The 2021 Guide to Online Master of Legal Studies in Compliance Programs

Do you want to keep businesses on the right side of the law and help them thrive in an increasingly regulated global market? If the answer is yes, then a career in compliance might be a fit for you. 

Obtaining the appropriate training can help get you there. There are numerous online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) programs with a concentration in compliance.

On this page, we’ll explain what an online MLS degree in compliance is and how it can lead to a career in a variety of industries and settings.


Fordham Law's Online Master of Studies in Law in Corporate Compliance

  • GRE, GMAT, and LSAT scores not required to apply
  • Complete in as few as 12 months
  • Professionals who have earned a J.D., LL.B., or other law degree not eligible
Discover Fordham Law's Online MSL

What is Compliance and Risk Management?

Before jumping into the master’s in MLS itself, let’s define a few key terms:

  • Compliance. The definition of compliance can be understood as businesses adhering to established industry guidelines. For example, manufacturing compliance might involve ensuring that products meet accepted standards.
  • Risk Management. What is risk management? In a business sense, it’s the process of identifying and controlling threats to an organization’s capital. These risks can come from a number of sources—including financial uncertainty, accidents, natural disasters, and legal liability.

Why Earn a Master’s in Legal Studies in Compliance Online?

There are many benefits associated with online legal degrees in compliance. A big one is flexibility. With many courses available part-time, you can comfortably balance study and work. And for candidates craving a more interactive learning experience, some online courses offer weekly scheduled classes. You’ll typically need a microphone, webcam and video conferencing software installed on your laptop, to be able to participate in these sessions. Others offer live, in-person classes on weekends.

How Long is an Online MLS in Compliance Program?

The length of an online MLS in compliance varies by institution, and whether you decide to study part-time or full-time. On average, a full-time option takes twelve months to complete—about the same time as a general MLS degree. A part-time option takes longer, with many colleges recommending that working professionals take 24 months to complete their MLS in compliance. 

Online MLS in Compliance Admissions Requirements

Though the specifics depend on the university, many online MLS degrees in compliance have similar admissions requirements. They include:

  • Bachelor’s degree. Since it is a master’s degree, the MLS in compliance requires candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution—with some expecting a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0.
  • A resume and personal statement. Like practically all postgraduate degree programs, online MLS in compliance programs require candidates to submit a resume and short personal statement describing why they’re interested in studying compliance law.
  • Academic transcript. All candidates must submit a copy of their academic transcript to their postgraduate institution of choice.
  • Letters of recommendation. Most courses require students to submit (at least) two letters of recommendation with their applications. They typically come from academics who taught you during your undergraduate years or professional contacts.
  • Proficiency in English. If you’re an international student and English is not your native language, you must demonstrate your proficiency in the language via a TOEFL or similar test.
  • No LSAT Requirement. Unlike Juris Doctor (JD) degrees, you can apply to an online MLS in compliance program without first taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).
  • No J.D. Required. Unlike LL.M. degrees, an online MLS in compliance can be taken without first completing a J.D. However, it does not qualify you to sit for the bar exam.

Online Compliance Degree Programs That Don’t Require the GRE

In addition to having no LSAT requirement, many colleges offer online MLS in compliance programs with no GRE requirement. Here is a list of some of the available programs:

Institution Program Name Location
American University, Washington College of Law
Master of Legal Studies Online from AUWCL Washington, DC
Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law Online Master of Legal Studies from ASU Tempe, AZ
University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado Law Master of Studies in Law – Ethics and Compliance from Colorado Law Boulder, CO
Drexel University Online Master of Legal Studies from Drexel University’s Kline School of Law Philadelphia, PA
Fordham University, School of Law
Online Master of Studies in Law in Corporate Compliance from Fordham Law New York, NY
Oklahoma City University Online Master of Legal Studies from OCU School of Law Oklahoma City, OK
Pepperdine University
Online Master of Legal Studies from Pepperdine Caruso School of Law Malibu, CA
University of Southern California Online MSL from USC Gould School of Law Los Angeles, CA
Regent University Online Master of Arts in Law-General Legal Studies from Regent University School of Law Virginia Beach, VA
Seattle University Master of Legal Studies- Compliance and Risk Management track from Seattle University School of Law Seattle, WA
University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law Master of Legal Studies from Utah Law Salt Lake City, UT
Washington University in St. Louis, School of Law
Online Master of Legal Studies from WashULaw St Louis, MO

Online Master’s Degree in Legal Studies Compliance Curriculum

Though they naturally focus on compliance, MLS in compliance courses cover a range of other topics. 

  • General Courses. These courses introduce students to the fundamentals of law. You’ll likely cover the courts and how they work, get comfortable with legal terminology, and explore different types of law—property, contracts, and tort.
  • Concentration Courses. These courses delve deep into compliance. Some programs offer specialized medical courses (e.g. on compliance and health care fraud). Others focus on financial compliance in the banking and financial sectors.
  • Elective Courses. Broadening your understanding of law in general, these courses explore areas beyond compliance—from cyber law and litigation to big data and criminal justice.

And if you ultimately decide compliance is no longer of interest to you, you can always switch to another specialization—for example, an online master’s in tax law.

Compliance Salary and Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for compliance officers was $69,050 in May 2019. The BLS also reports that employment of compliance officers is expected to grow 6% from 2018-2028—about as fast as the American economy in general.

If you decide you want to become a compliance officer, be sure to conduct research earning potential in your area. Pay will vary by location, industry, employer and other factors.

With the knowledge and skills gained from a master’s in compliance program, graduates can go on to become compliance professionals in government, the legal field, the health care sector, the entertainment industry, and a range of other settings. Examine program options closely to determine which one best fits your needs and will help you to reach your career goals.


Last Updated: August 2020