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Frequently Asked Questions

Master of Studies in Law (MSL) - On-Campus

To help you better understand our Master of Studies in Law (MSL) degree, we’ve compiled some answers to your burning questions on the benefits of the MSL degree, the differences from our JD program, common career paths and more.

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

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 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?

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 regulations, read contracts or review legal documents? Then the MSL is the right choice.

With part-time, flexible classes, 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 9 to 16 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?

The MSL degree enables graduates to redefine their roles 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
  • Real Estate
Will the MSL prepare me for a JD?

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 should study for the LSAT and gain legal work experience.

Can I take the Bar Exam with my MSL degree?

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?

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 4-5 classes (8 units or more) per semester.

How much time do I need for this program?

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 12+ months (part-time).

What GPA do I need for this program?

Strong applicants have earned bachelor's degrees with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 (based on a 4.0 grading scale). from a regionally accredited institution. 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?

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 evenings to benefit working professionals.

Can I study online and on-campus for a hybrid option?

Starting Fall 2024, our On Campus MSL will offer a “hybrid” track, where students can enroll in limited coursework online concurrently with their classes on the USC University Park Campus. However, online students are unfortunately not able to enroll in in-person classes due to the differences in academic calendar and financial aid processes.

What is the difference between on campus and online courses?

Our master’s degree coursework offers non-lawyer professionals 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 (see following). 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?

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.


On Campus:

  • MSL (General)
  • MSL with Business Law Certificate
  • MSL with Human Resources Law and Compliance Certificate
  • MSL with Media and Entertainment Law Certificate
Can I earn multiple certificates?

Yes. Each certificate may be earned concurrently with a master’s degree. With strategic course planning you may pursue up to two certificates. Let your academic advisor know your interests and goals so they can help you plan.

I'm pursuing a standalone certificate. Can I earn a master's degree?

Students admitted to our standalone certificate program must apply separately for the degree program if interested in pursuing a master’s degree. Let your academic advisor know your interests, then submit a master’s degree application during your first semester with us.

How do I register for classes?

Each semester, you will confirm your coursework through a registration survey.  Your academic advisor will then register you for your classes.

Will my company help to pay my tuition?

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 a scholarship?

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

Can I transfer credits from another university?

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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