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Should I Pursue a Master's in Legal Studies Online?
Ideal for working paralegals and legal secretaries or aspiring mediators, contract administrators, and college law professors, an online master's degree in legal studies provides students with advanced study of the U.S. legal system, legal research and writing, and negotiation theory.
Closely related to the master's in legal studies, online master's in law (LLM) degrees are ideal for attorneys and non-attorneys looking to study in a specialized legal area like human rights, U.S. law, or intellectual property. The format of an online college program provides the flexibility required to work, study, and manage family obligations simultaneously by avoiding the need to commute to on-campus classes.
Legal studies graduates find work in dedicated law offices and in law departments of companies in every industry. Prospective students should note that a master's in legal studies online does not prepare them to practice as a lawyer or attorney. For this, professionals must earn a juris doctor (JD) degree by attending law school.
Employment Outlook for Master's in Legal Studies Graduates
Master's in Legal Studies Salary
Graduating from one of the top master of legal studies online schools often enhances the career opportunities and salary potential of a legal professional. However, additional factors like location and experience can also come into play in the estimation of potential earnings. From the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and PayScale, the two tables below provide detailed income and employment data for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators, including which U.S. states provide the highest average salaries and how national earnings tend to increase according to years of service.
Top Paying States for Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators
|State||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|District of Columbia||90||$97,470|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Pay by Experience Level for Mediators
Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
Experienced (10-20 Years):
Late-Career (20+ Years):
Master's in Legal Studies Careers
To work successfully in the legal profession, an individual must possess excellent analytical, communication, and negotiation skills and be prepared to work long hours when needed. Accredited legal studies master's degrees and online LLM programs can prepare graduates for work in a variety of professions: teaching college and university courses, mediating between private parties in disputes, or handling the development, administration, and negotiation of commercial and business contracts. Explore four potential careers belows.
Arbitrator, Mediator, or Conciliator
Annual Median Salary : $60,670
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
In an effort to resolve conflicts outside of court, arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators act as facilitators between parties involved in a legal dispute. Entry-level jobs may only require a bachelor's degree, but a master's opens the door for work in advanced and specialized mediation areas like divorce or real estate.
Contract Administration Manager
Annual Median Salary : $74,854
Projected Growth Rate: N/A
A contract administration manager works on behalf of a company's interests in the inception and execution of company contracts. This position requires extensive communication with company departments, including finance, sales, and operations, to determine the best courses of action for contract negotiation. Most contract administration managers hold an advanced legal degree.
Annual Median Salary : $121,056
Projected Growth Rate: N/A
A contracts director works in the negotiation and maintenance of a company's contracts with outside parties, including other businesses, contract workers, vendors, and customers. The hiring process for this occupation, which requires mastery of local, state, and federal contract regulations, often favors applicants who hold an advanced law degree.
Annual Median Salary : $104,910
Projected Growth Rate: 12%
Tenured professor positions at an institution of higher education typically require a Ph.D., but a combination of extensive work experience and a master's in legal studies online can prepare legal professionals to teach law courses as an adjunct or assistant professor in community colleges and universities
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statstics / PayScale
What Can I Expect from an Online Master's in Legal Studies Program?
Completing any master's in legal studies online provides the accomplishment of similar learning objectives. Specific course titles and content may vary slightly depending on the school and program you select. Explore the subject matter and requirements of a few representative course examples in the list below.
Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Legal Studies
Introduction to Legal System
This introductory course prepares students to "think like lawyers" in any future legal occupation by providing an orientation to types of U.S. law and regulations, functions of the legislative and judicial systems, and processes used to resolve legal conflicts. This course provides a foundation for the study of advanced topics.
Legal Research and Writing
Legal professionals must possess the ability to conduct effective research and produce high-quality writing. Through the completion of exercises and professional feedback, a research and writing course provides skill development in conducting, identifying, and analyzing research, as well as drafting legal memoranda, letters, and other professional communications.
Negotiation Theory and Practice
Through participation in simulated exercises, students learn and develop confidence in negotiation skills, vital for any legal professional working to solve disputes or legal claims. Additional areas of study include psychological elements at work in negotiation, multiparty negotiation challenges, applicable ethical standards, and the attorney-client relationship.
Ethics and Professional Standards
A course on ethics and professional standards prepares students to take on issues relating to corporate social responsibility, business ethics, and related areas of legal compliance. Topics covered in a survey format may include anti-corruption, fraud, privacy issues, child labor, employment discrimination, whistleblowing and retaliation, and environmental crimes.
Capstone / Thesis
The culminating academic experience of a master's in legal studies online requires extensive time, independent research, and support from peers and faculty. Students completing a capstone research project or thesis produce a significant written project on a specific legal issue or claim, grounded in substantial literature research.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Legal Studies Prepares for
- Various NALS Certifications : Earning an online master's degree in legal studies may enhance the earning potential of legal support professionals -- legal secretaries, paralegals, legal assistants, etc. Professionals can also pursue certification through the National Association for Legal Secretaries. These voluntary certifications require completion of an exam demonstrating mastery of occupation-specific knowledge and skills.
- Various State Certifications: Each state sets its own rules and regulations regarding the practice of legal careers. Working in arbitration, contract management, private investigation, legal research, or other non-attorney legal occupations often requires some form of certification or licensure. Earning a master of legal studies online should sufficiently prepare professionals for any state-required training and/or examinations.
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