Business leaders and managers of all stripes can benefit from expanding their expertise by pursuing a master's in business law. Human resources professionals can learn how to properly apply employment laws to matters of hiring, dispute resolution, and firing. Information technology managers can better navigate issues of privacy, the storage of secure data, and intellectual property. Accountants, auditors, and financial managers can use this degree to signal a deep understanding of the complexities of tax law.
Jobs in business management often come with exceptional salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial managers earned a median salary of $125,080 in 2017, more than triple the median salary for all other occupations. Computer and information systems managers earned even more, with a median salary of $139,220 in that same year. A master's degree in business law can give you the competitive edge you need to secure these high-paying jobs.
Should I Get a Master's in Business Law?
Business law master's programs tend to cater to professionals who want a more thorough understanding of how the law applies to their field but who do not plan to practice law themselves. Individuals hoping to provide legal advice or formally represent individuals and businesses in legal settings should instead seek out a juris doctorate, or JD.
In addition, these programs often recruit students with several years of professional experience. Because a master's in business law alone does not provide sufficient training to take on roles like chief financial or chief information officer, students who pursue this degree often see it as supplemental to previously earned degrees.
Students in these programs learn about the structure and function of the American legal system. They learn how to conduct legal research, analyze and interpret laws and policies, and write case briefs and legal memos. Students can also choose from concentrations in areas like employment law, estate planning, intellectual property, or real estate law. Within these concentrations, students delve into the cases, laws, and regulations governing their specific area of work, as well as practical strategies for effectively navigating this legal framework.
Beyond the academic benefits conferred, these programs can also give graduates a leg up in finding new opportunities and solving problems they encounter in practice. Working closely with fellow classmates and faculty, students pursuing a business law master's can build expansive and powerful professional networks. Many graduate programs also offer career advising and job placement programs.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Business Law?
A master's in business law equips you with skills and knowledge applicable to a wide variety of leadership and management roles in business. You may choose to earn this degree to prepare yourself for the legal aspects of jobs like human resources manager, financial manager, or medical or health service manager. You may also want to work more exclusively on matters of the law, opting for a role as an arbitrator or mediator of disputes within a business context. Whichever career path you choose, you must possess strong research, writing, analytical, and problem-solving skills.
- Computer or Information Systems Manager
Computer and information systems managers plan and direct computer or technology-related activities at a given organization. In the course of their work, they may encounter legal issues related to data security and privacy. Though often not explicitly required, many managers boast some graduate-level experience.
Median Annual Salary: $139,220*
- Financial Manager
Financial managers oversee the financial health of their organization. They produce reports, direct investments, and set and implement strategies to achieve financial goals. Many employers now seek candidates with a master's degree, especially one that allows managers to understand the complex laws and regulations governing the financial industry.
Median Annual Salary: $125,080*
- Human Resources Manager
Human resources managers hire, train, support, and, if necessary, fire employees. They can also mediate employee disputes and provide consultation on issues like employee benefits or sexual harassment and discrimination policies. Higher-level jobs often require a graduate degree in a related field, such as business law or labor relations.
Median Annual Salary: $110,120*
- Medical or Health Services Manager
Medical and health services managers, also called healthcare executives, hold broad responsibility for the operations of health facilities like hospitals or nursing homes. A significant part of their work involves ensuring that their facility adheres to relevant laws and regulations. Increasingly, individuals in these roles hold a master's degree in an area like business administration or law.
Median Annual Salary: $98,350*
- Arbitrator, Mediator, or Conciliator
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work outside of the court system to help facilitate dialogue between disputing parties. They often specialize in an area like injury settlements or workplace conflict resolution. While some individuals in these roles hold a JD, you can qualify for many of these jobs with an advanced degree, such as a master's in business law.
Median Annual Salary: $60,670*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Master's Program in Business Law
Many schools offer a master's in business law, and you may find it difficult to know which programs best suit your professional interests and career goals. Use some of the questions below as a way to narrow your search and identify your priorities.
First, do you want to attend an online or in-person program? An online business law program allows you to watch lectures and complete coursework almost entirely on your own schedule, making it easy to balance your studies with the demands of a full-time job or with caring for your family. However, some students prefer a more traditional classroom experience in which they can learn more collaboratively with their classmates and instructors.
How much can you afford? Tuition can vary tremendously from program to program, with public law schools typically charging substantially less than private institutions. You should also remember to consider other education expenses, such as room and board, books and course materials, and resource or technology fees.
What precisely do you want to study? If you want to specialize in area like equal opportunity employment law, make sure to confirm that your program of choice offers classes or a concentration in this area.
Finally, if you plan to study on campus, consider your school's location. This can affect the length of your commute, the cost and quality of living in nearby communities, and the potential for you or members of your family to find work while you pursue your degree.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's Programs in Business Law
Programmatic accreditation ensures that programs operating within specific disciplines, such as nursing or engineering, provide an adequate education to their students and properly prepare them for careers in their field.
The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) accredits many business-related bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs. Rather than pursuing programmatic accreditation, some schools rely exclusively on either their regional or national accreditation, which ensures that all programs offered at that institution meet high academic and professional standards.
Review the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's online database to ensure that your program holds ACBSP, regional, or national accreditation.
Master's in Business Law Program Admissions
To earn a master's in business law, you must first hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Most programs do not specify a particular major, though coursework in law and business administration often better prepares you for graduate studies in this area.
In addition to official undergraduate transcripts, most schools require a resume, up to three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement detailing your academic and professional goals. Some programs also require an additional writing sample, such as a published article or college research paper. You do not need to take the LSAT to apply to these programs.
After you submit your application, schools may request that you participate in an interview with their admissions team. After your interview, a program may choose to admit you, deny your application, or place you on a wait list, allowing you to enter the program if another admitted student drops out. Aim to apply to at least three schools to improve your chances of admission.
- Bachelor's Degree: You must hold a bachelor's degree to apply to these programs. Your major does not play a significant role, though many students possess earned undergraduate credit in law, political science, or business.
- Professional Experience: Although these programs tend to serve mid-career professionals, they typically do not require a certain number of years of professional experience. A strong resume, however, can help you during the admissions process.
- Minimum GPA: Increasingly, schools do not require students to maintain a minimum GPA, though academic performance plays a large role in admissions decisions. Those with a low GPA should emphasize their extracurricular achievements.
- Application: Applications to law or graduate schools can require a great deal of time, so make sure to begin your application well in advance of the deadline. Expect to complete a unique application for each school.
- Transcripts: You must provide official undergraduate transcripts. To do so, contact your college or university's registrar. They may charge a small fee, and they may require several weeks to process your request.
- Letters of Recommendation: Some programs require up to three letters of recommendation. Ask for letters from former instructors and employers but avoid friends or family members. Give your recommenders at least two months to write your letter.
- Test Scores: Generally speaking, you do not need to submit test scores for admission into these programs. However, applicants who primarily speak a language other than English may need to submit Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, scores.
- Application Fee: Programs often charge a modest fee to apply, usually $50-$100. Veterans, military personnel, and individuals with financial need may qualify for application fee waivers.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's Program in Business Law?
Students pursuing a master's in business law enjoy many opportunities to shape their educational experience. Many programs offer formal concentrations, and all allow students to design a course of study through electives. Programs may also offer accelerated tracks for students who want to earn their degree faster. They also offer curricula designed for students who prefer to complete their coursework on a part-time basis.
|Estate Planning||This concentration serves students looking to deepen their understanding of how the law affects the arrangement, management, and disposal of an individual's estate, both during their life and after their death. Courses cover topics such as income taxation of estates and trust, wealth transfer taxation, charitable contributions, and state inheritance laws. Students can also explore estate law as it relates specifically to disabled individuals, unmarried couples, and other unique populations.||Personal financial adviser, wealth counselor|
|Intellectual Property Law||Intellectual property (IP) law governs the ownership and use of intangible products, such as patented inventions and artistic works. Students in this concentration take courses in subjects like copyright and trademark law, trial advocacy for IP attorneys, entertainment law, business franchise law, trade secrets law, and international patent law.||Intellectual property adviser, senior patent agent|
|Information Technology and Privacy Law||As more and more businesses rely on technology, business leaders must understand how to protect employee and customer privacy. Students in this concentration begin with a broad overview of technology and the law before exploring more nuanced topics such as free speech in cyberspace, health information privacy, computer crime and economic espionage, and global privacy laws.||Chief information officer, data security manager|
|Real Estate Law||The law shapes almost every facet of real estate, including state licensing requirements for becoming a real estate agent and the local laws and regulations related to the development of commercial or residential properties. In this concentration, students explore subjects like affordable housing, construction law, environmental controls, and land use control and zoning.||Owner of a real estate firm, lead transaction analyst|
|Tax Law||Individuals with expertise in the complex and fluid world of tax law often enjoy exceptional job prospects and earnings potential. Students in this concentration can expect to take courses in areas like corporate taxation, asset protection planning, civil and criminal tax procedure, partnership taxation, and regulations of tax exempt organizations.||Chief financial officer, director of financial accounting|
Courses in a Master's in Business Law Program
The exact courses you take in a master's in business law program vary depending on a number of factors, including credits already earned during your undergraduate studies and the specific concentration or electives you choose. The list below includes five of the most common foundational courses in these programs.
- Introduction to Legal Analysis
Designed specifically for professionals working in fields outside of the law, this class offers an introduction to the workings of the American legal system, the basic theory and practice related to legal research and writing, and the general process of legal education. Students analyze laws, court opinions, and attorney-authored briefs through the case method.
- Substantive Law Overview
Substantive law defines our rights and responsibilities in both civil and criminal contexts. Through an exploration of common law, Constitutional law, and state and federal law, students learn about issues like supremacy, liability, culpability, and negligence. The course also emphasizes "issue-spotting," or determining whether and how a law applies to a particular situation.
Many business law programs feature courses or workshops intended to sharpen student's negotiation skills. These classes help students understand how underlying interest shapes an individual's negotiating position, along with the psychological biases that can hinder our ability to negotiate effectively. Students often practice their negotiation skills on one another with real-time input from the instructor.
- Independent Legal Research
This course gives students the opportunity to put their legal research and writing skills into practice. Students choose a topic of interest, such as the role the Fair Housing Act plays in urban development, and write a research paper taking a particular stance or promoting a specific course of action. Students work closely with a faculty advisor but complete the majority of the work on their own.
- Legal Capstone
Similar to an independent research project, capstone courses require students to apply their learning to practical challenges. In these course, students often work in small groups on issues relevant to their concentration or professional interests. For example, students specializing in employment law may create a collective bargaining agreement with a fictional labor union.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Business Law?
Most master's in business law programs consist of roughly 30 credits. Full-time students can usually earn their degree in about two years. Part-time students may need up to four years to complete all of the requirements for graduation, and some schools may limit the amount of time part-time students can take to finish their program.
Some programs, especially those offered online, feature accelerated tracks to allow students to earn their degrees even faster. Students on these tracks can test out of certain subjects or complete coursework at their own pace, allowing them to advance through the prescribed curriculum as soon as they can demonstrate mastery of the course material.
While an accelerated track benefits students with previous academic training or relevant professional experience, you should think carefully about whether this style of learning suits you. Some students lack the self-discipline and time management skills necessary to succeed in self-paced courses of study.
How Much Is a Master's in Business Law?
The cost of a master's in business law can vary a great deal. Schools may charge anywhere from $900 to $1,600 per credit hour, meaning you could pay between $27,000 and $48,000 in tuition for your 30-credit degree.
On top of tuition, you should remember to factor in other costs. Students studying on campus often pay for room and board, and, in some cases, this expense can exceed $15,000 per year. Schools may charge students fees to apply or access various campus services, and you also need to budget for books and other course materials. While online learners can avoid some of these expenses, schools may require students to pay a technology or distance learning fee.
When thinking about how to finance your education, begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Filling out the FAFSA can qualify you for federal grants, work-study opportunities, and low-interest student loans. You can also research private scholarships and fellowships, and some companies may help cover the cost of tuition for employees looking to develop skills relevant to their work. Remember, while you do not need to pay back grants, scholarships, or money earned from work-study jobs, you do need to pay back your student loans and any accrued interest.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Business Law Prepares For
- FINRA Arbitrator Training
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority offers two levels of training for its financial arbitrators. Before serving on FINRA cases, arbitrators must pass the organization's basic training program. Arbitrators can also voluntarily pursue advanced-level training in areas like money laundering, expungement, duties to disclose, and explained decisions.
- HR Certification Institute Credentials
After earning a master's in business law, HR professionals may also seek out one of eight credentials offered by the HR Certification Institute. To qualify for these credentials, candidates must pass a certification exam. Individuals holding a credential must recertify every three years, either by retaking their exam or by providing proof of continuing education.
- American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management Certification
AAHAM offers five certifications in areas like revenue cycle management and compliance to help healthcare executives signal their expertise in these domains. To become certified, you must hold a relevant degree from an accredited institution, meet minimum professional experience requirements, and pass an online, proctored exam. Most exams cost around $100.
Resources for Graduate Business Law Students
The ED can help you finance your master's in business law through grants, fellowships, work-study opportunities, and student loans. It also provides resources to students focused on how to find private scholarships and other sources of aid.
The ABA's business law section offers a wealth of resources to students, including scholarly articles and policy briefs, scholarships, and a student writing contest.
Duke Law offers a comprehensive guide to conducting legal research online. It includes general tips and strategies, as well as links to some of the most common legal research resources, such as FindLaw, Justia, and the Legal Information Institute at Cornell.
With more than 15,000 searchable terms, this site offers students a convenient and trusted source of legal definitions. It draws from Black's Law Dictionary, the most widely used law dictionary in the U.S.
Writing plays an integral role in the law, and students and professionals alike must know how to clearly and effectively communicate their ideas. The Purdue OWL offers advice on writing topics, including how to properly cite sources and how to build your resume.
Professional Organizations in Business Law
Professionals organizations offer a wealth of benefits to their members. These groups often host regional events and annual conferences to help professionals network with their colleagues, learn about the latest research, and share best practices. They may also provide continuing-education resources or administer formal certification programs. In addition, many professional associations advertise job opportunities and provide guidance to students and others thinking about embarking on careers in business law.
The ALSB acts as a professional association for scholars in business law. In addition to organizing a mentorship program and publishing a scholarly journal, the organization hosts an annual networking and research conference.
Originally founded in 1926, AAA represents professional arbitrators and provides information for individuals looking to resolve disputes outside of the court system. The association's website features a job board and connects members with clients seeking arbitration services.