Best Online Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

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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. We take a look at the top online master's in legal studies programs and examine the degree in greater detail. Covered topics include curriculum, graduate admission requirements, potential career options, and frequently asked questions.

Specialized skills and expertise can help any business professional stand out 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.

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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Graduates may pursue careers as compliance officers, human resources managers, legal consultants, paralegals, and healthcare administrators. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), compliance officers earn a median annual salary of $71,650 as of May 2021, with top employers including federal and state governments.

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

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

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.

Most master's in legal studies programs require 30-60 credits and can be completed in 1-2 years.

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 elective courses 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.

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Popular Online Legal Studies Programs

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

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

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.

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

Requirements for admission to a master's in legal studies program vary by school. Typically, you need an undergraduate degree from an accredited school and a minimum GPA of 2.5 or higher. In addition to the items listed below, some schools may ask candidates to interview with faculty or staff.

The application materials described below provide a more holistic record of your academic pursuits and professional experience. Schools seek students with a passion for legal studies and the drive to complete their degrees. Interviews, essays, and letters of recommendation can help convey your interests and goals.

Application

Your application sums up your application materials. Schools can easily find your contact information, GPA, undergraduate degree, and professional experience here. It will also note if you have paid the application fee. While undergraduate students may use an application system like Common App, colleges and universities develop individual applications for graduate programs.

Test Scores

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 scores or GMAT scores. Scores remain valid for five years after test completion.

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.

Resume and Work Experience

Your resume offers a chance to show how your professional experience complements your academic preparation for graduate study. Include your work history, focusing on specific responsibilities related to a master's in legal studies. You can also offer admissions offices details about community involvement, honors, and educational experiences.

Essays

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.

Official Transcripts

Your transcript lists all college credits you have earned. This document ensures you meet the school's minimum GPA standards and that you have taken any required undergraduate courses. If you have completed graduate-level courses, you can ask your school to consider granting transfer credit. Policies vary by school and by program. Some credits may not transfer or may only count as electives.

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

Career Outlook

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 resources managers, paralegals, compliance officers and directors, contract negotiators, and legal consultants. According to the BLS, job growth for human resources managers is projected to be 9% between 2020 and 2030, about as fast as the general job market. The projected job growth rate for contract negotiators and mediators is slightly higher at 10%.

Licensure requirements vary by industry and state, but many of these jobs can be pursued without any additional certification. See where a master's in legal studies degree can take you.

Career Paths

Compliance Officer

Compliance officers ensure companies comply with laws or regulations governing their operations. They make sure companies have necessary permits and licenses, address policies and procedures for operations, and report on their activities and findings. They may also file required reports to regulatory agencies. Some positions may require a professional credential, such as finance or healthcare.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021): $71,650

Human Resources Manager

Human resources managers help manage an organization's workforce. They oversee recruitment efforts, benefits, and compensation programs. They also mediate disputes or direct disciplinary procedures. Human resources managers also consult with other managers on equal employment opportunity, workplace safety, and sexual harassment policies and procedures.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021): $126,230

Health Services Manager

Health services managers work in physician offices, hospitals, long-term care facilities, or other medical offices. They take on a leadership role in planning and coordinating staff to provide high-quality patient care. These managers must ensure their office complies with all laws and regulations and keep detailed records. Some managers may require state licensing, such as nursing home administrators.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021): $101,340

Financial Examiner

Financial examiners may work in consumer compliance or risk assessment for financial institutions. They monitor balance sheets, loan documentation, and accounting procedures to ensure banks or financial institutions operate under sound business practices. They also ensure that borrowers are treated fairly and that banks do not discriminate against consumers on race, ethnicity, gender, or other factors. Financial examiners also analyze new policies and regulations to determine what their organization must do to comply.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021): $81,410

Arbitrator, Mediator, or Conciliator

These professionals help resolve disputes outside of the court system, facilitating communication, clarifying concerns, and applying relevant laws or regulations. Mediators and conciliators both act as neutral parties, helping each side agree. Mediators may work with both parties, while conciliators meet with each party separately. Arbitrators can sometimes decide for the two sides, though either party may appeal. Some positions require only a bachelor's degree, while other jobs may require a law degree.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021): $49,410

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

Continuing Education

Any professional working with laws and regulations needs continuing education to remain up to date on changes in legal requirements. Continuing education could be provided by the employer, industry organizations, or professional credentialing organizations.

Some students may find they enjoy working with the law and seek additional education to become an attorney, which requires a Juris Doctor. Colleges and universities also offer doctoral degrees in legal studies for individuals interested in research or postsecondary teaching careers, or doctorates related to healthcare, human resources, or criminal justice.

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

Cost

Students typically spend $30,000-$120,000 to earn a master's degree, but several factors impact what you can expect to pay for an online master's in legal studies.

Students attending public universities spend an average of $54,500 in tuition compared to $81,100 at a private institution, according to the Education Data Initiative. Students may save money by attending a public school in their state. Most schools charge about the same for on-campus and online programs. In addition to tuition, consider other college costs, such as travel, books and supplies, and technology.

Program Format

Consider the format that will best suit your learning style and schedule. Students balancing work or family obligations may prefer asynchronous courses and part-time enrollment. Other students may find they perform better with the set class times of synchronous courses. Some schools offer accelerated courses that take 6-8 weeks to complete. Students take fewer classes simultaneously but maintain steady progress toward their degree.

Location

While an online master's in legal studies removes distance barriers to high-quality programs, students may consider schools nearby. Attending a school near your home makes it easier to access on-campus resources and meet with faculty or other school staff, such as career services. If your program includes an on-campus requirement, attending a school nearby can reduce travel costs. You may also have the option of taking a class on campus, if you choose.

Accreditation

Accreditation serves as a quality check for an institution or program. Colleges and universities must complete a rigorous process that includes a review of curriculum standards, teacher effectiveness, and student success. The U.S. Department of Education can help verify institutional accreditation.

While many law schools hold accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA), the ABA notes that it only accredits Juris Doctor programs. The ABA does evaluate programs such as a master's in legal studies, but only to ensure it does not impact the Juris Doctor program.

Student Support

Student support services help students succeed in the classroom and their careers. Academic advising ensures you stay on track to your graduation goals while exploring courses and topics that complement your degree. Career services can help you develop your resume and prepare for interviews. This office can also connect you with alumni in your field to serve as mentors or expand your professional network. Schools may also arrange internships that provide real-world learning experiences. Many schools offer these services remotely to online students.

Best Accredited Online Master's in Legal Studies Programs

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#1 Best Online Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

Liberty University

  • Lynchburg, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $565
Out of State | $565

Credits to Graduate
24-30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Liberty's law school offers three online master's in legal studies programs. The degrees do not prepare enrollees for the bar exam. The juris master in American legal studies serves business professionals who want a better understanding of the law and its implications in the business arena.

Students pursue the juris master in international legal studies if they want to develop expertise in international trade law. The master of laws (LLM) in international legal studies enrolls lawyers who want to advance their knowledge in areas such as trade law.

The online master's in legal studies requires a bachelor's degree and minimum 3.0 GPA for admission. The LLM requires a juris doctor or higher for admission. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$15,417
Out-of-state
$15,417
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
51%
Students Enrolled
85,586
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#2 Best Online Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

University of Illinois at Springfield

  • Springfield, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $365
Out of State | $365

Credits to Graduate
36-40

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

UIS's MA in legal studies provides practical training in the legal system and judicial process within a liberal arts framework. Working professionals complete the master's in legal studies as an online cohort.

Students explore theories of justice, public advocacy, and politics and law. Generous elective credits allow enrollees to choose or create a focus area in law or legal policy. Participants get direct experience through clinicals, culminating the degree with a thesis. Admission requires a bachelor's degree in any major and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,520
Out-of-state
$15,948
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
77%
Students Enrolled
4,275
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
70% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#3 Best Online Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

University of Dayton

  • Dayton, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,274
Out of State | $1,274

Credits to Graduate
24-30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | American Bar Association

The master of laws in American and transnational law at UD features a customized bar-focused curriculum. Students complete the degree at their own pace, taking as many or few classes as they like each term. The online program enrolls students with a first law degree from the United States or abroad. Applicants do not need a law license to apply. 

Students develop expertise in areas such as contract and sales, criminal law and procedure, and trusts and estates. Participants receive free reading materials and may qualify for partial tuition scholarships. Admission to the master's in legal studies requires law school transcripts and a resume. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$44,100
Out-of-state
$44,100
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
72%
Students Enrolled
11,473
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#4 Best Online Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

Nova Southeastern University

  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $736
Out of State | $736

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges 

Located in Fort Lauderdale, NSU offers an online MS in law and policy. Students learn to apply knowledge of the American legal system to address legal issues in the workplace. The  degree does not prepare students for the bar exam.

Enrollees explore issues such as bullying and harassment, alternative dispute resolution, and employee benefits. Students learn the basics of effective oral and written advocacy. The master's in legal studies offers a concentration in cybersecurity law. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and school transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$31,150
Out-of-state
$31,150
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
80%
Students Enrolled
20,576
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#5 Best Online Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

Drexel University

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online and Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,275
Out of State | $1,275

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Middle States Commission on Higher Education

The master of legal studies at Drexel is administered by the law school. Students learn to help businesses and organizations navigate complex legal issues and meet compliance requirements. The program's eight concentration offerings include HR compliance and financial regulatory compliance.

A notable concentration in the master's in legal studies focuses on National Collegiate Athletic Association compliance and sports law. Students interested in healthcare can choose the healthcare compliance option to better understand the rules and regulations that govern their industry.

Students have the option to supplement their online learning with in-person classes. Admission requires a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college and school transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$52,146
Out-of-state
$52,146
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
75%
Students Enrolled
24,205
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
38% 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 Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

Webster University

  • Saint Louis, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $780
Out of State | $780

Credits to Graduate
39

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

Webster's MA in legal studies provides a broad law curriculum that professionals can apply to various fields. The degree does not prepare students for the bar exam. Students learn jurisprudence, American constitutional law, and Anglo-American legal history. Enrollees can use elective credits for specialized training such as a paralegal clinical. 

Participants apply their knowledge of legal research and writing to produce a culminating project. Admission to the master's in legal studies requires a bachelor's degree and a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA.

Average Tuition
In-state
$28,500
Out-of-state
$28,500
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
57%
Students Enrolled
9,860
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#7 Best Online Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

The Santa Barbara and Ventura Colleges of Law at Ventura

  • Ventura, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation |  Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California 

The Colleges of Law has made legal education more accessible since 1969. The master of legal studies continues that tradition with a fully online, part-time program. Working professionals build a deeper understanding of the law and the American legal system. This  online master's in legal studies does not prepare students for the bar.

The 30-unit curriculum requires coursework in areas such as the administrative process, the American legal system, and litigation and its alternatives. Students customize the degree with a frontiers in law or regulatory compliance/legal risk management concentration. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and school transcripts. 

Average Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
187
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#8 Best Online Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

Washington University in St Louis

  • Saint Louis, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $2,611
Out of State | $2,611

Credits to Graduate
24

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

Washington University's master of legal studies (MLS) provides advanced legal training for professionals who don't plan to practice law. Graduates can apply their MLS expertise in fields as broad as HR, healthcare, and social work.

Students complete the online master's in legal studies in just one year. Enrollees supplement the degree's two required courses with a concentration. Concentration options include litigation, employment law, and regulatory compliance.

Participants can enhance their online learning experience with an optional in-person weekend immersion with faculty and peers. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and school transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$54,250
Out-of-state
$54,250
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
14%
Students Enrolled
16,191
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#9 Best Online Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

  • West Lafayette, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $378
Out of State | $420

Credits to Graduate
55

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

Purdue Global designs its MS in legal studies to prepare professionals to provide legal support services in various roles. The 55-credit master's in legal studies involves applied research and comprehensive exam tracks. All participants take core courses that examine legal methods and process and jurisprudence and legal history. 

Students use 15-20 open elective credits to pursue career-focused training. Ten-week terms accelerate degree completion. Multiple start terms give students enrollment flexibility. Purdue Global specializes in affordable flat-rate education. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and school transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,920
Out-of-state
$13,356
Retention Rate
100%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
38,138
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#10 Best Online Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

Regent University

  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $675
Out of State | $675

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges 

Located in Virginia, Regent offers an MA in law taught from a Christian perspective. The curriculum provides general legal knowledge supplemented by 14 concentration offerings.

The master's in legal studies entails a core curriculum including constitutional law and policy coursework. 

Participants receive specialized training in concentrations such as immigration law, advanced paralegal studies, and regulatory compliance. A notable cybersecurity law concentration  prepares participants to manage cybercrime cases.

Students pay the same tuition regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency status. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and school transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$17,220
Out-of-state
$17,220
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
86%
Students Enrolled
10,365
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Legal Studies Programs

Is a master's in legal studies worth it?

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Anyone working in complex or highly regulated industries can benefit from a deeper understanding of the law. A master's in legal studies can help develop these skills, increasing a graduate's opportunities to take on more responsibility in their organization. A master's in legal studies does not prepare a student to become an attorney but equips individuals with the skills necessary to work with lawyers or regulatory agencies.

Individuals with a master's degree typically earn more than their counterparts with a bachelor's degree. Many online master's in legal studies programs only require one year to complete, and schools offer part-time enrollment for working students. The short program and flexible scheduling allows students to put their education to work quickly and see a return on their investment.

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

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Earning a master's in legal studies can help managers advance their careers in heavily regulated industries, like business or healthcare. Individuals who work with attorneys or must implement policies or procedures based on new regulations can benefit from the critical thinking, research, and analytical skills developed through an online master's in legal studies program.

The curriculum incorporates several topics covered in the first year of law school, including contracts and legal writing. However, a master's in legal studies does not prepare students to become practicing attorneys. Many schools allow students to tailor the curriculum to their career interests, specializing in human resources, healthcare, finance, or environmental topics.

Are legal studies graduates in demand?

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Many fields need employees with the legal expertise gained through an online master's in legal studies. Human resources offices often deal with legal concerns. Healthcare and banking organizations operate in highly regulated fields. Individuals who understand the law as it applies to these fields can help protect companies from litigation or hefty fines.

The BLS projects 32% job growth for medical and health services managers from 2020-2030. The agency projects 18% job growth for financial examiners. Both outpace the employment growth projections of 8% for all U.S. occupations.

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

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Compliance officers report a median annual salary of $71,650, as of May 2021, though wages range from less than $38,950 to more than $117,500. Several factors can impact salary expectations, including industry, professional experience, education, and location.

An entry-level compliance officer earns an average annual salary of about $54,000, as of May 2022, according to Payscale, compared to a compliance officer with 10-19 years of experience earning an average of $82,360.

While the federal government employs the most compliance officers to ensure organizations follow the rules and regulations, about 61,840 people, the crude oil pipeline industry offers the highest average pay at $120,580. Washington, D.C., reports the highest average income for compliance officers at $98,740.

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

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According to the BLS, human resources managers earn a median annual salary of $126,230, as of May 2021, but many make much more. The agency reports human resources managers in the information services industry earn an average of $192,930.

Most human resources managers work in the management of companies with an average salary of $151,750. Employment services, in comparison, pays an average of $113,460. In New York, human resources managers earn an average of $180,380, while the San Jose, California, metro area reports an average of $190,020.

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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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