The 2020 Guide to Online Masters in Legal Studies (MLS)

A Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree is designed for professionals seeking to build their U.S legal procedural skills and knowledge, in order to tackle legal challenges and responsibilities in their fields. The advantage of an MLS is that the degree is practice driven, focusing on the application legal procedures and theory in the workplace environment.

With a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree, graduates will develop professional-level legal training, which becomes increasingly important as more professions have legal-facing components to their operations, such as: contracts, negotiations, work compliance, privacy, intellectual property, and human resource management.

While an online MLS degree is not directly tied to a specific career path, it is helpful to earn job positions with legal responsibilities, while not having a professional J.D degree.


Pepperdine Law offers a Master of Legal Studies program designed for non-lawyers who would like to improve their knowledge of legal concepts and procedures in order to better execute their law-related responsibilities.

The online Master of Legal Studies program allows non-lawyers to gain a fundamental understanding of U.S. law from Washington University’s top 20 ranked School of Law.

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Online MLS Program Admissions Requirements

Each MLS program has its own set of prerequisites, so you should contact your accredited institution for detailed information regarding its policies:

  1. Application: Fill out an initial application, which you can find on the website of the accredited institution of your choice. Paper and online forms are both generally accepted.
  2. Bachelor’s degree: You should have a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution prior to applying to an MLS program.
  3. Transcripts: Request transcripts before the application deadline, and upload one official copy of each transcript from any postsecondary schools you have attended.
  4. Experience: Include any relevant work experience in law or legal services.
  5. Personal statement: Write a personal statement, which is typically in the form of an essay. You may be required to submit multiple essays to fully express the intent and purpose of your application. Below are some common topics that should be mentioned in a statement.
    • Your main academic and personal interests
    • Experiences in school or work that have helped to prepare you for this course of study
    • Why you wish to study for the degree you’ve chosen
    • Why you wish to study at the university
    • Your plans for the future after you earn your degree
  6. Resume/CV: Upload a copy of your most recent resume or curriculum vitae as part of your application.
  7. Letters of recommendation: Submit your letters of recommendation. The number of letters required varies with each school. Be sure to request them well in advance of the deadline.
  8. Test scores (may be optional): Many schools do not require GRE, GMAT, or LSAT Test scores, but do accept test score submissions. TOEFL/IELTS scores for required international students.

Master of Legal Studies Online Curriculum Topics

The curriculum and number of credits required to complete a master’s program vary widely depending on your school and specialization. However, a typical MLS program includes courses in:

  • Civil Procedure
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Contracts
  • Negotiation Theory
  • Administrative Law
  • Risk Management
  • Intellectual Property
  • Privacy and Cybersecurity
  • Human Rights
  • Environmental Law
  • Tax Law

Master's in Legal Studies Careers and Salary Information

What makes a master of legal studies degree unique is that the curriculum and education relates to a wide range of careers and industries, given that an MLS teaches how to apply legal procedures and theory in the workplace, and have the tools to succeed in their positions.

In the context of practicing law, MLS graduates find careers as paralegals and legal professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, paralegals earn a median annual salary of approximately $49,500.

In addition to these common legal professional roles, there are also roles across various industries that can enhance their skills with an MLS degree, including:

  • Business & Finance
  • Politics
  • Healthcare
  • Cybersecurity
  • Human Resources
  • Social Work
  • Real Estate