Online Part-Time Master of Legal Studies (MLS) Programs

If you want a career in the legal field but don’t want to become a licensed attorney, earning a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) may be one way to make that happen. And an online part-time Master of Legal Studies program may offer you the flexibility to earn your degree while holding down a full-time job or fulfilling other commitments. 

A part-time MLS may benefit you in other ways too, including possibly saving you money. But opting not to carry a full classload may come with drawbacks as well. Learn more about the pros and cons of part-time online Master of Legal Studies.

Sponsored Online MLS and Law Programs

Pepperdine University

Caruso School of Law


Master of Legal Studies

  • No GRE or LSAT scores required to apply 
  • Complete in as few as 12 months 
  • Dispute resolution concentration available

American University

Washington College of Law


Master of Legal Studies

  • Complete in as few as 12 months 
  • No GRE/LSAT scores required to apply 
  • Four tracks available: General MLS, Business, Health Care Compliance, and Technology 
  • Three certificates available: Business, Health Care Compliance, and Technology


Is an Online Part-Time MLS Right for You?

One way to settle this question is to treat it like a legal debate, that means you’ll have to gather evidence and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of different programs. 

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help decide: 

  • How much time can I devote to my studies?
  • Am I able to juggle a full-time job and schoolwork? Or can I afford to cut back on my income to free up time for my studies?
  • Will I qualify for student loans and other financial aid as a part-time student?
  • What are the tax implications of returning to school?
  • Do I have the discipline to stay on track with my coursework?
  • Will an online part-time MLS degree give me the same experience as if I studied full-time on campus?
  • Do I prefer a program that combines synchronous and asynchronous learning?
  • Does my employer offer tuition reimbursement? If so, what makes me eligible?
  • Is my desired online MLS program known for its rigor, faculty or immersion experiences?
  • Will my desired program help me achieve my career goals?

While there are external factors that may affect your decision to enroll in a part-time MLS program like earning potential and job growth trends, as you can see from the list of questions, your preferences play a big role in framing your choice. 

Benefits of Part-Time Enrollment

Compared with full-time MLS programs, enrolling in an online MLS program on a part-time basis has several advantages, some common ones include:

Flexibility and convenience. Many, but not necessarily all, online MLS courses are taught asynchronously instead of in real time. So, you can watch lectures and access course material whenever it’s best for you—on weekends, nights, holidays, or middle of the day. 

Less financial burden. A part-time program may allow you to spread out the cost of your degree over a longer time frame.. Also, if you work while attending school, your employer may have a program to reimburse you for all or part of your tuition, especially if the degree is relevant to your job.

Easier transition. Switching from being a full-time worker to a full-time student can be abrupt. Part-time enrollment may make that transition easier. You also may get the chance to apply what you learn in class to your job instead of having to wait until graduation.

Drawbacks of Part-Time Enrollment

Not everyone may feel that the factors listed below are hurdles. But you may want to take them into account before you enroll.

Longer time to degree. Many full-time students may earn an online MLS in 1 ½ years or less. But if you do it part time, it may be three years or longer before you finish your program. 

Limited student loans. Usually, you need to be enrolled at least half time in order to qualify for full federal student financial aid like direct loans. That means six credit hours or more per semester.

Juggling demands. Carrying even a partial academic load on top of a job, parenting, or other obligations can be more challenging than focusing on your studies full time. Take a realistic stock of your multitasking capabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions on Online Part-Time MLS Programs

While online MLS programs vary from school to school, you may find that there are similarities. The following questions and answers highlight some of those similarities:

How many credit hours are required in online part-time MLS programs?

The minimum credit hours you need per semester varies by school. But some programs allow graduate students to take as few as one class at a time, usually three credit hours.

What is the weekly workload of an online part-time MLS student?

One class generally equals three credit hours. That likely will require at least three hours of studies both in and out of class, but sometimes seven hours or more per week. Two classes weekly usually would count as six credit hours, or half-time enrollment. Some online MLS programs require one or two campus visits before graduation.

How long does It take to complete an online part-time MLS degree?

The size of your coursework load each semester determines how quickly you’ll earn your online MLS program. Many online Master of Legal Studies programs require 21 to 30 credit hours for the degree.
Full-time students can complete some online MLS programs in as little as 12 to 16 months. So, attending school half time means you may take two to three years to graduate, and even longer if you take lighter class loads.

What are the main differences between full-time and part-time programs?

Part-time and full-time MLS students generally are taught by the same instructors and must meet the same admissions and graduation criteria. The only big difference is in the time commitment. The degree you receive will be identical too.

Is it possible to change from part-time enrollment to full-time?

Most colleges allow you to switch from part-time to full-time, either online on your own or after meeting with the registrar’s office. The change typically happens before the end of the current term and before class registration for the new term starts. Going full-time may qualify you for more financial aid.

Sponsored Online MLS and Law Programs

Fordham University

School of Law


Master of Studies in Law

  • GRE, GMAT, and LSAT scores not required to apply 
  • Complete in as few as 12 months 
  • Minimum two years’ compliance-related work experience recommended


Information for the above programs was retrieved as of February 2022. For the most up-to-date information, refer to the school’s website.