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Organizational Ethics & Compliance

Online M.S.L.

Online Master of Studies in Law

If you've been thinking about pursuing a degree in ethics and compliance but questioned whether it would fit into your life, this is your opportunity. You can earn your master's degree 100% online in an AACSB International-accredited program through the University of St. Thomas.

Whether you are new to the field of ethics and compliance or a seasoned practitioner, St. Thomas’ program will help you take the next step in your career.

Our classes are taught by industry experts who are committed to preparing graduates to:

  • find, fix and prevent compliance issues,
  • develop effective compliance programming, and
  • advise senior management on key decisions.

You will also develop the soft skills necessary to persuade and influence your business partners.

The online Master of Studies in Law allows those who hold an undergraduate degree to earn a specialized graduate degree from anywhere in the world. This 21-month program runs five consecutive semesters, beginning in August and ending in May. No LSAT, GRE or GMAT is required to apply.

Our programs are a perfect fit if you are:

  • working in compliance, risk management, regulatory affairs, finance, human resources, accounting, insurance, software engineering, technology or auditing;
  • a professional in the industries of health care, banking, energy, transportation, investments, retail, manufacturing, telecommunications or higher education;
  • ready to expand your knowledge about and job opportunities within this career path; or
  • a recent college graduate who wants to pursue a career in ethics and compliance.
The M.S.L. program is offered in partnership with the St. Thomas Opus College of Business.
Our 2021 graduates say they got a new job, promotion or salary increase as a result of earning their degree at St. Thomas.
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Virtual Learning

The Online Student Experience

Online coursework is completed via our easy-to-use virtual learning platform and includes video lectures, podcasts, written assignments and online discussions. Courses are offered in an asynchronous format, which allows students to view class materials at any time they choose versus a set class time each week. You’ll have opportunities, however, to “meet” online with other students and professors in real time. You can also anticipate fast faculty feedback, including virtual office hours.

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Take Your Career to the Next Level

A Degree with Impact

Our Organizational Ethics and Compliance degrees have an impact. Seventy-nine percent of our 2021 graduates were employed in a compliance and/or ethics function and/or got a new job, promotion or salary increase as a result of earning their degree.

A Relevant Curriculum

The online M.S.L. program offers a preselected curriculum designed to provide you with a broad scope of study including international anti-corruption, project management, investigations and white-collar crime. It will also give you the knowledge you need to confidently present complex concepts and factual patterns to all levels of your organization, as well as build consensus, persuade, influence, collaborate and solve problems within diverse organizational structures.

Intro to Legal Reasoning (3 credits)

Through this course, non-lawyers will gain a better understanding of the ways that attorneys are trained to navigate complex situations. Careful reading and analysis of case law and statutes will prepare students to address the ambiguity of many scenarios that arise in compliance work, emphasizing the importance of critical thinking and argument. The course will also introduce students to the common law method by which doctrine is created; the importance and authority of statutes, codes, and regulations; and the structure of the U.S. legal system and its various actors and venues. The U.S. doctrines of contract and tort liability will form the substantive underpinning for the course, both because knowledge of these areas is foundational for many later law courses and also because professionals working in the compliance field encounter these areas of law.

Compliance Programming: Design, Operation and Performance (3 credits)

Compliance and ethics management is a complex management process that requires program design that supports management’s objectives, coordinated activities to be operated across functions and geographies, and performance measurement to reasonably assure effectiveness and a return on management’s investment. This course will engage participants’ personal knowledge and experience – in dialogue with instructors and guests from industry with law and business backgrounds – to explore the following themes: program design frameworks and key elements (including risk identification and assessment, communication and training, investigations and discipline, reporting and disclosure, auditing and monitoring, and remediation), leading practices relating to these program elements, and how to measure effectiveness (from the perspectives of both ethics and economics). The course will also use case method and other practical examples to explore the familiar distinction between compliance-based and integrity-based programs as a link to the course, “Ethical Culture.”

Privacy and Data Protection (3 credits)

Privacy and data protection are fundamental issues in the digital world and the growing information economy. As noted by Gartner in 2020, “By 2023, 65% of the world’s population will have its personal information covered under modern privacy regulations, up from 10% today.” Almost every commercial business involves the processing or personal data either as its primary purpose or in its administration. Collecting, storing, transferring, or otherwise processing the personal data of individuals creates a multitude of legal and compliance obligations which these new laws seek to regulate. This course will examine the sectoral and fundamental human rights models of current privacy laws, data subject rights, international data transfers, strategic differentiators, emerging laws, and applicable legal cases. By investigating these topics, student will have a foundational knowledge of privacy and security laws, individual rights, business obligations, and regulatory requirements.

Risk Management (3 credits)

The recent economic crisis, along with a range of other looming challenges (climate change, unrest in the Middle East, health and food security concerns, demographic changes and social mobility), have presented global organizations with a daunting array of risks. Broadly, this situation presents organizations with the challenge of developing more comprehensive approaches to the management of risk. Key subjects of investigation in MGMT 751 will include: 1. Engaging Boards and Executive Management in order to get risk management onto their agendas. 2. Translating risk policy into risk management systems and structures. 3. Knitting together the existing technical specialist infrastructure. 4. Developing sufficient risk management competence among the entire organization. 5. Communicating relevant risk information to external stakeholders.

International Anti-Corruption Law (2 credits)

This course focuses on international anti-corruption law, practice, and compliance. The course will review the history and substance of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the theoretical and political reasons for anti-corruption laws such as the FCPA, the interpretation of the FCPA by the courts and agencies that enforce it (the U.S. DOJ and SEC), the FCPA’s impact and influence on businesses, anticorruption compliance programs and investigation best practices, the proliferation of anticorruption laws and enforcement around the world, and arguments around FCPA reform.

Investigations (2 credits)

Conducting and supervising investigations has become a growing responsibility of many types of attorneys. The purpose of this joint course is to engage in a practical focus on the development of knowledge-based skills and practices that will benefit future lawyers in the acquisition and analysis of relevant facts to address and solve legal issues and problems. This experiential course will provide an opportunity for students to learn about criminal, civil, and internal investigations from a practical, hands-on perspective. Through individual and group exercises, each student will play multiple roles of government lawyer, criminal defense attorney, outside counsel, and in-house counsel.

White Collar Crime and Compliance (2 credits)

This course will expose each student to key types of white-collar offenses within the context of a focus on ethics and compliance, all through learning how to investigate, prosecute, and defend white collar cases, as well as how to prevent or minimize such cases in any organization. Topics may include conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, bribery and computer and internet fraud, and money laundering. Guest speakers will participate on a regular basis. A critical component of the course will be experiential learning.

Ethical Culture (3 credits)

Cultures of economic competitiveness and legal compliance are necessary but not sufficient for corporate responsibility. This course will examine the elements of ethical decision-making and ethical corporate cultures from the perspective of an organization’s leadership. The premise of the course is that leaders are the architects of corporate culture – and that the moral agenda of leaders includes three practical imperatives: elucidating, institutionalizing and sustaining ethical values. The first two imperatives (elucidating and institutionalizing) involve placing moral considerations in a position of salience and authority alongside considerations of competitive strategy and compliance in the organization’s mindset. The third imperative (sustaining) has to do with passing on the spirit of this effort in two directions: to future leaders of the organization and to the wider network of organizations and institutions that make up the social system as a whole. The case method will be used to introduce frameworks for making reasoned, thoughtful ethical decisions and to diagnose both positive and negative cultural leadership. Students will learn to recognize and resolve ethical issues and identify practical ways (1) to enhance sound ethical cultures and (2) to remediate weak ethical cultures.

Project Management (3 credits)

The field of project management is young and constantly changing. Companies seek to reduce development cycles while increasing the technological complexity of their products. Corporate downsizing has increased the average workload and reduced the resources available for project development. Sound familiar? This course will discuss the fundamental basis for scheduling and project scope difficulties, and provide tools for creating practical solutions. We will become more aware of why we encounter similar pitfalls with each new project. Discover that you are not alone in encountering a chaotic project life-cycle, the complexity people bring, and the reasons why our organizations are continuing to become more chaotic. This course will examine the new phase development of project management. We will use numerous disciplines to create a more dynamic and flexible project management methodology. These disciplines include Industrial Behavior, Psychology, Human Behavior, Chaos and Complexity, Organizational Behavior, and Systems Theory to name a few. As project managers, we face impossible schedules, unrealistic specifications, and limited budgets. As leaders we face personnel issues, motivation requirements and organizational issues. This course will provide insight and practical examples of the areas of knowledge needed to practice effective project management in today's dynamic work environment.

Executive Perspectives on Ethics and Compliance (3 credits)

This course will provide students with an opportunity to learn about compliance from the perspective of executives and leaders in the industry. Practicing compliance executives will discuss goals, strategies, activities and challenges associated with their business. Students will have an opportunity to relate the philosophies and techniques developed in the MSL/LLM Compliance program to those presented. Through candid and in-depth conversations with participating executives, students will learn about compliance from a leadership perspective relevant to today’s complex business environment.

Cybersecurity: Managing Risk in the Information Age (3 credits)

Built on a legal ethics framework, this course explains in understandable terms the real-time threats of hacking, the ever-present concerns about the security of client and personal data, and the growing amount of unlawful activity on the Dark Web. Students will analyze privacy and ethical considerations of data protection and data protection in light of fast-changing legal frameworks. The course will also explore the discovery and admissibility of electronically stored information (ESI) in the modern courtroom. The course focuses both on current practical skills and knowledge and also underlying core principles and concerns that will impact future considerations and changes in this realm.

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Collaborative Online Learning

The Cohort Model Creates Community

Students in the online M.S.L. program are part of a cohort in which students work together for the duration of their program. Cohort groups encourage a dynamic, collaborative and supportive learning environment and promote cohesiveness. Our online cohorts are capped at 25 students.

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Time Commitment

The online M.S.L. program is designed as a part-time program. A good rule of thumb is that each 3-credit class should take 130-150 total hours to complete, including the readings, projects, time spent online, etc. This amount equates to approximately 18+ hours per week during the spring and fall semesters when students take two three-credit classes. During the summer, students take only one 2-credit class at a time, but over a shorter time period, so the workload should be about the same during the time a class is in session. The academic schedule has breaks built into the semester and has breaks built in between semesters to allow for vacations and other commitments.

A Network of More Than 120,000 Alumni

When you earn a degree from St. Thomas Law, you become part of our community of nearly 3,000 alumni. You also join the network of more than 120,000 St. Thomas graduates working around the world in fields from business to engineering to the sciences.
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Highly Principled, Global Business Leaders

St. Thomas Opus College of Business

Opus College of Business offers a comprehensive, relevant business education that combines leadership and technical skill building and experiential learning. Its mission is to unlock the talent of future problem solvers and prepare students to be highly principled business leaders.

The Opus Advantage

Career Support

Our Director of Organizational Ethics and Compliance and Office of Career and Professional Development are dedicated to individually helping students and alumni on their career journey. We maintain strong relationships with law firms and businesses, which allows us to effectively advise students and graduates about jobs in the ethics and compliance field.

Earn CEUs While You Purse Your Degree

Because many of our courses directly cover compliance, ethics, risk, corporate governance, internal controls and other relevant topics, they can be submitted to count toward live training and/or continuing professional education requirements. This includes certifications offered by:

  • SCCE/CCB including the following trademarked certifications: CCEP, CCEP-I, CCEP-F, CHC, CHC-F, CHRC, and CHPC;
  • CPE credits related to the Certified Internal Auditor certifications offered by The Institute of Internal Auditors;
  • CE credits required for any of the certifications offered by the American Bankers Association; and
  • CPEs required by The American Anti-Corruption Institute for its Certified Anti-Corruption Manager professional qualification

If your certifying body is not listed, but you would like to explore whether courses in our program would count as continuing professional education in your chosen focus area, please contact suzan.mcginnis@stthomas.edu.

M.S.L. Alumni

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Isadora Korak

"My experience as part of the Organizational Ethics & Compliance program was very impactful. It changed how I view and design programs currently and for the future."

Cory Race-McLane

"I had been wanting to go back to school but had yet to find a graduate program that fit my needs and interest. When I was contacted about the Ethics and Compliance program it was kismet. The online program was perfect for a working adult and set up well to ensure you were still getting the same hands on learning experience you would in a classroom."