2020 Online Law School Degrees
Though law school cannot be completed 100% online, online law courses and programs can accelerate your progress toward a career in law.
A degree in law leads to various high-paying careers. For instance, lawyers — perhaps the most common profession of law graduates — earn a median annual salary of $120,910, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also projects an increase in the number of practicing lawyers (of about 50,000) between 2018 and 2028.
Your job and potential salary depend on the type of law degree you earn: bachelor’s, master’s, or juris doctor (JD). Please note that a bachelor’s degree does not satisfy requirements to become a licensed lawyer. Most lawyers attend law school and earn a JD or, if states allow it, a master’s in law. Other positions in law — political advisor, campaign manager, and paralegal, for example — may require only a bachelor’s degree.
Before applying to law school online, keep in mind that online law degrees may lead to limitations in your future career. After all, not all states recognize the quality of an online law education, and only California allows online law students to take the bar exam. So, in most states, you can only complete some of your law education online.
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What Are the Top Online Law Degrees?
Law degrees yield different academic requirements and career outcomes. For example, one online bachelor’s degree in law may prepare graduates for analyst or leadership roles, while another degree may prepare students to earn a JD in law school. Likewise, if your goal is to attend law school, earning a high-quality bachelor’s in law is an important first step. Moreover, if you live in California, earning an online JD from a well-respected institution could help your career.
Best Online Law Schools for 2020
See our rankings methodology page.
Purdue University Global-Davenport
Purdue has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s “Public Ivies” for the strength of its programs. The university’s global campus has become a top destination for working professionals seeking law schools online thanks to its rigorous and affordable online JD program.
This 92-credit online law school program typically takes full-time students four years to complete and expects a weekly time commitment of around 25-35 hours. Graduates leave the intensive program prepared to take the California Bar Exam, which then enables them to pursue licensure in Wisconsin and North Carolina. The program’s diverse elective options include immigration law, employment discrimination, and virtual law practice.
Purdue Global is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
California University of Pennsylvania
Established in 1852 as a normal school, Cal U eventually attained full university status. The university now features 45 majors, including online programs such as a bachelor of arts and master of science in legal studies.
Both programs in Cal U’s online law school primarily serve transfer students. The bachelor’s in legal studies prefers applicants with an associate in legal studies. The master’s in legal studies offers concentrations in law and public policy, criminal justice, and homeland security and maintains an articulation partnership with the FBI National Academy Associates and Law Enforcement Executive Development Association.
Cal U is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Hodges serves approximately 1,600 students. The university extends through distance learning programs, including online bachelor’s and master’s degrees in legal studies.
The university’s online law school does not prepare graduates for licensure as attorneys. The online master’s in legal studies primarily serves working paralegals looking to advance their careers. The online bachelor’s in legal studies features required coursework in eLitigation law and eDiscovery software applications used in law. Both programs feature discounted tuition rates for active-duty military and veterans.
Hodges is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Virginia Beach, FL
A private Christian university founded in 1977, Regent stands out for its affordable tuition rates and numerous scholarship opportunities for active-duty military and veterans. The university’s online law school offers an online bachelor’s in paralegal studies and an online master’s in American legal studies.
Regent’s 120-credit online bachelor of science in paralegal studies prepares graduates for careers as legal assistants, litigation support analysts, and judiciary clerks. Regent’s 30-credit online master’s in American legal studies typically takes one year to complete and primarily serves established professionals who already hold a JD.
Regent is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Founded in 1867, WVU now serves around 30,000 students. The university offers 32 degrees and 13 certificates through a fully online format, including an online master’s in legal studies and an online JD/MBA dual degree.
WVU’s 30-credit master of legal studies degree offers concentrations in healthcare, justice systems, and homeland security. The university’s online JD and MBA dual degree typically takes three years to complete and prepares graduates for careers in banking, management, or government. The curriculum includes integrative courses and prepares learners to work as lawyers and leaders.
WVU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
What Are the Requirements for a Degree in Law?
Requirements for a law degree vary depending on the degree level. A bachelor’s in law takes four years to complete, and students can complete it entirely online. This degree is an excellent stepping stone toward a master’s or JD.
A master’s degree generally explores a specific field in law. While a master’s in law is a step higher than a bachelor’s degree, it does not satisfy requirements to sit for the bar exam, a crucial step to becoming a licensed lawyer.
The highest level of education a law student can earn is a JD. All students who plan on becoming lawyers earn a JD. Before applying for a JD, you should have completed at least a bachelor’s degree. While a bachelor’s in law is preferrable, most schools have no strict major requirements.
One important piece of admission criteria is the LSAT, a standardized test for students interested in law school. Most master’s programs and all JD programs require students to submit LSAT scores.
Why Do Students Choose to Study Law Online?
Every student’s situation is different. While it makes sense for some students to relocate to a new city for their college education, other students might need to continue working or raise a family while earning a degree. Online education offers a flexible way to earn a college education, though it is not the only difference between an online and on-campus education.
Distance learning offers students various benefits over an on-campus degree. First, it offers asynchronous courses, allowing students to study around busy schedules. Second, it typically offers lower tuition rates and removes added costs associated with commuting to campus or relocating closer to courses. Notably, most online students do not regret their decision to study online. A recent study showed 72% of online learners were satisfied with their education, compared to just 54-58% of on-campus students.
Online education can present drawbacks, particularly for law students. The American Bar Association (ABA), the main accrediting body for law programs, does not give fully online courses accreditation. Without ABA accreditation, online law degree graduates cannot sit for the bar exam and practice law. Specific requirements for bar eligibility vary from state to state though, and California allows online JD holders to sit for the bar and practice law. Learn more about bar exam eligibility by reading ABA’s Guide to Bar Admission Requirements.
Before taking the bar, students must also take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). This exam measures an individual’s understanding of professional standards and expectations associated with lawyers. Prerequisites to take the MPRE vary by state and jurisdiction.
As online education continues to grow, more accrediting organizations extend accreditation to online programs. While the ABA currently has no plan to begin accrediting online law programs, its stance could change in the future. Again, students should not enroll in an unaccredited law program if they plan on becoming lawyers.
What Kind of Online Law School Should I Attend?
Even though your program may be online, it might require on-campus attendance. Such hybrid programs and classes can meet ABA accreditation standards while allowing students to complete some coursework from a distance. No fully online programs meet ABA standards, but online JD programs in California satisfy state requirements to sit for the bar exam.
Each law program offers different benefits, such as specializations. For instance, if your goal is to work in finance, then a law degree with a concentration in financial regulation could prepare you for that career.
Online programs also require different courses and credits, and some programs take longer to complete than others. If your goal is to complete an online bachelor’s in law in less than four years, some programs can make that possible.
What Can I Do With a Degree in Law?
Law graduates find positions as political advisors, campaign managers, and congressional staffers. They also work for the IRS, FBI, and DEA. Finally, those who work within mediation and arbitration require specific training and education (some states allow students with a bachelor’s in law to work in these roles, but most prefer applicants with a master’s degree).
Earning a master’s in law or a JD is recommended if students are not yet sure exactly what positions they want in the future. While some positions, such as lawyers, require graduate-level education, others may offer higher rates to those who go beyond a bachelor’s degree.
How Much Money Will I Make With a Degree in Law?
Law degrees lead to various high-paying positions. Many law students become lawyers who earn an annual median wage of $120,910. Those uninterested in earning a JD can become arbitrators, mediators, or conciliators and earn an annual median wage of $62,270. Projections show faster-than-average job growth for these positions.
The salary you earn in this field often depends on your degree. JD-holders typically earn the highest wages, then master’s degree-holders, and then those with bachelor’s degrees. Earning a graduate degree in law opens more career doors.
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