Why Earn a Master’s in Law?
A master’s in law or an MLS degree is necessary for many positions within the U.S. legal system, including the highest-paying positions. While you won’t need an MLS degree specifically to take the bar, begin work as an attorney, or even become a judge; it may be one of the eligibility requirements to become an executive director, compliance manager, or partner at a law firm. As with most things, increasing your education can boost your resume and earn you a place in the upper echelon of whatever company or firm you are currently a part of, or allow you to shift into a new sector of law in which you currently have no experience, such as intellectual property or regulatory compliance.
Criminal Justice & Law Degrees & Career Paths
The greatest benefit to possessing a master’s degree in legal studies (MLS) with an emphasis in your field is that you will be able to make quick, sound decisions on a moment’s notice that could save your business potentially millions of dollars, or from complete destruction. This will make you far more valuable than other employees who only have a bachelor’s degree. You will also be able to demand more money when you’re hired. Recruiters understand that employees with higher levels of education deserve higher salaries. Those who are looking to fill high-responsibility positions will be happy to have you on board.
If you choose to complete a master’s degree in legal studies program, some employers may not fully grasp the benefits of such a degree. To earn more money, you might have to spend a lot more time looking for the right employer who values your accomplishment over looking for a job with a specific bachelor’s degree. This could have serious repercussions for your return on investment. A master’s degree in legal studies or law will take you anywhere from one year to five years depending upon the amount of time you can dedicate to the program. This can create challenges in your home and professional life. And keep in mind that most employers will not fully appreciate such a degree until you have access to more influential positions, such as a manager or director position. Unfortunately, some industries simply value a master’s in legal studies more than others.
Overview of a Master's in Law
What Law Master’s Degrees are Available?
Most master’s in legal studies programs are not designed to gain you entrance into law school. Some programs exist where you can complete a master’s in legal studies program and a law degree at the same time, while some master’s in law programs are designed for legal professionals who already possess a law degree, as a way to advance their careers. The overall objective is the same regardless of the title: to provide non-lawyer professionals with a strong foundation in law to advance their existing careers or to change professions.
Here are some examples of degree titles you will find:
- A Master of Studies in Law (MSL)
A master of studies in law is an MLS degree for non-lawyer professionals. Most individuals will select a specialization that compliments their existing or desired profession. These program participants face legal issues in their everyday work.
- Master of Science (MS) of Law
A master of science of law is most common with individuals in business, legal system, and STEM professions. Individuals may encounter various business positions, such as compliance officer, which will require that they use their knowledge in regulatory and legal aspects of how their company does business.
- Master of Legal Studies (MLS)
A master of legal studies is one of the most popular master’s of law degrees available. Upon completion of this degree, you will be considered highly desirable and meet eligibility requirements for various mid- and high-level positions in a number of industries including the government, healthcare, financial services, banks, non-profits, and more.
- Juris Master (JM)
A juris master degree is ideal for individuals who work in industries that are highly regulated, such as pharmaceuticals and food. Like all the other master’s degrees in law for non-lawyer professionals, it will provide a solid foundation in law to help advance your career.
- Masters of Jurisprudence (MJ)
An M.J. degree is another popular master's degree in law. Many colleges and universities consider this an ideal program for professionals who work with government regulations. These programs often focus on the importance of upholding the highest in ethical standards particularly in certain industries, such as insurance, pharmaceuticals, financial services, and healthcare.
It's important to note that all of these master’s degrees in law are similar but, with their different titles, they will provide accces to various career opportunities for MLS graduates. Keep in mind that you can take a dual master’s degree in law and a juris doctor (JD) law degree at the same time to minimize cost and course requirements. And it is important to understand that a master of laws (LLM) is a master’s degree in law that is dedicated to legal professionals who already possess a law degree for their career advancement, such as lawyers and judges. You must have a JD degree to apply to an LLM program.
A college, university, or law school that offer master’s degrees in law may only require a bachelor’s degree with a specified minimum GPA and various other eligibility requirements. This GPA will vary from one program to another. Highly prestigious programs will require a higher GPA and possibly even community service involvement, work experience, participation in extracurricular activities, and more. Most programs do not require a GRE, GMAT, or LSAT score. If you have already completed one of these exams, you can submit it; however, admissions may not consider your scores in their decision and the exams are most certainly not required unless directly stated by the program. If you are an international student, you will require an IELTS or TOEFL score and everyone will likely require letters of recommendations.
How long does it take to earn a Law Master’s?
Many legal studies programs take from one to two years to complete as a full-time student. If you take elective and core courses part-time, it will take longer. Keep in mind that many programs only provide you with up to four or five years to complete a program in full. It will be up to you to stay on track and take the appropriate number of courses each term to graduate on time. Remember, many employers offer tuition assistance for anyone completing a degree that can benefit their existing and future positions within their company as long as they maintain a specific GPA. Remember also that some core courses or even full legal studies programs may be available as online programs for students who can't take the time to return to school.
Potential Careers in Law with a Master’s
- Compliance Director -
A compliance director must ensure that all business practices are in accordance with all pertinent local, national, and international laws and regulations. Such laws and regulations might change regularly. They must also follow business practices as outlined by the employer and uphold all professional and ethical standards.
Average Income: $101,700
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO) -
A CEO is the top position in any organization. They make all final decisions at a very high level and depend upon their employees to guide them in the right direction. They also act as the liaison between the company and the board of directors.
Average Income: $155,400
- Financial Controller -
A financial controller is the primary decision maker on day-to-day tasks for the finance department. This position is considered one of the highest in any financial department. They report to the financial director.
Average Income: $84,700
- Healthcare Consultant -
The roles and responsibilities of a healthcare consultant will vary from specialization to employer type. You might work for non-profits, pharmaceutical companies, hospital administrations, doctors’ clinics, or others.
Average Income: $78,200
- Venture Capitalist (VC) Partner -
A VC partner is a co-owner of a venture capital firm. These are investors that offer capital to businesses for various potential returns, including equity and high-interest loans. A VC partner determines whether or not a business is worth their time and money.
Average Income: $95,700
Options to Advance
Many professionals in various industries will benefit greatly from a master’s degree in law as a way to ensure career advancement including biotechnology, financial services, healthcare, IT, pharmaceutical, and telecommunications. If you have any aspirations to acquire positions in the government or to pursue a political career, this degree is almost essential. You can also more easily become an executive or hold a C-level position in any business organization or you could be offered a position to be a part of a board of directors.
Best Master’s of Science in Law (LLM) Programs
A master of jurisprudence (MJ) degree offered by Loyola University will allow you to gain an in-depth understanding of legal procedures within the concentration of your choice. It will help you to overcome daily challenges through an understanding of the law.
- MJ in Compliance and Enterprise Risk Management
- MJ in Children’s Law and Policy
- MJ in Health Law
- MJ in Rule of Law for Development (PROLAW MJ)
Des Moines, Iowa
Drake University has one of the most prestigious law schools in the Midwest. Their MJ degrees allow you to specialize in a variety of fields, including business law, criminal law, international law, global citizenship, and sustainable development. You will be able to customize your curriculum to meet your exact professional needs and aspirations.
- Masters of Jurisprudence in Legal Studies - Business Law
- Masters of Jurisprudence in Legal Studies - Criminal Law
- Masters of Jurisprudence in Legal Studies - International Law and Global Citizenship
- Masters of Jurisprudence in Legal Studies - Sustainable Development
- Masters of Jurisprudence in Compliance and Risk Management
- Dual LLM and MJ in Individualized Legal Studies
University of Illinois at Springfield
The University of Illinois at Springfield offers an MA in legal studies rather than an MS. As such, the program places focus on law from a social perspective while also utilizing conceptual thinking, public policy advocacy, writing, ethics, public interest, and scholarly research.
- Master of Arts in Legal Studies
University of Washington
An MJ from the University of Washington offers a number of specializations. Within each specialization, the program will focus on industry-specific legal issues. They also focus on career advancement for all of their program participants.
- Master of Jurisprudence - Employment and HR Law
- Master of Jurisprudence - Environmental Regulation
- Master of Jurisprudence - Health Law
- Master of Jurisprudence - IP Law
- Master of Jurisprudence - SID Law
- Master of Jurisprudence - Technology Law
- Master of Jurisprudence - Tax Law
- Master of Jurisprudence - Indigenous Rights
Durham, North Carolina
Most master’s degrees in law from Duke University are designed specifically for individuals who already have a JD law degree, particularly judges, or those in search of a dual master’s degree and law degree to complete at the same time.
- JD/LLM in Law & Entrepreneurship
- JD/MBA & Accelerated JD/MBA
- JD/Master in Global Business Law
- JD/Master of Environmental Management
- JD/Master of Public Policy
- JD/Master of Theological Studies
- JD/LLM in International & Comparative Law
- JD/LLM in Law & Entrepreneurship
- JD/MA in Bioethics & Science Policy
- LLM in Law & Entrepreneurship
- Master of Judicial Studies
Traditional Schools Offering a M.S. in Law
University of Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma offers an online master of legal studies in four specializations. These specializations include Indigenous peoples law, healthcare law, international business law and oil, and gas and energy law. The programs are offered to US residents and international students alike.
- Master of Legal Studies - Oil, Gas, and Energy Law
- Master of Legal Studies - Indigenous Peoples Law
- Master of Legal Studies - International Business Law
- Master of Legal Studies - Healthcare Law
Arizona State University
Arizona State University has a growing online master of legal studies program. It is a one-year program, and it claims to offer a full legal foundation without the need for a law degree. You will be able to specialize in up to eight areas of concentration.
- Master of Legal Studies - Conflict Resolution
- Master of Legal Studies - Construction Law
- Master of Legal Studies - Corporate and Health Care Compliance
- Master of Legal Studies - Criminal Law
- Master of Legal Studies - HR and Employment Law
- Master of Legal Studies - Intellectual Property Law
- Master of Legal Studies - Law and Sustainability
- Master of Legal Studies - Sports Law
West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia
The master of legal studies degree program at West Virginia University prides itself on providing the public who hold professional positions with a greater understanding of US law so that they can better serve their employers and to make the right decisions under the direction of others.
- Master of Legal Studies - Healthcare
- Master of Legal Studies - Justice Systems
- Master of Legal Studies - Homeland Security
St. Louis, Missouri
Individuals who choose to pursue a master of legal studies at Washington University will experience a program created to provide professionals in various backgrounds with the opportunity for career advancement. These individuals will be able to make more educated decisions and protect their organization and themselves from potential legal issues.
- Master of Legal Studies
- Certificate in Business Law
- Certificate in Conflict Resolution
- Certificate in Employment Law
- Certificate in Litigation
- Certificate in Regulatory Compliance
Pepperdine University offers a master of legal studies that emphasizes the analysis and interpretation of legal concepts to enable students to make better decisions in their professional careers. They also claim that program participants will be seen as more credible within their industries.
- Master of Legal Studies