Why Earn a Master’s in Law?
An traditional or online master degree 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. And online programs will allow you to earn your degree while you continue to work. Some online programs also provide short stays on campus in order to allow you to network with professors and other students, so keep your eyes open for in-person requirements when you are researching online programs.
The greatest benefit to possessing a traditional or online master 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 traditional or online master 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. An on-campus or online master degree legal studies program will take you anywhere from one year to five years depending upon the amount of time you can dedicate to the program. (Many students who attend online only take courses part-time.) 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 Online?
Most online master’s in a legal studies program, whether online or not, are not designed to gain you entrance into law school. Some programs exist where you can complete an online 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. Many of these offer online courses if not overall online programs. 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 through online and traditional programs:
- 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. These are the degrees of this type which are most commonly found in online or hybrid (online and in-person) formats.
- 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 online 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 online master 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, though you should note that online programs do not dilute their student requirements. Anything required for on-campus attendance will likely be required for online learners. 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 Online?
Many legal studies programs, online and traditional, take from one to two years to complete as a full-time student. If you take online or in-person 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, which can be especially difficult for online learners. 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 many core courses or even a full legal studies program 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. Some examples of these include medical device regulatory compliance, financial regulatory compliance, human resources compliance, higher education compliance, health care compliance, and many more. 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 an online master 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
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a master’s degree to be a lawyer?
You do not need a master’s degree to get a job in the legal system as a lawyer. In fact, you don’t even need a master’s degree to be a judge. However, some may think of the law degree that is required as a master’s degree. You need to complete an undergraduate degree and a three-year law degree in order to work as a lawyer or judge. A master’s law degree may make an application to law school stand out, but it won’t get you in on its own. A master’s degree in law usually prepares you for other roles such as chief executives, conciliators, consultants, educators, law librarians, policy analysts, etc. So, if you are thinking about working as a lawyer or judge, you might want to revisit your ideas about what is required. However, if you are looking to work in a business role where you will need to know about business law, policy, and regulatory compliance, then you might want to consider a degree in law at the master’s level.
Are there any advantages to earning an online master degree in law vs taking classes on-campus?
As the legal field becomes increasingly competitive, a master's degree in law is often seen as a must-have qualification to stand out from the crowd. With the majority of legal system professionals holding at least a bachelor's degree and more seeking advanced degrees, having an online master degree in law could be one way to set yourself apart in this highly competitive field. But what are the advantages to earning an online master degree in law versus taking classes on-campus? Cost savings is perhaps one of the greatest advantages when it comes to pursuing an online master degree in law. It’s estimated that students can save up to 50 percent or more by opting for an online program instead of attending traditional on-campus classes. Another potential benefit is convenience – you can access course materials anytime and anywhere as long as you have an internet connection, allowing you greater freedom and control over your educational schedule. You also don’t have to face the hassle of commuting or finding off-campus housing near campus if desired.
Is earning an online master degree in law worth it?
In today's world, earning a higher degree can be seen as an essential step in launching a career or furthering one. With the advancement of technology, earning an online master degree in law has become a viable option for those hoping to access educational opportunities from the comfort of their own home. In recent years, more and more universities have begun to offer courses and programs that allow students to earn their master’s degrees remotely. But is it worth it? The legal field has evolved significantly over the years, making it ever more difficult for prospective lawyers to gain employment without advanced qualifications. An online Master Degree in Law provides students with the necessary credentials that employers seek out when hiring new attorneys and legal professionals.
After earning my Master Degree In Law, will my abilities to practice law grow?
After earning a traditional or online master degree in law, many people wonder if their skills and abilities to practice law will improve. A traditional or online Master degree in Law is a terminal degree that offers comprehensive courses focusing on substantive areas of legal scholarship. With the increased knowledge, critical thinking, and written communication skills developed through this program, prospective students can be sure that their ability to practice law will be enhanced significantly. They can expect to gain specialized expertise in specific areas of legal theory and application as well as develop an understanding of the complexities of civil and criminal procedure. Furthermore, graduate-level classes provide prospective students with exposure to core ethical considerations for attorneys and an introduction to administrative law practices which are invaluable tools for any successful lawyer. All these components combined make it evident that graduates from this program will have improved their abilities greatly when it comes to practicing law.