Best Online Law Schools
Pursuing a degree in law can be rewarding for many reasons. From the satisfaction of winning a hard-fought legal battle to playing a key role in maintaining a just society, many find their passion in this fulfilling career path. The projected median annual salary for lawyers is $126,930 per year, but there are plenty of other opportunities in the field for those who don’t want to go to law school. Paralegals and legal assistants are essential to the work attorneys do, and these roles often only require an associate degree or certificate. These professionals can expect to earn a median salary of $52,920 per year. Below is our ranked list of the best online bachelor’s degrees in law. Continue reading for more information about career opportunities and accreditation within this field.
2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Law Degrees
The following 5 schools offer the best online bachelor's in law degrees, based on their low tuition rates and high mid-career salary potentials. The University of Maryland Global Campus is the #1 school, with an average alumni salary of $61,100 and an annual tuition rate of $14,970 for their Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies. Second-ranked Stevenson University offers a BS in Business Administration - Employment Law and Mediation for $13,500 per year. Graduates of the school's law program earn a median salary of $59,100.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Mid-Career Salary|
|# 1||University of Maryland Global Campus||$14,970||$61,100|
|# 2||Stevenson University||$13,500||$59,100|
|# 3||Rowan University||$12,103||$52,700|
|# 4||University of Central Florida||$11,515||$52,300|
|# 5||Liberty University||$11,700||$50,200|
2020 Online Colleges Offering Law Degrees - Ranking Details
Accreditation is granted to colleges, universities, and individual degree programs that choose to be evaluated by an outside agency and then successfully meet the agency's requirements for high academic standards. It's recommended that students choose an accredited program or school to ensure that they receive a high-quality education with regard to its curriculum, faculty, and student resources and outcomes.
Although not required, paralegals can look for accredited programs through the American Bar Association. The ABA approves only a small number of 100 percent online paralegal programs, as they typically look for more traditional educational approaches primarily in on-site settings. Other accredited law-related degree and certificate programs can be found through either the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the US Department of Education.
For students who plan to become a licensed attorney, it should be noted that in order to sit for the bar exam in most states, you will need to graduate from an on-campus Juris Doctor program that has been accredited by the American Bar Association. The ABA does not currently accredit any 100 percent online JD programs. Review the particular requirements for licensure in your state via the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
If you are interested in working in a law office, assisting an attorney, or managing the administrative duties for a legal firm, a degree in legal office administration can qualify you for this type of career. Legal office administration degrees teach students about business practices in law offices, methods of communication, record keeping, billing, and laws relevant to careers in legal administration.
Legal office administrators of all varieties organize, manage, and assist in the legal process, enabling attorneys to do their best possible work in service of the law. Duties range from basic clerical tasks, paperwork, and billing and information systems to interacting one-on-one with lawyers and clients. For all of these duties, the legal office administrator or assistant must combine secretarial duties and skills with legal acumen.
Legal office administration degrees are available at the associate, bachelor's, and master's level and take between two and four years to complete. Because careers as legal office secretaries, assistants, and administrators don't require certification, it is possible to work in legal offices with any of these degree levels completed. Higher-level degrees can make it easier to be hired by law offices, but the main advanage of advanced study is the increased liklihood of a more senior job title, increased duties and responsibilities, and higher income. No degree program requires passage of the bar exam or culminates in licensure to practice law in the state in which the degree was awarded; therefore, degree programs in legal office administration are not awarded as often by law schools.
The master's degree programs available in legal assisting are often Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs. Whereas the undergraduate degree will prepare students for work performing day-to-day clerical services or assisting lawyers and clients, a master's degree will provide students with the advanced skills necessary for running a legal office or entire firm. Some master's degree programs will qualify graduates to take the Certified Legal Manager (CLM) assessment, which grants licensure to manage a legal office to those who pass. Admission to an MBA program will require a completed bachelor's degree, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay.
Online legal studies degrees provide students with an understanding of the ways that US law works and the ways that justice translates into law. Graduates can use these degree programs to enter positions as legal assistants and paralegals, public administrators, or law enforcement agents. Associate degrees in legal studies are most commonly used to learn the skills of legal writing and research. Bachelor’s degrees can be used to prepare for graduate study in law or to enter administrative positions. Master’s programs in legal studies are usually aimed at non-lawyers who seek a working knowledge of the law.
Undergraduate certificates and associate degrees in legal studies provide the analytical skills to do legal research and support the legal work done by lawyers and other professionals. Coursework discusses legal philosophy, the law and society, legal analysis and writing, and legal research. Graduates possess a well-rounded understanding of the legal system in society, as well as the skills to assess legal issues through research and writing.
Online bachelor’s programs in legal studies provide a more in-depth look at the US legal system, and they may offer the ability to specialize in a particular legal area, such as public administration or pre-law. Core classes discuss social and political thought, sociology, American politics, American history, and constitutional government. Other courses look at the way law currently functions in society or how public policy affects citizens in areas such as drug policy, law enforcement, or social inequality.
Online master’s degrees and graduate certificates in legal studies are intended to provide a graduate-level foundation in legal issues, which can be useful in areas such as business, public administration, or social work. Master’s programs typically have a small core of classes in a legal area and electives that allow students to tailor the degree to the particular law area that is relevant to their goals. Some law master’s programs are coursework-only, while others require the completion of a thesis.
Associate and undergraduate certificates in legal studies are usually offered by community colleges and vocational schools. Some have open admissions, meaning that all who meet the minimum requirements (usually a high school diploma) are accepted. Others require additional documents, such as letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Bachelor’s programs typically require the same admissions packet as the associate degree, along with SAT or ACT scores. Master’s programs require an accredited bachelor’s degree, usually with a high GPA. Some require writing samples.
Paralegal degrees are designed to provide students with the necessary skills and education for paralegal careers. Students may often complete online degrees without ever having to visit a physical classroom, and courses may be taken as quickly or slowly as the student's work and home life permit. Paralegals help lawyers research cases and manage their relationships with clients. General paralegal degrees teach students about legal research, law databases, and maintaining client confidentiality. More specialized programs prepare students for paralegal careers in areas such as bankruptcy, public policy, or criminal defense. For more information about how to become a paralegal, check out the Complete Guide to an Online Paralegal Degree.
Frequently Asked Questions About Law Degrees
Is an online law degree credible?
An online law degree is credible, but it depends on which program you attend. Schools and employers can check a school or program’s accreditation status. If you are pursuing a bachelor’s degree, there are many accredited online programs available. However, to become a licensed attorney, you must earn a Juris Doctor degree from a school accredited by the American Bar Association. There are no fully-online programs accredited by the ABA, so any JD degree earned online will not qualify you to become a licensed attorney in most states.
In what states can you practice law without a law degree?
To become a licensed attorney, you must take the bar exam. There are only four states that allow you to take the bar exam without earning a law degree: California, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. The states of Maine, New York, and Wyoming will allow you to substitute a legal apprenticeship for some years of law school, but still require at least some time spent in legal education. All other states require lawyers to earn their JD to become licensed.
What is the best bachelor’s degree for law school?
Data shows political science, psychology, and history are the most popular undergraduate degrees for those admitted to law school. However, many recommend majoring in something challenging that you enjoy and are likely to do well in, as law schools look for students with an impressive academic history.