Involving elements of business and law, legal studies is a broad field that can prepare graduates to work in a number of industries. On this page, we take a look at 10 of the best online master's in legal studies programs and examine the degree in greater detail. Covered topics include curriculum content, admission requirements, potential career options, and frequently asked questions.

Read on to discover how a master's in legal studies can benefit your professional career.

What Are the Best Legal Studies Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 10:

Rank School Location
1 University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, IL
2 Washington University in St Louis Saint Louis, MO
3 Webster University Saint Louis, MO
4 Pepperdine University Malibu, CA
5 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
6 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA
7 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
8 West Virginia University Morgantown, WV
9 Hodges University Naples, FL
10 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL

Specialized skills and expertise can help any business professional stand apart from the crowd. Earning a master's in legal studies provides nonlawyers with a solid understanding of the laws and legal systems that regulate industry.

Graduates may pursue careers as compliance officers, human resource managers, legal consultants, paralegals, and healthcare administrators. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compliance officers earn a median salary of $68,680, with top employers including federal and state governments.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students. Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read more about our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Legal Studies Programs

Sort By
Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

University of Illinois at Springfield

Springfield, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 51%

The University of Illinois Springfield is a public institution and was the third to join the University of Illinois System in 1995. Located on 746 acres in the state capital, UIS enrolls more than 4,000 students. More than 50 certificates, degrees, and licensure programs are available online at UIS, including a master's in legal studies.

The 40-credit degree utilizes both asynchronous and synchronous delivery formats, with classes designed to work with various work schedules and time zones. Required courses include legal research and citation, public advocacy, and theories of justice. As a culminating experience, students may either complete a thesis or graduate seminar and final paper.

Prospective students should demonstrate a minimum 3.0 cumulative undergraduate GPA. The university also requires a 350- to 750-word personal statement. Start dates occur in the fall and spring.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Arts in Legal Studies
School Status: Public
Tuition: $362/credit
Credit Requirements: 40 credits

Delivery

Format: 100% online, with optional clinical experience electives
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (217) 206-6535
Email: les@uis.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

2

Washington University in St Louis

Saint Louis, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 95%

Washington University in St. Louis is a private institution with more than 14,500 full-time students. The university boasts status as the oldest operating private law school west of the Mississippi River. WashU offers several online graduate degrees, including a general master of legal studies and a master of legal studies in taxation.

Each program requires the completion of 24 credits through synchronous, face-to-face webcam classes and immersive, asynchronous coursework. Students have the option of attending an on-campus immersion in St. Louis for networking, court hearing observations, and sightseeing. WashU provides every online student with a global WeWork membership, providing access to hundreds of workspaces across the globe.

For admission consideration, applicants must provide a statement of purpose, resume or CV, and official transcripts. Candidates also complete an interview. A $70 fee applies.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Legal Studies; Master of Legal Studies in Taxation
School Status: Private nonprofit
Tuition: $2,450/credit
Credit Requirements: 24 credits
Program Length: 1 year

Delivery

Format: 100% online, with optional externship and on-campus immersion opportunities
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Contact

Phone: (314) 281-5200
Email: admissions@onlinelaw.wustl.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

3

Webster University

Saint Louis, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

Webster University is a nonprofit, private institution with a main campus in St. Louis and dozens of domestic and international satellite locations. To further extend its academic reach, Webster also boasts a catalog of more than 50 online programs, including a master's in legal studies.

The 39-credit degree plan includes flexible, asynchronous courses on legal research, ethics for the legal professional, civil and criminal actions, and American Constitutional law. If desired, students can also apply their earned credits to a concurrent certificate in paralegal studies. No internships or on-campus visits are required to graduate.

Webster considers applications on a rolling basis. The university seeks graduate school applicants with a bachelor's degree and minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA. Applicants must provide official transcripts.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Arts in Legal Studies
School Status: Private nonprofit
Tuition: $780/credit
Credit Requirements: 39 credits

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.5 minimum

Contact

Phone: (314) 246-7401
Email: joinusonline@webster.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

4

Pepperdine University

Malibu, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 93%

Pepperdine University is a private research university located in Malibu, CA, with additional locations across Southern California and throughout the globe. Affiliated with the Church of Christ, Pepperdine enrolls a diverse student body of nearly 8,000 individuals. The ABA-accredited Caruso School of Law offers an online master's in legal studies.

This rigorous degree requires completion of 32 credits, consisting of synchronous web-based courses and two on-campus residencies. While in Malibu, students receive the opportunity to network, complete a one-credit course, and engage in case studies and mock trials. Optional concentrations are available in dispute resolution and human resources.

Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university. The school requests transcripts, one letter of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a resume, and an interview.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Legal Studies
School Status: Private nonprofit
Available Concentrations: Dispute resolution; human resources
Tuition: $2,115/credit
Credit Requirements: 32 credits
Program Length: 16 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online with 2 on-campus residencies
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Contact

Phone: (844) 707-9208
Email: admissions@onlinelaw.pepperdine.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

5

Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 74%

Drexel University is a private research institution with three campuses in Philadelphia. One of the oldest providers of online degree programs in the nation, Drexel currently enrolls more than 4,500 distance learners. Among the school's 150 program options is an online master's in legal studies.

This 30-credit degree is specifically designed for non-lawyers seeking an education in the laws and legal systems regulating their career field. Students can select from a general track or eight specializations focused on industry-specific compliance, including healthcare, human resources, and higher education. A final master's capstone course requires preparation of a major written research project.

Admissions criteria for the legal studies program include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, two letters of recommendation, an essay, and a resume. Standardized test scores are optional.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Legal Studies
School Status: Private nonprofit
Available Concentrations: General; criminal law; cybersecurity and information privacy compliance; financial regulatory compliance; healthcare compliance; higher education compliance; human resources compliance; NCAA compliance and sports law; pharmaceutical and medical device regulatory compliance
Tuition: $1,234/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (877) 215-0009
Email: DUonline@drexel.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

6

Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

Regent University is a private Christian university located in Virginia Beach. More than 10,000 students attend each year, representing all 50 states and 88 countries. The online master of laws in American legal studies program provides a unique opportunity for learners with a law degree from another country to become proficient in American law.

This degree is designed for graduates of accredited institutions located outside the United States. Courses are available in areas such as constitutional law, intellectual property law, and corporate law. Structured in 15-week sessions, the program can be completed in just one year of full-time study.

Regent evaluates applicants based on academic and professional achievement. Prospective students must possess or be in the process of completing a qualifying degree. A clergy recommendation and admissions interview are required.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Laws in American Legal Studies
School Status: Private nonprofit
Tuition: $650/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 1 year

Delivery

Format: 100% online

Contact

Phone: (877) 267-5072
Email: lawschool@regent.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

7

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 64%

The University of Arizona is a public research university located in Tucson. Of its annual enrollment of nearly 46,000 students, over 4,000 students enroll exclusively in online courses. The school of law at UA offers four programs for distance learners, including an online master of legal studies.

This 30-credit program allows students to select a general studies track or one of 11 concentrations, including family and juvenile law, mining law and policy, and indigenous peoples law and policy. All courses utilize asynchronous scheduling for maximum flexibility. Graduates go on to pursue careers in government, business, social services, education, and nonprofit work.

Prospective students should possess a minimum 3.0 GPA. UA requires a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and a resume or CV.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Legal Studies
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Compliance and legal risk management; criminal law and policy; environmental law and policy; family and juvenile law; health law and policy; human rights; indigenous peoples law and policy; intellectual property; international trade and business law; mining law and policy; tax law and policy
Tuition: $650/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 1 year

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (520) 621-1373
Email: law-admissions@email.arizona.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

8

West Virginia University

Morgantown, WV Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 60%

West Virginia University is a public university with high research activity. WVU enrolls 26,800 students at its flagship Morgantown campus each year. Neither a pre-law nor paralegal program, WVU's online legal studies master's degree is designed for professionals practicing in fields such as business, social work, criminal justice, journalism, or municipal government.

The 30-credit, 18-month program offers concentration options in healthcare, justice systems, and homeland security. Required core courses for all students include dispute resolution, the legislative process, and researching the law. A final capstone requires research and completion of a scholarly project.

Applicants should demonstrate a minimum 2.75 cumulative GPA and submit GRE, GMAT, or LSAT scores, unless exempt. The school also requires a resume, a statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Arts in Legal Studies
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Healthcare; justice systems; homeland security
Tuition: $631/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 18 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE; GMAT; LSAT

Contact

Phone: (800) 253-2762
Email: wvuonline@mail.wvu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

9

Hodges University

Naples, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 22%

Hodges University is a private institution serving approximately 1,000 students in southwest Florida with a diverse catalog of certificates, associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees. The private institution also offers more than 50 online and hybrid programs, including a master of legal studies.

This 30-credit degree is ideal for aspiring compliance officers and other professionals who require additional legal training to help their organizations succeed in increasingly complex regulatory environments. Core courses cover major topics in employment and human resources, international law, and intellectual property. A final capstone is required to graduate.

Full admission to a graduate program at Hodges requires a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Legal studies applicants must also submit a personal statement and resume.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Legal Studies
School Status: Private nonprofit
Tuition: $750/credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 1 year

Delivery

Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (888) 920-3035
Email: Online form
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

10

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 51%

Founded in 1889, Saint Leo University is the oldest Catholic college in Florida. More than 13,000 students from all 50 states and 80 countries enroll on campus and online each year. Saint Leo's online master's degree in criminal justice offers eight-week courses and six concentration options, including legal studies.

Specifically designed to meet the needs of criminal justice professionals, this 36-credit program provides study of ethical and legal issues, public policy-making, and applied leadership. A pool of 31 electives allows for further customization. As part of a final capstone, students have the opportunity to launch a program initiative related to criminal justice administration.

Admission requires a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Individuals with a GPA below 3.0 must provide a statement of professional goals. An $80 application fee applies.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Science in Criminal Justice
School Status: Private nonprofit
Available Concentrations: Legal studies; behavioral studies; corrections; criminal investigations; critical incident management; forensic science
Tuition: $590/credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (877) 622-2009
Email: grad.admissions@saintleo.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

Online Master's in Legal Studies Program Overview

Law schools offer several academic options designed to satisfy different professional goals. The distinguishing feature of a master's in legal studies is that, unlike a juris doctor or master's in law, this degree does not prepare graduates to practice as lawyers or attorneys. Rather, these programs are designed to educate nonlawyers about fundamental legal concepts and issues.

Courses in a legal studies program are similar to those taken by first-year juris doctor students. Areas of study include legal research and writing, laws and legal procedure, contracts, and intellectual property. Students can also take electives that match their professional goals and interests.

It is common for students to pursue a legal studies degree after already accruing several years of professional experience. Individuals who earn a master's degree can immediately apply their newfound knowledge in their current workplace or decide to seek advancement. Further postgraduate education is also an option.

Common Master's in Legal Studies Degree Courses

Introduction to Legal Studies

This introductory course provides a framework for graduate-level study of law and the American legal system. Focus is placed on ethics and terminology. Common topics include history and philosophy of justice; legal institutions; and overviews of major areas like contracts, property, and criminal law.

Legal Research and Writing

In this course, students practice and develop their research and writing skills. Coursework introduces effective formats and styles used for written communication with lawyers and other professionals. Skills are also developed in identifying, locating, and using legal resources found in law libraries and through computer-aided research.

Ethics for the Legal Professional

This course focuses on the ethical and professional responsibilities of legal professionals. Students examine issues like confidentiality, unauthorized practice, conflicts of interest, and corporate social responsibility. Attention is paid to providing students with frameworks to handle moral dilemmas in the face of increasing expectations of transparency and accountability.

Constitutional Law

Students taking this course examine the concept and evolution of constitutionalism, the role of constitutional law in protecting individual liberty, and the relationships between federal government branches. Other common discussion topics include judicial review, separation of powers, and constitutional interpretation.

Thesis/Capstone

Prior to graduation, master's programs commonly require students to complete a culminating experience in the form of a thesis or capstone. Specific requirements vary, but students can expect to integrate knowledge from all prior courses, participate in extensive research, and craft a major written project.

Related Master's in Legal Studies Degree Concentrations

Human Resources

A concentration in human resources provides students with expert knowledge of the legal system and employment law. Courses cover critical compliance issues commonly faced by HR professionals, including hiring, termination, negotiation, and mediation.

Criminal Law

A legal studies concentration in criminal law prepares students to function within the complex regulatory environment of the modern criminal justice system. Suitable for mid-level and managerial professionals, courses cover key concepts and issues in criminal law, criminal procedure, and corrections law.

Dispute Resolution

A concentration in dispute resolution provides students with a formal background designed to help them compete in a growing field. Courses cover the theory and practice of arbitration and mediation, alongside topics in psychology, communication, and conflict. Graduates can find work as arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators.

Healthcare

This concentration provides education about healthcare law and regulation. Courses cover concepts including state and federal regulatory requirements, liability issues, family law, and employment. This area of study is ideal for professionals working in a variety of healthcare sectors, such as hospitals and doctors' offices, long-term care facilities, insurance companies, and government agencies.

Compliance

This concentration prepares and trains students for careers in compliance and risk management. Courses commonly cover the American legal system, corporate compliance, and legal research. Students can further focus their study toward field-specific compliance issues, including human resources, healthcare, taxation, and environmental law.

Online Master's in Legal Studies Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor's Degree

    In order to apply to a master's program, prospective students must first complete a bachelor's degree at a regionally accredited school. To qualify for a master's in legal studies online program, schools do not typically require applicants to hold their undergraduate degree in a specific field.

  • Minimum GPA

    Graduate schools want to enroll students who are likely to succeed academically. To help accomplish this, many universities set a minimum GPA requirement for full admission. Online master's in legal studies applicants typically need to demonstrate a minimum 2.5-3.0 undergraduate GPA.

  • Standardized Tests

    Another way to evaluate the academic abilities of a prospective student is through standardized testing. Though not a common requirement for master's programs in legal studies, some schools request that applicants submit GRE or GMAT scores. Scores remain valid for five years after test completion.

  • Statement of Purpose

    Graduate programs frequently require applicants to supply a written statement of purpose along with their application, transcripts, and test scores. This essay usually discusses an applicant's motivation for enrollment, professional interests and goals, and any relevant prior accomplishments. Specific content and length requirements vary by school.

  • Letters of Recommendation

    Letters of recommendation discuss an applicant's knowledge, skills, and relevant work and/or education history. One or two of these letters are required for most master's in legal studies programs. Applicants should request letters from supervisors and/or professors well in advance of application deadlines.


Online Master's in Legal Studies Career Paths

Earning an online master's in legal studies does not prepare graduates to practice law, but there is no shortage of employment opportunities for nonlawyers with a solid legal background. A legal studies degree may be appropriate for professionals working in industries that intersect with law, such as criminal justice, business, banking, higher education, and healthcare.

Legal studies graduates commonly pursue careers as human resource managers, paralegals, compliance officers and directors, contract negotiators, and legal consultants. Licensure requirements vary by industry and state, but many of these jobs can be pursued without any additional certification.


Related Careers

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you do with a master's in legal studies?

A master's in legal studies is not a law degree, meaning graduates are not qualified to work as lawyers or attorneys. Rather, the curriculum of a legal studies program helps prepare industry professionals to navigate complex regulatory environments. Graduates can work in a variety of positions relating to business, law, and compliance.

Is legal studies the same as law?

Legal studies programs are offered by many top law schools. However, a legal studies degree varies significantly from law degrees like a juris doctor or master's in law, which prepare graduates for work as attorneys and lawyers. Legal studies programs are specifically designed for nonlawyers working in industries like business, healthcare, and compliance.

How long does it take to get a master's in legal studies?

Program completion times vary depending on a student's schedule. When studying full time, an online master's in legal studies typically takes about one year to complete. Online programs may also offer part-time scheduling options, which allow students to study while maintaining obligations to work and family.

Is a master's in legal studies worth it?

Although the value of any academic degree is largely subjective, earning an online master's in legal studies can prove incredibly useful for professionals working in complex regulatory environments. Legal knowledge and skills can help mid-level employees advance and allow current managers and executives to handle new, emerging challenges.

What jobs can you get with a master's in legal studies?

A master's in legal studies program is designed for nonlawyer professionals who desire additional education and training about legal concepts and issues. Graduates may apply their newfound knowledge to careers in compliance, human resources, management, and other fields.

Discover Similar Degree Programs

Looking for something else? Explore these other online degrees.

Additional Reading and Resources

Want more? We have additional resources to help you in every stage of your educational journey.