For those who are interested in a career within the legal field, you may want to consider getting a paralegal associate degree.
Earning an online paralegal associate’s degree could be the first step toward a career in many types of law. You could to continue onward with your education to learn more about the law, or you could use your associate to establish a career within the administrative roles of the court of law.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
Let’s take a look at what earning a paralegal associate degree online can entail.
Online Paralegal Associate Degree Programs
Within a law firm, paralegals and legal assistants have many responsibilities. While we might think of paralegals and assistants as the errand runners who organize files, they often have many more responsibilities.
There are many roles within most law firms and courtrooms, which means you might find yourself wearing many hats. For example, some law office receptionists have paralegal degrees to have more flexibility and capability within the practice. Additionally, those who earn an associate’s degree in paralegal studies may wish to continue their education for other roles within the court system.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
For instance, if you aspire to become a judge or lawyer, earning your AA in Paralegal Studies could be an introduction to the profession. Because of the many responsibilities a paralegal may be tasked with, those who pursue a paralegal associates degree will typically learn about:
- State and federal law
- Legal proceedings
- Estate planning
- Preparing materials for a trial
- Research skills
Paralegals will likely interface with a variety of individuals, from the lawyers and support staff within a law firm to clients. Much of your coursework may focus on writing and communication within the legal field. Depending on your interests, you could also take a deeper dive into various areas of law, such as:
- Criminal law
- Civil law
- Family law
- Real estate law
- Business law
Your studies within a paralegal associates degree program can help prepare you to become an integral part of courtroom or law office proceedings.
Paralegal Studies Careers & Salaries
Many students who earn their online associate’s degree in paralegal studies go on to become professional paralegals or legal assistants. Employment for paralegals and legal assistants is expected to grow by 12% over the next ten years (Bureau of Labor Statistics). This is faster than the average rate of growth of all occupations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the median salaries of some occupations related to paralegal studies.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants — Federal Government||$69,680|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants — Finance and Insurance||$64,740|
|Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants||$62,060|
|Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners||$60,380|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants — Local Government||$58,300|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants — State Government||$49,350|
|Paralegals and Legal Assistants — Legal Services||$48,270|
|Legal Secretaries and Administrative Assistants||$47,710|
|Court, Municipal, and License Clerks||$44,610|
|General Office Clerks||$37,030|
While becoming a paralegal or legal assistant is a common goal of students who earn their online paralegal associate’s degree, it is not the only option.
Those who have earned an AA in Paralegal Studies will have likely learned about the importance of organization as well as the timely retrieval and analysis of records. You can also learn how to connect a variety of facts and figures as they relate to multiple cases.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
As a result, completing a paralegal associates degree may help prepare you for a variety of employment opportunities both within and adjacent to the legal profession.
Associates in Paralegal Studies Curriculum & Courses
An associate’s degree in paralegal studies will cover many areas of the legal process. Many paralegal associates degree programs offer courses like the following to provide students with a full view of the legal system:
- Introduction to Legal Research: In this course, you’ll learn how to explore existing legal guidelines, evidence, and files to provide to clients’ legal teams.
- Criminal Law Practices and Procedures: This course will help guide you through the ins and outs of criminal law and court proceedings.
- Family Law: Those who study family law will learn about how to ethically proceed within standing legal guidelines.
- Trial Preparation: In this course, you’ll learn all of the steps taken before a case goes to court.
- Legal Investigation: In many cases, evidence must be supplemented by facts found through investigation, and this course teaches how to do so correctly.
- Organizational Law: This type of law covers groups such as businesses, partnerships, and nonprofits, and you’ll learn the necessary procedures for this sector.
- Ethics in Legal Procedures: In the legal system, ethical standards must be adhered to at all times, as this course teaches.
- United States Legal Systems: Our nation’s legal systems may seem complex, but this course can help you understand the steps and stages at the local, state, and federal levels.
- Estate Law: This course helps you understand how a person’s physical and personal property is handled during their life and after they are deceased.
- Contracts, Torts, and Wills: This course demonstrates how to create and research contracts, torts, and wills, which are some of the most common duties of legal professionals.
As there are many different types of law, you may want to review each program’s curriculum to ensure that your topics of interest are covered.
Schools can have different admissions requirements for their online paralegal associate’s degree programs, so it’s helpful to review a each application process carefully.
Many schools ask prospective students to provide the following:
- SAT or ACT scores (only some schools require them)
- High school transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal essay
You may also be asked to complete an online application, and there could be an associated application fee. Some schools will request an interview with those who apply to their paralegal program, too.
Paralegal Programs Accreditation
There are many considerations to keep in mind when evaluating which paralegal associate degree program is best for you.
When choosing an online paralegal associate’s degree program, it’s beneficial to select a program that is regionally accredited. Reputable accrediting agencies are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the US Department of Education. Schools that hold regional accreditation have been found to provide top-notch educational experiences for students.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
One benefit to selecting an accredited program is the potential for federal financial assistance. Graduating from an accredited school could also be necessary for future industry certification or membership with a professional organization.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
If you’re looking for financial assistance in earning your associates degree in paralegal online, you can start by completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
The FAFSA can determine your eligibility for federal financial assistance and other needs-based aid options. You can also explore scholarship opportunities. These may be offered by the school you choose to attend, local professional organizations, or groups within your community.
In addition, if you’re currently working, you can check with your employer to see if they offer tuition assistance or reimbursement opportunities for those who are furthering their education.
Paralegal Professional Organizations
Here are some paralegal professional organizations that you might consider joining:
- American Bar Association (ABA): As the national organization for the legal profession, the ABA provides advocacy, benefits, and continued support for the law and legal practices.
- National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA): This organization provides the leading certification for paralegals as well as continuing education and professional development.
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA): This group provides ethical guidance and advocacy for those in the paralegal profession.
Joining an association might help you network and gain greater insight into many law professions.
What Can I Do with an Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies?
For many students, earning an associates degree in paralegal studies is the first step toward a fast-paced career in law or the legal system.
With employment rates increasing by 12% over the next ten years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that demand for paralegals and legal assistants will be higher than average. There are other opportunities for those who earn their online paralegal associate’s degree, too. Law firms and court operations require many knowledgeable professionals to keep the systems running correctly.
For example, some graduates might use the knowledge gained in a paralegal studies program to work as government or court clerks, to pursue administrative roles, and more.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Paralegal Associate’s Degree Online?
The length of time needed to earn your paralegal associate’s degree online depends on the specific program as well as your enrollment status. For programs that follow a traditional 16 week semester, full-time students can generally earn their associate’s degree in 2 years.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
For programs that offer 8 week terms, students who study year round could finish their degree program in less time. These accelerated paralegal degrees are being offered by a growing number of colleges.
Part-time enrollment will likely extend the length of time it takes to get your degree.
What’s the Difference Between a Certificate vs. Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies?
Here’s how a paralegal certificate online or on campus differs from an associate’s degree.
|Paralegal Certificate Program||Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies|
Your career goals and your prior schooling may influence the educational path you choose to pursue.
What’s the Difference Between a Legal Assistant vs. Paralegal?
Legal assistants and paralegals are often grouped in the same category, but their responsibilities are a bit different.
Neither a legal assistant nor a paralegal is allowed to provide legal advice, though both generally interact with clients directly.
Is an Associate’s in Paralegal Studies Online Degree Worth It?
Yes, an associate’s in paralegal studies online degree is worth it for many students. Earning an associates degree in paralegal online can provide you with a solid foundation in understanding different types of law, legal proceedings, and legal systems. You could also develop versatile research and communication skills.
Editorial Listing ShortCode:
Many graduates go on to use their skills and talents in a law firm or court system. The demand for paralegal and legal assistant professionals is also on the rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 12% job growth for these roles over the next ten years.
Universities Offering Online Associates in Paralegal Degree Program
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Bryant & Stratton College’s AAS in Paralegal Studies program is available online and at four different campus locations. The program requires 60 credits of courses such as Research and Writing for the Workplace, Criminal Law and Procedures, Law Office Management and Technology, and more. Graduates may pursue entry-level paralegal positions.
Bryant & Stratton College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Georgia Military College offers an online program for an Associate of Arts and an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies. Both programs aim to train students in the skills needed to assist practicing attorneys. All credits are designed to be transferred into bachelor’s degree programs. GMC follows a quarterly calendar, and each program can typically be finished in about 2 years.
Georgia Military College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Herkimer College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Legal Studies. The curriculum covers how to interview clients, conduct legal research, and draft legal documents. Herkimer College has transfer agreements with several colleges and universities to make it easier for students to continue their education.
Herkimer College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Hutchinson Community College offers a Paralegal AAS. The curriculum aims to prepare students for basic duties performed at law firms. Graduates are eligible to take the National Associate of Legal Assistants certification exam. HCC offers many of its classes online and has four different campus locations to choose from.
Hutchinson Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Lake Superior College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Legal Studies that can be earned online or on campus. The curriculum covers legal terminology, court procedures, and how to conduct interviews. Most students can finish the program in 2 years. Graduates may pursue work in legal assistant and paralegal roles.
LSC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Liberty University offers a 100% online program for an Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies. The program requires the completion of 60 credit hours, which can typically be finished in 2 years. Courses are designed to be convenient, and each one is just 8 weeks long. The curriculum emphasizes experiential learning and case studies.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Marian University offers an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies that can potentially be completed in just 14 months. The program uses 100% online, accelerated classes that are each just 5 weeks long. Students are required to complete 66 credit hours of courses such as Business Law, Professional Writing, Legal Writing and Communication, and more.
Marian University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.
Minnesota State and Community College offers an online program for a Paralegal AAS. This 60 credit program can typically be completed in 2 years. The curriculum covers legal ethics, civil and criminal law, legal research and writing, and more. Graduates usually go on to work as paralegals, legal assistants, or legal secretaries.
Minnesota State Community and Technical College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
National University offers an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies. Each course is just 4 weeks long, and accepted students can start at any time of the year. The program is available both online and on campus and approved by the American Bar Association.
National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Rasmussen University offers an online paralegal associate’s degree program. It can typically be completed in just 18 months and qualifies students to become certified paralegals. The up-to-date curriculum covers emerging technologies and legal issues related to cryptocurrency, intellectual property, and more.
Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is a Christian school that offers an Associate in Paralegal Studies. Classes are taught by expert faculty, and the program has a high job placement rate. The program is available online to make it easier to balance school with other commitments.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Umpqua Community College’s Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies can be earned fully online. Accepted students can start the program in the fall, winter, spring, or summer. Applicants should ideally already be proficient in MS Word. Graduates may pursue entry-level jobs at law firms, government offices, financial institutions, and similar settings.
Umpqua Community College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
The University of Alaska—Fairbanks offers an Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies that can be earned online, on campus, or in a hybrid format. Online classes feature live meetings via video conferencing. The curriculum focuses on practical applications and hands-on learning. Students must also complete an internship that is 150 hours long.
UAF is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
The University of Cincinnati offers an Associate of Applied Business in Law and Paralegal Studies. The program is fully online and approved by the American Bar Association. Classes are taught by licensed attorneys. The curriculum covers how to conduct legal research and use common industry software.
UC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of the Cumberlands offers an online paralegal associate degree program. The program’s credits are designed to be transferred into bachelor’s degree programs. Graduates typically work as paralegals, corporate law assistants, title examiners, or in other similar roles.
The University of the Cumberlands is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Getting Your Associate in Paralegal Degree Online
If you’re interested in becoming involved in the process of establishing and maintaining law and order, you may wish to earn an associates degree in paralegal studies.
You can check out some of the accredited programs available to those who are ready to take the next step toward learning about legal processes and systems. There are many factors to consider, so it’s helpful to compare programs to find the one that best fits your needs.
There’s no time like the present to start exploring accredited schools that offer paralegal associate degrees online.