No two ways about it – the sticker price of college is intimidating. But don’t let that scare you off. Your bachelor’s degree could be more affordable than you think.
A bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for many roles within the legal field. Once you land that job as a paralegal, court reporter, or corrections officer, your degree will pay dividends.
What kind of legal studies degree should you get?
When choosing a college, your first consideration should be finding a program that matches your career goals. Look for a degree that focuses on law school preparation, paralegal certification, or law enforcement training, depending on what you want to do after you graduate.
If you’re not sure what your career will look like, don’t fret – plenty of programs offer generalized tracks. Choose one of these broadly focused programs so that you can get a feel for a number of different aspects of the legal profession.
For other highly cost-effective options in undergraduate education, don’t miss our ranking of the Most Affordable Online Colleges.
How much money do people make with a legal studies degree?
The biggest factor in how much you’ll earn is whether you continue your education beyond your legal studies degree. Students who go from an undergraduate program into law school will spend several additional years in school, but they’ll earn much more at the end of it.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for paralegals and legal assistants is $50,410 per year. For lawyers, the median pay is $119,250 per year. A certified attorney can earn more than twice as much as a paralegal.
What can you do with a degree in legal studies?
The most common career path for legal studies graduates is to find work as a paralegal, or legal assistant. Many paralegals are employed in law firms, while others work in the legal departments of private businesses or in local, state, or federal agencies.
A degree in legal studies may also prepare you to work as a corrections officer, law enforcement officer, court clerk, and community services manager. Again, the specialization you choose within your legal studies program will be key in determining your potential career paths.
What are the requirements for a degree in legal studies?
Because this ranking focuses on distance learning programs, the most important requirement is consistent internet access on a reliable computer or laptop. You’ll be completing most or all of your assignments digitally, so it’s important that you’re comfortable engaging with technology on a regular basis.
Outside of basic computer skills, the admissions requirements for these degrees vary widely. Some programs will want to see a certain high school GPA, or a minimum SAT or ACT score. Others don’t have any specific cut-off scores and will review your application in a holistic way.
What are the most affordable online legal studies degrees?
To create this ranking, we focused strictly on net tuition costs. Data is sourced from individual college websites as well as U.S. News & World Report and the National Center for Educational Statistics.
Although affordability is the key here, academic quality is still an important factor. All of the colleges featured on our rankings are regionally accredited, so your degree will carry real weight with employers and graduate schools.
We wish you all the best of luck in your school search!
See our rankings methodology page.
Average Net Price: $6,349
Bellevue University was established in 1966 and has grown into a comprehensive institution with a worldwide alumni network of 50,000. In 2017, Bellevue was recognized by a committee of peer institutions as a leading example of innovative and effective practices in awarding scholarships. This distinction highlights Bellevue’s commitment to ensuring that all students can access and succeed in higher education. The Legal Studies program at Bellevue is designed to integrate classroom theory with hands-on, applied learning.
Students may choose to pursue the Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies through an online track or through a traditional track on the Bellevue, NE campus. Both tracks are cohort-based, so students will be part of a community of peers with similar professional goals. Required coursework for the Legal Studies degree includes:
- The American Criminal and Civil Legal Systems
- Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Law
- The U.S. Legal System and the Judicial Process
- Constitutional Law, Liberty, and Emerging Policy
Online students will have access to guest lectures from renowned experts and leaders in the field. Guest lecturers might include Federal Judges, Congressmen, legislators, lobbyists, and corporate executives. For the 2018-2019 academic year, the tuition rate for this degree program is $415 per credit-hour. Tuition discounts are available for eligible military members.
Average Net Price: $8,325
As a private, non-profit institution, Peirce College is a nationwide leader in offering career-relevant degrees to adult and nontraditional learners. In 2000, Peirce became one of the very first colleges to offer degree programs fully online. Today, Peirce’s distance education programs include degrees in Organizational Leadership, Criminal Justice Studies, Paralegal Studies, and more.
The Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies from Peirce requires students to complete four foundational classes on campus. The remaining courses can be completed entirely online, entirely on campus, or through a combination of both formats. Graduates of this program have gone on to work in private law firms, government and administrative agencies, corporations, hospitals, and other institutions. Paralegal Studies majors will complete coursework such as:
- Professional Legal Responsibility
- Real Estate Law
- Advanced Legal Research
- Advanced Legal Technology
Established in 1997, the Paralegal Studies program at Peirce is the only bachelor’s degree program of its kind in Philadelphia to be approved by the American Bar Association. Students at Peirce may also pursue an online Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies. A large number of scholarships are available to Paralegal Studies students, such as the Chester County Paralegal Association Scholarship and the Edwin B. Miller Scholarship Fund.
Mississippi University for Women
Average Net Price: $10,018
At the Mississippi University for Women, students can pursue more than 50 undergraduate degrees and 11 graduate degrees. These highly regarded academic programs are open to both men and women. Washington Monthly consistently recognizes the W as one of the best public universities in the Southeast. While on-campus students can earn a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies, online students can earn a Bachelor of Applied Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Legal Administration.
To qualify for the online Legal Administration program, students must already hold an Associate of Applied Science in a related discipline, such as Criminal Justice or Law Office Management. An AAS in General Studies is also acceptable. Through the Legal Administration program, students will earn the last 62 credit-hours toward their degree. Coursework will include:
- Legal Bibliography and Research
- Statistical Analysis for Business
- Legal Environment of Business
- Practical Legal Lab
The Business Administration degree offers additional concentrations in Health Care Management, Human Resources Management, and Management Information Systems. The program is also available through a General Business track. The 2018 tuition rate for part-time students is $285 per credit-hour. This rate applies to students taking up to 11 credit-hours. Full-time students will pay $3,420 per term.
American Public University
Average Net Price: $11,470
Offering over 200 academic options, American Public University has conferred more than 81,500 degrees since 1995. In U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 rankings, the online bachelor’s programs at APU were cited among the best in the nation for the sixth consecutive year. These top-ranked programs cover an array of disciplines, including Homeland Security, Criminal Justice, Legal Studies, and many more.
The Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies from APU is designed to allow working adults to pursue pre-law education. While the program is focused on preparing students for law school, it is also ideal for students who plan to work as paralegals, investigators, legal researchers, and in other roles that require a broad understanding of law. This degree features required courses such as:
- Introduction to the Courts
- Civil Practice and Procedure
- Administrative Law and Policy
- Constitutional Law
All online courses at APU run for either eight or 16 weeks. Classes start monthly, providing maximum flexibility for busy professionals. Among current APU students, 87 percent are working adults. The average class size for undergraduate programs is just 18 students. APU does not charge an application fee. Including tuition, books, and fees, the 2018 cost per credit-hour is $270.
SUNY College of Technology Canton
Average Net Price: $12,347
Chartered in 1906, SUNY Canton was the first postsecondary, two-year college in New York. Part of the extensive network of schools that make up the State University of New York, this institution offers five professional certificate programs, 22 associate’s degrees, and 25 bachelor’s degrees. Between 2008 and 2014, the university’s Legal Studies program grew from 38 students to 97 students, and it continues to grow today.
SUNY Canton is the only institution in the 64-campus SUNY system to offer a four-year Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies. Students in this online program will have the opportunity to take classes in numerous complementary fields, such as Accounting, Business, Criminal Justice, and Law Enforcement Leadership. Available electives for the degree include:
- Negligence and Intentional Torts
- Immigration Law and Border Control
- Trial Courts and Rules of Evidence
- Legal Issues in Emergency and Disaster Management
Students in the Legal Studies major will have the opportunity to complete a semester-long internship as their capstone experience. This internship will be worth between 3 and 15 credit-hours, depending on the number of hours worked. Other options for the capstone experience include a senior project and up to five upper-level legal studies electives. The current tuition rate for online students is $333 per credit-hour.
University of Maryland University College
Average Net Price: $12,483
University of Maryland University College has over 20 campus locations throughout Maryland, DC, and Virginia. As a public institution and a member of the University System of Maryland, UMUC offers flexible, streamlined degree and certificate programs in more than 90 fields of study. UMUC’s Legal Studies program prepares students to perform analysis, write and draft documents, and conduct research in the legal environment.
The curriculum for the Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies requires 46 credit-hours of elective coursework, which students may use to earn a minor in a field that intersects with law. All of the coursework for the Legal Studies program is offered online. For students who prefer a face-to-face component in their classes, some coursework may also be offered in a hybrid format. Classes for the Legal Studies major will include:
- Techniques of Legal Research
- Advanced Legal Writing
- Criminal Law and Procedures
- Contract Law
UMUC offers an interest-free monthly payment plan, which allows students to spread their tuition payments over an entire semester rather than paying the full sum upfront. Over 100 scholarships are available to UMUC students. For example, all eligible Maryland community college graduates can receive the Completion Scholarship, which allows the recipients to finish their bachelor’s degree program for $12,000 or less.
Average Net Price: $12,554
With 11 campus locations and more than 25,000 students, the Baker College system is Michigan’s largest independent institution of higher learning. For over 100 years, Baker has delivered career-relevant education in a comprehensive array of academic disciplines. Distance learning opportunities at Baker include undergraduate programs in business, psychology, and law.
Students at Baker can earn a fully online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. This degree offers two concentrations: Criminal Justice Studies and Law Enforcement (Police Academy). Students who choose the Law Enforcement concentration will graduate as certified police officers, while students in the Criminal Justice Studies concentration will gain a broader understanding of crime, the justice system, and related social issues. Both concentrations require the following coursework:
- Legal Issues in Corrections
- Cybercrime Investigations
- Organized Crime and Youth Gangs
- Terrorism and Homeland Security
The Law Enforcement concentration and the Criminal Justice Studies concentration are both available through traditional on-campus programs. An Associate of Business: Paralegal and a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies are offered exclusively through on-campus tracks. Baker is one of the lowest-priced private colleges in Michigan, and students will automatically be considered for many scholarships when they apply to their degree program. The college offers free financial aid counseling to all students.
Arizona State University - Skysong
Average Net Price: $12,981
Arizona State University has garnered international recognition as a leading knowledge enterprise. The online bachelor’s degree programs at ASU have been ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. ASU’s Justice Studies program emphasizes five core areas: citizenship, migration, and human rights; globalization, sustainability, and economic justice; law, policy, and social change; media, technology, and culture; and social identities and communities.
The fully online Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies degree requires a total of 40 courses and 120 credit-hours. Students will be required to take 12 upper-division credit-hours in a specific area of their choosing. Graduates will be prepared to work in advocacy, law enforcement, and other public service fields. Elective coursework for this program may include:
- Comparative Development of the Welfare State
- Women, Work, and Justice
- Prisons, Power, and the Punishments of the Past
- Political Deviance and the Law
The classes in this program are offered on a 7.5-week schedule. The faculty of the Justice Studies program includes 64 tenure-track and research professors (including four National Academy of Sciences members and seven Fulbright American Scholars). For full-time students taking 12 credit-hours per semester, the estimated cost for one academic year, including tuition and fees, is $12,438.
Average Net Price: $14,471
As a private, non-sectarian university, Wilmington University is home to a diverse community of 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Wilmington offers more than 150 academic programs, over 100 of which can be earned online. Available distance learning options include bachelor’s degrees in Behavioral Science, Organizational Dynamics, and Legal Studies.
Graduates of the Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies program can immediately enter the field as a paralegal or legal assistant. The program also provides a foundation for law school or other graduate-level study. In addition to specialized legal courses, students will take coursework in analytical thinking, reading comprehension, and interpersonal communication. The curriculum for the Legal Studies degree features courses such as:
- Legal Research
- Civil Procedure
- Interviewing and Investigating
- Advanced Litigation Skills
Students who meet certain qualifications, including a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or above, will receive guaranteed admission to Widener University Delaware Law School. Although this program is primarily available online, students will be required to earn a minimum of 10 credits in legal specialty classes through traditional on-campus coursework. (Hybrid classes will fulfill this requirement.) The 2018 cost per credit-hour for online coursework is $372. This cost is the same for all students, regardless of in-state residency.
University of Florida
Average Net Price: $14,761
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ranks the University of Florida in the top ten nationwide among the Best Values in Public Colleges. Online students can take full advantage of the university’s low tuition rates through extensive distance learning options. The unique Criminology program at UF emphasizes the complex relationships among the legal, social, political, historical, and psychological influences on crime and justice.
Presented by the Department of Sociology and Criminology within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the program at UF Online leads to a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology. This degree path will feature at least one law-driven course (such as Criminal Procedure or Law and Legal Process) and six criminology and law elective courses. Four core courses are required for all Criminology majors. These four courses are:
- Law and Society
- Criminological Theory
- Research Methods in Criminology
- Advanced Principles of Criminal Justice
Criminology graduates may serve as a substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor, probation officer, court clerk, criminal investigator, and in many other roles within the legal system. For Florida residents, the tuition rate for distance learning courses is $129 per credit-hour. Non-resident students will pay $552 per credit-hour. Among recent UF graduates, 56 percent started at the university and graduated with no student loan debt.
University of Central Florida
Average Net Price: $15,533
Home to more than 66,000 students, the University of Central Florida is one of the largest universities in the country. Forbes ranks UCF among the nation’s most affordable colleges. Students with an interest in the principles of law and the role and function of the legal system can pursue UCF’s acclaimed Legal Studies degree.
The College of Health and Public Affairs at UCF offers both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies. After completing either of these online programs, students will be prepared to sit for the national paralegal certification exam, or to apply for The Florida Bar Registered Paralegal designation. Graduates can also pursue careers as a community service analyst, court reporter, or contracts specialist. Required coursework for the Legal Studies program includes:
- Professional Ethics and Liability
- Law and the Legal System
- Property and Real Estate Law
- Civil Practice and Procedure
All of the full-time faculty for the Legal Studies program are graduates of American Bar Association-approved law schools. Florida students will pay $212 per credit-hour, including tuition and fees. Out-of-state students in an online program will pay $748 per credit-hour. Approximately 44 percent of UCF students graduate entirely debt-free.
Average Net Price: $16,804
Mississippi College offers 83 undergraduate programs, 16 graduate degrees, and doctorates in educational leadership, professional counseling, and jurisprudence. In affiliation with the Mississippi Baptist Convention, MC offers a biblically rooted education across an array of liberal arts and sciences disciplines. MC’s Department of History and Political Science offers a diverse range of undergraduate coursework, allowing students to build a varied knowledge base in legal topics.
The Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies from MC is designed specifically for students who wish to work as a legal assistant rather than a practicing lawyer. The degree curriculum features nine legal specialty courses (as defined by the American Bar Association) that are required for Paralegal Studies candidates. Some of these core courses are:
- Legal Research and Bibliography
- Legal Writing
- Real Property Law
- Wills and Estates
Students in this program will have the opportunity to complete internships in law offices, corporate legal departments, and government agencies. Additionally, students can participate in Pi Gamma Mu, an honor society that promotes interdisciplinary scholarship in the social sciences. Full-time online students who are taking between 12 and 18 credit-hours will pay $8,200 per semester. For online students who are taking fewer than 12 credit-hours, the tuition rate is $514 per credit-hour.
California University of Pennsylvania
Average Net Price: $17,819
Located less than an hour from Pittsburgh, California University of Pennsylvania is home to nationally renowned faculty, world-class academics, and flexible on-campus, online, and hybrid degree programs. For more than a decade, the Princeton Review has ranked Cal U as one of the Best Schools in the Northeast.The program in Jurisprudence at Cal U is available with specializations in Legal Studies and in Land Management.
Students at Cal U can pursue an interactive, self-paced online program that leads to a Bachelor of Arts in Jurisprudence with a concentration in Legal Studies. This multifaceted program can prepare graduates for careers as a paralegal, court support personnel, or law enforcement professional. Graduates will also be prepared to work in real estate and business, or to apply to law school. While pursuing this degree, students may take courses such as:
- Constitutional Law for Paralegals
- Classical Jurisprudence
- Litigation and Trial Evidence
- Criminal Law for Paralegals
As of the 2018 school year, the tuition rate for undergraduate distance education students at Cal U is $319 per credit-hour. Roughly 90 percent of Cal U students receive some form of financial aid. This may be in the form of scholarships, need-based grants, work-study, loans, or payment plans. The university awards approximately $5 million in scholarships annually.
Average Net Price: $18,067
The Princeton Review featured Rowan University on its most recent ranking of the Best Northeastern Colleges. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Rowan is composed of seven departments and 15 BA programs. Rowan’s Law and Justice program, presented by the CHSS, provides students with career skills in law enforcement, security services, court services, corrections, and human services.
The online program at Rowan is a degree completion track. Students who have already earned at least 24 transferable credit-hours, or who hold an associate’s degree, can complete 60 credit-hours through this program and graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Justice. Required coursework for this degree will include:
- Law and Human Rights
- Introduction to Juvenile Justice
- Theories of Crime and Criminality
- Sentencing and the Rights of the Convicted
Students applying to this program must have a minimum GPA of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale on their previous undergraduate coursework. The BA in Law and Justice is also available through an on-campus track. For the 2018-2019 academic year, online students taking up to 13 credit-hours will pay $470 per credit-hour. Students taking more than 13 credit-hours will be charged $5,806 for the full semester.
Average Net Price: $18,219
A private, Roman Catholic institution, Dominican University serves roughly 3,000 students pursuing over 70 academic programs. Dominican was named to fifth place in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the Best Value Schools in the Midwest. The Legal Studies program at Dominican offers concentrations in Criminal Justice, Disability Advocacy, Labor Relations, Law and Social Justice, Paralegal Studies, Public Administration, and Sustainability Studies.
The Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies is available through fully online coursework, or through evening classes on the campus of Triton College. Both degree paths are offered in an accelerated format: Degree candidates can complete the equivalent of two years of full-time study in 20 months. Regardless of the concentration that a student chooses, the following courses are required:
- The American Legal System
- Legal Research and Writing
- Religion and the Law
- Philosophical Basis of the Law
Related degree offerings from Dominican University include an online BA in Human Services and, at the graduate level, an online MA in Conflict Resolution. The tuition rate for the BA in Legal Studies is $450 per credit-hour. Students in this program may arrange to make monthly payments instead of paying in full at the beginning of the semester.