What is the difference between JD, LLM, and JSD (SJD)

You have decided that lawyer is your future profession, but do not understand which prospects could be opened with law degrees. JD, LLM, and JSD have many peculiarities that distinguish them from each other, and, accordingly, understanding of their specifics will help you make plans for your education, which will positively affect your future.

What is a JD?

JD (Juris Doctor) is a certified specialist in Law. Such a degree is given to graduates from law schools in the USA, Canada, Australia and in some other countries. This is the basic professional development of lawyers, which lasts three years; the first step of obtaining it is the successful passing of LSAT, which is a compulsory entrance test for law school candidates. The success in LSAT is provided by the ability to express your substantiated opinion and good analytical and logical thinking, as these skills are crucial for comprehension of complex information, critical view, the objectivity of judgment and other qualities, which are important for legal work implementation. Passing the test needs thorough and long-term preparation, which lies in practicing of task fulfillment. Studying information will not help; the only one way to pass LSAT is to acquire all the necessary skills. One more condition for admission to law school is bachelor degree. Top law schools are in high demand by applicants, so lucky people who are studying there usually have not only high LSAT score but also a good GPA and legal work experience.

What is an LLM?

LLM (The Master of Laws) is a post-graduate academic degree. You can get it only if you have already graduated a law school in the USA or abroad. However, some institutions in the States also take students with a not-law education. This degree is usually chosen by those who want to learn more about a certain branch of jurisprudence and expand the competence. LLM is also a great addition to the CV, especially if you graduated one of top law schools. For international students, this is a possibility to improve knowledge about American legal system and legal English in addition to all the advantages mentioned above. Such an experience is a great upside in employment.


LLM is a way to study law in the USA without LSAT taking because the test is not needed for LLM degree; you also can study online, which is a distinct advantage. However, it will be difficult for you to obtain LLM without JD unless you are a foreigner who has already received another law education.

While employing in the USA, LLM is inferior to JD because employers view JD as a degree which provides lawyers with all the necessary knowledge and practice to work in jurisprudence. Therefore, if you are an international student, who think about the career in the USA, you still should try to get Juris Doctorate.

LLM in addition to JD open up new possibilities; it does not cover the general conceptions of US legal system but only a separate field. Thus, it can facilitate to achieve career success and expand practical skills.

What is a JSD?

JSD (Doctor of Juridical Science) is the highest degree in the legal science. Such a profound study of jurisprudence is necessary for those who want to become a professor or a legal scientist. The term of studying for JSD lasts from three to five years; candidates study the law intensively and write dissertations, which are a significant contribution to the science.

This qualification is offered in the USA, Australia, and Canada; in European countries, its equivalent is a Doctor of Philosophy. The training period is divided into two parts: in the first half, candidates write term papers, and the second is set aside for research that is important for legal science development.

Of course, JSD degree will make you a real specialist, but it should be your vocation; otherwise, it is hardly possible to withstand serious academic load.

In logical order of educational stages, firstly it is necessary to get the bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, then go to study for Juris Doctor, having taken LSAT. You are ready to work as a lawyer with JD diploma, but either to improve your skills or if you are interested in the specific field of law, you have to study for LLM. This time should be enough to decide whether you want to work or continue education.