. For example, a specialty in health law is not required for the practice of law in the health care field.

Master of Laws, LLM

This is a postgraduate academic degree. It is pursued by those holding either a professional law degree (the JD) or an undergraduate academic law degree, likely obtained from a non-U.S. institution.

Master’s of Legal Studies, MLS and
Masters of Sport Law and Business, MSLB

These degrees are for those who wish to receive a graduate education in legal topics and law but not become practicing attorneys. Any coursework taken through a master’s degree program cannot be applied to a law degree.

Paralegal and Legal Assistants

Paralegals are qualified by training, education or legal experience and are employed or retained by a lawyer in a law office who performs delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. A paralegal is not an attorney and not a member of a state or federal legal bar association.