Last Update: September 29, 2016
There is a saying that if you want to make your mom proud, you become a doctor. If you want to make your mom proud but faint at the sight of blood, you study law. Whatever the source, the saying is true in that law has always been one of the most ambitious and respectable professions around, even if we do occasionally make jokes at the expense lawyers. Also, given its versatility, it can be a gateway to just about any major field, from corporate business to healthcare to politics. When most people think of a law career, they naturally think of someone cramming for nights on end to pass the bar exam and become a lawyer. Offered here are some Juris Doctor degrees intended for those hoping to follow this route. However, some warnings are in order.
In spite of the rapid growth in online learning over the past 20 years, it remains extremely risky to pursue an online degree with the intention of practicing law. The American Bar Association (ABA) currently does not accredit any online degrees and only one state- California- allows students from non-ABA accredited online schools to sit for the bar exam. Moreover, those online students who complete a Juris Doctor degree and sit for the California bar are much less likely to pass it. Even those who manage to pass the exam face significant challenges, as it is difficult to find employment in a preexisting firm with a degree from a non-ABA accredited school. For those who manage to practice law in California, it can take several years of law practice before they are eligible to practice in other states, so if you are planning on getting an online degree for the purpose of practicing law, expect to live in California for at least a decade. Then again, there are worse places to live than the land of sun and sand. And there continues to be good employment for lawyers in the Bay Area and Orange County for those hoping to specialize in real estate law. These are significant challenges, and anybody hoping to become a lawyer by utilizing online education should think twice. It is one possible route into the field, but requires a lot of hard work and, to be honest, more than a little good luck.
These cautionary remarks aside, there are excellent reasons for studying law besides intending to practice as a lawyer. We have also included here very affordable non-Juris Doctor law degrees that are intended to either prepare students for a Juris Doctor or prepare students to become paralegals, policy makers, risk managers, and HR representatives. Paralegals are an especially in-demand career with excellent earning potential. Paralegals in areas such as Washington DC and Alaska can expect to earn around 70,000 dollars a year. Our research will help you make the most of whatever legal career you choose by finding the most affordable programs with the added flexibility of online learning.
Because this list includes Juris Doctor degrees as well as master’s degrees and bachelor degrees, we have ranked the programs by cost per credit unit rather than by total cost. However, included in the description of each program is the out of pocket tuition expenses you can expect to pay for the entire degree. Now stick around while College Choice passes judgment on the most affordable online programs in the fields of law and legal studies.
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
Tuition Per Credit Unit: $146
Keiser is a not for profit, private university located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Keiser has been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Many of its roughly 15,000 undergraduates are enrolled in online degree programs. Keiser’s online BA in Legal Studies is meant to prepare students to progress towards a Juris Doctor degree or to become a paralegal or legal assistant.
With classes covering topics such as torts, estates, legal drafting, workers compensation, dispute resolution, and civil litigation, the degree is meant to give students a sound basis in US law, as well as instilling the written and verbal skills necessary for a career in law. The program requires 120 credits to graduate, so students will end up paying roughly $17,520 in tuition costs to complete the degree.
California Southern University
Location: Irvine, CA
Tuition Per Credit Unit: $350
California Southern is a private, for-profit, online university headquartered in Irvine, California. It is among a handful of schools that have registered with the Committee of Bar Examiners in California, which, though it is not ABA accredited, allows its JD graduates to sit for the bar examination in that state. CSU is also among a select few of the Committee-registered law schools that are also regionally accredited, its accreditation coming from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
CSU’s 18 member law faculty teach classes in torts, contracts, legal writing, legal research, constitutional law, corporate taxation, and environmental law. Not counting transfer credits, California Southern’s 88 credit JD program takes four years to complete, and the entire program costs $30,800.
University of Illinois at Springfield
Location: Springfield, IL
Tuition Per Credit Unit: $362
The University of Illinois at Springfield is a small public university and member school of the well-regarded University of Illinois system. They offer a 40 credit-hour Master’s of Arts in Legal Studies degree intended for those hoping to work in any field where practical legal expertise is required or for those who want to pursue more advanced legal studies.
The curriculum includes a four credit preliminary course in legal research and citation which can easily be waived for those with previous educational or vocational experience in legal studies. In addition to the core curriculum, there are several electives offered that allow students to tailor their legal education to whatever field they intend to enter. The total out of pocket tuition expenses to complete the degree is $14,490. UIS has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Location: Bellevue, NE
Tuition Per Credit Unit: $410
Bellevue University is a medium-sized, private, nonprofit university located in Bellevue, Nebraska. Boasting a long history of educational outreach, they offer a number of online courses that have been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Among these is a 127 credit online Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies.
In addition to their law faculty, students in the BS in Legal Studies program will benefit from the knowledge and experience of Federal Judges, members of congress, lobbyists, and corporate executives. Students will also have the chance to see how legal expertise is applied in legislative sessions as well as corporate boardrooms. The total cost of the degree program is $52,070.
Concord Law School of Kaplan University
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Tuition Per Credit Unit: $416
Concord Law School is an online law school headquartered in Los Angeles, California. With a student population of about 1900 students, it merged with the much larger and better resourced Kaplan University- a very large for-profit and online school- in 2007. With the merger, Concord Law School benefited from Kaplan’s regional accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission, making it the first online law school to be regionally accredited.
Their online Juris Doctor degree is also registered with the Committee of Bar Examiners for the state of California, giving their graduates the ability to sit for the California State Bar Examination. The 92 credit units required for graduation will bring the total out of pocket tuition cost to $38,272.
Location: Glassboro, NJ
Tuition Per Credit Unit: $455
Rowan University is a medium sized public university located in Glassboro, New Jersey, that has been regionally accredited by the Middle State Commission on Higher Education. Among their online undergraduate degrees is a 120 credit-unit Bachelor of Arts in Law and Justice. The program is designed to facilitate understanding of legal issues in order to prepare students for work in fields such as law enforcement, human services, and security services.
Required coursework includes classes in criminal law, corrections, human rights, evidence, and the rights of the convicted. The curriculum is also designed for those who want to use it as a foundation for further graduate work in the field of legal studies. The total cost of tuition is $54,600.
Location: Lynchburg, VA
Tuition Per Credit Unit: $565
The second school on this list to be founded by a televangelist is Liberty University. Founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971 and located in Lynchburg, Virginia, LU is a private, nonprofit, conservative Christian research university. Liberty is a large school by private college standards, with a student population of over 100,000. It is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Liberty’s online Master of Laws (LL.M) in International Legal Studies is the only degree program in this list intended for those who are already practicing attorneys. While most lawyers are educated in US domestic law, this degree will help attorneys prepare for the complex legal environment that structures international business and economic relations. The total cost of the degree program is $13,560.
Pennsylvania State University-World Campus
Location: State College, PA
Tuition Per Credit Unit: $584
Pennsylvania State University is a very large public research university whose flagship campus is located in State College, Pennsylvania. One of its special mission campuses is its World Campus, the name given to its online programs. Penn State- World Campus was tied for #1 for the best colleges to get an online bachelor degree in US News and World Report for 2016. Among the degrees offered is its 123 credit Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society.
In addition to building skills in writing, speaking, research, and logic, the curriculum is designed to help students prepare for careers in fields with a strong legal component. Such areas include regulatory agencies, nonprofits, law enforcement, and business. The total cost of the program is $71,832. Penn State has been regionally accredited by the Middle State Commission on Higher Education.
Regent University Online
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Tuition Per Credit Unit: $650
Regent University is a small, private, conservative Christian university located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Founded by Pat Robertson in 1977, Regent has grown considerably since that time and has gained regional accreditation status from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Among the online degrees offered by the Regent University School of Law is their Master of Arts in Law. The degree is intended for those for whom knowledge of the law can help advance their career in related fields. As such, the program offers a number of different concentrations, including Administration and Regulatory Law, Business, Criminal Justice, General Legal Studies, Human Resources Management, Human Rights, Mediation, National Security, Non-Profit Management, and Wealth Management. The total cost to complete the degree is $19,500.
Location: Naples, FL
Tuition Per Credit Unit: $660
Hodges University is a small, nonprofit, private university located in Naples, Florida. It offers an online Master of Science in Legal Studies intended for those hoping to understand the connection between US law and various other disciplines. It has a special emphasis on ensuring that businesses are in compliance with various aspects of corporate law, making it valuable for those hoping to enter the business world.
Classes include topics such as the legal environment, governance and management, regulatory compliance, mediation, and law related to human resources. The total cost of the 30 credit degree is $19,800. Hodges University has been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.