How long does it take to earn a law degree? On average, it takes law students approximately three years, and the most common type of law degree that one can obtain is the Juris Doctor (J.D.). However, the amount of time that the process takes to obtain a law degree can vary greatly depending on the specific path that you choose to take.
This guide was put together to show you how many different types of law degrees there are, approximately how long it will take to obtain them, and how much of a salary you can expect to earn in your home state upon completion of your law degree program.
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If you’re planning to attend law school, there isn’t a specific type of bachelor’s degree that you need prior to enrolling, but there are four focuses that will certainly prepare you better than most: political science, history, criminal justice, and philosophy.
What Are the Different Types of Law Degrees?
- Juris Doctor (JD): This is the most common type of degree that you can obtain in law school. All of the law schools that are approved by the American Bar Association require that you have at least three years of study under your belt before you obtain your Juris Doctor.
- Master of Legal Studies (MLS): This type of law degree won’t land you a job as a licensed attorney, but it’s a graduate degree that will put you on the path to becoming a court administrator, paralegal, trial consultant, compliance director, or e-discovery specialist.
- Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR): You’ll definitely improve your negotiation skills with this type of law degree! It’s a graduate degree that will assist you in finding work as an arbitrator, mediator, public policy facilitator, labor relations specialist, or financial service conciliator.
- Master of Laws (LLM): This post-graduate degree is perfect for those who are already licensed attorneys but are seeking further training. The program is heavily involved in legal theory and has a deep focus on immigration, family law, intellectual property, and environmental law.
- Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD): Focused on training scholars for teaching and writing in their field, this is one of the most difficult law school degrees that one can obtain, and it comes after you receive both your Juris Doctor and Master of Laws.
- Doctor of Philosophy in Law: Focused primarily on methodologies, this is a high-level law school degree that students obtain if they want to find work as a professor, consultant, patent lawyer, or legal researcher, among other roles.
How Long Will it Take You to Get a Law Degree?
The timetable for receiving a law degree can vary greatly, as it all depends on the program. The following are windows on the duration of degree programs.
- Juris Doctor (JD): 3 years
- Master of Legal Studies (MLS): 12-16 months
- Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR): 16-28 months
- Master of Laws (LLM): 12 months following a Juris Doctor program
- Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD): 24 months
- Doctor of Philosophy in Law: 4-8 years
Where Are Lawyers Paid the Most?
According to a 2020 study by Zip Recruiter, lawyers make the most money in New York, where the average annual salary is $88,564, which breaks down to $42.58 per hour. Here are the ten states across America where lawyers are paid the most on average.
- New York: $88,564 ($42.58 per hour)
- Massachusetts: $87,727 ($42.18 per hour)
- Washington: $87,115 ($41.88 per hour)
- New Hampshire: $85,379 ($41.05 per hour)
- Hawaii: $84,256 ($40.51 per hour)
- Maryland: $81,302 ($39.09 per hour)
- Connecticut: $81,276 ($39.08 per hour)
- Rhode Island: $80,615 ($38.76 per hour)
- Alaska: $80,511 ($38.71 per hour)
- Vermont: $80,177 ($38.55 per hour)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for lawyers will continue to grow in many different practice areas over the next several years. The projected ten-year outlook for lawyers shows 6% growth (from 823,900 to 874,000 lawyers) from 2018 to 2028.