Yale Law School announced Wednesday that it will offer the nation’s first Ph.D. in law.

Dean Robert Post LAW ’77 said in a press release that law professors are increasingly expected to have a Ph.D., and in the absence of a Ph.D. in law, many receive their doctorates in related subjects, such as philosophy, history or political science. The Law School’s new degree, he said, will allow those who pursue it to “engage in interdisciplinary studies, but their work will be anchored in the framework of legal scholarship.”

“Because such [related] disciplines train students in standards and questions that are different from those of the law, the natural next step for the legal academy is to create our own Ph.D. program that can focus on the questions and practices of the law itself,” Post said.

To obtain entry-level positions on law school faculties, many applicants without a Ph.D. build their academic profile with post-J.D.fellowships, Post said. The Law School’s new degree will provide greater scholarly training than that offered by such fellowships, he said, because it will require candidates to take courses, pass exams and write a dissertation.

Candidates will also receive teaching training and support from the Law Teaching Program, which will help the Law School “solidify [its] preeminence in placing its graduates in teaching positions, even as the market for junior law professors changes,” he said.

Graduates with a J.D. from an American law school can apply to the new program in the fall of 2012, and classes are set to begin in fall 2013.

The program is being funded in part by a grant from the Mellon Foundation as well as a donation from hedge fund manager Meridee Moore LAW ’83, according to the release.