Is a Dual Degree Right for You?
Many law students find that their goals are best served by earning a degree in another field. Law students are free to apply to another program in their first, or sometimes even their second, year of law school (with the exception of PhD programs, where students usually do one or two years in the PhD program before starting law school).
Typically, dual degree students will spend the first year at Michigan Law, the second year in the companion school, and the final one to two years taking a combination of credits in both schools or departments.
Dual Degree Program Details
The University of Michigan Law School has a strong interdisciplinary focus in its class offerings, seminars, clinics, externships, and independent research opportunities. Many of its faculty members hold advanced degrees in other fields and have dual appointments with other schools and departments in the University. This interdisciplinary approach reflects the School's philosophy that the study of law should be combined, as much as possible, with an awareness of the broader context of American society and the international community.
To complement this philosophy, Michigan Law offers a wide variety of graduate degree programs that students may wish to pursue concurrently with the study of law. While completing the first or second year of law study, students may apply for admission to concurrent courses of study.
Admission to the second program will be granted only to students who present academic credentials
acceptable to the graduate school in which the desired program is offered, and who satisfy the other conditions for admission to that graduate school. General questions regarding the dual degree program can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If admitted, the student may, after completion of the first year of law studies, divide time between the Law School and the concurrent program of study, devoting sufficient time to each to satisfy the academic requirements and the equivalent of the residence requirements of each unit.
Twelve credit hours in graduate level classes in other departments may be elected in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the JD degree. Credits earned in another graduate program may not be counted toward a student's JD degree if they are earned prior to beginning law studies.
Tuition and Applying
Tuition is assessed at either the Law School or the Graduate School rate, whichever is higher, when enrolled in courses in both schools in a single term.
Applying to a Dual Degree Program
Students do not have to decide to pursue a dual degree program before entering law school. Application may be made to both schools in advance, with a deferral requested from the school to be attended during the second year, or application may be made to the second school during the first or second year of law classes.
Whenever application is made, a student must be admitted independently to each of the schools from which they are seeking degrees. A dual degree program is not open to anyone who has already earned either degree.
The Law School cannot accept credits earned in other graduate programs prior to matriculation at the Law School. For a complete list of requirements for the JD, please refer to the Law School's online student handbook.
Ad Hoc Dual Degrees
Ad hoc dual degree programs are also an option. A few examples of areas of interest around which students have recently designed their own dual programs include American culture, kinesiology, and philosophy.
The Bulletins of the other schools and colleges of the University and of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies should be consulted for more complete information. Special attention should be given to the requirements for such graduate degrees.
Requirements may include special language facility, advanced study in science, and additional terms at the University.
The following statement has been issued by the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies:
“In approving proposals for regularized dual degree programs leading to a master's degree in one field and a doctoral degree in another (whether or not the latter is a degree of the Graduate School) the Executive Board will permit students to compile a total of course credits that is less than the sum of credits ordinarily required for the two degrees, provided: (1) that the reduction results from the presence of common elements in the two degree programs, and (2) that the credits for work distinctive to the master's degree program are not reduced to less than two-thirds of the normal degree total and in no case to less than 18 credit hours.”
Dual Degree FAQs
How do I ask a general question not covered here?
The dual degree program is administered through the Office of Student Life. General questions can be sent to email@example.com.
How do I apply?
Admissions procedures at each school are independent. Students must apply to and gain admission to both schools separately. However, the Law School is happy to waive the JD application fee for applicants who are simultaneously applying to one of the formalized dual degree programs; just email us to let us know. You must check with individual programs to ascertain their application requirements, including any standardized testing that may be required.
Will you waive the LSAT requirement?
If you are enrolled in a graduate program in another school or department at the University, we will accept your GRE, GMAT, or MCAT score in lieu of an LSAT score.
How can I earn two degrees in a dual program in less time than it would take to earn the degrees separately?
Each school will count a specified number of credits from the other school. This double counting results in a time and cost savings. While the number of law credits that may be applied toward the external degree varies from school to school, the Law School will always apply up to 12 credits taken in graduate-level courses.
Must I apply to both programs/schools at the same time?
No. Law students are free to apply to another program during their first, or sometimes even second, year of law school (with the exception of PhD programs, where students typically do one or two years in the PhD program before starting at the Law School). If you do apply and are admitted to both programs in the same admissions cycle, you must be sure to check with each separate admitting office about enrollment schedules. Typically, dual degree students will spend the first year in Law School, the second year in the companion school, and the final terms taking a combination of credits in both schools. Whatever schedule best fits your goals, be sure to check with the admitting offices of both schools to ensure that they can accommodate your preference. Students who wish to complete the JD+MA World Politics dual degree must take six graduate level credits in Political Science prior to applying for admission to the master's program.
Does it matter whether I start my dual degree in the law school or in the other graduate program?
It might. It is possible for some programs that, by starting in the Law School, you will be able to complete the two degrees in a shorter period than if you started in the other graduate program. This varies among programs, and you will need specific advice for your situation. Further, be aware that if you are admitted to both the law school and an external program, you will need to seek permission from the Law School Admissions Office to begin in any term other than the one for which you were admitted. That change is at the discretion of the Admissions Office and will not occur automatically.
Can I enroll in a dual degree program after completing requirements for one of the degrees?
Can I count credits from another U-M unit earned prior to starting at the Law school?
No. The American Bar Association, our accrediting organization, prohibits the granting of credit for work completed prior to enrollment in a JD program. For this reason, it is often preferable to begin a dual program at the Law School to assure that you can take full advantage of the double counting of credits.
How does tuition work?
If classes are taken exclusively at one school in any given semester, tuition is paid to that school at that school's rate. However, in any semester when classes are taken in both schools, tuition will be assessed at either the Law School or the companion school rate, whichever is higher.
Must I complete the requirements for both degrees at the same time?
Simultaneous completion of both degrees is the Law School's default expectation. Students are advised to check with both programs regarding specific graduation requirements.
Are there any special forms I must complete as a dual degree student prior to graduation from one or both of the units?
At the start of a dual degree program, law students are required to complete a Dual Degree Declaration Form. In addition, the Law School requires all students to complete various forms just prior to graduation. Other graduate and professional schools have similar requirements. In addition to those forms required by particular graduate units, any student obtaining a JD and one of the Rackham degrees must complete a Dual/Joint Degree Election Form prior to graduation.
May I take classes in the graduate unit during my first year of law school?
Except in very rare circumstances, only law courses may be taken during the first year of law school.
How many credits will the Law School count from the graduate unit?
The Law School will count up to 12 credits from another University of Michigan graduate unit. In order for a course to be counted toward the JD requirements, it must be taken after the student begins law studies and the student must earn at least a B- (or its equivalent) in the course.
What if, after starting a dual degree program, I decide to "drop out" and only pursue the JD?
The Law School counts up to 12 credits taken in a companion school even if a student is not registered for a dual degree, and imposes no penalty on a student who opts to discontinue a dual degree program.
Are the 12 credits from the U-M graduate unit calculated into my Law School GPA?
No. The 12 credits from the graduate school unit are counted on a mandatory pass/fail basis. No honor points are earned; nor is the grade calculated as part of the Law School GPA.
How do the mandatory pass/fail credits from the other graduate unit affect requirements for Law School honors recognition?
The double counted pass/fail credits from the companion program decrease the number of pass/fail credits available to students through the Law School. For Law School honors recognition (a final GPA of 3.4 and above), a student must have a minimum of 63 graded credit hours.
Can dual degree students also complete a Law School externship for credit?
Academic regulations make it difficult for a dual degree student to do an externship. However, practical or hands-on opportunities may be available for credit through the Law School's clinical program or the companion school. Summer jobs and school-year pro bono activities are other great ways to gain practical experience.
How does the Law school's "64 credit rule" impact students pursuing a dual degree?
By ABA rule, all law school graduates must have 64 credit hours in "regularly scheduled law classes." First year courses, upper class courses, law courses taken outside of Michigan Law, seminars, and most clinical law courses count toward fulfilling this requirement. Independent research, externships, and non-law courses do not.
How does the Law School's "residency rule" affect dual degree students?
Law students must complete six full time terms or their equivalent in law school. A full time term requires carriage throughout the term and completion of at least 10 credit hours with a grade of D or better.
Is it possible to do an "ad hoc" dual degree program either at U-M or with another institution?
Yes. Students interested in such programs should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
What can I do with a dual degree?
While some people want to pursue a dual degree simply out of academic interest, most students are thinking about the potential career benefits that might accrue. Those vary, of course, depending on the degree. Our most common dual degree is the JD+MBA, from which people often pursue corporate law placements in the largest firms, or work in consulting firms; graduates with a JD+MPH might pursue work at a private sector law firm working on health care regulations, or for the Food & Drug Administration, or in an industry support organization; those with a JD+MPP are well-suited to a wide array of positions at nonprofits or in the government.
Whether a degree beyond the JD makes sense for you will depend on your specific career goals, but if you’re so inclined, there are perhaps two other universities in the nation with equivalent strength in other departments and schools. To put it mildly, it is hard to do better than Michigan when it comes to interdisciplinary work.
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