Online PhD in Law and Policy

At the doctoral level, law and policy curriculum provides a thorough grounding in areas such as statistics, research, economics and political theory. Online law and policy PhD students study the relationships that exist between law and the creation and implementation of policy. Coursework is designed to shape students into leaders that can go on to either teach law or create and influence the policies employed in today's political systems. Online doctoral programs in law and policy can take up to five years to complete, but some universities offer accelerated programs that allow students to complete their online law and policy doctorates in two years. Once coursework has been completed, most accredited programs require students to take a comprehensive examination over everything they have learned, after which students write a thorough research project in the form of a dissertation. The completion and defense of the dissertation leads to an online doctorate in law and policy, which then opens up the fields of post secondary teaching, government and economics for students. Students graduate with an understanding of the effective ways to advance change and shape legislation, and as a result of all their research and hard work, establish themselves as top experts in their field.

About Online PhD Programs in Law and Policy

The curriculum of online doctorate degrees in law and policy seeks to prepare students to become innovative leaders in political science by offering a strong foundation in understanding the intricate relationship that exists between law and policy, institutions and implementation. All coursework is provided and completed over the internet, with the use of digital resources and communication. The online doctorate in law and policy does not have laboratory requirements and as a result, all research can be completed from the student's own home. However, many programs have residency requirements, the fulfillment of which requires students to travel to the physical campus. Despite the online component, online PhD coursework in law and policy is very similar to the coursework of campus-based programs. This is exemplified by Walden University's PhD in Law and Public Policy program, some courses from which are listed below.

Year One:

  • Foundations for Doctoral Study. As an introduction to learning about law and policy on the doctoral level, this course prepares students for the in depth research and scholarly academics that achieving their law and policy doctorate degrees online entails.
  • Ethics and Social Justice. Using demographic data, this course will prepare students to make ethical decisions when presented with diverse challenges that have the potential to impact global communities.
  • Finance and Budgeting for the Public Sector. Funds in the public sector are not always readily available. This course prepares students in the management of scarce funds and provides an understanding of the economic climate in which organizations and governments function.

Year Two:

  • Leadership and Organizational Change. As the climate in which organizations operate is becoming increasingly globalized and dependent upon technology, successful leadership depends on an embracing of change. This course studies the qualities and skills of effective leaders.
  • Strategic Planning: Collaboration, Cooperation, and Coordination. Leaders and managers need to create collaborative programs and services that are not only effective but cooperative as well. This course examines the strategies behind implementing strategic collaboration.
  • Writing a Quality Prospectus. This course prepares law and policy PhD online students to write their dissertation prospectuses by establishing the preliminary research and plans for paper development.

Year Three:

  • Governance and Public Policy. As an overview of governance in policy, organizations and administration, this course provides a grounding in the function of leaders within social institutions.
  • Fundamentals of Law and Public Policy. As an examination of the relationship between laws and public policy, this course explores contemporary challenges in today's society.
  • Legal Research for Policy Practitioners. This course prepares students for legal research by introducing resources and exploring the influence of law on policymaking.

Year Four:

  • Research Sequence. Online PhD law and policy students will take coursework that prepares them for the development, writing and defense of their dissertations.

After students complete their coursework, the top online doctorate programs in law and policy will require them to take and pass a comprehensive examination. This exam will cover the concepts explored in classes, such as effective leadership, ethics, and finance. After students pass the comprehensive examination, they propose, write and defend a research project known as a dissertation. Dissertations explore a contemporary topic relevant to the field of law and policy. Previous law and policy dissertations include The Role of the Supreme Court in Antitrust Enforcement by David P. Ramsey and Judicial Behavior and Judicial Policy: Making a Survey of the Field by Beatriz E. Larrain. Policies are constantly being modified, developed and implemented; as such, there are always new topics for online PhD law and policy students to explore.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Law and Policy

Online doctorate programs in law and policy are hefty undertakings that involve heavy research and a close study of policies, laws and the institutions that implement them. As such, law and policy doctorate degrees online are not recommended for individuals that do not harbor an interest in law, leadership, finance, or other areas related to the creation and implementation of policy. The best candidates will be individuals with strong leadership and academic skills, as these skills will help students flourish during their doctoral educations. An online doctoral education in law and policy is a good opportunity for students that have daily obligations, such as careers, however applicants should check residency requirements prior to applying to ensure that the program is feasible. As the research for law and policy doctoral degrees can be completed with the use of digital resources and local libraries, students enrolled in online doctoral programs in law and policy will not be hindered by the lack of a physical classroom. In today's society, technology plays an important role in government and as a result, online degrees in law and policy can even be seen as a means of obtaining relevant experience which can benefit future endeavors.

Application & Admission Requirements

Most accredited online doctoral programs in law and policy have fairly stringent criteria and require applicants to meet certain standards prior to admission. Online law and policy PhD applicants are encouraged to have a background in law, policy, government, or a related area. Universities will review resumes, which makes work experience an important component of the application. Applicants are usually required to have completed a Masters degree in the field of political science prior to admission into the program, and are expected to have maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average during their graduate education. Top programs require applicants to take the GRE exam and report their scores. Applicants will also be required to write and submit a statement of purpose, which will give universities a sense of the applicant's academic writing abilities and motivation behind applying to the program. Some universities have one final step in the application process: an interview. This allows universities to get a better sense of the person behind the application.

Career Options & Job Market

Graduates with online doctoral degrees in law and policy have a strong understanding of the relationships that exist among institutions, laws, and the creation and implementation of policy. With such a thorough background, graduates have many options for careers. Some graduates that have their online PhD degrees in law and policy go on to teach law in universities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, law professors average an annually salary of $107,990. Graduates also have the potential to pave careers in political analysis, a career with a good job outlook for PhD-holders and an average salary of $107,930. The government is open to graduates from online PhD programs in law and policy as well, and graduates can pursue careers in policymaking, advising and other areas within both local and national government positions. There are opportunities for PhD holders to establish careers as lobbyists as well. An online PhD in law and policy sets the foundation for graduates to become leaders of the field.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Education is by no means cheap. Even online degrees, which are often considered to be cheaper than their on-campus counterparts, have costs that add up over time. With the tuition for courses, residency fees, the cost of books, and other fees, the accumulating cost of education can be a hindrance for some potential students.  Walden is affordable at $445 per credit hour, but there are a lot of additional fees for residency requirements, travel, lodging, and even technology. Financial aid is therefore very important for students. Many universities provide their own opportunities for funding assistance, but there are outside opportunities as well, a few of which are listed below.

Essential Advice

  • Experience in law, government administration, and other areas will set your application to law and policy PhD programs online above the rest. Consider working in the field prior to applying for a doctoral program.
  • Keep current on the laws and policies implemented in today's society. This will prepare you for PhD coursework in law and policy.
  • The online PhD in law and policy requires a lot of research and academic writing. Hone these skills prior to applying, and make sure you have the time to dedicate to such an intensive program.
  • Talk to current students to get a better idea of what online PhD programs in law and policy will entail.