Paralegal & Legal Assisting Degree

Lawyers, law firms and law enforcement agencies heavily rely upon the skills and services of paralegals to complete important legal tasks. These tasks may include preparing legal documents, conducting legal research, maintaining records, answering telephones, assisting attorneys as they prepare for trials, and interviewing potential court witnesses. Paralegals must have excellent communication, problem-solving, research, and organizational skills.

Entry-level paralegal jobs can be obtained with an associate's degree, but those with bachelor's degrees will have better job opportunities. People with bachelor's degrees in fields not related to paralegal studies can earn a professional certificate in paralegal studies to qualify them for many industry positions. Many colleges and universities are now offering college degree and certificate programs online.

Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies
The associate degree in paralegal studies is a two-year program designed to (1) prepare students for entry-level positions as paralegals, or legal assistants, and/or (2) prepare students to pursue a bachelor's degree at a four-year college or university. An associate degree in paralegal studies may be awarded as either a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.S.). Either degree can prepare students for career and higher education opportunities following graduation.

Paralegal and legal studies associate degree programs introduce students to various topics relating to the law and legal process. Students will learn about preparing legal documents, maintaining communication with clients, preping for trail, and researching cases. Upon graduation, students will also be familiar with court procedures, legal terminology, ethics and laws. A high school diploma or GED is typically the only requirement for admission to a paralegal studies programs. Most paralegal studies and legal assisting programs are offered by community colleges and vocational schools.

Many paralegal associate programs provides students in class lectures, coursework and hands-on training in preparing legal documents. Some program offer internships and work-based learning opportunities with local law firms. When evaluating schools, you'll want to find out what benefits the school provides in addition to in class lectures and training. Some schools leave finding an intership up to each student, while others help students secure internships.

Most associate degree programs in paralegal studies or legal assisting offer courses that address the following topics:

  • Legal terminology
  • Criminal law
  • Constitutional law
  • Civil litigation
  • Bankruptcy procedures
  • Tort and personal injury
  • Real property
  • Legal research and writing
  • Employment law
  • Laws of evidence
  • Immigration law
  • Contract
  • Legal ethics

When evaluating paralegal studies programs, you'll want to make sure the school you choose is regionally accredited. If you earn your associate degree from a non-accredited or nationally accredited school, you won't be able apply the credits you earn toward a bachelor degree at a four year college or university down the road if you decided to pursue a higher education. You'll also want to find out if your program is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). You can find a list of ABA accredited paralegal education programs at http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/paralegals/directory/allprograms.html.

Bachelor Degree in Paralegal Studies
The Bachelor of Art (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in Paralegal Studies is the degree of choice among aspiring paralegals and the employers they work for. This degree covers the fundamentals of the U.S. criminal justice system, legal processes, legal writing and document preparation, courtroom and law office technology, contracts, the courts, ethics, the rights of individuals and various fields of law, such as torts, personal injury, constitutional law, and more.

As with most bachelor degree programs, the bachelor in paralegal studies is a four-year degree program composed of general education, core courses and electives. General education typically include science, math, English, communication and foreign langauge classes. Core courses typically include legal ethics, civil litigation, legal writing and research and law. Once all general education and core courses have been completed, student are able to select electives which focus on specific professional areas of interest such as corporate law, constitution law, personal injury law, etc.

Paralegal Certification
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the leading paralegal association in the United States, offers the Certified Paralegal Credential for paralegals as well as the Advanced Certified Credential in specialty practice areas.

The Certified Paralegal Credential is recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) as one of the highest levels of professional achievement within the field of paralegal studies. It is also recognized by several other bar associations and over 47 legal assistant organizations.

You can learn more about the paralegal certification through the NALA at http://www.nala.org/certification.aspx.

Online Degree in Paralegal Studies
Online distance learning technology now makes it possible for aspiring paralegal professionals to pursue their degree partially or entirely online. Online degrees in paralegals studies and legal assisting are available at both the associate and bachelor's level. Online degree programs are designed for working professionals and non-traditional student who are unable to attend a traditional campus-based degree program. Online paralegal degree and certificate programs are flexible, convenient and can be completed according to your schedule.

Below you can search our database of accredited online and campus-based degree and certificate programs in paralegal studies and legal assisting.

Paralegal & Legal Assisting Degrees and Programs

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