Why This Matters

  • ADVANCE YOUR CAREER IN MORE THAN 12 FIELDS

    An extremely versatile degree, a master’s in legal studies can lead to new employment opportunities in fields as diverse as human resources, public policy, criminal justice, and healthcare.

  • EARN $15,000 MORE PER YEAR WITH A MASTER’S

    Salary-tracking website Payscale.com reports that individuals with a legal studies master’s degree earn an average annual salary of $72,000, compared to $57,000 for those with a bachelor’s.

  • LAW-RELATED JOBS TO INCREASE 10% BY 2026

    Among legal professions that do not require a law degree, arbitrators, conciliators and mediators are among the most in demand, with faster than average projected job growth.

Our Research

Most of the programs on our list grant a Master of Legal Studies (MLS), although there are some programs that offer a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS). The different degree types each have their own approaches, so look carefully at their curricula to determine which one is right for you.

We only ranked programs that are offered at regionally accredited institutions, to ensure quality and flexibility. Additionally, some of the programs on the list are approved by the American Bar Association.

Our list includes programs offered online, on-campus, or as hybrid or blended plans of study.

Once we narrowed our list of programs, we evaluated them on their reputation, course strength, cost, faculty, and flexibility. We then calculated the Intelligent Score for each on a scale of 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best master’s in legal studies are highly regarded, flexible, and a good value.(For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 83 hours to write this article
  • 177 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 344 education programs we compared

The Top 15 Master’s in Legal Studies Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Although it can be used as a stepping stone to a Juris Doctor (JD), a master’s in legal studies by itself will not qualify you to practice law. A master’s in legal studies is designed for individuals who need a firm grasp of laws and regulations, typically in relation to another industry, but who do not intend on practicing law. If you are interested in becoming an attorney, you should focus your research on JD programs.

Because these programs typically look at laws and regulations through the lens of a particular field, you should also carefully consider what your career goals are. Another type of degree, like a master’s in your specific field or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) may also be beneficial and more suited to achieving your career goals. If you’re unsure which path is the right one for you, talk to an admissions advisor about what career paths are available to those with a master’s in legal studies.

While the American Bar Association does approve legal studies master’s programs, it’s not mandatory to attend an approved program like it is for someone getting a law degree and seeking entry to the bar. However, for those looking to become paralegals, it can enhance your employability if you received your degree from an ABA-approved program.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Masters Legal Studies programs:

  • Does this program offer the concentration I want? Because students are typically earning a legal studies degree to apply that knowledge to a specific field, this is especially important. Popular concentrations include public policy, compliance, risk management, and business law. Review the concentrations or certificates the program offers to be sure it offers what you’re looking for.
  • Are there any in-person requirements? Even if a program offers all of its coursework online, it may still have some in-person requirements for orientations, residencies, or internships. Carefully review the program’s plan of study to see if you will have to travel to campus at all, and make sure to budget and plan for that travel.

You should also look at the program’s admissions requirements, and begin to gather your application materials well before the deadline. This will help your admissions process go more smoothly. You can typically find information about procedures and deadlines online, or by contacting the admissions office directly.

Financing your master’s degree is another important consideration. Find out what your options are for loans, scholarships, assistantships, and employer tuition assistance.