What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Legal Studies Program?

An online master’s in legal studies doesn’t prepare you to become an attorney, instead it’s designed for anyone who would benefit from a better understanding of the law. Legal studies graduate programs provide students with a thorough understanding of the legal system in the United States so they can acquire legal positions in the courts, business, education, reporting or even law enforcement. Many students wanting to add a master’s in legal studies to their resumes are already employed, so online programs offer a flexible way to earn an advanced degree while continuing to work. The best online master’s programs in legal studies fit your personal and professional schedule and prepare you for a career change or upward mobility in your current career. Compare curriculum, concentrations, format and cost to determine which program is right for you.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Legal Studies

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Human Resources Covers the complexities of personnel management, including the regulatory framework of overseeing employees and all aspects of employment laws. Human resources manager, human resources assistants, compensation and benefits managers
Health Care Regulation and Compliance Explore the major regulatory issues related to the health care field and all aspects of compliance programs. Health care compliance officer, health care compliance auditor, regulatory affairs associate
Regulatory Compliance and Legal Risk Management Examine the legal requirements applicable to data security in the digital age and the liabilities faced by businesses and governments, including compliance requirements. Compliance officer, regulatory affairs associate
Criminal Justice Designed for law enforcement professionals looking for career advancement by learning more about the legal system. Law enforcement
Mediation and Arbitration Focuses on the main methods of alternative dispute resolution used in situations approaching conflict. Mediator, arbitrator, conciliator

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Legal Studies

Most online master’s in legal studies programs don’t require previous work experience or passing of standardized tests, such as the LSAT and GRE. Some programs can be completed totally online, but others require some coursework to be completed on campus or offer option on-campus events. Most programs offer a variety of concentrations and are customizable to reflect your professional interests but offer similar core courses. Some courses you might see in your curriculum include the ones listed below.

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Introduction to Legal Studies A general overview of the U.S. legal system and how the law works, including a basic understanding of legal documents, licensing and contracts.
Regulation and Compliance Examine how the law affects individuals, businesses and organizations, including statutes relating to health, safety, employment, consumer protection and the environment.
Contracts Teaches students how to interpret and write binding and non-binding contracts and cover the damages for breach and the statute of frauds and liability.
Legal Research Covers the fundamentals of legal research and various methodologies, including researching in the law library, researching in law books and periodicals and computer-assisted research.
Legal Writing and Analysis Improve your analytical and written communication skills, including how to identify and analyze legal issues and drafting legal memoranda.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Legal Studies?

The length of time it takes to complete your online master’s degree in legal studies varies based on the length of the program, whether you enroll as a full-time or part-time student and the format of the program. Online programs are either offered asynchronously (self-paced) or synchronously (on a set schedule with other students). When you want to earn your degree quickly, choose an accelerated, self-paced program, which greatly reduces the time it takes to finish. On average, most online master’s in legal studies programs require you to earn 30-36 credits. Many programs can be completed in as little as year, but others take two years. Some schools require a capstone project to finish your program and others require residencies, which can add to the amount of time it takes to finish your degree.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Legal Studies Prepares For

CERTIFICATION DESCRIPTION
American Alliance Certified Paralegal Earning your online master’s in legal studies helps fulfill your educational requirements to apply for the American Alliance Certified Paralegal credential through the American Alliance of Paralegals, but you must also meet set criteria in paralegal experience.
Certified Paralegal Completing your online master’s in legal studies can prepare you to complete the Certified Paralegal program offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants, which serves as the national professional standard for paralegal professionals and is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
Accredited Legal Professional Earning your online master’s in legal studies can qualify you to sit for the exam to become an Accredited Legal Professional through NALS Association for Legal Professionals. Certification is available to anyone who meets the minimum requirements, which doesn’t include membership in the association.
Professional Legal Secretary and/or Certified Legal Professional Your online master’s in legal studies may qualify you to sit for the Professional Legal Secretary and/or Certified Legal Professional exam offered through NALS Association for Legal Professionals. While membership in the association isn’t required, you must meet the minimum requirements for certification.
Professional Paralegal Earning your online master’s in legal studies helps qualify you to take the Professional Paralegal exam. This certification is offered through NALS Association for Legal Professionals and doesn’t require you to be a member but does require you to meet certain prerequisites.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Legal Studies

Accreditation is an important consideration when selecting an online master’s in legal studies program because it affects your eligibility for financial aid through the federal and state government, as well as some private scholarships and grants. Choosing an accredited school ensures your education meets strict standards. The college or university itself should be accredited through an agency recognized by the Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation. While there aren’t accrediting agencies for many online programs, some online master’s of legal studies programs have received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission or the Higher Learning Commission.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Legal Studies Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, legal studies professionals with a bachelor’s degree earn a median salary of $51,000, but those with a master’s degree earn a median salary of $78,000. While earning your master’s in legal studies online offers the same upward mobility and salary expectations as completing a traditional on-campus program, some careers in legal studies also require state licensing or certification from a professional association.

Expected Salary

Because a master’s in legal studies opens a wide variety of career paths with varied upward mobility, there’s a range in expected salary. For a general idea of what you could earn, the table below provides salary ranges for some common career choices in the field of legal studies.

Job Title Salary Range
Paralegal/Legal Assistant $30,987–$70,080
Compliance Officer $41,680–$109,189
Human Resources Manager $45,049–$92,033
Court Clerk $25,932–$61,583
Judicial Law Clerk $29,150–$72,373
Arbitrators/Mediators/Conciliators $36,026–$103,525

Source: PayScale.com

The legal support profession is fast-paced, so your online master’s in legal studies helps give you a leg up in a wide array of industries where your knowledge of legal issues will be in high demand. For example, a master’s in legal studies program that focuses on a career as a paralegal opens numerous career paths with varied salary expectations as the table below demonstrates.

Source: PayScale.com

Career Opportunities

Because legal issues are a concern in every industry, your career choices are extremely broad, and you can easily align your legal studies master’s degree program with your professional goals by customizing your curriculum. Your advanced degree also makes you a highly desirable candidate for various entry-level positions and strengthens your ability to work your way up into a managerial role.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Arbitrators, Mediators and Conciliators Arbitrators, mediators and conciliators assist opposing parties in settling disputes outside of court by facilitating negotiations that help both parties come to a mutually acceptable agreement. Arbitrators, mediators and conciliators all work as impartial third parties to help resolve disputes, but arbitrators can render binding decisions. Arbitrators and mediators meet with opposing parties simultaneously, but conciliators meet with them separately. $60,670 per year 10%
Court Reporters Court reporters are responsible for creating an accurate word-for-word transcript of what was said at trials, depositions and other legal proceedings. While many court reporters work in courtrooms or other legal settings, some create captioning for television or work as real-time translators for deaf or hard-of-hearing people by transcribing speech to text in classrooms or business meetings or at a variety of public events. $55,120 per year 3%
Paralegals and Legal Assistants Paralegals and legal assistants work as legal support staff to lawyers and perform a variety of tasks that vary depending on the area of law they work in but can include organizing files, drafting documents, conducting legal research and helping prepare for trials or corporate meetings. $50,410 per year 15%
Human Resources Managers Human resource managers coordinate the administrative functions of business, corporation, organizations and government agencies, including directing all aspects of personnel management. HR managers may also oversee the compensation and benefits program and training and development program or these programs may be handled separately by other human relations specialists that answer directly to the HR manager. $110,120 per year 9%

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations help you keep up with the ever-changing legal support profession by providing you with the resources you need to adapt and pursue life-long learning. Professional organizations also help you network with other professionals and make valuable connections with more experienced professionals in the field. Some of the most notable professional organizations in legal support professionals include:

National Association of Legal Assistants: A leading organization for paralegals and legal assistants, NALA provides numerous educational opportunities, hosts webinars, sponsors certification programs and offers networking and professional development opportunities that help legal support professionals advance in their careers.

American Alliance of Paralegals: The AAP is a national paralegal association focused on helping individuals attain and maintain formal, legal and continuing education. It offers a quarterly newsletter, a job bank and continuing education courses.

NALS Association for Legal Professionals: Designed for anyone in the legal support industry, this association offers membership forums, networking opportunities, professional certification, online educations sessions and state and local chapters that help you connect with colleagues in your area.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Legal Studies

While online master’s programs in legal studies are usually less expensive than on-campus programs, many students still need financial assistance. Start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn what type of financial aid you qualify for through the federal government. You may also qualify for state aid and assistance through the educational institution you’re attending. Because legal studies is such a broad area of study with numerous career options, there may also qualify for a wide array of private scholarships. Use the following resources to learn more about financing your online education.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Society for Human Resource Management Graduate Scholarship

Award: $5,000

Deadline: August

Eligibility: Graduate students enrolled in a regionally accredited school in a master’s degree program with an emphasis in human resources.

Gloria Barron Wilderness Society Scholarship

Award: $10,000

Deadline: April

Eligibility: Students enrolled in an accredited graduate institution in natural resources management, law or policy programs with career goals focused on wilderness protection.

Monterrey College of Law Master of Legal Studies Program Grants

Award: $500

Deadline: May

Eligibility: Graduate students enrolled in the master’s of legal studies program at the Monterrey Collage of Law’s Seaside and Santa Cruz locations in California.