twitter facebook youtube linkedin flickr webmail
  • State College is consistently ranked as a top place to live in the U.S. because of its low crime rate, outstanding activities, and wide variety of outdoor activities.
  • Because fluency in legal English is so important, we provide many opportunities for foreign students to enhance their skills.

Degree Requirements

S.J.D. Degree Course of Study

The first year

An S.J.D. candidate will be appointed a faculty advisor who will supervise the candidate, organize an S.J.D. Candidate Advisory Committee, and serve as a member of the S.J.D. Candidate Advisory Committee.

Within a year, the Candidate Advisory Committee will conduct a progress evaluation of the candidate including a review of the candidate’s: (1) candidacy paper; and (2) oral presentation of the candidacy paper. The purpose of the evaluation is to determine whether the candidate has demonstrated reasonable progress toward the completion of the degree requirements.

S.J.D. candidates may enroll in (as an auditor) Penn State Law or Graduate School courses that the candidate and Faculty Advisor determine will be useful in pursuit of the candidate’s research proposal.

In addition, candidates must be a physical resident at Penn State Law and while resident must complete at least two semesters (excluding summer session) in full-time student status.

During these two semesters, the candidate must:

  • Participate in an S.J.D. Colloquium/Workshop which provides an opportunity for S.J.D. candidates in residence to present their work to faculty and others;
  • Conduct research on or off site from Penn State Law as required by the candidate’s research proposal;
  • Prepare a candidacy paper; and
  • Complete annually a Self-Evaluation report that explains progress toward completion of the degree requirements.

Second Year (or after 2 semesters in residence)

After two semesters in residence, the Candidate Advisory Committee will conduct a progress evaluation of the candidate including a review of the candidate’s: (1) candidacy paper; and (2) oral presentation of the candidacy paper. The candidacy paper must include a detailed bibliography, an outline, and first chapter of the dissertation. The purpose of the evaluation is to determine whether the candidate has demonstrated reasonable progress toward the completion of the degree requirements.

A candidate who is unable to complete these tasks within one calendar year of matriculation may apply to the Senior Associate Dean for an extension of time for good cause.

A candidate is eligible to remain in the S.J.D. program after one calendar year of matriculation only if the Candidate Advisory Committee concludes that the candidate’s work as of the Progress Evaluation shows reasonable progress towards completion of the requirements for the degree. The Candidate Advisory Committee will assess the candidate’s progress by evaluating the quality and originality of the thesis and argument presented orally and in the candidacy paper, the depth and breadth of research, the adequacy and sophistication of research methodology, and the strength of writing. Candidates who at this point are not deemed eligible to remain in the program shall be dismissed.

The Dissertation

Candidates who are deemed eligible to remain in the program based on the Progress Evaluation must, within three calendar years thereafter, complete a dissertation of a quality which the Candidate Advisory Committee deems suitable for publication by a leading academic press and defend the dissertation orally before the Candidate Advisory Committee. A candidate who is unable to complete a dissertation within three calendar years following the Progress Evaluation may apply to the Senior Associate Dean for an extension of time for good cause.

The Law School will assist candidates in their professional and career development throughout the process.

Research Services

University Libraries offers free courses on different tools for conducting research. For more information, visit the classes offered page of the University Libraries website.