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JD/PhD in Criminology and Justice Policy OR JD/MS in Crime and Justice Studies


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I am currently finishing up a dual-degree program for an MLIS (Masters of Library and Information Science) and MA (Master of Arts) in History. I want to be a law librarian and I know that it is best to get a JD for that on top of the MLIS. I also want to consult on criminal law cases so I thought it best to also get a PhD or MS in a field relating to that. I have found two programs that I like at Northeastern and Suffolk. The problem is that I'm not sure which one I like more.

I also wonder if I would even get in since I already have two masters. Is there such thing as having too much education for these things? I have to take the LSAT and possibly the GRE (again) which is a lot of money so if I don't have a chance, I'd rather not waste my time or money. I just know what I want to do with my life and I want to actually make a difference. 

Any/all insight is welcomed. Thank you for your time!


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  • 3 weeks later...


I think you may get a wide range of opinions on these questions, so take mine with a huge grain of salt! :) With that caveat: 

For your first question: why not apply to both programs? If you get into them both, you can decide later which is the better program, and you'll be able to do so with a lot more information.

As to the broader point, though, I am not sure I would recommend a joint JD/PhD program at all. In your case, I think the best argument for a joint JD/PhD is funding -- JD students pay their own way, and if you were in a funded PhD program, you could make up some of that. But I do think you may have trouble getting into a PhD program. It's not exactly that there's such a thing as too much education, it's that PhD programs are going to be looking for a clear sense of purpose and motivation to produce research in their field, and it doesn't sound like you intend for criminology to be your "real" field. If I were reviewing your JD application, your background would make perfect sense to me -- you are on a solid path toward becoming a law librarian, and you're absolutely right that it is best to have a JD and an MLIS. As long as your LSAT & GPA (which are far and away the most important things to JD programs) were good, I'd have no problem admitting you.

If I were reviewing your PhD application, though, I would wonder why you wanted a PhD in my field (whichever you wound up choosing) on top of a JD, an MLIS, and an MA in a fourth field. There, fit with a particular PI is much more important than test scores, so I'd want to see how your research goals aligned with mine. You don't specify what kind of consulting you want to do, but a PhD PI is going to be looking for a real desire to produce research in the PhD field, and they will want to see that your background makes "sense" in light of what you want to be doing. So, if you do apply to PhD programs, keep that in mind, and make sure that your statements express the clarity of purpose that you feel. You seem to have a good sense of what you want to do, and I'd lean heavily on that in your applications, being sure to explain how each academic program makes a unique contribution to your ultimate goals. You'll be fighting against the impression that you don't really know what you want to do and/or that you are doomed to be a professional student and/or that you have unrealistic expectations about your future career, so those are the things you will want to (subtly) address in your statements -- and, if possible, ask your letter writers to dispel those ideas as well.

One last note (minor compared to the others): Having completed both a PhD and a JD, I really don't think joint programs are a great idea on the whole. Both programs are remarkably demanding of your time, energy, and emotions, and I can't imagine trying to do both at once and being able to do either one well. My friends who have done joint programs often feel isolated and frustrated -- like they are not at home in either program, with students and with faculty. So be sure to talk to students in whichever programs you eventually consider, and try to get a really good feel for how supported they are, and how successful they are in each program.  Good luck!!

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