Most Affordable Online Law Schools 2021

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A graduate law degree prepares students for in-demand legal careers. Law practitioners enjoy a stable employment outlook with high earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median annual salary of $126,930 for lawyers as of 2020.

Most full-time students can earn a juris doctor (JD) degree — required to practice law in most states — in three years. Some schools offer accelerated two-year JD programs. A master of laws degree requires about one year of full-time study and offers continuing education opportunities for JD graduates.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median annual salary of $126,930 for lawyers as of 2020.

Budget-minded students can consider applying to an affordable law school online program. Learners seeking to cut costs can also explore the law school savings tips we discuss below.

This guide ranks the cheapest online law schools for 2021. We also review typical costs, financing options, and tips for finding the right online program.

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Costs | Law Scholarships | Jobs | Cheapest Law Degrees

Why Get an Affordable Law Degree?

The costs of a law degree depends on many factors beyond tuition, such as financial aid eligibility and salary-to-debt ratio after graduation.

The law profession attracts people interested in using their legal expertise to advise and represent individuals and companies. Prospective law students commonly possess strong problem-solving, analytical, and creative thinking skills.

The right time to attend graduate school depends on each individual’s career goals, personal finances, and time considerations. Before applying to a graduate law program, students must take the LSAT, research schools, and craft a unique personal statement. Applicants also need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school.

JD programs require around 90 credits. First-year students complete core requirements in criminal law, civil procedure, and tort law. In their second and third years, learners must choose a concentration. Popular specializations include business law, environmental law, and criminal law.

For more information on law schools, visit our main online law school ranking page.

Learn more about criminal justice and law

Why You Should Attend a Law School Online

With the rise in online education, more law schools increasingly offer online degrees. Earning an online law degree typically entails lower tuition costs. Many public schools charge in-state tuition for all distance learners regardless of residency. Private institutions may also provide discounted online tuition rates.

The online delivery format varies by program. Synchronous courses require regular attendance during live online lectures and class discussions. An asynchronous format, by contrast, allows students to complete course modules at their own pace, making it easier for many learners to maintain employment while completing their online law degree.

Recommended Online Programs

How Can I Pay for a Degree in Law?

Law school tuition and fees vary with school ranking and prestige, location, and delivery format. According to U.S. News & World Report, law schools charged an average tuition of $51,268 for the 2020-2021 school year, with private school tuition as high as $74,995 and in-state rates at public institutions as low as $13,438.

To calculate the price of an online law degree, learners should factor in expenses beyond tuition, such as textbooks, technology, and any on-campus requirements. To help offset educational costs, students can take advantage of several financing options:

Loans


Law students may take out unsubsidized loans. The amount students can borrow depends on school costs and availability of other kinds of financial aid. As these loans accrue compounding interest, they can result in substantial debt by graduation.

Scholarships


Many law schools, businesses, and foundations offer merit-based scholarships to promising students. Eligibility for scholarships depends on academic merit, financial need, or a combination of both. Like grants, scholarships do not require repayment.

Fellowships


Schools, nonprofits, companies, and government agencies award merit-based fellowships to top applicants. Fellowships typically comprise a tuition waiver and a living expense stipend.


Grants


Federal and state governments, schools, and private organizations award nonrepayable grants to eligible students. Eligibility for government grants depends on the information students enter on their FAFSA.

Grants, loans, and scholarships: What's the difference?

Scholarships for Law Students

Scholarships can help offset the costs of an online law degree. Eligibility factors may include college credentials, LSAT scores, and essay submissions. Other factors Below, we list a few scholarships available to law students:

  • Blueprint LSAT Law School Scholarship

    This scholarship accepts applications from undergraduate students who plan to take the LSAT in 2021 or 2022 and start law school in fall 2022 or fall 2023. The organization selects one winner among eligible applicants.

    Award: $20,000

  • BARBRI Law Preview’s “One Lawyer Can Change the World”

    Incoming 1L students may qualify for this annual scholarship opportunity. Applicants must submit a 500-word essay. The selection committee awards 10 annual scholarships based on the essay response.

    Award: $1,000-$10,000

  • Bader Scott “Future Lawyers of America”; Scholarship

    This scholarship accepts applications from prospective and current law students with demonstrated financial need. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit a 1,000-word essay.

    Award: $2,500

Discover the best scholarships

Making Cheap Online Law Degrees Even Cheaper

Prospective law school students may want to consider other cost-saving tactics. Below, we detail five additional strategies for minimizing online law school expenses:

Rent Textbooks or Buy Used
With some law school textbooks priced at several hundred dollars, course material expenses can add up quickly. However, many publishers allow students to rent textbooks for a fraction of the cost. Students can also purchase used textbooks, but should make sure they choose the correct edition.
Reduce Accommodation Cost
Enrolling in an online program elminiates campus commuting costs. This freedom allows distance learners to select accommodations based on affordability rather than proximity to their school. Sharing a place with roommates can also help keep housing expenses to a minimum.
Credit Overload
Some schools allow enrollees to load up on classes and finish the required course credits faster. Speeding up graduation time can help cut costs, provided the school charges tuition per semester rather than per credit.
Get Good Grades
Law schools may offer high achieving, first-year law students additional merit-based aid to deter them from transferring to other institutions.
Attend a Less Prestigious School
Less prestigious schools may offer more affordable law programs. Additionally, your college credentials may earn you more scholarship and grant money at less competitive schools. However, beware that a law degree from a lower-ranked school could impact future employment prospects. Always ensure that your prospective school holds accreditation from recognized accrediting agencies.


Will Getting My Law Degree Pay Off?

To calculate your potential return on investment (ROI) when comparing affordable law schools online, students should research each school’s job placement records, starting salaries, and bar passage rates.

How long it takes to see a positive ROI from a law degree depends on salary-to-debt ratios. Graduates of prestigious law schools may garner higher starting salaries. However, students with higher LSAT scores and college GPAs stand a greater chance of receiving merit-based scholarships and other forms of financial aid, allowing them to graduate with lower debt.

To get the best ROI, consider attending an affordable and accredited online law school. A law degree opens doors to a variety of careers across industries, including government agencies, nonprofit organizations, corporations, and private firms.


Jobs for Law Graduates

Earning a law degree qualifies graduates for many in-demand, lucrative careers. The BLS reports a median annual salary of $126,930 for attorneys and $124,200 for judges and hearing officers as of 2020.

Graduate credentials can also give candidates a competitive edge when applying for jobs that only require a bachelor’s. Below, we list three careers available to law school graduates:

Lawyers
Lawyers advise and represent individuals and organizations regarding legal matters. Frequent responsibilities include preparing and filing legal documents, interpreting laws and legal decisions, and representing clients in court.

Required Education: Doctoral or professional law degree
Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
Median Annual Salary: $126,930
Judges and Hearing Officers
Judges and hearing officers oversee the legal procedures in courts. Typical job duties include conducting research, presiding over hearings, and applying law and precedent to reach legal decisions.

Required Education: Doctoral or professional law degree
Job Outlook (2019-29): +2%
Median Annual Salary: $124,200
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation between disputants outside of the court system. Frequent responsibilities include conducting initial meetings with concerned parties, moderating dialogue between disputants, and preparing settlement agreements.

Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Outlook (2019-29): +8%
Median Annual Salary: $66,130

Professional Organizations for Law Students

Legal organizations can help students build a professional network to boost their career opportunities. Below, we describe three organizations law students can join:

  • American Bar Association

    A membership organization for legal professionals and law students, the ABA promotes members’ professional growth. The association also advocates for high-quality legal education, ethical conduct, professionalism, and pro bono legal services.

  • Association of Legal Administrators

    ALA provides support to management professionals at law firms, government legal agencies, and corporate legal departments. The association also offers opportunities for industry leaders and managers to collaborate and form business partnerships.

  • Federal Bar Association

    The FBA promotes the interests of federal attorneys and advocates for federal legal system improvements. Members can engage in grassroots work through the organization’s almost 100 chapters. The association also provides professional development opportunities for federal law practitioners.


Choosing the Right Online Law School

Our rankings provide an excellent start on your quest for the right law school. However, when short-listing programs, remember to weigh other factors besides rankings. Below, we list four pivotal factors to consider when researching law schools:

  • Regional Accreditation: Before finalizing your list, make sure that potential schools hold regional accreditation. This seal of approval facilitates credit transfers across institutions and access to federal financial aid.
  • Program-specific Accreditation: You should also make sure that your short-listed law schools hold programmatic accreditation from the ABA. Earning a degree from an ABA-accredited program helps increase job market competitiveness.
  • Location: Before settling on where to apply, consider where you plan to practice law. Law schools often cover requirements for local state bar exams. Earning your degree in the state where you intend to practice law can help you prepare for the bar.
  • Cost: Before choosing a law school, assess your financial situation and chances of securing financial aid. However, while affordability often represents a key consideration in choosing a law school, some students may find that other factors play an equally important role.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you get a law degree online?

    Yes, many law schools offer online law degrees. These programs may feature synchronous or asynchronous course delivery. Online law programs reduce commuting and housing costs.

  • How much does an online law degree cost?

    Tuition rates for an online law degree vary by school. Online enrollees may take advantage of in-state tuition rates at some state schools, regardless of residency. Some private schools also offer reduced tuition for remote learners.

  • Is going to an online law school worth it?

    Yes, earning your law degree online can offer a substantial return on investment. To maximize returns, consider attending an affordable law school online and explore nonrepayable financial aid opportunities.

  • What jobs can I get with a law degree?

    Earning a law degree qualifies students for in-demand, well-paying jobs, such as attorney, hearing officer, and compliance officer.

  • How much does a lawyer make?

    The BLS reports median annual salaries of $126,930 for lawyers and $124,200 for judges and hearing officers as of 2020.


2021’s Most Affordable Law Schools Online

View our ranking methodology

  1. West Virginia University
    Location

    Morgantown, WV

    Tuition

    $12181

    Located in Morgantown, WVU offers an online master of legal studies designed for students who need a working knowledge of the law but do not plan to become lawyers. Students can choose from three concentrations: healthcare, justice systems, and homeland security.

    The 30-credit program focuses on regulation, policy, and compliance. Students take courses such as law and the legal system, law and society, and researching the law. Students take elective courses in their chosen concentration, including homeland security, healthcare law, or immigration and border security. Most students finish in just 18 months, and all courses occur on a flexible schedule.

    The graduate school requires a minimum GPA of 2.75 to begin the admissions process, but the department prefers at least a 3.0. Students may waive the GRE requirement with five or more years of relevant work experience or with a minimum GPA of 3.4.

    WVU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  2. University of Dayton
    Location

    Dayton, OH

    Tuition

    Unconfirmed

    Based in Dayton, Ohio, UD offers several online law programs, including a hybrid juris doctor (JD) and an online master of laws (LL.M.).

    The hybrid JD takes four years to complete and offers students more flexibility than a traditional law degree. Students attend weekly live classes through online frameworks and attend two to three on-campus experiences per year. Students can take the bar exam pending their state's requirements.

    The LL.M. in American and transnational law program occurs solely online, and students finish in as little as one year. Students gain an understanding of U.S. law and legal practice.

    Law school applicants submit applications through the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) and must submit LSAT scores or the GRE. LL.M. applicants must hold a JD and may apply through LSAC or the law school.

    UD is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and boasts departmental accreditation from the American Bar Association.

  3. Thomas Jefferson School of Law
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    Tuition

    Unconfirmed

    Located in San Diego, California, Thomas Jefferson offers several online law programs, including three master's degree concentrations and one doctor of juridical science (JSD) program.

    Master's concentrations include financial compliance and risk management, taxation, and financial services. Students take eight-week, asynchronous courses, allowing them to concentrate on fewer courses per term. Students with a law degree may opt for the master of laws track, while those with a bachelor's degree may choose the master of science in law track. JSD students complete 60 credits of in-depth, independent study to complete the program.

    Master's students may choose one of eight start dates per year and should contact the graduate admissions department for admission requirements. JSD applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 3.0 in a master's degree to qualify for admission.

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

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