An online legal studies program explores the basic tenets of the law, and is well-suited for those currently working either inside or outside the legal system. Because the law affects every aspect of a business, an employee well-versed in legal studies can help detect and prevent legal problems before they become significant issues. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 10% increase in legal occupations within the next decade, making it a terrific time to pursue a master of law degree online.
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Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
ADMISSIONS RATE 75%
GRADUATION RATE 68%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 20%
RETENTION RATE 84%
DEFAULT RATE 4%
Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel offers one of the nation’s most comprehensive online master of legal studies programs. Students can pursue a concentration, allowing them to customize their degree to fit their professional interests. These concentrations include: criminal law, cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, sports law, and regulatory compliance in healthcare, finance, human resources, and higher education.
Most concentrations require only three or four courses to complete and distance learners can enroll in more than one during their tenure. Students can enroll on a full- or part-time basis. Courses are delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and submit an essay, resume, and two letters of recommendation to be considered. GRE scores are recommended but not required.
Northeastern University Boston, MA
ADMISSIONS RATE 28%
GRADUATION RATE 84%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 1%
RETENTION RATE 97%
DEFAULT RATE 4%
NU offers an online master’s of legal studies that teaches students the skills needed to work with laws and regulations facing modern business in a variety of industries. The program features three concentrations in fields that are known for their complex compliance issues: healthcare, business, and human resources. Students also have the option of selecting a general track and creating a curriculum that suits their individual needs.
Online courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Students can earn their degree in less than two years of full-time study; there is also the option to enroll part-time. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency.
University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, IL
ADMISSIONS RATE 63%
GRADUATION RATE 48%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 35%
RETENTION RATE 77%
DEFAULT RATE 7%
UIS offers an online master’s degree in legal studies that takes an interdisciplinary approach to instruction. This program combines a thorough overview of the American legal system with a rigorous liberal arts education. Students can earn their degree entirely online with no on-campus visits. Online programs at UIS emphasize critical thinking, writing and communication, and research skills.
Courses are delivered using both asynchronous learning and real-time conferencing components. This program is ideal for working adult students, as many are employed full-time during their tenure at UIS. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and exceptional writing abilities to be considered. New cohorts begin in the fall and distance learners can enroll in classes during the spring, summer, or fall terms.
University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus Norman, OK
ADMISSIONS RATE 78%
GRADUATION RATE 66%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 8%
RETENTION RATE 86%
DEFAULT RATE 6%
OU's prestigious College of Law offers three online master’s of legal studies degree programs on subjects like energy law, healthcare law, and indigenous peoples law. The university has more than a century of experience in energy education, is a leader in indigenous issues, and has a nationally recognized healthcare program. These programs are ideal for adult students, allowing them to work full-time and earn their degree in an accelerated format. Each of these programs can be completed entirely online with no required visits to the school's campus in Norman, Oklahoma.
All of OU’s master’s in legal studies online programs share some commonalities. Students can earn their degree in just two years of full-time study. Online courses are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. These courses are taught by tenured and adjunct faculty who are experts in their field.
Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL
ADMISSIONS RATE 73%
GRADUATION RATE 45%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 58%
RETENTION RATE 71%
DEFAULT RATE 10%
SLU is a leader in online education that offers a master’s in legal studies. This 36-credit MLS program emphasizes the role of law enforcement in response to global risk and disasters. These courses prepare students for careers as first responders, criminal justice administrators, law enforcement officers, corrections and parole personnel, and government officials.
The curriculum includes courses on hazard mitigation, management of critical incidents, the psychology of catastrophe, and risk identification. Students must complete 18 credits of core courses, as well as nine electives related to legal studies. These electives can cover topics like terrorism, psychopathology, forensics, and information management. Online courses at SLU are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. These classes deliver coursework using video and audio content, CD-ROMs, and digital textbooks.
West Virginia University Morgantown, WV
ADMISSIONS RATE 86%
GRADUATION RATE 57%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 11%
RETENTION RATE 79%
DEFAULT RATE 9%
WVU offers an online master of legal studies that is ideal for professionals who work in corrections, criminal and juvenile justice, the courts, social work, and regulatory agencies. The school emphasizes that this program is not a pre-law or paralegal degree, but instead an MLS that prepares graduate for work in, or in conjunction with, the legal system. The curriculum includes 21 credits of core coursework and 15 credits of electives and can be completed in just two years.
Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university with a minimum GPA of 2.75 and submit GRE scores to be considered. Those with relevant work or military experience may bypass the GRE requirement. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. WVU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Arizona State University-Tempe Tempe, AZ
ADMISSIONS RATE 83%
GRADUATION RATE 66%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 2%
RETENTION RATE 86%
DEFAULT RATE 7%
ASU’s nationally renowned Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law offers an online master of legal studies program that is recognized for its many specializations. Students develop a foundational knowledge of the U.S. legal system and can choose one of the following specializations: sports law, criminal law, human resource and employment law, sustainability law, or intellectual property law. This program can be completed in just one year of full-time study.
The 30-credit curriculum consists of 10 classes, including six core classes and four in a student's chosen specialization. Online courses at ASU are delivered asynchronously in accelerated eight-week sessions. The school offers an online orientation class that helps students adjust to distance learning. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution to be considered.
Hodges University Naples, FL
ADMISSIONS RATE 94%
GRADUATION RATE 30%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 43%
RETENTION RATE 51%
DEFAULT RATE 14%
Hodges offers a 30-credit master’s of legal studies program that provides students with an understanding of the legal framework of the United States. Distance learners can complete classes entirely online, or enroll in a hybrid format. All professors of law at Hodges hold a juris doctor degree. The school also boasts small class sizes, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14-to-1.
The curriculum includes courses on administrative law, governance and management, regulatory compliance, international law, and mediation, arbitration, and conflict resolution, culminating in a capstone course. Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 throughout the program to graduate. Hodges is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
How to Choose an Online Master's in Legal Studies Program
The length of an online master of legal studies degree program depends on several factors. Most master’s of legal studies degree programs can last one to two years, and range from 15-to-24 credits or more. However, some may be offered at an accelerated pace to accommodate working professionals. One year programs are typically very rigorous and require students to dedicate extra hours to study. Degree candidates may also enroll as part-time or full-time students, depending on their schedule. Additionally, some programs are fully online and do not require on-campus attendance. Other programs are offered as hybrids or require students to meet in class a few times during the semester.
Another factor that determines a program’s duration is course length. Schools may be on a semester or quarter calendar, and courses can last for several weeks or more throughout the fall, spring, and summer terms. Students should also note tuition costs: most programs require students to pay per credit, and financial aid is based on the amount of credits one takes.
Careers for Graduates of Master's in Legal Studies Programs
A master’s in legal studies prepares graduates for a wide range of exciting and lucrative professions. Graduates find careers as paralegals, healthcare professionals, and engineers, among others. Students may also also further specialize their degrees by selecting concentrations in areas where they may have prior knowledge or experience, such as intellectual property or human rights. The table below describes some potential career paths and their corresponding median salaries.
Paralegals provide support services for lawyers. Typically employed by law firms, they perform administrative tasks such as filing, faxing, and scheduling. They also interview clients before recommending them to a lawyer. They assist lawyers with filing motions and briefs, and accompany lawyers to court and help them research cases.
Median Salary: $46,000
Median Salary: $45,000
Median Salary: $98,000
Median Salary: $53,000
Median Salary: $52,000
Job Outlook and Salary for Graduates of Legal Studies Master's Degrees
The BLS predicts significant job growth for professionals working in the legal industry. As demand grows, competition increases, and those with a master’s of legal studies degree have a major advantage over applicants without a master’s. Legal studies graduates with an interest in law school may also work as legal secretaries or paralegals to gain on-the-job experience. Non-attorneys fulfill roles as court reporters, paralegals, and legal assistants. As with many other fields, salary rates in the industry depend on occupation, location, experience, and education.
|Employment, 2014||Projected Employment, 2024|
Salary Growth by Experience for Graduates of Legal Studies Master's Programs
A master’s in legal studies online prepares graduates to fulfill roles in the legal field and provide legal expertise to others outside of the field. Typically, those with advanced degrees are more likely to be hired for management positions and receive promotions. Students with or without legal experience can apply for a master’s in legal studies online program. By blending one’s background and experience with their online master’s in legal studies, one can maximize their earning potential.
To determine the best online legal studies programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 25 best online legal studies degree programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.