Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Legal Studies

Legal studies graduate students focus on much more than just the law. Legal studies is a field that takes a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to law, legality, and its influence. It includes an emphasis on political science, economics, sociology, and cultural studies. Legal studies degrees are designed for students who do not want to become lawyers but wish to work in industries where understanding of the law is paramount, such as public administration, criminal justice, journalism, or litigation.

Students earning a master’s in legal studies learn about courts, law, and legal issues, studying both theory and function. Programs teach students skills in oral and written communication, efficient research methods, legal analysis, and critical thinking. A master’s degree in the field opens the door to higher earning potential, greater career flexibility, and is often required for higher level career options. Graduate degrees in legal studies can lead to careers in court administration, federal regulation, criminal justice, and healthcare.

Earning an affordable master’s in legal studies online allows students to enter a growing and lucrative field, often in as little as one year. Studying online allows students to save money, earn a degree with a busy schedule, and access educational opportunities that would otherwise be geographically inconvenient. Our rankings methodology highlights the accredited online programs that deliver the highest return on investment, not simply the lowest tuition.

Most Affordable Online Master's Degrees in Legal Studies
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University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus

Value Score 8.36
Average Tuition $4,577
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 20
Number of Online Programs 8

As Oklahoma's only public law school, OU's College of Law has grown to be the preeminent legal institution in the state, training law students and future judges while also shaping legal minds of those who do not aspire to become full-fledged attorneys. The university's master of legal studies (MLS) prepares nonlawyers to work with a spectrum of legal matters, including compliance, contracts, and land rights. This master's in legal studies online degree features three concentrations: oil, gas, and energy law; indigenous peoples law; and health care law.

Minimum credits required to complete the program range from 31 to 33, depending on the chosen track. Students can earn their master's in as little as 15 months. OU's distance learning programs feature small class sizes, emphasizing community, and flexible structures that allow online students to study when and where it's most convenient. While coursework is primarily online, the energy and natural resources track does require a one-week residency in Norman. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree, but applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.

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University of Illinois at Springfield

Value Score 8.22
Average Tuition $7,996
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 65
Number of Online Programs 11

The master's in legal studies from UIS tackles legal theory and the role of law in society. Covering topics from public policy to social justice, the curriculum emphasizes a broad understanding of law as an essential tool for effective strategy and responsible action. By earning an online master's degree in legal studies, students acquire the expertise they need to succeed within the American legal system.

UIS delivers this 36-credit program 100% online through the Blackboard Learning Management System. Without the cost of living on campus or commuting to class, this eLearning program is an affordable option for working professionals and otherwise busy students. Distance learners must complete a four-credit preliminary course on legal research and citation, but can waive this requirement if they've taken an equivalent course. Successful applicants must have a bachelor's degree and minimum 3.0 GPA, and must demonstrate the ability to write well.

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Saint Leo University

Value Score 6.97
Average Tuition $8,730
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 85
Number of Online Programs 19

A military-friendly college, Saint Leo offers a variety of online degrees focused on the safety and protection of community and the nation as a whole. Its 36-credit master of science in criminal justice caters to first responders, government officials, and those with a desire to better understand the U.S. legal system without pursuing a law degree. The legal studies specialization, one of six available concentrations, unpacks how the judicial system operates within the civil and criminal domain.

Learning outcomes of this master's in legal studies include hazard mitigation, risk identification, and the ability to handle critical incidents and disasters. The program's 36 credits consist of six core classes, three concentration courses, and three electives. Distance learners can transfer up to six transfer credits toward their degree. To apply, prospective students must have a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Saint Leo has provided affordable educational services to U.S. military personnel and veterans since 1973.

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West Virginia University

Value Score 6.39
Average Tuition $8,568
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 29
Number of Online Programs 7

A 36-credit program, the master of legal studies available through WVU's Eberly College of Arts and Sciences is ideal for those interested in learning more about the legal system while pursuing an advanced degree. This is not a pre-law program or a paralegal program, but rather one designed to distinguish a graduate's skill set with an in-depth comprehension of legal matters, such as the legislative process and dispute resolution. Candidates often arrive at WVU with years of experience working in the court system, human services, or regulatory agencies.

WVU's master's in legal studies online program is split between seven required courses and five electives, with coursework ending in a research capstone. Distance learners do not need to fulfill a thesis requirement. For the electives, students may choose to pursue directed or independent study with adviser approval. Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree, have earned a minimum 2.75 GPA, and have taken a standardized graduate level test (GRE, GMAT, LSAT). Out-of-state distance learners pay the same tuition as West Virginia residents.

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Hodges University

Value Score 5.13
Average Tuition $11,880
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 70
Number of Online Programs 8

All businesses deal with legal matters, from hiring to compliance, and professionals with a background in legal studies can offer invaluable assistance in ensuring that day-to-day operations run smoothly. Hodges' master of science in legal studies prepares students to be this resource, teaching nonlawyers various aspects of U.S. law as it pertains to government and professional settings. As they progress through the curriculum, distance learners gain the skills and knowledge they need to negotiate, advocate, and mediate. Those who attend full-time or take three courses per term can complete the 30-credit accelerated program in just over one year.

Small class sizes are standard at Hodges, which boasts an average student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The school's online master's degree in legal studies is available in three learning formats: online, traditional, and hybrid. By the program's end, learners possess a solid foundation for working with extensive matters of law. Due to state regulations, students residing in Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, or Wisconsin are not eligible for Hodges' online programs.

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Arizona State University-Tempe

Value Score 4.82
Average Tuition $10,610
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 15
Number of Online Programs 10

Students enrolled in ASU's online master in legal studies gain an in-depth understanding of how various sectors intersect with the law. Intended for nonlawyers, the program equips learners with knowledge of legal analysis and how to apply U.S. laws to their chosen field. The five concentrations demonstrate how the legal system touches nearly every career. Students can choose from the diverse tracks of human resources and employment, intellectual property, sports law and business, sustainability, or criminal law. Available entirely online, distance learners can complete ASU's master's in legal studies in one year.

ASU provides students the option to pursue concurrent degrees, pairing the master's in legal studies with several graduate business degrees, a master's in sustainable solutions, or a master of mass communication from the university's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Applicants should have an undergraduate degree or a comparable degree from a foreign institution. Prospective students do not need to take graduate school exams (LSAT, GRE, GMAT) to be eligible for admission.

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Drexel University

Value Score 4.54
Average Tuition $31,239
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 48
Number of Online Programs 30

Candidates in Drexel's master of legal studies program come from all work backgrounds, as the degree's curriculum is not specific to any one field. In completing the university's master's in legal studies online, students gain comprehensive skills and knowledge they can apply to roles in the private, public, and community sectors. In addition to the general MLS, distance learners can choose from eight different concentrations. The program requires 30 credits to complete.

Each concentration features a diverse set of courses that falls under the academic umbrella of legal studies. The cybersecurity and information privacy compliance track, for instance, takes on topics like data protection and cyber regulation while exploring the scope of legal strategy. Note that students who earn their MLS in health care compliance and maintain a 3.0 GPA or better are eligible to sit for the compliance certification exam. Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree. At this time, Drexel is unable to admit distance learners living in Wisconsin to any of its online programs. While higher education tuition is by no means cheap, the university provides financial aid options available to all students, including online learners.

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Harvard University

Value Score 3.26
Average Tuition $41,832
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 11
Number of Online Programs 29

Harvard's master of liberal arts in legal studies is a rigorous degree program available through its extension school. As a preliminary to the nine-course program, prospective students must complete three four-credit courses required for admission: a proseminar on research methods and scholarly writing, and two legal studies courses, one of which can be an elective. During the third admission course, the student may apply to the program. Harvard gives students five years to complete all degree coursework, culminating in a master's thesis in legal studies.

Harvard does not deliver its online master's degree in legal studies entirely through distance learning. Degree candidates must take at least three courses at Cambridge, where they gain access to faculty, resources, and a diverse academic community. The five-year clock for all students begins with the completion of the first admission course.

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Northeastern University

Value Score 2.44
Average Tuition $21,801
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 9
Number of Online Programs 1

Through Northeastern's master of legal studies, students learn how to leverage the law and navigate regulatory terrain. For those who do not aspire to become a lawyer, but wish to understand the complexities of the U.S. legal system, this MLS is an ideal academic path. A 30-credit program consisting of five core courses, three electives, and two foundational courses, Northeastern's master's in legal studies is a malleable, advanced degree that gives graduates the tools they need for professional success in every sector.

Using state-of-the-art technology, Northeastern designed its MLS eLearning courses with the working adult in mind, accommodating schedules along with personal and work commitments. As students can earn the degree 100% online, they can avoid the costs of campus housing and commuting through this affordable educational option. The university delivers its distance learning courses asynchronously. If attending part time, students can finish all degree coursework within 1 1/2 years in 10 terms over five semesters. Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree, but do not need to submit scores from the GRE or the LSAT.

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