Frequently Asked Questions

Academics answers

How many years does the JSP program usually take?

It generally takes six years to complete the Ph.D. program. It can take seven years if the student also earns their JD at Berkeley Law with the JSP Ph.D. If the student chooses to earn their JD at another law school, which requires taking a leave from the JSP program to do so, it may take another two to three years to finish the program, depending on how many courses count at both schools. The JSP Ph.D. program itself is about two and a half years of coursework, a year of independent and small group study to prepare for the exams, and lastly two and a half years of dissertation preparation. 

How much flexibility is there in the JSP program?

JSP does not have any unit minimums or maximums, but rather distribution requirements. Students must take three foundations courses in all different disciplines. After that students must take two additional seminars, one of which can be done outside of the program, and then can take additional seminars in whatever they want. 

What kind of formal training do JSP students receive for preparation in interdisciplinary areas?

The JSP program has courses and training in both methodology and substantive fields. These include introductory doctorate level statistics classes and more advanced statistics courses that cover causal inference in the field of law and legal institutions specifically. Furthermore, those students that are particularly interested in quantitative methods for their chosen disciplines, can take methods classes from those departments. We also offer an introductory-level research design course, which teaches students how to come up with research questions and then decide on methodology. 

What is advising like in the JSP program?

First-year students are assigned a temporary advisor based on their academic interests. For about half of the students this temporary advisor ultimately becomes a permanent advisor, but sometimes the student’s interests shift and the student changes advisors. Furthermore, the Chair of the JSP Admissions Committee is a general advisor for the cohort. At the end of the second year, students also have a review with two faculty members where they can discuss what the students have been doing during their time in the program so far. The students also work closely with faculty members and their cohort peers in order to prepare for two written doctoral exams, one of which is in a discipline and the or in an interdisciplinary field that is chosen and created by the student themselves. In the third and fourth years, students in the program choose their primary dissertation advisor and form a dissertation committee. 

How is the intellectual community built in the JSP program?

JSP students meet up at several social and professional events. Student-led events include those organized through the JSP Law and Society Graduate Students Association (LSGSA), such as the Friday Forum where they present research to each other. There is also the Gateway Conference for first-year students, where students get to present their research and they get feedback from more advanced JSP students and faculty. JSP also offers funding for students to go to conferences to connect with a greater network of academics. Furthermore, there is a network of about 150 alumni from the JSP program which can be found all over the world. 

How large are the cohorts?

The cohorts are about 8 to 10 students each year. 

What are the range of scholarly interests in the program?

We have a vast range of dissertation topics that include works on law and social inequality, immigration law, business law, law and markets, human rights and comparative law, policing, mass incarceration, law and bioethics, law and religion, law and education, law and technology, and intellectual property.

Can I enroll concurrently in the Ph.D. and J.D. degree at Berkeley Law?

Yes, and more information can be found here. We also offer limited PDST awards to concurrently enrolled Ph.D. and J.D. students.Concurrently enrolled students gain an additional year towards their normative time to Ph.D. degree.

What is the difference between a Ph.D. and a J.S.D.?

Both the Ph.D. and J.S.D. degrees are appropriate if you intend on entering an academic career. However, the biggest distinction would be in whether you would like to enter an academic career in the U.S. or outside of the U.S. If you intend to pursue a career in the U.S., the Ph.D. would be recommended, whereas the J.S.D. would be recommended for those intending to pursue a career outside of the U.S.

For more information on Berkeley Law’s J.S.D. program, you can reach out to

Does JSP offer a Master’s program?

The M.A. degree in Jurisprudence and Social Policy  is only available to current Berkeley Law J.D. students or JSP Ph.D. students. More information here.

Admissions answers

Is work experience preferential in the application process?

Work experience is certainly not necessary for the application and is only helpful when a student’s experience helps them with regards to research direction or access to settings for research. 

Are certain academic areas more preferred than others?

No, all are equally preferred. The admission committee does try to balance out the areas that students are accepted for. Furthermore, students are especially encouraged to experiment with different academic areas during their time in the program. 

Does an applicant need to have academic writing experience past college classes before applying?

While a few students have already published a paper, about 80 to 90% of our students have not done so before. 

Who should one ask for a letter of recommendation?

It’s best to choose someone who can comment truthfully and thoroughly on an applicant’s academic experience, rather than someone who is well-known in the field. 

What are you looking for in terms of an applicant’s qualifications?

We do holistic reviews of each applicant, but most important are indications for the applicant’s qualifications to be an outstanding academic. Thus, we will look at an applicant’s grades and the courses that they’ve taken in previous programs. A JD or MA could help aid this signalling process, but it’s certainly not the key factor in the decision. Furthermore, the statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and samples of academic writing will help the admissions committee decide how committed the applicant is to the high-level research done in the program. The committee especially is looking for clues that an applicant’s past success will translate into future success both in the program and in a career later on. 

Do applicants need to have a dissertation topic picked out by the time they apply?

No, it is actually preferred to come into the program with no thorough plan prepared. This process of deciding on research questions that are important to the field, in addition to, especially at JSP, policy and law is one of the most important aspects to a Ph.D. program. 

How many applicants does JSP receive?

Between 80 to 110 applications are received. About 8 to 12% of applicants are admitted and about 70 to 80% of admitted students are accepted.

Are there interviews for the application process?

No, however applicants can visit Berkeley and meet with faculty and students. In addition, there is an admit day in March for admitted students to come and visit Berkeley, check out the program, meet their cohort, and get a feel for the place.

Do you need to have a JD to enter the program?

No, only about one-fifth of the entering students already have a JD, an MA, or an LLM. 

What materials need to be submitted as part of the application?

Applicants need to have all previous undergraduate and graduate institutions where they've been enrolled send official transcripts. They also need to take the GRE, but they do not need to take the LSAT. If they have taken the LSAT that can be assessed as well, but it is not required. They need three letters of recommendations. The application also consists of two short essays. One is called the “statement of purpose” in which applicants communicate their goals for graduate study and beyond, in addition to why they want to be at JSP and what they hope to get out of the Ph.D. program. The second essay is the “personal statement,” which is a short biographical essay about the applicant’s experiences and how these have led them to apply and pursue a doctoral degree with JSP. Finally, applicants may also submit samples of their written work from coursework or publications that they have. A sample of written academic work is necessary, but these don’t necessarily need to be publications. More information can be found here

I’d like to request an application fee waiver.

Information on requesting an application fee waiver can be found here

Do I need to have a dissertation topic prior to applying for the program?

No, and we prefer that applicants do not have a dissertation topic prior to applying. By completing interdisciplinary coursework during the early years in the program, students will be able to craft a dissertation topic that will answer research questions regarding law, policy, and society in a cutting-edge way, in an innovative and illuminating way, and in a manner that might matter for social and institutional change.

Do I need to take the TOEFL/IELTS?

All international applicants must complete the TOEFL (preferred) or IELTS. Some applicants may qualify for an exemption. More information here

Is the GRE required?

Beginning with the 2022-2023 application cycle (entry in Fall 2023), the GRE requirement is no longer required.

Are international students allowed to apply to the program?

Yes, international students are welcome to apply and are eligible for funding. As an international applicant, you will need to fulfill the UC Berkeley Graduate Division's requirements for international students in addition to the application requirements.

How long should my statement of purpose/personal statement/writing sample be?

Statements are usually between 2-3 pages and writing samples are generally about 25-30 pages.

Do you accept students for the Spring semester?

We do not accept applications for entry in the Spring semester.

When does your application cycle open and close?

Applications for entry in Fall open in mid-September and close in mid-December each year, and applicants are notified of decisions in late-February. Students have to apply through the graduate portal at the UC Berkeley Graduate Division. Further information on applying can be found on the Applications page. Those interested in applying can also contact JSP directly through or at 510-642-3771. 

Career Options After the Program answers

What percentage of students successfully go into tenure-track, law teaching jobs?

Of the over 150 graduates from the JSP program, about three quarters have gone into academia and of those three quarters, another three quarters have tenured or tenure track positions. Of the past five years, JSP has had 30 graduates. Of those, fifteen have tenure-track positions, seven have postdoctoral or VAP positions, and six are not working in academia. Those graduates that are in academia, both tenure-track and temporary positions, include sixteen that are in law schools. 

What opportunities are there for mentoring with regards to the job market?

JSP students get one-on-one mentorship from their advisors, in addition to having access to professional development workshops throughout the program. These workshops include topics such as the job market, publishing, advising relationships, etc. We encourage our students to start attending these job workshops in their second or third years. 

Do all of the students go into academia after the program?

About 80% of students in the JSP program go into academia. While only one-third of our students who went into academia taught in law schools, over the past decade, approximately two-thirds ended up teaching in law schools.

Funding answers

Will students in the JSP program ever be the primary instructors for a course?

The more advanced Ph.D. students have the ability to teach smaller, writing-intensive freshman or sophomore courses. Additionally, students who already have their JDs might have the opportunity to teach JD seminars, although this isn’t an established practice quite yet. Furthermore, students have the ability to be the GSIs for more advanced graduate-level courses in other academic disciplines on the Berkeley campus. This position will be trained through a pedagogy seminar in JSP.

How does the pedagogy seminar train students for GSI positions?

The seminar is meant to teach a graduate student how to lead a discussion section of a larger lecture, but truly touches on all aspects of how to teach, including structuring a course, leading course discussions, grading, making assignments, and putting together a syllabus. Furthermore, the course goes through some of the practical aspects of being a teacher, such as dealing with questions of inclusion and diversity and working with students who require special accommodations. The teachers for this course are usually students who have won campus-level teaching awards for their GSI work in undergraduate Legal Studies courses. Furthermore, the seminar sees multiple panelists come in and speak to the students about their experiences, such as those relating to work-life balance. 

How many courses do GSI’s usually teach?

GSI’s are usually assigned to one lecture course a semester and teach two smaller discussion sections of that course. GSI’s also have to attend the bigger lecture, offer office hours, and help in the grading of assignments and exams. Furthermore, they might have meetings with the members of the faculty teaching the larger course. However, the GSI appointments are 50%, thus the total number of hours per week that the GSI works is not more than 20. 

How are GSI's selected for a course?

To see the GSI Selection Policy for the Legal Studies department, click here.

How does the summer funding work?

Students will work with professors on research projects for a stiped of $3,000 per summer for the first two years. We have a matching process that pairs students with professors and the projects they have going on at the moment. After the first year, students will often combine the research apprenticeship with teaching or GSI work. 

Are JSP students teaching during their time in the program?

Yes, students start their teaching appointments during their second year in the Ph.D. program. During their third, fourth, and fifth years in the program, the JSP funding comes from the students' graduate student instructor (GSI) appointments in the undergraduate Legal Studies program. If they so wish, students can also receive more campus fellowships towards the end of their time in the program, so as to not be teaching so much during the research and writing process for their dissertations. 

Do students get access to funding?

All JSP students have access to a multi-year funding package, just as our competitors for other Ph.D. programs might offer. This funding package includes graduate tuition, health insurance, a living stipend in the lower thirty-thousand range, an annual travel allocation of $1,200 to travel to conferences, and two years of summer funding of $3,000 each summer. The initial package consists of five years, with the possibility of extension. Furthermore, students get health insurance and all Berkeley graduate students have access to university housing at prices lower than the market rate.

Makeup of the Program answers

How diverse is your program?

The past five years have seen the most diverse cohorts in the 40-year history of JSP, with over 50% women and 40% self-identified, underrepresented minority students. 

How do you make efforts to reach out to applicants from diverse or underrepresented backgrounds?

We direct JSP advertising to around a thousand colleges, including historically black colleges and universities in Canada, Europe, and other regions. Additionally, we reach out to academics to recommend diverse applicants to JSP and make efforts in our own JSP and Berkeley Law community to connect with affinity groups. We also have a standing JSP Diversity Committee in charge of working with the Graduate Admissions Committee and Berkeley Law to recruit and retain diverse students. 

What is the distribution of students who earn JD/PhD degrees?

About two-thirds of our graduates ultimately earn both JD’s and PhD’s.

How large is the Jurisprudence and Social Policy program at Berkeley?

The program has about 60 Ph.D. students and 17 core faculty members. All of the faculty members have primary appointments in Berkeley Law and oftentimes have secondary appointments in a disciplinary department at Berkeley.