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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 Online Master's in Legal Studies Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 10:

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Rank School Location
1 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
2 Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC
3 Washington University in St Louis Saint Louis, MO
4 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX
5 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
6 Pepperdine University Malibu, CA
7 George Washington University Washington, DC
8 Arizona State University-Skysong Scottsdale, AZ
9 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
10 Samford University Birmingham, AL

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 our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Legal Studies Programs

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Rank School Location Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA Graduation Rate: 92%

Located in Los Angeles, USC's Gould School of Law offers a master of studies in law completely online. The degree offers nonlawyer professionals an elevated understanding of complex legal matters. The part-time and flexible program takes about 16 months to complete and features three start dates throughout the year.

Students can pursue a general degree or concentrate their studies to earn a certificate in business law, compliance, entertainment law and industry, financial compliance, healthcare compliance, or human resources and compliance. Students attend small collaborative classes that feature weekly live discussions led by faculty. Courses include topics in American law, contract drafting and strategy, and regulatory compliance.

USC is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Studies in Law
School Status: Private
Tuition: $2,654 per credit
Credit Requirements: 21 credits
Program Length: 16 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

2

Wake Forest University

Winston-Salem, NC Graduation Rate: 89%

Based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wake Forest offers an online master of studies in law with three professional track options: business law and compliance, health law and policy, and human resources.

Students complete core classes, courses in their chosen track, and up to six credits of electives from other tracks. Core courses include public law, private law, and unauthorized practice of law. Elective courses include labor law, cybersecurity and privacy, and detecting wrongdoing with investigations.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and show work experience in a relevant field. Students may transfer up to six credits of graduate-level courses toward their degree. The program features three start dates throughout the year.

Wake Forest is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Studies in Law
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,004 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 21 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not specified

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

3

Washington University in St Louis

Saint Louis, MO Graduation Rate: 95%

Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Washington University offers an online master of legal studies. Featuring the same curriculum as the on-campus program, the online experience digs into the application of U.S. law across an array of contemporary business topics. Students can pick one of five concentrations: business law, conflict resolution, employment law, litigation, or regulatory compliance.

Every spring and fall, online students may attend an optional weekend learning experience on campus. These sessions provide the chance to meet fellow students and faculty while connecting with other professionals and companies in the area. The program offers four starts dates annually.

Washington University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Legal Studies
School Status: Private
Tuition: $2,611 per credit
Credit Requirements: 24 credits
Program Length: 12 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

4

Texas A & M University-College Station

College Station, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 82%

Based in College Station, Texas A&M offers an online master of laws. The program suits those seeking to specialize in a specific area of law, as well as students looking for a deeper understanding of U.S. laws and procedures.

The online program offers three areas of specialization: international tax, risk management, and wealth management. Covered course topics include task risk management, white-collar crime, and nonprofit law.

The program requires applicants to possess a JD (or an international equivalent). Enrollees can choose from three start dates throughout the year. Students who take four courses per semester can complete the program in one year.

Texas A&M is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Laws
School Status: Public
Tuition: $1,375 per credit
Credit Requirements: 24 credits
Program Length: 12 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

5

Florida State University

Tallahassee, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 83%

Based in Tallahassee, FSU offers an online juris master. This program provides students with a solid foundation in regulatory compliance and risk management. The program suits nonlawyer professionals pursuing careers in highly regulated industries.

Students choose one of three concentrations: financial regulation and compliance, legal risk management and HR compliance, or healthcare regulation. Advanced courses include healthcare fraud and abuse, risk management and compliance case studies, and consumer protection law.

Students may complete the program on a part-time basis, taking six credits per semester. FSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Juris Master
School Status: Public
Tuition: $683 per credit (in-state); $1,350 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 4-6 semesters
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE requirement waived through spring 2022

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

6

Pepperdine University

Malibu, CA Graduation Rate: 83%

Based in Malibu, California, Pepperdine's Caruso School of Law offers an online master of legal studies. The program helps professionals pursue advancement in their current role or switch to a different field. Full-time students can graduate in 16 months, while part-time learners can finish in 22 months.

The program addresses several fundamental areas of law, preparing graduates for nonattorney legal responsibilities. Core courses include legal writing, civil procedure and litigation, and criminal law. Students can customize their degree by choosing from 12 different elective courses, including classes in intellectual property, health law, and business organizations.

Online students may attend two in-person residencies on campus to network and participate in case studies and mock trials. Graduates can also earn a master of dispute resolution by completing 18-22 additional credits.

Pepperdine is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Legal Studies
School Status: Private
Tuition: $2,180 per credit
Credit Requirements: 32 credits
Program Length: 16 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

7

George Washington University

Washington, DC Graduation Rate: 82%

Based in Washington D.C., GW offers an online master of studies in law for government procurement law that focuses on examining procurement rules, procedures, and issues. The program suits professionals who aren't interested in earning a law degree but whose careers would benefit from a greater understanding of the law, such as policy analysts, journalists, and compliance officers.

The program offers 10 concentrations, including First Amendment speech and expression, cybersecurity, and intellectual property. Courses cover topics like administrative law, corporations, and information privacy law. Applicants must hold a JD.

GW is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Studies in Law for Government Procurement Law
School Status: Private
Tuition: $2,300 per credit
Credit Requirements: 24 credits
Program Length: 12 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

8

Arizona State University-Skysong

Scottsdale, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 14%

Based in Phoenix, ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law offers an online master of legal studies that provides a solid foundation in U.S. law for nonlawyer professionals.

The customizable curriculum offers 11 possible focus areas, including Indian gaming, tribal self-governance, sports law and business, and construction law. Featured courses include criminal procedure, U.S. law and legal analysis, and intellectual property.

Job opportunities for graduates include careers such as chief executive officer, contract manager, and patent officer. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree.

ASU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Legal Studies
School Status: Public
Tuition: $1,055 per credit (in-state, 12 credits per term); $1,110 per credit (out-of-state, 12 credits per term)
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 12 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

9

Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA Graduation Rate: 74%

Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel's Thomas R. Kline School of Law offers an online master of legal studies. The program helps students develop a working knowledge of essential law topics, without needing to obtain a law degree.

Students may choose to earn a general degree or specialize in one of eight concentration areas, including higher education compliance, human resources compliance, NCAA compliance and sports law, and pharmaceutical and medical device regulatory compliance. Core courses go over compliance skills and legal research and analysis. Participants also complete a capstone course. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution.

Drexel is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Legal Studies
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,250 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 1-2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GMAT, GRE, LSAT, or MCAT are optional

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

10

Samford University

Birmingham, AL Graduation Rate: 76%

A Christian university located in Birmingham, Alabama, Samford's Cumberland School of Law offers an online master of studies in law. Students can choose from four concentrations: financial services regulatory compliance, health law and compliance, higher education law and compliance, and legal operations.

Required core courses include legal writing and communication skills, principles of business law, and introduction to public policy. The program also requires students to complete a master of studies in law capstone course. The school also offers a customizable concentration track for nonlawyers. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.

Samford is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Studies in Law
School Status: Private
Tuition: $915 per credit
Credit Requirements: 34 credits
Program Length: 24 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT strongly advised

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

11

University of Illinois at Springfield

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

Based in Springfield, UIS offers an online master of arts in legal studies. Designed for working professionals, the program offers practical knowledge of the legal system, judicial processes, government regulation, and legal compliance.

Available focus areas include law and public policy, human rights and social justice, and regulatory compliance. Core courses cover theories of justice and public advocacy. A clinical education component allows students to earn credit through paid or unpaid internships with government agencies, the Illinois Supreme Court, and other organizations (e.g., legal aid offices and private law firms).

The program concludes with a master's thesis or a graduate seminar that explores a current legal problem or issue. Depending on their academic background and experience, students may need to take a four-credit prerequisite course in legal research and citation.

UIS is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Legal Studies
School Status: Public
Tuition: $411 per credit
Credit Requirements: 36 or 40 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

12

Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA Graduation Rate: 50%

An evangelical Christian university based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty offers an online juris master degree. The program provides a customizable and flexible pathway for students who do not plan to practice law as an attorney but would like to gain a greater understanding of legal issues.

The program features a grounding in biblical ethics and professional conduct that reflects a Christian worldview. Core courses include constitutional law, legal writing and analysis, and jurisprudence and legal history. Students may obtain a generalized degree or pursue a concentration in American legal studies, compliance, or health law.

Candidates may transfer up to 15 credits into this 30-credit program. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree. Liberty is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Juris Master
School Status: Private
Tuition: $565 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 12 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

13

Hodges University

Naples, FL Graduation Rate: 22%

A private university in Naples, Florida, Hodges offers an online juris master that consists of 10 courses. The program helps students enhance their critical thinking skills while mastering topics related to professional legal research, legal theory, and negotiation and advocacy. The curriculum also covers anti-discrimination law and diversity and inclusion concepts.

Potential job opportunities for graduates include compliance officer and human resources executive. The program caters to working adults and features monthly start dates, allowing students to complete their degree on their schedule.

Hodges is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Juris Master
School Status: Private
Tuition: $790 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 10 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not specified

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

14

West Virginia University

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

Based in Morgantown, West Virginia, WVU offers an online master of legal studies for students who need a working knowledge of the law to bolster their career prospects. Participants can choose one of three emphasis areas: healthcare, justice systems, or homeland security.

Core course topics include elder law, punishment and corrections, and emergency response coordination. Potential career paths include regulatory affairs specialist, probation officer, and arbitrator.

The program features three start dates throughout the year. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. WVU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Legal Studies
School Status: Public
Tuition: $633 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 18 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.75 minimum required; 3.0 minimum preferred
Standardized Tests: GRE, GMAT, or LSAT required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

15

Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA Graduation Rate: 59%

A Christian university in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Regent offers a customizable master of arts in law. Potential career outcomes for graduates include roles in nonprofit advocacy, national security, and human resources.

Specialization areas include alternative dispute resolution, business, immigration law, and international business transactions. Students may also obtain a general degree. Featured core courses include contract law, business entities, and criminal law. Most students take two classes per semester.

The program offers eight start dates throughout the year, and the university accepts applications on a rolling basis. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an approved university. Regent is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Law
School Status: Private
Tuition: $675 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 5 semesters
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

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.

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Additional Reading and Resources

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