What can you do with a law degree?

A Juris Doctor or JD is a foundational law degree for aspiring attorneys. In most U.S. states, it is impossible to sit for the bar exam and become licensed to practice law without a JD. Often lasting three years, a JD program can prepare you for a broad array of legal careers with courses on civil procedure, constitutional law, criminal law, and more.

A JD can also be useful outside of typical legal settings like the courtroom if you know how to leverage your education within a specific industry. Alternatively, those who wish to specialize in a particular field of law can earn a Master of Laws (LLM) after completing a JD program. LLM programs generally take a year to complete.

Read on to learn more about traditional law jobs and non-lawyer jobs you may pursue with a law degree.

The program cards featured on this page were last updated in November 2021. For the most current program information, please refer to the official website of the respective school.  

Pepperdine University

Caruso School of Law


Online LLM in Dispute Resolution

Online LLM in Dispute Resolution from ABA-accredited Straus Institute. Become an effective mediator in 12 months. JD required. 

  • JD degree or international equivalent required
  • No GMAT or GRE required
  • Complete in as few as 12 months


JD-preferred career options

Earning a JD can lead to a number of professional opportunities that offer career advancement and above average salaries. To qualify as a JD holder, you must complete three years of law school. After completing law school, many graduates will go on to take the bar exam. However, some individuals forgo taking the bar and are able to find jobs geared at legal experts who prefer not to practice law. Such roles are known as JD-preferred jobs or JD-advantage jobs.

What is a JD-preferred job?

A JD-preferred or JD-advantage job is a type of job that does not require a passing score on the bar exam.

Employers will consider a job applicant who has a JD but hasn’t passed the bar exam. A candidate’s knowledge of the law, acquired through a JD program, and/or experience in a law-related capacity are deemed useful within the available role.

From financial advisors to legal writers, there are numerous positions available for individuals with law degrees that do not require passing the bar exam. These jobs can be found in the business sector, in government, and in public interest organizations.

Here are some JD-preferred careers to consider: 

Certified public accountants (CPAs) are responsible for preparing and examining financial records. A CPA makes sure that personal and business financial records are accurate, and taxes are paid correctly and on time. A CPA must also understand and assess financial operations to make strategic recommendations to clients. This helps businesses and individuals identify ways to increase revenue, reduce costs, or improve profit margins. 

CPAs can work as sole proprietors or within large financial institutions. Regardless of practice setting, a background in law can be beneficial. A CPA with a legal degree can leverage their knowledge of state laws and regulations when completing their daily tasks. In 2022, the median annual wage for accountants and auditors in the U.S. was $78,000, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

A CFO works to maintain the financial wellbeing of a company and provides financial projections and accounting services. This position can be found in both the public and private sectors. CFOs may gain financial and business skills through previous education and experience and fine-tune those skills during a JD or JD-MBA program.

CFOs oversee various departments including accounting and finance, while ensuring the company is in good financial standing. In many large companies, the CFO works directly with the CEO and other executives. For smaller companies, the CFO may also be responsible for leading legal and human resources teams. Although the BLS doesn’t provide information on salaries for CFOs exclusively, they did report that the median annual pay for financial managers in 2022 was nearly $140,000. Experienced financial managers can become CFOs.

HR managers work within a company to manage employee relations, policies, internal programs, and best practices. An effective HR employee must have strong communication and relationship building skills. They must also be detail-oriented and organized. Having a background in law can help an HR professional as they often employ, enforce, and communicate a company’s legal compliance directives. 

The BLS reports that the median annual pay for HR managers in 2022 was $130,000, with employment expected to grow at a rate of 5% from 2022 to 2032.

Claims departments of insurance companies are just one of the many professional settings where you might find an insurance adjuster. Professionals in this role investigate insurance claims and determine if the insurance company should pay a claim and for how much. To do this, they may conduct interviews with witnesses, consult hospital and police records, and inspect property damage to determine liability. 

Other adjusters can also represent policyholders and aid in the preparation of an insurance claim. As of 2022, the median annual wage for claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators was just over $72,000. The highest 10 percent of adjusters earn more than $102,000, according to the BLS.

A mediator guides conflicting parties through negotiation with the goal of settling on a mutually agreed upon solution. Some mediators work within the court system, while others can find positions within the private sector and carry out negotiations without ever having to stand before a judge. Insurance and finance industries are examples of where a mediator can work. 

Unlike arbitrators, mediators cannot make any binding decisions. They focus on reaching an outcome amicably. Pay for mediators varies by industry. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators in 2022 was slightly more than $64,000.

A legal consultant is similar to a management analyst, in that they propose ways to improve an organization’s efficiency. Legal consultants also provide expertise and professional legal advice to businesses or individuals.

Depending on the consulting focus, a legal consultant can advise on a number of important matters such as corporate law, real estate law, employment law, and medical law. A legal consultant can work on their own or belong to a consulting services firm. In 2020, half of all management analysts earned more than $87,660. Pay for this position could be higher or lower depending on the type of consulting offered and employer.

A legal technologist combines legal expertise with technological proficiency to enhance legal processes and improve efficiency within the legal industry. They leverage technology solutions, such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, and automation tools, to streamline tasks like document reviews, contract analysis, and legal research. Legal technologists play a pivotal role in developing and implementing software and platforms tailored to meet the specific needs of legal professionals, facilitating quicker and more accurate decision-making. Additionally, they often collaborate with law firms or legal departments to assess and integrate new technologies, ensuring they align with regulatory requirements and security standards. Salaries for legal technologists can vary by employer.

Pepperdine University

Caruso School of Law


Master of Legal Studies

The online Master of Legal Studies program from Pepperdine Caruso School of Law. No GRE or LSAT scores are required to apply.

  • No GRE or LSAT scores required to apply 
  • Complete in as few as 12 months 
  • Dispute resolution concentration available

American University

Washington College of Law


Master of Legal Studies

American University’s online Master of Legal Studies program prepares students to apply legal concepts to their everyday role. The program can be completed in 12 months. No GRE/LSAT required to apply.

  • Complete in as few as 12 months 
  • No GRE/LSAT scores required to apply 
  • Four tracks available: General MLS, Business, Health Care Compliance, and Technology 
  • Three certificates available: Business, Health Care Compliance, and Technology


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Alternative careers for lawyers

In addition to JD-preferred roles, there are a variety of alternative careers for lawyers and law school graduates. A law degree can be useful if you want to redirect your professional trajectory and use current skills in a new industry. Learn about potential careers below:

A business development professional identifies growth opportunities for a company, fostering strategic partnerships, and expanding its market presence. Understanding the law is crucial in negotiating contracts, ensuring compliance, and mitigating risks. Legal knowledge aids in structuring deals, navigating regulatory landscapes, and safeguarding the company from legal pitfalls. It enables the professional to draft agreements, assess legal implications of business decisions, and contribute to ethical and transparent practices. In essence, combining business development skills with legal acumen enhances a professional’s ability to drive sustainable growth while minimizing legal challenges.

Professionals with legal degrees may focus their careers on compliance. Compliance professionals ensure that a company adheres to laws, regulations, and internal policies. They assess and mitigate risks, develop and implement compliance programs, conduct audits, and educate employees on regulatory requirements. Their role is crucial in maintaining ethical business practices, preventing legal issues, and safeguarding the company’s reputation. The 2022 median annual wage for compliance officers was nearly $72,000.

A financial advisor helps clients achieve financial security through goal setting and creating a financial plan to manage their investments and savings. Financial advisors can work within large firms or be sole proprietors. Professionals in this role need a strong understanding of the law to navigate complex regulatory frameworks, ensure legal compliance, and protect their clients’ financial interests. In 2022, the median annual wages for personal financial advisors was just over $95,000, according to the BLS.

If you have a strong academic background, have gained expertise in a specific legal field through your LLM education, and enjoy research and teaching, you may want to consider a career as a law professor. Law professors are needed at colleges and professional schools. According to the BLS, professors who teach law classes and are also engaged in research earned a median annual wage of nearly $109,000 in 2022.

Legal writing is a form of technical writing that is utilized by many of the professionals within the law landscape. An effective legal writer is apt at communicating facts, conclusions, intentions, and can correlate cases or documents in an easy to understand way. Legal writers are needed in the courtroom and for textbook writing. 

Legal writers can also find positions drafting articles for publications, creating web content as copywriters, or writing press releases and presentations for law offices. In 2022, technical writers earned a median annual wage of nearly $80,000, according to BLS data.

You don’t need to be a practicing lawyer to work within the U.S. patent or trademark office. A bachelor’s is the minimum educational requirement. A patent examiner reviews legal documents, files paperwork, writes legal office actions, and researches invention information. Pay for patent examiners varies widely.

Some of the same qualities required to be a stellar lawyer in the courtroom are also needed for journalism. Analytical, research, and people skills are crucial for a journalist. During your JD studies, you’ll learn how to weave together logical conclusions or assumptions from limited information, a skill that will come in handy in the journalism field. The median annual wage for reporters, news analysts, and journalists in 2022 was nearly $56,000, according to the BLS.

Law firms need sophisticated marketers to support their business development initiatives. A legal marketer will work on tasks such as public relations, advertising, client relations, and networking at professional events to build awareness of the firm and attract potential clients. 

A JD may enable a marketing professional to better understand the work being done at the firm in order to more effectively market their services. This can potentially be a differentiator when competing for marketing jobs within the legal field. In 2022, the median annual wage for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers was just under $139,000, according to the BLS.

A law degree can help a politician understand and navigate the nuances of the legal system and deepen their understanding of past and current laws. The analytic and deductive skills learned in law school easily translate over to politics as problem-solving, critical thinking, and reasoning. The median annual wage for those entering the political office varies depending on the state, position, and tenure. 

What are the non-legal jobs with a law degree?

There is a lot that you can do with a law degree besides being a lawyer. Careers in consulting, marketing, or journalism are just a few professional tracks to consider. A non-legal career is a great option for JD graduates who want to leverage the skills they developed during their law school years in both the public and private sectors.

When considering the career options a law degree can afford you, note that job outlook, legal industry trends, and global events matter just as much as professional goals. Everything from the introduction of new technology to an international crisis can impact the law, legal practice, and even demand for professionals with legal expertise.

Learn more about online and hybrid JD programs in the U.S.

Last updated: November 2023