The Best Online Doctorate in Legal Studies Programs

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A doctorate in legal studies considers research methods, legal theory, justice policy, and jurisprudence as they pertain to legal institutions and the legal profession. Many programs prepare legal professionals and practicing attorneys to expand their expertise into specific areas of law, including maritime law, intellectual property law, and human rights law. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 15% growth for postsecondary instructors, including those in criminal justice and law, between 2016 and 2026. Use this guide to learn more about what you can expect from an online doctorate program in legal studies.

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The Best Online Doctorate in Legal Studies Programs

Because numerous types of degrees fall under the umbrella of “Doctorate in Legal Studies,” the following sections display top-ranked programs from several related ranking articles on our website. To learn more about these different degrees, follow the link at the end of each section to their corresponding ranking article.

The Best Online Doctorate in Legal Studies Programs

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California University of Pennsylvania
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The Best Online Doctorate in Homeland Security Programs

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Northcentral University
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Best Online Doctorate in Public Administration Degree Programs

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West Chester University
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Choosing a Doctorate in Legal Studies Program

Earning a doctorate in legal studies online give you extensive training in research and scholarship as you pursue coursework on legal theory and practice. You acquire knowledge applicable to personal and professional goals, with many programs providing you the opportunity to tailor the program to a particular subset of law.

The interdisciplinary nature of a legal studies doctoral program provides you with exposure to legal subfields across historical and geographical boundaries. Corporate law professionals, for example, can explore the intricacies of finance and commerce law, while civic-minded legal activists can focus on environmental or human rights law.

Legal studies and law doctoral degrees require two to three years of coursework with at least one additional year to write a dissertation. Coursework prepares you to conduct research necessary for your dissertation. You will also develop a research proposal with faculty and work closely with advisors.

Some programs give you the opportunity to teach undergraduate students and participate in mock trials. Students also complete comprehensive oral or written exams over all of the classes taken. This demonstrates your expert knowledge of standards, practices, and principles of legal studies. Students must pass these exams and complete a dissertation to graduate.

What Else Can I Expect from an Online Doctorate in Legal Studies Program?

Doctoral programs in legal studies vary by school and department. Some classes remain consistent across the curriculum, but many degrees offer you the chance to concentrate on a particular segment of law, legal institutions, or jurisprudence. Programs that allow you to structure your program based on individual interests also give you practical knowledge applicable to your personal and professional goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Doctoral Degree in Legal Studies

  • Doctorate in Ethics and Legal Studies:
    A doctorate in ethics and legal studies focuses on law as it relates to business. Students develop legal decision-making skills in business settings through extensive study of policies, regulations, and legal norms.
    • Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Corporate lawyer, human rights lawyer, corporate negotiator
  • Doctorate in Criminology, Law, and Society:
    A doctorate in criminology, law, and society focuses on the impact of crime on law and society while providing students with advanced knowledge of the criminal justice system, legal regulations, and legal theory.
    • Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Criminal justice professor, law school professor, law school administrator, legal researcher
  • Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD):
    Designed for students with a degree in law or related field, a JSD provides future educators and legal scholars with seminars, reading coursework, and workshops to advance their legal knowledge.
    • Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Law school professor, legal scholar and researcher

Curriculum for an Online Doctoral Degree in Legal Studies

  • Research Methods:
    Research methods courses train students to use qualitative and quantitative research techniques to gather data in anticipation of their dissertation. Students use research tools, including statistics and ethnographic software.
  • Jurisprudence:
    Coursework on jurisprudence provides students with the history and philosophy of law to understand its current application. Students assess their own relationships with law and justice as well. Jurisprudence classes may involve activities such as moot court.
  • Anthropology of Law:
    A course on the anthropology of law focuses on the relationship between law and society. Students learn about the interactions of culture, people, and institutions in the context of regulations, legal applications, and ethical norms.
  • Current Issues and Trends in Law:
    Students learn about contemporary matters related to law and legal policy through extensive readings, in-depth discussions, and individual research. Classes may focus on a specific topic such as finance, management, human rights, or private law.
  • Law and Morality:
    Law and morality classes emphasize the relationship between individual choice, dilemma, and law. Students study the nature of law as well as scenarios and case studies to assess how people make decisions when faced with punishment, penalty, or ethical conflict.

Careers with a Doctorate in Legal Studies

A doctorate in legal studies prepares you for careers that require expertise in research, analytical, and critical-thinking skills. You gain the knowledge needed to make ethical and informed decisions in a legal setting, and increase your potential career growth in academia, government, and business.

  1. Postsecondary Teacher:
    Postsecondary teachers instruct students at colleges and universities in their specific subject area. They design classes, present information, assess student work and work with colleagues on curriculum development. Postsecondary teachers also conduct research and carry out duties for their department and institution.
    • Median Annual Salary: $76,000
    • Projected Growth Rate: 15%
  2. Administrative Law Judges and Adjudicators:
    Administrative law judges and adjudicators work specifically with legal matters related to government policies, programs, regulations, and laws. They determine penalties and sanctions, rule on claims and settlements, and oversee legal hearings. Administrative law judges and adjudicators hold their positions by appointment.
    • Median Annual Salary: $94,790
  3. Lawyer:
    Lawyers must hold a degree in law and pass a bar examination. Lawyers advise clients, represent them in court, draft legal paperwork, and analyze legal problems. Lawyers may specialize in a type of law, including corporate, tax, family, and environmental law.
    • Median Annual Salary: $119,250
    • Projected Growth Rate: 8%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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