a close-up image of a juris doctor degree

Juris Doctor Degree: Is It for You?

A juris doctor degree, or law degree, as it is usually called, is an educational requirement for many career paths you may be interested in. The communication and critical thinking skills developed in law school make this degree valuable in a number of fields beyond the courtroom. Here are some things to consider when determining if a juris doctor degree is right for you:

Job Prospects
Just because a law degree isn't required for a certain field, doesn't mean that it isn't to your advantage to have one. In a competitive field, having a juris doctor degree can enable you to stand out above others seeking the same position. However, be aware that this can cut both ways. It may be that an employer will perceive you as over-qualified because of your degree. A good way to counteract that impression is to use the job interview to discuss the reasons why you believe your degree makes you ideal for the position.

Practicality
One of the most positive aspects of a juris doctor degree is that it has a wide range of applications. Even in your personal life, a general knowledge of the law and highly developed reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical skills are enormously useful. Unfortunately, a law degree doesn't come cheap, so you have to balance the value of a degree against the cost. While costs can usually be reduced through scholarships and other funding sources, you still need to do a careful cost analysis to determine whether pursuing a law degree is practical for you from a fiscal perspective.

Experiment
One way to determine whether a juris doctor degree is right for your career goals is to experiment with pursuing those goals without the degree. If you are uncertain about attending law school, spend a year or so pursuing your career goals. If you find yourself making satisfactory progress without the degree, then maybe you can forget about it. However, if you are encountering resistance that might be relieved by having a law degree, then that is a good indication you should get one.

Determine what you are going to law school for. If it is simply because you think a law degree couldn't hurt, you run the risk of ending up with debt and no job. At the same time, a career in fields like the nonprofit sector, the financial world, business, and writing can all be enhanced by earning your juris doctorate. The key is to do your homework, know the field you want to enter and fully understand how a legal education relates to it. Armed with this knowledge, you will then be prepared to decide whether a juris doctor degree is a good fit.