30 Best Accelerated Paralegal Programs [2021 Ultimate Guide]
We’ve ranked the 30 best accelerated paralegal programs. Compare top schools and see what this type of degree entails at the associate and bachelor level.
If you’re hoping to become a paralegal, you might be surprised to know that a bachelor’s degree isn’t required. In fact, you may be able to become a paralegal without any completed degree at all.
Accelerated Paralegal Programs
There are multiple routes to becoming a practicing paralegal, from an online associate degree to a paralegal bachelor degree online to diploma and certificate programs and courses.
Click on the type of program you’re most interested in to jump to that section.
- Associate in Paralegal Studies
- Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
- Paralegal Diploma and Certificate Programs
Each of these options provides different career opportunities. Taking accelerated classes can help you get out into the workforce in half the time as a traditional course of study.
Associate in Paralegal Studies
An associate degree is typically a one or two year degree that prepares you to enter a job much quicker than a bachelor’s degree would. Because it’s not as rigorous as a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree usually trains you for lower-level positions with the possibility of completing a bachelor’s degree in the future.
You can earn either an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree, an Associate of Science (A.S.) degree, or an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Paralegal or Legal Studies.
The difference usually means nothing more than how many science and math classes you’re required to take and is at the discretion of the school to decide. Either way, you’ll get the basic training you need to be successful as a paralegal.
Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
In contrast to the one or two year training degree program of an associate degree, a paralegal bachelor degree online program usually takes about three or four years to complete and is more comprehensive. Just like with the associate degree programs, bachelor’s degree programs will offer either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degree.
Because a bachelor’s degree takes longer to complete, you’ll gain more experiencing writing mock trial briefs, conducting legal research, and acquiring the skills you’ll need to be an effective paralegal. You may also have more opportunities through a bachelor’s degree program to intern with law firms or shadow a paralegal or attorney for a certain period of time.
One of the primary advantages of choosing a bachelor’s degree over an associate degree is the potential to continue on to law school.
Law school will require the completion of a bachelor’s degree for application, so if you have a desire to one day become an attorney, consider pursuing a paralegal bachelor degree online rather than an associate degree online. It’ll put you in a much better position to apply to law school in the future.
Paralegal Diploma and Certificate Programs
Online diploma and certificate programs are different from both paralegal associate degree online programs and paralegal bachelor degree online programs. These programs will prepare you to become a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP) through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).
These online programs prepare you to take and pass the CLA/CP exam. Some of these certification or diploma courses only require a high school diploma or GED to get started. Many require an associate or bachelor’s degree (in any subject), computer competency, and/or English fluency.
Paralegal certificate courses are intensive courses that last about a year or less. The cost of these programs varies greatly, but students can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $7,000 for the entire course, including books and other materials.
Certificate courses are usually module-based courses, meaning students complete modules or sections at their own pace. They are assessed at the end of each module before moving on to the next.
A common procedure is that students are paired with instructors (practicing attorneys or instructors with law experience) that serve as graders and mentors. Even though these certificate programs are courses, students won’t really be in a class with others like they might in a paralegal bachelor degree online program.
At the completion of the various assessments (which include a demonstration of knowledge and intensive writing activities), students will be prepared to take the CLA/CP exam and become certified paralegals.
Paralegal certification is not mandatory in the United States but is rather a voluntary way to demonstrate paralegal proficiency (similar to an accountant electing to become a CPA). This certification can look impressive on a resume and convey to an employer that you’re serious about your role as a paralegal.
What Exactly Does a Paralegal Do on a Given Day?
The primary role of a paralegal is to assist attorneys in doing their jobs efficiently and ethically. Paralegals must possess strong communication, writing and research skills. They must also be detail-oriented, self-motivated, and organized. A successful paralegal must also be able to handle deadlines and urgent demands with ease and sensibility.
According to Frankly Legal, employers are looking for all of the above categories in potential paralegals. They are also looking for experience in the field and recommendations from former employers or advisors/mentors.
Paralegals are in charge of a variety of duties, including writing briefs and reports, conducting legal research, and organizing witness interviews and depositions. Whatever the lead attorney needs the paralegal to do, that’s what he/she will be assigned to do. Paralegals move from the office to the courtroom to assist attorneys, so paralegal work can be very mobile and demanding.
Job Outlook for Paralegal Students
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals make about $47,000 per year, which is about on par with the national average of household income. The field is growing faster than average at 17%, so there are ample opportunities to secure a rewarding career.
The BLS also reports that paralegals are sometimes required to work overtime in order to meet demands. Because of this, the hours of a paralegal may not be as flexible as other career fields.
Other Career Paths
Training to become a paralegal can also prepare you for other potential careers in the field of law and related fields. If you obtain a degree in Paralegal Studies, becoming a paralegal is not your only career option.
A paralegal associate degree online or a paralegal bachelor degree online can give you the necessary training to become a:
- Law clerk,
- Claims adjuster, or
- Occupational specialist.
If for some reason, becoming a paralegal doesn’t work out, you won’t have wasted your investment in the training it took to get there.
Questions Related to Becoming a Paralegal
Here are our answers to a few common questions potential students ask.
What Is the Best Paralegal Certification Program?
The best paralegal certification program is one that sufficiently prepares you to pass the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP) exam through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).
Great programs also offer students flexibility by providing an online learning platform, multiple start dates, and accelerated classes.
What Do You Major in to Become a Paralegal?
The most common majors at the bachelor level to become a paralegal are
- Criminal Justice,
- Legal Studies,
- Liberal Arts, and
- Paralegal Studies.
Some employers may require a degree in paralegal studies, but there is no requirement to have one specific degree. You can even become a certified paralegal without a college education.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Paralegal Degree?
That depends on the education level you want and what type of program you enroll in. If you take accelerated classes, you could finish your associate degree in about a year. You could complete a bachelor’s degree in two years. Otherwise, both degrees usually take twice as long.
Are There Any Online ABA Approved Paralegal Programs?
The ABA approves select online paralegal courses but not full online degrees. To qualify for ABA approval, an online class has to mirror that of an on-campus program. It needs to provide just as much instruction and has to have a way to ensure that students are completing their own work.
List of Schools Offering Accelerated Paralegal Programs Online
To be included on our list, a school needs to be properly accredited and offer online classes in paralegal or legal studies in an accelerated format.
- American Public University
- Anne Arundel Community College
- Boston University
- Bryan University
- Bryant & Stratton College
- Brandman University
- Clayton State University
- Columbus State Community College
- Eastern Kentucky University
- Edison State Community College
- Franklin Pierce University
- Greenville Technical College
- Herzing University
- Illinois Central College
- Keiser University
- Liberty University
- Miami-Dade College
- Nova Southeastern University
- Post University
- Purdue University Global
- Rasmussen College
- Roger Williams University
- Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
- Southern New Hampshire University
- St Petersburg College
- Union County College
- University of California – Berkeley
- University of Georgia
- University of Massachusetts
- University of Phoenix
How to Become a Paralegal
These are the steps to become a paralegal:
- Earn a degree in a related field and/or graduate from a paralegal certificate program.
- Pass your Certified Paralegal Exam.
- Interview with law offices.
Becoming a paralegal doesn’t require much education, but the more you have, the more valuable you will be to future employers. Start your career on the right foot by researching paralegal degree programs.