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An online law degree prepares students to work as lawyers, but it also opens several other career paths in the legal field. Someone with a law degree can find a job as a law professor, a judge, a law librarian, a lobbyist, a legal consultant, a mediator, or an arbitrator.The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 10% (faster than average) for lawyers from 2021 to 2031, with a median annual salary of about $128,000. Judges have a projected job growth of 2%, earning a median yearly salary of about $129,000.By comparison, postsecondary teachers, which include law professors, have a projected job growth of 12%, earning a median annual salary of about $80,000. Librarians, arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators all have a projected job growth of 6%. Librarians earn a median annual salary of about $61,000 yearly, while others earn about $49,000 annually.

While those seeking work as paralegals can earn an associate degree in law in about two years, obtaining a Juris Doctor, or JD, a doctorate in law, can take three to four years after getting a bachelor’s degree. However, a JD is the degree required to work as a lawyer.

The cost varies by school and program. According to the AccessLex Institute, a nonprofit in legal education based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the average full-time tuition and fees for public law schools cost about $28,000 in 2021. For private schools, this cost was about $51,000.

How to Choose an Online Law Degree Program

Choose your area of study

Students can focus on dozens of specialties in a law degree program, from corporate law to civil law, commercial law to criminal litigation. For instance, if you’re interested in telecommunications and the activities of state and federal agencies, you might want to study administrative law. With a focus on Constitutional law, you could work for a private law firm and perhaps argue a case before the Supreme Court.

If you’re passionate about preserving the environment, a concentration in environmental law could get you a job at an advocacy organization or government agency. Other specialties include civil rights law, bankruptcy law, family law, employment law, elder law, entertainment law, and intellectual property law.

Research schools and programs

Before enrolling in a law degree program, check whether the school or the program is accredited by the American Bar Association. Accreditation affects whether any school receives federal financial aid and ensures the program meets quality educational standards. For law students, this is especially important because students wishing to practice law must obtain a degree from an accredited program.

Prospective lawyers also must pass the bar exam in the state where they want to practice law. If you’re comparing different online programs to earn a law degree, their bar exam preparations likely will pertain to the state where they’re located, not necessarily the state where you live. Each state has its own requirements for admission to the bar exam, but you can take the exam in more than one state to be certified to practice law where you live.

As you research different schools, look at the support services a school offers, such as career counseling, library services, mentorship programs, and networking opportunities. Take note of how the school helps facilitate in-person requirements, such as externships or on-campus visits, especially if your other obligations might challenge those. The school’s website, marketing materials, and social media profiles often have this information, but you also can talk with program representatives to answer detailed questions.

Prepare for tests and applications

Each program varies in its application requirements and process. However, most law degree programs require:

  • A bachelor’s degree and transcript from the college you attended
  • A score from the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT
  • A personal essay describing your past accomplishments and relevant experiences
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from former teachers or employers

Depending on the program focus to which you’re applying, there might be other prerequisites, such as a resume or record of relevant work experience or internships.

Select your program

Some students target a single program that suits their professional goals and learning needs, while others apply to multiple schools to increase their chances of acceptance. Whatever you choose, most schools charge an application fee, which can add up. If you need financial assistance, contact the school to ask about a fee waiver.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Every school with an online law degree program specifies the financial support students can receive, including scholarships, work-study, fellowships, grants, and assistantships. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines eligibility for federal student loans and need-based institutional aid.

If you’re already working, your employer may cover some costs through employer tuition assistance benefits, especially if your degree relates to your current job. Talk with your school’s financial aid office for more detailed information about how to pay for your degree.

Best 50 Accredited Online Law Degree Program

Best Online Law Programs Badge

University of Central Florida

University of Maryland Global Campus

Liberty University

Arizona State University

Keiser University

National University

UMass Global

Penn State World Campus

Dominican University

SUNY College of Technology at Canton

Bellevue University

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How We Rank Schools

Due to a number of factors, law degree programs have been slow to transition into online learning. Currently, no programs are offered completely online. We focused on programs that are offered in a hybrid format, meaning classes are offered both online and in-person. The in-person components occur on weekends, evenings, or in short-term residencies.

In most states, in order to pass the bar exam and practice as a lawyer, you must earn a juris doctor (JD) degree from an American Bar Association-accredited program. Accreditation confirms that the program adheres to the highest standards of legal education. Several of the master’s programs on our list are ABA-accredited. All of the programs on our list are offered by regionally accredited institutions.

We evaluated each program for its reputation, flexibility, course offerings, and cost, then calculated the Intelligent Score of each degree on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect From an Online Law Degree Program?

Online law degree programs vary based on the school and the concentration, but the first-year curriculum tends to have similar coursework. Students learn about Constitutional law, civil procedure, criminal law, property laws, contracts, torts, and legal methods, a class that teaches fundamental legal analysis, research, and writing skills. Many law schools also have a mock court exercise for beginning law students, where they prepare oral arguments and briefs.

Potential Courses You’ll Take in an Online Law Degree Program

  •  Legal Research: Here, students learn how to research matters in a law library, as well as researching and writing other documents, such as opinion letters. This type of course covers various public records and legal research resources.
  • Legal Skills or Jurisprudence: This orientation course gives students a philosophical and historical foundation of the law system in the United States, as well as the skills to succeed in law. Expect to learn about rule synthesis, analysis, essay writing, analogies, comparisons, and more.
  • Legal Writing: Because analytical and written communication skills are crucial for practicing law, students in a course like this will learn how to express their legal reasoning. That includes identifying and analyzing legal issues, case briefing, and drafting legal memoranda.
  • Professional Responsibility: This course teaches a lawyer’s obligation to a client and the public. Expect to learn about the professional rules in the American Bar Association’s Model Code, conflicts of interest, attorney-client privilege, legal malpractice, and advertising.

Online Law Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online law degree program?

Preparation is key for applying to an online law degree program. If you’re still an undergraduate, talk to your school’s career services office, which will have advice on registering for and taking the LSAT. Collect the relevant information for your school or schools of choice, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and your essay. Keep these in electronic format, such as PDFs, so you can apply through the school’s online portal. Prospective students can also create an account through the not-for-profit Law School Admission Council to apply to several law schools nationwide.

How much does an online law degree program cost?

The legal education nonprofit AccessLex Institute of West Chester, Pennsylvania, says the average full-time tuition and fees for public law schools cost about $28,000 in 2021. For private schools, this cost was about $51,000.

By comparison, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) notes that graduate tuition for the 2020 to 2021 term was around $19,750.

All school costs vary depending on the charge per credit, the number of credits per course, fees, and other expenses such as books or course-related software. In addition, some law degree programs have in-person requirements, which could take time away from a regular work schedule.

How long does it take to earn an online law degree?

While this depends on the school and the curriculum, most schools say their online law degree programs take three to four years to complete. For instance, the Concord Law School J.D. program has 92 credits, with foundational courses in professional responsibility, legal research, and writing, as well as subjects tested on the California Bar Exam. The total number of credits impacts the program’s length, as does attending part-time instead of full-time.

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