Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD)

Degree Overview

The SJD program at Iowa Law is intended for students who wish to conduct original and advanced legal research under faculty supervision.

Come study with internationally known faculty, including:

John Reitz, former president of the American Society for Comparative Law, and author of numerous publications on the political economy of legal systems and the transplantation of the rule of law.
Adrien Wing, Associate Dean for International & Comparative Law Programs, director of the UI Center for Human Rights and renowned expert in critical race theory and law in the Muslim world.
Thomas Gallanis, a specialist in cross-border and international wealth transfer, and comparative trust law, and a former visiting fellow at All Souls  College, Oxford, and Magdalene College, Cambridge.
Ann Laquer Estin, an active member of the International Society of Family Law, and an expert Observer at the Hague Conference on Private    International Law.
Maya Steinitz, a member of the ICC Commission
on Arbitration and of the Court of the Jerusalem Arbitration Center, who specializes in transnational dispute resolution, international business law, and the global legal profession.

The SJD programs has other advantages at Iowa:

  • As a member of our academic community, you will interact with our students and faculty, participate in faculty workshops, and present your own work from comment.
  • You will be able to conduct your research at the Iowa Law library, one of the three largest academic law libraries in the country with vast collections of international, comparative, and foreign law materials, including 4,500 volumes of rare books on British, US, French, and German law.  Reference librarians specially trained in foreign, comparative, and international law research can assist you with research.
  • The Iowa Law Writing Resource Center is available to help with legal writing as you develop your publishable dissertation.
  • The University of Iowa is a top public university with world-renowned specialties in fiction and non-fiction writing, business, engineering, health sciences, and liberal arts.  You will have the opportunity to collaborate with scholars from other disciplines.
  • Enjoy a quintessential American "college" town with a large international student population, a distinct cosmopolitan flavor, and a friendly and comfortable atmosphere.  Iowa City is also a UNESCO City of Literarture.

To learn more about how to apply, see our Application Process page for this program.

Additional Information

How does the SJD program work? To earn the SJD degree each student must complete a year of residence (with specific credit hour and other requirements) and then complete a doctoral dissertation.  The SJD dissertation is expected to be a substantial work of publishable quality that makes a significant and original contribution to legal scholarship.

What do I need to know about the Thesis Proposal? The thesis proposal is a key component of the SJD application.  During the year in residence, SJD candidates will refine their topic proposal, begin drafting chapters, and present the work.  SJD candidates will then have five years to complete the dissertation and defend it before the dissertation committee.

Are there more SJD requirements?  For a complete statement of SJD requirements, review the PDF iconSJD Program Description.

Costs and Financial Aid

Costs and Research Assistant Positions

Tuition costs and costs of living at Iowa are significantly lower than at some peer institutions, please refer to tuition rates and estimated costs (click on “International” if appropriate) for complete information.  The costs estimate for SJD students is based on 18 credits for the first year in residence.  SJD students who have not earned an LLM will have to take a total of 24 credits.  For these costs, see the tuition costs for the LLM degree.  Once the student has been promoted to SJD candidacy, the costs for each subsequent fall or spring semester will be the tuition and fees for only two credits at the applicable SJD rates for that semester.

Note that the tuition charts show a reduced tuition rate for SJD students employed as quarter-time research assistants (150 hours per semester).  Research Assistant positions are the main form of financial aid Iowa Law provides for the SJD program.  In addition to the reduced tuition, research assistants earn modest wages and enjoy reduced rates on health insurance.  To apply for research assistantships, indicate on your SJD application that you wish to be considered for financial aid, and make sure to fill out the application entitled, "Financial Statement for International Students."

Financial Aid

Under current federal regulations, only US citizens and permanent residents are eligible for federal student loans.  Applicants who are not eligible for federal student loans may qualify for private loan programs. 

We encourage you to look aggressively for funding elsewhere.  International students should consider applying for such US 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.