an image of scales in a courtroom that symbolizes the pros and cons of a juris doctor degree

Pros and Cons of a Juris Doctor Degree

When you're considering a career, it is important to carefully evaluate the education that will allow you to fulfill your goals. For aspiring legal and political professionals, a juris doctor degree is likely a requirement. Here are some pros and cons to help you make the right decision on whether to pursue a JD degree.

Pros of a JD Degree:

  • Earning Power
    A JD can open the door to large salaries. The legal field is bimodal in its salary distribution; in layman's terms, when lawyers start out, they usually make either $160,000 per year at large, corporate firms or around $50,000 as associates in smaller firms. Focusing on the starting salary that can accompany a juris doctor degree, however, ignores some of the long-term benefits. Lawyers have the potential to make much more money when they gain experience, and over time, the degree will open up significant opportunities for high-end earnings.
     
  • Career Versatility
    While most students who get a juris doctor degree will go on to become lawyers, many will use their degrees to gain access to the business world or start their own company. In Texas, for instance, it is routine for law graduates to go to work in the oil industry in positions that aren't courtroom-related. A JD degree can provide career versatility if you want to change course after graduation.
     
  • Valuable Skills
    What most people don't know is that law school involves significant writing. After earning your JD, you will have advanced composition skills. This can be helpful both in the legal world and in the business world. Additionally, your training will largely revolve around critical thinking, which will make you a more effective employee overall.

Cons of a JD Degree:

  • Job Competition
    Not everything is rosy for law students today. One of the downsides of getting a juris doctor degree is that the market for young lawyers is challenging. The struggling market has recovered to a degree within the last two or three years, but it remains likely that hiring will never return to pre-recession levels.
     
  • Expense
    With a few exceptions, a JD degree is going to be very expensive. Taking into account cost of living, private schools will cost anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000 per year over the course of three years. State schools are less expensive in some cases, but they are still likely to ring up a six-figure bill by graduation. This is why it is critically important for students to seek out financial aid, including scholarships and grants when possible, to make the process more affordable.