Dual JD/MA in Philosophy

This program allows students to combine coursework in law and philosophy. Successful candidates may earn both the JD and the MA degrees in the three years ordinarily required for law study, not the four years that would be required if the degrees were pursued separately.

Academic Requirements

To earn the MA, students must earn at least 32 credits from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GRS).

The following are special provisions applicable to the MA component of the JD/MA dual degree program:

  • Students must take at least four graduate-level courses in the Philosophy Department at GRS.
  • Students also must take a jurisprudence or legal-theory course cross-listed between the School of Law and the Philosophy Department. Such a course has been offered each year. The student may register for this course in either the law school or GRS.
  • In addition to the courses mentioned above, students may apply to the MA degree any combination of (1) law courses approved by the program’s Joint Advisory Board as MA-relevant and (2) additional graduate-level courses in the Philosophy Department.
  • Students must satisfy the Philosophy Department’s MA thesis requirement in one of the following two ways:
    • Joint paper satisfying both the School of Law’s Upperclass Writing Requirement and the MA thesis requirement. With approval from a member of the Advisory Board, students may pursue both requirements with a single paper. Such a paper must be supervised by a faculty member appointed by the Board, and it must include a balance of philosophical and legal material. Ordinarily, the minimum length for the paper is 35 pages. The usual JD Upperclass Writing Requirements apply. The joint-paper project begins with a detailed proposal for study, submitted to a member of the Advisory Board. Students are strongly encouraged to submit proposals before their final year of law study, or at the very latest, by the beginning of that year. No proposal may be submitted after the end of the second week of the student’s final semester.
    • Independent MA thesis. Students who choose not to submit a joint paper, or whose joint paper has been finally rejected for MA purposes, may receive the MA only by submitting a paper that meets the Philosophy Department’s ordinary MA thesis standards, including the requirement of an oral defense.

Through either examination or coursework, students must demonstrate competence in logic. Information about this requirement is available from the Philosophy Department.

Under GRS rules, each graduate-level course offered in the Philosophy Department earns 4 GRS credits toward the 32 credits required for the MA. That means that the ordinary MA student can reach the 32 credits with just eight GRS courses. For two reasons, however, the situation for JD/MA students is more complicated.

  1. The School of Law is subject to ABA-imposed accreditation rules from which GRS is exempt. Under these rules, LAW may give only 3 credits toward the JD degree for GRS courses—even though those courses earn 4 credits toward the MA. Moreover, almost all of the LAW courses approved for MA credit are 3-credit courses. That means that the JD/MA student who applies a mix of GRS and LAW courses toward the MA will need more than eight applicable courses to reach the required 32 credits.
  2. Law students may apply no more than 12 “outside” credits to the JD. The JD/MA student will reach that number with four GRS courses in philosophy. A fifth GRS course would count toward the MA, but it would not count toward the JD.

If the student wants all MA-applicable courses to count toward the JD, then the student should take just four GRS philosophy courses and register for the required cross-listed jurisprudence/legal theory course on the LAW side. Assuming the student makes that choice, there are various strategies for reaching the 32 GRS credits required for the MA:

  • If one of the student’s MA-applicable LAW courses produces 4 credits rather than 3, then the student can reach 32 with just four additional LAW courses.
  • If each of the student’s MA-applicable LAW courses yields just 3 credits, then the student would have two choices:
    1. The student could take five approved LAW courses (in addition to the required jurisprudence/legal theory course).
    2. With approval, the student could earn a 4th credit in the required jurisprudence/legal theory course by doing extra work—generally a longer paper, with accordingly higher expectations for depth and quality of research.

Students may satisfy the MA 32-credit requirement in other ways, but for reasons explained above, most students likely will want to follow one of the paths suggested.

Please feel free to contact Professor Hugh Baxter for clarification and further advice about the program’s rules.


The dual degree program is administered by a Joint Advisory Board. The Board consists of at least two faculty members affiliated with the School of Law and at least two affiliated with the Philosophy Department. The Board establishes the list of MA-eligible law courses. A member of the Board will be appointed each year as the student’s advisor.


Students must be admitted separately to the School of Law and the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

The following special provisions apply to applications by prospective JD/MA students:

  • Students may apply to GRS either before or during the first year of law school. Accepted students will begin the MA program in their second year of law school.
  • Students may use their School of Law applications to apply to GRS, provided that they submit a copy to GRS and indicate that they are applying to the JD/MA program in Law & Philosophy.
  • Provided that they submit copies to GRS, students may use the recommendations and personal statements submitted for admission to the School of Law.
  • GRS will accept the LSAT score in lieu of the GRE. Students should provide a copy of their Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) reports to GRS.
  • Students must submit to GRS a writing sample that demonstrates their philosophical abilities.
  • All applicants should have a substantial background in philosophy—ordinarily the equivalent of an undergraduate major, and typically with an average of B or higher.


Students pay a single tuition, applicable to both programs.