Facebook pixel What Is a JD? Understanding the Juris Doctor Degree Skip to main content
Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

What is a JD?

What is a JD?

JD is the abbreviation for juris doctor (JD), which is the degree that you receive when you graduate from law school. Completion of law school is different when compared to the completion of other graduate programs in that completion of law school awards you with a doctorate. If you want to receive a master's in law (LLM), you would then specialize in certain post-graduate programs. One of the most common LLM degrees is in tax law. 

This educational post will help you better understand the JD. You'll learn about how to get a JD degree, the earning potential that receiving a JD degree creates, some of the opportunities you'll have available to you with a juris doctorate, and how to get your JD degree at the prestigious Pepperdine Caruso School of Law.

How to Get a JD Degree

If you want to go to law school, there are things you must do before you can apply and attend. First, you must complete a bachelor's degree. There is no perfect undergraduate major that guarantees your entry into law school. However, some of the best majors include:

  • History: The study of law and legal systems as well as how law is practiced is based on historic events as well as precedents set
  • English: The study of law as well as the practice of law involves a substantial amount of reading, writing, and critical analysis of literature
  • Philosophy: A background in philosophy can help you better understand all angles of a legal issue. In the practice of law, this background may very well help you better predict the arguments or defenses presented by opposing counsel

Once you graduate with a bachelor's degree you should study for and take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT is an exam that measures certain skills, such as critical reading and analysis. Many law schools require you to receive a certain score on the LSAT for you to be eligible for admission. Pepperdine Caruso Law also accepts the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).

Next, you complete the application process online for the law school you're interested in attending. You may be invited to attend a campus tour as well as required to complete at least one interview either in person or over the phone.

JD Degree Coursework

Depending on whether you're attending full-time or part-time, you may earn your JD degree within three to four years. If you're attending a dual major program, such as a JD / MBA program, it could take longer. To earn a traditional JD degree, there are certain courses that you must complete. During your first year as a law student, you're required to take Civil Procedure, Constitutional Structure, Contracts, Criminal Law, Introduction to Professional Formation, Legal Research and Writing, Property, and Torts.

As a second- and third-year student (and fourth year student for those attending part-time), you're required to complete 20 to 23 other units. This includes Constitutional Law – Individual Rights and Liberties, Corporations, Criminal Procedure, Ethical Lawyering, Evidence, Remedies, and Wills and Trusts.

During your second and third years, you may also choose exciting and challenging electives that include studying abroad, working in a clinic setting that provides pro bono legal services, completing an externship with allows you to gain hands-on experience, completing a practicum in a specialized area, and participating in the production of a student-edited journal.

Juris Doctor Graduate Career Opportunities

As a juris doctorate graduate, you'll have several exciting law career opportunities to consider. You can work in a law firm as an associate or staff attorney. You may also consider:

  • Work in the public defender's office
  • Work in the prosecutor's office
  • Open your own law practice
  • Work as a judicial clerk
  • Work for a corporation as a staff attorney or as general counsel
  • Become a lobbyist
  • Become a consultant
  • Specialize as an arbitrator or mediator
  • Become a college professor

That's only a small sampling of what you can do after you receive your JD. There are many opportunities both inside and outside of the legal profession.

How to Get Your JD Degree at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law

Pepperdine Caruso School of Law offers both a traditional JD education and joint JD-graduate programs for our students. We are ranked #1 in the nation as an ideologically diverse law school when it comes to our faculty. We're also rated #2 in the nation in dispute resolution training. If you're interested in applying for our JD program, the application fee is waived for 2020 applications. To learn more about applying for one of our programs, please visit our application requirements page