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Master of Arts in Legal Studies




Program Description

The Master of Arts in Legal Studies degree program seeks to expand students’ academic and professional development by providing a solid foundation in legal doctrine and concepts, while expounding on students’ ability to identify and analyze legal issues within the workplace environment. It is designed for students who are not interested in practicing law, but who wish to develop a better understanding of the law as it affects their legal and non-legal careers, interdisciplinary research, or other areas of interest. The program prepares its graduates to pursue career opportunities in law and law-related fields, government, business, or as a background for further graduate study.

**NOTE: This program does not prepare students for the practice of law. Graduates of this program are not eligible for admission to the Bar of any state based solely on their completion of this program, although some states do not require a Juris Doctor degree for Bar entry.

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Program Objectives

In addition to the institutional and degree level learning outcomes objectives, the Master of Arts in Legal Studies seeks the following specific learning outcomes of its graduates. Graduates in this degree program will be able to:

  • Analyze the constitutional, juridical, philosophical, and ethical perspectives of the law.
  • Generate analytical and critical thinking in legal writing.
  • Evaluate and identify areas and issues needing study and analysis using legal research.
  • Assess the relationship between the social organization of legal institutions and the legal profession in society.
  • Evaluate the complex relation between the law and justice as dictated and mediated by societal conditions and forces.

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The legal studies degree program seeks to expand students’ academic and professional development by providing a solid foundation in legal doctrine and concepts, while expounding on students’ ability to identify and analyze legal issues. It covers major substantive areas of legal study and approaches the law from a wide variety of methodological perspectives. The program encompasses a Certificate in Paralegal Studies, an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies, a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies, and a Master of Arts in Legal Studies. The program prepares students to pursue career opportunities in law, law-related fields, government, business, and serves as a background for further graduate study.

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Useful Skills within the Legal Studies Field

Decision Making - Weighing out the options in a situation or a problem and logically choosing the best course of action.

- Paying attention to what other people are saying, and taking time to understand the points being made.

Managing Time
- Allocating and budgeting your time for different tasks so that things get done when needed.

- Bringing people together to discuss and resolve differences.

- Persuading, encouraging, and motivating others to accept your ideas.

Reading Comprehension
- Ability to understand complex written paragraphs, instructions, or reports.

- Using logic to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

- Talking, giving speeches, or speaking in a group to convey information, explain ideas, or give instructions.

Writing and Authoring
- Composing and communicating your ideas in written form.

Problem Solving
- Ability to identify a problem, review related information, develop and evaluate options, and implement a solution.

Social Perceptiveness
- Being aware of the reactions of others, and understanding why they react the way they do.

Must-Know Information

A logical next step for many legal studies students is law school. While the admission process for every law school is different, all require completion of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT is made up of a total of six sections: five sections of multiple-choice questions and one section with a writing sample. For more information on law school and the LSAT, check out the Law School Admission Council’s (LSAC) website

It is important to note that APUS’s legal studies program does not prepare students for the practice of law. Graduates are not eligible for admission to the Bar of any state based solely on their completion of this program, although some states do not require a Juris Doctor degree for Bar entry.


Career Options

To identify what education or training is typical for careers within the legal studies field, use the O*Net hyperlinks below and click on “Job Zone.” In addition, seek out the advice of fellow students and alumni working in the industry in our mentoring program on The Quad (for current students and alumni only) or speak with a career coach. 

As with all majors, the education you receive serves as a foundation of knowledge that prepares you for what you may face in the professional world. The career field you chose may require additional education or experience.

Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators, and Hearing Officers
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators
Compliance Managers
Court Clerks
Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates
Judicial Law Clerks
Law Teachers, Postsecondary
Legal Secretaries
Legal Support Workers, All Other
Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Getting Started: Internships

Gaining real-life experience is an ideal way to start a new career. The career services website has an extensive list of internships and fellowships. Browse through the internships; they are organized by interest or by federal program. 

There are government-organized internship programs which provide students or recent graduates the opportunity to gain real-life experience. Many require students to maintain either a half-time or full-time student status. The best ways to identify potential opportunities such as these is to contact branch offices directly, to search, or to look at the agencies’ career portals. Keep in mind that these positions are not always posted online, so direct contact with the agency is key. 

The Pathways Program is a federal initiative that offers internship programs for current students as well as training and career development opportunities for recent graduates. Recent graduates must apply within two years of degree or certificate completion (except for veterans; due to their military service obligation, they have up to six years to apply). The internship program for current students replaces the former Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) and Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).

The Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF)
PMF is designed to attract outstanding federal service members from a wide variety of academic disciplines who have a clear interest in, and commitment to, a career in the analysis and management of public policies and programs. To be eligible, an individual must be a graduate student completing or expected to complete, during the current academic year, an advanced degree. Graduate students who have had their degree conferred in the preceding two years from the opening of the vacancy announcement are also eligible for PMF.

The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP)
WRP is coordinated by the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Defense, and aims to provide summer work experience and, in some cases, full-time employment to college students with disabilities. The program develops partnerships with other federal agencies, each of which makes a commitment to provide summer jobs and a staff recruiter. Each year, recruiters interview about 1,500 students with disabilities at college and university campuses across the nation and develop a database listing the qualifications of each student.

Getting Hired: Government Agencies, Organizations, and Search Engines

There are several government agencies and organizations that seek candidates with degrees in legal studies. The list below provides some examples of those federal agencies. Each position within the federal government is classified under a series of numbers. For example, the “Legal and Kindred Group” is within the 0900 series. You can narrow down the exact series number based on your interests and search for it on across hundreds of federal agencies. Click here to see a list of federal positions by major.

Department of Defense
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Justice
Department of Labor

Department of the Treasury
Federal Trade Commission
Internal Revenue Service
Offices of the U.S. Attorneys

While many of the major job search engines will have positions in several fields to choose from, the list below is specific to the legal studies field.

The Association for Legal Career Professionals (NALP) Job Directory


Keeping Current: Professional Organizations and Associations

Involvement in professional organizations is a great way to stay up-to-date on new technology, tools, and best practices in your field. Professional organizations are also a great networking opportunity. Below are a few professional organizations you may be interested in as a legal studies major. 

American Bar Association
International Association of Young Lawyers
International Lawyers Associations
The Law and Society Association (LSA)
Trial Lawyers Associations
United States Lawyers Associations

Conferences and Expositions
Get Connected: Social Media

Legal Studies Program – Facebook
Legal Studies Program – LinkedIn
NALP (The Association for Legal Career Professionals) Group – LinkedIn

Quick Links

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Core Requirements
24 Hours
Criminal Law
3 hours

This course is an advanced theory and practice of criminal law in the United States. The history, scope, and nature of criminal law will be discussed. This course will analyze the general nature of crime, constitutional limits on crime, and general principals of criminal liability. Topics include: legal language and machinery, parties to crime, classification of offenses, act and intent, capacity to commit crime, and various defenses. Primary emphasis will be the common law and modern statutory criminal codes. Students are provided knowledge of the building blocks of criminal law to include elements of crimes and defenses to criminal charges. The role of the police, criminal courts, and attorneys in the administration of the criminal justice system will be discussed in detail. The course will teach the student how to analyze and brief criminal cases and identify and discuss criminal issues. An overview of the criminal process and rules of evidence will be provided. This course focuses on the fundamental principles, concepts, and development of criminal law and the constitutional provisions which govern it. The course further discusses the relationship of the individual to the state and includes an examination of the general framework of criminal law as a means of social control.

Criminal Justice Process
3 hours

This course addresses the specific constitutional rights, including the fourth, fifth and sixth amendments as those that have a direct impact on the defendant and prosecution in the judicial process. The course will review issues of the pre-arrest stage to post conviction remedies, as well as the procedural laws in the criminal justice process and their limits. The parameters of these limits will be analyzed by studying various court decisions.

Methods of Legal Research and Writing I
3 hours

Part one of this graduate level two-part intensive legal writing program is designed to develop students’ research and writing skills. Students will learn and practice the skills necessary for identifying, locating, and using legal resources, including primary sources of administrative, statutory, and case law; secondary authority; and research reference tools, to include computer research tools, commonly used in the practice of law. Students will also explore the process of legal analysis, incorporating the results of their legal research into correspondence, case briefs, legal memoranda, and motions.

Methods of Legal Research and Writing II
3 hours

Part two of a two-part graduate level intensive legal writing program is designed to develop students’ research and writing skills. Students will further develop their research, legal analytical, and writing, with emphasis on logical reasoning and clear, concise, and convincing writing. Students will complete several legal writing assignments, which will synthesize research, analytical, and technical writing skills. (PREREQUISITE: LSTD504 Methods of Legal Research and Writing I).

Pre Reqs: Methods of Legal Research and Writing I(LSTD504)

Property Law
3 hours

This graduate course is an introduction to real property concepts. The course surveys present and future estates in land, ownership, and concurrent ownership. Leasehold interests, gifts and bequests, covenants and servitudes, conveyancing, various land use restrictions, and eminent domain are also considered.

Contract Law
3 hours

This graduate course is designed to introduce students to the concepts and sources of contract law. This course evaluates the various components of a legally binding agreement or promise and surveys the major issues affecting such enforceable agreements. Students will examine what constitutes breach of contract and the remedies available. The role of contracts in the commercial arena and in society will also be analyzed.

Tort Law
3 hours

This graduate course will focus on the fundamental principles, concepts, and development of tort and personal injury law, while combining theoretical and practical applications of such principles and concepts. The course presents an overview of the substantive law governing compensation for injuries to property and to the person. Specific areas of study include negligence and defenses to negligence; products liability and strict liability; negligent infliction of emotional distress; injury to property; tort immunities and tort investigations. Students will examine the analytical process used both to understand court opinions and hypothetical problems in this area of the law. The course highlights the public policy objectives and social forces behind the development of tort and personal injury legislation.

Constitutional Law
3 hours

This course provides the student with a theoretical foundation in Constitutional law. The Constitution divides power. In particular, it apportions authority along three main dimensions: between the state and federal governments; among the branches of the federal government; and between, on the one hand, all levels of government and, on the other hand, individuals. The vast majority of live constitutional questions concern a conflict along one or more of these axes. Students will study issues of policy, principle, philosophy, and constitutional implications by focusing on construction and application. This graduate course will explore advanced principles, doctrines and controversies regarding the structure of and division of powers in American government. Specific topics include judicial review, jurisdiction, standing to sue, federalism, federal and state powers and immunities, the separation of powers among the branches of the federal government, the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause.

Major Requirements
6 Hours
Legal & Ethical Issues in Management
3 hours

This course examines the area of business law and applies it to the business environment. Traditional topics covered include: the legal environment of business, contract law, property, sales contracts, commercial paper, agency law, ethics and the regulatory environment. The course also examines the issue of the global economy from the view that the largest companies dominate in the creation of jobs and technological innovation.

Nonprofit Law, Governance, and Ethics
3 hours

A survey of the legal structure that defines and regulates the nonprofit sector and an examination of fundamental governance issues in nonprofit corporations. The focus of the course is on the board of directors (trustees) and the executive director and their fiduciary responsibilities established both by law and by the moral imperatives from actions on behalf of the public interest.

Emergency Management and Public Law
3 hours

This course identifies the public law, regulation, and associated policy that facilitates and in some cases restricts emergency management planning, recovery, and relief. Topics include national, state, and local issues and examples of public law. The course also covers issues associated with intergovernmental (fire, police, EMS, emergency management, military, etc.) action in emergencies as such action relates to regulation or public law.

Ethics and Legal Issues in Online Learning
3 hours

This course will focus on the issue of ownership of certain types of intellectual property on the internet, which has become a critical issue with emerging Web 2.0 technologies becoming so prevalent in our schools and culture. In this course online, face-to-face, and hybrid educators, or candidates, will learn about the different types of potential copyright infringement and its implication for course development. There will be an attempt to dispel the common notion that since material is readily available on the internet, it is now public domain and is free from copyright concerns. (Candidates in the M. Ed. Teaching-Concentration in Secondary Social Studies program must take the 16-week course version per the West Virginia Board of Education-no exceptions.)

Education Law, Ethics, and Politics
3 hours

This course explores legal, ethical, and political issues governing K-16 education in America and the legal responsibilities, powers of state, and local governing bodies that arise in elementary and secondary schools. Topics include confidentiality, testing, liability for student injury, due process, search and seizure, staff appraisal, employment discrimination, church/state conflicts, control over the curriculum, the expression of controversial views, issues related to the financing and adequacy of state school finance plans, and the schools' authority to make rules governing student and teacher conduct. Issues surrounding in-school and in-district politics will also be discussed. Contracts, dismissals, tenure, retirement, liability of personnel and district, school district boundary changes, and bonding are also explored. Emphasis is given to federal and state statutes and case law affecting due process, liability, equal protection, and the rights of teachers and students in order to better understand the risks in education management and possible strategies to reduce those risks. (Prerequisite: EDUC503)

Environmental Policy, Regulation, and Law
3 hours

This course is a study of the major legal, regulatory, and policy framework that encompasses environmental programs and projects in the United States and with international political, commercial, and non-governmental institutions. The primary learning approach used in this course will be case studies.

Employment Law and Labor Relations
3 hours

This course is a conceptual and functional analysis of the legal framework and principles of employment law, with emphasis on discrimination in the workplace. Primary topics include the employment relationship; discrimination based on race, gender, age, national origin, religion, and disability; sexual harassment; affinity orientation; testing and performance appraisal; labor/management issues; privacy; health, safety, worker's compensation, and employee benefits. Issues are addressed from a management perspective so that students understand how to manage efficiently with a full understanding of the legal ramifications of their decisions. Students are shown how to analyze employment law facts so that they can arrive at good management decisions based on relevant legal considerations.

International Law
3 hours

The course is designed to introduce students to the concepts and sources of international law that evaluate the various components, processes, and functions of the international legal process and consider how international law impacts the laws within the United States. Additionally, the current state of the international legal order is reviewed with legal opinions regarding major philosophies, components and current practices and problems of the field of international law.

Immigration Law
3 hours

This graduate course focuses on the procedural and substantive law surrounding immigration. Emphasis is given to legal changes enacted in the field since September 11, 2001, as well as current events. It provides students with the background, processes, and tools necessary for a working knowledge of immigration issues. Important topics such as immigrant status, citizenship, refugees, and asylum seekers will be explored. Students will analyze immigration law and policy.

Media Law
3 hours

This graduate course focuses on the procedural and substantive law that influences the media field. Recent developments in this area will be addressed. Emphasis is given to constitutional issues such as privacy and freedom of speech, as well as regulation of the industry and intellectual property rights. It provides students with an overview of problems affecting speech across the print, broadcast, cable and Internet media. Important topics such as defamation, invasion of privacy, copyright and the Freedom of Information act will also be explored.

Admiralty Law
3 hours

Ships carry 90 percent of the world’s 5.1 billion tons per year of international trade. In addition, coastwise shipping between US ports transports over one billion tons of cargo annually. This massive international and domestic trade includes a U.S.-flag cargo fleet made up of more than 40,000 vessels that represent over $48 billion in private investment. To facilitate this commerce, federal courts and Congress have created a comprehensive body of uniform admiralty law that governs navigation and shipping. This course will examine that body of law. Topics will include jurisdiction, maritime liens, charter parties, bills of lading, remedies for injury and wrongful death, sovereign immunity, collisions, limitations on liability, and salvage.

Homeland Security and the Law
3 hours

This course is provides an understanding of the structure of homeland security law and policy. This course will familiarize students with the extensive and complex legal codes that come under the heading of Homeland Security. The course will cover statutes, policy papers, presidential directives, and other documents related to homeland security allowing for an in-depth examination of the foundations of homeland security. The course will provide the student with important legal guidance allowing the student to accurately interpret, understand, and apply homeland security law and policy. The course provides a detailed overview of the subject of homeland security and includes definitions of homeland security, terrorism, the related law, and its development. The course discusses homeland security in other countries as well i.e. Europe, China, Japan.

Law, Ethics and Cybersecurity
3 hours

This course focuses on the ways that law, ethics and cybersecurity overlap and intersect. Besides laws related to cybersecurity, the course examines laws related to intellectual property, civil litigation, criminal prosecutions, and privacy. This examination will provide the means to identify and analyze the policies reflected in those laws. Those policies could guide the creation of policies on a business-level, using qualitative risk assessment and planning. An exploration of ethics and cybersecurity, as well as of workplace ethics, will involve the use of an ethical framework.

The Federal Rules of Evidence
3 hours

This graduate course will examine the rules governing the admission, exclusion, and presentation of evidence in judicial proceedings. The law of evidence governs the proof of facts and the inferences flowing from such facts during the trial of civil and criminal lawsuits. Topics to be covered in this course include relevance; authentication; categorical rules of exclusion; character and habit evidence; witness qualification, competency, and examination; privileges; the “Best Evidence” rule; the hearsay rule and its exceptions; judicial notice; burdens of proof and presumptions; impeachment and rehabilitation of witnesses; and appellate review of evidentiary rulings.

Sports Law
3 hours

This course is an introduction to sports-related legal issues and concepts. Its focus is on providing an overview of the major legal issues associated with sports, sports management, and the sports industry. Students will conduct research, read, and write on issues associated with the sports legal industry. Topics include but are not limited to discrimination, legislation, regulation and rights, competition, contract, labor, tort and trademark law, and administrative, antitrust and constitutional law.

Independent Study: Legal Studies
3 hours

This Independent Study is an opportunity for Legal Studies graduate students to pursue an independent research project under the mentorship and discretion of a faculty member. The course requires a major research paper; there will be no examination. Students will submit a request to take the independent study to the Registrar and will include the name of a faculty with whom they have coordinated. Prior to registering, students should first contact the professor with whom they wish to mentor their independent study, coordinate an agreement on the grading requirements, and then NOTIFY their academic advisor with the name of their professor. The final approval to take the independent study will be made by the Program Director.

Law and Public Policy
3 hours

This course provides an introduction to the law and legal system as it applies to public administration and policy. It covers the interrelation of norms, moral codes and formal laws. The attempt to address social concerns with new laws and regulations has created increased pressure in the courts and legislative chambers. This course examines the sources, influences, operation and consequences of law and public policy formation, and analyzes public policy initiatives from political and legal aspects as to their intentions, achievable aims, and intended and unintended outcomes.

Judicial Politics, Process, and Policy Making
3 hours

This course introduces students to the role of the judiciary in American politics and policymaking and explores the questions asked and the methods employed by political scientists studying courts and the legal system. An equally important objective of this course is to familiarize students with the seminal works in judicial research, with particular emphasis on Supreme Court cases. Students will study the judicial process in the United States from a variety of perspectives in order to examine the role of law and courts in the larger political arena and social environment.

Space Law
3 hours

This course examines space law from its origins at the commencement of space exploration to current day activities, including civilian, commercial and military/governmental issues/rulings. The Outer Space Treaty, Registration Convention, Rescue and Return Agreement, Liability Convention, and the Moon Treaty will be covered in detail, as will several other past, standing and pending legal works. Prereq: SPST500 and SPST501

Pre Reqs: Research Methods in Space Studies(SPST500),Introduction to Space Studies(SPST501)

Final Program Requirement
3 Hours
Legal Studies Capstone
3 hours

Preparation for the Legal Studies Master’s Thesis Seminar begins on day one of a student's graduate program of study. The theories, research methods and analytical skills, and substantive knowledge obtained through their Masters curriculum provide the basis for the Master’s thesis. Students will support the thesis effort, including gathering bibliographic and reference materials on the thesis topic including developing individual course research papers that may become sections of the final Master’s thesis. Students will address the requirements as described in the syllabus and classroom assignments. The Master’s thesis proposal shall be prepared in accordance with the standards of the academic discipline. The Master’s thesis proposal must provide a clear and lucid description of a legal issue and a proposed method of analyzing of the problem. Guidance on the format of the research seminar proposal and a sample proposal are contained in the APUS Thesis Manual. This course may not be taken until all other courses are COMPLETED and student has a 3.0 GPA.

Graduate Electives
3 Hours
Electives are typically courses available at your degree level that are not currently required as a part of your degree program/academic plan. Please visit the catalog to view a complete listing of courses.

Total Credits (36 Hours)
Program Completion Rates, Median Debt and More

View more details regarding our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information.


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