If you’re interested in an advanced degree in law but not interested in law school, a master’s degree in legal studies might be for you. This graduate degree provides student with knowledge of law, legal terminology, and procedures. Upon completion, it can help professionals advance in any number of fields that encounter legal issues, such as human resources, intellectual property, real estate, and law enforcement. Students interested in research or teaching may also consider a career in academia.
Why a Master’s Degree?
Many industries involve legal issues. A master’s degree could provide professionals already trained in areas like human resources or real estate with legal knowledge, terminology, and procedures that could help them better perform their jobs or advance. A master’s degree in legal studies may also be beneficial to business owners and entrepreneurs who handle legal issues, or students with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies advance within the legal field. Others may pursue online masters degree programs in legal studies with the end goal of earning a Ph.D. in legal studies and teaching in higher education. This is likely a necessary step, too; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary teachers commonly must have a Ph.D.
Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program
- Requirements for an online masters degree in legal studies will vary from one school to the next. For an idea of what to expect, here are some pieces of the application process that are usually required:
- Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university
- GPA minimum
- GRE score
- Professional experience in the American legal system
- Personal statement
- Written sample
- Letters of recommendation
Inside a Legal Studies Master’s Degree Program
A master’s degree in legal studies can take anywhere from one to three years to complete, full time or part time. It would allow you to study the relationship between law and a variety of disciplines. Areas of specialization might include education and the legal system, healthcare delivery, state and local government, environment, criminal, constitutional law, family law, business, intellectual property, or real estate. Regardless of specialty, upon completion, students will have a foundation in law, legal terminology, legal doctrine, dispute resolution, legal research and writing, legal history, jurisprudence, and legal reasoning and analysis.
A master’s in legal studies would require significant research for the courses, as well as any research thesis required. Significant online legal resources are therefore crucial. So when you’re researching programs, make sure to find out what kinds of online resources are available to distance learners.
What’s Next for Legal Studies Master’s Degree Holders?
Graduates of legal studies master’s degrees are prepared to work in a variety of environments depending on their interests and degree focus, that are involved in the legal world but do not entail practicing law. These include working as legal consultants, researchers, or aides for nonprofit organizations, multinational corporations, legal aid societies, advocacy organizations, consulting firms, healthcare organizations, insurance companies, or real estate companies. They may also look to advance within their career to a management position.
A master’s in legal studies could also put students on an academic track. They could continue their graduate work by earning a Ph.D. in legal studies or a related field. This would be of primary interest to students looking to conduct research, teach in a college or university, or advance to a high-executive legal consultant position.