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Master of Legal Studies Online programs, also known as MLS Online, prepares graduates to work in a range of law professions without becoming a licensed attorney. Universities offering MLS online provide a diverse range of professional training that leads to new careers or advancement in the workplace. Balance Careers says that graduates have greater professional options, financial benefits, and growth opportunities in pursuing a legal career. The U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted job growth from 8 to 10% in the field, with annual salaries from $50,00 to $110,00. This guide will help you find the right Online Masters in Legal Studies.
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There is a wide selection of accredited Master of Legal Studies programs. To jumpstart your search, we found the best online law degrees. We examined accreditation, the cost of tuition, the department’s reputation, student support, financial aid, and graduation or job placement rates.
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Understanding Master of Legal Studies Online Programs
The Master in Legal Studies Online programs can advance your career or prepare you for a new profession entirely. Because there are several legal studies degree types at the post-baccalaureate level, it’s crucial to dig deep into their distinctions before committing to an M.S. online program.
Masters in Legal Studies Degree Types
There are five types of MLS degrees from which to choose. These are the MLS Degree, MS in Law Degree, MA in Law Degree, MBA in Legal Studies, and the Master of Laws (L.L.M.). The online MLS and M.A. in Law online vary by your professional goals and orientation. The MS in Law Degree prepares graduates to work in a concentration of specialties and is designed for students to enter the profession or continue toward a Juris Doctor (J.D.). The MA in Legal Studies is a terminal degree, preparing graduates for the workplace. It is not designed to prepare students for a doctorate.
The online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) is designed for students who will not practice law. It doesn’t qualify graduates to sit for the bar examination. The degree is targeted for careers for those who want to assist attorneys or advise on laws affecting business entities.
MS in Law Degree
The Master of Science (M.S.) in Law is a one- to three-year degree developed for professionals who want to prepare for law-related careers within a specialized niche. Graduates may continue to gain skills at the doctorate level. A Capstone or Thesis is required toward the end of the M.S. program, and some universities require an on-site internship.
MA in Law Degree
The online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Law program is a one- to two-year degree designed for non-law graduate students to expand their skills and gain advanced legal knowledge without pursuing a Juris Doctor. The program may not require a Capstone or internship. And there is less technical research than in an M.S. degree.
MBA in Legal Studies
The online MBA in Legal studies is for working business professionals who want to add law expertise to their credentials or move into law management positions. It can take from one to three years to complete.
Master of Laws (L.L.M.)
The online Master of Lawsdegree is for professionals with a J.D. that want to concentrate in a specific sector of the legal field. The degree is research-intensive and can be completed within a year.
MBA Legal Studies Vs MLS Degree
Considering whether to earn an online MLS degree or an MBA in Legal Studies depends entirely on the student’s career objectives. Generally speaking, the key difference in an online MBA vs. MLS relates to the degree’s practice areas. The online MLS gives graduates tools to solve business issues that also must conform to the law. An online MBA program focuses on developing the graduate’s leadership skills required to lead legal firms from a business management perspective. The differences in required credits may extend the time to complete the MBA in Legal Studies, which means an increase in total costs. Here are some differences:
Online MLS Degree
Online MBA Legal Studies
Time to complete: 16-28 months
Time to complete: 18 to 36 months
Courses: regulatory compliance, contracts, administrative law, negotiation, and mediation.
Courses: business leadership, accounting, economics, data analytics, human resource management, and contracts.
Skills: Communication, research, legal writing, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
Skills: Management, leadership, and financial analysis methodologies.
GRE requirement: Varies by the university, but many online MLS degree programs do not require scores, or they may waive them.
GRE requirement: More typically required by public and private business schools. Some require passage of the GMAT exam as well.
Specializations in MLS Online Programs
Students in a Master of Legal Studies onlineprogram earn specializations by completing degree requirements and elective courses and a research project in their concentration. Specializing in a niche area of law can focus your career and job search. Here are some common concentrations:
This concentration in meditation teaches students to effectively communicate and find solutions in negotiations and disputes acceptable to all parties.
Employment & Human Resources Law
The online M.S. in Employment Law and H.R. compliance are key to an organization’s workplace success. Graduates evaluate H.R. programs based on employment laws and regulations affecting compensation, and more.
An online Masters Degree in Ethics and Compliance prepares graduates to take on roles overseeing contractual agreements, legal regulations, and legal compliance with human resources laws.
This umbrella concentration may be right for students seeking to become an officer within a business organization. Topics include taxation, contracts, entrepreneurship, and regulatory compliance.
This specialization is a good match for professionals in the healthcare sector. The concentration may also prepare graduates for health policy careers, clinical care, healthcare administration, and legal compliance.
The Master of Legal Administration in environmental law addresses legal policy and practice related to climate change and land preservation. Topics include land-use law, environmental regulations, contracts, and advocacy.
Contracts hold businesses and individuals accountable in most industries. The Masters in Contract Law focuses on analyzing and interpreting contracts to find legal remedies for defaults and disputes.
Curriculum and Skills Gained in Masters in Legal Studies Programs
Legal Studies online courses give students an overview of the legal professions while courses in the specialization or concentration drive deep into student career options. Key skills include legal knowledge and terminology, legal research, writing for the law, conflict resolution and mediation, critical thinking, and interpersonal and professional communication.
Mediation and Arbitration
Studies are in alternative dispute resolution techniques to resolve situations of conflict without court interventions.
The review of personnel management skills in overseeing employees and meeting H.R. requirements at the state and federal levels.
Regulatory Compliance and Legal Risk Management
Students learn the legal compliance requirements in businesses, governments, and nonprofits.
A study of research methodologies for navigating the law library, computer databases, pertinent law books, and journals.
Students gain an understanding of U.S. contract laws, along with contractual obligations pertinent to business and government contracts.
Accreditation for Master of Legal Studies Online Programs
Students should check for accreditation at their prospective universities. A department offering a Master of Legal Studies undertakes voluntary assessments from nonpartisan organizations that evaluate the degree program’s academic quality. Accreditation impacts the value of your degree and is required for all MLS students seeking Federal financial aid.
University and departmental accreditation can mean everything at a Master of Legal Studies program. Employers may not hire students from non-accredited schools. Some may offer higher salaries for grads from accredited schools. And if the graduate decides to continue their education for a Juris Doctor must have graduated from an accredited program. Accreditation organizations are recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education.
Here are the common accreditation organizations based on the university’s region:
The Higher Learning Commission. HLC is a national organization that evaluates universities for academic quality, ethics, teaching excellence, and student resources.
Middle States Commission on Higher Education. MSCHE offers regional accreditation to universities in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Universities must offer one or more postsecondary degrees.
WASC Senior College and University Commission. WASC offers accreditation to public and private universities in California, Hawaii, and the Pacific rim. It evaluates schools on educational factors, including the students’ availability for Federal financial aid.
Timeline for Graduation from Master of Legal Studies Online Programs
The amount of time it takes to complete an MLS online typically runs from 1-3 years. Many factors directly influence the total time you’ll need. The first factor is the total number of credit hours are required for graduation. The range of credits varies by the university and the department offering the MLS online. Our research found that the number of required hours varies from 20-36 credits. Some concentrations in the Master of Legal Studies online require more credits than a generalist degree. Students who opt to write a thesis may also face additional research hours. Other factors include whether the student attends on a full- or part-time basis. Those with family or work obligations may have less time to commit to full-time study.
Master of Legal Studies Online Programs Admission Requirements
Admission requirements for an MLS degree online vary by institution. Requirements are set by each university, by the law department, or by the major. Some programs require test scores from the GREor GMAT. Many others do not require graduate entrance exams. Entrance to the program may also require the graduate applicants to complete prerequisite coursework. Let’s look at the most-common admissions requirements for an MLS degree online.
Students must complete a full application online at the university before the deadline. The application lists the required support documentation for admissions.
Official test score
Not all schools require test scores. Universities requiring a pre-admission exam generally accept the GRE or GMAT scores. Depending on the law department, test scores may be waived for prior academic credits or work experience.
Transcripts are required upon application from all prior college work at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Professional resume or CV
Admissions to the MLS degree online often depend on professional experience. Resumes and CV document your professional or scholastic background.
Statement of Purpose
Applicants submit a small essay detailing why they are choosing this university and MLS degree online program. How will the degree further their careers? What experience or knowledge can they bring to the program?
Letters of Recommendation
The online Master of Legal Studies program will require one to three letters of recommendation from faculty, employers, and colleagues. They should cover your academic aptitude, work experience, and achievements.
How to Pay for Master of Legal Studies Online Programs
When college tuition and student debt are rising unchecked, students must survey the financial aid available to pay for a Master of Legal Studies online. TheFoundation for Economic Education found that 90 percent of all student loans come from the Federal government, and they currently account for a massive $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. At the same time, university tuition has climbed by 497% in the last 20 years, according to Forbes Magazine.
Fortunately, there are many ways to pay for your tuition, and not all of them require repayment amounting to student debt, such as grants and scholarships. Your application for financial aid begins when you complete the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Then you can explore these financial resources:
Scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement or financial need. See the section on scholarships below.
Student loans must be repaid, and they are a source of student debt. Loans can be federal or private. Federal student loans include subsidized or unsubsidized Stafford Loans and Grad PLUS loans.
Institutional based aid
Universities, law schools, and departments offering the online Master of Legal Studies may offer their aid, including teaching assistantships, work-study, grants, and scholarships. Contact your prospective programs.
Tuition reimbursements from employers
These programs allow employers to pay for all or part of your online MLS. Typically, employees must complete their studies before reimbursement. If you work for an organization in the law processions, you may be able to qualify.
Scholarships are considered to be gift-based aid because they don’t need to be repaid. They are offered by the government, trade associations, law firms, and individual universities. Scholarships may be awarded based on academic achievement, financial need, and the applicant’s ethical or gender-specific background. Here are several to consider:
Who Can ApplyThe American Association of Law Libraries sponsors this scholarship awarded to students Attending an accredited library graduate school program or law program. Deadline, May 1, 2023.Amount: $2,500
Who Can Apply: Students enrolled in accredited paralegal programs who will seek a career in the law professions. Deadline: July 1, 2023.Amount:$2,000 and $3,000
FAQs about Master of Legal Studies Programs
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an MLS degree?
The online Master of Legal Studies degree is designed for graduates who plan to work outside the law practice. Coursework is devoted to law school topics so graduates can take their knowledge into private businesses, nonprofits, and governmental organizations.
What can you do with a master’s in legal studies?
An online master’s degree in legal studies opens doors to a wide range of career options. Grads work in regulatory agencies, compliance organizations, dispute resolution, healthcare law organizations, intellectual property law firms, and many more.
What is involved in a Master of Legal Studies degree?
Students undertake general studies in law and core concentrations in the field that apply to their specific fields and future professional roles. Required credits vary by institution. Students learn a legal vocabulary applicable to careers in business, government, healthcare, and nonprofit organizations.
Is a Master of Legal Studies worth it?
Earning an online Master of Legal Studies will not prepare you for a Juris Doctor (JD) career that requires three years to complete. But it’s worth it for students planning to enter non-attorney professions as mediators, regulatory compliance officers, and paralegals. It is less expensive and takes less time to enter the legal profession than a J.D.
How long does it take to complete a Master of Legal Studies?
It takes from 1-2 years to complete an online master’s degree in legal studies. Variables include the total number of credits required and whether the student is attending a full-time or part-time basis.
What concentrations are available?
Employment law, mediation, paralegals, regulatory compliance, legal research, human resources.
Careers and Salary Outlook for Legal Studies Masters Graduates
Students who earn their online Master of Legal Studies are qualified to work in a wide range of related occupations. Wages and job opportunities are in flux, adjusting to the economy, and hiring demands. Graduates of programs offering MLS concentrations may draw better pay or find more available job openings. We have reviewed the professional roles common to MLS graduates along with median annual salaries and projected job growth in these master’s degree in legal studies careers:
Median annual salary
Job growth (2018-2028)
Mediators and Conciliators
These professionals work with differing parties seeking resolution outside of the courts.
Senior Compliance Officer
Compliance officers ensure that their organization meets federal and state financial reporting, legal, and ethical regulations.
These H.R. professionals assist for-profit and not-for-profit organizations in evaluating hiring and benefits practices from a legal perspective.
Paralegals/Legal Assistants typically work for law firms in researching and preparing cases. They may also work in the corporate sector.
Certifications and Licensing for Legal Studies Graduates
Certifications for legal studies graduates attest to practical and theoretical knowledge as well as professional experience. Licenses to work in the legal studies professions are not common across the United States. For example, no state has paralegal licensure, but graduates can earn certifications of their expertise. A certification on its own may not guarantee a job in your specialization, but it can play a huge part in landing a position or in compensation. Research employers in the field to see which credentials are required. Here are some common ones:
Certified Paralegal (CP). No state has paralegal licensure. The National Association of Legal Assistants offers C.P. examinations. Some employers and certifications may require the voluntary C.P. certification that may help gain jobs in the field.
Certified Mediator. There is no national license for mediators. Some states require mediators to hold certifications for their area of expertise based on education and experience. The National Association of Certified Mediators offers the certification exams.
Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional (CCEP). There are no licensing requirements for compliance specialists except for some positions in finance. The Compliance Certification Board offers voluntary CCEP certification.
Professional in Human Resources Certification. There are no licensing requirements for H.R. compliance officers. Applicants for the Professional in Human Resources Certificationmust hold a Master of Legal Studies degree with one year of experience. Available certifications include the Associate Professional in Human Resources (APHR) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).
Additional Resources for Legal Professionals
In addition to faculty and university law libraries, a student pursuing a Master of Legal studies online should build a comprehensive catalog of legal journals, networking resources, and professional organizations/associations germane to their scholarship. These can include information and access to continuing education, academic research, and certification test prep and examinations. Other helpful resources are social networking websites, career job boards (Indeed, Monster, Glassdoor). Meetup.comhosts 20 social networking groups for paralegals. The following is a partial list of resources worth considering:
Academy of Legal Studies in Business (International). The ALS is a forum on business law designed for teachers and scholars in business law, serving up law-related courses not found in law schools. ALS publishes theAmerican Business Law Journal (ABLJ) and theJournal of Legal Studies Education (JLSE).
Cambridge Core. Cambridge Core is home to publications from the Cambridge University Press that houses more than 3,500 books and 1.6 million journal articles. Recent key research articles include articles in Private and Public Law, Feminism, Law and Culture, Gender, and Intersectionality.
National Association of Certified Mediators. The NACM offers certification training, certification examinations, certification renewals, and mediator industry news. Graduates completing their Master of Legal Studies online can join the NACM and immediately receive the certification prep guideline. The NACM does not require continuing education hours for re-certification.
National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA): NALA, formed in 1975, is a clearinghouse of legal assistants’ resources. It offers its 18,000 paralegals members access to courses, publications, and webinars. Students can also obtain the Certified Paralegal (C.P.) designation through testing. Also, members have access to NALA’s exclusive job board.
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