Online Law Degrees
If you are a student who would like to explore the ins and outs of Federal, State, and Local laws and help others in a court room setting, an online Law degree may be a good choice to get started in a number of lucrative careers! While most states require that students attend an on-campus ABA-accredited program to sit for the Bar Exam, there are select programs available that allow students to practice law after completing an online degree.
Careers in Law
Having a degree in the field of law (also known as a JD, or Juris Doctor program) can lead to prestigious, lucrative career opportunities. There are many aspects of law that you can choose to specialize in to pursue the various career paths available. In the table below, we have highlighted some popular law occupations that you may be interested in after graduation from your law degree program:
|Job Title||Job Summary||
Median Annual Salary
|Law Firm Partner||Joint owner of a law firm that is responsible for overseeing the day to day operations of the business and handling numerous legal cases.||
|General Counsel||Works within the business world as the main legal advisers for their respective organizations.||
|Patent Attorney||Works within an organization to ensure that their company’s patents adhere to regulations and are defended against infringements.||
|Litigation Attorney||Lawyer who specializes in handling lawsuits by representing either the plaintiffs or defendants.||
|Associate Attorney||Responsible for a variety of legal tasks within their firm, including research, attending court proceedings, and providing advice on legal actions.||
*Job and salary data provided by Payscale.com
Regardless of specialization, those who work as a lawyer enjoy high annual wages and a challenging career. While the numbers above represent the average salary across different law occupations, you may make more or less dependent upon your experience and position within a law firm.
Universities that offer Online Law Degrees
Typically, you will need to attend a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) before you are allowed to sit for the mandatory Bar Exam and being practicing law. However, there are a few select universities that offer online law degrees (Juris Doctor) that you may want to consider. When researching these schools, it is essential that you fully understand the requirements of your state before enrolling in an online degree program.
In this section, we will discuss three popular universities located within California that offer online degrees in Law:
Concord Law School
Concord Law School is a fully-virtual university that has been helping students achieve their Juris Doctor or Executive Juris Doctor degrees online since 1998. They are well-regarded for their innovation and online curriculum, and over 2,000 students have graduated from the law school since its founding. Below, we will take a look at a few of the key factors that you should consider when attending Concord Law School:
Due to its online nature, Concord Law School is not accredited by the ABA. Instead, it is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) as well as being registered as a Distance Learning Law School in the unaccredited category with the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.
The curriculum for the Juris Doctor degree offered at Concord is designed to help students master the essential skills they need as a practicing attorney. Each course is organized into modules that allow students to work at their own pace. You will also have access to video lectures, live classes, and innovative platforms that allow you to connect to professors and fellow classmates.
Tuition and Timeframe
In order to graduate with your Juris Doctor in Law from Concord, you will need to complete 92 credit hours over the course of four years. This part-time program has an annual tuition of just under $10,000 for a total expense of approximately $40,000.
In order to successfully graduate from the Juris Doctor program, you will be required to the First-Year Law Students’ Exam and California Bar Exam. It is important to note that due to the nature of Concord’s accreditation, graduates from this program will only be eligible to take California’s Bar Exam and practice within that state.
Visit the Concord Law School website for more detailed information.
St. Francis School of Law
St. Francis is the only not-for-profit online law school in the United States and it offers JD degrees with a high level of flexibility and convenience. In 2015, this school outperformed all distance learning law schools with 87.5% of its students passing the First-Year Law Students’ Exam the first time. In the information below, we will go over some of the factors that make St. Francis a stand-out in virtual learning:
Like other online law schools, St. Francis School of Law is not accredited by the ABA. Through its registration with the State Bar of California, students of this university are eligible to sit for the Bar Examination in the State of California.
The curriculum at St. Francis School of Law is focused on teaching real-world, professional legal skills instead of offering classes based on theory. This approach allows students to prepare for the challenging professional environment that they will encounter after graduation.
Tuition and Timeframe
The annual tuition for the four year JD degree offered at St. Francis breaks down to $9,000 per year – or $36,000 in total. This does not include the cost of textbooks, travel costs, computers, or fees paid to the State Bar of California.
While there is no specific age or experience requirement to apply to St. Francis School of Law, students will need to go through a comprehensive admissions process. The average student body of this particular school is comprised of students who have earned a bachelor’s degree and have 10+ years of work experience.
Visit the St. Francis School of Law website for more detailed information.
California Southern University School of Law
California Southern University is a unique college that offers four different law degrees online. These degree programs include a Juris Doctor, Master of Science in Law (MSL), Master of Science in Dispute Resolution, and Master of Laws program. Designed to be extremely flexible in nature, the curriculum for the Juris Doctor program is a rigorous course of study that can be completed at the student’s own pace.
California Southern University is a regionally accredited institution, but it is not recognized by the ABA. Instead, it is registered as an unaccredited correspondence law school with the Committee of Bar Examiners (CBE) of the State Bar of California. Students that graduate from California Southern’s JD program will be able to sit for the Bar Examination in California and practice within the limits of the state.
The courses at California Southern School of Law begin on a monthly basis, so students have the opportunity to start working toward their online law degree as soon as they are ready. Those enrolled in this online law program will use the same materials as brick and mortar law schools, and students will need to practice self-discipline and dedication to achieve in these challenging courses.
Tuition and Timeframe
Depending on the time of year that you enroll in a Juris Doctor program, you will pay between $295 to $350 per credit hour. You will be required to complete 88 credit hours for this program, with a total cost that ranges between $26,000 and $31,000.
If you have taken credits through another university, you may be able to transfer these credit hours to the law programs at California Southern. This school also offers no-interest payment plans that provide students with an alternative to incurring additional student loan debt.
Visit the California Southern University School of Law website for more detailed information.
Law Career Outlook and Salary Information
While there are several different degrees available in the field of law, students interested in a JD program typically plan to pursue a career as a lawyer or attorney. For those considering this career path, the overall occupational outlook is continuing to show a positive trend. Whether you work with individual clients, businesses, or the government, people are always in need of skilled legal professionals to turn to when issues arise.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who work as a lawyer can expect to see an occupational increase of 6% by the year 2024. This is about as fast as the national average across all occupations and will result in the continued addition of new jobs within the field. Additionally, the BLS reports that the annual median wage for lawyers as of May 2015 was $115,820 – substantially higher than the national average!
View our list of the top 40 Law careers to compare jobs and salaries in this field.
Is an Online Law Degree Right for me?
Online degree programs offer a flexible alternative for students that are juggling family and career obligations along with their education. Although there are many types of degrees offered by accredited universities with virtual program options, the field of law is a bit different. In the majority of states, those who wish to sit for the Bar Exam after earning a JD degree are required to have taken courses through an ABA accredited school. However, there are exceptions to the rule, as previously discussed. The state of California has a few different options for online law degrees that are applicable for sitting the Bar Exam and practicing within California.
In the majority of states, those who wish to sit for the Bar Exam after earning a Juris Doctor degree are required to have taken courses through an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited school. However, there are exceptions to the rule, as previously discussed. The state of California has a few different options for online law degrees that are applicable for sitting for the Bar Exam and practicing within the state of California.
When considering an online JD program, there are many factors to take into consideration. Regardless of whether you take courses on-campus or virtually, the course of study for this degree field is rigorous and requires a self-motivated, committed learner. With that being said, there are advantages to an online Law degree program, including:
- Access to a wide range of educational platforms that provide a well-rounded learning environment
- Ability to take classes at a pace that suits your unique schedule
- Overall lower tuition as compared to traditional, on-campus Law degree programs
- Ability to connect with students and law experts across the country through live lectures
If you are interested in pursuing your Law degree online, be sure that you check into all of the requirements within the state you plan to practice. Most states have extremely detailed regulations as to who is eligible to sit for the required state Bar Examination.
Where can I practice law if I earn my Law degree online?
While earning a Law degree online can be an excellent opportunity for students looking for alternative education options, you do need to look ahead and consider what you will be eligible for after graduation.
The state of California has some of the most relaxed regulations in the country for who they allow to sit for the state’s Bar Exam, and they allow entry to students who have completed a non-ABA accredited online program. However, if you pass the California Bar Exam, you will only be licensed to practice within the state limits. If you have plans to practice law in a different state after attending a non-accredited law school, you run the risk of your degree not being recognized and not being eligible to take that state’s Bar Examination.
Comparing Top Law Degree Programs
Choosing an online Law degree program that is right for you takes careful consideration of many different factors. Not only will you want to ensure that the faculty and curriculum are of high-quality, you also need to look at the student environment and support offered by your prospective school.
As we’ve discussed, most law schools in the country are accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). The majority of states require completion of an ABA accredited program in order to practice law. There are exceptions to this rule, and California does offer online law degrees that are eligible for entry into that state’s Bar Exam.
When choosing a non-ABA accredited school, be sure that you fully understand the limitations that this degree holds. While you will be able to practice law within the state of California after earning one of the aforementioned degrees, you may not be eligible to practice in any other state if you relocate in the future.
Student to Faculty Ratio
A low student to faculty ratio is important in any degree program, but particularly essential when working towards a degree in Law. The courses needed to earn a JD are highly challenging, and students have a greater chance of meeting their full potential with the individualized support gained through small class sizes.
Law is a complicated field, and expert faculty can make all the difference in the quality of your education. Be sure to research the specific credentials and experience of your prospective school’s Law professors by taking a look at the “Faculty” section of their website.
Academic Advising and Student Services
Just because you are taking an online Juris Doctor program doesn’t mean that you won’t have access to the same student supports as traditional students! Many of the schools offering online JD degrees offer additional student services that can include:
- Courses that will help you prepare for taking the Bar Examination
- Online access to extensive Law resources, textbooks, and reference materials
- Virtual academic advising to ensure your classes match your career goals
- Opportunities to enrich your Law degree program with workshops, seminars, and live lectures
- Online tutoring for the various courses within your JD degree program
If you have a passion for justice and want to spend your career helping others navigate legal matters, then earning an online Law degree could be the right choice for you! While there are unique requirements that must be considered when choosing to pursue your Law degree online, it can offer a world of opportunity to students ready to take on the challenge of a rewarding career path!