Master’s and Ph.D.

The Judicial Studies Degree provides a formal academic setting in which judges and qualifying adjudicators can integrate technical studies of the judiciary with more academic ones in an effort to provide an intellectual assessment of the role of the American judiciary.

The program is a collaboration between the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), The National Judicial College, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ). A major academic objective of the degree program is to help create and define a new academic discipline, judicial studies. Receiving a master’s degree in judicial studies recognizes current accomplishments in judicial studies, encourages further achievements and enhances one’s career. A Ph.D. is available to judges who achieve the Master of Judicial Studies degree.

Judicial Studies is a challenging, stimulating academic degree program designed to:

  • Provide a structured, interdisciplinary academic curriculum applicable to your judicial needs.
  • Encourage judges to take an active role in teaching, planning and administering judicial education.
  • Provide experience (by virtue of the master’s thesis and Ph.D. dissertation requirement) in conducting and publishing research of interest and applicability to the judicial system.
  • Provide an academic degree program with national scope and impact.

» NJC Judicial Studies courses

» Judicial Studies Degree Program website


Admission to the Judicial Studies Degree program is limited to graduates of ABA-accredited law schools who are serving full-time on the bench at the time of application. Upon acceptance, judges may continue to participate in the program if they retire or are not re-elected. Exceptions may be made for full-time sitting judges who are graduates of recognized foreign law schools or graduates of non-accredited American law schools who have been admitted to the Bar and when it appears that the applicant is otherwise qualified and would, if accepted, contribute to the success of the program. Applications are accepted throughout the year.

The curriculum focuses on judges and their roles and contributions to American society, and on the improvement of services rendered by judges in a free society. The curriculum encourages students to become more proficient in the diagnosis and analysis of problems through the use of techniques developed by the social, behavioral and natural sciences, as well as by the humanities. Also, the curriculum requires the study and assimilation of research techniques used by professionals who testify in court. These same techniques will be used by students to study issues important to the advancement of the discipline of judicial studies.

Completion of Coursework

To obtain the Master of Judicial Studies degree, a student must complete a total of 32 credits, which is comprised of 26 coursework credits and six thesis credits. A student has up to six years to complete the master’s program, but it is designed so it can be completed in three to four years. To complete the program in three years, a student must be able to spend a total of at least 12 weeks on the UNR campus during two consecutive years for completion of the UNR requirements. There is also time required for completion of NJC or NCJFCJ courses, depending upon course schedules and the qualifications of a candidate for retroactive credit. Please see the JS advisor listed below for “Retroactive Credit by Examination” eligibility. Coursework for the Trial Court Judges major also requires completion of NJC resident-session courses, for a total of 14 credits. This includes the General Jurisdiction or the Special Court Jurisdiction: Advanced course and specified one-week courses, including Judicial Writing.

To accommodate the trial schedules of students, the program is designed to provide considerable flexibility as well as maximum use of time spent on campus. Students may take day courses from UNR, which are two weeks in length, the NJC or the NCJFCJ, which are typically one week in length, concurrently with the UNR four-week evening course.

Considerable effort has gone into making maximum use of the relatively short time students will spend on campus. Students should expect to spend non-classroom time reading or preparing for end-of-course examinations or projects, both before and after course attendance. The completion of the thesis requirement will be accomplished outside of classes. To receive course credit, students should expect to attend each course in its entirety and schedule travel plans accordingly.

To obtain the Ph.D., a student must complete an additional 49 credits beyond the Master’s, consisting of 24 coursework credits, one comprehensive exam credit, and 24 dissertation credits.

University of Nevada, Reno
Shawn C. Marsh, Ph.D., Director of Judicial Studies
(775) 682-7987

Sherri Barker, Judicial Studies Program Officer II
(775) 682-7982