Whether you’re looking to start a law degree that minimizes human proximity because of COVID-19, or just want one that can be done at least partly from the comfort of your own home, this ranking of the cheapest hybrid online JD degree programs will get you started. Because these degrees have a lot of flexibility regarding how many credits you can take and when you can take them, we decided to use the full tuition cost of each program instead of breaking it down into a per-year cost.
It’s also important to note that the cost listed here is just the tuition. It doesn’t include additional fees for food or accommodation during the residential periods of each program, and it doesn’t include costs of travel either. So make sure you confirm the full cost of the program with the admissions office and estimate your own costs of travel, etc. to avoid any surprises. You may be wondering why there aren’t any fully online JD programs in our ranking. The short answer to that is that they don’t exist. You can find a more in-depth answer in the FAQ.
Top 5 Hybrid Online JD Programs
#1. University of New Hampshire
This online hybrid JD program is focused on intellectual property, technology, and information law. The program is designed to be delivered primarily online with a minimal number of in-person sessions necessary for ABA accreditation. The 10-semester, year-round program can be completed in as little as 3.5 years. Each term requires an in-person session. There are two sessions in the fall, one in the spring, and one in the summer. Each in-person session is 3-5 days long.
- Tuition: $126,000
#2. University of Dayton
This online/on-campus hybrid program delivers most coursework online through live, face-to-face sessions, interactive video classes, and self-paced work, supplemented by 10 in-person learning sessions on-campus. The interactive video classes are discussion based and use the socratic method. The program is ABA-accredited and prepares you to sit for the bar exam in most states. 89% of graduates pass the bar on their first attempt.
- Tuition: $135,000
#3. Mitchell | Hamline School of Law
Mitchell | Hamline School of Law is located in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It is a private, stand-alone law school that is not part of any greater university. Mitchell | Hamline was the first law school to be approved by the American Bar Association to offer a fully accredited hybrid online/on-campus JD. For the first four semesters, the programs are offered one third online and two thirds in person. In semesters 5-8, students have more flexibility in their choice of fully online, blended, or in-person formats. In the blended format for semesters 5-8, students must attend a capstone week for their classes.
- Tuition: $144,540
#4. University of Denver
One-third of this hybrid online JD program can be completed online. The online portion is self-paced and can be completed on your schedule. It utilizes message boards, interactive exercises, and assessments. Classroom interaction takes place every other weekend, so it’s probably necessary to be local for this particular hybrid online JD program. For students who can only attend on weekends, they’ll have to choose one of the focused tracks in corporate/business, intellectual property law, public interest, or criminal law practice.
- Tuition: $157,770
#5. Syracuse University
The online hybrid JD program from the University of Syracuse combines real-time live online classes with self-paced and on-campus courses. The University of Syracuse is the highest ranking law school to offer an online program. The program can be completed in three years and three months. It appears from the description that most of the coursework is online with residencies twice a year for in-person skill-building experiences and peer work. The first four residencies are one week long, and the last two are between three and five days.
- Tuition: $173,250
Why are there no fully online JD programs in your ranking?
There are no fully online JD programs that are accredited by the American Bar Association. Why is American Bar Association accreditation important? The ABA accreditation process ensures that each of its accredited law degrees are up to its high standard of quality. Plus, the ABA does not accredit fully online JD programs because schools are still figuring out how to offer fully online programs that can meet these high standards.
Prospective students should beware of any institution claiming to offer fully online JD programs currently. These institutions usually use vague language to describe their degrees but the reality is, if you want to be a lawyer, do not opt for the fully online JD programs you may see advertised. They are not ABA-accredited (even if the law school that offers them is ABA accredited, the fully online JD will not be, and many of these schools fail to make that distinction and its implications clear).
If you don’t want to take the bar exam, and you don’t want to be a lawyer, but are just looking to work in law-related fields, these degrees might be helpful. But many employers do not currently know what these degrees are, what benefits they confer, or what it is they qualify the degree holders to do. Therefore, they tend to avoid hiring them. If you look, you can find news stories about people who entered these degree programs and spent tens of thousands of dollars and then ended up not being able to do anything with the degree once they graduated.
The degrees in our ranking are not fully online, but they are partially online. These are the most convenient JD programs with an online aspect that you can find. And they are ABA-accredited.
Why are law degrees so expensive?
There are a few reasons. One is that the legal profession is one in which you can earn a lot of money, so schools expect you to invest a lot up-front for the training required. Law degrees also have more credits than most graduate degrees. So while the per-credit cost of a high-level law school might be similar to the cost of a high-level MBA program, you are taking 30-60 more credits than the MBA requires, which increases the overall expense of the program. Law degrees do tend to have a high return on investment, especially if you go into one of the higher-paying areas of practice.
Ok, that makes sense, but how am I supposed to pay for this degree?
There are scholarships, and you may be able to get a job as a TA with the university, which might give a tuition discount. There is at least some financial aid available for law students. But the reality is most law students either pay much of their tuition out-of-pocket up-front or take out a lot of student loans. Student loans should be readily available though, as lawyers are a pretty low financial risk for lenders.
You might be able to get tuition assistance from your employer as well. While many people do their undergraduate majors in philosophy or political science or other majors in order to prepare for law school, this isn’t strictly necessary. If you’re working on your undergrad right now consider majoring in something like business or another major that has high earning potential so you can pay for more of your degree out of pocket than you might be able to with another degree.
How do I know if an online hybrid program is right for me?
Each of the hybrid programs here, as you can see, vary in their requirements. Some require a frequent presence on campus, despite integrating online elements into the course schedule. You’ll need to be reasonably close to campus for these programs. Others require fewer visits to campus, (once or twice per semester for a few days to a week at a time). But all of them do require some on-campus presence throughout the course of the degree. This means that costs can be greatly increased if you don’t live within a reasonable distance from the campus.
What constitutes reasonable will be up to you, as everyone’s life has different demands. Some folks may not have a problem flying across the country every few months to attend the sessions. For others, driving three or more hours there and back once or twice a semester may be too much. In the end, an in-person degree may be better for you than a hybrid online degree. The only person that can make that decision is you.
How’s the job outlook and earning potential for lawyers? Will I get a return on my investment?
This all depends on what area of law you practice. Some areas pay incredibly well, others pay less well but still pretty good. Public defenders and prosecutors tend to be overworked and earn the least. Let’s take a look at the earnings for lawyers working in the most common areas of practice, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Keep in mind these are the median salaries for these areas, so half make more, and half make less.
- Federal Government: $152,220
- Legal Services: $126,660
- Local Government: $99,900
- State government: $91,450
Here are some other notes. Lawyers that own their own practices tend to make less than those working for law firms or businesses. Most lawyers work more than 40 hours per week. Lawyers with their own practice tend to work the most hours. The lowest-paid 10 percent of lawyers make under $61,490 per year. The highest-paid 10 percent of lawyers make more than $208,000 per year. There are about 813,000 lawyers in the United States. The job growth rate of the industry is projected to grow about as fast as is average at a rate of 4% between 2019 and 2029, adding a total of 32,300 jobs to the job market during that time.
These facts and figures were sourced from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
All tuition information was sourced from each program’s website.