Best Online Undergraduate Degrees in Legal Studies

Launch your career with an online bachelor's in legal studies. Use this resource created by the higher education experts at BestColleges to explore your options for careers, salaries, courses, and concentrations in legal studies.
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Earning a bachelor's in legal studies can be a good financial investment. The legal field also offers diverse opportunities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators earned a median annual salary of $66,130, as of May 2020. Social and community service managers who often work for nonprofit organizations earned a median annual wage of $69,600. Lawyers earned $126,930.

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Many careers in this field are also forecast to be in relatively high demand.

For example, the number of jobs for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is projected to increase by 10% from 2020-2030. Jobs for paralegals and legal assistants are projected to grow 12% during that same decade, surpassing the average growth rate of 8% for all U.S. occupations.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Legal Studies Program?

In this program, students can develop research and writing skills and learn how to sift through technical legal texts and documents. Students with strong written communication, organization, and analytical skills are often well-suited for this area of study.

Online bachelor's in legal studies programs typically consist of 120 required credits and take about four years of full-time study to complete. Part-time or self-paced asynchronous programs tend to take longer.

Some programs may require students to complete capstone projects or internships. Many learners decide to pursue these opportunities voluntarily to bolster their resumes and gain hands-on industry experience.

Legal studies curricula tend to be more generalized. Learners must complete foundational courses such as legal research, legal writing, and civil litigation. Many students choose specialized concentrations that align with their academic interests and intended careers.

Some common concentrations include:

  • Business Law
  • Paralegal
  • Pre-Law
  • Criminal Justice

Popular Online Legal Studies Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Legal Studies Program?

Legal Research

Researching existing legal documentation and gathering evidence to support cases are among the most integral skills legal professionals will need. In this course, students learn how to find and evaluate relevant evidence from legal documents.

Civil Litigation

Students learn about the processes associated with standard courtroom procedures — pleadings, damages, appeals, and motions in both state and federal court settings. This course teaches students about litigation techniques and corresponding research that drive cases.

Legal Ethics

Most programs require students to complete a legal ethics course. Learners explore the ethical procedures that legal professionals follow. Learners also analyze more abstract ethical questions through case studies and theory-based analysis.

The American Legal System

In this course, students learn about the evolution of federal and state law, and how legal protocols function in the United States. They explore historic policy reforms and how they impact contemporary procedures.

Criminal Law and Procedures

Many legal professionals build a practical understanding of criminal justice theory and conventions. Students learn about the research, ethics, and strategy behind an effective criminal defense and prosecution.

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Legal Studies Program?

Admission requirements for online bachelor's programs are generally similar to those of on-campus programs.

Many online learners have spent time in the workforce. Application requirements may emphasize credentials associated with working professionals, such as resumes, rather than those associated with recent high school graduates, such as SAT or ACT scores.

Online programs may have additional requirements — such as interviews, resumes, or personal statements — in addition to the materials listed below.

Application

Nearly all undergraduate programs will require students to fill out a standard application. Prospective students disclose basic contact information, extracurricular activities, awards and honors, intended path of study, and other qualifications.

Many schools allow applicants to submit these materials via the Common Application, an online platform designed to streamline the application process and organize applications electronically. It allows you to apply to multiple schools with just one application.

Test Scores

Many colleges use entrance exam scores as metrics of academic abilities such as writing conventions, reading comprehension, and mathematics.

However, an increasing number of colleges no longer require standardized test scores, particularly because of COVID-19-related disruptions to testing access. Many people wonder what the future will hold for these tests.

For now, find out if these test scores are required, optional, or banned at the schools you are considering. For test-optional schools, applicants may decide to submit their SAT or ACT scores if they feel it will help boost their application.

Letters of Recommendation

Many colleges require that prospective students provide one or more letters of recommendation. Admissions personnel want to learn about an applicant's capabilities, aspirations, and experiences from people who know the prospective student.

Applicants should request letters of recommendation from mentors or supervisors with whom they have built a positive relationship. Teachers, professors, guidance counselors, and employers can provide accounts of a student's qualifications.

Essays

Colleges often require applicants to submit a personal statement or college essay. Prospective students typically write about finding a passion, overcoming a challenge, or having an experience that shaped their identities.

Many schools require, or strongly encourage, applicants to write supplemental essays. These are often based on shorter, school-specific prompts about why they have chosen to apply to a particular school or how they plan to contribute to a diverse learning environment.

Official Transcripts

Colleges almost always require undergraduate applicants to include their high school transcripts, as well as records of any transferable postsecondary credits, such as those from a community college.

Although admissions personnel evaluate applicants on a collection of holistic and ability-based criteria, transcripts are the most concrete metric of a student's past academic performance.

What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Legal Studies Degree?

Career Outlook

Legal professionals work in a variety of roles, settings, and specializations. They assist lawyers as paralegals or legal secretaries and negotiate directly with disputants as arbitrators, mediators, or conciliators.

Some bachelor's degree graduates work in courtroom settings as court reporters. Others decide to pursue higher degrees and work as lawyers or postsecondary educators.

With the variety of career options, many graduates with a background in legal studies can pursue in-demand careers.

From 2020-2030, the BLS projects the number of jobs for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators will increase by 10%. The number of jobs for paralegals is projected to increase by 12%, and the number of jobs for community and social managers is projected to grow by 15%.

Career Paths

Paralegal and Legal Assistant

These professionals assist lawyers by gathering, writing, transcribing, and organizing relevant legal documents. They conduct research on existing laws to inform cases and correspond with lawyers, witnesses, and clients. They may also draft reports and other legal documents, such as contracts. Paralegals and legal assistants must typically earn an associate degree or certificate in paralegal studies from an American Bar Association-approved program. Some employers require a bachelor's degree.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $52,920
Projected Job Growth (from 2020-2030): 12%

Lawyer

These professionals represent and advise their clients in a variety of legal matters, while corresponding with judges, clients, and other figures. They analyze and interpret legal documents, policies, and evidence to strengthen their cases. Lawyers can advocate for clients in a diverse array of niches, such as family law, corporate law, or environmental law. These professionals must earn a Juris Doctor law degree and pass the bar exam, administered by the American Bar Association.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $126,930
Projected Job Growth (from 2020-2030): 9%

Legal Secretary and Administrative Assistant

These professionals assist lawyers and paralegals with various administrative duties. They prepare legal documents and correspondence materials, such as subpoenas, motions, and summonses, using appropriate syntax and terminology. They also communicate with clients, lawyers, and other legal professionals.

Mean Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $52,750
Projected Job Growth (from 2020-2030): N/A

Court Reporter

Court events like hearings or depositions often must be documented and transcribed. Court reporters take notes and use specialized equipment, like stenography machines, to record and transcribe speech. Often, these individuals earn certifications like the registered professional reporter (RPR) through the National Court Reporters Association.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $61,660
Projected Job Growth (from 2020-2030): 3%

Nonprofit (Social and Community) Manager

Many nonprofit organizations advocate for criminal justice reform or the relationship between law and public policy. Some individuals with a background in legal studies do not work directly in the legal field, but they do apply their industry knowledge in nonprofit settings. These professionals may plan fundraising initiatives, oversee budget plans, communicate with corporate sponsors, and oversee daily operations.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $69,600
Projected Job Growth (from 2020-2030): 15%

Legal Studies Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

For many students, earning a bachelor's in legal studies is a stepping stone to more specialized career training or graduate programs. For example, individuals who hope to work as paralegals may earn a paralegal certification in addition to a bachelor's degree.

Other graduates may go on to attend law school, earn a law degree, or pursue a master's in different legal specializations like business law or a more generalized master's degree in legal studies.

Those who are more interested in shaping policy may earn a master's degree in public policy, while those more focused on justice reform can pursue a master's in criminal justice.

How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Legal Studies Program?

Cost

Many prospective students see earning a bachelor's in legal studies as an investment in their future careers.

Tuition costs for online and on-campus programs are usually comparable. Students earning an online degree may save money on fees, like room and board. Some online programs even charge per credit, reflecting a more flexible payment format.

Many programs charge all online students the same in-state rate no matter where they live. However, some online programs may include a technical fee.

Calculate the true cost of your online program to determine how much you will end up paying to earn your degree.

Program Format

Although many full-time students adhere to a standard four-year timeline, this program format is not ideal for all learners. Students with a number of transferable credits may prefer more condensed, accelerated programs, which can take less than four years to complete.

Working students may prefer to earn their degree part time. Students pursuing an online degree can often choose synchronous courses, which meet at designated times, or asynchronous courses, which are more self-paced.

Location

One of the benefits of earning an online bachelor's in legal studies is the geographic flexibility. Remote learners can choose from many top-ranking online programs based on cost, academic offerings, and accreditation without geographic restriction.

Students should research whether remote learning programs have any on-campus requirements. Some remote learners choose programs that are geographically accessible to take advantage of in-state tuition, hybrid courses, or in-person meetings with faculty members.

Accreditation

Students majoring in legal studies should be sure to pursue accredited programs. Accreditation is granted to programs that adhere to industry and academic standards. Proper accreditation not only reflects well on the school, but it can often solidify the value of the degree in the eyes of employers.

Student Support

Prospective students should consider student support services when assessing the quality of legal studies programs. Online student services like academic advising, tutoring programs, and writing centers can promote learners' academic success. Career services like alumni networks, mentorship opportunities, job boards, and internship programs can help kickstart students' careers after graduation.

Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Legal Studies Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1 Best Online Undergraduate Degrees in Legal Studies

University of Central Florida

  • Orlando, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

UCF's bachelor's in legal studies prepares students for graduate-level study or entry-level careers as legal assistants and program specialists. Core coursework includes legal research, professionalism and civility in the law, and legal writing. In the program's final year, students complete an internship or a capstone experience.

Nearly 50% of UCF undergraduates accept a job offer before graduation day. The university helps learners succeed by offering career-related resources, including Handshake job-search software and cover letter critiques.

Prospective students can apply for the spring, summer, or fall semester. Transfer students should have a minimum 2.0 GPA. Financial aid opportunities include merit-based scholarships, which can be viewed on UCF's Access to Opportunities website. Florida residents receive a significant tuition discount.

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,478
Out-of-state
$19,810
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
44%
Students Enrolled
69,402
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#2 Best Online Undergraduate Degrees in Legal Studies

Pennsylvania State University

  • University Park, PA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Delivered through its World Campus, Penn State's online bachelor's degree in law and society features courses like rights in America, the American legal process, and contemporary legal issues. The degree includes 30-39 credits of electives, allowing learners to complete a second major or minor.

Penn State offers online students internship opportunities and one-on-one career advising sessions. Thanks to these resources, 72% of Penn State graduates find a full-time job within one year of graduation.

Admission requirements include high school transcripts or GED scores. Applicants do not need to submit recommendation letters or standardized test scores. Full-time students pay a flat, semester-based tuition rate. Learners who maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA may qualify for institutional scholarships.

Average Tuition
In-state
$17,416
Out-of-state
$34,480
Retention Rate
88%
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
91,427
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#3 Best Online Undergraduate Degrees in Legal Studies

Bellevue University

  • Bellevue, NE
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students planning for a career in the legal system or for pre-law studies should consider BU's online bachelor's program in legal studies. During the program, learners analyze the American criminal and civil legal systems, the judicial process, and legal writing. All BU undergraduates also complete the Kirkpatrick Signature Series — three courses that emphasize American values.

BU helps students and alumni practice interviewing skills, hone their resumes, and network online. The university also provides the College Central Network, which is an online job board with opportunities throughout the United States.

First-year admission requirements include high school transcripts or a GED certificate. Enrolled students can apply to the program after completing general education courses. BU does not charge out-of-state tuition, and active-duty service members enjoy an automatic tuition discount.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,176
Out-of-state
$7,176
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
11,637
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
95% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#4 Best Online Undergraduate Degrees in Legal Studies

Peirce College

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Peirce's hybrid bachelor's program in paralegal studies accepts up to 90 transfer credits, making it an excellent option for prospective students who already hold an associate degree. The program's core curriculum covers tort law, family law, and advanced legal technology. During the program's final semester, all students complete a capstone covering practical skills and regulation. Participants take a blend of on-campus and online classes

Peirce helps learners hone interviewing and resume writing skills. Paralegal studies graduates earn jobs with an average starting salary of around $38,000.

Program applicants must complete a one-page undergraduate application. All students pay the same per-credit tuition rate at this private institution. Applying for institutional scholarships requires an additional essay.

Average Tuition
In-state
$14,400
Out-of-state
$14,400
Retention Rate
50%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,178
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
89% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#5 Best Online Undergraduate Degrees in Legal Studies

University of Maryland Global Campus

  • Adelphi, MD
  • 4 years
  • Online

UMGC's 120-credit bachelor's in legal studies program prepares students for fulfilling careers through courses in advanced legal writing, litigation, and techniques of legal research. Learners can customize the program by completing a minor or a second major. Students who live near campus have the option to earn the degree through a hybrid format.

Distance learners can access numerous resources through UMGC, including CareerQuest and a private job and internship board. Learners can also review strategies that help individuals set and follow through on career goals.

This program accepts up to 90 transfer credits and prefers applicants with relevant professional experience. Maryland residents receive a significant tuition discount. UMGC's Scholarship Finder website provides a comprehensive list of financial aid opportunities.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,200
Out-of-state
$11,976
Retention Rate
52%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
58,281
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
90% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

#6 Best Online Undergraduate Degrees in Legal Studies

Dominican University

  • River Forest, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students with relevant college credit can consider DU's online bachelor of professional studies in legal studies program. Major requirements include criminal law and procedure, disability and the law, and negotiation theory. The program also features an accelerated option in which students earn a bachelor's in legal studies and a master's in conflict resolution.

DU provides guides that cover interviewing, resume writing, and job hunting. More than 90% of alumni find a job or enter a graduate program within one year of earning their degree.

Prospective students must have at least 30 transferable credits. Other application materials include a statement of purpose. All students in the legal studies program pay the same tuition, regardless of residency.

Average Tuition
In-state
$33,950
Out-of-state
$33,950
Retention Rate
77%
Admission Rate
64%
Students Enrolled
3,029
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#7 Best Online Undergraduate Degrees in Legal Studies

SUNY College of Technology at Canton

  • Canton, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

SUNY Canton's online bachelor's in legal studies program features an internship in which students can obtain valuable experience. Core coursework includes business law, criminal practice, and professional writing and communication. Motivated learners can complete a combined BS/JD at SUNY Canton in six years.

SUNY Canton offers multiple virtual career services tools, including resume, cover letter, and graduate school guides. Online learners can also sign up for one-on-one advising appointments.

First-year application requirements include high school course prerequisites. SUNY Canton evaluates transfer credit on a case-by-case basis. Prospective students interested in institutional aid must submit a separate application. New York residents receive a tuition discount.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,070
Out-of-state
$13,534
Retention Rate
70%
Admission Rate
85%
Students Enrolled
3,223
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
64% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#8 Best Online Undergraduate Degrees in Legal Studies

Hodges University

  • Naples, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The curriculum of Hodges University's online bachelor's degree in legal studies features an optional hybrid learning option; students can take some courses on the university's campus in Naples, Florida. Major requirements include statutory interpretation, an introduction to constitutional law, and legal research and writing. Students customize the program by selecting 12 elective courses.

Hodges provides learners with an online job board, job fairs, and counseling sessions. Seventy-seven percent of undergraduate alumni find a job within one year of graduating.

The admissions process involves speaking with an advisor before submitting transcripts, FAFSA results, and an essay. Tuition disregards a student's state of residence, and active-duty service members and veterans receive a significant tuition discount.

Average Tuition
In-state
$13,800
Out-of-state
$13,800
Retention Rate
48%
Admission Rate
61%
Students Enrolled
977
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
86% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#9 Best Online Undergraduate Degrees in Legal Studies

University of Massachusetts Global

  • Irvine, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

UMass Global's bachelor's in legal studies program features 120 credits and covers topics like white-collar crime, contracts, and ethics in a legal environment. The curriculum concludes with a legal studies capstone, and learners can select between paralegal profession and business law concentrations.

UMass Global provides students with Big Interview software, personalized career coaching, and an alumni network. Specialized resources for veterans include interest inventories and skills translation guides.

Prospective students must possess at least 12 transferable credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Active-duty service members and veterans can receive credit for military training. UMass Global does not charge out-of-state tuition, and California residents may qualify for a state grant.

Average Tuition
In-state
$12,000
Out-of-state
$12,000
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
10,231
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#10 Best Online Undergraduate Degrees in Legal Studies

National University

  • La Jolla, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

NU's online bachelor's in pre-law studies program features four-week courses and is well suited for students who want to learn at an accelerated rate. During the program, learners hone analytical reasoning, negotiation, and advocacy skills. Students personalize their curriculum by selecting eight upper-division electives from over a dozen options.

Career resources for enrolled students and alumni include resume and cover letter samples, interviewing strategies, and networking tips. Students can also create a career plan by taking up to three online self-assessments.

NU accepts new students on the first of each month. First-year admission requirements include a minimum 2.0 high school GPA. Applicants who do not meet this threshold may still receive conditional admission.

Average Tuition
In-state
$13,320
Out-of-state
$13,320
Retention Rate
50%
Admission Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
16,670
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
53% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Legal Studies Programs

Is a bachelor's in legal studies worth it?

Although it can be a substantial investment of time and money, an online bachelor's in legal studies can be worthwhile in preparing students for careers in the legal field.

Many roles in the legal field require at least a bachelor's degree. Courses in the discipline introduce students to essential skills like legal research and writing, as well as foundational knowledge in legal ethics, public policy, and litigation conventions.

Earning a bachelor's degree typically increases a person's earning potential. In 2019, the median weekly wage for individuals with just a high school diploma was $746, while it was $1,248 for those with a bachelor's degree.

What can I do with a bachelor's in legal studies?

Many graduates work in law firms or legal offices, assisting lawyers as legal secretaries, paralegals, or legal assistants. Title examiners, abstractors, and searchers specialize in locating and organizing appropriate legal documents.

Some professionals prefer to apply their knowledge of courtroom procedures as court reporters. Others mediate legal negotiations with clients as arbitrators, mediators, or conciliators.

Some graduates go on to pursue law degrees and work as lawyers in various specializations like corporate law, business law, and criminal defense.

Others may prefer to apply their knowledge of the law and public policy as nonprofit managers. This background may be particularly helpful for managers of organizations focusing on criminal justice or justice reform.

Are legal studies majors in demand?

When choosing a major, students should consider the potential demand for careers in their discipline.

Many careers in the legal field look to be especially in demand. According to the BLS, the number of jobs for paralegals is projected to increase by 12% between 2020 and 2030, while the number of jobs for lawyers is projected to grow by 9%.

During the same 10-year span, the number of roles for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is projected to grow 10%, while roles for nonprofit managers are projected to grow by 15%, exceeding the average 8% rate of growth for all U.S. occupations.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in legal studies?

Professionals with a background in legal studies can work in diverse careers and specializations. Salary potential depends heavily on position, experience, location, and organization.

As of May 2020, legal secretaries earned an average annual salary of $52,750, while paralegals earned a median wage of $52,920. Court reporters earned a median yearly wage of $61,660. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators earned a median wage of $66,130 per year.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in legal studies?

Paralegals employed by the federal government earned a median annual wage of $69,490 in May 2020, while those employed by finance and insurance organizations earned $66,390, according to the BLS. Social service managers employed by local government organizations earned a median annual salary of $87,720.

Often, going on to pursue a graduate or professional degree allows applicants to access higher-paying opportunities. Postsecondary educators, for example, earned a median of $80,560 in May 2020, according to the BLS. Lawyers earned $126,930 per year, while those employed by federal government organizations earned a median annual wage of $152,220.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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