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All About a Law Degree Online

Do you have a sense of justice, a penchant for arguing and winning, a drive like no other? If so, then an law degree online might be for you. Individuals who work in the law profession are integral for ensuring legislation is properly enforced and individuals are fairly treated by state and local legal representatives. Whether students prefer to pursue a track that could put them up front and center in the court room or one that may place them behind the scenes, pursuing an online legal studies degree may be one of the best ways to help prepare for these careers.

careers with an online legal studies degree

Students interested in achieving a career in this field should consider pursuing an online law degree, as this certification may prepare learners for a variety of situations they may face while working in these professions. Online law degree programs can be customized to people's individual interests, and they can introduce learners to topics and courses best suited to increase their knowledge of the law.

Is an online law degree right for me? 

If you want to work in a law-based career, then pursuing a law degree online may be right for you. You must have a strong interest in learning not only about past cases that affect the current state of law, but also a desire to learn more about new regulations as they arise. Additionally, to work in the legal profession,  it's essential to stay on top of the ever-changing regulations and legislation that may affect individuals in this industry. For students who wish to pursue a law degree online, they must also be driven by their desire to learn more, as they may be required to complete in-depth assignments that require a great deal of research and patience.

Can I really earn a law degree online?

Yes. (If you are patient and very tenacious.) You can earn a juris doctorate (JD) via online education.

However, there are no online law schools that are approved by the American Bar Association. In order to sit for the Bar Exam, in almost any state, you must have graduated from a law school approved by the American Bar Association. California is the one exception; that state has a provision for distance education / correspondence schools.

It is possible to earn an online law degree from an accredited school, apply to sit for the California Bar Exam, pass the exam, and practice law in California.

How do online law degree programs work?

The online law degree is a four-year program. As in a traditional law school there are courses that all students are required to take. However, the array of courses offered as electives may vary from school to school. The majority of online courses are asynchronous — instructors post a syllabus, lectures, and assignments; students then complete the reading and post questions and comments to discussion boards when it is convenient for them.

In online law schools there is likely to be a synchronous portion of the program as well. Classes "meet" regularly in real-time. With the aid of technology, the Socratic method is alive and well. Professors and students discuss legal cases and decisions. Professors can even "call on" students. Students respond via text and have their answers read by all the others in the class. Unlike conventional law school courses where students may study for 15 weeks and then take one final exam, there can be several opportunities to earn grades. Quizzes and midterm exams, administered online or proctored, may be offered throughout the term. Research papers are e-mailed to the instructor or uploaded to the class site; comments are returned electronically.

How do I select a good online law degree program?

Research a law degree online very carefully. Look for accreditations and credentials that indicate the level of quality of the program. Plan to inquire about the number of full-time faculty, their credentials and experience, the courses offered in comparison to those at a traditional law school, the percentage of students who graduate and sit for the Bar Exam, the percentage who pass the Bar Exam, and student evaluations of the program.

What are the benefits of studying law online?

Enrolling in an online law school allows for far greater flexibility and convenience than in a traditional program at a fixed facility; e-learners do not have to put their lives on hold for several years. The American Bar Association sets restrictions on how much a student can work while in law school. Students are discouraged from working at all during their first year. Online students, however, can keep their jobs and maintain their ability to make a living. They don't have to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans to pay tuition and cover living expenses. They don't have to sell their houses or move their families to be near a university.

Tuition at a conventional law school at the out-of-state rate often runs for more than $20,000 per year. That does not cover textbooks, materials, rent, or living expenses. In contrast, the majority of online law schools have set tuition at well under $10,000 per year.

A glimpse into the realm of legal studies

Legal studies encompasses myriad topics in the law realm, from those that focus on criminal justice to those tailored to law and public policy. Pursuing a law degree online allows students to get a taste of the various potential topics available. Learners seeking their base-level degree in this field may stick with a general program that introduces them to the vast range of career possibilities. Those pursuing higher-level certifications may opt for a more specialized path - one that allows them to further interact with complex subjects and leading professionals in the field.

For those who want to earn a more advanced degree in legal studies, there are many different options available, depending on the subject area of your choosing. If you're interested in becoming a lawyer, pursuing a master's degree in law may be the best option. Alternatively, if you'd prefer to become a specialist in the field of criminology, a master's degree in this discipline could be ideal.

Possible salaries for a career in legal studies

Salaries for careers in the field of legal studies may vary based on level of education, number of years in the profession and type of organization for which you work, among other factors. Consider the following careers, with data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012.

  • Lawyers: 2012 Median annual salary of $113,530 (10 percent projected growth through 2022)[i]
  • Judges and hearing officers: 2012 Median annual salary of $102,980 (1 percent projected growth through 2022)[ii]
  • Sociologists: 2012 Median annual salary of $74,960 (15 percent projected growth through 2022)[iii]

[i] bls.gov/ooh/legal/lawyers.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/legal/judges-and-hearing-officers.htm | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/sociologists.htm

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