Should You Get an MLS or MBA?

When deciding between earning your Master of Legal Studies (MLS) or Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, it’s important to understand how each aligns with your career. While the degrees have some similarities, what you can do with an MLS differs from what you can do with an MBA.

Deciding Which Degree Is Right for You

Some of the skills you learn in an MLS or MBA program will overlap, such as critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving. However, American University’s online MLS program provides you with the legal knowledge needed to strategically solve challenges while complying with the law. A typical MBA program is designed to provide advanced business management and quantitative skills.

View the below degree comparison between American University’s online MLS and a typical MBA to see which best fits your goals.

Designed for professionals who:

AU’s Online MLS

  • Have law-related responsibilities and want to make sure their business is in compliance
  • Understand the law’s important influence on both their daily job functions and their community at large

Typical MBA

  • Want to learn strategic management and communication skills
  • Want to advance into business leadership roles

Skills learned:

AU’s Online MLS

  • The legal knowledge needed to create compliance programs and understand the laws that affect a business
  • Making legally informed decisions that legitimize your credibility with clients, co-workers, and partners

Typical MBA

  • Application of leadership and financial analysis skills
  • Helping businesses operate more effectively across a wide range of industries

Application Requirements:

AU’s Online MLS

No GMAT, GRE, or LSAT scores required

Typical MBA

GMAT or GRE scores sometimes required

Completion time:

AU’s Online MLS

As few as 12 months

Typical MBA

2–3 years

Core courses:

AU’s Online MLS

Negotiation, compliance, contracts, criminal justice, business law, information privacy, electronically stored information, health care

Typical MBA

Leadership, economics, finance, management, marketing, business strategy

Potential careers:

AU’s Online MLS

  • Business executive
  • Financial compliance officer
  • Government contractor
  • Paralegal
  • HR manager
  • Health care compliance manager

Typical MBA

  • Financial advisor
  • Marketing manager
  • Management consultant
  • IT director
  • Operations research analyst
  • Accountant


AU’s Online MLS

General MLS, business, health care compliance, technology, cybersecurity

Typical MBA

Finance, marketing, management, leadership, economics, entrepreneurship, etc.

Want to Learn More about AU’s Online MLS?

Request more information to learn how an MLS can benefit your career.

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Our Unique Partnership with AU’s Kogod School of Business

When designing the online MLS program, AU’s Washington College of Law partnered with DC’s oldest business school—the AACSB-accredited Kogod School of Business—to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of how the law and business intersect. No matter which MLS specialization you choose, you will be able to complement your legal education with up to three business courses from Kogod.

Our partnership with Kogod allows you to attend classes with business students and expand your network with Kogod’s faculty and alumni. Some of the courses you will be able to take from Kogod include:

  • Database and Big Data
  • Business Law, Ethics, and Governances
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Marketing Management
  • Cybersecurity Governance
  • Project Management
  • Management of Information System

Focus Your MLS with a Business Specialization

If you are looking to expand both your legal and business skill sets and are deciding between an MLS or an MBA degree, American University’s online MLS program offers a Business Specialization. This specialization is carefully designed to prepare you to strategically use your legal knowledge in a business setting.

The Business Specialization is ideal for you if you hold a role in business, finance, or government and are looking to benefit from legal knowledge when dealing with contracts, negotiations, transactions, and other business procedures. You will graduate with an understanding of how to drive effective business strategy that complies with the laws in your industry.

Fill out the form to learn more about AU’s online MLS program and to speak directly with an admissions counselor.