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Our Master of Studies in Law (MSL) degree programs offer professionals an unparalleled education to better understand complex legal matters. Through the MSL, you will gain essential legal skills that expand your expertise and enhance your credibility.

This master’s degree provides legal education for non-lawyer professionals to reach a variety of career goals. Graduates will not be trained to practice law or take the bar exam.

Degree Outcomes

  • Acquire practical knowledge in the theories, history and application of American law
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the U.S. legal system, government, historical context and foundational values
  • Develop fluency in advanced legal terminology through exposure to substantive texts, cases, statutes and memoranda
  • Demonstrate an ability to use legal authority and perform legal analysis

MSL Program Options

Master of Studies in Law (MSL) - On Campus

Our on-campus MSL degree is offered completely in residence at our USC University Park campus in Los Angles. 

Format: Full-Time | Part-Time | On-Campus
Eligibility: Bachelor’s Degree
Start: Fall | Spring 

Master of Studies in Law (MSL) - Online

Our online MSL degree is taught in a 100% digital environment that combines self-paced (asynchronous) and real-time (synchronous) components. 

Format: Part-Time | Online 
Eligibility: Bachelor’s Degree 
Start: Fall | Spring | Summer 

Interested? Learn more.

Receive more information about our MSL degree and get notified about upcoming events.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Master of Studies in Law (MSL) degree? toggle arrow icon

An MSL degree is a master’s degree for those who want to learn the law, but don’t want to become lawyers. No prior law experience or degree is required; only a bachelor’s degree is needed to apply.

You may deal with contracts, negotiations, strategy or compliance at work, or perhaps you work closely with your legal department. The MSL degree will give you a working knowledge of the law to amplify your career impact in every field.

Across different academic institutions in the field of law, the MSL degree may go by a number of names, including:

  • Master of Studies in Law (MSL)
  • Master of Legal Studies (MLS)
  • Master of Science of Law (MSL)
  • Juris Master (JM)
  • Master of Jurisprudence (MJ)
How is an MSL different from a JD? toggle arrow icon

The primary differentiator between the programs is the associated professional goal:

  • Do you want to become a lawyer?
    The JD program is best.
  • Do you regularly need to reference the law and understand legal regulations, even though you don’t want to become a lawyer?
    The MSL is the right choice.

The MSL allows you to advance your career through immediately impactful legal knowledge and study while continuing on your current career trajectory in your specific industry. The MSL should not be viewed as a preparatory program for a JD.

Additionally, the JD program requires approximately 3 years of full-time study. MSL degrees can be earned in as few as 12 to 18 months. It is important to note that only JD graduates may pursue eligibility to take the bar exam. MSL graduates are not eligible to take the bar exam upon graduation or become lawyers.

What can I do with an MSL? toggle arrow icon

The MSL degree enables graduates to redefine their role with a more thorough understanding of the law and how it impacts their industry and organization. MSL degrees are not job-specific and can apply to a variety of career goals.

Below are some of the most common titles held by our graduates:

  • Business Analyst
  • Clearance Supervisor
  • Compliance Director
  • Contracts Officer
  • Corporate Executive
  • Court Administrator
  • Criminal Investigations Sergeant
  • Entrepreneur
  • Health Care Administrator
  • HR Director
  • Nursing Supervisor
  • Paralegal or Legal Assistant
  • Senior Accountant
  • Social Worker

Additionally, our students enroll from a variety of industries, including:

  • Banking
  • Business/Finance
  • Entertainment
  • Government and
  • Policy
  • Health Care
  • Higher Education
  • Human Resources
  • Intellectual Property
  • Journalism
  • Law Enforcement
Will the MSL prepare me for a JD? toggle arrow icon

No. The MSL program does not prepare students for a JD, but rather for applying the law to their industry and professional growth. We recommend that students who are interested in preparing for a JD program study for the LSAT and gain legal work experience.

Can I take the Bar Exam with my MSL degree? toggle arrow icon

MSL degree and certificate programs do not qualify students to sit for the bar exam or become licensed attorneys. Students who intend to practice law should pursue a JD degree.

How many classes do I need to take each semester? toggle arrow icon

Students needing financial aid (student loans) are required to take 4 units per semester. Online MSL students may enroll in 2-3 classes (4-6 units) per semester. Full-time on-campus MSL students may enroll in 3-4 classes (8 units or more) per semester.

How much time do I need for this program? toggle arrow icon

Online MSL students may earn their degree in few as 16 months. Students enrolled in the on-campus program can complete their program in either 9 months (full-time) or 16 months (part-time).

What GPA do I need for this program? toggle arrow icon

Strong applicants have earned bachelor’s degrees with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 (based on a 4.0 grading scale). Our Admissions Committee evaluates all parts of each application, and will take other factors into consideration along with each applicant’s GPA. We seek applicants whose academic background, professional aspirations, personal commitment and communication skills meet the demands of a rigorous legal master’s degree program.

Can I study online full-time and finish faster? toggle arrow icon

Unfortunately, no. All Online MSL students are part-time students. If you would like to pursue the degree full-time, our on-campus MSL offers classes scheduled in the afternoons and evenings to benefit working professionals.

What is the difference between on campus and online courses? toggle arrow icon

Our master’s degree coursework offers professionals in any industry an unparalleled education to help better understand complex legal matters, both online and on campus. Required courses are similar, but industry-specific specializations and electives will differ for the online and on-campus degrees. Consider your learning style and preferences, time management and scheduling, and costs when deciding which option is best for you.

Do you offer industry-specific tracks? toggle arrow icon

The USC Gould MSL program offers industry-specific certificates for our on-campus and online students to tailor their curriculum to meet their individual goals. Enrolled students will take the required general MSL courses and may choose a certificate ‘track’ with elective courses aligned with each industry-specific certificate. Learn more.


  • MSL (General)
  • MSL with Compliance Certificate
  • MSL with Health Care Compliance Certificate
  • MSL with Business Law Certificate
  • MSL with Human Resources Law and Compliance Certificate
  • MSL with Financial Compliance Certificate
  • MSL with Entertainment Industry and Law Certificate
  • MSL with Law and Government Certificate
  • MSL with Privacy Law and Cybersecurity Certificate
  • MSL with Real Estate Law Certificate
  • MSL with Social Work Administration Certificate
  • MSL with Technology and Entrepreneurship Law Certificate

On Campus:

  • MSL (General)
  • MSL with Business Law Certificate
  • MSL with Compliance Certificate
  • MSL with Law, Social Justice and Diversity Certificate
Will my company help pay my tuition? toggle arrow icon

USC Gould partners with a number of corporations and organizations that offer education tuition assistance as an employee benefit. To see if your business is a partner or explore how to speak to your company about corporate sponsorship, please reach out to [email protected].

How do I apply for scholarship? toggle arrow icon

USC Gould considers all applications for scholarship automatically. An additional application is not required. Applicants will be notified via email if they are awarded a scholarship after admission.

Can I transfer courses from another university? toggle arrow icon

Courses used toward a degree or a certificate completed at another university may not be applied toward a master’s degree at USC. If USC courses were not used toward a completed degree or a certificate, a maximum of five units may be transferred to our MSL degree. Still have questions? Reach out to one of our admissions advisors at [email protected].

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