An online master’s degree in legal studies can offer you great advantages for a future career in law. While it doesn’t correspond to an advanced law degree (J.D.), and doesn’t certify you to practice law, it nonetheless provides training in complicated legal topics that prove invaluable to law firms, court systems, government agencies, and political organizations. In particular, graduate degees in legal studies serve as an indication to potential employers that you have taken your knowledge and skillsets to the next level. Even if you already have a job as a paralegal, an office administrator in a law office, or in a field not entirely related to criminal justice, you can still earn a master’s degree. Online colleges provide the flexibility and convienience that is in high demand by working adults.
Below we have listed the ten most affordable online master’s degree programs in legal studies. These constitute the schools with the lowest tuition prices around, and that was our priority when ranking colleges. However, rest assured that these schools are also accredited and offer a quality of education that can help push your career into high gear.
Although graduate legal studies programs aren’t typically approved by the American Bar Association, and usually aren’t included in graduate program law rankings (which focus on traditional Juris Doctorate law schools), many of the degrees below are affiliated with ABA-approved, high ranking programs. As such, we have occasionally chosen to include universities’ Law School rankings, as well as mention undergraduate or other programs that hold ABA approval. Because of the overlap of faculty, resources, and rigorous curriculum in many law departments, we suggest you take a high Law School ranking or ABA accreditation as evidence that the master’s in legal studies degrees are equally credible. We used data from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator database to find the least expensive programs, which are presented here in descending order of cost.
10. Northeastern University
Master of Science Legal Studies Online
Northeastern University, established over 115 years ago, continues its tradition as an “experiential” research university. Their online graduate degree in legal studies is designed for professionals who work in organizations operating in complex legal environments. Practical knowledge takes priority with the coursework. The Career Services Office assists students in customizing personal programs for graduate distance learners, and their advisors ensure students enjoy a strong alumni network after graduation. A growing number of students find work in the field immediately after graduation. U.S. News & World Report ranks the law school at #93, and Princeton Review places it at #8.
Tuition: $945 per semester hour, or $28,350 for the full program (in-state and out-of-state)
9. West Virginia University
Online Legal Studies M.L.S.
Founded in 1862 as a land grant university, today West Virginia University serves every county in the state, and online the university serves students across the nation. Their multidisciplinary, accredited online master’s degree in legal studies is for student professionals working within organizations affected by the American legal system. Career examples include social workers, government regulators, criminal justice system officers, and court workers, and this online program is ideal for professional advancement. The curriculum’s “solid foundation” in law builds wide-ranging competencies. Indicating an excellent overall program, the College of Law’s undergraduate programs are approved by the American Bar Association. In addition, U.S. News & World Report ranks the Law School at #83.
Tuition: $7,218/yr (In-state) $20,286/yr (Out-of-state)
8. Champlain College
Online Master of Science in Law
Champlain College, founded in 1878, is a smaller non-profit school that has begun reaching out to new students across the United States and Canada via the internet, yet it continues to support close connections between faculty and students. In 2014, U.S. News & World Report named this online legal studies graduate degree the first “broadly-focused” and “in-depth” online graduate program in the nation. Addressing issues in the workplace, coursework includes records security, litigation, contract and constitutional law, legal language, privacy, government regulation, and labor law. Six class terms a year allow working students to take a manageable load of just one class per term.
7. Arizona State University
Online Legal Studies (MLS)
Arizona State is a “new American university” committed to obtaining its goals of both access and impact. The university is home to the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, named after the retired Supreme Court Justice. Professionals with diverse work histories are encouraged to grow or to take on new career paths. The top online master’s degree in legal studies gives graduates a general understanding of the legal system and how it affects organizations, public or private. As a good quality indicator for graduate education, the undergraduate law program is approved by the American Bar Association. Furthermore, The university as a whole is ranked at #31 by U.S. News & World report.
Tuition: $10,300/yr (In-state) $13,702/yr (Out-of-state)
6. University of Oklahoma
Master of Legal Studies in Indigenous Peoples Law (Online)
The University of Oklahoma’s College of Law has a heritage of over 100 years. The college continues this long-standing tradition through the “pursuit of law and justice” online. The school offers a unique online master’s degree in legal studies that carries a focus in Indigenous Peoples Law. The University is at the heart of the old Indian Territory, and the state has the second highest Native American population in the nation. Although students are welcome to attend full-time, they can also complete the degree in just a few years through part-time attendance. The College of Law’s undergraduate programs are American Bar Association approved, indicating an overall excellent school. U.S. News & World Report ranks the college at #58 as a Top Law School, and Princeton Review named the college one of the Top 169 Law Schools.
Tuition: $4,205/yr (In-state) $16,205/yr (Out-of-state)
5. Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Master of Science of Law Programs Online
The Thomas Jefferson School of Law was the first to offer both a Master of Law and a Master of Science of Law online. Students develop competencies in international tax or financial services for the ever-growing world trade. The online school is one of a few in the nation that offer online tax law graduate degrees, and it’s the only one to offer a Bankruptcy Law Master’s. The program has “exclusive relationships” with professional associations, including the American Academy of Financial Management. Graduates enjoy extensive career and alumni services. The school is a member of the Association of American Law Schools, and many of the school’s programs are American Bar Association-approved, providing strong evidence that TJS offers one of the best online master’s degrees in legal studies around.
4. University of Illinois Springfield
Online Legal Studies Master’s Degree
University of Illinois Springfield, originally Sangamon State, became part of the state’s university system in 1995. The affordable online master’s degree in legal studies provides a deep understanding of the law and its impacts on American society. Ideal for established professionals, students gain the practical knowledge needed by organizations working within legal frameworks. The curriculum works to develop professionalism and research skills, and courses are available in both real-time and self-paced formats. Discussion boards and other tools for collaboration enhance the learning experience. U.S. News & World Report currently ranks UI Springfield near the top of its list of best public schools nationally, awarding it the #8 spot for 2015.
Tuition: $5,670/yr (In-state) $10,962/yr (Out-of-state)
3. Hamline University
Online Master in the Study of Law
Hamline University’s master’s degree in legal studies online uses a “rigorous” and “integrated” approach. With a strong focus on problem solving and an experiential and holistic approach to education, the degree offers concentrations in both healthcare compliance and conflict resolution. The main campus is the home of the Health Law Institute and the Dispute Resolution Institute, and National Jurist magazine recently ranked the law school as a “best value.” Hamline’s undergraduate law program is approved by the American Bar Association, the school is a member of the Association of American Law Schools, and they are on Princeton’s 169 Best Law School List.
2. Kaplan University
Online Master of Science in Legal Studies
Kaplan University, a leader in online learning, is a newer for-profit distance learning institution. Their cheap online master’s degree in legal studies (just $7,320 a year!) is specifically designed for working adults who want to advance their carriers. Graduates gain essential knowledge in the law, study legal terminology, and understand court related procedures. With this solid foundation, graduates are well equipped to work within organizations affected by the law, accomplish practical legal research, and conduct dispute resolutions. The school offers many electives to tailor a program specific to each student’s needs. The coursework includes one-on-one instructor to student communication, interactive discussion boards, and live seminars. They have a strong grant and scholarship office, and they offer military family discounts.
1. American Public University
Online Master’s Degree for Legal Professionals
American Public University is a for-profit distance learning institution that also includes American Military University. The Master of Arts in Legal Studies is ideal for professionals working within organizations operating in a legal framework. The school adapts to the busy lives of working adults, offering innovative online resources and flexible scheduling. The program helps students develop communication and research skills, and graduates walk away with a practical knowledge of the law and judicial procedures at the federal, state, and local levels. American Public University is a member of the Law School Admissions Council and also has one of the highest online student enrollments in the nation, giving students in the online master’s degree in legal studies program ample opportunity to network and meet potential future colleagues.
American Bar Association
U.S. News Rankings & Reviews
Guide to Online Schools
Global Academy of Finance and Management
Association of American Law Schools
About the Author:
Iris Stone began her writing career when she started working as a freelance writer and researcher in 2011. Her freelance business soon took off and she now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Despite the time it takes to run a business she still does much of the writing herself, and her work has included a variety of content related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and graduates’ careers. Her interests actually span far beyond writing, and she is currently studying to be a physicist! Check out her Google+ Profile.