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Department of Justice, Law & Criminology


SPA: Graduate Admissions
(202) 885-6230
Kerwin Hall, Room 306

SPA: Graduate Admissions
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016
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JD/MS in Justice, Law & Society

American University's JD/MS joint degree allows you to earn, concurrently, a juris doctor (JD) from the Washington College of Law (WCL) and a master of science in justice, law and criminology (MS) from the School of Public Affairs (SPA), Department of Justice, Law & Criminology. The justice, law and criminology program has been rated among the nation's top three justice-related programs in the area of scholarly faculty publications.

The joint JD/MS offers an enriching cross-disciplinary study of law and social science. Many of the fundamental concepts addressed in your legal education will be expanded through the MS program, providing you with a different, and ultimately, broader perspective. For example, many of the important ideas in law are founded on philosophical or empirical assumptions that receive little discussion in any law school curriculum due to time constraints. Because the JD/MS courses in SPA offer a comprehensive understanding of these important concepts, the joint program is ideally suited for those who desire a thorough understanding of how law intersects with theories of justice and justice systems in our society. You will find it especially valuable if you are seeking a career in criminal justice, court management and administration, or teaching law or justice at the college level.

Program Requirements
To receive the joint degree, you must satisfy the requirements for the JD in the Washington College of Law and also all requirements for the MS in the Department of Justice, Law and Criminology of the School of Public Affairs You may apply 6 credit hours of law courses toward the MS degree requirements as well as 6 credit hours of Department of Justice, Law and Criminology courses toward the JD degree requirements. The joint degree option allows you to complete both degrees in approximately four years of full-time study, much sooner than if you pursued the degrees separately.
In this program, you enhance your general legal education with intensive study in the following areas:

  • philosophical and moral foundations of justice systems
  • nature and causes of social problems, crime, conflict, and injustice in society
  • analysis of the actual operations of the criminal, juvenile, civil, and international justice systems and their impact on society
  • the functioning of legislative and regulatory agencies
  • the broad range of laws, public policies, and informal mechanisms for dealing with crime, conflict, and injustice in society and for resolving problems of justice
  • theories of planning and management for courts, correctional, and law enforcement institutions
  • strategies for introducing constructive change in justice systems
  • institutions and organizations involved in justice issues, including legal, constitutional, civil, criminal, social, and mental health groups
  • methods of research study in justice

Degree Requirements

  • Master of Science
    • you may transfer 6 JD credit hours toward your MS degree
    • a total of 33 credit hours in approved graduate work
    • one written comprehensive examination covering both concentration areas (justice and public policy; law and society)
    • two research courses (73.680 and 73.681), in lieu of a thesis (prerequisite: a course in basic statistics or proficiency examination equivalent)
  • Juris Doctor
    • a total of 86 credit hours, including 6 MS credit hours you may transfer toward your JD degree

Related Activities
In the joint degree program you have access to the vast educational resources available in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. These include the consortium of universities' libraries, federal agencies, associations, and embassies. Numerous opportunities exist for internships, externships, and field placements through the university's Cooperative Education Program and the Washington College of Law's externship program.

As a first-year student, you will receive academic counseling on curriculum planning from law school faculty assigned to advise you. WCL's Office of Student Affairs is also available for academic and personal counseling. You should direct administrative and academic questions related to SPA to the JD/MS graduate counselor in the Department of Justice, Law and Criminology. Faculty in both schools are excellent resources for the details of specific courses and are noted for their accessibility to students.

Career counseling is readily available to you through WCL's Office of Career & Professional Development, SPA's Department of Justice, Law and Criminology, and the university's Career Center. WCL's Office of Career & Professional Development provides current information on various law firms, corporations, public interest groups, and governmental agencies. In addition to coordinating on-campus recruitment, the office also advises you on resume preparation and other employment related topics. Both SPA and WCL have established a network of alumni to assist you with job placement. The university's Career Center offers similar programs, but on a broader scale, targeted for the full range of university programs. SPA's Department of Justice, Law and Criminology provides you with a wide variety of justice-related internship possibilities.

The university and the law school have a number of student groups whose activities you may find of interest. At the law school, these groups include the staffs of American University Law Review, American University journal of International Law and Policy, and Administrative Law Review. Relevant WCL organizations include the Student Bar Association, the Criminal Law Society, and the Juvenile Justice Society. As a student in the School of Public Affairs you may participate in the SPA Graduate Student Council and the Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society.

How to Apply
You should submit application materials to the Washington College of Law and indicate in the "degree objective" portion of the application that you are applying for the JD/MS program. You are judged on the same criteria as non joint-degree candidates. If you are accepted by the law school, your application is forwarded to the School of Public Affairs for review. SPA will accept Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores in lieu of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) aptitude scores.

If you are already enrolled at the law school, you may apply to the joint degree program by requesting in writing that the law school registrar's office forward your application and transcripts to the School of Public Affairs, Department of Justice, Law and Criminology.

Apply to SPA Graduate Programs

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