An online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) is a graduate program designed for professionals in a wide range of fields who wish to gain a deeper understanding of law and legal matters that affect their expertise. Online MLS degree programs introduce non-lawyers to the legal system and legal procedures that are used in a range of settings, including health care, human resources, real estate, law enforcement and commerce. A master’s degree in legal studies can also provide you with an introduction to foundational legal concepts and theories if you aspire to someday work in a law-related position but don’t want to attend law school to become an attorney.
The Master’s in Legal Studies Online degree is designed to improve a working professional’s expertise and capacity to understand legal issues, manage legal questions and controversies, interact professionally with lawyers and understand a lawyer’s professional responsibilities. With a master’s degree in legal studies, students learn to interpret foundational legal concepts, as well as use legal analysis and critical thinking to solve real-world problems as they pertain to their chosen career field.
An online MLS degree may be attractive to individuals who wish to become legal experts in their chosen career field, as well as professionals who want to think, question and debate like an attorney. The question of whether you need a master’s degree in legal studies is better phrased as whether you can benefit from such a program. The answer to that question will depend on your professional goals and personal interests.
Regardless of what you do or where you work, a Master’s of Legal Studies Online degree may provide the leadership and critical thinking skills needed to direct others. The methods, theories and principles students are exposed to in an MLS degree not only facilitate an in-depth understanding of US legal procedure, but also lay the foundation for managing personnel, systems and offices. So while you may not need a Master’s of Legal Studies as a prerequisite for a specific career, you may decide that an online MLS degree is the next step in your professional development or ascension in your organzation.
The MLS Degree program can help any professional understand how the law interacts with their field. You might consider an online Master’s of Legal Studies if:
- Your work involves negotiations, compliance or regulations
- You want to better understand laws and regulations without going to law school
- You wish to improve your career prospects by obtaining general and specialized knowledge of the U.S. legal system that pertains to your field
- You wish to move into a law-oriented field or position
What about an online MLS vs. a traditional on-campus degree program? Enrolling in an online Master’s in Legal Studies Online program allows you to obtain legal and critical-thinking skills without putting your personal or professional life on hold. Online learning can be more flexible and convenient than going to a brick-and-mortar campus. And because the curriculum is accessible anywhere with an internet connection, you can enroll in almost any Master’s of Legal Studies program offered online instead of being limited to a program offered at a school near you (if any such program exists in your area).
Not all online legal studies programs and schools are equal. It’s wise to check out any degree program to see if it meets your needs and will provide the kind of education necessary to advance your career. For instance, accreditation is often touted as an indicator of high-quality education; however, it’s only one factor that may determine a program’s quality. Accreditation can happen at the program level (e.g., Master of Legal Studies), at the college level (e.g., College of Business), and at the university level. That’s not to say accreditation shouldn’t weigh in your decision, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you look for.
Some important questions to ask when exploring online Master’s of Legal Studies programs are:
- Is the program available full-time or part-time? How long will it take to complete?
- Is the program self-paced (asynchronous) or do classes occur at specific times (synchronous)?
- Will I need to travel in order to attend required on-campus immersion events?
- How long has the school offered an online MLS degree program?
- How many students are admitted to the program each semester?
- Does the school offer the same services and resources to online students as on-campus students?
- Do I need to take the GRE/GMAT to apply? If so, are there waivers or exceptions available for education and/or work experience?
In addition to general legal studies, you may also be able to tailor your degree to better suit your professional development and career advancement goals. A general MLS degree will provide the broad foundational knowledge you need to become a legal expert in your field, but you may choose to concentrate in a specific area that directly relates to the field you currently work in or would like to work in someday. Concentrations may vary, but some of the online Master’s in Legal Studies specializations you can choose from include:
- Compliance and Legal Risk Management
- Environmental Law and Policy
- Family and Juvenile Law
- Human Rights
- Healthcare Law and Policy
- Intellectual Property
- International Economic Law and Policy
- Dispute Resolution
Each school has its own admission requirements, but there are some common elements. For starters, most programs require a bachelor’s degree (BA or BS), and you’ll need to provide transcripts. Schools may also have GPA and GRE requirements to be considered for enrollment in a Master’s of Legal Studies program. You will also have to complete an application and pay application fees.
In some cases, letters of reference and letters of recommendation will be required; some schools may request a written essay called a Statement of Interest for acceptance. Visit our schools page to browse online MLS degree and learn more about admission requirements for those programs you are interested in applying to.
Online MLS Degree Programs
Compare online MLS degree programs and find the one that best suits your needs.