What Can You Do with a Master’s Degree in Legal Studies?

The Master’s in Legal Studies (MLS) online degree was developed for professionals who work—or wish to work—in sectors that routinely interact with the law. While a Juris Doctor (JD) degree offers the chance for someone to become a lawyer or a judge, the MLS focuses on more specialized areas of business, nonprofit, or government jobs that do not require taking the bar exam. Of course, even if you’re not studying for the Bar, going back to school is still a tall order. For many of us who are already established in a job or career, the idea of putting your life on hold for a few years and returning to school can seem overwhelming. For this reason, before you consider a higher degree—specifically a Master’s degree in legal studies—it’s necessary to ask yourself a few questions:
  • What can you do with a Master’s degree in legal studies?
  • Will the degree be applicable in my field?
  • How do you manage school on top of the demands of my career and my lifestyle?Let’s take a closer look at each of these questions individually.
What Can You Do with a Master’s Degree in Legal Studies? As mentioned earlier, an MLS degree is not intended for those that wish to practice law: It is not a terminal degree, and to become certified to practice law, it’s necessary to get a JD. Instead, a master’s in legal studies is generally pursued by those who are: Already established in a field and are looking to gain legal expertise Interested in taking a new career path into a field that regularly intersects with the law Either way, a Master’s in Legal Studies degree is intended to help augment your current skillset—leading to career advancement in a variety of sectors. Although advancement is certainly not limited to these fields, some sectors may include:
  • Compliance
  • Negotiation
  • Law enforcement
  • Patent agencies
  • Government
  • Human resources
Will an MLS Degree Be Applicable in My Current Field? Only you can know if the ability to market yourself as a legal expert will open doors for you and enable you to seek a position with a higher wage or prestige. Generally speaking, if your field intersects directly with the law, then you’ll be able to find MLS programs that will provide specialized training in your area. These areas include:
  • Journalism
  • Social work
  • Health care
  • Consulting
  • Advocacy
  • Business
  • Law enforcement
  • Human resources
  • Criminal justice
If your current field doesn’t seem to intersect with the law, the MLS may still help open other opportunities in other careers. How Do You Manage School and a Career or Family Obligations? While most of us would agree that a higher degree would certainly help open new paths for career advancement, the time commitment may seem like too much. One helpful option offered by some higher education institutions, such as The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law, is to offer an MLS degree online. The online format offers the flexibility to complete your degree while continuing to work or take care of your family, regardless of where you live. In addition, the cost of an MLS is generally significantly less than a JD program. Another factor that comes into play is the cost. Fortunately, smaller law schools like the Colleges of Law, offer a Master’s in Legal Studies degree for much less than larger law schools.

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