Are Legal Studies Designed for NonLawyers?

A master's in legal studies degree prepares students for a variety of professional roles working with the government and in other fields.

Many law schools offer master's programs in legal studies designed for nonlawyers seeking an advanced understanding of the laws, regulations, and legal procedures that impact businesses and organizations.

It's important to note that a legal studies degree does not qualify graduates to represent clients or practice as attorneys. Instead, graduates can apply their legal expertise to roles like a realtor, human resources specialist, court employee, or small business owner.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that several careers suited for legal studies graduates will experience significant growth between 2019-2029. For instance, jobs for real estate brokers are projected to grow 2% and jobs for mediators are projected to grow 8%.

This guide covers important information for prospective students, including common courses and potential careers and salaries for graduates. It also ranks the best online master's in legal studies programs.

Featured Online Schools

What Is an Online Master's in Legal Studies Degree?

An online master's in law studies is a relatively new graduate discipline offered by university law schools. In these programs, students gain a comprehensive understanding of the legal framework in which businesses and organizations operate, examining topics like legal research and writing, contracts, and civil procedure.

Legal studies graduates can apply their knowledge of the legal system to careers in fields like human resources management, compliance, and consulting.

Choosing an Online Program

Students should consider several factors when researching prospective online master of legal studies programs, including tuition costs, on-campus requirements, and course delivery format.

What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Legal Studies Program?

A master's in legal studies typically begins with introductory courses, followed by core courses on topics like compliance, legal writing, and litigation. Students may also take electives or pursue concentrations in areas such as business law, dispute resolution, or human resources law.

Legal Studies Curriculum

Careers in Law

While an online master's in legal studies degree does not qualify individuals to practice as lawyers, graduates can pursue law school to gain the credentials necessary to work as attorneys. They can also work in areas like compliance, consulting, and administration. We cover several common careers for graduates below.


Lawyers advise and represent individual clients, businesses, and government agencies during legal disputes. Lawyers may specialize in a certain type of law, such as environmental, intellectual property, family, or tax law. Common job duties include conducting research and analysis, communicating with clients, and filing legal documents.

Lawyers typically need a juris doctor degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. To practice, lawyers must also pass licensure exams, meet state requirements, and participate in continuing education. This career requires keen analytical, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills.

Median Annual Salary


Projected Growth Rate



Paralegals help support the work of lawyers by maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents. Job duties vary by legal field, but these professionals often investigate cases, write reports, gather evidence, and communicate with clients.

Entry-level positions require at least an associate degree in paralegal studies, but many employers prefer to hire graduates with a bachelor's degree. Paralegals need strong communication, organization, and research skills.

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Projected Growth Rate


Compliance Officers

Compliance officers examine, evaluate, and investigate an organization's conformity with laws and regulations. These professionals work in industries like finance, taxation, occupational health and safety, construction and building, and agriculture. Common job duties include examining permits, licenses, and applications; issuing written notices of code violations; and maintaining inspection records.

Most compliance officers hold at least a bachelor's degree, but many employers prefer candidates with a master's degree in a relevant discipline, such as accounting, finance, or legal studies. These professionals need strong leadership, ethical decision-making, writing, and public speaking skills.

Median Annual Salary


Projected Growth Rate


The Best Online Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

  1. University of Southern California

    Los Angeles, CA

    USC taught just 53 students when it first opened in 1880. Today, USC offers its master of studies in law degree in a 100% online format with weekly live discussions. Sample courses include legal research, constitutional law, and litigation in U.S. courts.

    Students must complete 21 credits to graduate. Applicants should already have a bachelor's degree and a GPA of at least 3.0. Applicants must submit a personal statement, resume, and transcripts.

  2. Florida State University

    Tallahassee, FL



    Founded in 1851, FSU currently teaches more than 41,000 students through 297 degree programs.

    FSU offers an online juris master degree program taught through asynchronous courses. Students can choose to concentrate in financial regulation and compliance, legal risk management and HR compliance, and health care regulation.

    Students must complete 30 credits to graduate. Applicants must already have a bachelor's degree. They need to submit transcripts, a personal statement, and a resume.

  3. Washington University in St Louis

    Saint Louis, MO

    Founded in 1853, Washington University quickly expanded to meet the growing needs of midwestern immigrants. Today, it boasts over 3,200 professors.

    Washington University offers an online master of legal studies program that students can complete in about one year. Available concentrations include business law, conflict resolution, and regulatory compliance.

    Students must complete 24 credits to graduate. Applicants must already have a bachelor's degree. The application process requires a statement of purpose, a resume, transcripts, and an online interview.

  4. Texas A & M University-College Station

    College Station, TX



    Texas A&M's first classes began in 1876, and today over 69,000 students learn through this institution.

    Texas A&M students can earn their master of jurisprudence in general legal studies through online courses. Texas A&M also offers several other concentrations online, including cybersecurity law and management, wealth management, and risk management.

    Students must complete 30 credits to graduate and typically complete the program in 1-2 years.

    Applicants must already have a bachelor's degree. The application process requires a resume, a statement of interest, two references, and transcripts.

  5. Wake Forest University

    Winston-Salem, NC

    Founded in 1834, Wake Forest currently teaches more than 8,000 students.

    Wake Forest offers a 100% online and asynchronous master of studies in law program. Wake Forest offers three tracks: business law and compliance, health law and policy, and human resources. Required courses include business law and literacy, the unauthorized practice of law, and legal foundations.

    Students must complete 30 credits to graduate and may earn their degree in as little as 21 months.

    Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and work experience in a related field.

  6. George Washington University

    Washington, DC

    Founded in 1821, GWU offered its first law program in 1865.

    GW offers an online master of studies in law for government procurement law program for non-lawyers. Faculty teach courses synchronously once per week. Sample courses include the formation of government contracts, anti-corruption and compliance, and government contracts advocacy.

    Students must complete 24 credits to graduate. Applicants must already have a bachelor's degree and at least three years of work experience related to this field of study.

  7. Pepperdine University

    Malibu, CA

    Opening in 1937, Pepperdine originally taught just 167 students.

    Pepperdine offers an online master of legal studies program. Sample courses include criminal law and procedure, contracts, and negotiation theory and practice.

    Full-time students typically complete the required 32 credits for graduation in just 16 months, while part-time students may take as long as 28 months.

    Applicants must submit transcripts showing completion of a bachelor's degree, plus a statement of purpose, a letter of recommendation, and a resume. Pepperdine's application process also involves a video interview.

  8. Arizona State University-Skysong

    Scottsdale, AZ



    Over 500,000 people have graduated from ASU.

    ASU offers an online master of legal studies program. Students can choose to focus on one of 11 subject areas, including Indian gaming, tribal self-governance, and sports law and business.

    Students must complete 30 credits to graduate and can do so in as little as one year.

    Applicants must submit transcripts showing completion of a bachelor's degree, as well as a resume. ASU may also ask for a writing sample and letters of recommendation.

  9. Samford University

    Birmingham, AL

    A Christian college, Samford University began as Howard College in 1841.

    Samford offers a fully online master of studies in law degree with four concentrations, including financial services regulatory compliance, health law and compliance, and legal operations. Required core courses include legal writing and communication skills, principles of business law, and public policy legislation and regulation.

    Students must complete 34 credits to graduate. Applicants must submit transcripts showing completion of a bachelor's degree. Samford strongly recommends submitting GRE or GMAT scores if an applicant's transcripts do not show a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0.

  10. Liberty University

    Lynchburg, VA

    An evangelical Christian college, Liberty first developed its distance learning program in 1985.

    Liberty offers a 100% online juris master program. Students can choose a general curriculum or focus on one of four specializations, including health law, American legal studies, and international legal studies. Each course lasts eight weeks, and students typically finish within 1 year.

    Students must complete 30 credits to graduate. Applicants must already have a bachelor's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0.

Online Master's in Legal Studies Programs Ranking Guidelines

Our Methodology

Here at, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Master's in Legal Studies Program?

In general, an online master's in law studies takes approximately one year of full-time study to complete.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Legal Studies?

Master of legal studies programs give nonlawyers a thorough understanding of American law and the legal system. Graduates commonly work in industries like consulting, compliance, and management/administration.

How Much Do You Make as a Lawyer?

According to the BLS, lawyers earn a median salary of $122,960. However, earnings vary significantly by law field, geographic location, and employer.

What Is a Lawyer?

Lawyers are trained professionals who advise clients and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies in legal disputes. Most lawyers work in private and corporate legal offices.

What Is a Master's in Legal Studies?

A master's in legal studies is a relatively new degree aimed at professionals who need working knowledge of the law but are not seeking to become attorneys or lawyers themselves.

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