With a degree in paralegal studies, you would prepare to work as a legal assistants, where you carry out behind-the-scenes tasks for law firms, corporations, and government agencies. Researched projections show that employment in trained paralegals continues to grow because law firms and government agencies tend to rely more heavily on paralegals for research instead of employing more expensive novice attorneys. You can complete your paralegal degree or and legal services degree program in about two years.
Paralegal Education and Training
Graduates of paralegal programs are trained in many aspects of the law, but unable to make arguments before the court or to represent themselves as legal and paralegal professionals, and lawyers, often research cases and examine documents under the direct supervision of a practicing attorney. Many programs are self-paced so the time to completion can vary, but most require about the same amount of time as a traditional certificate program. When comparing programs, do some research on the nature of the self-paced program and also look at the course curriculum and compare it to different program.
Paralegal degree programs are designed to give you intensive legal training by giving you a balanced curriculum of law, liberal arts, communication, and business courses. You can then pursue employment in federal government, local and state courts, city and state correctional facilities, and private practice. Many schools offer a variety of training for a certificate or diploma programs through business or vocational programs, community colleges, and four-year universities. Courses include:
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Legal Research and Writing
- Wills and Trusts
- Business Organization
- Civil Litigation
- Torts and Contracts
There are some paralegal programs that require only a high school diploma or that allow students with previous legal experience, such as legal secretaries, to enroll without a college degree. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), has established standards for certification requiring a combination of education and experience. Paralegals who meet the standards are eligible to take the paralegal exam. Those who pass the exam become a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP).
Online or distance paralegal degrees, diplomas or certificate programs offer flexibility for those who cannot physically attend programs because of their job, family or other obligations. There is a growing variety among online programs that rely on computers and the Internet to provide interactive lessons and online classrooms for paralegal programs.
Bachelor’s paralegal degree programs are not as commonly available as associate’s degree or certificate programs but there are some schools that offer the program. A bachelor’s online paralegal degree programs provides in-depth paralegal training for career advancement.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can pursue a paralegal degree at the masters level. This degree is typically two years long. Masters degrees are conferred as master of arts or science degrees in law, legal studies or legal administration.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Careers
The job of legal services professionals and paralegals is mainly research and assist lawyers and attorneys with document preparation and cases. Paralegals work in lawyers offices and court clerks. They also work for human services organizations and social service agencies.
Other places that employ paralegals are legal clinics, where they provide general low cost legal support for low-income clients. Their tasks may include meeting with clients, taking notes, preparing documents, and providing basic legal advice.
They may also be required to complete interviews and assist with legal inquiries. About 70% or paralegals and legal assistants work for law firms while the rest work for corporate legal departments and government agencies. Some areas of practice may include tax law, divorce law, family law, patent law, employment and labor law, immigration law, and intellectual property law.
Estimated Income and Projected Career Outlook
As a paralegal, you can earn about $25,000 per year and as you gain experience, you earn about to about $60,000 a year. The average income for paralegal is about $44,000. While the paralegal average salary can be obtained without specialization, paralegal salaries tend to increase with some specialization. You also would earn more in larger cities. The median annual wage of paralegals and legal assistants was $46,680 in 2010 and the projected employment rate between 2010 and 2020 is 18% (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
According to a 2004 survey by the National Association of Legal Assistants, about a 1/3 of paralegals have an associate’s paralegal degree. In many employment markets, it is considered the appropriate level of paralegal training for recent high school graduates or others without secondary degrees to enter the field. The advantage of an associate’s degree is that you can transfer credits to a bachelors program.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
- Bachelor’s programs options include Law & National Security, Paralegal Studies, and Government.
- Regent University School of Law’s faculty was recognized among the Top 10 Faculty in the nation by The Princeton Review in 2013, 2014, and 2015.
- Law & legal studies programs are fully approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
- Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies*
- Bachelor of Arts in Government - Pre-Law
- Master of Public Administration in Law
- And more...
At Kaplan University, we offer over 180 degree and certificate programs. With three different ways to learn, you can choose the format that works best for you:
- Study wherever you have an Internet connection, because almost all of our courses are 100% online, or
- Take campus-based classes(with day and evening options available), or
- Combine campus learning with online classes (blended).
- Certificate: Pathway to Paralegal Postbaccalaureate
- Bachelor of Science in Legal Support and Services
- Master of Science: Legal Studies
- And more...