2020 Best Online Colleges for Paralegal Degrees & Certificates

By OnlineU Staff | Updated June 4, 2020
Quick Facts
Accreditation: Institutional
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Certificate
Average Tuition: $23,223
Average Salary: $77,752

Online paralegal certificates and degrees are offered by 40 accredited colleges and universities. According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most paralegals have at least an associate degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. Our lists of the most affordable online paralegal certificates and associate degrees highlight schools that stand out for their academics and affordability and will help lead to certification exam eligibility.

Prospective students should look for programs at accredited schools. Choosing a paralegal degree program at an accredited school will help ensure a high quality education that will be recognized and respected by future employers. In addition to earning an online degree at an accredited institution, paralegal students may want to consider certification to help advance their careers.

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2020 Most Affordable Online Paralegal Certificates

2020 Most Affordable Online Colleges Offering Certificate in Paralegal Badge

These 25 schools offer the most affordable online paralegal certificates with tuitions under $12,000 per year. View our methodology for more details.

Eligibility for Paralegal Certification Exams:

  • NALA Certified Paralegal Exam: you are eligible if you have an undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies and a bachelor's degree in another field.
  • NFPA Paralegal Core Competency Exam: you are eligible if you have an undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies and an associate or bachelor's degree in another field.
  • If you have an associate or bachelor's degree in paralegal studies, you are eligible for both the NALA and the NFPA exams
Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 $3,190
# 2 #2 $4,288
# 3 #3 $4,392
# 4 #4 $4,420
# 5 #5 $5,220
# 6 #6 $5,250
# 7 #7 $6,000
# 8 #8 $6,210
# 9 #9 $6,495
# 10 (tie) #10 (tie) $6,840
# 10 (tie) #10 (tie) $6,840
# 12 (tie) #12 (tie) $6,995
# 12 (tie) #12 (tie) $6,995
# 14 #14 $7,020
# 15 #15 $7,200
# 16 #16 $7,970
# 17 #17 $8,580
# 18 #18 $8,800
# 19 #19 $9,120
# 20 #20 $10,056
# 21 #21 $10,500
# 22 #22 $10,825
# 23 #23 $10,980
# 24 #24 $11,700
# 25 #25 $12,000

2020 Online Colleges Offering Paralegal Certificates - Ranking Details

#1 California State University-Bakersfield

  • Annual Tuition: $3,190
  • Locations: Bakersfield (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The online certificate in paralegal studies offered at California State University is designed to suit both experienced legal professionals and novices in the field. The 360-hour curriculum includes nine continuing education units of online coursework in various legal areas, including family law, estate planning, criminal procedures, bankruptcy law, and criminal law. Students learn how to to assist trial attorneys, research the law, investigate facts, and interview witnesses.

Students complete assignments, readings, and quizzes through the Center for Legal Studies portal. Distance learners are afforded several resources to support their online education, including full access to the college library's catalog and technology support available days, evenings, and weekends. Upon completion of the online paralegal certificate, graduates are prepared to start a career as a full-time or part-time paralegal.

To enter the program, students must have a high school diploma or GED and be fluent in English. The college admits new students every seven weeks, which is also the duration of each online course.

#2 Wilson Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $4,288
  • Locations: Wilson (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Wilson Community College offers students the opportunity to complete a fully online certificate in paralegal. The curriculum consists of 18 credit hours of coursework in civil litigation, law office management and technology, real property, and ethics and professionalism. The certificate is certified by the North Carolina State Bar and the Board of Paralegal Certification, allowing graduates to take the examination to become a state certified paralegal.

The program provides students with the knowledge and abilities to find and research public records, draft and file legal documents, and manage a law office. Graduates may also apply the certificate toward the associate degree or bachelor’s degree in paralegal technology at Wilson Community College. Online students have access to virtual tutoring, academic advising, and 24/7 technical support.

Students may begin the program in the fall or spring, and applicants must submit high school transcripts to be considered.

#3 Rio Salado College

  • Annual Tuition: $4,392
  • Locations: Tempe (AZ)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Rio Salado College offers an online Certificate of Completion in Paralegal program, which can be applied directly to the college's Associate in Applied Science in Paralegal. The 36- to 39-credit hour program can be completed in five terms if enrolled part-time or three terms full-time. The curriculum includes coursework in paralegal litigation, paralegal business law, paralegal writing, paralegal research, and law office technology for paralegals. Qualified students have the opportunity to complete an internship during their studies.

Students completing the paralegal certificate online gain knowledge in tort law, business law, and the fundamentals of litigation. The program prepares students for a career as a paralegal through effective oral and written communication, computer proficiency, critical thinking skills, and legal research techniques.

Many online courses are offered in an accelerated, eight-week delivery format. Distance learners have access to online tutoring, advising, library services, and help desk support.

#4 Mohave Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $4,420
  • Locations: Kingman (AZ)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Mohave Community College offers an online paralegal certificate. The 30-credit hour curriculum includes coursework in civil law and litigation, tort law, criminal law and procedures, and contract law. Students gain knowledge in legal writing, interpreting legal documents, understanding and interpreting case law, and understanding procedural problems, as well as skills in professional, interpersonal communication, computer proficiency, and critical thinking. Graduates have the experience and knowledge needed to complete the Arizona Legal Document Preparer Examination, qualifying them for a range of legal work under the supervision of a lawyer.

Online coursework is facilitated both synchronously and asynchronously. Students are responsible for completing course assignments, readings, discussions, or exams at specific times. Online students are offered several virtual resources, including advising, tutoring, workshop learning, and help desk support. Students can also access their coursework on any smart device through the online learning portal app.

Graduates of the online paralegal program are prepared for work in a law office, government agency, or private corporation in various roles, such as paralegal, trust clerk, title examiner, and legal investigator.

#5 Hutchinson Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,220
  • Locations: Hutchinson (KS)(and 2 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Hutchinson Community College offers an online paralegal certificate. Students in the 36-credit hour program have the opportunity to gain skills in organizing and maintaining records and files, scheduling meetings, operating and managing online databases, doing research, conducting client and witness interviews, and preparing legal documents. The curriculum includes coursework in family law, wills, estates, trusts, legal research and writing, business law, and legal ethics. Graduates of the online paralegal program are qualified for careers in private or public law offices, government agencies, courts, insurance companies, or corporate legal departments.

Students have access to a wealth of resources, including online services and support, and access to the library’s online catalog. The college library offers students access to thousands of online resources, including professional academic and legal databases and journals.

Applicants must have an associate degree to be admitted into the college and submit an online application and official transcripts.

#6 The University of Texas at San Antonio

  • Annual Tuition: $5,250
  • Locations: San Antonio (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The online paralegal certificate program at the University of Texas at San Antonio is intended for adult learners who wish to become legal assistants. The program is designed and facilitated by practicing attorneys. Students have the option to complete a project in a local courthouse, complete a library research experience, and attend professional communication workshops.

The coursework is facilitated asynchronously through online lectures and discussion boards. The program is divided into three stages; each stage is about 13 weeks, and the program can be completed in three semesters or 11 months.

Students can receive a tuition discount if they enroll after attending an information session. Students cannot earn college credit from this program and are not eligible to sit for the paralegal certification exam after graduation.

#7 Lake Superior College

  • Annual Tuition: $6,000
  • Locations: Duluth (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Individuals looking to become legal assistants can earn their certificate of paralegal studies online at Lake Superior College. The 30-credit curriculum covers legal terminology, rules, procedures, and principles used in the American legal system. Students take classes in interview and investigation methods, business law, legal writing, civil litigation, and legal research. A capstone course is required to complete the certificate program.

The certificate program can be completed in one year. Graduates can apply this certificate program to the 60-credit associate degree program in paralegal studies at Lake Superior College. Online coursework is asynchronous and delivered through the D2L Brightspace learning platform. Students have access to campus services like advising, tutoring, library resources, and more.

Applicants must submit an online application form (with fee) and transcripts from high school and other post-secondary educational institutions. Prospective students must be proficient in English.

#8 Massachusetts Bay Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $6,210
  • Locations: Wellesley Hills (MA)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The online certificate in paralegal studies program at Massachusetts Bay Community College is offered through the Division of Business and Professional studies. Graduates are prepared to work as legal assistants preparing documents, managing legal issues, and participating in investigations and client interviews. In this program, students will gain skills in legal research and writing. In addition to a core curriculum, students can take electives in real estate, business law, family law, and trusts and wills. This 27-credit program can be completed in two semesters.

Online courses are asynchronous and students must meet assignment deadlines and participate in discussion boards, online presentations and quizzes, and interactive simulations.

Prospective students must complete an online application and high school transcripts. No application fee is required. Financial aid may be available for eligible students.

#9 The University of Texas at Austin

  • Annual Tuition: $6,495
  • Locations: Austin (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The online paralegal certificate offered by the University of Texas at Austin is a self-paced program that students can complete within 12 months. The curriculum provides a broad foundation in the ethics and legal principles of law. Students have the opportunity to choose elective courses like contracts law, tort law, criminal law, family law, and business law.

The curriculum is offered through Paralegal Space, an online learning platform. The program uses real-world case studies to teach students the techniques and skills they will need in the legal field. Graduates can pursue entry-level opportunities as paralegals and legal assistants in a variety of legal settings, from law offices to government agencies.

To enroll in the program, students must show proof of GED or a high school diploma and proficiency in word processing.

#10 (tie) American Public University System

  • Annual Tuition: $6,840
  • Locations: Charles Town (WV)
  • Accreditation: HLC

American Public University offers a 24-credit undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies. Up to nine credits can be transferred into the program. The curriculum covers litigation, real estate law, criminal law, research and writing, legal ethics, and law and policy. This program is suited for individuals who wish to become legal assistants at law firms, legal departments, or government agencies. Students will learn skills in research and writing and gain knowledge in legal terminology theories and concepts.

Online courses follow an asynchronous format. The program lasts eight weeks, and there are new session starts every month. Student services include academic advising, career services, disability accommodations, and more. Active-duty military personnel, National Guard members, and reservists have the technology fee waived.

Applicants to the program must show proof of a high school diploma or GED. There is no fee to apply, but prospective students must submit an online application.

#10 (tie) University of Massachusetts-Lowell

  • Annual Tuition: $6,840
  • Locations: Lowell (MA)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell is available fully online. This 18-credit program includes six courses covering various legal topics in real estate law, research methods, and litigation. Students can choose two electives from family law, corporate and property law, and women in the law. Students usually take one to two courses per semester, and there are three semesters each year in the fall, spring, and summer.

Online coursework is synchronous. Students have access to technical support and academic advisors. Graduates may directly seek employment, or they may apply the credits toward the Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice: Paralegal Option or the Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts with a Legal Studies concentration.

To apply, students must submit an online application and proof of high school degree or GED.

#12 (tie) Duke University

  • Annual Tuition: $6,995
  • Locations: Durham (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Duke University Continuing Studies offers an entirely self-paced online paralegal studies certificate, designed by experienced paralegals and taught by practicing attorneys. Students have one year to complete 300 hours of coursework. The program is divided into two parts: essential skills and substantives. The essential skills component provides students with knowledge in legal fundamentals, legal terminology and technology, research, writing, motion practice, and the legal environment. Students select two courses in the substantives portion: contract law, tort law, criminal law, business organizations, and family law.

Students receive training in Lexis Advance and Westlaw Next for research assignments. Graduates of the program can access online tutorials, resources, and templates for a year after receiving their certificate.

Application prerequisites for this paralegal certificate online program include age and English language requirements, access to a computer, and either a bachelor’s or associate degree.

#12 (tie) University of California-Davis

  • Annual Tuition: $6,995
  • Locations: Davis (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The University of California-Davis paralegal studies certificate program is offered through the Continuing and Professional Education department. The self-paced program is completely online and approved by the UC-Davis School of Law. Students can become a certified paralegal in six months. Students will learn essential legal skills, contract law, tort law, and an understanding of California-specific procedures for paralegals over 100 contact hours of study. For those interested in additional certificates, UC-Davis offers 22 different programs that certified paralegals can choose from to add other areas of legal expertise to their resumes.

Students in the program have access to a wealth of resources, including networking opportunities with instructors who have years of legal experience, a comprehensive library of resource materials including workbooks and an interactive study support site, and training in both the LexisNexis and Westlaw research databases.

Prospective students can register for the program at any time. Individuals considering this paralegal certificate online program should sign up for an information session to learn more about the requirements to attend.

#14 Liberty University

  • Annual Tuition: $7,020
  • Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Liberty University offers an undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies. Courses cover paralegal studies, legal writing, research, civil practice, and the foundations of law. Students can also choose an elective in a specialized area of law: real estate transactions and property, tort law, criminal practices and procedures, or wills, trusts, and estates.

Online classes are eight weeks long and follow an asynchronous format. Coursework is delivered on the Blackboard platform. Students can finish in two semesters; however, the average time to complete the certificate is one year. Students have access to free electronic textbooks.

Applicants to this paralegal certificate online program must submit a fee, their official college transcripts (with a minimum of 1.5 cumulative GPA), proof of English proficiency, and complete a high school self-certification form.

#15 Hampton University

  • Annual Tuition: $7,200
  • Locations: Hampton (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Hampton University’s online certificate in paralegal studies program teaches students skills in a variety of judicial environments. The 24-credit curriculum emphasizes legal research and writing. Courses cover law concepts and law specialties in torts and personal injury, criminal law, real estate, domestic relations, litigation, and trial practice.

Online classes run for eight weeks. Students enrolling in two courses per term can finish the paralegal certificate in one academic year. Online students have access to the Career Counseling and Planning Center while earning their certificate and as alumni.

To apply, prospective students must complete an online application (with a fee), provide official transcripts from all schools previously attended (minimum GPA of 2.0), standardized test scores, a letter of recommendation, and an essay.

#16 University of California - Berkeley

  • Annual Tuition: $7,970
  • Locations: Berkeley (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

UC Berkeley Extension offers an online certificate in paralegal studies. The certification program was designed by educators who are also paralegals. Students must take three core requirements and three electives totaling 360 hours of study. The program can be completed in a year or less.

Core topics in this program include the legal system, research and writing, and the discovery process. Elective courses cover specialized areas in law, including criminal, family, intellectual property, tort, and business law.

Students in the program have access to various resources, including practice exercise questions, information from lectures, mock exams, and labs to enhance research and writing skills. Additionally, online learners have access to a toll-free support number, workbooks, LexisNexis, and six months of Westlaw.

#17 Rasmussen College Online

  • Annual Tuition: $8,580
  • Locations: Multiple Locations
  • Accreditation: HLC

The online paralegal certificate program at Rasmussen College is suited for individuals who have already earned an associate or bachelor’s degree. By completing this 33-credit program, students will gain skills in legal analysis, research, writing, communication, and teamwork. The online curriculum covers current legal issues in intellectual property, blockchain, and cryptocurrency. Students must complete a paralegal capstone class that features an online simulation and a required research and writing project.

Online classwork is asynchronous, and the program can be completed in eight months. Graduates will be prepared for work as legal assistants in court, law firms, and government agencies. Online students at Rasmussen have access to campus resources such as advising and career development.

The application and enrollment process is completed online. Applicants are not required to submit test scores, but they must show proof of a high school diploma or GED and submit transcripts for previous colleges/universities attended.

#18 Cerro Coso Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $8,800
  • Locations: Ridgecrest (CA)(and 1 other)
  • Accreditation: WASC ACCJC

The certificate in paralegal studies program at Cerro Coso Community College is a 32-credit online program. The curriculum covers a foundation of the legal system and court system, including research, interviewing, legal briefs, and court procedures. Students complete core classes in business law, legal research, writing, and litigation and procedure.

Students take courses elective courses in specialized areas such as office management, bankruptcy law, criminal law, family law, tort litigation, and personal injury. Graduates can become legal assistants, legal secretaries, and title examiners and work with private law firms, local courts, corporate law offices, and more.

Online classes are offered in an asynchronous format for flexible study. The program can be completed within four semesters. Enrolled students have access to campus services such as library resources, a learning assistance center, counseling, military and veterans assistance, and career development.

#19 Prince George's Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $9,120
  • Locations: Largo (MD)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The certificate in paralegal/legal studies at Prince George's Community College (PGCC) is a 30-credit program that can be completed entirely online. Graduates can apply for employment in the legal field, or they may apply the credits toward the Associate of Applied Science in Legal Assistant at PGCC. Students in the program will learn investigative techniques, legal research, and critical thinking skills, as well as how to draft legal documents. The curriculum includes classes in legal writing and research, tort law, criminal law, legal ethics, and more.

Online coursework is asynchronous to allow for flexibility for students balancing work and personal responsibilities. Students will have access to a career coach, library resources, and other support services.

Prospective students may submit an online application and show proof of high school completion or GED to apply.

#20 Charter Oak State College

  • Annual Tuition: $10,056
  • Locations: New Britain (CT)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The certificate in paralegal studies at Charter Oak State College is a 24-credit program comprising of core courses and elective courses. The core classes cover legal procedures, civil procedures, legal ethics, legal research and writing, and technology in law. Students can choose four electives in various areas of specialization, such as bankruptcy law, criminal law, elder law, environmental law, health care law, insurance law, intellectual property, juvenile law, real estate law, and wills, probate, and administration. Credits from this paralegal certificate online program can be applied toward either an associate or a bachelor's degree at Charter Oak State College.

This accelerated program features eight-week courses taught in an asynchronous format through the Blackboard learning platform. Students have access to various campus services, including military support and the Women in Transition program, which helps single mothers complete their education.

Twelve credits can be transferred into the program, except for a class on legal research and writing. Students can submit an online application and their high school transcripts (or equivalent) to apply.

#21 Tompkins Cortland Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $10,500
  • Locations: Dryden (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The 32-credit certificate in paralegal studies program at Tompkins Cortland Community College can be completed fully online. This paralegal certificate online program can be completed in two semesters. In addition to learning legal principles, students can take electives in criminal law, evidence, bankruptcy, and constitutional law. Curriculum topics include legal research, and drafting, litigation, real estate law, family law, and wills and estate planning. An internship in a law office is required to complete the certificate program.

Online courses are offered in an asynchronous format. Students can receive academic support through tutoring. Graduates of the program can pursue jobs as paralegals or legal assistants in various law offices and government agencies.

To apply, students must complete an online application (with fee) and proof of high school graduation (or equivalent).

#22 Roger Williams University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,825
  • Locations: Bristol (RI)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Roger Williams University offers three post-baccalaureate paralegal certificate programs in Healthcare, Nurse Paralegal, and Paralegal Studies. These online programs are suited for students who have experience in another industry and wish to make the switch to the legal field. The healthcare and nurse paralegal certificates are available for students with 60 credit hours or who have already earned an associate or baccalaureate degree. They must also have at least 4,000 hours of experience as a nurse. The paralegal studies certificate is intended to complement a degree program in another field.

This program is facilitated in an asynchronous format, and students have access to an academic advisor who can support them throughout the program. These online paralegal certificate programs are taught by practicing attorneys, sitting judges, and other legal professionals who work in a variety of law specialties and government agencies.

To apply, students must complete an online application (with fee) and show proof of high school graduation (or equivalent).

#23 Yavapai College

  • Annual Tuition: $10,980
  • Locations: Prescott (AZ)(and 4 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The certificate in paralegal studies at Yavapai College is a 30-credit program that provides students with the skills and practical experience they will need to become paralegals and legal assistants. The coursework covers contracts, ethics and the law, legal research and writing, and civil litigation. Students in the program will improve their written and oral communication skills and increase their technology and computer literacy.

A legal office clerk online certificate is also available. This 18-credit program consists of six courses in legal studies, office management, ethics and the law, and computer applications. The online certificate programs are offered in an asynchronous format.

Students can enroll online by submitting an application form and proof of high school graduation or the GED. Scholarships and financial aid may be available to eligible students.

#24 Webster University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • Locations: St. Louis (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The graduate certificate in paralegal studies at Webster University is a 24-credit program that is available completely online. This program is a stand-alone certificate, or it may be a suitable complement to a Master of Arts degree. The certificate program covers legal research and writing, ethics for law and civil actions. Students will study torts, contracts, probate, business law, juvenile law, product liability, consumer law, environmental law, insurance law, bankruptcy law, property law, intellectual property, family law, and real estate.

Online coursework is hosted on the Canvas learning management system and follows an asynchronous format. There is no set log in time, but students must meet assignment deadlines. Online learners have access to campus resources, including academic advising, library resources, and counseling services.

Prospective students should fill out an application online and must submit official transcripts with a minimum of 2.5 GPA. Applicants must have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.

#25 Franklin Pierce University

  • Annual Tuition: $12,000
  • Locations: Rindge (NH)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies offered at Franklin Pierce University is a 30-credit online program. Students in the program will increase their verbal and written communication. Graduates are prepared to sit for the national paralegal certification exam. Students in the program will improve their skills in verbal and written communication, perform legal analysis, and explore specialized areas in law.

This program is offered in an asynchronous format so that working students can achieve a balance between their school and professional responsibilities. Online students have access to campus services, including academic advising, library research databases, career services, and more.

To apply, students must fill out an online application and submit school transcripts, standardized test scores, a letter of recommendation, and an essay.

2020 Most Affordable Online Paralegal Associate Degrees

2020 Most Affordable Online Colleges Offering Certificate in Paralegal Badge

These 24 colleges offer the most affordable online paralegal associate degrees with tuitions under $10,500 per year.

Eligibility for Paralegal Certification Exams:

  • NALA Certified Paralegal Exam: you are eligible if you have an associate degree in paralegal studies.
  • NFPA Paralegal Core Competency Exam: you are eligible if you have an associate degree in paralegal studies.

View our methodology for more details.

Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 $2,664
# 2 #2 $3,255
# 3 #3 $4,640
# 4 #4 $5,104
# 5 #5 $5,180
# 6 #6 $5,400
# 7 #7 $5,653
# 8 #8 $5,968
# 9 #9 $6,014
# 10 #10 $6,250
# 11 #11 $6,368
# 12 #12 $6,880
# 13 #13 $6,913
# 14 #14 $7,110
# 15 #15 $7,328
# 16 #16 $7,500
# 17 #17 $8,100
# 18 #18 $8,250
# 19 #19 $8,576
# 20 #20 $8,823
# 21 #21 $8,850
# 22 #22 $9,120
# 23 #23 $9,920
# 24 #24 $10,500
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2020 Online Colleges Offering Paralegal Associate Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 Clovis Community College - NM

  • Annual Tuition: $2,664
  • Locations: Clovis (NM)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Students at Clovis Community College can complete an online Associate of Applied Science in Legal Assistant Studies that is designed to provide students a broad foundation in the fundamentals of a career in law. Areas of the discipline studied in the program include criminal law, real estate law, family law, and wills and estates. Students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill the role of the paralegal in assisting attorneys and other legal professionals, including investigating facts and cases, performing legal research, interviewing witnesses and clients, and drafting pleas, motions, subpoenas, briefs, deposition notices, and other legal documents. The curriculum of the online paralegal associate degree program includes coursework in tort practice and procedure, criminal procedure, law office practice and procedure, bankruptcy, and litigation. The associate degree consists of 66 credit hours and can be completed in five semesters. Clovis Community College is an open admission institution that immediately admits applicants to the college upon completion of the application. Students are then assigned the appropriate academic level through their SAT, ACT, or Accuplacer scores, or by using their transcripts if they have previously studied at the college level. Interested students must have received their high school diploma or GED. Graduates of the program can go on to establish or advance a career in a law firm, private corporation, government agency, or legal aid service.

#2 Albany State University

  • Annual Tuition: $3,255
  • Locations: Albany (GA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The online Associate of Applied Science in Legal Assistant/Paralegal at Albany State University can be adapted to best meet each student’s educational and professional interests and goals. Students complete a minimum of 62 credit hours in core coursework and electives chosen from a diverse range of offerings in the discipline. The curriculum includes coursework in tort law, contract law, bankruptcy law, employment law, and criminal law and procedure. Albany State University does not require SAT or ACT stores or an application fee for admission consideration. Once accepted, students submit all academic transcripts to document an earned high school diploma or GED in addition to any college-level coursework previously completed. Students can begin their degree program in the spring, summer, or fall semesters. Online students are given access to resources that will aid them in their studies, including the online bookstore, the online writing center, study guide and research databases, and an online citation machine. Students are also given access to university career and development services for assistance and support in finding employment following completion of the program. Graduates of the online paralegal program leave well prepared and ready for a career as a legal secretary, court clerk, paralegal, or legal assistant in private and public law firms or government agencies.

#3 Hutchinson Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $4,640
  • Locations: Hutchinson (KS)(and 2 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The online Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal at Hutchinson Community College provides students the education, resources, and qualifications necessary to enter the paralegal profession. Through this 64-credit hour, fully online program, students learn how to most effectively assist attorneys in the role of the paralegal by gaining skills in office organization, legal research, file and record maintenance, and legal document preparation. The online paralegal program curriculum includes coursework in family law, legal ethics, litigation, technical writing, business law, and personal injury and civil wrongs. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and must provide transcripts of all secondary and post-secondary school work completed. Hutchinson provides online students with access to the college’s online library catalog and the many resources, academic and legal journals, and databases it houses. Graduates of the online paralegal associate degree are prepared and qualified to take the National Association of Legal Assistants examination to become a certified paralegal.

#4 Fox Valley Technical College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,104
  • Locations: Appleton (WI)(and 5 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Fox Valley Technical College offers an online Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal that is designed to be accessible to all students with flexible admission requirements and transfer credit guidelines. Students completing the online paralegal program gain skillfulness in understanding and utilizing technical legal information, drafting and interpreting legal documents, and analyzing and resolving legal procedural problems. The curriculum of the online paralegal associate degree includes coursework in civil litigation procedures, legal research and writing, paralegal criminal procedures, and family law. Students also complete a paralegal internship during their program to gain the experience and understanding provided by working in a real law office setting. Students are eligible to enroll in the online paralegal associate degree program at Fox Valley through the completion of another associate or higher degree, a high school diploma with a GPA of 2.9 or higher, a score of 165 or higher on a GED, or the completion of the college’s Accuplacer assessment. The college accepts transfer credit from other colleges and also grants credit for knowledge and skills gained through related experience or employment. Students may enroll in the fall, spring, or summer and can choose to complete the program part- or full-time.

#5 Holmes Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,180
  • Locations: Goodman (MS)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The online Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Technology available at Holmes Community College offers a curriculum developed according to the National Association of Legal Assistants' Descriptions of Certified Paralegal Exam Sections. Students completing the 60-credit hour online associate paralegal degree program are instructed in legal research, torts, criminal procedure, and law office management. Students also gain practical experience in the legal profession through a paralegal internship completed at the end of the program. Once the online paralegal program is completed, graduates are prepared to become certified by the National Association of Legal Assistants and enter a career as a paralegal. Holmes Community College has an open admissions policy and requires only a high school diploma or GED for admission. Once students have provided all necessary academic transcripts, they may register for classes in the fall, spring, or summer semesters. Both synchronous and asynchronous coursework is offered, providing students the level of flexibility best suited to their time and commitments. Online students have access to 24-hour technical support to assist with any issues for classes, exams, or assignments.

#6 Northwest Mississippi Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,400
  • Locations: Senatobia (MS)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Technology program at Northwest Mississippi Community College is a 60-credit program that can be completed fully online in two years. Students will learn the skills to begin careers as legal assistants or paralegals in law offices, corporations, or government agencies. This online paralegal associate degree program was created by local practicing legal professionals and attorneys. It is offered in an asynchronous online format for flexible study, though an internship is required in the final semester. Students can take electives in paralegal studies or criminal justice. Graduates of this online paralegal associate degree program can enter the job market in employment opportunities such as law firms, legal departments, insurance companies, title insurance firms, banks, and real estate development corporations. Students also can look in nonprofit organizations as well as federal state and local government agencies related to the legal field. Students fill out an online form, and a counselor will reach out with assistance in completing the application. Online students at Northwest Mississippi Community College have access to campus services, including tech support, academic advising, and academic support.

#7 Lake Superior College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,653
  • Locations: Duluth (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Lake Superior College offers both the Associate of Applied Science and the Associate of Science in paralegal studies. Both programs are offered online in an asynchronous format for flexible study. The curriculum covers the skills to pursue the field of law as a legal assistant or paralegal. Students will learn legal terminology, the principles and practices of the American legal system, state and federal court procedures, witness and client interview techniques, and research and legal writing. Both programs can be completed in two years; academic advising is available along the way. The Associate of Applied Science teaches students to be legal assistants, while the Associate of Science teaches students to become paralegals. To determine which program to apply to, students can talk to an online enrollment counselor. To apply to this online paralegal associate degree program, students can fill out an online application and submit their high school transcripts or proof of GED. Students can apply up to one year in advance of their start; sessions begin in fall, spring, and summer.

#8 Minnesota State Community and Technical College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,968
  • Locations: Fergus Falls (MN)(and 2 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal program at Minnesota State Community and Technical College equips students with the skills necessary to pursue various jobs in the law profession. Students in this asynchronous online program will improve their critical thinking, analysis, writing, and research skills. Graduates pursue work as paralegals in a variety of settings, including law firms, government agencies, corporate law offices, and more. This program is 60 credits with courses in legal research and writing, civil and criminal law, wills and property law, and legal ethics. Students will also learn skills in accounting, computer technology, communications, and more. Student support services at Minnesota State include academic advising, disability services, online library resources, veteran services, and career development. This online paralegal associate degree program can be completed in two years or four semesters. To apply to this program, students must fill out an online application, submit an application fee, and send high school or college transcripts.

#9 Iowa Lakes Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $6,014
  • Locations: Estherville (IA)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Associate in Applied Science in Paralegal/Legal Studies program at Iowa Lakes Community College teaches students the skills necessary to work as paralegals and legal assistants. It is a practical program that combines coursework with hands-on training in the legal field. Students will learn how to evaluate cases, conduct interviews with witnesses and clients, draft court pleadings and other legal documents, research legal documents, organize files, and complete other tasks to help attorneys in their preparation for cases. Students will have an internship in a law office where they will gain skills in drafting wills and lawsuits. This program can be completed in five terms with the fifth term dedicated to a two-credit practicum. Classes are online in an asynchronous format via Canvas, but there are strict deadlines for assignment and homework submissions, as well as quizzes, tests, and other assessments. Discussion boards take the place of live class discussion, and students have access to their instructors via email, as well as academic advisors and other on-campus services. To apply to this online paralegal associate degree program, students should fill out an online application and submit their high school transcript; an enrollment coach is available to discuss admission requirements.

#10 Hinds Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $6,250
  • Locations: Raymond (MS)(and 1 other)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Technology program at Hinds Community College helps prepare students for entry-level positions as legal assistants or paralegals in a variety of legal settings. This two-year online program is taught in an asynchronous format for flexible study. It covers courses in the career and technical field as well as having an academic core and areas of concentration. Students who graduate this online paralegal associate degree program will be able to sit for national certification exams; transfer credit from other colleges may be accepted. Legal research and legal writing are the only two classes that are not offered online, though they are offered in the evening to make it convenient for working adults. Courses are taught by experienced faculty members, and students have access to a free job placement service. An online orientation gets students acclimated to the online classroom. Most classes are offered in an asynchronous format, although some live chat discussions may be available. To enroll, students should fill out the online application and submit their high school transcript or GED.

#11 Alexandria Technical & Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $6,368
  • Locations: Alexandria (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Associate in Applied Science in Paralegal program at Alexandria Technical and Community College is a practical program that prepares students to become legal assistants and paralegals working with attorneys in a variety of legal environments. Students will build skills in legal procedures and government policy. The online curriculum has a focus on civil litigation, criminal law, family law, business, real estate, estates and probates, intellectual property, and bankruptcy. Students will improve their skills in writing, research, communication, and more. The 63-credit program may be completed in four semesters; a fifth semester is required solely for a summer internship that provides valuable hands-on experience in the legal field. Online courses are offered in an asynchronous format. Scholarships are available to those students who qualify. Students have access to academic advisors as well as career services. To apply to this online paralegal associate degree program, students must submit an online application and send their transcripts from high school or college.

#12 Rio Salado College

  • Annual Tuition: $6,880
  • Locations: Tempe (AZ)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Associate in Applied Science in Paralegal Program at Rio Salado College is an online program that offers over 40 start dates, so students have control over when they begin their learning. The program is 64 credits and can be completed in five semesters by full-time students or in nine semesters by part-time students, offering even more flexibility for adult learners who are balancing work and other responsibilities with their career training. The online classes in this online paralegal associate degree program are flexible; Rio Salado uses a block calendar system, so students have flexibility in scheduling their courses each term. Classes are eight weeks long. Students have access to a variety of helpful campus resources, including success coaches, career and counseling services, disability services, technical support, library resources, and more. To apply to Rio Salado College, students must fill out an online application and have proof of high school graduation or GED.

#13 University of Alaska Fairbanks

  • Annual Tuition: $6,913
  • Locations: Fairbanks (AK)(and 1 other)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

The Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is a two-year program that is approved by the American Bar Association to prepare graduates for entry-level careers in legal services. The curriculum in this online paralegal associate degree program covers topics in legal research and writing, contracts, law and civil procedures, and legal ethics. Students will learn about criminal law, family law, employment law, probate law, torts, real estate law, as well as how technology is used in the law. The delivery of this program is both online and in class. Students can begin their programs in the fall, spring, or summer; they must connect with a program advisor so that they are taking the correct classes in the correct sequence. Students have access to services such as academic advising, tutoring and academic support, text support, and military and veteran services. To apply, students should visit the website to complete an online application form and upload transcripts from high school or college as applicable.

#14 Georgia Military College

  • Annual Tuition: $7,110
  • Locations: Milledgeville (GA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

At Georgia Military College, individuals seeking entry-level opportunities as legal assistants can get an education with the Associate of Arts or the Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies. Graduates of both programs pursue work in law offices and government agencies in both the public and private sectors. Students will learn and practice their skills and critical thinking, research, writing, communication, and technology. The core curriculum of both online paralegal associate degree programs focuses on communication and quantitative skills and offers classes in the humanities, fine arts, natural sciences, math and technology, and in the social sciences; the paralegal studies concentration is 25 credits. The Associate of Arts core is 72-73 credits while the core for the Associate of Science is 65-69; admissions staff can help students know which option is right for them. Classes are taught in an asynchronous format so students can study wherever and whenever they please. Online students at Georgia Military College have staff members in admissions, academic advisement, and financial aid, as well as other campus resources, including library databases. To apply, students must submit an online application form with their high school transcripts or college transcripts if a transfer student.

#15 Kirkwood Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $7,328
  • Locations: Cedar Rapids (IA)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies at Kirkwood Community College is an online program that can be completed in two years. While the AAS degree prepares students for entry-level positions in the legal services field, they may also transfer this credit into a four-year program if they complete the liberal arts program core at Kirkwood. Graduates of this online paralegal associate degree program have gone on to work as paralegals as well as continued on to law school. Students may begin the program in the fall, spring, or summer and complete the program in four terms or two years; up to 12 credits of previously completed courses may be transferred. Classes are taught in an asynchronous self-paced format, so students have the flexibility for when and how they study. Students may take a three-credit internship as an elective for valuable hands-on experience in their fields. Academic advisors will help students ensure that they are taking the classes that will best fit their professional and academic interests; students have access to career advising and other services as well. Students may be eligible for the Kibbie Grant, which can pay half of their tuition. Applicants must fill out an online form and submit their high school or college transcripts.

#16 Abraham Lincoln University

  • Annual Tuition: $7,500
  • Locations: Los Angeles (CA)
  • Accreditation: DEAC

The Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies program at Abraham Lincoln University is suited for full-time working adults who need the flexibility to balance both professional and educational responsibilities. This online paralegal associate degree program focuses on the skills needed for entry-level jobs and career advancement in the fields of legal services. The AS is a 60-credit asynchronous online program that can be completed in two years. Graduates of the program have the credentials needed to sit for the National Association for Legal Assistants (NALA) certificate exam. Students have access to a variety of student services, including online legal databases and other research tools. In addition to the core in general education classes for this program, students can take electives in family law, office technology, immigration law, environmental law, intellectual property law, bankruptcy law, employment law, and education law. Students will increase their skills and written and oral communication as well as research, analysis, and computer skills. To apply, students must submit an online application along with their transcripts. Military and veteran support is available.

#17 American Public University System

  • Annual Tuition: $8,100
  • Locations: Charles Town (WV)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The online Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies program at the American Public University is a 60-credit program with monthly opportunities to begin classes. The online classes are offered an eight-week asynchronous program format for flexible study options. Students may transfer in up to 45 of the 60 credits needed for graduation. Students can complete the program in two years; a seminar in paralegal studies is required in the second year to complete the program. Graduates of the online paralegal associate degree program will have the necessary analytical, communication, and technical skills needed to pursue legal assistant and paralegal work in a variety of settings. Students will have the opportunity to gain a firm grasp of principles and litigation, ethics, real estate law, criminal law, and civil law; they will improve their legal research and writing skills for drafting legal documents and lawsuits. To apply to the American Public University System, students must submit an online application (there is no fee) along with their transcripts from high school or college.

#18 Cerro Coso Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $8,250
  • Locations: Ridgecrest (CA)(and 1 other)
  • Accreditation: WASC ACCJC

The Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies program at Cerro Coso Community College allows individuals to prepare for roles as legal assistants, paralegals, document preparers, and more. This program does not fulfill any certification requirements, but it can be used toward eventual certification. Students will gain the skills needed to work in specialty fields such as real estate, Social Security, criminal law, and constitutional law. The 60-credit program can be finished in four semesters. The program covers practical and theoretical education in the legal system as well as a liberal arts core. All classes are completed online in an asynchronous format. Students admitted to the online paralegal associate degree program at Cerro Coso will connect with an admissions counselor to determine which classes should be taken. Student services available to online students at Cerro Coso include counseling, military and veteran support, tutoring, career development, and library resources. Applicants should complete an online form and submit their application and transcript.

#19 Western Piedmont Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $8,576
  • Locations: Morganton (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Associate in Applied Sciences Paralegal Technology program at Western Piedmont Community College is offered online to allow for flexibility for adult learners. Students who graduate from this program will be prepared to enter the legal services field in private law firms, government agencies, insurance and finance firms, and other organizations in both the public and private sectors. Paralegal course work will include topics in civil litigation, research and writing, family law, wills, estates and trusts, commercial law, and real estate. A program advisor can help a student determine which classes in this online paralegal associate degree program to take each semester. The 67-credit program is offered in an asynchronous format and can be completed within two years. Online students at Western Piedmont have access to numerous campus services, including the academic success center, academic advising, library resources, tech support, and more. To apply, students must submit an online form and submit their high school or college transcripts; if a transfer student, placement tests may be required.

#20 Mountain Empire Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $8,823
  • Locations: Big Stone Gap (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies program at Mountain Empire Community College combines both the practical and theoretical aspects of the legal profession for those wishing to enter as paralegals or legal assistants. Students will be able to sit for the certification exams in the paralegal field. Graduates of the program will learn basic skills in communication, written correspondence, and computer proficiency and will be prepared to work in legal offices and government agencies. Students will learn the ethical principles of legal issues needed to work in law firms, banks and mortgage companies, and title insurance companies, as well as private and public corporations. Students can complete the 67-credit online program in two years. An internship opportunity is available to give students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field. Online students at Mountain Empire Community College have access to student services, including academic advising. The distance learning courses are facilitated through the asynchronous platform Canvas, though some classes may require live online meetings. Prospective applicants must complete the Virginia Community College system online application to be considered for this online paralegal associate degree program. Students must be high school graduates or have GED. Assessments in reading, writing, and math may be required.

#21 Grantham University

  • Annual Tuition: $8,850
  • Locations: Kansas City (KS)
  • Accreditation: DEAC

The Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies at Grantham University prepares students to assist legal teams in corporate, government, and nonprofit legal settings. Students will learn how to research, analyze, interview, and investigate, as well as draft documents for attorneys. Students will study civil litigation, wills and trusts, and other topics in legal studies. The 60-credit program can be completed in two years by a full-time student. Courses begin monthly, so the program is ready for students to start whenever they are. Student support at Grantham University is available through career services, academic advising, and veteran and military support. A 24/7 virtual profile keeps students connected to their account information and coursework. The curriculum is offered an asynchronous format to offer flexibility; a capstone class is required for graduation. To apply to this online paralegal associate degree program at Grantham University, students must submit an online application along with official transcripts.

#22 Prince George's Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $9,120
  • Locations: Largo (MD)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal/Legal Studies at Prince George's Community College provides students with the educational foundation to become legal assistants in a variety of settings. Students will learn the investigative and research techniques that are needed to gather information for court cases; they will learn how to use a law library for research, which includes both manual and digital methods, and they will improve their skills in writing, critical thinking, and analysis. Students will take classes in business law, mediation, civil litigation, employment law, and criminal evidence and procedure, among others. There is an opportunity to complete an internship for essential hands-on learning. Courses are offered in an asynchronous format allowing for the ultimate flexibility for study. Students have access to a career coach for helping them make a successful transition from program to employment. To apply, students must submit an online application along with their transcripts.

#23 Drury University

  • Annual Tuition: $9,920
  • Locations: Springfield (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies at Drury University is a 62-credit online program that can be completed within two years. This asynchronous online program is offered through the College of Continuing Professional Studies; students have a choice between five start dates. Students will learn the principles and practices of the law so they can pursue legal services firms as legal assistants and paralegals. The program has a general education core plus 21 credits, or seven classes, in paralegal studies. Topics in this online paralegal associate degree program include law and legal reasoning, legal research and writing, interviewing and investigating, litigation, tort law, and family law. A professional practicum is required to graduate and give students valuable hands-on experience to build their resumes. To apply, there is a simple online form, and students must submit transcripts from high school and college. Advisors are available by email and phone for support during the program.

#24 Tompkins Cortland Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $10,500
  • Locations: Dryden (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal at Tompkins Cortland Community College is a 63-credit program offered in an asynchronous online format so that working students have the flexibility to complete their studies. The AAS has a vocational concentration allowing for students to get the practical experience as well as the classroom experience they need to enter the field of legal services. All classes are online except for an internship in a law office that will provide practical experience so they can pursue entry-level jobs in legal services. Students will study a variety of topics in the liberal arts and legal studies as well as legal research, drafting, real estate law, wills and estate planning, family law, civil litigation, and legal ethics and principles. Students may further specialize in their study by taking electives in criminal law, evidence, constitutional law, and bankruptcy law. Motivated students can accelerate their progress and graduate in fewer than two years. Students have access to tutoring and academic support during the program, as well as other services. To apply, students must have their high school diploma or GED and submit an online form.

Online Paralegal Degree Overview & Career Information

Paralegal studies programs are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate levels, although the standard educational requirement for becoming a paralegal is an associate degree. Certificates in paralegal studies are available to students with a wide range of educational and work experience. Some certificates are designed for current professionals, while others are designed for students who are new to the legal profession.

Associate degrees in paralegal studies teach students how to put basic legal principles into practice and build reasoning skills, as well as written communication and conflict resolution skills. Coursework typically addresses topics in commercial law, civil procedure, paralegal litigation, legal research and writing, and domestic relations. In addition to didactic coursework, students may have an opportunity to participate in an internship to gain hands-on experience.

Students who complete an associate degree program may choose to transfer to a bachelor's degree program in paralegal studies to enhance their knowledge of the legal system and complex procedures. Most undergraduate programs place an emphasis on courtroom conduct, investigative practices, and litigation. They may explore a variety of subjects, such as tax law, legal writing and research, legal ethics, wills and estates, and administrative litigation. Additional components of the program include seminars and internships. 

A small number of schools offer paralegal master's degree programs to students who want to maximize their chances of advancing in an organization. Students may select an area of concentration in intellectual property law, international law, or government law. Typical courses include contracts, jurisprudence, and advanced legal research and writing.

Online Associate Degrees in Paralegal

Online associate degrees in paralegal studies are great options for students looking to develop writing, research, and critical thinking skills which they can utilize in support roles at law firms and legal departments.

Program Requirements

Paralegal associate degrees offered by online schools usually take two years to complete and require 20 to 30 courses. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED and may need to provide high school transcripts for admission.

Curriculum

The paralegal studies curriculum at the associate level covers particular skills of the legal assistant, as well as the ins and outs of different applications of the law. Courses in legal terminology and legal research and writing teach students how to investigate pertinent laws and regulations; students also learn how to write legal correspondence and other documents. Litigation classes focus on the process of going to court and the paralegal’s role in preparing a case for the courtroom. Other common courses in the online paralegal associate degree cover particular areas of law, such as commercial law and real estate law. Business communication and legal office administration are other typical electives in these programs.

Many online associate programs will also include at least one course in English composition due to the writing-intensive nature of the paralegal profession. These classes focus on teaching students how to write clearly and effectively with correct grammar. Prospective students can also expect to take a class that is dedicated to legal research. Much of a paralegal's job will revolve around conducting research for attorneys, and associate degree courses in research will focus on navigating Internet resources and other legal databases.

Additionally, paralegal students are usually required to take a class in civil law, as this is one of the most common legal areas addressed in large law firms and corporations. Civil law courses include study of consumer rights and contracts, and knowledge of criminal law is also often beneficial to the work of legal assistants.

Beyond the traditional classes, some programs will offer students the opportunity to participate in an internship to gain practical experience in the legal field.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Paralegal

Online paralegal bachelor’s programs are designed to train graduates for positions as legal assistants and paralegals. These four-year programs cover the workings of the US legal system and different areas of law, as well as the writing and research skills crucial for paralegal work.

Program Requirements

Bachelor's degrees in paralegal studies generally require four years to complete, or the equivalent of 120 semester credit hours. Applicants need to have a GED or high school diploma and will need to submit transcripts from high school and any college courses they have previously taken.

Curriculum

Bachelor’s programs in paralegal studies include general education classes as well as coursework in legal operations, writing, and research. Through their program’s electives, students may specialize their degree in a particular area of law, such as corporate law or civil law.

Courses in different areas of law form the foundation of the paralegal bachelor’s degree. For example, in a civil litigation course, students learn how civil law functions in the United States and about the rights and procedures of the court system. A course in real estate law discusses the laws involving property ownership and real estate financing. Tort law is a type of law used in all areas of the legal system; it covers the ways that individuals or organizations are to be reimbursed if they are intentionally or accidentally harmed.

While knowledge in specific law topics is important, these classes do not cover the practical skill set that paralegals need in order to be competent in their work; instead, classes in legal writing and legal research cover these most important skills. In these classes, paralegals learn how to research court precedents and laws regarding particular cases, as well as how to write up affidavits, contracts, and other legal documents. 

Many distance learning paralegal bachelor’s programs require students to complete an internship. This professional experience in a legal office can be very helpful in finding employment after graduation. Besides this internship experience, most of the coursework in these programs is information-based and can be effectively transferred to the online format.

Bachelor's graduates may pursue a wide range of careers in the legal system. Career opportunities include case manager, corporate paralegal, junior paralegal, law clerk, law office manager, legal assistant, and legal researcher. Work settings for graduates include corporate legal departments, government agencies, insurance companies, private law firms, real estate companies, and title insurance firms. Bachelor's programs also lay an excellent foundation for further studies and career advancement in the legal field.

Online Master's Degrees in Paralegal

A master's degree is the highest level of paralegal degree available. There are very few master's degree programs offered in paralegal studies. An online master’s program is ideal for students looking to strengthen their skills in legal writing, research, and office administration.

Program Requirements

Online master's degrees in paralegal studies require approximately two years to complete. Students can expect to take between 32 and 38 semester credit hours. Applicants need an accredited bachelor’s degree and will need to submit transcripts from their undergraduate degree program. Additionally, applicants may need to supply letters of recommendation. Often, graduate-level programs have minimum GPA requirements and/or minimum standardized test score requirements for admission.

Curriculum

The curriculum in the law and paralegal master’s provides an education in history and legal theory, as well as the practical abilities to perform administrative duties in a legal environment. Courses in the history of U.S. law and criminal justice provide a framework for legal work. Other foundational courses focus on the skills for utilizing legal databases, searching for relevant past cases, and compiling notes for attorneys. Students also learn how to fill out certain legal documents and draft correspondence.

Master's-level paralegal students will take a course in legal research and writing which will expand upon their existing knowledge of drafting legal documents and conducting research. Other common classes include corporations and contracts law which covers corporate law practice, business ethics, SEC rules, the Uniform Commercial Code, and contract formation; litigation which focuses on civil actions within the court systems along with rules, technology, ethics, and procedures; and American jurisprudence which will cover court systems and an overview of constitutional law, as well as evidence, ethics, and professionalism. Master’s students also take electives in particular areas of the law, such as constitutional law, criminal law, and environmental law. While most paralegal master’s programs do not require a thesis, some require a capstone project, which is completed during the student’s final semester.

The law and paralegal master’s degree can offer professionally oriented training to career changers interested in entering the paralegal and legal office administration career. As these positions do not typically require a graduate degree, those with this advanced credentials are likely to stand out in the job search. Current business professionals and entrepreneurs can also use the law and paralegal master’s program to gain a working knowledge of the legal system in order to better understand the legal environment of business.

Online Certificates in Paralegal

An online paralegal certificate program prepares students for work as paralegals in private law firms or businesses. The paralegal will have duties that include interviewing, investigation of claims, prep work of legal forms, research activities, as well as assisting lawyers in court and other activities. Some certificate programs are offered for beginning students, while other programs are only available to students who have completed an associate or bachelor's degree. For students looking to enter the field of law as a paralegal, the certificate program can be a positive step toward a better job, a new career, a higher salary, or just more knowledge of the field of law. 

Certificate paralegal programs typically take between 10 months and 2 years to complete. Some online colleges offer a full-time curriculum that can be completed in as little as seven months. The length of the program will depend on the type of certificate you choose and the curriculum covered. 

While all certification programs will have required courses, students are usually allowed some flexibility when choosing electives, which may help with different types of law and legal offices, such as family law, criminal law, intellectual property, or administrative law. Students should expect to take courses in legal research and writing, litigation, legal theories and analysis, contract law, corporations and partnerships, and legal office management. Certificate coursework often includes legal research, writing, and civil litigation, torts and personal injury, real property, constitutional law and criminal procedure, laws of evidence, and legal document preparation.

Those students looking to enter a paralegal certificate program without an associate or bachelor's degree will find classes such as business law, legal assisting, tort law & claims, legal writing, property and creditor rights, probate law, will and trusts, and a legal research lab. For those students entering a certificate program after completing an undergraduate degree, the classes may include legal analysis, computers and the law, torts, contracts, property law, civil litigation, and legal research. Ethics for the paralegal and technology for the paralegal will also be included. Students aren't usually required to complete a final project as part of their certificate program, but some schools require work experience or an internship.

Certification Requirements for Paralegals

Certification for paralegals is not mandated by any US state, but more and more paralegals and legal assistants are choosing to earn voluntary certification. Those seeking new employment may find that certification will make them more appealing in the job market. Paralegal certifications are offered by various national and regional legal industry professional groups. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offer some of the most widely recognized paralegal credentials.

To become eligible for the NALA Certified Paralegal exam, applicants must meet these criteria. Those who successfully pass the NALA exam become Certified Paralegals (CP) and must complete 50 hours of approved continuing education hours every 5 years to maintain their certification.

To become eligible for the NFPA Paralegal Core Competency Exam, applicants must meet these criteria. Those who successfully pass the NFPA exam receive a Core Registered Paralegal (CRP) designation. For paralegals with an accredited associate or bachelor's degree in paralegal studies and two to six years of professional experience, the NFPA offers the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam which if passed, results in the Registered Paralegal (RP) designation. RPs are required to complete 12 hours of continuing education courses every 2 years to maintain their certification.

The Importance of Accreditation

Attending a reputable paralegal program will help ensure that you receive a high-quality education and have access to the most current information about the paralegal profession. Although enrolling in a formally recognized paralegal program won't guarantee immediate employment, corporations and firms often prefer to hire applicants from accredited schools because they can feel confident that students who graduate from these approved programs are knowledgeable and competent.

The US Department of Education (USDE) recognizes several agencies that evaluate and accredit schools and degree programs, and they provide a list of accredited schools and programs on their website. The American Bar Association is recognized by the USDE and provides a list of their approved paralegal programs, as well.

What Should I Know About Paralegal Programs and ABA Approval?

There are dozens of online paralegal training programs to choose from in the United States; choosing just one can be daunting. One concept you should understand as you research education options is the American Bar Association approval for paralegal programs.

The American Bar Association does not accredit paralegal programs in the same way that a regional accrediting body accredits colleges and universities. Instead, the ABA may offer its approval to paralegal programs, in exchange for a fee. The ABA approves paralegal training programs that meet certain standards of program administration. The majority of paralegal training programs do not choose to pursue ABA approval. Currently, the ABA does not approve training programs where the majority of coursework takes place online.

Do I Need to Attend an ABA Approved Paralegal Training Program?

In most cases, paralegals do not need to graduate from an ABA-approved program in order to find work. Only about 25 percent of paralegal training programs have ABA approval, so many graduates do not have the ABA affiliation. With this in mind, there are some employers who prefer to hire paralegals who have completed an ABA-approved program. It makes sense to investigate the type of paralegal work you want to do and prospective employers you might work for before choosing a paralegal training program. Talk to current paralegals who are doing the kind of work you want to do, and get their perspective on ABA approval.

What Should I Consider When Choosing an Online Paralegal Training Program?

You may decide that it makes sense for you to pursue an online paralegal training program, despite the lack of ABA approval. To find the best online program for you, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Instructor Qualifications: Look for programs with courses taught by licensed attorneys or experienced paralegals.
  • Online Course Style: Online paralegal programs may use one of a few types of online classes. Some use self-paced classes, where students do assignments at their own pace within a certain large time frame. Other programs have weekly video lectures and due dates like traditional classes. Still others are hybrid programs that require students to come to class to complete certain assignments.
  • Study Tools: High-quality online programs provide students with a variety of study materials, such as textbooks, workbooks, online practice exercises, and access to online legal databases.

Paralegal Specializations

Paralegals can specialize in specific types of law such as corporate law or civil law. All paralegals study the same basic skills such as legal writing and research or court operations.

At the associate degree level students learn foundational skills but, as students progress in their education, they can choose specializations that are interesting to them. It’s helpful for students to determine their area of interest early on in their paralegal education because there are different paralegal skill sets required depending on the type of law. For example, criminal law paralegals learn how to research cases, understand crime laws, prepare for trial, and interview witnesses, among other responsibilities.

Because there are so many different specializations for paralegals (ex: corporate, litigation, estate, family law, immigration, intellectual property, debt, freelance paralegals), acquiring hands-on experience through internships or practicums can help students identify which specialization to pursue.

The paralegal studies degree at Unable to find data target with ID `data-bottom`. Did you misspell something, forget to include the data target, or mistakenly place the data target below this widget? allows students to choose from a variety of electives based on interest. For those hoping to expedite the educational process, Unable to find data target with ID `data-bottom`. Did you misspell something, forget to include the data target, or mistakenly place the data target below this widget? undergraduate students graduate with a specialized certificate in pre-law or political studies along with their degree.

Another accelerated option is a 27-hour Certificate in Paralegal Studies offered by Unable to find data target with ID `data-bottom`. Did you misspell something, forget to include the data target, or mistakenly place the data target below this widget? for those who already have an undergraduate degree. Unable to find data target with ID `data-bottom`. Did you misspell something, forget to include the data target, or mistakenly place the data target below this widget? offers a Criminal Justice bachelor's degree and a paralegal certificate.

For those interested in a broader, more comprehensive degree, Unable to find data target with ID `data-bottom`. Did you misspell something, forget to include the data target, or mistakenly place the data target below this widget? boasts a liberal arts specialization. There are several specialization options offered at Unable to find data target with ID `data-bottom`. Did you misspell something, forget to include the data target, or mistakenly place the data target below this widget?; students can earn a bachelor's in law and national security, master's in litigation or mediation or one of 11 other paralegal degree options.

What Kind of Degree Do You Need to Become a Paralegal?

The minimum requirement for an entry-level paralegal job is typically a two-year associate degree. This is a great option for students ready to launch into the legal workforce. An associate degree gives students a basic foundation of paralegal skills including legal practices and research.

However, some law firms require a bachelor's degree for upper-level paralegal positions. A four-year bachelor's degree builds upon foundational knowledge with an emphasis on complex courtroom procedures and litigation and more opportunities to explore specializations and niche aspects of the field. A bachelor's degree can allow more time for students to recognize their specific legal interests.

Those who already have an undergraduate degree might decide to earn a certificate instead of an additional bachelor's degree. Certificates are specialized training that take anywhere from 6 months to a year to complete. While not required for employment, students who earn a certificate might be more appealing to prospective employers. Certificates can be obtained at any level of the educational process, whether students are pursuing graduate study or are starting out in the legal field. While not as common, there are also master's degrees offered for those who want to further advance their career. These degrees serve those working in highly targeted legal fields or for those who ultimately desire to teach paralegal studies.

References

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