Skip to: Navigation | Content | Sidebar | Footer

Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Legal Studies

criminaljusticeandlaw degree

Explore a Master's Degree in Legal Studies

A master's degree in legal studies is more formally known as a Master's of Science in law (M.S. in law), or a Master's of Art in law (M.A. in law). This degree does not qualify its recipients to practice law, as a Juris Doctor (J.D.) is the only degree that does so. It is uncommon for lawyers to pursue a master's in legal studies because the curriculum is similar to that which is completed in the first year of law school; more frequently, lawyers undertake a LLM degree. Instead, legal studies master's degrees are designed for non-lawyer professionals in a variety of industries who wish to cultivate a robust and well-rounded understanding of the U.S. legal system and boost their careers' development. Students enrolled full time can expect their education to take two years; this time varies, on the other hand, for part-time students, dual-degree seekers, and students with previous master's credits.

Class Curriculum

Classes students take are, not surprisingly, law-laden. Basic courses will teach them how to research, interpret, and study law. After completing core law classes, many programs permit students to choose major or elective courses that allow them to focus on the area of law that relates to their careers or that most interests them; for instance, a sports agent might choose sports law as his or her concentration area. Core classes for the average master's student might be:

  • Tort Law. Students will learn about the civil area of law known as tort law. A course like this will teach students how to differentiate negligence from intentional harm, and other aspects of tort law, like liability, defamation, and privacy laws. Means for determining fault, such as the different types of cause, will also be introduced to students.
  • Legal Research and Writing I. This course will teach students how to conduct and use legal research with various legal methods and tools. Students will learn how to analyze research, cite it, and incorporate it in their legal writing. Additionally, the proper structures and formatting for legal documents, like case briefs, will be taught.
  • Constitutional Law. A Constitutional law course covers topics relating to the way governmental authorities and branches of government act independently and together. Topics like the Bill of Rights, judicial review, and pivotal clauses will be examined and understood by students.

Course work will involve of reading laws, case examples, and legal research. Conducting research and writing will also play a big role in student's course work. Students will be expected to demonstrate their understanding of the information they learn in their courses; for instance, a student in a legal research and writing course will be expected to demonstrate those skills by completing a case brief or writing a research paper. Online discussions are common and some programs even have online lectures you must watch. Some programs require students to complete a thesis, which is an in-depth research project that requires the application of knowledge and methods students adopt throughout the course of their studies.

Building a Career

Knowledge of U.S. laws as well as the legal, research, and communications skills developed throughout their education make students suited for careers in human resources and communications. Those already working in human resources might seek careers as human resource managers; experience for such a position is necessary. A manager's tasks include managing new hires and existing employees, planning their benefits, and resolving any disputes or issues that may arise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that human resource managers nationwide held salaries of $99,130.

Those who would like to hold a human resource manager position, but lack experience may first become human resource specialists. The BLS's Occupational Handbook stated that human resource specialists earn salaries of $52,690 per year. Tasks for the occupation are similar to those of a human resource manager, less the management aspect; specialists' time is generally concentrated more on the hiring of new employees and organizing of employee benefits.

Newspaper reporting is another career path those with a master's in legal studies might adopt. Newspaper reporters research and analyze news, and then report their findings to the public. According to the BLS, newspaper reporters average salaries of $43,640. Presumably, someone with a master's degree will make more than this average, as the BLS released statistics indicating that those with master's degrees typically make more than those with lesser or no academic degrees.

Although the BLS bases its salaries on national data, none of the above salaries can be stated with absolute certainty in individual cases. Salaries depend on one's experience level, a job's location, the state of the economy, and other elements.