Most Affordable Online Master's in Legal Studies Degrees Badge

Programs in the interdisciplinary field of legal studies blend liberal arts and law coursework. Learners explore legal theories, principles, institutions, and practices. Legal studies programs cover fundamental topics such as economics and law, law and society, international human rights, and legal discourse.

Master’s students in the field typically choose a concentration related to their current industry or role. Concentrations often focus on highly regulated industries such as finance, healthcare, real estate, and human resources.

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Students in juris doctor (JD) programs undertake deep studies of law and criminal justice in preparation for lawyer examinations, licensure, and practice. On the other hand, learners often pursue a master of legal studies (MLS) to enhance their expertise and qualify to enter the field or advance their current career. Employers in various industries hire professionals to help their organization identify and avoid legal issues. This guide highlights potential career paths, coursework, and scholarships for students earning an online master’s in legal studies.

FAQ


  • What is the difference between a master's in legal studies and a JD?

    Traditionally a two-year degree, an MLS demonstrates legal knowledge but does not qualify graduates to take the bar exam. The JD typically requires three years and qualifies holders to take the bar.


  • Do you need a bachelor's degree in legal studies to earn a master's in legal studies?

    Applicants to MLS programs need a bachelor’s degree. Some programs also require prior coursework in legal studies or relevant professional experience.


  • Can I work as a lawyer with a master's degree in legal studies?

    An MLS degree does not qualify holders to take the bar exam or practice law. However, some MLS graduates later earn a JD and become lawyers.


  • Can I earn a master's in legal studies online?

    Many MLS students complete their degree online. Online and on-campus programs usually feature similar content. Many distance programs offer asynchronous participation options, which are ideal for working students.


Most Affordable Online Master’s in Legal Studies Degrees 2021



  1. West Virginia University
    Location

    Morgantown, WV

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    This public, land-grant, space-grant, and research-intensive university is located in Morgantown, WV. Founded in the late 1800s, WVU is now home to nearly 30,000 students. Ranked among the top 100 public schools in the nation, WVU offers a variety of its degrees online. In fact, students can now pursue an online Master of Legal Studies degree program at WVU.

    Program Features

    This program is made up of 30 credit-hours which graduate students can complete in just 18 months. Required courses may include:

    • Researching the Law
    • Administrative Ethics
    • Law and the Legal System
    • Dispute Resolution Process
    • Administrative Legal Process

    This program offers three areas of emphasis, including healthcare, justice systems, and homeland security. All students must also complete a Research Capstone prior to graduating. The cost of this program, $561 per credit-hour, is the same for both residents and non-residents.

    Notables

    All online programs and courses are offered through WVU’s eCampus. Students will participate in live class sessions through Blackboard Collaborate. Some courses offer live class sessions through an online virtual world called “Second Life.” Online programs at WVU are flexible, affordable, and offer the same integrity as those on-campus.

  2. University of Illinois at Springfield
    Location

    Springfield, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    With over 30 bachelor’s degrees, 20 master’s degrees, 1 doctoral program, and over 1,600 online majors, the University of Illinois at Springfield is abuzz with academic pursuit. In fact, U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 edition of Best Colleges ranked this university as one of the best Regional Universities in the Midwest. Now, students can obtain an online Master of Arts Degree in Legal Studies.

    Program Features

    Offered through the university’s College of Public Affairs and Administration, this online program is perfect for working professionals. Graduate students must complete 40 course hours, including a graduate seminar or thesis. Other required courses may include:

    • Public Advocacy
    • Theories of Justice
    • Legal Research and Citation
    • Seminar in Courts and Policy Making
    • Introduction to Graduate Legal Studies

    With the same curriculum as those on-campus, graduate students in this online program will receive a high-quality degree with the flexibility they need.

    Notables

    Springfield’s Legal Studies Department has been in existence for over 30 years. With small class sizes, as well as the option to take classes both on-campus and online, this department emphasizes practical application and real-world experiences. Alumni of this program have gone on to become: attorneys, legislative staff, lobbyists, state agency directors, university administrators, FBI agents, and more!

  3. Arizona State University
    Location

    Tempe, AZ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Home to mascot Sparky the Sun Devil, Arizona State University was founded in 1885 and now has a total enrollment of nearly 72,000 students! With its multi-campus system, ASU is said to have the largest student body amongst US institutions of higher learning. ASU’s motto of “one university in many places,” stands true. In fact, students can now pursue a Master of Legal Studies entirely online!

    Program Features

    Offered through ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, this online MLS program offers six areas of emphasis. These include:

    • Corporate and Health Care Compliance
    • HR and Employment Law
    • Intellectual Property Law
    • Sports Law & Business
    • Sustainability Law
    • Criminal Law

    This 30-credit degree program is uniquely designed for non-lawyers. The cost of this program is approximately $1,060 per credit-hour. Applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree before joining this MLS program.

    Notables

    U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 edition of Best Colleges ranked this university as one of the Best National Universities as well as a Best Value School and Best Colleges for Veterans. ASU offers over 600 degree programs at all levels across 15 schools and colleges. Undergrad students can choose from nearly 400 programs (major, minor, certificates).

  4. University of Arizona
    Location

    Tucson, AZ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1885 and located in Tucson, AZ, the University of Arizona is home to over 40,000 students. Now, this prestigious university offers online courses, giving their students more flexibility to fulfill their degree requirements. The Master of Legal Studies is one of the school’s best online programs, offered through the James E. Rogers College of Law.

    Program Features

    University of Arizona Law’s online MLS degree is a 30-unit program that can be completed either part-time or full-time. Required courses may include:

    • Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research
    • The American Common Law System
    • The American Public Law System
    • Introduction to Family Law
    • Criminal Procedure

    Students in this program can choose to concentrate in a number of areas, including: Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy, Human Rights, Environmental Law and Policy, and more! All courses are 7.5 weeks in length and are offered during fall, spring, and summer semesters.

    Notables

    Degrees earned through UA Online are exactly the same as those you would earn by taking traditional classes on campus. Perks of online degrees also include in-state tuition costs, even if you don’t live in Arizona! The cost of the above program is fixed at $650 per unit.

  5. Regent University
    Location

    Virginia Beach, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1978, this private Christian research university is located in Virginia Beach, VA, and is home to over 3,800 students. The university offers over 125 graduate and undergraduate areas of study on campus and online. Now, through the university’s School of Law, students can earn an online Master of Arts in Law with a concentration in General Legal Studies.

    Program Features

    This completely online 30-credit-hour degree program can be completed in just five semesters. Required courses may include:

    • Foundations of Legal Thought
    • Constitutional Law and Policy
    • Property Law and Policy
    • American Tort System
    • Criminal Law

    The Master of Arts in Law tuition rate is approximately $650 per credit-hour. Regent also offers a variety of scholarships and financial aid packages for eligible students. The university is also military-friendly, offering discounted rates to service members.

    Notables

    Regent University topped the list of Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in Virginia by U.S. News & World Report in 2018. It also ranked first among the Best Online Graduate Education Programs in Virginia. Not to mention, five university faculty members have been named Fulbright Scholars! Students can learn from the best with the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world.

  6. University of Oklahoma
    Location

    Norman, OK

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in Norman, OK, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university that was founded in 1890. Home to the National Weather Center, this university is buzzing with over 21,000 students and 170 majors. Now, students can pursue an online Master of Legal Studies program through the university’s College of Law.

    Program Features

    OU Law offers three distinct programs that focus on core areas of expertise, including: Oil, Gas, and Energy Law, Indigenous Peoples Law, and Healthcare Law. Depending on your chosen concentration, required courses may include:

    • Professional Relationships in Health Care Enterprises
    • Introduction to the American Legal System
    • Native American Natural Resources
    • Fraud and Abuse/False Claims
    • Oil and Gas Law

    Each of these three online programs is made to be completed in just 15 months. The cost of this program per credit-hour for residents is approximately $500. The cost for non-residents is upwards of $850 per credit-hour. Small class sizes and industry experts ensure that you get the attention you deserve.

    Notables

    U.S. News and World Report has ranked the University of Oklahoma among the Best National Universities and Best Value Schools in the United States. The university also boasts more than 400 student clubs and organizations, including a bustling Greek system. About 25 percent of students opt to join one of the school’s 40 fraternities and sororities.

  7. Hodges University
    Location

    Fort Meyers, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in Naples, FL, Hodges University was founded in 1990 as International College. Renamed in 2007, this private university is now home to over 2,000 students. With a variety of academic programs offered across Hodges’ five schools, students can earn a quality degree that’s flexible and affordable. In fact, Hodges now offers an online Master of Science in Legal Studies.

    Program Features

    This online degree is perfect for those who can benefit from legal training but do not wish to practice as an attorney. Required courses in this 30-credit program may include:

    • International Law
    • Administrative Law
    • Regulatory Compliance
    • Governance and Management
    • Mediation, Arbitration, and Conflict Resolution

    All graduate students are also required to complete a Master of Legal Studies Capstone. With small class sizes and all instructors of law holding Juris Doctor degrees, this program can easily be completed while working full-time. Most students earn their degree in as little as one year.

    Notables

    Hodges University is known for its flexible schedules of day, evening, and online classes. In addition, the university offers career counseling and hands-on support from highly qualified faculty and staff members. Online students can benefit from all of the same offerings that those on-campus have access to.

  8. Saint Leo University
    Location

    St. Leo, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    This Catholic liberal arts university is located in St. Leo, FL and has more than 15,000 enrolled students. The university boasts one of the oldest distance learning programs in the country. If you’re looking for a flexible and affordable degree in legal studies, St. Leo may be perfect for you. Check out the university’s MS in Criminal Justice with a Legal Studies specialization.

    Program Features

    Offered through Leo’s School of Education and Social Services, this 36-credit program offers graduate students a well-rounded curriculum. Required courses may include:

    • Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice Administration
    • Legal Issues in Criminal Justice Administration
    • Leadership Applications in Criminal Justice
    • Public Policy Making in Criminal Justice
    • Future Studies in Criminal Justice

    All graduate students must also complete a capstone project, known as the Applied Project in Criminal Justice Administration.

    Notables

    Saint Leo University offers the flexibility and affordability for working professionals to obtain an advanced degree. The university’s criminal justice program director, Dr. Robert J. Diemer, has decades of investigative experience. His leadership influences the legal studies program and attracts folks from a variety of backgrounds. From criminal justice administrators and first responders to government officials, correctional officers, and more, this degree will further your career.

  9. Webster University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Webster is a private, nonprofit university that was founded in 1915. Located in Webster Groves, MO, Webster also has campuses across Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as many online programs. This international university is now home to one of the best legal studies programs in the nation. Check out their MA degree in Legal Studies below.

    Program Features

    This 39-credit legal studies program is offered through Webster’s College of Arts and Sciences. Required courses may include:

    • Jurisprudence
    • American Constitutional Law
    • Computerized Legal Research
    • Ethics for the Legal Professional
    • Methods of Legal Research and Writing

    All graduate students will also have to complete a three-hour Research and Writing Project course. This program will not prepare you for the practice of law, nor will you be eligible for admission to the bar. Rather, this program is ideal for working professionals who can benefit from understanding legal knowledge.

    Notables

    Webster University was ranked fifteenth in Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report. The university also ranked well among the nation’s Best Regional Universities in the Midwest, as well as the Best Value Schools. With a variety of scholarships and financial aid options, it’s no wonder so many choose Webster.

Career Paths and Outlook for a Master’s Degree in Law



Graduates of legal studies programs often become legal assistants, investigators, law librarians, and court advocates. Some MLS graduates pursue law degrees and high-paying criminal justice careers as lawyers and judges.

An MLS can lead to careers in various industries, including healthcare, real estate, and technology. Graduates can also secure roles in business, including positions as compliance officers, human resources managers, and budget analysts. The list below features a couple of career options for graduates of online master’s in legal studies programs.


  • Librarians

    Law librarians usually work in schools or government agencies. These professionals help students and researchers find and access legal information. Law schools often maintain libraries and employ librarians who specialize in legal research. Law librarians typically need a master’s in library science with an emphasis in legal studies. Individuals with a master’s in legal studies may qualify for law librarian positions, but they may need additional credentials.


  • Financial Analysts

    Financial analysts help clients make investment decisions. These professionals can work for businesses, banks, insurance companies, and securities firms. Financial analysts need at least a bachelor’s degree in a business-related field. These analysts benefit from knowledge of tax law and compliance, and earning an MLS can lead to specialized positions. Specifically, financial analysts who perform tax and compliance consulting services for companies or individuals can benefit from earning an MLS.


Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Librarians $59,500 5%
Financial Analysts $81,590 5%

Source: BLS

Accreditation for Legal Studies Degrees

To obtain accreditation, schools undergo a voluntary assessment of their academic quality. Accreditation agencies evaluate institutions’ resources, curricula, faculty credentials, and student outcomes. Academic-oriented colleges and universities usually seek regional accreditation, which is the most prestigious type of institutional accreditation. For-profit, career, and religious schools typically receive national accreditation.

In addition to institutional accreditation, learners can look for programmatic accreditation from field-specific agencies. High-quality legal studies programs usually feature accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA).

Institutional accreditation status impacts students’ ability to obtain financial aid and transfer credits. Only students at nationally or regionally accredited institutions can receive federal financial aid. Additionally, regionally accredited schools usually only recognize credits earned from other regionally accredited schools.

Courses in a Master’s Program in Legal Studies



Master’s programs in legal studies usually require 30-36 credits, including core classes, concentration courses or electives, an internship, and a capstone project or thesis. Capstone projects help learners cultivate advanced skills in legal research, analysis, and writing.

Core MLS courses often cover legal reasoning, law of information and records, negotiation and advocacy, and compliance. Enrollees learn about legal systems, theories, and principles.

Concentration options may include intellectual property law, healthcare law, mediation and arbitration, and international law. Many programs also feature concentrations or electives in environmental law, business law, and public interest law. Although curricula vary by program, the following courses appear in many online master’s in legal studies programs.

This foundational course prepares learners to collect, analyze, and present legal information. Students develop an understanding of the U.S. legal system, and they learn to research legal authorities and address legal problems. Degree-seekers practice creating common types of legal communications, such as letters, memoranda, and presentations.

This course examines the creation and implementation of laws in the United States. Enrollees learn about the U.S. Constitution’s relationship to law, including its impact on civil rights and social justice issues. Students also explore federal law, state law, litigation, and dispute resolution. Enrollees study the relationships between regulations, statutes, and case laws. This core course may serve as a prerequisite for advanced classes.

Many online legal studies master’s programs offer a concentration or elective class in intellectual property law. Coursework focuses on laws and processes for obtaining and protecting patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and trademarks. Degree-seekers also explore intellectual property concepts such as publicity rights and unfair competition.

This core course provides an overview of processes for making legal claims, resolving disputes, and composing legal deals. Coursework typically includes case studies and simulations. Degree-seekers study and practice implementing negotiation techniques, such as collaborative problem-solving and competitive bargaining. Students also learn about the ethics and codes governing attorney-client dynamics.

Learners in this core class examine the government’s executive branch and the relationships between Congress, the president, and the federal courts. Enrollees study federal laws and agencies, along with various adjudication and rulemaking tools. Students become familiar with key principles and concepts related to the separation of powers, freedom of information, and judicial review. Participants also examine how these agencies influence the public and private sectors.

Scholarships for Legal Studies

Even students in the most affordable legal studies master’s online programs can reduce out-of-pocket expenses by applying for scholarships. Many professional organizations, firms, nonprofit organizations, and schools offer scholarships. Learners may qualify for awards by demonstrating financial need, academic excellence, or leadership potential. The list below includes a few of the scholarship opportunities available to learners pursuing an online master’s in legal studies.

Legal Opportunity Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This ABA scholarship supports first-year law students who belong to underrepresented racial or ethnic minority groups. The scholarship committee considers each applicant’s financial need, personal statement, community service history, academic record, and family background.
Amount: $15,000 for three years of law school

AALL Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Aspiring law librarians enrolled in a library science or law graduate program can apply for this award from the American Association of Law Libraries. Candidates must demonstrate financial need, AALL membership, and work experience in a law library.
Amount: Up to $5,000

One Source Process, Inc., Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in a law-related field can apply. Applicants must submit proof of acceptance to or transcripts from a U.S. college or university. Recipients are chosen randomly and can apply funds toward degree expenses.
Amount: $1,000

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