Students seeking an online law and policy doctorate need to be proficient with research, debate and logical reasoning. Law and policy doctoral programs also require long hours of reading legal documents and study in the concepts of economics, political science, and philosophy. PhD courses in the history of law, policy making, organizational leadership, and politics add depth to a student’s background, while connecting theoretical information about policy-making with practical application in the professional world.
To pursue an online PhD in law and policy , students must have completed Master’s Degrees in related fields such as:
- Master’s in Public Administration
- Master’s in Criminal Justice
- Master’s in Management
- Master’s in Business Administration
- Master’s in Social Work
Online law and policy doctoral students come from a variety of career fields such as police officers, social workers, and social services administrators, business management executives and local, state or national government employees.
The top online doctoral programs law and policy offer courses in a wide variety of related topics as well as interactive learning models that simultaneously combine coursework and research under faculty guidance. Students will be required to read, research, and report on their coursework in online class meetings and individual appointments with faculty. After completing coursework, law and policy doctoral candidates take comprehensive exams. The final step of the law and policy online PhD is to prepare a single dissertation, or series of papers highlighting a specific area of research. The best online law and policy PhD programs require two to six years for completion, depending on the student’s course load and full-time or part-time availability.
Coursework for an online PhD in law and policy takes students through economics, jurisprudence, philosophy of law, history of the legal system, and public communication. Core required classes in constitutional law and the federal justice system are the backbone of the doctoral program, with additional courses students elect for specialization. Courses include:
- Constitutional Law: This course is a study of the constitutional rights and foundation of the United States, exploring how policy is shaped by the Constitution and how the federal government is organized around Constitutional amendments.
- Local Government: Students will understand the intersection and distinct functions of the local, state, and federal branches of government as well as private citizens’ impact on legislation through voting practices.
- Health Care Law and Policy: Current public law has a strategic emphasis on health care policy and reform. Students explore the history of health care policy as well as current applications for the nation in areas such as biotechnology, access to treatment, privatization and national health care reform.
- Ethics: Practicing law, policy-making, and defending people’s rights includes handling ethical questions around the environmental, racial, or economic impact of legislation.
- The First Amendment: This course focuses on the creation, policy upkeep, and lawmaking impact of every citizen’s right to First Amendment Constitutional freedoms.
Specializations and Concentrations
Doctoral students in top online law and policy PhD programs may concentrate their studies within U.S. lawmaking in either the public or private arenas. Public law focuses on effective government function and national laws for citizens. Private law and policy addresses contracts, property, business relationships, and organizational legal practices. A concentration in International law and policy offers globally focused policy-making opportunities, such as treaties and commerce practices between nations.
Particular specializations within a law and policy online PhD include:
- Constitutional Law
- Criminal Law
- Labor or Employment Law
- Human Rights Law
- Family/Marriage/Divorce Rights
- Property Law
- Social Security Law
- Protection of Intellectual Property, such as Copyrights or Patent Law
An online doctorate in Law and Policy opens doors to a variety of career choices for graduates.
- Law Professor: An online law and policy PhD can lead to a career teaching university-level courses in law, policy-making, public administration or public service. Professors design curriculum and teach courses, while mentoring students or instructing in research methods. Average annual salaries for law professors are $57,000 with above average growth rates of between 14% and 19% annually.
- Law Enforcement: Police, public security and law enforcement officials provide practical applications of law and policy in local, state and national offices. Law enforcement members have annual salaries averaging $51,400 with supervisors, detectives and criminal investigators earning between $60,000 and $75,000 annually.
- Public Policy Think Tank: Scholars and PhD professionals gather to identify current difficult issues in public life where policy creation or reform is essential, propose solutions and diagnose the impact of those solutions. Members meet with local or national leaders, research and present papers on their findings. Salaries for think tank members range around $62,000 annually.
- Attorneys (Public and Private): Lawyers work as advocates for individuals and organizations, both public and private, to defend rights, make policy changes, or protect the sufficient application of policies in daily life. Attorneys earn an average of $113,200 annually with advanced degrees. Annual growth of the field is 7% to 13%.
A completed PhD from an online school in law and policy is a useful step to a public or private legal career, giving a candidate an employment or salary advantage in positions that require practical policy-making training, leadership, or a legal background.