Frequently Asked Questions about Online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) Programs

Individuals looking into growing their career with a Master of Legal Studies degree often have a wide range of questions about what programs are best for their lifestyle and particular occupational focus. We created OnlineMasterofLegalStudies.com to be a resource to answer these questions.

If you have a question that we haven’t answered on our site, feel free to contact us to submit a question.

FAQs about Online MLS Programs:

Question: Who should get an online Master of Legal Studies (MLS)?

Answer: Professionals who have a bachelor’s degree are the perfect candidates for a Master of Legal Studies degree.

For those who want to advance in their industry, move up in an organization and gain expertise in their field, an online Master of Legal Studies can provide the perfect opportunity. For those who are already working or have an otherwise busy schedule, online MLS programs offer the flexibility needed to accomplish goals around an existing schedule.

An online MLS enables graduates to understand how the the legal system works and interacts with businesses, providing the professional and practical skills necessary for applying the law to many careers. Many students also use a Master of Legal Studies as a springboard to law school, enabling a head start in that highly competitive environment.

Question: What can I do with an online Master of Legal Studies?

Answer: Earning an online Master of Legal Studies can advance your existing career in many fields, from Legal to Private Sector to Government.

Almost every profession works with legal procedure in some capacity — from risk management to government regulation, so the audience for an Master of Legal Studies is quite wide. A Master of Legal Studies can advance your current career or sit on top of your bachelor’s degree to augment your marketability, skillset and knowledge. Every business and organization, whether public or private, for profit or not for profit, has to work within a complex business legal environment and navigate various regulations and requirements – and for every client or project, a contract is involved, which involves legal negotiation, planning, understanding of contract law, and compliance. Most graduates employ their Master of Legal Studies to augment and advance in their current career1. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that professionals with a Master’s degree can earn upwards of 36% more than their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees2. You should chose a concentration within the program that relates to your field and will add to your current knowledge base enabling you to be more of an asset and subject matter expert for your firm or organization.

Online Master of Legal Studies programs offer many different concentrations, including:

  • Law and Public Policy
  • Human Rights, Social Justice and Public Policy
  • Criminal Justice
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • US Law
  • Business Law
  • Entertainment Law
  • Sports Law
  • Law & Sustainability
  • HR & Employment Law
  • Intellectual Property Law

Some programs even offer customized concentrations that you can create to best suit your educational and professional goals. With the basis of an MLS plus your specific concentration you can chose which avenue to pursue, whether it be government jobs, such as an analyst with the FDA, EPA, or SEC, private sector jobs such as government relations liaison, contract officer, or labor relations director, or a researcher, analyst or paralegal working for a law firm. The choices are many with rich possibilities to enhance your career.

1 http://work.chron.com/can-one-master-legal-studies-23234.html Return to footnote reference
1 https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm Return to footnote reference

Question: How long does it take to get a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree?

Answer: Most online Master of Legal Studies programs can be completed in less than two years. However the time it takes varies depending on the specific program and the pace of study.

The time to complete an MLS degree varies based on the specific program one is enrolled in. While programs differ from school to school, the standard unit requirement for completion of a Master of Legal Studies is approximately 30 credits. Students enrolled in accelerated courses, taking eight-week courses six times a year, progress quicker than those enrolled in semester based programs.

Students enrolled in online programs may be pursuing an MLS while maintaining careers, family, and other obligation and therefore only be able to enroll as a part time student, which will extend program duration. Keeping these variables in mind, a majority of online Master of Legal Studies programs can be completed in under two years.

Are there part-time online Master of Legal Studies program options?

Answer: Yes, all online Master of Legal Studies programs offer part time options. In some programs, you can enroll in as few as one course per term.

Part time programs have many benefits including:

  • The time and flexibility to maintain your current job
  • The time to balance your family or social obligations

There may also be drawbacks to part time, including:

  • Part-time programs take on average an additional year to complete
  • Tuition tends to increase with time. As part-time programs take longer to complete, tuition may increase during that time.

For a more in-depth analysis of the benefits and draw-backs of a part-time program as well as a complete list of all online part-time Master of Legal Studies programs in the United States, check out our Resource Guide to Part-Time Master of Legal Studies Programs.

Is financial aid available to Master of Legal Studies (MLS) students?

Answer: Yes, financial aid is available to online Master of Legal Studies students if you attend an accredited program.

Only students who attend schools that have been accredited by the Department of Education are eligible for federal financial aid. Should you choose to attend a non-accredited program, you will not be eligible for federal financial aid. Students should complete a Federal Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The application is entirely online. It will be important to review the enrollment requirements as some financial aid programs and grants require students to be enrolled in a minimum number of units/credits.

Some online programs even offer options for Federal Work Study, but that will vary from school to school. Each school program has its own financial aid office. It is best to contact the school’s financial aid counselor directly with for answers to school-specific questions.

Source:

US News and World Reports

Question: What career options are available with a Master of Legal Studies (MLS)?

Answer: Most Master of Legal Studies graduates go into one of three job sectors: law, government, or private.

An online Master of Legal Studies can help launch you into a new career or help you advance in your current career. Typically, graduates go on to work in one of three areas: Law Firms, Government, or Private Sector. As the options are so varied, an MLS is a great choice for students who want broad options upon graduation.

Law Firms

Many Master of Legal Studies graduates find jobs in law firms as certified paralegals and legal assistants. Previous decades’ models of law, in which only attorneys worked on legal matters, have been replaced with law firms full of research assistants, legal aids, paralegals, and legal researchers who do much of the leg work and heavy lifting for depositions and case work. Law firms have found it valuable to leverage professionals with specialized legal background and education to draft pleadings, prepare court filing, write reports, and prepare legal arguments. As such, there are many career opportunities in law firms for graduates of online Master of Legal Studies programs.

Government

As the keeper and arbiter of the law system itself, the government employs many Master of Legal Studies graduates. Government jobs for Master of Legal Studies graduates are available in federal regulatory agencies, law enforcement and protective services, court administration, the legislature, and criminal justice. Regulatory agencies such as the FDA, EPA, FCC, and others, need professionals who understand the intricacies of US law as it relates to their subject area. MLS graduates have found careers as agents and officers in many different regulatory agencies. Law enforcement and criminal justice careers such as FBI agent, customs agent, or police detective require specialized knowledge of criminal codes and procedures. An MLS degree can uniquely prepare you for such careers. Federal, state, and local courts and legislature offer many opportunities for MLS graduates to apply their understanding of the law to administering and enacting law and legal codes.

Private Sector

There are also many opportunities in individual corporations and nonprofits that are expanding their legal teams. Many employers are trying to reduce costs and to increase the efficiency of legal services by having in house subject matter experts that understand the law as it relates to their field. The law intersects with corporations at almost every transaction, from labor law, to contracts, to interstate commerce, patent law, intellectual property, and more. As such, the options for Master of Legal Studies are as wide as are the industries that do business in the US. Many students chose an online Master of Legal Studies because it will enable them to advance in the current career and even in their current company. If you are a working professional, adding a MLS degree to your current body of knowledge, be it finance, HR, manufacturing, or engineering, can help you advance to the next level. MLS graduates have found private sector careers as hospital administrators, non profit lobbyists, legislative liaison, contract analyst, and many more.

An online Master of Legal Studies can launch you into many different new professional paths. You can choose to advance in your current profession, work in a law firm, and embark on a government career. Additionally, each program offers different concentrations so you will be able to chose a concentration that best relates to your chosen career path. The ways in which it can be applied professionally are myriad.

Question: What documents are required for admission to an online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program?

Answer: All programs require an application, a bachelor’s degree and an undergraduate transcript. No programs require the LSAT. Two programs offer the GRE as a way to augment your application if your GPA or professional experience isn’t strong. Other programs require a combination of the following:

  • Writing sample
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Curriculum Vitae or resume
  • Relevant professional experience

Because schools vary, tracking down admissions requirements can be challenging. In order to help prospective students compare admissions requirements head-to-head, we have compiled a complete list of admissions requirements for schools offering online Master of Legal Studies programs on our resource page.

Question: What are the GPA requirements for admission to an online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program?

Answer: Of the schools that require a certain GPA, the average undergraduate GPA requirements for admission to a Master of Legal Studies program is around 2.5.

Some schools do not have a minimum GPA and look at your entire application documents holistically. Other school require from a 2.0 to 3.2 while others only require an average as low as 2.0. Still others have no published GPA requirements, or allow you to take the GRE should your GPA not meet the minimum threshold.

It is important to research the schools you are interested in when deciding which MLS schools to apply to. In order to help prospective online Master of Legal Studies students find the right schools to apply to, we have compiled a complete list of admissions requirements for all online Master of Legal Studies programs on our resource page.

Is the GRE required for admission to an online Master of Legal Studies program?

Answer: Most schools do not require a GRE score when applying for an online Master of Legal Studies program.

The base requirement for a majority of online Master of Legal Studies program is a bachelor’s degree. While admission requirements vary from program to program most schools do not require GRE test scores when applying. It is important to check the admission requirements for each school nonetheless as some schools have requirements others do not.

Although many programs do not require GRE scores, many may still take them under consideration during the admission process. Before taking any tests, or submitting any applications, it is important to look at the requirements of the individual program you are applying to.

In order to help prospective online Master of Legal Studies students select the right school to apply to, we have created a comprehensive list of admissions requirements on our resources page.

Question: Is an LSAT required for admission to a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program?

Answer: No, since a Master of Legal Studies is a degree for business professionals, not lawyers, no LSAT is required.

The LSAT, or Law School Admission Test, is only necessary when applying to programs that award a Juris Doctor Degree from accredited Law Schools. A Master of Legal Studies is a separate graduate degree available for working professionals to deepen their understanding of the law. As it does not allow people to practice law upon receipt, it does not require passing the LSAT.

However, many MLS programs do require other standardized test scores when applying, including the GMAT, MCAT, GRE, SAT, and ACT. Make sure to review the admissions requirements of any school to determine what, if any, tests need to be completed.

Question: Do online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) credits transfer to law school programs?

Answer: No. A Master of Legal Studies is a graduate program that falls outside of the boundary of law school and a Juris Doctor Degree.

Because a Master of Legal Studies degree is primarily for professionals seeking to further their career, the credits earned in an online Master of Legal Studies program will not transfer over towards any law school programs.

A Juris Doctor degree, issued exclusively by law schools, is intended for those seeking to practice law. An MLS is a degree for working professionals and academics to gain a deeper understanding of the law in order to bolster career-specific skills and marketability, but it does not enable them to practice law. Because of this, courses differ between MLS and law school programs and are therefore non-transferable.

That being said, law schools may take a Master of Legal Studies into consideration during application review if you decide to apply to a JD program after completing an MLS degree.

Question: Will I need to take the Bar Exam after graduating from a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) Program?

Answer: No, the Master of Legal Studies degree is designed for business professionals and academics, not for lawyers.

A Master of Legal Studies is a degree for working professionals, academics, and people wishing to deepen their understanding of the law, but it does not qualify anyone to practice law as an attorney, so there is no requirement that graduates take the Bar exam after earning an MLS.

Furthermore, receipt of a Master of Legal Studies is not sufficient a prerequisite to take the Bar Exam. The Bar Exam is a standardized test that examines whether or not a candidate is competent enough to practice law as an attorney. In order to take the Bar a candidate must first receive a Juris Doctor from an accredited law school.

Question: Will I be able to practice law with an online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree?

Answer: No. In order to take the Bar Exam and practice law you must obtain a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited institution.

A Master of Legal Studies is directed towards working professionals and academics hoping to to gain a more well-rounded understanding of the Law and its functions, not people looking to take the Bar exam and become practicing lawyers. That being said, a Master of Legal Studies does prove advantageous in career fields such as a government administrator, police officer, and any other occupation that sits adjacent to judicial and regulatory proceedings.

It may also make you a more appealing hire to a legal firm looking to staff paralegals, who do many of the tasks a Master of Legal Studies trains students for.

Question: What is the difference between a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) and a JD (Juris Doctor)?

Answer: A Master of Legal Studies (MLS) is a graduate degree for those seeking to deepen their understanding of legal/regulatory processes but are not interested in practicing law. A Juris Doctor (JD) is a degree awarded upon completion of Law School that allows the recipient to take the Bar Exam and ultimately practice law.

An Online Master of Legal Studies is a Graduate Degree for working professionals who would like to deepen their understanding of the law and legal proceedings, but who do not necessarily want to become an attorney. Master of Legal Studies are often pursued by academics whose field of research or writing relates to the law, or professionals who deal with legal and/or regulation issues in their occupations. An MLS is considered to be a valued credential for anyone applying for mid-high level government positions. Receiving an MLS does not qualify one to take the Bar and practice law.

A Juris Doctor is a graduate degree given upon the completion of a standard law school program and allows recipients to take the Bar Exam and practice law. It is the base level degree held by all practicing attorneys.

Question: What concentrations are available in online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) programs?

Answer: Across schools offering online Master of Legal Studies degrees, there are many different concentrations, from Entrepreneurship to Human Rights, and from Homeland Security to Sustainability Law.

Because a knowledge of legal matters is such a broadly applicable skill set, concentration opportunities vary greatly. Whether you are looking to advance your career in government, the legal sector, or the private sector, there is probably a concentration specifically suited to your particular field of interest. Examples include:

  • Intellectual Property:The emphasis in intellectual property will arm students with knowledge of intellectual property protection options, the ability to spot situations where creative advancements are vulnerable to loss, and an understanding of how to create competitive advantages through brand building, barriers to entry and navigating difficult problems.
  • Criminal Justice: The study of criminal law equips students to understand the myriad of agencies charged with enforcing various laws, the rights of suspected or convicted people, societal goals that may be achieved via the punishments meted out to offenders, and how laws differ from state to state and country to country. Entrepreneurship
  • Sports Law: The sport industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise in the United States and may soon exceed a trillion dollars globally. There will be new opportunities for graduates to tackle the industry’s growing legal, ethical, and business issues.
  • Financial Regulatory Compliance: The financial industry is among the most highly regulated of all fields. Both the state and federal governments ensure the stability of the American economy by scrutinizing the operations of mutual funds, stockbrokers, banks and the many other businesses that manage the nation’s commerce.
  • Constitutional Law and Civil Rights: Topics covered include the role of the judiciary in reviewing acts of the political branches of government; the separation of powers and relations among the three branches of the federal government; the powers of the national government and federalism-based limits on Congress and the states; and individual constitutional rights.
  • Human Rights, Social Justice and Public Policy
  • Personal Injury and Civil Litigation
  • International Law
  • Law & Public Policy
  • Sustainability Law: Scientific and legal innovations will be instrumental in meeting the needs of a growing global population in the midst of the sustainability movement.
  • HR and Employment Law: Hiring high quality, effective personnel is critical to the success of every organization. Only trained professionals understand the complex legal and regulatory framework that impacts the recruitment, hiring, maintenance, promotion, and firing of employees and independent contractors.
  • Homeland Security
  • Entertainment and New Media
  • Healthcare and Hospital Law
  • Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Law & Compliance
  • Cybersecurity and Information Policy
  • Higher Education Compliance

For more detailed information about various concentrations, the occupations they may serve, and the schools offering them, visit our Guide to Concentrations in Master of Legal Studies Programs on our resources page.

Question: Can I change my concentration after I begin an online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program?

Answer: Yes, in most cases you can change your MLS concentration after beginning a program.

When deciding whether or not to change concentrations after beginning a Master of Legal Studies program there are several factors to consider:

  • how far along you are in the MLS program;
  • how many credit hours you have completed in your current concentration and how many you have to go;
  • the classes required to complete the concentration you wish to transfer to.

If you’ve completed only a few of these credit hours in classes in your current concentration’s curriculum, or you’ve focused on generals and have not yet decided to tackle coursework focused on your concentration, changing concentrations should be relatively easy without adding too many additional credits to the total needed to graduate. However, if you have completed most of your concentration’s coursework, changing to a different concentration will likely take more time and tuition money as you will have already invested in courses focused on your current concentration.

Because of this, if you’re unsure of what concentration path to take, it might be a good idea to focus on general MLS coursework to begin with, saving coursework focused on your concentration coursework for later. These more general classes will likely touch on some of the subjects in the available concentrations, giving you an opportunity to gauge your proficiency and interest in those subjects.

Finally, since every school and concentration is different, it’s always a good idea to speak with your school’s advisor about what options are available to you.

Question: Do I have to choose a concentration to get a Master of Legal Studies (MLS)?

Answer: No, most schools offer a general studies track so you do not need to concentrate in one area.

When comparing online Master of Legal Studies programs, note that most schools offer a general studies track for their students, so there is no need to commit to a particular concentration. The general studies track for an MLS covers the major areas of law including legal theory and the legal system and is for those who seek a broad spectrum of knowledge on law. Schools with a general studies track often allow students to individually pick electives they would like to take. This offers the flexibility to choose classes tailored to a career path or interest, even without a concentration.

That being said, students with a very specific career path or industry in mind should consider researching concentrations to see if there are any focused on their area of interest, as a concentration typically provides deeper and more exhaustive classes around the concentration than a general program.