Master of Law Vs. Juris Doctorate (JD)

Although Juris Doctorate and Master of Law programs have their differences, both degrees provide graduates with the law expertise necessary to pursue a range of exciting and well-compensated careers. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Comparing a Master of Law vs. Juris Doctorate (JD) programs

Master of Law

A Master of Law is a one-year program designed for students who need an advanced understanding of legal systems but are not planning to become lawyers. There is a diverse range of fields where professionals could benefit from law expertise including business consulting, human rights advocacy, human resources management, health services, social services and more. Students begin their studies by taking the same survey courses on U.S. legal systems that JD students take. Then they can tailor the rest of their curriculum by choosing law classes that intersect with their own profession (health law and policy, contract writing and negotiation, patent law, corporate compliance, technology law, etc…). To apply, students need a bachelor's degree (in any field) and a compelling personal statement that explains their desire to pursue graduate-level work in law.

Juris Doctorate (JD)

A Juris Doctorate is a three-year program that prepares students to take the bar exam and become licensed lawyers. Students can apply with a bachelor's degree in any discipline, but they must take the LSAT (the law school entrance exam). In the first year of law school students undertake a set curriculum that includes introductions to civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, legal research, criminal law, property, and torts. In the second and third years, students can design their curriculum to concentrate on the specific type of law they are interested in practicing. Many students participate in a research project or internship during their final year of law school and may participate in pro-bono work.

Degree ProgramProgram LengthProgram RequirementsCommon Careers
Master of Law1-2 yearsBachelor's degreeContract negotiator
Political scientist
Juris Doctorate3 yearsBachelor's degree
LSAT scores

Career Options with a Juris Doctorate or Master of Law degree


A JD degree prepares students with the skills and knowledge they need to pass the bar exam and become professional lawyers. Lawyers work in a range of settings, from fighting for their clients in the courtroom, to negotiating contracts and mergers for massive corporations, to helping new immigrants become U.S. citizens. Most lawyers choose a specialty, like family law, corporate law, immigration law, bankruptcy law, criminal law, civil rights law, intellectual property law or personal injury law.


A judge is typically a former lawyer who has years of experience in the courtroom. They know the law backward and frontward. They make decisions on the application of the law that has massive repercussions on companies, families, and individuals. Most judges start as lawyers and have a JD degree, however, it is possible to come from a different background connected to law with a master of law degree.

Senior Contract Negotiator

Senior contract negotiators need excellent negotiation and conflict transformation skills. They use the skills learned through a master of law or JD program to write and negotiate contracts for their company or clients. They can apply their law expertise in many ways including overseeing a merger or acquisition between two large corporations, working with clients of a business to negotiate sales contracts, or helping two warring parties (like an environmental protection agency and land development company) to come to a solution in the courtroom.

Political Scientist

Political scientists research political systems, public opinion, and the structure and operation of governments. They can work in a variety of public, corporate or NGO settings. Most political science positions require an advanced degree, either a JD or MA. Political scientists with expertise in law can research and analyze the effectiveness of legislation and develop or advocate policy recommendations.

Professor of Law

Students who prefer research to practice can use their MA or JD degree to become a post-secondary law teacher. Some professors of law spend the majority of their time teaching classes of law students, while others split their time between teaching and conducting research. Law professors must have excellent communication skills to train the next generation of law professionals.

Careers with a JD or Master of Law Median Salary (2018) Job Outlook (2018-28)
Lawyer $120,910 6%
Judge$117,190 3%
Senior Contract Negotiator78,772 (average salary 2018)8% (for arbitrators, mediators and conciliators)
Political Scientist$117,5705% (for political scientist)
Postsecondary Law Teacher$111,14010-14%

Although a Juris Doctorate and Master of Law have their differences, both degrees provide graduates with the expertise necessary to pursue a range of exciting careers within and outside the field of law.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Liberty University

    Liberty University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Liberty University:

    • Doctoral

    Online Programs Available

  • Walden University

    Walden University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Walden University:

    • Doctoral

    Online Programs Available

  • Northcentral University

    Northcentral University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Northcentral University:

    • Doctoral

    Online Programs Available

  • Yale University

    Campus Locations:

    • Connecticut: New Haven
  • William Mitchell College of Law

    Campus Locations:

    • Minnesota: Saint Paul
  • Willamette University

    Campus Locations:

    • Oregon: Salem
  • Whittier College

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Whittier
  • Western State College of Law at Argosy University

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Fullerton
  • Yeshiva University

    Campus Locations:

    • New York: New York
  • Western New England University

    Campus Locations:

    • Massachusetts: Springfield