Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Legal Studies

Rankings, Salaries & Courses

Updated on: 1/30/2020
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Legal studies is an interdisciplinary degree that draws primarily from the social sciences. From political science to history to economics, an online legal studies degree explores law and justice through a theoretical lens. Students in this major study the origins and evolution of law, along with the historical impact of state and federal laws, and landmark court rulings. You also inspect societal consequences, trends, and contemporary issues pertaining to law.

A legal studies bachelor's degree online program is not the path for one aspiring to become a lawyer or attorney. It is not a prelaw degree, though it could inspire one to pursue law school. For most, however, a bachelor's degree in legal studies is the path to a career working in the legal profession in a role other than a practicing lawyer. By earning a bachelor's degree in legal studies, you position yourself for jobs as a paralegal, title examiner, arbiter, or compliance officer. For legal occupations as a whole, the employment outlook from 2016 to 2026 is positive: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 9% growth for all legal occupations over that same time period.

Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in Legal Studies

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Best Online Legal Studies Programs

Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factors

Data Sources: Eligibility Criteria:
  • Each college must be accredited
  • Each college must be a not-for-profit institution
  • Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
  • Each college must have at least one online program 1
  • Each college must have a maximum four-year tuition of $25,000 or a maximum two-year tuition of $5,000
Ranking Factors:
  • Affordability
  • Quality
  • Flexibility
  • Program

Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.

1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.

2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.

  • A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
  • Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.
2-Year Schools

A bachelor's degree in legal studies program covers the legal and ethical policies of the U.S. justice system. One way to check the quality of a program is to confirm accreditation status. In order to qualify for federal financial funds, a school must be a Title IV school, which means the school holds accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The following list ranks Title IV colleges and universities that offer a legal studies bachelor's degree online program. With data from annual Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) surveys, the rankings are created taking into account such factors as graduation rate, course availability, and tuition cost.

Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Liberty University Lynchburg, Virginia $15,105 88% 24% 55% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
2 Bellevue University Bellevue, Nebraska $6,840 62% - 32% 4 N/A N/A N/A School website
3 California University of Pennsylvania California, Pennsylvania $7,238 14% 96% 58% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
4 University of Maryland-University College Adelphi, Maryland $6,816 11% - 10% 4 N/A N/A N/A School website
5 William Woods University Fulton, Missouri $22,230 100% 70% 53% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
6 State University of New York at Canton Canton, New York $6,470 85% 83% 33% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
7 Florida Gulf Coast University Fort Myers, Florida $4,191 24% 56% 52% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
8 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, Kentucky $8,568 51% 86% 45% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
9 Valdosta State University Valdosta, Georgia $4,181 7% 65% 41% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
10 Keiser University Fort Lauderdale, Florida $17,488 58% - 42% 4 N/A N/A N/A School website
11 Tiffin University Tiffin, Ohio $22,800 91% 76% 44% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
12 Brandman University Irvine, California $12,000 - 81% - 4 N/A N/A N/A School website
13 Hodges University Naples, Florida $13,200 20% 60% 25% 4 N/A N/A N/A School website
14 Peirce College Philadelphia, Pennsylvania $13,872 94% - - 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson, Kansas $2,688 66% 33% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
2 Yavapai College Prescott, Arizona $2,280 20% 27% 9 N/A N/A N/A School website
3 Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson, Mississippi $2,390 35% 33% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
4 Cincinnati State Technical and Community College Cincinnati, Ohio $3,567 19% 12% 9 N/A N/A N/A School website
5 Hinds Community College Raymond, Mississippi $2,640 25% 18% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
6 Mountain Empire Community College Big Stone Gap, Virginia $4,133 51% 38% 9 N/A N/A N/A School website
7 Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis, Indiana $4,055 11% 11% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
8 Alexandria Technical & Community College Alexandria, Minnesota $4,768 33% 64% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
9 Clark State Community College Springfield, Ohio $2,912 37% 13% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
10 Cerro Coso Community College Ridgecrest, California $1,288 1% 25% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
11 Central Texas College Killeen, Texas $2,940 19% 9% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
12 Metropolitan Community College Area Omaha, Nebraska $2,625 31% 13% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
13 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Perkinston, Mississippi $2,800 42% 28% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
14 Western Wyoming Community College Rock Springs, Wyoming $2,136 72% 38% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
15 Western Piedmont Community College Morganton, North Carolina $2,432 10% 22% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
16 Marshalltown Community College Marshalltown, Iowa $3,912 49% 23% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
17 Cuyahoga Community College District Cleveland, Ohio $3,953 4% 9% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
18 Columbus Technical College Columbus, Georgia $2,136 - 22% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
19 Irvine Valley College Irvine, California $1,104 - 44% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
20 Pitt Community College Winterville, North Carolina $1,824 16% 10% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
21 Umpqua Community College Roseburg, Oregon $4,416 4% 23% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
22 Mount Wachusett Community College Gardner, Massachusetts $600 34% 20% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
23 Ridgewater College Willmar, Minnesota $4,791 - 41% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
24 Lake Superior College Duluth, Minnesota $4,373 - 26% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
25 Southwest Virginia Community College Richlands, Virginia $4,133 61% 37% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
26 Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls, Minnesota $4,824 7% 34% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
27 Herkimer County Community College Herkimer, New York $4,270 7% 36% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
28 Tompkins Cortland Community College Dryden, New York $4,790 11% 26% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
29 Clovis Community College Clovis, New Mexico $1,008 8% 40% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
30 Forsyth Technical Community College Winston-Salem, North Carolina $1,906 - 15% 9 N/A N/A N/A School website
31 Allen County Community College Iola, Kansas $1,800 70% 42% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
32 Rio Salado College Tempe, Arizona $2,064 1% 4% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
33 Mohave Community College Kingman, Arizona $2,430 9% 21% 6 N/A N/A N/A School website
34 Los Angeles Mission College Sylmar, California $1,196 - 19% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website
35 Trinity Valley Community College Athens, Texas $1,080 35% 21% 3 N/A N/A N/A School website

How Much Can You Make in a Legal Studies Career?

For holders of a bachelor's in legal studies degree, there is an array of career options. While earning a degree does not guarantee one a career or salary, it does set you on the right path toward attaining your career goals in many professional fields. Graduates with an online bachelor's degree in legal studies can compete for jobs in business, the public sector, healthcare, and law. As the BLS notes, demand for those with a legal studies background continues to grow as corporate in-house legal teams expand and law firms delegate more. While the BLS projects average to above-average growth for legal occupations overall, paralegal positions are expected to grow 15%.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +4.3%
Job Description

Title examiners, abstractors, and searchers work on legal issues related to real estate or property, such as titles, deeds, contracts, and mortgages. They research and help verify facts, clauses, and exceptions. If a document such as a title is not acceptable, they may draft notices.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +15%
Job Description

Paralegals and legal assistants spend a good part of their day investigating and verifying facts for a case, brief, appeal, contract, or will. They provide support to law firms or in-house legal teams. In their daily tasks, they prepare legal affidavits and other legal documents, carry out legal research, and meet with clients to discuss case details.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +8.2%
Job Description

Compliance managers or officers work to ensure an entity is in compliance with ethical or regulatory standards. To this end, a compliance manager keeps detailed records of an organization's activities, as well as any complaints, and findings from any cases or investigations. They also carry out audits and act as a liaison between entities or with government agencies.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +5.7%
Job Description

Clerks provide assistance with research or document preparation, carrying out legal research of cases, court decisions, briefs, and opinions to support judges through current trials or cases. Clerks also help with verifying, proofreading, and checking facts, cause of action, and basis for relief.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +10%
Job Description

Arbiters, mediators, and conciliators help resolve disputes or conflicts outside a court of law. Among their duties is to facilitate communication between parties and find common ground that can lead to an agreement. A mediator, arbiter, or conciliator researches a case to verify or contend facts, detect changes in circumstance, and recognize the opportunity for resolution.

Sources: BLS, Projections Central

When researching jobs, it is important to take into account specific data for your state or city and look into any other factors that may impact salary or opportunity. The following list shows salaries and job growth data for title examiners, abstractors, and searchers for all 50 states. As you can see, the numbers vary and this directly ties into supply and demand. Job growth data helps determine trends in a field and the overall "health" of a profession.

For title examiners, abstractors, and searchers, industries with the highest level of employment are legal services, insurance carriers, and real estate. As for the top paying industries, those tied to land use and management lead the way. Legal professionals who work in the oil and gas extraction industry make a median salary of $77,570. The state of Texas, where oil and gas both loom large, is the top employer of title examiners, abstractors, and searchers, followed by California and Florida.

What Courses Can Be Taken for an Online Legal Studies Degree?

For an interdisciplinary degree like legal studies, you should expect to take a blend of courses that examine the justice system and emphasize the role of social sciences, such as anthropology or economics. Below is a sampling of the types of courses found in a bachelor's degree in legal studies program. These courses may vary, so research specific courses, electives, core requirements, and degree requirements for your school. Note that legal studies bachelor's degree online programs may also feature moot courts, mock trials, and internships.

American Politics

This course provides a substantive overview of the U.S. political system, covering how the government works and how laws at the local, state, and federal level to create the framework in which they function.

Civil Rights and Liberties

In this course, students study constitutional law and how the U.S. Supreme Court's duty is to interpret the Constitution. The course explores historical decisions, landmark cases, and evolving opinions when it comes to both individual and group civil liberties and rights.

Constitutional Law

This course specifically deals with the laws set forth by the U.S. Constitution. Students examine constitutional law and how the three branches of government work within its framework. The course looks particularly at the role of federal courts.

Comparative Law

As with comparative literature, comparative law studies the differences and similarities of the legal systems of different countries. Such a course may also focus on culture and how a legal system can develop as a response.

Legal Research

A foundational course for legal studies, this course teaches the steps and overall process of legal research. Topics include courtroom preparation, legal argumentation, and using primary and secondary resources, especially with regard to the internet.

How to Choose the Best Online Legal Studies Program

When choosing a bachelor's in legal studies program, there are a number of considerations to weigh. Among them are a school's reputation and accreditation status, the degrees offered, and the faculty. As mentioned above, IPEDS surveys from Title IV schools can also be of help when determining which school is right for you. Meanwhile, there are practical considerations to look at as well, including part- or full-time program options, term start dates, the credit transfer policy, and admissions rate. To help with your research into online bachelor's degree in legal studies programs, here are a few questions and answers you also may want to inquire about.

What strategies should I follow when choosing my legal studies courses?

The structure of a legal studies program is to provide students with a broad foundation of both law and justice. As part of that foundation, you will have a chance to tailor your degree to a concentration or take electives that focus on one aspect. When choosing courses, you should break down your core curriculum for a bachelor's in legal studies and then weight your options for the remainder of your credits.

Are there any concerns I should consider in earning an online legal studies degree?

Earning a degree online is becoming more common with every passing year. Advances in technology have made online coursework easier than ever. That said, be aware that earning a degree online requires self-discipline and organizational skills. There are significant differences to on-campus courses, and it may be up to you at times to reach out to instructors and peers for support, questions, or collaborative work.

How will this degree in legal studies help me reach my goals?

To enter a legal profession, you will need at least some postsecondary education. While a paralegal can begin their career with an associate degree, holding a bachelor's degree in legal studies can only help improve one's job prospects and earning potential. An online bachelor's degree in legal studies provides the foundational knowledge to start immediately in a credentialed position that requires a BS.

How do internships work when it comes to an online bachelor's degree in legal studies?

While an internship is not standard for a bachelor's in legal studies degree, there are still usually opportunities to take one on with the help of the school. Of course, you should inquire about the curriculum and if there is an internship component in the third or fourth year. If so, you will work with a counselor to establish the best plan to begin your internship locally. Should your program offer only local internships in the school's city, then you will need to go about finding a workaround that accommodates school policy and your specific situation.

What is the faculty’s background, specifically when it comes to relevant work experience?

Though legal studies is not a pre-law major, it still teaches students the foundations of the American legal and justice system. For this reason, it is important that the instructors given the task of teaching should hold both the academic and professional credentials to do so. Check your prospective school's faculty page to get information on the professors. In many cases, a professor of legal studies will hold at least a JD and bring years of practical experience.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Legal Studies Programs

According to the College Board's report "Trends in College Pricing 2017," the cost of tuition at four-year institutions continues to rise. The average yearly tuition for an in-state public school in 2017-18 was $9,970, while the cost of a private school was $34,740. Suffice it to say, pursuing an undergraduate degree is a very costly endeavor. It makes sense to invest time in researching, finding, and applying to as many scholarships or grants you may qualify for. Unlike loans, scholarships and grants do not need to be paid back.

LEX Scholarship

Given by the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE), this award is open to any part- or full-time student who is also part of a Lambda Epsilon Chi (LEX) chapter in their school. Each year, AAfPE awards a $1,500 and a $500 scholarship. To apply, applicants must submit a 500- to 750-word essay on the LEX Scholarship Committee's selected topic. Applicants also must supply a letter that proves they are in good standing in their local LEX chapter. The committee releases the question in November and all applications are due back by January.

NFPA/Thomas Reuters Scholarship

The purpose of this scholarship from the National Federation of Paralegal Association is to support the further education of the next generation of paralegals. Each year, NFPA awards one $3,000 and one $2,000 scholarship. To apply, students must submit a letter of recommendation from a professor, employer, or program director, their transcript, and an essay answer to the designated topic for that year. Deadline is typically the first of July.

Gene Carte Student Paper Competition

This scholarship program form the American Society of Criminology awards scholarships of $500, $300, and $200 each year. To be eligible, you must be enrolled full-time in an undergraduate or graduate program in criminal justice, criminology, or paralegal studies. This program recognizes scholarly work; your paper is your official submission. Applicants must also submit a letter that verifies their full-time status. Deadline is April 15.

Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship Program

Presented by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, this scholarship program awards four awards ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 to college students interested in a career as fraud examiners. Applicants must major in legal studies or criminal justice, accounting, business administration, or finance. Applicants must submit transcripts, demonstrate an interest in stopping fraud, and include two letters of recommendation. The ACFE committee base decisions on the strength of each application. Deadline is in January.

Aiello Harris Legal Scholarship

This annual scholarship is open to all high school seniors who plan to pursue a degree related to law or in paralegal studies. Those already in a college paralegal or law-related degree program may also apply. Eligibility depends on academic record, with minimum a GPA of 3.0. In addition, the applicant must submit an introduction (100-200 words) and a short essay (300-600 words) on the year's designated topic. The deadline is in July.

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