Your Complete Guide to

Online Law Degrees

The best programs, benefits, list of universities, rankings, FAQs and everything you ever wanted to know.
Grant Aldrich on August 05, 2021

Going back to college to get your degree is one of the most important decisions you can make, and one that can significantly improve your life and the life of your family. But what degree is the right one for you? The degree you choose will not only dictate the next two to four (or more) years of your life; it will also profoundly impact your career trajectory and earning potential.

Many adult students choose to focus on a law degree and for good reason: a career in law is intellectually stimulating, personally gratifying, and financially rewarding! Our legal system is incredibly complex, and this complexity has created myriad career options for those prospective students. From lawyers to judges, paralegals to legal secretaries, the legal professional’s role is vital and ever evolving to keep pace with the constantly shifting legal system.

If you like the idea of working within our nation’s legal system, then you’ll want to read this entire article, because we’re going to cover everything you need to know about earning a law degree. We’ll cover the best law degrees that offer the biggest career potential, compare online programs with traditional programs, and take a look at the differences between Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees.

But be sure to read this article to the very end because we’re also going to tell you exactly how OnlineDegree.com could help you save a ton of time and money on your tuition!

Let’s get started…

6 Best Online Law Degrees

Before we get to the specific online law degrees to focus your efforts on, let’s talk about WHY we believe these degrees are the best.

They are Recession-Proof

The economy is a bit like the weather: pleasant one day, downright dangerous the next. It’s important to choose a career that will be viable no matter what the economy is doing. These law degrees will set you on a lucrative career path, and one that is recession-proof.

These are Perfect Career Changers

If you’re an adult that is looking to change careers, the following law degrees can help you. Whether you’re looking for a bit more excitement, a challenge, a way to help people or a way to start earning more, these law degrees will help you reach your goals.

Flexible and Affordable

We’ve decided to focus on those law degrees that can be earned online for one main reason: they provide adult students, who have job and family responsibilities, the flexibility to study when it’s most convenient for them. Online law degrees are also far more affordable than traditional college degrees.

Now that you know why we chose the online law degrees we did, let’s dive in:

Paralegal

When people think about a career in law, they typically think about lawyers and judges. After all, how many TV shows have been created around these professionals? But the legal system is dependent on the work provided by paralegals, who assist lawyers at every turn of a case.

While paralegals don’t offer legal advice or represent clients during trials, the provide continued and invaluable support. These professionals conduct client and witness interviews, conduct critical research, and prepare court documents.

Prospective students interested in a career as a paralegal have a couple of degree options: An associate’s degree, which is a two year degree, or taking a certification training program, which can often get you on the job in less than a year!

The great thing about these two options is they get you in the workforce right away so you can begin to start earning quickly. Once you’ve gotten some experience under your belt, and if you feel you’d like to advance and become a lawyer yourself, then you always have the option of earning your bachelor’s and Juris Doctor degree to become a full-fledged lawyer.

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of paralegals is expected to grow 10% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This is in part due to the fact that many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments to cut costs. Other industries, also looking to save money, will be doing the same, which means paralegals can also find work with healthcare providers, consulting firms and insurance firms.

The BLS has also reported that the median annual salary for paralegals was $51,740 in May 2019, with the highest earners bringing in as much as $82,500.

Juris Doctor (JD)

Those prospective students hoping to become an attorney one day will want to get a Juris Doctor degree. But the interesting thing about this degree is that it can also be applied to many different legal fields. For instance, a JD degree can lead to numerous careers such as:

  • Judge
  • Law professor
  • Law librarian
  • Lobbyist
  • Entrepreneur
  • Consultant
  • Arbitrator, mediator, or conciliator

The JD curriculum will provide students with trial practice, simulations, problem-solving exercises and hands-on learning. When you are done with this program, you will have developed comprehensive legal expertise and the ability to reason and think critically. You will have also gained a deep understanding of a lawyer’s ethical responsibilities in upholding the highest standard of justice.

What Kind of Career Can You Have with a JD Degree?

As we just mentioned, there are a variety of career paths available to you when you hold this degree. The most common career is that of a lawyer. Demand for lawyers will continue as individuals, businesses and all levels of government will continue to require legal services. In fact, according to the BLS, employment of lawyers is expected to grow 4% over the coming years.

The median annual wage for lawyers was $122,960 in May 2019, with top lawyers earning as much as $208,000 a year.

Political Science

Along with a fascination of the legal system, do you also have an interest in government or politics? If so, a bachelor of science in political science may be the perfect match for you.

Political science majors study political theories, government systems, and public policies. Concentrations in the field typically focus on American political systems, global political systems, world economic systems and politics, public policy, and public administration. This degree ultimately sets you up for a potential career as a politician, ambassador to foreign nations, lawyer, prosecutor or judge.

Future Career Prospects

This degree can lead to an exciting career in myriad industries. Graduates may work in local, state or federal offices or agencies, while others may run for public office in their hometown to start their political career. Still others may continue on to graduate school to earn advanced degrees to become lawyers, judges and even professors.

And that’s not even the full extent of it. This degree can help you become a:

  • Campaign Worker
  • Lobbyist
  • Political Consultant
  • Policy Analyst
  • Urban Planner
  • Intelligence officer Fundraiser
  • Program Manager
  • Volunteer Coordinator
  • Grant Writer
  • Journalist
  • Immigration Agent Paralegal/Legal Assistant
  • Regulatory Specialist
  • Public Affairs Specialist
  • Research Assistant
  • Lawyer

Public Administration

A bachelor of public administration degree will provide you with the skills needed to succeed in public servant roles for government agencies and nonprofit organizations. You’ll take exciting courses in economics, finance, management, political science, sociology, and urban planning, so that upon graduation, you can begin inspiring positive changes in society.

Job & Salary Outlook

With a public administration degree, you can work in a variety of settings upon graduation:

  • Local, state and federal government agencies such as the Department of Sanitation, Bureau of Land Management, State and City Departments, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, etc.
  • Independent agencies like the Department of Energy, Social Security Administration, Federal Election Commission, etc.
  • Non-profit organizations such as AARP, YMCA, chambers of commerce, and universities
  • Private Business such as consulting businesses, human resources, law and insurance organizations

The sky really is the limit with this degree! And the good news doesn’t stop there. The BLS expects the public administration field to experience tremendous growth through 2022, especially in the areas of state and local government where more than half of all public administration jobs are found.

Law and Policy

Are you interested in legal processes and policy implementation? If so, a law and policy degree is right for you! Students will take exciting courses such as American and constitutional government, communication, math, English, legal ethics, reasoning, and negotiation. You’ll also have the opportunity to specialize in either pre-law or public policy.

Those who wish to focus their degree in pre-law will take additional courses designed to prepare them for law school and legal work. You’ll study legal research, contracts, civil procedure, criminal law and procedure, torts and jurisprudence.

Those students who decide to pursue public policy will study the creation, management, and ethics of policies. Classes will include criminal justice, national security, healthcare, education, religious liberty, and economics.

What are the Job Opportunities Available with This Degree?

This degree offers graduates a variety of career paths in law, law enforcement, criminal justice, lobbying and public policy and advocacy. And, since legal and policy issues are addressed within all employment sectors (including government and non-profits), there won’t soon (or ever) be a shortage of jobs. In fact, public policy is in virtually every career field. Graduates may find work in advocacy organizations, labor unions, lobbyists and think tanks. In other words, graduates holding this degree are poised to be in a position to implement positive change in all aspects of society.

Online Vs Traditional Campus Law Degrees

You may be wondering why we are focusing this article on online degrees as opposed to a traditional campus degrees. There are three simple reasons for that:

  1. Online Degrees Offer Far More Flexibility

Adult students can find it very challenging juggling work, family AND school responsibilities. With an online degree, you study at your own pace and when it is most convenient for you. This means you’ll never have to miss an important family or work function.

  1. Online Degrees are Affordable

Traditional college degrees can be EXPENSIVE! Online degrees are typically far, far more affordable. In addition, since you can earn your degree from the comfort of your own living room, there is no expense of room or board. And, as an added bonus, you can continue to work while you pursue your degree.

  1. Law Degrees Fit Online Learning Perfectly!

These days, just about any degree can be earned online. But unlike some degrees, such as those in certain science fields that require lab work, the field of law is perfect for online learning.

Benefits of a Law Degree

Here are just a few benefits of getting a degree in law:

Market Demand

If you’ve read this far, you’ve seen the vast array of career paths awaiting those students who earn a law degree. The legal system isn’t going anywhere, the need for laws and policy isn’t going anywhere either, and so there will always be a huge demand for individuals with the skills offered through law degrees.

Greater Earning Potential

Without question, the legal profession is one of the most lucrative industries in today’s job market. And according to recent research, we have seen double-digit growth in recent years, which has produced big revenues and rising salaries.

Make a Difference

At the heart of the legal profession is a desire to help people. Whether you are a lawyer, a paralegal, or a policy maker, you will be in a position to positively impact many people’s lives.

Cost and Tuition of Obtaining a Law Degree

We can’t talk about going back to college and getting your law degree without discussing the very real topic of cost. A college education is a definite financial commitment and in the past, many people have not been able to afford to earn their degree, even though that degree would have helped them to earn MORE.

We’re here to tell you there are many different ways you can save on your education. We encourage you to read our article on 5 ways you can save on college tuition, and also use our free Smartplan to find ways to save at various schools across the country by taking advantage of free courses, discounts and more. In fact, that’s why we created OnlineDegree.com so that everyone could have access to an affordable education.

Choosing the Right Type of Law Degree

If you’ve read this far, it is most likely because you are sensing a law degree is the right choice for you. But now you might have another question: Which TYPE of degree should I pursue?

This is a great question. After all, the answer will dictate the length of time you are in school and the total cost of your education.

Let’s take a look the degrees available to you:

Associate’s Degree in Law

An associate’s degree is a two-year degree that is typically obtained through a vocation school or community college, though there are online associate’s degrees available. While the majority of careers in law will require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree can lead to excellent opportunities. For instance, you can begin your legal career as a paralegal, a profession that only requires a two-year degree to get started!

Bachelor’s Degree in Law

Bachelor’s degrees traditionally take 4 years to complete, though there are ways to shave some time off of your studies. A bachelor’s degree will provide you with a solid foundation in legal practice and theory. Many students will enroll in a Bachelor in Law program with the goal of eventually pursuing a more advanced law degree. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree typically earn more than non-degree holders and are usually considered more qualified to work in a wider range of legal positions.

Master’s Degree in Law

Once you’ve obtained your bachelor’s degree in law, you may decide to continue your education and obtain your master’s degree in a chosen concentration. These programs are highly specialized and typically require another two to four years of coursework.

There are actually several different master’s degree programs available in the legal field such as the Master of Legal Studies (MLS), Master of Science in Law (MSL), and Juris Master (JM). These degrees prepare students for a wide range of careers in numerous fields such as:

  • Law enforcement
  • Human resources
  • Healthcare
  • Business
  • Education
  • Government
  • Information technology
  • Patent agencies

A master’s degree will not only open more doors for advancement, it will also offer you the opportunity to earn more, and sometimes MUCH more!

Doctorate Degree

The most advanced degree you can earn is a doctorate. Graduates holding this degree are typically regarded as experts in their chosen fields.

Juris Doctor, or a J.D. degree, is a doctorate degree, and anyone who has the goal of becoming a lawyer must obtain this degree. A J.D. degree is what will qualify you to sit for the prestigious bar exam.

Choosing the Right University or College for Law

Now that you have a good idea of which online law degree interests you, you’ve got to find the right school for you to get your degree and as quickly and affordably as possible.  Here are a few things we think are hugely important for adult students. You’ll want to choose a university with:

  • Online Programs
  • $0 application fees
  • No required SAT/ACT testing
  • Faculty and professors that understand adult students’ needs
  • Discounts or scholarships
  • Convenient enrollment dates year-round (so you don’t have to wait for Spring or Fall)
  • Accredited

Finding adult-friendly schools that match these criteria can certainly be challenging!

That’s why we created our Smartplan.

We realize that every student has unique circumstances and goals. When you use our Smartplan, we could help you find the right school you’re looking for that has these crucial criteria to make pursuing your degree that much easier.

Register today to get your free Smartplan and compare different colleges! >>>

Salary Data for Law Professionals

As we mentioned, obtaining a law degree can lead to a wide variety of career paths in different industries. To give you a sense of the kind of salary you can earn, let’s take a look at some of the most common occupations in the legal field and the salary for each, according to the BLS:

(Salary range is dependent on size of law firm)

  • Senior Attorney: $101,000 – $301,000
  • Licensed Attorney: $90,000 – $244,000
  • Paralegal: $55,000 – $105,000
  • Case Clerk: $31,000 – $47,500
  • Legal Secretary: $50,000 – $76,00

FAQs

Q: How quickly can I earn my degree?

A: That depends on the type of degree you pursue. An associate’s degree can be earned in two years and a bachelor’s typically in 4. If you decide to go for your masters or JD degree, that will be an additional 2 – 4 years of study. Keep in mind, if you pursue your education online, you may be able to speed up your progress toward your degree.

Q: What are the Bar Exam Requirements?

A: Each state has their own requirements for admission to the Bar Exam. You may find out more on the National Conference of bar Examiners website.

Q: Where can I get a job after law school?

You will have quite a few options available to you, depending on the type of degree you pursue. Many graduates will take the traditional track to practice law, while others will choose to work outside law practice in politics, non-profit firms, large corporations, finance, and higher education. The sky really is the limit with a law degree!

How to Get Started

Wow, we’ve just covered a LOT of information. You may be wondering what you should do next.

We highly recommend you take a few moments to use OnlineDegree.com’s Smartplan to find the right school that offers all of the criteria you’re looking for.   We’ve provided this helpful and free tool for you to help you make the right decision and find ways that could end up saving you a LOT of time and money toward your law degree!

Register today for free >>

About the Author
Grant Aldrich
Grant founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.

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