2023 Best Online Colleges for Paralegal Associate Degrees
Paralegals are responsible for supporting lawyers by drafting legal documents, conducting research, completing administrative tasks, and preparing cases for trial. They have a deep understanding of the law, computer and database management, and administrative procedures. Paralegals are typically employed by corporate law firms or governmental law offices and have at least an associate’s degree or certificate in the field.
Online Paralegal Associate Degrees You May Be Interested In
Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC), a large public university based in Ohio, offers an online Associate of Applied Business in Paralegal requiring 63 credit hours to complete. Typically, this online program takes students 2 years to complete with a full-time schedule. EGCC has an open admissions policy in which they accept all students, and 19% graduate with a degree.
Students at EGCC use the digital learning platform Canvas to access coursework. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for employment in both public and private law environments. Core classes include American Government, Legal Research and Writing, and Public Speaking. EGCC’s Paralegal program offers an associate’s degree or a certificate for those who aren’t seeking a degree right away.
The American Public University (APU) is a private, for-profit institution offering an online Associate of Science in Legal Studies. This program requires 60 credit hours and generally takes two years to complete. APU has an open admission policy in which 100% of students who apply are accepted, while 18% graduate with their degree.
Students learn to apply legal research and writing skills in realistic legal contexts, develop critical thinking and legal analytical skills, and demonstrate proficiency with law office equipment and software. Core classes include Litigation, Legal Research and Writing, and Legal Ethics. To graduate, students must also complete a Sophomore Seminar in Legal Studies as a final program requirement.
Liberty University (LU) is a private, nonprofit Evangelical Christian university offering an online Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies. This program requires 60 credit hours and typically takes two years to complete with a full-time schedule. The acceptance rate at LU is 99%, and 36% of students graduate with their degree.
LU students access their synchronous and asynchronous online coursework using Canvas. The curriculum covers political and economic ideas, government institutions, and free-market processes. Core classes aim to provide a foundation of Christianity, communication skills, and critical thinking. Featured courses include Legal Research, Civil Practice, and Criminal Practice and Procedures. Graduates often seek careers as legal assistants and secretaries, paralegals, and government workers.
Purdue Global (PG) is a large public university representing the online branch of the Purdue University system. PG offers an online Associate of Applied Science in Legal Support and Services that requires 90 credit hours and 2 years of full-time study to complete. The university’s open admission policy means all applicants are accepted, with 27% of students earning a degree.
Students at PG use Brightspace to access their online coursework. The program provides students with a foundational knowledge of the law and legal administrative skills. The curriculum includes a study of legal research and writing, civil litigation, legal ethics, and torts, in addition to core classes like College Composition I and II, Interpersonal Communications, and American Government.
Rasmussen University (RU) is a private, for-profit institution offering a 90 credit hour, online Paralegal Associate’s degree. Students can complete this degree in 18 months with a full-time schedule. RU has an open admissions policy, so all applicants are accepted, with 36% earning a degree.
RU students access their courses using Blackboard. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for the National Certified Legal Assistant/Paralegal (CLA/CP) Examination. Introduction to Law and the Legal System, Criminal Law and Procedure, and Law Office Management are some of the core classes. Students must also complete a Paralegal Associate Capstone course to graduate. Graduates may seek careers as a Paralegal, Legal Assistant, or Court Clerk.
Bryant & Stratton College Online (B&SC) is a private, for-profit institution that offers an online Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. This online program requires 60 credit hours and takes 2 years to complete with a full-time schedule. B&SC has an open admissions policy and accepts 100% of applicants, while 16% graduate with a degree.
B&SC uses Blackboard to deliver coursework. Students will learn the skills needed to correctly apply legal terminology, draft legal writings, interpret legal documents, and research the law effectively. Core classes include Civil Litigation, Wills, Trusts and Estates, and Business Organizations Law. Graduates may find employment as a paralegal or legal assistant with a law firm, government agency, or corporation.
Keiser University (KU) is a private, non-profit university with a Hispanic-Serving Institution designation. KU’s Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies requires 60 credit hours and can be completed in 2 years with a full-time schedule. The acceptance rate at KU is 90%, and 56% graduate with their degree.
KU students use the digital learning platform Blackboard to access their online coursework. The curriculum is designed to develop students’ written and verbal competencies, provide students with a sound understanding of legal practice in the US, and prepare graduates to work as paralegals in a variety of settings. Core classes include Legal Research and Writing, Contracts, and Civil Litigation.
Part of the Maricopa County Community College District, Rio Salado College (RSC) is a medium-sized public institution designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. RSC offers an online Associate in Applied Science in Paralegal that requires 65-70 credit hours and can be completed in 2 years with a full-time schedule. RSC’s open admissions policy means they accept all students, and 13% go on to earn a degree.
RSC students use the proprietary digital learning platform RioLearn to access coursework. Students will gain the expertise needed to anaylze factual and legal information, research print and digital media, and communicate in a culturally responsible manner. Core classes include Paralegal Research, Analysis, and Writing, First-Year Composition, and Ethics for the Paralegal.
Central Texas College (CTC) is a medium-sized public institution offering an Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal/Legal Assistant requiring 60 credit hours to complete. Full-time students can complete the degree in 2 years. CTC accepts 100% of students under their open admissions policy, with 14% earning a degree.
CTC online classes are conducted via Blackboard. Courses include Civil Litigation, Contracts, and Torts and Personal Injury Law. The curriculum aims to prepare students for employment as Paralegals or Legal Assistants, and also serves students interested in other law-related careers. Through cooperation with the legal community, a paralegal internship is available to students as a “capstone” option.
The University of Arkansas Grantham (UA Grantham) is a private, for-profit university offering a 60 credit hour Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies. Students can finish this program in 2 years with a full-time schedule. UA Grantham’s open admissions policy means all students who apply are accepted, with 20% earning a degree.
UA Grantham delivers coursework using the Blackboard learning management system. The curriculum prepares students to support a legal team with legal research, analysis and limited interview and investigating duties, as well as preparing legal documents. Students will take core classes like Legal Ethics, Civil Litigation, and Contract Law, in addition to 36 general education credits.
List Of Accredited Online Paralegal Schools
What Is An Online Paralegal Associate Degree?
An online paralegal associate degree provides a flexible and convenient way to pursue a career in the legal field. A paralegal associate program covers essential topics — such as legal research, ethical practices, and legal procedures. By completing this program online, students can gain a strong foundation in the field, often without the need to attend classes on campus.
Online paralegal associate degrees prepare students for the essential role of a paralegal. Graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to support attorneys, conduct legal research, draft legal documents, and maintain case files. This flexible degree option provides the education necessary for a rewarding career as a paralegal.
When choosing an online paralegal program, it's essential to look for one that is accredited by a reputable organization. This ensures that the school is held to high educational standards, ensuring that your degree is recognized and that you receive a quality education. Note that OnlineU exclusively features only accredited schools on its lists.
If you are curious to embark on the next degree level, a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies is another suitable option.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Paralegal Associate Online?
An online paralegal associate degree can typically be completed in two years, similar to traditional on-campus programs. This time frame provides a comprehensive education and essential practical experience for a career in the legal field. The two-year commitment allows students to learn the necessary skills and gain hands-on experience to hit the ground running upon graduation.
Common Courses in a Paralegal Associate Degree
The courses in an online paralegal associate degree program usually include subjects such as legal research, legal writing, civil law, criminal law, legal ethics, and more. These courses provide students with the foundational knowledge needed for a career as a paralegal. They also help students gain valuable skills, such as research and writing skills.
Below are some examples of common courses in paralegal associate programs:
If you’re considering a career in the legal field, you might also want to consider an associate degree in criminal justice. This program provides a comprehensive overview of the criminal justice system, including law enforcement, corrections, and the courts. It's a good choice for students who want to pursue a career in law enforcement or corrections.
What Jobs Can I Get With a Paralegal Associate Degree?
A paralegal associate degree opens the door to a range of entry-level legal careers. Paralegals play a vital role in assisting lawyers, corporations, and government agencies with their legal needs. Their responsibilities can vary widely depending on the organization and the type of law being practiced. As a result, paralegals enjoy a diverse and fulfilling career. There are also various types of law a paralegal can specialize in — from corporate paralegals and litigation paralegals to those working on family law, immigration, or estate planning cases.
With an associate degree, graduates can become a certified paralegal (CP) through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).
A paralegal associate degree is just the beginning of a career in the legal field. Paralegals can further their education and credentials by earning specialized certificates or bachelor's and master’s degrees in legal studies. With an associate degree, graduates can become a certified paralegal (CP) through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). These additional qualifications can lead to more advanced and specialized positions within the legal field, as well as increased earning potential.
How Much Money Can I Make With a Paralegal Associate Degree?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants is around $59,200. This figure can vary based on several factors, such as location, experience level, and the specific field of law in which you work. In some high-demand areas, paralegals can earn above the median salary, making it a solid choice for starting a career. In fact, the top 10% of earners in this field make over $94,960, as of May 2022.
Applying For a Paralegal Associate Degree
There are a few basic requirements that most associate degree programs in paralegal studies have for admission. These typically include a high school diploma or GED, transcripts, and standardized test scores. However, one of the benefits of an associate degree program is that it typically has more relaxed prerequisites compared to bachelor's or master's programs.
Note that individual programs may have specific requirements, so be sure to check before applying. By understanding the requirements, you can ensure that you have the best chance of being accepted into your preferred program.
FAQs About Online Paralegal Associate Degrees
Are Online Paralegal Associate Degrees Respected?
As long as the online associate degree is accredited, it will be respected by employers and the legal industry. Accreditation is a crucial indicator of quality, as it demonstrates that the program meets established standards. When researching online associate degree programs, it's important to confirm that they’re accredited.
What Is the Best Degree for a Paralegal?
When it comes to the best degree for a paralegal, it mostly depends on your unique career goals and interests. A paralegal associate degree is a great option for those who want to quickly enter the field. However, many paralegals choose to pursue an affordable bachelor's degree in legal studies or a related field to gain a more in-depth understanding of the law and to open up more career opportunities.
What Is the Hardest Part of Being a Paralegal?
Paralegals may face various challenges in their work, such as juggling heavy workloads, meeting tight deadlines, and handling complex legal research. Another significant challenge is navigating the ethical and confidentiality issues that arise when dealing with sensitive legal matters. In the face of these challenges, successful paralegals often have excellent time management and stress management skills. The ability to effectively prioritize tasks, organize their workflow, and manage their stress levels can make a substantial difference in their performance and overall job satisfaction.
Where Do Paralegals Get Paid the Most?
Salaries for paralegals can vary widely depending on the state and region of the country. According to the BLS (as cited above), some of the places where paralegals are paid the most include the District of Columbia, California, Washington, New York, and Massachusetts. However, these states also tend to have a higher cost of living, which is wise to keep in mind when evaluating potential income.
Is a Paralegal Associate Degree Worth It?
In general, an associate degree can be a great option for those seeking an entry-level position in the legal field. However, it's important to weigh the costs and benefits to make an informed decision.
Good earning potential
Quick entry into the workforce
Valuable legal knowledge
Limited advancement without further education and certifications
High-stress work environment
Potential ethical dilemmas
In summary, an associate degree in paralegal studies can be a valuable investment for those interested in the legal field, providing job stability and a relatively quick path to entry-level positions. However, it's crucial to weigh the potential for high-stress work and limited career advancement opportunities before committing. Ultimately, the value of this degree depends on your goals, career aspirations, and ability to handle the challenges of the legal profession.