Best Online Legal Studies Degrees for 2023

Associate, Bachelor's & Master's Degree in Special Education Options & Salary

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Legal studies is a terrific degree option for students who may have strong analytical abilities yet may not necessarily be strong in math or science. While some programs do require mathematics for the degree, that is usually a statistics course and there are often options that make the requirement more palatable for the math-phobic.

It's also a terrific option for those who want a degree that is at once career focused but also grounded in pure academics. Students study plenty of legal theory and practice but also cover topics in philosophy, sociology, and perhaps economics, among other academic areas. The degree is thus interdisciplinary while remaining focused on real-world applications.

After graduation from an undergraduate program, students can find work in a number of businesses who need help with contracts or compliance, among other matters. They can also gain admittance to a master's legal studies degree program, if not a full law degree.


Components of A Successful Career In Studies Degree

Legal studies is an academic field that covers the inner workings of our legal system. It includes topics such as court procedures, legal writing, court filing procedure, and more. Programs also cover related topics such as philosophy, statistics, and sociology. Thus, legal studies is an interdisciplinary field that affords students the chance to learn multiple viewpoints and skill sets.

Graduates of an undergraduate legal studies program are well-trained to work in law firms and law libraries. They are skilled in legal research and writing, as well. Legal studies students can become paralegals, docket experts, or legal secretaries, to name a few options. In fact, a legal studies student can find more opportunities than those in law firms. Corporations and government agencies also have a need for the skills taught in a legal studies degree program.

Once a legal studies student lands their first job in a company or law firm, they often find that they are on a career path that provides good pay and great job security. They can also specialize in specific areas of the law, such as criminal or torts law. Docketing, for instance, is a lesser known part of a law firm's operations that is vital for all cases. Docket experts ensure that all pertinent documents are properly filed and recorded while also conducting light research projects.

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Online Associate Degree in Legal Studies

An associate degree is a two-year college degree which is often offered by smaller community colleges, but may also be offered by some four-year institutions, including universities. These degrees require that students complete the core college curriculum that is a fundamental part of any bachelor's degree program. Once students have completed required courses such as composition, mathematics, and various other required courses, they take courses in their concentration or major.

Admission to an associate degree program, especially in a community college, is often rather easy. Most community colleges have an open enrollment policy that allows anyone to sign up for courses. However, these community colleges often insist that students submit standardized tests to measure their academic competency. Students who are lacking in areas such as mathematics or writing must then take remedial courses to prepare for their full-credit courses. These remedial tests may be waived for those who have a strong GPA coming out of high school.

While an associate degree is considered less than a bachelor's degree because they take fewer courses to complete, there are many opportunities available for those who choose this route. In fact, an associate degree may have many advantages over a bachelor's degree. For one thing, an associate degree takes half of the time to complete. This means that a diligent student who works through their community college program can start applying for entry-level jobs two years before their friends in four-year degree programs. So, even after their friends graduate with bachelor’s degrees, they will still have more experience than them. In many fields, such as legal support, experience can matter just as much as a degree.

An associate degree is also advantageous from a financial viewpoint. Community college credits are far cheaper than a four-year college or university. Thus, those who complete their core college curriculum in a community college, plus their concentration courses, can proceed to a four-year school with less debt. Furthermore, a student who completes their two-year degree and then goes to work may find that their employer has a tuition reimbursement program, thus dramatically reducing their net costs for a bachelor's degree.

Given that community college courses teach effectively the same material, especially when it comes to general education courses, and tend to have smaller class sizes, they present a strong option. Instruction at community colleges is often of a high caliber, as well. After all, community college faculty aren't under pressure to publish articles or win grants. Community college professors often have the same background as their cohorts in a university but are focused solely on teaching students.

Example Coursework for an Associates in Legal Studies

  • Philosophy of Law
  • Theory of Law
  • Theories of Justice
  • Sociology and the Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Torts Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Property Law
  • Human Rights and Technology
  • Immigration and Citizenship Law
  • Implicit Bias
  • Law and Economics

Career Options

  • Paralegal:
    Assist lawyers with a number of duties including court filing, interviewing clients, and organizing materials for trial.
  • Docket Clerk:
    Files briefs and motions with the local courts. Understands the docket calendar and maintains that schedule for attorneys.
  • Legal Secretary:
    Performs administrative tasks for a small set of attorneys on top of legal research, writing, and coordinating the court docket.
  • Private Investigator:
    Works with a variety of clients on cases such as finding missing persons, performing background checks, and surveilling spouses, business associates, etc.

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Online Bachelor's Degree in Legal Studies

A four-year bachelor's degree is what we commonly mean when we say college degree. Students who complete a four-year undergraduate degree complete the core college curriculum and then nearly two full years of courses in their major concentration. Many bachelor's students also pursue a minor concentration in a related field and it's also possible to earn a double major, though that may take more time.

To enter a bachelor's legal studies degree program in a four-year institution, students usually have to submit a comprehensive admissions packet. Schools require documents such as a transcript of all high school grades, and any college credits, too. They also tend to require letter(s) of recommendation, college admissions exam results, a personal essay, and perhaps other, optional materials that can help differentiate the student. Students who take the SAT or ACT can have their results automatically sent to their top choice schools.

Once admitted to a four-year institution, students may have to meet requirements before they can pursue a legal studies degree. For instance, some legal studies departments require students to take statistics and philosophy courses prior to admission to the department. These courses introduce students to the intellectual rigor required to succeed in a legal studies degree program. Further, having this foundational knowledge in mathematics and philosophy will be of great benefit later.

A four-year bachelor’s degree in legal studies can prove to be quite rigorous, but it does provide a strong background in the humanities, albeit with a focus on law. This means that students can take their degrees into a variety of fields, if they so choose. However, most will want to pursue work in the legal field. Some entry-level positions that undergraduate legal studies graduates can pursue include paralegal, legal secretary, docket clerk, investigator, and legal advocate. Other options may include social work, law enforcement, technical writing, and legal journalism.

A bachelor's degree in legal studies is also a requirement for admission to graduate programs. Since most legal studies students are focused on the law, they can choose between an MS in legal studies or a full law degree (JD). Those who are interested in a law degree should consider focusing on their skills in logical analysis. This can include a course in the philosophy department called Formal Logic. This is in preparation for the LSAT, which focuses almost exclusively on logic problems.

Example Coursework for a Bachelors in Legal Studies Degree

  • Legal Research:
    This course teaches students how to narrow a search and to find the appropriate information using Lexis/Nexis or other legal research tools.
  • Legal Ethics:
    Students learn about how to behave according to ethical standards in the legal profession.
  • Dispute Resolution:
    This course covers how parties can resolve a dispute with or without resorting to the court system.
  • Intro to American Jurisprudence:
    This course covers the fundamental cases, concepts, and trends in the legal system.
  • Legal Writing:
    Writing legal documents is a special skill that requires knowledge of the specifics of legal style and format.
  • Law and Economics:
    This course discusses the economic impact of legal rulings, liability law, and the impact of contracts on property rights.
  • Prison and the Penal System:
    This course discusses the role of imprisonment in our society.
  • Native American Law:
    Reservations exist apart from their local legal framework, requiring special knowledge of both native and federal/state law.
  • Sociology of Law:
    This course addresses how law and society intermingle. Topics include the law vs. social norms, the role of lawyers, and why people obey or disobey law.
  • Philosophy of Law:
    This course approaches law from a philosophical angle.

Career Options

  • Paralegal:
    Helps attorneys with writing and researching vital legal documents. They also help prepare clients for deposition and more.
  • Legal Secretary:
    Assists an attorney with their daily administrative tasks but also works to gather legal research, file documents with the court, and more.
  • Private Investigator:
    This may entail internet research but also hands-on surveillance of errant spouses, businesspeople, etc.
  • Law Librarian:
    Strong research skills are needed for this important position.

Online Master's Degree in Legal Studies

A master's degree in legal studies can take a legal, or other, career to the next level. Paralegals, docket clerks, and legal secretaries with an MS in Legal Studies may receive raises and promotions.

Any professional who is in an administrative or supervisory position could consider this degree. A master's in legal studies helps students better understand how the law works and applies to their firm. The degree will give them the vocabulary and understanding they need to work with attorneys and may help them with their daily work if they deal with many compliance issues. That is, if they understand how the law might apply to a specific contract, they can begin to address the matter before it gets out of control. Whether their contract is legal or enforceable, if a vendor is in breach, etc. are all issues that an MS in legal studies can help someone figure out. However, the admissions requirements for such a degree can be quite extensive.

To enter most graduate degree programs, students generally must provide a thick packet of material. Most often, graduate degree programs will require satisfactory scores on the GRE (graduate record exam), a bachelor's degree, and letters of recommendation. The GRE is a two-part exam that starts with a test of general knowledge, similar to the SAT. Then, there is a subject-specific exam. However, there is not a subject-specific exam for a legal studies graduate degree program, so they tend to only ask for general GRE exam scores if they accept the GRE as well as the LSAT. Some programs also ask for a resume, especially for students who have been out of school for more than five years.

These days, a number of graduate degree programs have shifted to an online presence. This can be very valuable to a working legal professional. Legal studies graduate degree programs also tend to take less time than a typical master's degree program. In fact, some legal studies graduate programs take only a year, provided that students maintain a full load of courses. Thus, students can find the best legal studies master's degree program and attend in their time after work.

If, however, a student has easy access to the physical campus, they might opt for a hybrid degree. In these programs, they can choose to take specific courses either online or in a classroom, depending on what suits them best. Some students feel that certain classes work better online than in a classroom.

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Example Coursework for a Masters in Legal Studies Degree

  • Introduction to the American Legal System
  • Property and Contract Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Legal Writing and Communication
  • Business Law
  • Employment & Human Resources Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Law and National Security
  • Technology and the Law
  • Public Interest Law
  • Legal Research Methods

Career Options

  • Human Resources Manager:
    Oversees a team of HR specialists. A legal studies degree will help with better comprehension of applicable labor laws.
  • Compliance Officer:
    Works with a firm to ensure that its operations are in full compliance with the law.
  • Operations Manager:
    Oversees the day-to-day functioning of their firm. Operations managers ensure that the firm complies will all applicable laws.
  • Environmental Consultant:
    A strong working knowledge of environmental laws will help a consultant keep their clients in compliance with local and federal laws.

Online MBA Degree in Legal Studies

An MBA is one of the most highly sought degrees in the business community. In fact, this degree a de facto requirement for executives at the C-suite level. However, earning an MBA is no small feat, and it all begins with a rigorous admissions process.

To gain admittance to an MBA program, students need strong scores on the GMAT, a relevant undergraduate degree, letters of reference, and perhaps a resume. The GMAT is the business school entrance exam which attests to a student's knowledge of business. Depending on the program, schools also may require that a student's transcript reflect certain specific courses. This will vary from school to school, but some possibilities include introduction to accounting, a survey course in management, or mathematics courses such as statistics.

Students who have more than five years’ worth of business experience may also be required to submit a resume with their application. This will show admissions counselors the applicant's relevant experience in the business community. Even if a program does not require a resume, it may be a good idea to include the document in an effort to present a more comprehensive view of the applicant's abilities.

Once admitted to an MBA program, students spend their first year studying a general business curriculum. These courses may have similar titles to their undergraduate courses, but they are taught at a much higher level. This year gives students the opportunity to embark on graduate level study of topics that they may not have covered in their academic or professional lives or to brush up on information they haven’t used in a while.

The second year of an MBA is then concerned with a specialty topic area. This is commonly known as one's concentration area and it is similar to an undergraduate major. This concentration can be one of many topics available across the US, which can include legal studies, information technology, finance, operations management, organizational leadership, or human resources, to name a few. Another way to specialize one's MBA is by enrolling in a dual MBA program.

In a dual MBA program, students complete two master's degrees in three years. The second master's degree may or may not be strictly related to business. Some options include computer science, public administration, legal studies, law (JD), or engineering. Since a dual MBA is an intensive path, it's recommended that students take a sabbatical from working in order to complete both degrees in a timely fashion.

Example Coursework for an MBA in Legal Studies Degree

  • Corporate Finance
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Human Resources
  • Operations Management
  • Marketing
  • Sports Management
  • Corporate Accounting
  • Financial Analysis
  • Business Law
  • Microeconomics


  • Healthcare
  • Entertainment Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Marketing
  • Online Marketing
  • Information Technology

Career Options

  • Chief Executive Officer:
    This is the top position in any company. The CEO oversees all aspects of the business and thus takes ultimate responsibility for the firm's profitability.
  • Marketing Manager:
    This position oversees both the analytical and creative side of a marketing team.
  • Investment Banker:
    An MBA qualifies a worker for a position as an associate in an investment banking firm.
  • Management Consultant:
    This position entails taking reviewing a client's firm and helping them achieve greater efficiency and profitability.

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Online PhD Degree in Legal Studies

A doctorate in legal studies is the peak academic achievement in the field. While a PhD in legal studies won't allow a student to practice law, there are other opportunities available that may be even better. However, most opportunities in this field will have a distinctly academic flavor.

First off, in order to become a doctoral candidate in legal studies, students will first need to complete a master's legal studies degree. During that time, students may become enthralled with specific areas of the field. For instance, students have desired a deeper dive into business ethics, public policy, or environment law. Students who have a driving passion in an area such as those should consider moving on to a doctoral legal studies program.

Admission to a doctoral legal studies degree program starts with an application form. While each PhD program has its own admission standards, they often include a variety of documents. Naturally, every doctoral program will want to see transcripts that may include any and all undergraduate schools attended, and certainly all graduate work. Students with significant gaps between degrees may also need to submit a resume that demonstrates how they've been applying their degrees in the working world. Finally, students should be prepared to provide multiple letters of recommendation, a sample of relevant academic writing, and an admissions essay that asserts their intentions for the program.

Once complete, PhDs often choose to pursue careers in academia. Many seek tenure track teaching positions with universities. However, there are also research opportunities that enable them to continue to develop in their specialty without needing to teach either graduate or undergraduate students. Others may opt to work for government policy think-tanks or consulting firms who need a person with their specialty.

Example Coursework for a PhD in Legal Studies Degree

  • Ethics in Business and Economics
  • Foundations of Business Law
  • Research Methods
  • Jurisprudence
  • Doctoral Seminar
  • Thesis Proposal
  • Thesis
  • Judicial Process
  • Civil Rights Law
  • Environmental Law
  • International Business Law
  • Human Rights and the Law

Career Options

  • Professor:
    A PhD in legal studies can pave the way to a tenure-track position teaching graduate and undergraduate legal studies students.
  • Research Faculty:
    This university-affiliated position is often tenured and requires that professionals seek grants or other payment in return for their research papers.

What Does a Legal Studies Degree Cost?

The cost of a legal studies degree depends on a number of factors. Those who attend private or out-of-state institutions can expect to pay more than those who attend in-state colleges or universities. Further, those who spend their first two years of their undergraduate degree in a community college will see their overall costs drop significantly.

Private, non-profit colleges and universities are shown to cost an average of $37,000 per year. For-profit private institutions actually cost a bit less, with average yearly costs of around $18,000. Meanwhile, a public college or university is about half that, or $9,500. A community college, or other two-year institution, reveals yet another range of costs.

A private, for-profit, two-year college costs under $16,000, while their non-profit peers cost only $2,000 more. A public, two-year, community college, on the other hand, costs only around $4,000 for a year.

Certificates and Licensure in Legal Studies

Legal studies students don't stop learning after they've graduated. There are always courses to take and certificates to earn. One popular certificate is a paralegal certificate, but then professionals can further specialize their credentials. Many paralegals earn specialist certificates in legal fields including, but not limited to, business law, contract law, personal injury law, immigration law, and wills & estates law. Law firms and individual attorneys will always take note when a paralegal has specialized credentials that match their needs.

Those who have earned an undergraduate degree in legal studies may also decide to advance their careers with a full law degree. This will require two more years of study and then a rather dramatic career change. After law school, it will be necessary to pass the Bar Exam in order to become a licensed attorney. Attorneys are better paid, on average, but also carry far more responsibility and work longer hours per week.

Other opportunities are available in the law field. Some are intrigued with legal research and find work in a law library. An undergraduate legal studies diploma can surely help a student find an entry-level position with a larger firm's law library. However, to excel in the field, it will be necessary to earn a Master of Library Science degree. With a legal background and undergraduate degree in legal studies, an MLS (aka MLIS) will open the door to a terrific career.

Online vs. Traditional Options

The contemporary era has brought new opportunities for legal studies students. Nowadays, students can pursue a legal studies degree online, on a traditional campus, or some blend of the two. In fact, many undergraduate degree programs require a certain number of online courses. While online coursework isn't necessarily a great thing for every course, such as a biology lab course, it works great for courses that center around reading and writing, such as legal studies.

The online option is a terrific way for students to access degree programs that otherwise might not be available to them. After all, students have no need to move or commute in order to attend class sessions. Rather, they can log in and access course materials at the times of day that make the most sense to them.

Some may wonder if an online legal studies degree deprives students of their instructor's time and attention. To that, the answer is a clear no. In fact, students may have even greater access to their instructors if they take advantage of email or online chat options. Furthermore, some online instructors even make their personal phone numbers available to help students succeed.

Nevertheless, traditional campus classes still dominate the academic landscape. When students live near to a community college or a four-year institution that offers the legal studies degree program that makes the most sense to them, on-campus learning is an easy choice. Nevertheless, students should always investigate what online options are available to them. After all, scheduling conflicts are common and, when students can pivot to the online medium, they can find greater success.

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Professional Organizations for Legal Studies

Professional organizations are an important part of the working world. They offer professionals the opportunity to learn, grow, and advance in their profession. Many also join a local chapter for the opportunity to fellowship with others in their profession and to earn leadership positions.

A paralegal association, for instance, offers members many educational opportunities. Their courses cover topics such as discovery, criminal litigation, financial intelligence, organizational leadership, and more. These courses may help maintain credentials while also helping members advance in their careers. Members can choose the courses that matter most to their specific position or even choose to learn new things that may be of use at a later time.

What Should You Consider When Looking for a Legal Studies Program?

Majors Available

what-are-the-special-education-degree-requirements Students who are interested in legal studies should first find a degree program that meets their specific needs. It's worth noting that not all associated degrees have the title legal studies but may be called business law, environmental law, or something else. If there is some confusion, a simple call to the department chair should help clarify what the degree program offers and how it aligns with legal studies.

In fact, many legal studies departments offer a general curriculum with a few focus areas. Students should make sure that their first choice of specialty is available. Students should also investigate other departments in the college or university so that they can take a minor concentration or double major that will enhance their legal studies focus. Some options may include political science, statistics, economics, business, and even philosophy.

Accreditation – Regional and Programmatic

Accreditation is a fundamental part of finding the best legal studies degree program. This is a way of verifying that the school has been vetted by an independent agency along a number of metrics. Accreditation agencies scrutinize each program's faculty, curriculum, materials, and student experiences. For the best legal studies program, seek out only programs that have at least a regional accreditation credential.

To ensure that a program has acceptable accreditation, look for words such as ‘regional accreditation’. Then make sure that their regional accrediting body is CHEA approved. CHEA is the preeminent accrediting body for the United States and all academic programs should hold credentials from them or an agency they approve.

Legal studies degree programs should carry CHEA-approved accreditation for a number of reasons. The primary reason is so that students will have a degree that is recognized by employers. In the last ten or more years, we've seen non-accredited colleges sued and forced to reimburse students. Those students then had to return to a valid, accredited degree program in order to get their career started.

The second reason is for further academic work. Graduate legal studies departments will not admit a student who doesn't have an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. This can stymie professional advancement and necessitate that the student return to school for an accredited degree.

Some degrees have programmatic accreditation, but legal studies does not yet have a special accrediting body. A programmatic accreditation focuses on a specific academic area, such as business or STEM, and assesses programs along more stringent criteria. Perhaps someday there will be a programmatic accreditation for legal studies.

Program Length

Students are often concerned about the length of their legal studies program. Students who don't yet have an undergraduate degree can choose a two-year associate legal studies degree program. That degree is good for some entry-level positions and may be sufficient for many paralegal positions.

However, since the legal profession is academic by nature, a bachelor's legal studies degree will be preferred. In fact, students who are fortunate to have an accelerated master's degree program available should consider that. In an accelerated program, students are able to earn their undergraduate and graduate degrees in a mere five years. However, this option is intensive and is unlikely to leave time for work. However, those who are able to complete their master's legal studies degree are sure to start their working life with a higher pay rate and job status.

Potential Careers and Salaries for Legal Studies Graduates

A legal studies professional can find work under a number of different job titles. In fact, it's a very versatile degree that can lead to a wide range of career opportunities. Some even take their legal studies work clear through a PhD and then teach graduate and undergraduate students. Here is a brief list of the career options available to a legal studies degree holder.

  • Paralegal: Average salary is $50,000.
  • Sr. Research Analyst: Average salary is $82,000.
  • Legal Assistant: Average salary is $49,000.
  • Contract Specialist: Average salary is $61,000.
  • Contracts Manager: Average salary is $87,000.
  • Corporate Paralegal: Average salary is $79,000.
  • Human Resources Manager: Average salary is $70,000.
  • Practice Manager: Average salary is $70,000.
  • Office Manager: Average salary is $52,000.
  • Intellectual Property Paralegal: Average salary is $68,000.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do graduates with this degree make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only shows data for paralegals and legal assistants whose typical degree is an associate degree. Nevertheless, they show a median wage of $56k. Thus, legal workers with a bachelor's or master's legal studies degree should do far better. Furthermore, the median wage does not reflect additional compensation such as bonuses or benefits.

Should I get a legal studies degree online?

An online legal studies degree is a great idea. Students can often find their ideal program online and then don't have to move across the nation or commute to class. The coursework lends itself to the online format, so all that is required is a dedicated student.

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