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Northwestern's JD-PhD program is open to students who intend to pursue an academic or research career and whose teaching and research will be enriched by both degrees. The program is designed to allow students to complete both degrees more effectively than they would through consecutive degree programs. Students are able to complete the entire program, including dissertation, in as few as six years.

Northwestern JD-PhD graduates have obtained faculty positions in law and graduate schools as well as prestigious judicial clerkships.

Advantages of Northwestern's JD-PhD Program

The Most Integrated Program of its Kind

The program offers a coherent course of study on a set track that integrates the rigorous terrains of doctoral and law studies. Faculty members from each of the schools jointly supervise students' research and dissertations.

An Accelerated Course of Study

Students can complete the entire program in as few as six years (varies by department). All students can earn both degrees more quickly than they would through consecutive degree programs. JD-PhD students spend the first two years doing graduate-level course work in various disciplines through The Graduate School, the following two years at the Law School, and the final years completing their dissertations.

A Strong Community

Students from various doctoral programs are treated as a cohort, so they have a community of peers in law, in their disciplines, and among those seeking the combined degree. Both law and graduate school faculty are involved at every step to support students' progress in the program and to ensure that each student progresses consistently.

An Important Qualification

There is a growing trend among top law schools to hire faculty who have PhDs as well as law degrees. Northwestern's JD-PhD program presents the most efficient option to obtain these credentials.

Outstanding Faculty

Interdisciplinary study is a hallmark of Northwestern and the Law School has a higher percentage of PhD-trained scholars than any top law school in the country.

The Most Generous Funding in the Country

Northwestern offers the most financially generous JD-PhD program in the country, typically providing full funding—including tuition and living expenses—for six academic years and five summers.

Students can select a doctoral program in any discipline, provided they can incorporate their interest in law with their graduate research, and they can complete a dissertation that draws on both disciplines.

Northwestern JD-PhD students have come from a range of PhD programs, including: African-American Studies; Anthropology; Economics; Finance; History; Media, Technology & Society; Political Science; Philosophy; Psychology; Religion; Sociology; and Civil Engineering. 

The JD-PhD Program has a strong relationship with the American Bar Foundation (ABF), a research institution dedicated to the study of law and legal institutions through the lens of social science. Several ABF researchers teach at Northwestern University and are eager to work with JD-PhD students.

Year One

  • Graduate School course work
  • Summer - Graduate School research

Year Two

  • Graduate School course work
  • Summer - Graduate School research

Year Three

  • Law School course work
  • Summer - Graduate School and/or Law School research
  • Advancement to PhD candidacy before start of year four

Year Four

  • Law School course work and Graduate Assistantship or TA
  • Summer - Submission of prospectus before start of year five

Year Five

  • Research at the Law School or Graduate School
  • Summer - Submission of prospectus before start of year six

Year Six

  • Writing and completion of dissertation

* Subject to PhD departmental requirements

Graduation Requirements

Both the JD and PhD are awarded concurrently after all degree requirements are satisfied for both programs, including completion of:

  • Two years of Law School credit hours in addition to the 14 credit hours awarded for law-related interdisciplinary graduate course work, 
  • All Law School requirements apart from course hours, and
  • All course work and other requirements, including the dissertation, that are necessary for the PhD. 

JD-PhD students are required to have a member of the Northwestern Law faculty on their dissertation committee. Doing so satisfies the Law School writing requirement.


Applicants to Northwestern's JD-PhD program must meet the admission requirements of both the Law School and The Graduate School to gain admittance into the program. The program has a single, integrated online application, which means applicants need only submit one application.

Applicants should follow the instructions for applying as outlined on The Graduate School's website, as well as complete the additional instructions set out below. International students must also meet the requirements for certification of language proficiency. 

Both The Graduate School and Law School admissions offices review each application. The schools sometimes award admission independently if the joint application does not result in an offer of admission.

Effective September 2016, individuals who have completed a year of law school at an institution other than Northwestern University will not be eligible to apply to the joint JD-PhD program. Such students, however, may apply separately to The Graduate School and, as a transfer student, to the Law School. Students who successfully gain admission to the Law School will be required to complete all requirements associated with transfer students, including two years in residence at the Law School. Financial aid will be awarded in a manner consistent with prevailing Law School practices and policies for transfer students. Students should consult The Graduate School for information concerning their related programmatic and funding policies.


Students admitted to the JD-PhD program are typically granted full funding (including tuition and all living expenses) for six academic years and five summers.

This funding is contingent upon the student entering an academic position within four years of graduation from the program or a position with an organization whose primary stated mission is to conduct research.

Students who can demonstrate a good faith effort* to secure an academic position, who obtain a position with an organization whose mission is research based, or who experience a significant life event** that interrupts their academic job search will be excluded from this policy.

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