Legal studies is an academic field designed for students who plan to enter careers in law, law enforcement, and criminal justice. This interdisciplinary field explores the historical impacts of laws and legal decisions, as well as contemporary trends and issues within the justice system. Legal studies draws on a wide range of social sciences, including criminal justice, history, political science, sociology, anthropology, and economics. Most degree programs in legal studies are exclusively offered at the undergraduate level, although enrollment numbers in this academic subject are relatively low; according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), fewer than 1,800 bachelor's degrees in legal studies were conferred during the 2011-12 school year.
Bachelor's degree in legal studies coursework includes foundational studies in law and ethics, criminal justice, criminal justice, and social sciences. Many bachelor's in legal studies programs culminate in a capstone course, and internships may be included in the curriculum, as well. Many of today's students choose to earn their bachelor's degree in legal studies online, rather than in a classroom. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curricula as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to similar job opportunities after the degree requirements have been completed. The asynchronous (or self-paced) format of most online bachelor's in legal studies programs is also ideal for students with other commitments that may interfere with campus-based education, such as part-time employment or family obligations.
Learn more about what you can do with an online bachelor's in legal studies and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
- WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A LEGAL STUDIES DEGREE?
Professionals with an online bachelor's in legal studies are prepared for many careers, including paralegal, court reporter, and arbitrator. Read more here..
- WHAT IS A LEGAL STUDIES DEGREE?
A legal studies degree prepares students who seek careers in law, law enforcement, and criminal justice. Courses usually cover history, political science, sociology, anthropology, and economics. Read more here..
- CAN YOU BECOME A TEACHER WITH A LEGAL STUDIES DEGREE?
No. To teach legal studies or a related subject, students usually need a master's degree. Read more here..
- WHAT IS THE HIGHEST DEGREE YOU CAN EARN IN LEGAL STUDIES?
A few schools offer legal studies Ph.D. programs, but master's programs are much more common. Many students who earn this degree focus on a specific area of law when pursuing an advanced education. Read more here..
- WHAT ARE THE LEGAL STUDIES?
Most legal studies programs focus on law, law enforcement, and criminal justice. Read more here..
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN LEGAL STUDIES PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
A bachelor's degree in legal studies will equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in this demanding ― yet often rewarding ― professional field. The curriculum includes extensive studies in the legal and ethical policies guiding the U.S. justice system, as well as the laws and legal implications found in other countries. Additionally, coursework will introduce students to theories in sociology, economics, and political science that inform how laws are crafted, implemented, and enforced.
WILL AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN LEGAL STUDIES PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online bachelor's in legal studies programs offer a flexible, user-friendly alternative to traditional college education. Students can to download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors ― all from the comfort of their home computer. Current technology also allows them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable devices with Wi-Fi capabilities.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY BACHELOR'S IN LEGAL STUDIES?
A bachelor's in legal studies online will not be sufficient for students planning to become lawyers; a master's and doctoral law degree are required to practice in most U.S. states. However, the legal studies bachelor's degree may serve as a good stepping-stone toward advanced law studies. Common job titles for those who finish their legal studies education at the undergraduate level include paralegals and legal assistants, court clerks, court reporters, arbitrators, mediators, conciliators, and legal secretaries.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN LEGAL STUDIES PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online bachelor's in legal studies programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online bachelor's degree in legal studies, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.
Accredited Online Bachelor's in Legal Studies Programs
University of Central Florida
|Orlando, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 70%||
The University of Central Florida was founded in 1963 in Orlando, and holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. UCF offers over 80 degree and certificate programs online, including a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science in legal studies. The program is offered through UCF's College of Community Innovation and Education, and equips students to make a difference and enhance civic engagement through their careers.
This online Legal Studies degree is asynchronous, giving students the flexibility to schedule coursework around other obligations like work or family. UCF courses are taught by attorneys — graduates of American Bar Association-approved law schools — who serve as valuable mentors to their students in the program. Courses cover a variety of topics, including international law, advocacy, family law, and more to prepare students for careers in the law, to include, but not limited to, practicing attorneys, court reporters, legal assistants, contracts specialists, program specialists, or legal analysts.
The Deparment of Legal Studies also offers online certificates in Litigation & Advocacy and Individual Liberties, providing students with unique ways to enhance their degree, skills, and career goals. Students in the Legal Studies major are required to complete either an internship or capstone project in their senior year or last semester. This requirement is another unique way in which students capitalize on their Legal Studies degree experience and impact the commmunity.
Interested potential students must complete an application through University Admissions.
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
Since its founding in 1971, Liberty University has been committed to providing higher education opportunities focused on Christian values. It holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to grant undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a bachelor of science in law and policy.
The 120-credit, fully online program is asynchronous, allowing students to complete assignments at their convenience. Most students take 3.5 years to complete this degree. All online students pay a flat tuition rate, regardless of their state of residency. Liberty also supplies electronic textbooks, so students do not incur extra course material costs.
This online legal studies degree is made up of courses that build core competencies in key subjects like English, math, philosophy, and the sciences, along with degree-specific courses. The pre-law core curriculum offers courses on ethics, constitutional history and law, criminal law, legal research and writing, and advanced logic and reasoning. The degree prepares students for careers as legal assistants, public administrators, or legislative analysts, as well as preparing them to take the LSAT.
Applicants must have a 2.0 minimum GPA, and submit transcripts, a high school self-certification form, and a completed application. Liberty boasts a generous transfer policy, allowing students to transfer up to 75% of their degree program credit requirements from qualifying prior schools. Transfer students should work with advisers to determine whether their previous coursework qualifies for transfer.
|Irvine, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 79%||
Since its 1958 founding, Brandman University has grown from a single location in Irvine, California to more than 24 satellite locations throughout California and Washington. The university allows students the flexibility of studying either on-campus or online, or both. Brandman boasts accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission, offering degrees including a bachelor of arts in legal studies with available concentrations in the paralegal profession and business law.
The 120-credit program comprises general education courses and program-specific courses, delivered either fully online or through a hybrid format. The online option uses an asynchronous format, giving students the flexibility to complete requirements at their convenience. The hybrid option combines some on-campus requirements with online convenience.
General education courses include writing communication, humanities, and the social and natural sciences, developing the writing and research skills students need to complete core program components. Program-specific courses cover topics including foundations of law, contracts, torts, and legal research and writing. Students can use concentrations to tailor their coursework to their interests and career goals.
Industry professionals teach the program curriculum. They prepare students for the workforce by teaching applicable skills and using current industry trends to drive coursework. Applicants must transfer in 12 or more college credits, and demonstrate a minimum 2.0 GPA. They should submit official transcripts from previously attended colleges and universities, plus a completed application.
|Virginia Beach, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
Regent University is a private Christian university founded in 1977, now offering over 129 degree programs online and on its campus in Virginia Beach. It holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Regent offers three online bachelor's degree programs in legal studies, each focusing on a different aspect of law, government, or public administration.
At Regent, students interested in legal studies can choose either a BS in paralegal studies, a BA in law and national security, or a BA in government with a concentration in pre-law. Each program requires students to complete at least 120 credits. Coursework builds foundational knowledge and skills in law, writing, and government to prepare students for entry-level positions or to pursue higher education.
Each program is available online using an asynchronous format, giving students the flexibility to log in and complete assignments or discussion topics on their own schedule, with no on-campus requirements. These programs create opportunities in government agencies, journalism, policy analysis, international relations, business, and law. Students should consider their career goals carefully before deciding which program is right for them.
Regent allows students to transfer up to 90 credits of previous coursework, and offers six enrollment periods each year. Applicants must hold at least a high school diploma or GED and submit their unofficial transcripts, an admissions questionnaire, a completed application, and a government-issued ID to the admissions office.
Arizona State University Online
|Scottsdale, AZ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 14%||
Arizona State University traces its history back to 1886, when it became Arizona's first institution for higher education. It was originally named Territorial Normal School, and changed its name several times over the years. In 1958, a public vote officially settled on the name to Arizona State University. ASU holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and boasts a reputation as an innovative university.
ASU offers over 40 elite programs and 175 online degrees, including a bachelor of science in justice studies. This program consistently ranks as one of the best online legal studies degrees, and prepares students to generate change through law, policy, and social justice.
The 120-credit program consists of five core courses in citizenship, migration, and human rights; globalization, sustainability, and economic justice; law, policy, and social change; media, technology, and culture; and social identities, and communities. The remaining 12 credits come from a list of related elective courses, from which students can choose based on their interests or career goals. Students should work with advisers to develop their degree plans and ensure they meet all degree requirements.
Coursework prepares students for careers as intelligence officers, customs officers, detectives, community specialists, and law clerks, among others.
Applicants must hold a high school diploma or equivalent and a 3.0 minimum GPA, and demonstrate competency in English, math, and the laboratory and social sciences. They must have completed two years of foreign language courses and one year of fine arts. Prospective students must submit transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, and a completed application to the admissions office.
|Bellevue, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 17%||
Bellevue University, a private university founded in 1966, holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. It offers 75 online programs, including an online bachelor of science in legal studies. Online programs cater to busy students or working professionals, following a convenient, asynchronous format. This gives students the flexibility to complete coursework on their own time, without having to visit campus.
The online legal studies degree focuses on developing research and writing skills, and a general understanding of law and its role in society. The 127-credit program comprises courses in law, policy, ethics, political science, and criminal justice, plus an overview of the legal system. This curriculum provides students with a well-rounded education, and qualifies them for entry-level positions in the legal industry or to pursue law school.
This program uniquely integrates hands-on experience with course concepts, giving students opportunities to attend civic meetings or shareholder meetings, or to visit law schools.
To qualify, applicants must hold an associate degree or 60 semester hours from an accredited institution. Otherwise, they must build up credit hours before enrolling in this degree. Other admission requirements include a minimum 2.0 GPA, proof of high school graduation or GED, and a completed application.
|Philadelphia, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 21%||
Originally founded 1865, Pierce College became one of the nation's first colleges to offer online degrees to students in 2000. Its programs cater to busy adult professionals, following an asynchronous format that allows students to complete coursework at their convenience. Pierce offers a variety of associate, bachelor's, and master's programs online, including a bachelor of science in legal studies.
This online bachelor's degree in legal studies serves busy adult professionals with at least 45 credits of previous coursework, who want to finish their degree through an accelerated format. The program takes as little as one year to complete, depending on how many courses students take each term, how many credits they transfer into the program. Pierce College boasts a generous transfer policy, allowing students to transfer up to 90 qualifying credits from other colleges or universities.
Coursework covers a variety of topics, including legal writing, business litigation, business law, contract law, and accounting. The curriculum prepares students for careers in business law.
Applicants with at least 45 transfer credits should apply for the degree completion degree program, which requires a completed application and official college transcripts. Transfer applicants should work with an adviser to ensure they transfer previous coursework accurately. If applicants have completed fewer than 15 college credits, they can still apply, but must also submit a high school diploma or GED and any official college transcripts.
California University of Pennsylvania
|California, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
The California University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1852 in California, Pennsylvania, located about 35 miles from Pittsburgh. It consistently ranks as one of the best schools in the U.S. for online programs. Cal U offers over 100 undergraduate degrees to on-campus and online students, including an online bachelor of arts in jurisprudence with a concentration in legal studies.
The online legal studies degree develops students' knowledge of law and business concepts, preparing them for careers as paralegals, court or law enforcement support professionals, real estate professionals, or business professionals, or to pursue law school. The 120-credit program comprises coursework in legal research and writing, family law, real estate law, the paralegal profession, and law and ethics. It serves students who have earned an associate degree or at least 40 college credit hours, and want to complete their degree.
The program accepts first-year students, as well, but they may need to complete additional coursework before enrolling in program-specific classes. Program length varies depending on each student's status upon starting the degree.
Transfer applicants should submit official transcripts from high school and any colleges or universities they previously attended. They must also submit SAT or ACT scores, and the university recommends applicants include letters of reference and a personal essay, as well.
Tulane University of Louisiana
|New Orleans, LA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
Tulane University is located in New Orleans, Louisiana. It began as a men's school for mechanical drawing 130 years ago, and now offers a variety of on-campus and online degree programs, including a bachelor of arts in general legal studies with a certificate in paralegal studies. Online programs use an asynchronous format, allowing busy students and industry professionals to complete coursework at their convenience.
The 120-credit program consists of prerequisite courses, which develop students' core competencies in writing, math, and critical thinking, plus 12 major courses. Program-specific courses cover topics including legal research and writing, litigation, and an overview of the legal system, developing the basic skills students need to qualify for entry-level positions or to pursue law school. Entry-level positions may include paralegal, legal assistant, court clerk, investigator, or insurance adjuster.
The online legal studies degree culminates in a final practicum course, which includes a 150-hour internship at a law office. Attorneys and paralegals teach these courses, giving students the opportunity to learn from industry professionals and see first-hand how course concepts apply to real-world situations.
Tulane offers a simple undergraduate application process, only requiring applicants to submit a high school diploma or GED with their completed application. Standardized test scores are not required. Transfer students need to submit official transcripts and be in good academic standing at their previous school for consideration.
Southern New Hampshire University
|Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 83%||
Southern New Hampshire University is a nonprofit private university accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. The school offers degrees on its campus in Manchester, as well as over 200 online programs, including a bachelor's of science in criminal justice with a concentration in legal studies and advocacy.
SNHU's 120-credit program consists of general courses in writing and communication, along with degree-specific courses in research methods for criminal justice, American politics, legal traditions, ethics and the criminal justice leader, and forensic psychology. Coursework in this program develops proper skills for analyzing laws and regulations and finding ethical solutions for issues in law enforcement or administration. The program uses an asynchronous format so students can complete coursework at any time of day without commuting to campus.
SNHU allows students to complete its online legal studies degree at their own pace over six eight-week sessions. The time it takes to complete this degree varies depending on if students have completed previous coursework.
SNHU allows up to 90 transfer credits and offers up to 12 credits toward undergraduate requirements if students took basic law enforcement training. The school is committed to making higher education accessible to anyone, so it does not require standardized test scores or a minimum GPA to apply. That said, applicants still need to submit an application and transcripts and show proof of a high school diploma or GED.
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
Founded 1977, Keiser University has become Florida's third-largest nonprofit university. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to grant associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, Keiser offers several on-campus and online programs, including a bachelor of arts in legal studies designed to prepare students for entry-level positions in law, business, government, or criminal justice, or to ready students for law school.
Keiser's 120-credit program covers core courses in legal research and writing, torts, real property, contracts, ethics, and constitutional law. It also requires a legal studies capstone project and offers the option for students to complete an internship in order to gain workplace experience and degree credit. Online students should keep in mind that curriculum options can very by campus.
This program offers a concentration in law office management for students who wish to take on the job of paralegal or law office manager. While the degree takes an average of 40 months to complete, this timeline might vary depending on how many courses students take per term and how many credits they transfer from another institution.
Keiser's simple application process requires proof of a high school graduation or GED and a completed application. No standardized test scores or work experience are required.
|Owings Mills, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Universities, Stevenson University offers an online bachelor of science in legal studies, the only American Bar Association-approved program of its kind in Maryland. This hybrid program is designed for professionals with some college credit who want to pursue a career as a paralegal or legal assistant.
Stevenson's 120-credit program aims to build general knowledge across several fields of law to prepare students for entry-level positions. Coursework includes contract law, business organization law, torts, and civil litigation. Elective courses in corporate law, law office technology, or litigation allow students to align the degree with their interests or career goals. To graduate, students must complete an internship.
To apply, individuals must have two years of work experience, at least 15 transferrable credits, and a 2.0 minimum GPA. Applicants also need to submit official transcripts, a personal statement, and a completed application to be considered. Stevenson offers a standard tuition rate for most students, but if students enroll through the school's partnerships with community colleges, hospitals, or organizations, they may qualify for lower tuition.
|Naples, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 27%||
Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Hodges University boasts a workforce-driven approach and customizable program options so students can tailor their degrees to their interests or career goals. Hodges offers an online bachelor of science in legal studies for individuals interested in advancing their credentials or beginning a career as an arbitrator or mediator, law clerk, or office manager. The program also prepares students to pursue a law degree.
Hodges' 120-credit online program uses an asynchronous format, which allows students to complete coursework when and where it's convenient for them. However, students may be required to take in-person proctored exams. Coursework focuses on developing research and writing skills and building a comprehensive knowledge of the legal system. Students can expect to take courses in legal research and writing, legal reasoning, business law, legal ethics, and statutory interpretation.
Applicants to Hodges need to complete an online application and schedule a meeting with a program adviser. The meeting, which can occur on campus or remotely, will determine any other documentation applicants need to submit to be considered for the program.
|La Jolla, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 42%||
Since its founding 1971, National University has sought to provide accessible education to those who want to earn a degree on a traditional campus or online. NU is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission and offers over 100 degree programs, including an entirely online bachelor of arts in pre-law studies.
National University offers the program in both synchrynous and asynchronous formats, giving students the flexibility to complete coursework around other responsibilities without commuting to campus. The degree is designed for individuals interested in pursuing law school or those wanting to begin entry-level careers in law.
NU's 180-quarter-unit program features courses in American politics, legal writing, legal aspects of business, analytical reasoning, and ethics and neutrality, all of which train students to analyze legal issues and to apply relevant rules of law to create ethical solutions. During NU's online legal studies degree program, students take one four-week course at a time, which allows learners to focus their energy on one subject. The structure also helps learners complete the degree faster than a traditional program.
Individuals applying to undergraduate programs at NU must have a high school diploma or GED, maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA, and submit a completed application to the admissions office. Students may need to take the ACCUPLACER exam if their education history does not include college-level math or English courses.
University of Massachusetts - Lowell
|Lowell, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 60%||
The University of Massachusetts Lowell offers over 100 undergraduate degree programs, including an online bachelor of liberal arts with a concentration in legal studies. Online programs use an asynchronous format, giving students the flexibility to study at any time of day without commuting to campus. This particular program prepares students for entry-level positions in law or law-related fields. It also serves as a starting point for pursuing a law degree.
UMass Lowell's 120-credit online legal studies degree consists of core curriculum courses, electives, and concentration-specific courses. It develops a comprehensive overview of the legal system and covers several topics, including contract law, corporate law, family law, racial discrimination, and real estate law. Tuition is charged per credit, and online students pay one rate regardless of their state of residency.
UMass Lowell requires all applicants to have a high school diploma or GED, but there are no minimum GPA requirements and students do not need to submit standardized test scores. Students can transfer up to 90 credits from an accredited college or university. UMass Lowell processes applications all year long, so students can apply at any time.
|River Forest, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
A private Catholic university located in River Forest, Illinois, Dominican University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to grant bachelor's and master's degrees. This suburban school features 50 undergraduate programs, including an entirely online bachelor of arts in legal studies designed for undergraduate students and working professionals who want to advance their careers.
DU's 120-credit program explores legal research and writing, contracts, religion and the law, the American legal system, and legal ethics. Additional courses consist of electives in legal studies such as negotiation, ethics of conflict resolution, and religion and conflict resolution. Uniquely, some courses within this degree can count towards earning a master's in conflict resolution, giving students the opportunity to earn a higher-level degree in less time.
This is an accelerated program, and applicants should have at least 75 credits with a minimum 3.25 GPA. DU does not require standardized test scores or work experience to apply. This program is offered through DU's College of Applied Social Science, which aims to arm students with the knowledge and skills they need to advocate for social justice.
|New Castle, DE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
Wilmington University is a private institution located near Wilmington and New Castle, Delaware. The school opened in 1968 with 194 students and now serves a student body of nearly 18,000. WilmU offers programs in a variety of formats so students have the flexibility to choose an option that fits their schedule and learning style. The university also offers a flat tuition rate regardless of where students live, making it an affordable option.
WilmU is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to grant a variety of degrees, including a bachelor of science in legal studies. The 120-credit program explores courses in legal ethics, legal research, civil procedure, and advanced legal writing. Coursework builds key skills in critical thinking, communication, and writing to prepare students for entry-level law careers or for law school.
Students can complete the majority of this program online, but distance learners must complete at least 10 credits of legal specialty courses in the classroom or through a hybrid course model.
Applicants to the legal studies program at WilmU must have a 3.5 minimum GPA, a high school diploma or GED, and SAT scores. Students can transfer up to 90 credits from previous college coursework. This program is approved by the American Bar Association.
Austin Peay State University
|Clarksville, TN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 38%||
Austin Peay State University was established in 1927 in Clarksville, Tennessee, and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to grant associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. APSU offers over 30 online programs, including a bachelor of arts and bachelor of science in political science with a concentration in legal studies.
APSU's 120-credit program features courses in government, international politics, political theory, and research methods. The BS and BA in political science degrees are similar, but they vary slightly in course offerings. For example, the BA focuses more on technical writing, while the BS focuses on public speaking and political theory. The degree serves as a starting point to pursue a law degree or to qualify students for career opportunities such as civil service, law clerk, policy analyst, social worker, or congressional aide.
Tennessee residents pay a lower tuition rate than out-of-state students regardless of whether classes are taken online or on campus. Applicants must have a high school diploma and minimum GPA of 2.85. They must also submit ACT or SAT scores, along with a completed online application. APSU is committed to online student success and thus offers online advising, tutoring, and multimedia resources to help students navigate its online platform.
SUNY College of Technology at Canton
|Canton, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
SUNY College of Technology at Canton, accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, offers 16 online degrees, including the online bachelor of science in legal studies. This program is designed for first-year students, working professionals, and paralegal or criminal justice transfer students. The degree prepares students for entry-level careers as paralegals, claims adjusters, and contracts administrators.
SUNY Canton's 120-credit online legal studies degree uses an asynchronous format, allowing students to study at any time of day without commuting to campus. Its curriculum focuses on developing skills in legal research and writing. The program provides an overview of business law, civil litigation, family law, torts, and real property law. The degree culminates in a semester-long internship, through which students gain hands-on experience in a legal organization.
Online students at SUNY Canton pay the in-state tuition rate regardless of their state of residency. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and submit their ACT or SAT test scores. Transfer students must complete at least 30 degree credits through SUNY to graduate.
Missouri Western State University
|St. Joseph, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
Located in Saint Joseph, Missouri Western State University offers programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. The state sponsored school was founded in 1915. MWSU offers four master's programs and five undergraduate programs, which includes a bachelor's in criminal justice with a concentration in legal studies.
Through the concentration in legal studies, criminal justice students learn about the many functions, roles, and positions in the legal system. Courses cover the history, principles, and purpose of the legal system. Students are required to complete an internship and capstone course to graduate. The program itself requires students to earn 70-78 credits, which includes core, applied learning, and concentration courses. The total credit requirement will increase for students who have not completed general education requirements.
The practicum course provides students with field experience and requires them to work at least 135 hours. The practicum option and internship options are very similar and have the same hour requirement. To complete the practicum, students must declare legal studies as their concentration and have completed at least nine credits in criminal justice or legal studies. Both options also require a completed paper and presentation based on their work.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Legal Studies Program?
Requirements for earning a legal studies degree online can differ considerably between schools and programs. Along with core coursework, some colleges offer academic concentrations that allow students to develop specialized knowledge and skills as they earn their bachelor's in legal studies.
CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN LEGAL STUDIES
|Concentration||Description||Careers this concentration prepares for|
|Paralegal||Designed to prepare students for the workforce, this track provides overviews of administrative, civil, family, and criminal law. This concentration also provides a broad understanding of courtroom procedures, while developing broadly applicable administrative and research skills integral to law office management.||Paralegal; Law Office Manager|
|Pre-Law||A legal studies degree program with a pre-law concentration is ideal for students intending to enter law school. Covering topics in constitutional law, government, and the American judicial system, courses provide the knowledge necessary to prepare for law school entrance exams such as the LSAT.||Lawyer; Policy Analyst; Nonprofit Advocate|
|Environmental Law||This concentration combines aspects of law, environmental science, and public policy. Students develop a deep understanding of environmental regulations that can jumpstart a career in policy-making or advocacy. A concentration in environmental law can be useful for those who ultimately want to pursue a law degree.||Environmental Lawyer; Policy Analyst|
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN LEGAL STUDIES
No two schools are alike, but the best online bachelor's in legal studies programs are designed to give students a solid foundation in core legal concepts. While courses may vary between curricula, anyone earning a legal studies degree online can expect to take some variations of the following courses:
- Legal research: Providing instruction in persuasive writing and researching legal matters, this course is fundamental for anyone pursuing a career in law. Along with major analytical methods used by lawyers, students will learn to create arguments and reach conclusions by examining information gathered through research.
- Legal writing: This course offers an introduction to the writing style and vocabulary frequently used by lawyers and paralegals in official documents. Students develop a solid foundation in legal terms and a concise writing style as they learn to produce memos, briefs, and contracts.
- Civil litigation: Ideal for those interested in entering a pre-law or paralegal program, introductory civil litigation courses provide a broad overview of the litigation process. Lessons address types of courts and courtroom procedures, lawsuit initiation, and the various categories of legal disputes. Students also learn about alternatives to litigation, such as arbitration.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN LEGAL STUDIES?
Online legal studies degree programs can vary drastically in length. While some may be completed in only two years, others take four or more years to finish. A graduate program's length depends heavily on whether coursework is asynchronously-paced or delivered in a synchronous, cohort format.
Individually-paced programs allow students to review course materials and complete assignments at their leisure, without the requirement of being online at scheduled times. Offering flexible deadlines, asynchronous programs are ideal for students who balance coursework with employment or family obligations. Conversely, students in cohort-based programs study as part of an online group. They may be required to participate in scheduled group activities or discussion sessions, and are often held to stricter deadlines. Though less flexible than asynchronous programs, many learners prefer the more intimate format of cohort learning due to its emphasis on student-faculty relationships and academic accountability.
WHAT TO EXPECT AS A STUDENT IN AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN LEGAL STUDIES PROGRAM
Like other undergraduate programs, a bachelor's in legal studies will usually be divided between major coursework (also known as core coursework) and general education requirements that all four-year students must fulfill. For core coursework, students can expect modules like 'American Politics', 'Research Methods for Criminal Justice', 'Judicial Administration', 'Juvenile Justice', 'Civil Litigation', 'Real Property Law', and 'Paralegal Studies', as well as introductory courses in sociology, anthropology, psychology, history, political science, and economics.
Most schools offer 'legal studies' as a specialized concentration for criminal justice bachelor's programs, but dedicated bachelor's degrees in legal studies are available at some colleges and universities. For capstone courses, students will be required to craft a comprehensive research project that addresses a contemporary legal pattern or concern. Internships are often available as optional electives. These onsite sessions allow students to receive supervised training from qualified professionals and gain experience working in law enforcement stations, law offices, courts, and other real-world legal settings.
It's crucial to research the accreditation status of an MBA program before fully committing to it. In the U.S., most online master's programs in economics do not receive programmatic accreditation; exceptions are usually business administration degree programs with an economics focus, which may receive accreditation from the American Bar Association, Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. However, students should make sure that their college or university has received regional or national accreditation before committing to it.
Accreditation For Online Bachelor's in Legal Studies Degrees
The best online bachelor's in legal studies programs are offered by accredited institutions. An accredited school is one that meets or exceeds the academic standards defined by a quality assurance organization such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Only schools accredited by recognized institutions are eligible to receive federal financial aid. Institutions may be regionally or nationally accredited, depending on the bodies by which they are assessed.
Understanding the distinction between regionally and nationally accredited schools is important when choosing a legal studies degree program. Regionally accredited institutions are typically nonprofit, academically-focused schools, while for-profit vocational schools are usually nationally accredited. Credits earned at regionally accredited institutions transfer easily to other schools and graduate programs. If you're earning an online bachelor's in legal studies with the intent to enter a master's or pre-law program, it's important to select a regionally accredited institution.
Although the U.S. Department of Education doesn't accredit schools itself, this branch of the government oversees the distribution of federal financial aid to institutions that meet accreditors' standards. In turn, quality assurance groups such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation ensure that accrediting agencies adhere to certain guidelines. An association consisting of 3,000 colleges, CHEA is the largest accreditation advocacy group in the country. The organization provides the public with information about accreditation and CHEA maintains an extensive database of recognized accrediting organizations around the world, as well as a list of accredited schools and programs located in the United States.
Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Legal Studies
JOB PLACEMENT: BACHELOR'S IN LEGAL STUDIES
Qualified legal professionals are in constant demand, and their job outlook is largely unaffected by economic activity. For this reason, legal careers are considered 'recession-proof'. However, lower-than-average job growth is expected in legal professions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), legal occupations as a whole are expected to grow by 5% between 2014 and 2024, resulting in the creation of roughly 64,600 new jobs.
The table below breaks down the 10-year industry growth outlook for some of the most common legal professions.
|Occupation||Current Number of Jobs||Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)||Projected Change in Number of Jobs (2014-24)|
|Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators||8,400||9%||+800|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants||279,500||8%||+21,200|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Unemployment projections for bachelor's in legal studies recipients are fairly strong. Paralegals, for example, face an unemployment rate of 2.8%. Unemployment rates for jobs in law enforcement are also strong; patrol officers face an unemployment rate of 1.0%, while forensic technicians face an unemployment rate of 3.1%. By comparison, the average unemployment rate for all occupations nationwide is currently set at 4.5%.
EARNING A LIVING
According to the 2016-17 PayScale College Salary Report, students who earn a bachelor's in legal studies earn median annual salaries of $40,200 during the first five years in the workforce and $57,800 after 10 years on the job. However, salary expectations for employees with a bachelor's degree in legal studies will largely depend on their specific job title. Other important factors include experience level, employer size, and city/state of employment. The next table looks at 20-year salary growth projections for five common career pathways among legal studies bachelor's degree-holders.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career||Median Annual Salary for Experienced||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career|
All five occupations experience salary growth of at least 37% after 20 years on the job. Court reporters have the highest growth rate: a 57.9% increase in earnings between the entry-level and late-career stages. Legal assistants rank second with 44.4% salary growth, followed by paralegals with 41.8% growth.
Those who graduate with a bachelor's in legal studies online will be qualified for dozens of entry-level jobs in legal, law enforcement, and other industry areas. Four of the most popular occupations for legal studies degree recipients are outlined below.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants: Paralegals and legal assistants perform supportive tasks on behalf of licensed attorneys. Their regular responsibilities include organizing files, drafting legal briefs, prepping lawyers for trial appearances, and researching legal history and case studies. The BLS notes that 72% of paralegals and legal assistants are employed at private law offices.
Court Reporters: Court reporters are responsible for recording trials, depositions and other official courtroom dealings. They must transcribe the proceedings word-for-word, and may also provide captioning for televised broadcasts or translations for non-English-speakers or people with visual or hearing impairments.
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators: These three occupations are designed to provide third-party support during legal disputes. Arbitrators hear testimony and make decisions regarding legal disputes. Mediators hear disputes, but do not make decisions involving the parties. Conciliators provide a similar service as mediators, only they meet each party separately, rather than simultaneously.
Legal Secretaries: Like paralegals and legal assistants, legal secretaries specialize in performing supportive work for licensed attorneys. In addition to performing legal research in order to prep lawyers for trials and depositions, they also draft legal documents like subpoenas, summonses, complaints, and motions.
|Profession||Median Annual Salary|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants||$48,810|
|Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators||$58,020|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to legal studies is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for legal professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations: Founded in 1974 following a merger of eight paralegal associations, this nonprofit currently represents 55 associations nationwide and more than 9,000 members. The NFPA strives to implement state-by-state standards for paralegal professionals and monitor activities to ensure legal and ethical practices.
- National Association for Legal Assistants: With more than 18,000 members nationwide, the NALA is the leading professional organization for paralegals and legal assistants in the United States. Certification programs are offered to members; the website also features an online career center, continuing ed webinars and back issues of the Facts & Findings peer-reviewed journal.
- American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc.: The American Alliance was founded in 2003 to "advance the paralegal profession by focusing on the individual paralegal". The organization offers the American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential; members also receive a complimentary subscription of the Alliance Echo magazine.
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Legal Studies
Despite the relative affordability of online master's programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.
Students who pursue online degrees will be eligible for scholarships, grants and other financial aid that is unavailable to their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Learn more about these financial opportunities for web-based learners.
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Our page dedicated to resources for business students includes links to professional organizations, open courseware, industry publications, books and business-minded users to follow on Twitter.
Our career page for business degree graduates includes a state-by-state breakdown of business careers and academic options for business students, as well as popular job sites, professional organizations and continuing education opportunities for established professionals.