Master of Legal Studies Degree Comparisons

At Washington University School of Law, we place great importance on making sure you are in the graduate degree program that will strengthen the skills you need in your career. When choosing a master’s program, we encourage you to consider important factors such as admissions criteria, program length, curriculum features and career opportunities upon graduation.

Is an MLS Right for You?

The online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program is designed for professionals who would benefit from legal training at work but do not wish to become practicing attorneys. The curriculum equips you with an in-depth understanding of the legal world, helping you become a more well-rounded leader and conscientious decision-maker.

  • Admissions Criteria: No LSAT, GRE or GMAT required for admission
  • Program Length: As little as one year. See sample course schedules.
  • Course Topics: Constitutional law, intellectual property, negotiation, contracts, compliance, legal writing and international business transactions
  • Careers: Paralegal, legal assistant, business executive, health-care administrator, lobbyist and HR director

Students may compare the Master of Legal Studies program with the following degree programs to decide which one best aligns with their career goals:

Juris Doctor (JD)

Although they are both legal degrees, a JD and an MLS are designed for very different career paths. A JD is designed specifically to prepare students to pass the bar exam and become a practicing lawyer, whereas the MLS provides professionals with a comprehensive understanding of the law that can be applied across a variety of industries without having to earn their JD. MLS students in the online program will learn to read and write like a lawyer so that they can better support and interact with lawyers.

  • Admissions Criteria: LSAT scores are required for admission into law school
  • Program Length: Three to four years full time
  • Course Topics: Constitutional law, criminal law, tort law, civil procedure, legal writing, contracts and property law
  • Careers: Practicing lawyer and legal consultant within the private or public sector

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

An MLS and an MBA are similar in that they both equip students with important communication, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that enhance their ability to make effective business decisions and work within teams. An MBA focuses on how these skills can be used alongside economic analysis and strategic management training to prepare students for a career in business. An MLS, in comparison, explores how these skills can be used in a variety of roles that require a legal understanding when handling legal documents, working with contracts or overseeing transactions.

  • Admissions Criteria: GMAT or GRE scores required
  • Program Length: Average of two to three years
  • Course Topics: Economics, accounting, leadership, management, business strategy and marketing
  • Careers: Business operations manager, supply chain manager, financial analyst, information systems manager and marketing director

Master of Public Policy (MPP)

While both an MLS and an MPP prepare students to work with the legal system and deal with public policy, they differ greatly in the scope of their responsibilities. An MPP provides students with the technical skills needed to apply quantitative analysis to help inform those who evaluate or implement policy, whereas an MLS gives students the necessary tools to understand the legislative history and components of a law and utilize legal research to aid the policy-making process.

  • Admissions Criteria: GRE or GMAT scores required
  • Program Length: Average of two to three years
  • Course Topics: Economics, management, policy analysis, statistical analysis, financial modeling and quantitative measurements
  • Careers: City manager, policy director, policy public analyst and public relations consultant

Master of Public Administration (MPA)

An MLS and an MPA are similar in that they both enhance a student’s understanding of the law and promote meaningful engagement in public policy. An MPA prepares future policymakers to create and implement new laws and regulations, while an MLS focuses on how the law and legal procedures are integrated within that process.

  • Admissions Criteria: GRE or GMAT scores required
  • Program Length: Average of two to three years
  • Course Topics: Professional communication, public administration analysis, nonprofit management, public service, human resource management and local government
  • Careers: Urban planner, budget and fiscal manager, community manager, nonprofit manager, and public affairs specialist

Find Out if an MLS Is Right for You

If you want to gain a strong foundation in the law to advance your career, request more information about the online Master of Legal Studies today.