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What Can You Do With A JD Degree?

Oct 20, 2021

A JD degree program can lead to a variety of career options besides working as an attorney. Learn what you can do with your Juris Doctorate once you complete one of these three-year professional programs.

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What Can You Do with a Juris Doctor Degree?

You may be asking yourself, what can I do with a degree in law? The most common and traditional career path for individuals with a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree is to become an attorney, or lawyer. However, a JD can also be applied to many different fields and is often offered as a dual degree with graduate programs in areas like business administration, mass communication, regional planning, social work, and public administration. While these dual-degree programs may open the doors to additional career opportunities, even a traditional JD degree can qualify you for several career options besides the practice of law, including:

  • Judge
  • Law professor
  • Law librarian
  • Lobbyist
  • Entrepreneur
  • Consultant
  • Arbitrator, mediator, or conciliator

JD Careers: Examples.

Juris Doctor jobs typically include some component and/or knowledge of the law and legal issues. Let's explore a few of the possible JD careers and what they involve.

Lawyer

Lawyers must hold a bachelor's and JD degree and pass bar exams (licensing exams) for their state. Typically, lawyers are also required to participate in continuing legal education to stay updated on current laws. Some lawyers may specialize in a particular type of law, such as environmental law, family law, tax law, or intellectual property law.

The primary responsibility of lawyers is to represent clients faced with civil or criminal issues. They may work with individuals, government agencies, or businesses to advise them on their legal options in particular situations and help prepare court cases in their defense. These responsibilities may require lawyers to perform tasks like:

  • Writing legal documents, such as contracts and lawsuits
  • Researching and interpreting laws and regulations
  • Preparing facts in written and verbal form for court
  • Talking with clients, judges, and other lawyers involved in a case
  • Overseeing paralegals and other support staff

Judge

One way to become a judge after obtaining a JD degree is to become a lawyer or judicial clerk. After working in law for at least two years, explore opportunities to serve as a judge. This is a position to which people are appointed or elected, so you'll need to submit an application and be sure that you have made a good impression on your colleagues and the civilians where you practice during your time as a lawyer. Becoming a judge can, in some cases, lead to a lifetime appointment.

Some JD degree holders become judges

The job duties of a judge include:

  • Conducting and overseeing criminal trials
  • Passing judgments on legislation or verdicts
  • Making decisions about sentencing
  • Listening to testimony impartially
  • Managing legal decisions in criminal and civil cases

Law Professor (postsecondary teacher)

Postsecondary teachers usually need a doctoral degree in the field they are teaching and/or field-appropriate experience. For students wishing to teach law at the postsecondary level, this likely means holding a JD degree and working in the legal field for a few years.

Postsecondary educators are responsible for teaching college students in their field of expertise and are usually required to conduct research and write publications within their field for the university. The responsibilities of a law professor may include:

  • Preparing lesson plans
  • Teaching multiple courses in law
  • Answering questions and working with students outside of class
  • Grading assignments, exams, and papers
  • Staying updated on current laws and cases

Law Librarian

Most librarians only need a Master of Library Science (MLS), but librarians who specialize in a particular area typically need a degree in that field. For example, a law librarian would need a JD. Some states also require librarians in public libraries to hold state certification in the field, depending on the position.

Librarians help patrons find the information they need. In the case of law librarians, this usually means working in law school libraries or law firms and helping law students, lawyers, judges, and other law professionals find legal resources. Other job duties may include:

  • Organizing materials in existing collections
  • Researching new materials for acquisition
  • Utilizing library databases
  • Purchasing computers and other resources for the library
  • Overseeing library budgets and staff

JD careers include legal librarians

Legal Consultant

Many lawyers eventually make the switch to management consulting for various businesses. Not only can their education provide them with an edge in the job market but also result in more competitive pay with that of lawyers with less stress.

Consultants might:

  • Conduct research for a company or an organization
  • Conduct surveys and write reports
  • Use legal knowledge in order to help companies reach their goals efficiently and legally
  • Advise a company on legal as well as organizational dilemmas
  • Use arbitration skills to come to agreements for a company in business matters

Arbitrator

Arbitrators and mediators are a broad category of workers who help solve disputes, often among family members, when those involved do not want to go through the court route. Legal knowledge can be very helpful for arbitrators, who must be able to argue on behalf of one or more clients, negotiate acceptable settlements, and understand the legal repercussions of any decisions made.

The job duties of an arbitrator include:

  • Facilitating communication between clients
  • Offering legal advice
  • Providing different mediation plans for clients to choose from
  • Attempting to create a favorable outcome for all involved
  • Managing legal documentation on behalf of clients

What Can I Expect from a Juris Doctor Degree Program?

JD programs usually take three years to complete and help students acquire knowledge and skills related to various types of law, including constitutional, corporate, and property law; civil procedures, and legal writing. These degree programs typically go into much greater detail than other law-related programs, like a graduate certificate or master's degree in constitutional law. Many of these JD programs offer hands-on learning experience in law through externships, clinics, and more. Students interested in JD programs might consider checking out resources like these online courses in immigration law to get an idea of what their coursework might entail.

How Much Can You Earn with a Juris Doctorate?

According to PayScale.com, the median annual salary for a professional who holds a Juris Doctor degree was $91,206, as of December, 2020. This salary could vary greatly with factors like job title, employer, and years of experience.

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