Why This Matters


    The master’s in legal studies is a versatile degree that can be taken into over a dozen fields. Work in human resources, criminal justice, health care, or one of many other industries.


    The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects legal jobs to grow 5% through 2029. That pace is faster than average when compared with other occupations.


    The average annual salary for professionals holding a Master of Legal Studies degree is $64,913, compared with an average salary of $60,626 for professionals holding a bachelor’s.

Our Research

We reviewed many Master’s in Legal Studies Degrees, including Master of Science (MS), Master of Arts (MA), and Master of Legal Studies (MLS). Each of these programs has its own emphasis, and you’ll want to choose one that suits your interests and aspirations.

Our list also includes online, on-campus, and dual-mode programs. This should make it easier for many individuals to find a suitable program. Online programs may have a short in-person requirement.

We considered only regionally accredited programs, and some are also accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Accreditation ensures the quality of a program.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 63 hours to write this article
  • 203 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 237 education programs we compared

The Top 21 Master’s in Legal Studies Degree Programs

Best Master's in Legal Studies Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

A master’s in legal studies doesn’t qualify students to practice law, which requires a Juris Doctor (JD). Though a master’s in legal studies can serve as a stepping stone to a JD, earning a master’s first isn’t required.

These degrees are also distinct from paralegal certificates, which qualify professionals to work as paralegals. You may pursue a paralegal certificate after earning a master’s in legal studies; however, this degree isn’t required to become a paralegal.

Most students who pursue a master’s in legal studies want to use knowledge of regulations and laws for advancement within a particular field. They may work with lawyers, but they’re usually employed by corporations and other organizations rather than law firms.

Because these degrees normally prepare students for work in a particular field, you should know which industry you prefer for your career before applying to programs.

Although the American Bar Association approves master’s in legal studies degree programs, you are not required to attend an approved program. Earning a degree from an approved program is most useful if you want to become a paralegal.

What’s Next?

While you evaluate master’s in legal studies degree programs, consider these questions:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Most of these programs require a bachelor’s degree, but the undergraduate degree can usually be in any field. You might have to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) before applying.
  • How long does it take to complete this online degree? Most of these degree programs are between 24 and 36 credit hours, which normally takes about two years of full-time study to complete. A two-year program is about one year shorter than a standard JD program.

Once you identify programs of interest, find out application requirements. Know the application deadlines and required materials for submission. You can find this information on each program’s website or by directly contacting the school.

Consider how you’ll pay for a degree. You might qualify for financial aid or scholarships from programs, and you might also have access to tuition reimbursement through an employer.