SJD Program

Each year the College of Law welcomes students to pursue studies leading to the SJD (Doctor of Juridical Science) degree. We invite you to consider the ways in which graduate study in law at Iowa might meet your needs. We provide opportunities for in-depth research in a world-class setting. Our comfortable environment and affordable cost of living mean our graduate students get high value and support. Please explore the options below and consider the Iowa SJD Advantages.

You can download the application here.  Applications must be printed and mailed to the Office of Admissions.  They are not available to submit online.

As a top public law school, The University of Iowa College of Law offers a great deal for prospective graduate students.

In-depth Research: If you are interested in research, the Iowa SJD provides a setting that encourages close collaboration with renowned experts in comparative law, antitrust law, law and economics, law and society and international law. Your thesis will represent the culmination of research conducted in our world-class law library, which includes an extensive international and comparative law collection.

Academic Collegiality: As a member of our academic community, you will interact with our JD candidates, other graduate students and international visiting scholars. You will be invited to participate in faculty workshops, and can present your own work for comment.

World Class Setting: The University of Iowa is a top public institution with world renowned business, engineering, health, and liberal arts specialties. Our tradition of interdisciplinary work provides exciting opportunities for students to collaborate with scholars from other disciplines. The small size of our program allows you to get to know the law school and university academic community well.

Comfortable Environment and Affordable Cost of Living: The University of Iowa is located in Iowa City, a comfortable, friendly community that is known equally for its academic excellence and cultural environment. Iowa City is a manageable size, but more affordable—both in terms of tuition and living expenses—than many of the large cities that are a close drive away. Immerse yourself in the environment of our vibrant campus, the literary culture of this UNESCO City of Literature, or in the music and art of the many festivals that occur throughout the year. Or travel the short distances to Chicago, Minneapolis or St. Louis to enjoy the offerings of a big city environment. (Wondering what it's like to visit Iowa?  Check out this video.)

Value and Support: Tuition costs and costs of living at Iowa are significantly lower than at peer institutions. Tuition discounts are provided for students employed by faculty as research assistants, and some scholarships are available as well.  
The Iowa Advantages: Iowa Law’s graduate programs offer many advantages

  • A top-ranked law faculty teaching issues at the forefront of today's legal developments
  • The College of Law being part of a major research university
  • Special facilities for foreign and international work, including one of the largest law libraries in the country and a Writing Resource Center for help with legal writing
  • Availability of English as a Second Language (ESL) assistance, including the possibility of conditional admittance
  • Tuition costs and cost of living that are below peer institutions
  • A small program that allows close interaction between faculty and students
  • A university town that combines the friendliness and ease of living—for which the region is justly famous—with first-class cultural and sporting events

Admissions Guidelines
There are two paths of entry to the Iowa SJD program:

  1. Apply directly to the Iowa SJD Program: those interested in the SJD track may apply directly to the SJD program.
  2. Apply to the Iowa SJD Program from an LLM Program: those interested in the SJD track may also apply from the Iowa LLM program or, in some circumstances, from another law school’s LLM program. Additional course work may be required.

Iowa’s graduate law program is deliberately kept small so that our students can receive substantial attention from the faculty. Therefore, admission is competitive. To be admitted, all applicants must present evidence of high academic potential and strong recommendations, especially from law professors who supervised their work in classes or seminars.

Academic Requirements for Application to the Program
United States law graduates who apply for this graduate degree must have obtained a JD degree from a law school that is a member of the Association of American Law Schools or approved by the American Bar Association.

Foreign law graduates must have completed the basic course of university studies that qualifies the candidate to sit for the bar examination (e.g., the French maîtrise, the German "first state bar examination"). If the home country bar exam does not require a specific degree, applicants should either be experienced members of the bar or have completed the first university degree in law or a multi-year masters program in law.

All applicants must present evidence (university transcripts and letters of recommendation) that they are serious students with a solid record of academic and professional achievement. In evaluating foreign transcripts, we rely heavily on recommendation letters, especially from academics, that explain in detail the basis for their recommendation.

English Requirements
Applicants who have not completed a bachelor's degree at an accredited university in the U.S. or an equivalent degree at an accredited English-language university in Australia, Canada (excluding Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom must also have achieved a score of at least 580 (paper)/237 (computer)/92 (Internet) on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Waiver of the TOEFL or IELTS requirements are not normally granted. Students will be tested at matriculation and may be required to take English classes before enrolling in law courses. The University's TOEFL code is 6681. For more information, visit: There are limited opportunities for conditional admittance to the program for students who do not meet these requirements; please inquire.

Degree Requirements
To earn the SJD degree, each student must successfully complete a course of a minimum of 24 hours of academic credit, as approved by his or her faculty advisor, and complete a doctoral thesis. The 24 credit hours are to be earned from the law school's general course offerings, with the exception of specific graduate courses noted below.

  • SJD candidates without a JD degree must take the LLM orientation course to the US legal system (two credits in August before the start of the fall semester).
  • LLM Seminar, a research and writing course which will serve as the foundation for the SJD thesis.

With the exception of the LLM orientation course and the LLM Seminar, courses will be selected in close consultation with the faculty advisor. While SJD students take most courses, alongside regular JD students, from the law school's regular offerings—especially its rich offerings on US, international, and comparative law—students may also explore studies in other university departments.

The thesis topic will be developed with the advice of the candidate’s faculty advisor and thesis committee. Ordinarily a candidate will complete his or her thesis and other degree requirements within three years of starting the program.

SJD candidates will be responsible for appropriate tuition while engaged in coursework, and subject to some fees while completing research and residency requirements.

Tuition costs and costs of living at Iowa are significantly lower than at peer institutions; estimated costs are available here (and click on "International," if appropriate).  The rate is $20,000 per year for the residents of the state of Iowa, and $24,000 per year for residents of other states and foreign countries.  The new tuition rates will go into effect fall of 2014.  Tuition discounts (at the resident rate) are provided for students employed by faculty as research assistants, and many graduate students take advantage of this opportunity. Please click on the International tab on this page for specific information on “International Students with ¼-time or Greater Assistantships" and "International Students without Assistantships."The costs include an estimate of living expenses for twelve months. The total shown on that document is the amount of support from all sources that foreign students will need to show in order to obtain a student visa. It is reasonable to expect these amounts to increase somewhat each year.

Housing estimates apply to on-campus or moderately priced off-campus housing, to sharing housing with at least one other person, to maintaining a modest style of living, and to exhibiting careful financial management.

Since costs for major medical care in the United States are very high, the University requires international students to purchase health insurance through the University or show that they have equivalent coverage of at least $75,000. In addition, students are strongly advised to provide health insurance for any dependents who will be here with them. Figures quoted are estimates. Students with assistantships have a lower cost for insurance.

Additional Estimated Costs for Students Bringing Dependents
Students whose spouse and child(ren) plan to accompany them to Iowa City on F-2 or J-2 visas must present additional evidence of sufficient financial support for their dependents' living expenses and health insurance costs. (If your family members plan to join you later, you may submit your proof of additional financial support after you arrive in Iowa City.) Students with young children requiring full-time daycare should expect to pay more than $200 per week for each child. (All figures quoted are subject to change without notification.)

Financial Aid
The chief financial support the College provides is to hire graduate law students as quarter-time research assistants (10 hours per week for a total of 300 hours over the fall and spring semesters). In addition to wages, the position entitles the out-of-state student to pay tuition at the in-state rate, which is a substantial savings.

To apply for research assistantships and scholarships, simply indicate on your application that you need financial support to attend. Whether or not you are applying for financial aid, for visa purposes all international students must also fill out the section of the application entitled "Financial Statement for International Students."

We encourage you to look aggressively for funding elsewhere. International students should consider applying for such U.S. programs as Fulbright; the Muskie Program for countries of the former Soviet Union or the Ron Brown Fellowships for Eastern Europe; as well as pursuing funding possibilities within their own countries, with international bodies, and with private foundations like Ford, Soros, Rotary International, the Asia Foundation, and the American Association of University Women. Students whose home universities participate in the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP) may be able to come under that program without paying more tuition than their home university charges.