Master of Legal Studies | MLS, MSL, & LLM Degree Programs

Master of Legal Studies and Master of Science in Law programs offer post graduate law education for non-attorneys interested in pursuing potential law-related career paths. Other masters degree in law programs, such as the Master of Laws (LLM degree) may be designed for attorneys who seek further specialization within their profession. 

Masters Degree in Legal studies

What Are Master of Legal Studies MLS, MSL, & LLM Degree Programs?

At the graduate level, legal studies and law degrees may be offered as Master of Legal Studies (MLS), Master of Science in Law (MSL), Masters of Studies in Law degree programs depending on the university or law school. Other schools might offer the Masters in Law (LLM), which is a distinct degree. The main characteristic of the MLS, MSL and LLM is that none of these are degree programs that prepare graduates to represent someone in court or provide legal services that require a law license. Rather, they are Masters degrees that are designed to enrich a comprehension of law, regulations and legal issues as well as fine tune critical thinking skills.

DID YOU KNOW? The most common degree types awarded to current students graduating in Legal Studies & Jurisprudence are Master's Degrees; 306 Masters in Legal Studies degrees were issued in 2014i

Should I Pursue an MLS, MSL or LLM Degree?

To further clarify the differences between the MLS, MSL and LLM degrees, here are some details surrounding each one. In general, the difference between a MLS and an LL.M. is that an MLS is for non-lawyers, while an LL.M. is for attorneys. Each program potentially serves different student types with unique goals and credentials. Be sure to do your research to determine which program and degree is the best fit for you.

About the Master of Legal Studies Degree (MLS)

The Master of Legal Studies, or MLS degree is a degree for non-lawyers that typically requires one year (full-time) to complete. Legal studies Masters programs may give students the opportunity to take classes with future or current attorneys while learning about the law. However, MLS students are not usually seeking to practice law or to become attorneys and graduates are not eligible to sit for the Bar Examinations in any state.


MLS Degree Potential Admissions Requirements

Some students who apply to MLS degree programs may have a Bachelors in Legal Studies degree from an accredited university. That stated, subject restrictions may not apply if the undergraduate degree was granted by a regionally or nationally accredited institution. Prospective students should verify admissions requirements of the individual graduate schools on their list.

MLS Degree Potential Curriculum

Master of legal studies programs examine law and legal issues from the perspective of the social sciences and humanities. Topics might include;

  • Legal analysis of cases, laws and regulations
  • General and specialized knowledge of the U.S. legal system
  • Legal concepts
  • Legal procedures
  • Legal analysis, writing, research
  • Constitutional law
  • Philosophy of law
  • Jurisprudence
  • Legal history and sociology
  • Contemporary legal issues
  • Practical and theoretical implications of the Law

About the Master of Science in Law (MSL)

The Master of Science in Law, or MSL, is like the Master of Legal Studies in that it offers graduate study of law for individuals who do not want to practice as attorneys. Typically, the MSL is based on completion of approximately 36 credits and two years of full time study (program lengths and course credits may vary between schools).

MSL Degree Potential Admissions Requirements

Admission to a Master of Science in Law degree program typically requires students to have earned an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. Students in MSL degree programs may be business executives, entrepreneurs, policy makers or law office administrators.

MSL Potential Curriculum

Depending on the university, a Master of Science in Law curriculum might offer courses such as;

  • Foundational law courses (torts, contracts and constitutional law)
  • Immigration law
  • International law
  • Intellectual property
  • Business law
  • Analysis and strategy

About the Master of Laws Degree (LLM)

The Masters in Law, (Legum Magister) or LLM degree is a postgraduate law degree designed for lawyers to develop specialized knowledge of a practice area such as taxation law or environmental law. It might take approximately one year to complete the requirements of an LLM degree program, although this may depend on how many courses are taken per semester as part-time and full-time programs may be encountered. Like the Master of Legal Studies and Master of Science in Law, the LLM degree by itself generally is not considered a ‘practice law’ degree.

LLM Degree Potential Admissions Requirements

To be admitted to a Masters of Law degree program, prospective LLM students must first obtain a professional degree in law, e.g. the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) in the United Kingdom or the Juris Doctor (J.D.) in the United States, and pass a bar exam or the equivalent exam in other countries.

LLM Potential Curriculum

Some LLM programs are designed to teach foreign lawyers the basic legal principles of the host country. Other programs may be intended as specialized legal training for specific law professions such as international law or human rights. Students may be required to participate in an externship or a final thesis.

MLS, MSL, LLM Degree Programs: What Specialty Suits Your Goals?

Understanding the different Masters of Legal Studies program options, you can also refine your preferences with our on-page navigation to choose a Masters degree program specialty:

  • Masters in Environmental Law
  • Masters in International Law
  • Masters in Health Care Law
  • Masters in Intellectual Property Law
  • JD/Law Programs
  • LLM’s
  • Masters in Taxation Law

Are Online MLS, MSL and LLM Degree Programs Available?

Refine your search by choosing the learning format that works with your schedule or preferences, either ‘campus’ or ‘online’ Master of Legal Studies or Masters in Law Programs.


Accreditation is your assurance that an institution of higher education has met quality standards. Look for regionally accredited universities since these are schools who continue to undergo review by an accrediting agency to renew their status.

After Graduation: Potential Next Steps

Some graduates of legal studies Masters programs might continue their education through a Doctorate legal studies program. Other graduates might pursue a variety of potential career paths that might include,

  • Arbitrators, mediators, conciliators
  • Labor Relations
  • Judicial Law Clerks
  • Legal Support Workers
  • Compliance Workers

Take the Next Step

Whether you aspire to or are currently working in a regulated field such as criminal justice, nursing, social work, real estate, labor negotiations or finance, enhancing your understanding of law and legal issues may be beneficial, especially if you work or hope to work alongside lawyers. Review sponsored listings for MLS, MSL, and LLM degree programs easily with our navigation menus. Connect with prospective graduate schools using the ‘request info’ setting to submit a form. Take the next step in your law and legal studies education today!

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