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How is an MSL different from a JD?
USC Gould School of Law

Monday, September 9, 2019

Understanding the law is essential to reach a variety of professional goals, even if you don’t want to become a lawyer. The Juris Doctor (JD) and Master of Studies in Law (MSL) degrees offered by USC Gould School of Law provide comprehensive, in-depth legal knowledge to redefine your career.

JD (Juris Doctor) vs. MSL (Master of Studies in Law) Degree Comparison

The primary difference between an MSL and JD is the professional goal you want to achieve.
• To improve your legal skills and work as a lawyer, you will need to earn a JD.
• To improve your legal skills and work with lawyers, you should pursue an MSL.

Test Requirements & Time Commitment


  • JD applicants are required to submit GRE or LSAT scores in order to apply.
  • JD students must attend full-time on campus for 3 years to earn the degree.


  • MSL applicants are required to have completed a bachelor’s degree in any field. No GRE or LSAT is needed.
  • MSL students may attend full-time or part-time, online or on-campus, for as few as 12-16 months to earn the degree.


  • Can you transfer MSL credits to a JD program? No.
  • Is the MSL a preparation course for the JD? No.

A Legal Program Designed for You
USC Gould School of Law is committed to advancing your career and supporting your success, whichever degree you pursue. All of our JD and MSL students benefit from world-class faculty lectures, future-focused coursework and dedicated career services during their time as students and beyond.

Please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page for additional insights into the MSL degree.

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