Graduate-level training in legal studies prepares individuals for careers in compliance, regulation, and legal services. Learners can specialize in areas such as corporate law, contract law, and healthcare law. While lawyers must hold a JD degree, a master's in legal studies qualifies holders to work as arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators.
The list below ranks the most affordable online master's in legal studies programs for 2021. Prospective students can use the rankings to identify a program that fits their budget and career goals. This page also introduces common courses and scholarships for legal studies students.
Thinking of Using a Master's in Legal Studies?
Q. What can you do with a master's in legal studies?
Master's in legal studies programs prepare students for careers as compliance officers, arbitrators, and human resources managers. Learners receive specialized legal training.
Q. How many years is a master's degree in law?
A master's degree in law typically takes 1-2 years to earn. Master's students in the field can specialize in areas such as corporate compliance, intellectual property law, and human resources law.
Q. Can you practice law with a master's in legal studies?
No, a master's degree in law or legal studies does not meet the requirements to practice law. Aspiring attorneys must earn a JD degree and pass the bar exam.
Q. Can I earn a master's in law without a law degree?
Graduate students can earn a master's degree in legal studies instead of a JD degree. A legal studies master's degree provides legal training for careers that do not require a JD.
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Why Get a Degree in Legal Studies?
Students earning a master's in legal studies receive advanced training in the field. Several other personal and professional benefits often accompany a master's in legal studies, including specialization options and increased earning potential.
While earning a master's degree in legal studies, graduate students specialize their training. Learners take courses in an area such as conflict resolution, corporate compliance, healthcare law, or contract management. These specializations prepare students for specific legal careers.
Most online legal studies programs emphasize flexibility. Many schools deliver online courses asynchronously, allowing students to arrange coursework around their work schedule and other responsibilities.
Graduate-level training can help professionals secure specialized roles in the legal field. Master's degree-holders often become compliance officers, regulatory affairs managers, and human resources managers.
Online learning can make graduate studies more accessible. Degree-seekers can enroll in specialized programs in any state without relocating.
Advanced education tends to correlate with higher salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals with a master's degree earn a median weekly salary about $250 higher than bachelor's degree-holders.
Courses in Legal Studies
Master's in legal studies programs train learners to analyze laws and regulations, apply analyses in business contexts, and draft legal documents. Master's students take courses in the U.S. legal system, federal regulations, and legal research. They also study contract law, compliance, and criminal law.
Many programs offer elective options such as human resources law, intellectual property law, and sustainability. These courses help students earning a legal studies master's degree prepare for specialized career paths. While curricula vary by program, many master's in legal studies programs include the following courses.
American Legal SystemStudents in this class learn about the American legal system, including the relationship between the government and the law. Topics include the court system, civil rights, constitutional law, and the appellate courts. The course provides foundational knowledge that prepares degree-seekers for advanced law classes.
Legal Research and WritingThis course helps learners strengthen their analytical, research, and writing skills. Degree-seekers explore case laws, statutes, administrative rulings, and legal analyses. Students prepare to analyze cases and rulings, evaluate statutes, and interpret administrative rulings. Learners also develop legal-writing skills by creating opinions and case briefs. Coursework emphasizes computerized research skills and proper legal citations.
Contract LawContract law governs public and private entities in multiple sectors. Master's students in this course explore the role of contracts in creating binding agreements. The class covers topics such as damages for breaching contracts and restitution. Graduates can use skills gained during this course to create contracts and analyze proposed contracts.
Federal RegulationsThis course examines the federal regulatory system and its relationship to various administrative agencies and the legal system. Students learn about the limits on administrative authority, routes for redress, and state administrative agencies. Learners strengthen their analytical skills by reviewing regulations and their applications.
Employment LawEmployment law regulates the hiring process and the relationship between employers and employees. This class explores the legal and regulatory context for hiring and firing employees, wage and hour laws, and workplace discrimination protections. Aspiring human resources professionals can benefit from this class.
Certifications and Licensure for Legal Studies
Graduates of master's in legal studies programs can pursue professional certification to stand out in the job market. For example, individuals pursuing compliance-related careers often earn the certified compliance and ethics professional credential. Fraud examiners and financial examiners can also benefit from specialized certifications. Most professional certifications require candidates to pass an exam.
Professionals with experience in compliance and regulations can pursue this credential. Applicants must meet work experience requirements and pass an examination. The Compliance Certification Board also sets education requirements, which candidates may fulfill through legal studies coursework. The certification remains valid for two years.
This certification demonstrates experience and academic training in fraud detection and anti-fraud activities. Applicants must hold membership with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and pass an examination on financial transactions, fraud schemes, the law, investigation, and fraud detection. Certified professionals complete 20 hours of continuing education annually.
Experienced financial examiners who possess at least three credits of management training can obtain this credential. Candidates also need at least three years of experience in insurance department examination. Candidates must pass a four-part examination on enterprise risk management, financial analysis, and examination methods. Certified professionals complete continuing education credits to qualify for renewal every three years.
Scholarships for Legal Studies Students
Students pursuing a legal studies degree can qualify for several scholarship opportunities. Professional associations, private foundations, and specialized organizations award scholarships to support legal studies degree-seekers. In addition to scholarships reserved for students earning a master's degree in legal studies, learners can apply for general awards based on their state and background.
Scholarships for Legal Studies Students
||Who Can Apply
Gloria Barron Wilderness Society Scholarship
||Graduate students pursuing a degree related to wilderness or conservation, including a related master's in legal studies degree, can qualify for this scholarship. Applicants must attend an accredited institution and demonstrate a strong academic record.
||The American Association of Law Libraries awards this scholarship to prospective law librarians and library school graduates pursuing a law-related degree. Applicants must demonstrate financial need, and AALL members receive preference.
John R. Johnson Memorial Scholarship
||LexisNexis offers this scholarship in honor of former director of the law library section John R. Johnson. The award supports learners attending accredited law schools. Applicants must aspire to a career in the legal information field.
Most Affordable Online Master's in Legal Studies Programs 2021
Based in Tallahassee, Florida, FSU offers an online juris master degree with no on-campus requirement. Students can complete this 30-credit, affordable legal studies degree on a part-time, asynchronous basis.
Degree-seekers can choose between concentrations in healthcare regulation or financial regulation and compliance. Other concentrations include employment law and HR risk management. Online learners can enjoy the school's online research databases and career center.
The program does not require a minimum GPA, a GRE score, or prior professional experience. Students applying in 2022 do not need to submit GRE scores. Students may transfer up to six credits towards the degree from another master's in law program. Applicants must hold a "B" grade or better in their transfer coursework.
FSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Texas A & M University-College Station
College Station, TX
Texas A&M offers master of laws (LL.M) and master of jurisprudence (M. Jur.) online programs. Learners can customize their degree with concentrations in business law and compliance and energy, oil, and gas law. Other concentrations include intellectual property, international tax, and wealth management.
Applicants to the LL.M program must hold a J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school. The LL.M program comprises at least 24 credits. The M.Jur. program comprises at least 30 credits. Full-time students can typically complete either degree in one year. Part-time students can complete either degree in two years. Part-time students must take at least five credits per semester to qualify for federal financial aid.
Texas A&M is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Arizona State University-Skysong
ASU-Skysong offers a 30-credit online master of legal studies degree for students who wish to understand law but not practice it. Graduates can apply their knowledge of basic legal concepts to many careers.
Degree-seekers can choose from focus areas that align with their goals. Focus areas include conflict resolution, construction law, and contract management. Other specializations include tribal self-governance, intellectual property law, and law and sustainability.
The program's curriculum includes one core course, U.S. law and legal analysis, and eight electives. Electives include criminal law, tort law, and fundamentals of contract law.
Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. The school offers the FastApp process for U.S.-educated applicants. The FastApp process may grant applicants conditional admission to the program while they continue to submit required materials.
ASU-Skysong is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of Illinois at Springfield
UIS offers an affordable legal studies degree. The master's in legal studies program can benefit students whose profession needs a working understanding of the law and legal system. The 36-credit program includes courses with both synchronous and asynchronous formats. Many students work full time while attending the program part time.
Enrollees must maintain an average "B" grade or higher in the program and in all core courses. Core courses include introduction to graduate legal studies, seminar in politics and law, and public advocacy. Learners can apply up to four clinical education credits towards their elective credit requirement. Students can complete their elective credits with internships. Example internship settings include government agencies, private law firms, and public interest groups.
Applicants must demonstrate excellent written communication skills. They should also hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. All online students, regardless of state residency, pay the same tuition rate.
UIS is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Virginia Beach, VA
A Christian university based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Regent offers an online master's in legal studies program. The program includes some in-person course options on Regent's Virginia Beach campus. Graduates can apply their legal knowledge to careers in government, nonprofit, or corporate settings.
Degree-seekers can choose concentrations in cybersecurity or healthcare. Other concentrations include immigration law and human resources law. Core courses include foundations of legal thought, american legal system and writing, and constitutional law and policy. Full-time students can complete the 30-credit degree in one year.
The school does not require GRE or LSAT scores for admission. Students benefit from online access to Regent's library and librarians. The university also offers online chapel services.
Regent is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Southern California
Based in Los Angeles, California, USC's Gould School of Law features an online master of studies in law degree. Students can earn the affordable legal studies degree in 16 months.
An academic week runs from Wednesday through Tuesday. This schedule allows students to complete coursework through the weekend. Courses include both synchronous and asynchronous components. Professors facilitate weekly live discussions.
Required courses include legal research and introduction to the U.S. legal system. Students can choose from electives in areas such as U.S. law, business law, and entertainment law and industry.
Applicants do not need to submit GRE or LSAT scores. USC maintains a team of advisors for online students. Advisors help students choose courses that meet their career goals.
USC is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission.
Based in Birmingham, Alabama, Samford offers an online master of studies in law degree. Students can complete the 34-credit master's program online within 24 months.
Required core courses include principles of business law. Students also hone legal writing and communication skills. One course covers an introduction to public policy-legislation and regulation. Students can choose a compliance-focused concentration, such as financial services regulatory compliance. Other options include health law and compliance, and legal operations. Degree-seekers can also select courses from compliance concentrations to create a specialization.
Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA from a regionally accredited school. The school advises, but does not require, applicants with lower GPAs to submit GRE or MAT scores.
Samford is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Based in Morgantown, West Virginia, WVU features a 30-credit online master of legal studies degree. Students who do not want to practice law but need a working knowledge of the law for their career may enjoy the degree. Online learners can complete this affordable legal studies degree in 18 months.
Degree-seekers can choose between three areas of emphasis. They include justice systems, healthcare, and homeland security. Instead of a specialization, learners may choose to take nine elective credits. Students must earn a minimum 3.0 GPA in program coursework and a "C" grade or better in all required courses. Required courses include researching the law, and law and the legal system.
All students at WVU, regardless of residency, receive in-state tuition. Applicants must hold at least a cumulative 2.75 undergraduate GPA.
WVU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Wake Forest University
Wake Forest provides a master of studies in law degree for professionals who need to navigate legal issues in the workplace. The part-time, flexible program offers classes online in an asynchronous format. Students can take as little as 21 months or up to 5 years to earn the 30-credit degree.
Degree-seekers can choose between three tracks. They include business law and compliance, health law and policy, and human resources. Students take required core courses such as business law and literacy, legal foundations, and private law. Other core courses include public law and the unauthorized practice of law.
Applicants must demonstrate work experience in a related field. Students can transfer up to six graduate-level credits from another institution toward their degree. Applicants do not need to submit test scores.
Wake Forest is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Washington University in St Louis
Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Washington University offers an online master of legal studies degree. Students complete two required foundational courses. Enrollees then choose from a variety of electives that match their career goals.
Concentration areas include business law, conflict resolution, and employment law. The program prepares graduates to draft legal documents. It also trains learners to analyze new laws and regulations and conduct legal research.
Students can complete the 24-credit degree in one year. The program offers an optional on-campus weekend learning experience each spring and fall. This on-campus weekend allows students to network with peers, professors, and visitors from law firms and other businesses. Students participating in the weekend learning experience also complete a one-credit elective course.
Applicants do not need to submit test scores. Washington University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.