Master of Public Administration vs. Master of Legal Studies

When deciding a career path, it is important for professionals to consider which degree can equip them with the necessary skills that align with their goals. Both a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) and Master of Public Administration (MPA) can prepare students to develop their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, serve society, and improve social conditions.

While the degrees differ greatly in the kinds of courses offered, they’re both beneficial for professionals who are interested in careers in public or nonprofit sectors. An MPA program will focus on administration, management, and policy implementation to drive initiatives. On the other hand, in an MLS program, you will gain legal expertise and an understanding of how law shapes policy.

Master of Public Administration

While MPA programs can vary, they typically focus on helping students become more effective leaders, decision-makers, and communicators. MPA students can expect to:

  • Take courses in policy analysis, public administration, human resources management, local government, public budgeting, and other administrative topics.
  • Prepare for roles in public and nonprofit sectors as policy analysts, government employees, or nonprofit leaders.
  • Be required to submit standardized test scores, such as from the GMAT or GRE, as part of the application process.
  • Graduate in an average of 18 to 36 months.

Master of Legal Studies

An MLS curriculum prepares students to be well versed in various legal topics to help their organizations make strategic decisions, ensure compliance with the law, and remain informed about new legislation. In Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s online Master of Legal Studies program, students will:

  • Take courses in constitutional law, civil procedure, business law, employment law, and other legal topics. Additionally, you can select the optional concentration in dispute resolution to improve your ability to manage conflict, effectively solve challenges, and negotiate for your organization’s best outcome.
  • Pursue work within public or private sectors in law-adjacent fields including public policy, advocacy, social work, regulatory agencies, and government relations.
  • Apply to the program without having to submit GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or other standardized test scores.
  • Graduate in 16 months if taking a full-time course load or 28 months if taking a part-time course load. See sample course schedules.