Paralegal
Schools and Degrees

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The legal services industry is diverse, complex, and competitive—an integrated system of law practices in varied areas, including civil law, business law, real estate law, employment and labor law and more. This system employs nearly 600,000 lawyers in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—lawyers that need the support and services of paralegals. A major industry itself, paralegal services employs approximately 271,000 individuals across the country. The following guide serves as an introduction to paralegal education, including a review of educational options, types of paralegal programs, curriculum, certification, as well as an interview with a senior litigation paralegal with more than 20 years of experience in the field.

Best Paralegal Programs 2018-2019

Methodology
2-Year Colleges

Finding the best paralegal school is vital for a prospective student’s academic success. Quality paralegal programs will have experienced instructors who are able to provide credible information while covering all of the industry-specific requirements. To help students find the best program that will meet their needs, we have found the top paralegal schools in the country by ranking them based on our criteria. Learn more about the best paralegal schools and programs for 2018-2019 in the list below.

Filters
Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services counselling-services University Description
1 Liberty University $15,105 6 24% 55% 88% Yes Yes Yes

At the nonprofit, faith-based Liberty University, students can complete a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies in a 100% online format. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the program entails 120 credit hours, which takes an average of 3.5 years to complete. Each course lasts for 8 weeks and is delivered through the web platform Blackboard Learn. Although students are expected to meet certain deadlines, where and when coursework is accessed is based around a student's individual schedule. In addition, there are 8 different start dates each year to provide more flexibility. For successful completion, students must satisfy certain general education classes, including credit hours in Christian Life & Thought. Field-specific curriculum involves American government, legal research, legal writing, real estate transactions and property, tort law and more. Students can typically transfer around 75% of their credits from another institution. However, 50% of program requirements must be taken through Liberty. In order to be admitted, students need to hold a minimum 2.0 GPA, which must be maintained in order to receive a degree. Upon graduation, students enter the legal field in professions such as paralegals, legal assistants, claims adjusters and law clerks. Military personnel receive discounted rates for tuition, and the school is now providing electronic textbooks to online undergrads, saving students $800-$2,000 in costs every year. To assist in your studies, you can access an online career center, writing center, the library and tutoring. Online Student Life works to provide distance education students with the same supportive, Christ-centered experience that residential students receive.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Bachelor's Degree in Paralegal Studies
  • Available Concentrations: Paralegal Studies
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $390/credit
  • Program Type: Online
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: May 1st
  • GPA: 3.2
  • Standardized Test: New SAT (1020-1220); ACT (20-27)
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: 1 (800) 543-5317
  • Email: admissions@liberty.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
2 University of Central Florida $4,478 1 50% 73% 43% Yes Yes Yes

The University of Central Florida partners with ed2go to provide students with continuing education opportunities, including a paralegal online training program. There is a 12-month time limit to finish 300 self-paced clock hours with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Classes, which are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, include topics such as paralegal employment, on-the-job realities, legal research and criminal law. By the end the program, students will be equipped to work as a legal assistant or paralegal. Competency in conducting legal interviews, familiarity with legal ethics and knowledge of the etiquette for legal writing are just a few of the skills students can expect to gain. The curriculum also prepares students to take the Certified Paralegal Exam. As a bonus, program enrollment grants access to the National Association of Legal Assistants' self-study courses. In order to sign up for the exam, students must have an associate degree, bachelor's degree or professional experience that adds up to 900 clock hours of coursework. Upon graduation, the Virtual Career Center can assist in job exploration, creating a resume and becoming an effective interviewee. Although students need a computer to participate in this program, tuition covers all necessary materials, including any required books. On top of this, many continuing education programs qualify for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Vocational Rehabilitation, the Trade Adjustment Act and other government funding opportunities. There are also military discounts to help cut down on tuition costs.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Paralegal Online Training Program
  • Available Concentrations: Paralegal Studies
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Program Type: Online
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: May 1 (fall enrollment); November 1 (spring enrollment)
  • GPA: None
  • Standardized Test: SAT or ACT
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: (407) 823-3000
  • Email: admission@ucf.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
3 Alexandria Technical & Community College $4,768 2 - 64% 33% Yes Yes Yes

Students looking to enter the field of legal professions have the option to complete a Paralegal Associate in Applied Science degree at Alexandria Technical & Community College. The program delivers comprehensive training in law and the management of legal communication as well as develops practical business skills, such as the use of relevant computer applications. For 5 semesters, students will partake in 63 credit hours, covering topics including legal office procedures, civil litigation, interpersonal communication and legal writing. The final semester involves a summer internship. Upon graduation, which requires a minimum 2.0 GPA, students can enter the workforce as paralegals, assistants, credit investigators, senior court clerks, property specialists, bankruptcy analysts and title company closers. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and awards over $300,000 in scholarships every year. Students are supported throughout campus, and the ATCC Information Center acts as a central hub for connecting students to resources. Transfer advisors are available to guide students through the process of transitioning to a 4-year degree program, and the online Transferology tool helps students to determine recognized transfer credits. Support Services offers free on-campus and online tutoring, study groups, writing assistance and access services for students with disabilities. The Counseling Center is available to help in personal and academic matters as well as offers career services. Admissions advisors are also available to answer questions from prospective students or to set up campus tours. A high school diploma or GED with no academic probation or suspension is the requirement for application.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Paralegal AAS Degree
  • Available Concentrations: Paralegal Studies
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $160/credit
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: October 31st
  • GPA: None
  • Standardized Test: None
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: (320) 762-4600
  • Email: info@alextech.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
4 Humphreys University-Stockton and Modesto Campuses $14,004 2 - 77% 53% Yes No Yes

At Humphreys University there are multiple opportunities for students aspiring to enter legal professions or working toward admissions into law school. For example, the Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies degree requires 181 credits and takes around 4 years to complete. Another option is to spend 2 years completing 96 credits in order to receive an Associate of Arts in Legal Studies. Students pursuing a different academic pathway can tack on 28 additional credits to earn a minor in legal studies. Finally, for those interested in becoming a paralegal or legal assistant, there is a 128-credit program to receive a certificate in paralegal studies. Although a minimum 2.0 GPA is mandatory for graduation, students finishing any of the above degrees with a 3.2 GPA and LSAT score of 144 are qualified to transfer to the institution's Drivon School of Law. Through this program, students satisfy 120 credits in order to graduate with a Juris Doctor degree and are equipped to take the California Bar exam. Evening classes are available to accommodate flexible schedules, and a number of general education classes may be offered in an online format. All coursework is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission, and programs cover topics such as legal terminology, criminal law and professional responsibility. Tutoring services, career guidance and academic advising are available to assist students in their educational journey. There are also student account specialists to answer questions regarding tuition and financial aid.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Legal Studies
  • Available Concentrations: Legal Studies, Paralegal Studies
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission
  • Tuition: $397/credit
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • GPA: None
  • Standardized Test: Placement test
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: (209) 478-0800
  • Email: stocktonadmissios@humphreys.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
5 University of Evansville $31,782 1 71% 64% 92% Yes Yes Yes

Students at the University of Evansville have the option to add a minor in legal studies to their academic plan. Upon completion, students will be prepared for work in the legal professions or to move on to law school. Although the minor can supplement any pathway, it is highly recommended for students working toward degrees in criminal justice, political science, international affairs, sociology or psychology. The program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and requires 18 credits of on-campus coursework. Classes include constitutional law, legal environment of business, international crime and justice, and human rights. For successful completion, students must hold a minimum 2.0 GPA. Academic advisors, a writing center and counseling services are available to assist students throughout their studies. On top of this, students enrolled in the legal studies minor have access to LSAT preparation courses. For added convenience, the LSAT is held on campus twice each year. Students also receive the benefit of attending Law Day at Indiana University. This annual event showcases law schools from all over the nation as well as offers resources and presentations to help aid students through the LSAT and law school admissions processes. For those who are planning to enter the workforce following their undergraduate education, the career center provides guidance in job exploration, resume building and interview skills. Residential and out-of-state attendees receive the same tuition rates, and the school prides itself on the numerous scholarships it awards for all academic levels, noting that 0% of students pay "full price."

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Minor in Legal Studies
  • Available Concentrations: Legal Studies
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $990/credit
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: December 1st
  • GPA: None
  • Standardized Test: SAT or ACT
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: 1 (833) 232-6223
  • Email: admission@evansville.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
6 Webster University $26,100 1 47% 65% 93% Yes Yes Yes

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and approved by the American Bar Association, Webster University is a private and nonprofit learning institution offering a certificate program for paralegal studies. Prospective students must have already completed 84 credit hours of general education with a suggested 2.5 GPA. The program takes an average of 1-2 years to complete and consists of 7 courses in topics such as legal ethics, methods of legal research, computerized legal research and advanced topics in law. These classes cannot be transferred from other institutions and must be taken through Webster University . Students satisfying the required 24 credits with a grade C- or higher will graduate, equipping them to enter the workforce as paralegals or legal assistants employed by lawyers, corporations or government agencies. For students who already possess an undergraduate degree, the same certificate is available at the graduate level in both on-campus and online formats. Online coursework is delivered through the web platform WorldClassRoom in a semi-structured format, which allows students to access coursework at any time throughout the week in order to meet certain deadlines. The Online Learning Center provides guidance for technical issues and other distance education concerns. All students can utilize the school's support services, including career guidance, counseling and the student health center. Academic advisors are available to assist in admissions, class registration and tuition questions. Military personnel receive discounted rates, and there are a number of financial aid opportunities to help cut down on costs, such as loans, graduate assistantships and school-awarded scholarships specific to freshman, transfer students, veterans and more.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Certificate in Paralegal Studies
  • Available Concentrations: Paralegal Studies
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $710/credit
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: February 1st
  • GPA: 3.0
  • Standardized Test: Freshman- ACT (21), SAT (1000)
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: 1 (800) 753-6765
  • Email: admit@webster.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
7 Winona State University $7,103 1 60% 59% 47% Yes Yes Yes

The Winona State University legal studies program offers 2 different tracks, the professional option and the law and society option, both of which are offered on campus . The professional option is among a small minority of 4-year programs of its kind in the entire nation to earn approval from the American Bar Association (ABA) - and the very first in Minnesota. Winona State is also accredited by the North Central Association/Higher Learning Commission. The program, which awards graduates Bachelor of Science degrees, prepares students for work in a variety of settings, including law firms, financial institutions, insurance companies and governmental agencies. Students will leave the program with the necessary skills, both professional and intellectual, required to work on legal teams. The B.S. program emphasizes liberal arts education while requiring specialized legal courses, which usually begin during fall of a student's junior year. There is also a legal studies minor, which is not ABA approved. The law and society track culminates in a Bachelor of Arts degree, but, like the minor, that program also is not recognized by the ABA. The law and society B.A. program is an interdisciplinary major that addresses the law as it pertains to history, theory, society and concept. Students will each be assigned an academic adviser and will have access to academic planning and support resources. They may also take advantage of the Student Resource Center, which they can use to seek out information and services that can help them progress on their paths to graduation. The career services center provides help with job hunts, career planning and resume preparation. Students also enjoy the benefits of counseling, tutoring, help with writing, library services and tech assistance.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Legal studies program
  • Available Concentrations: Law and society option and professional option
  • Accreditation: North Central Association / Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $244/credit
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • GPA: 3.0
  • Standardized Test: SAT: 940-1060, depending on GPA; ACT: 18-21 depending on GPA
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: 1 (800) DIALWSU ext. 5100
  • Email: admissions@winona.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
8 Hampton University $21,552 6 65% 58% 67% Yes Yes Yes

Hampton University, accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, offers 2 paralegal studies programs, one that culminates in a certificate and another that results in a Bachelor of Arts degree. Both can be taken on-campus or online. The certificate prepares a student to immediately enter the workforce or, provided the student has graduated with a grade of C or better, to transfer into a 4-year paralegal studies degree program. The 30-credit certificate program is the same both on campus and online, and both require an internship, even for students who completed the program as web-based distance learners. Coursework includes legal writing, legal research, law in society, and litigation and trial practice, as well as criminal, business and real estate law. The certificate program is designed to be completed in 45 weeks. Similarly, the requirements and coursework are the same on campus and online for the B.A. program as well. Both consist of 122 credit hours divided nearly equally among the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. Graduates will leave the program - which is designed for both new students and current working professionals - prepared to contribute to legal teams in a variety of settings, including law firms, government agencies, corporations, banks, trade associations and nonprofits. Distance learners should note that online courses are asynchronous, which means they do not have to log on at certain times or days, and there are no on-site proctored exams. Instead, tests are taken online, completed within a predetermined window of time and submitted automatically to the instructor. Online courses that follow 8-week session schedules allow students to take up to 6 credit hours, which equals 12 credit hours per semester. You can enroll in up to 9 credit hours per session for courses that follow 16-week schedules.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Certificate in paralegal studies
  • Accreditation: Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Tuition: $300/credit
  • Program Type: Online; On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: March 1 (fall enrollment); Oct 15 (spring enrollment)
  • GPA: 3.3
  • Standardized Test: None
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: 1 (800) 624-3328
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
9 Illinois State University $9,827 1 89% 73% 49% No Yes Yes

Students can pursue either a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts degree through the legal studies program at Illinois State University. Of the 120 total hours required to complete the program, at least 42 must be senior college hours, 40 are major hours, 9 hours are elective, 3 are humanities and fine arts, 7-8 are physical and life sciences, 3 are math and 9 are communication and composition. Between 37 and 41 credit hours may be transferred as part of the Illinois Articulation Initiative. General education courses can also be satisfied with a baccalaureate-oriented associate degree from a qualified program. As part of this on-campus program, students will have access to a dedicated career adviser as well as an internship coordinator. Classes are small, and courses are taught by full-time faculty as well as practitioners with real-world experience in the field. Some students will opt to enter the workforce after graduation while others may choose to go on to law school. Those who plan to pursue graduate degrees should consult pre-law advisers before choosing classes and registering. Illinois State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and the legal studies program is approved by the American Bar Association. As part of the school's financial aid assistance program, help is available both to applicants who have already completed their FAFSA forms and those who have not yet begun. The university also offers and supports a wide range of scholarships and has even developed the ScholarshipFinder tool to help applicants continually search for new resources as they apply to scholarships they've already found. Students enjoy a range of resources and services, including counseling, disability services, career services, tutoring, library services and writing help.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Legal studies
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Jan 15 (fall enrollment); August 1 (spring enrollment)
  • GPA: 3.3
  • Standardized Test: SAT: 1060-1270, ACT: 21-26
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: 1 (800) 366-2478
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
10 Mississippi College $15,800 2 49% 54% 99% No Yes Yes

The paralegal studies program at Mississippi College is available in 3 separate tracks with 3 different outcomes: paralegal studies B.S., certificate in paralegal studies and minor in paralegal studies. All 3 programs can be completed online, but with a few considerations. Distance learners pursuing the bachelor's degree online are limited to minoring in communication and a more defined curriculum with fewer general core options. Those pursuing the minor online can pair the program with a communication generalist B.S. degree. The certificate program is the same online, as it is on campus. Distance learners will use the Moodle learning management system to receive and submit assignments, communicate with peers and instructors, check grades and receive updates. The B.S. program requires 120 total hours, with 46 in core courses, 36-39 in paralegal studies courses, 9 elective credits and 18 minor requirements. The certificate program consists of 27 hours and is reserved for students who have already completed their 4-year degrees. The minor consists of 18 semester hours in courses like law office management, legal writing, civil litigation and legal research. No matter which paths they choose, students will leave the program understanding the workings of state and federal courts, how to draft legal documents, how to handle ethical dilemmas and how to conduct research and analyze information. Whether they choose online or on-campus study, students will have access to resources like tutoring, Christian development, health services, counseling services, computer services and IT help, the bookstore and library. The Office of Financial Aid exists to help students complete their FAFSA applications and pursue funding to pay for college, and the school also supports several scholarships, grants, loans and additional resources. Mississippi College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Paralegal studies
  • Accreditation: Mississippi Commission on College Accreditation
  • Tuition: $532/credit
  • Program Type: Online; On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • GPA: 2.0
  • Standardized Test: SAT: 940, ACT: 18
  • Work Experience: None
11 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus $9,322 2 76% 72% 58% Yes Yes Yes

Upon completion of the paralegal studies program at the University of Cincinnati, graduates will be prepared to work as legal assistants and paralegals in a variety of professional settings, including real estate, family law, business law, litigation and the courts. The program focuses on the gathering and analysis of complex information; the technology used for those purposes; and reading, writing and speaking as it pertains to the field of law. This on-campus program, which is delivered through the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services, is available as a Bachelor of Science degree, a minor completion or an undergraduate certificate. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and the program, which dates back to 1980, was the first in the tristate area to be approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) and it remains one of fewer than 250 programs out of roughly 1,000 to boast ABA approval. Students must remain in good academic standing and finish with GPAs of at least 2.0 in order to graduate. Classes are small, courses are taught by practicing attorneys and students enjoy access to an on-campus law library. Those planning to enter the workforce can participate in an internship, but if they maintain grades that are at C level or better. The internship could be in a public defender's office, with a legal aid organization, in a corporate law department, at a private law firm or in several other settings. Prior to graduation or after, students can take advantage of career counseling and job placement services that are staffed by people with direct connections to the local legal community.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Paralegal studies
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $300/credit
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Feb 1 (fall enrollment); Nov. 1 (spring enrollment)
  • GPA: 2.0
  • Standardized Test: ACT combined English and writing: 18, SAT: 430 English or evidence-based reading and writing
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: (513) 556-1100
  • Email: admissions@uc.edu or transfer@uc.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
12 Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College $28,932 4 73% 46% 96% Yes Yes Yes

The paralegal studies program at St. Mary of the Woods College is taught in the context of liberal arts studies, which means it examines law as it relates to history, politics and society, particularly how law affects society and vice versa. This online program also can be taken as a major. This track requires 51 credits to complete, including 39 paralegal and legal specialty courses as well as 12 elective credit hours. There's also the option of a 45-credit-hour associate degree, which includes 36 credit hours of required legal specialty courses and 9 elective credits. Finally, students can opt for a certificate. That option, which is reserved for those who already have earned bachelor's degrees, requires 36 credit hours to complete, including 33 required credits and just 1 elective for 3 credits. Although the program does not guarantee admission to law school, it can bolster a graduate school application and, if the student is accepted, can elevate his or her performance in the first year of law school, thanks to the program's focus on writing, speaking and critical thinking. Students will also leave the program ready to enter the workforce if they choose, as the program teaches necessary computer and research skills, the basics of the law and the terminology used in the field. Students also benefit from gaining real-world experience working in a legal setting. Distance learners can fill out an application online, which, unlike many college applications, is free. Online learners have access to the same services, student success resources, financial aid and scholarship opportunities as their peers who study on campus. St. Mary of the Woods is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Paralegal studies
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $496/credit
  • Program Type: Online
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • GPA: None
  • Standardized Test: None
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: 1 (800) 926-7692
  • Email: admission@smwc.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
13 Madonna University $19,500 3 75% 54% 92% Yes Yes Yes

There are 3 possible outcomes to the paralegal studies program at Madonna University, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Students can pursue associate degrees, bachelor's degrees or post-baccalaureate certificates, the latter of which full-time students can complete in a year. The program, which has enjoyed American Bar Association (ABA) approval since 1984, includes an internship, which often leads to job offers as legal assistants or paralegals after graduation. No matter which path students choose, the instructors who teach the classes are attorneys who have direct experience in the coursework. Although neither the degrees nor the certificate qualify graduates to practice law, many of the program's 2,000-strong alumni are able to compete for lucrative jobs in the field, which can pay 6 figures after a decade, in law firms, courts, corporations and governmental agencies like the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Office. The program's course schedule, which includes 10 semester hours of legal specialty courses provided on campus, is flexible and adaptable. The bachelor's degree requires 61 credits to complete; the associate degree and the certificate both require 37 credits. Students enjoy support and resources beyond the program and its instructors. The school maintains a writing camp, a writing center and a full-service library. Academic advisers guide students through their entire academic journey, and new arrivals benefit from the school's first-year experience program. Faith services include the Center for Catholic Studies and Interfaith Dialogue and a campus ministry. Students also benefit from a variety of peer organizations, clubs and activities, and financial aid merit scholarships are available to students who qualify.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Paralegal studies
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $730/credit
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Aug. 15 (fall enrollment); Dec. 15 (spring enrollment)
  • GPA: 2.8
  • Standardized Test: ACT: 200, SAT: 1000
  • Work Experience: None
14 Morehead State University $8,496 1 86% 49% 67% Yes Yes Yes

Morehead State University offers several educational paths in its legal studies program. Both of the Bachelor of Arts programs - major in legal studies and area in legal studies - prepare students to immediately enter work in the field or continue on to law school. A full 100% of students who chose the latter path were admitted into at least 1 law school over a recent 5-year period. Another 100% reported feeling that the program left them better prepared than most first-year law students. All instructors in the program are licensed attorneys who have supervised their own paralegals, and during the internship component, students will work with county attorneys, judges, public defenders, law offices and nonprofit legal services organizations. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and unlike 75% of the training programs in the United States, the Morehead program is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Both variations of the B.A. program require 120 credit hours, and the courses are to be taken on campus (though it may be possible to take an occasional class online). The major in legal studies degree requires a minor or second major and includes general education, major, elective and free elective credits. The area in legal studies track also requires general education, electives and free electives, but instead of major requirements, students must complete area requirements. There is also a 24-credit minor in legal studies option. The school's career services office provides assistance with resume preparation and interviews, internship placement, post-graduation job placement and career planning. Academic advising and access to tutoring and the learning center are also included. Students seeking financial aid should complete their FAFSA applications, which the school will then use to determine their eligibility for aid, loans, grants or work-study programs. A variety of scholarships are also available.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Legal studies
  • Available Concentrations: Major in legal studies, area in legal studies
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • Standardized Test: ACT: 18, SAT: 860 for unconditional admission
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: 1 (800) 585-6781
  • Email: admissions@moreheadstate.edu
15 Grand Valley State University $11,832 1 82% 68% 68% No Yes Yes

The 30-credit paralegal studies certificate program at Grand Valley State University focuses on critical thinking and writing with a special emphasis on necessary professional skills. Subject matter includes professionalism and legal ethics, research and investigation, written and oral communication, family law, business law, substantive law, torts, contracts and criminal law. Although the certificate does not permit graduates to practice law, it does prepare and qualify them for work in the legal field in environments such as courts, corporations, nonprofits, government agencies and insurance companies. The program, which is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) and delivered in a face-to-face format , is designed specifically for Grand Valley students who have earned bachelor's degrees elsewhere. The legal studies program also offers a B.A. and a B.S. option. Students who complete those programs and earn their bachelor's degrees will have fulfilled all the requirements of the certificate. Another available option is to pursue the program as a minor, but it's important to note that the minor is not approved by the ABA. Most of the instructors who teach the program, which can be completed in a year or less, are licensed attorneys experienced in both criminal and civil law. The program also benefits from an advisory board, which consists of a wide range of employers, paralegals and attorneys. The board offers real-world guidance on things like employment and internship opportunities, course curriculum and current trends in the field. Financial aid is available, and the school maintains a dedicated page to assist applicants with FAFSA and the entire aid application process. Also, the school offers several scholarships to both new and returning students.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Paralegal studies certificate
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $521/credit
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • GPA: 2.7
  • Standardized Test: None
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: 1 (800) 748-0246
  • Email: admissions@gvsu.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
16 University of North Georgia $3,648 3 75% 55% 9% Yes Yes Yes

The Associate of Applied Science in paralegal program at the University of North Georgia is delivered on campus through the Mike Cottrell College of Business (though students may opt to complete certain individual courses online). The program delivers the subject knowledge, as well as the professional skills graduates need to begin work immediately or pursue more advanced degrees. Students will become familiar with depositions and other common legal documents as well as standards for how to proceed in ethical quandaries. The A.A.S. degree allows students to complete their core courses and build the foundation for their careers faster than they would with a 4-year degree but with more depth of knowledge than certificate programs offer. Participants can supplement their educations with student success offerings like the Cottrell Speaker Series, which brings business and industry leaders to the school for interactions with faculty, staff and students, including paralegal program participants. The school also offers several wellness and health resources, including counseling and advice regarding nutrition, weight and tobacco use. Not are there tutoring services, a money management center and programs for veterans, but students can join a number of clubs and organizations or participate in a range of on-campus activities. When they complete the program, graduates will have access to career services and job placement resources. Staff is on hand to help prospective students apply for and secure financial aid, as well as to explore loans, Pell grants and scholarships such as the HOPE program. The school also supports many of its own scholarships. The University of North Georgia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and has developed diversity commitment programs including LGBGTQQIAA resources and a Multicultural Student Affairs program.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Associate of applied science in paralegal studies
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $837/credit (in-state); $1,298/credit (out-of-state)
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: March 15 (fall enrollment); Nov. 1 (spring enrollment)
  • GPA: 2.0
  • Standardized Test: SAT: 19/360 (reading subsection/math), ACT: 12/14 (reading/math)
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: (706) 864-1800
  • Email: admissions-dah@ung.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
17 Southern Utah University $5,774 2 72% 43% 82% Yes Yes Yes

Students must complete 59-63 credits to their associate degrees in legal studies at Southern State University. More than half of those credits come from the general education requirement, which includes 32-36 credits in core courses and knowledge area requirements. The 27 credits needed to fulfill the legal studies curriculum include both required and elective courses. Both pre-law and paralegal students can pursue the program, which includes on-campus courses, but requirements remain the same for both tracks, and, in both cases, all credits counting toward the major must be earned with a minimum grade of C. Although the program is administered by the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, students from all majors interested in careers in law may apply. The school offers financial aid, as well as several scholarships, including those designed specifically for freshmen, and others for transfer students, current students, graduate students and international students. Although no formal education is required to become a paralegal, an associate degree from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences could position applicants to stand out to employers in both the private and public sectors, as well as in a variety of settings in the nonprofit sector. Students at Southern Utah University, which is accredited by Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, have an average entering GPA of 3.52, and the school boasts a 19:1 average student-teacher ratio. Students will enjoy a range of resources, including tutoring services, access to the writing center, library services and learning assistance.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Legal Studies A.S.
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
  • Tuition: $465/credit
  • Program Type: Online; On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • GPA: 2.0
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: (435) 586-7740
  • Email: adminfo@suu.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
18 Rockhurst University $34,880 1 74% 70% 99% No Yes Yes

One of the first paralegal programs in America, the paralegal studies program at Rockhurst University dates back to 1974. Although students will graduate ready to enter the legal profession in environments such as government agencies, private law firms, bank trusts, the court system and corporate legal departments, many participants move on to law school after completing the program. To enhance scheduling flexibility with this on-campus program, most courses are offered at night. Plus, most are also taught by sitting judges and practicing lawyers. The program, which can be completed in 1 year, requires 18 credit hours to finish and instills in students the fundamentals of the American legal system while teaching them how to communicate in both writing and speech in the language of the field. Students will also learn about ethics and the role of the modern paralegal in the field of law. Not will students learn how to conduct research, but they'll learn how to distill and present the results of that research to the audience they'll likely encounter once they're employed. Students can pursue the program as a minor or as a certificate, both of which are offered through the College of Arts and Sciences. Both require the same core courses as well as 2, 3-credit upper-division electives, and both require a grade of C or better - a C-minus will not satisfy the program's standards. Students who pursue the program as a minor must do so as part of a bachelor's degree program. Aside from traditional financial aid, the school, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, offers a dozens of endowed scholarships and sponsored scholarships.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Paralegal studies
  • Available Concentrations: Paralegal studies minor, paralegal certificate
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $614/credit
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • GPA: None
  • Standardized Test: None
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: 1 (800) 842-6776
  • Email: eveningdegree@rockhurst.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
19 William Woods University $22,230 2 70% 53% 100% Yes Yes Yes

Upon completion, graduates of the online Bachelor of Science in paralegal studies program at William Woods University will be prepared to use their degrees as a stepping stone to law school or to immediately begin work in the field. Although law firms employ more than 70% of paralegals, many graduates go on to work in corporate environments, governmental agencies and other settings. Possible occupations include business legal administrator, deputy court clerk, bank documentation specialist or accreditation association investigator. In order to complete the program, students must complete 42 credit hours across 14 courses, which expose students to subject matter such as ethics, communication, critical thinking, legal fact patterns and procedural law. Like all online programs at William Woods University, courses run 8 weeks for stop/start options every 2 months. The University IT Helpdesk offers tech support to both distance learners and on-campus students, and the school partners with several retailers who offer discounts on computers or other required technology for students. Online learners enjoy the same student services as their on-campus peers, including faith services, health services and counseling and career services. Nearly 3 out of 4 graduates are currently working, and the vast majority of those are employed in their fields. Students who don't meet the minimum admissions standards may submit their qualifications and applications to the Admissions Committee for consideration of conditional/provisional acceptance. Financial aid is available, and the school maintains a dedicated financial aid portal, which applicants will use to submit documents and check their application statuses. Tuition will never increase for students who remain continuously enrolled.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Online bachelor of science in paralegal studies
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Association, a Commission of the North Central Association
  • Tuition: $225/credit
  • Program Type: Online
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • GPA: 2.5
  • Standardized Test: ACT: 19, SAT: 900
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: 1 (800) 995-3199
  • Email: Graduateadmissions@WilliamWoods.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
20 Texas State University $7,234 1 71% 59% 12% Yes Yes Yes

The paralegal studies certificate program at Texas State University is unique in that it's offered at the graduate level. The program, which can be completed in as few as 2 semesters and consists of 24 graduate hours, is approved by both the American Association for Paralegal Education and the American Bar Association. In order to earn the certificate, students must complete the program with a grade of B or better in all required courses and emerge with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Required coursework includes such subjects as legal drafting, legal theories, litigation and legal research. An internship is also required, but students with experience working in law offices might be able to participate in a special-emphasis practicum instead. There are 10 electives for students to choose from, including contract law, intellectual property, family law, business organizations and real estate. In total, students must complete 9 hours of electives. The program is open to students who have already earned bachelor's degrees, and upon graduation, they'll receive placement assistance, as they'll have acquired the relevant skills and knowledge of theory required to immediately begin work. Students will be immersed in professional ethics, computer research, legal theory and other competencies needed to become income-producing assets to attorneys, law firms and other prospective employers. Among the resources available to students is the Albert B. Alkek Library and all of its services, which include special graduate resources like research assistance, digital collections, article delivery and interlibrary loans.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Paralegal Studies Certificate Program
  • Accreditation: Council on Higher Education Accreditation
  • Tuition: $747/credit
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: June 15 (fall enrollment); Oct. 15 (spring enrollment)
  • GPA: 2.8
  • Standardized Test: GRE: 292 (required if GPA minimum isn't met)
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: (512) 245-2581
  • Email: gradcollege@txstate.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
21 Elms College $31,846 3 76% 67% 98% Yes Yes Yes

The online certificate program in advanced paralegal studies at Elm College is a post-degree program designed for graduates who have already earned bachelor's or associate degrees. This 18-credit program can be completed in less than a year, with students being required to complete 3, 8-week sessions entirely online. Upon completion of the program, students will be eligible to work in support of attorneys in a variety of settings. This in-demand occupation has a projected growth that far outpaces that of the larger job market. Like all online programs at Elms College, the advanced paralegal certificate program follows the cohort model, which means you'll follow a group of peers through the program from beginning to end. Coursework will be delivered through the Moodle learning management system, which students will use to access syllabi, receive and submit assignments, collaborate with peers, communicate with instructors, review grades and receive updates and announcements. Students will enjoy tech support and other student resources. There is not an on-campus version of the program. More than 90% of enrolled students receive financial aid. For distance learners interested in both paralegal and health care, there is the option of earning a related post-degree certificate in paralegal studies

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Online Advanced Paralegal Studies
  • Available Concentrations: Paralegal Studies in Legal Nurse Consulting
  • Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $250/credit
  • Program Type: Online
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: July 1 (fall enrollment); Nov. 15 (spring enrollment)
  • GPA: None
  • Standardized Test: None (for degree holders)
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: (413) 265-2218
  • Email: Online@elms.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
22 Touro College and University System $16,380 2 62% 59% 88% Yes Yes Yes

Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the New York School of Career and Applied Studiesis a division of Touro College, which spans 3 locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Students can earn an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies, preparing them to enter the workforce as paralegals and legal assistants, or to continue on toward a higher degree. The program generally takes 2 years to satisfy the 63 credits needed for graduation. Thirty credits must come from liberal arts core requirements, which includes coursework in college writing, American studies, science and math. The remainder involves field-specific curriculum, such as law and ethics, legal research, elder law and probate procedures. Although most classes are held on campus, you can check herefor available online course offerings. The school provides resources to assist students in their educational journeys from start to finish. Admissions counselors guide you through the application and registration process, academic advisors help to develop and implement a plan of study, and financial aid counselors provide information on FAFSA, scholarship opportunities and tuition. Writing center and tutoring services can be found in 7 different locations, including an option for online support. On top of this, the career center is committed to helping you locate job openings, as well as develop skills in resume writing and interviewing. Prospective students can submit an application for admission at any point throughout the year. It is not mandatory to submit SAT or ACT scores. However, doing so will allow you to bypass placement tests and get started on your degree right away.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies
  • Available Concentrations: Paralegal Studies
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $635/credit (part-time)
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • GPA: None
  • Standardized Test: None
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: (212) 463-0400
  • Email: arthur.wigfall@touro.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
23 Hamline University $38,100 1 70% 65% 100% Yes Yes Yes

Those looking to pursue a career as a paralegal can gain the education and training they need through Hamline University's Paralegal Certificate program. The program is a blend of practical legal training and liberal arts and although it's been around since 1984, it provides up-to-the-minute legal information and gives students access to a variety of electronic resources to prepare them for a career in today's legal field. This graduate certificate program is open to undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students with a GPA of at least 3.0 from a nationally or regionally accredited college. Official transcripts must be sent directly to the school, along with a personal statement and professional resume. Those with a GPA of 2.5-2.9 may still be considered but will need to submit a 1-2 page narrative to the admissions committee and 2 letters of recommendation. Once admitted, students can complete the 20-credit program in as little as 9 months. Students are encouraged, but None, to complete an internship and will have access to such opportunities through Hamline's Career Development Center. Scholarships are available for this ABA-approved certificate. The school awards 1 undergraduate and 1 graduate student with $1,000 through its 3M scholarship and students may apply to outside scholarships and grants as long as all received awards are reported to the financial aid office. Students who want to gain even more legal knowledge can complete an additional 14 credits in 1 of 4 concentrations to earn Hamline's Master in the Study of Law (MSL).

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Paralegal Certificate
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $1,259/credit (part-time)
  • Program Type: On-campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: January 15th
  • GPA: 3.0
  • Standardized Test: International students: TOEFL, iBT or IELTS
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: (651) 523-2900
  • Email: gradprog@hamline.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
24 Marist College $34,550 1 41% 78% 86% Yes Yes Yes

Aspiring paralegals can gain the education and training needed for a successful career though Marist College's ABA-approved paralegal certificate program. This program is offered through Marist's School of Professional Programs and combines a liberal arts foundation with legal education that is in accordance with ABA guidelines. While this is a certificate program, students are required to pursue a bachelor's degree in order to receive the certificate. 24 credits must be completed in paralegal students as well as at least 36 credits in a baccalaureate degree. However, those who already have a bachelor's degree can earn the certificate after completing the 24 credits in paralegal studies. All transfer credits must be from accredited colleges and are subject to review by the program's director. This is an on-campus program and courses are offered in the evenings or on the weekends at Marist's Poughkeepsie campus. Examples of required courses include introduction to law, introduction to legal research and writing, law office management and labor relations law, to name a few. Courses are taught by Marist faculty as well as practicing lawyers and law office administrators in the Mid-Hudson region. After completing the program, graduates will have the skills and knowledge to pursue paralegal and legal assistant careers in a range of subfields.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Paralegal Certificate Program
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $495/credit (weekend); $650/credit (evening)
  • Program Type: Campus
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: August 1 (fall enrollment); February 1 (spring enrollment)
  • GPA: None
  • Standardized Test: None
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: (845) 575-3800
  • Email: Annamaria.Maciocia@marist.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
25 Marian University $31,500 1 60% 55% 100% Yes Yes Yes

Working adults who want to boost their salary and career potential can take advantage of Marian University's Adult Programs. These online degrees are designed specifically for working adults who want the education and training necessary for a promotion, a career change or grad school. Those looking to enter the paralegal field can pursue the online associate of science in paralegal studies. Consisting of 66 credit hours, which can be completed in 14 months, this program covers key areas such as legal research, civil litigation for paralegals, and legal writing and communication. Career preparation and development courses are also a part of the curriculum to ensure graduates are ready for their paralegal careers. For those in the Indianapolis area, local law firms provide internship, externship and job shadowing opportunities and many of Marian's previous paralegal students have interned at local firms. To be considered, applicants must submit official high school or college transcripts and have either a 2.0 GPA from the last college attended, a high school diploma with 2.3 GPA or a GED score of at least 50 (or a passing TASC score). Classes are offered in an accelerated format -- either 5-weeks or 8-weeks and students are allowed to take up to 2 classes at once. Courses are also offered year-round for maximum flexibility.

  • Program Information
  • Program Name: Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
  • Tuition: $390/credit
  • Program Type: Online
  • Admissions Requirements
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • GPA: 2.3
  • Standardized Test: None
  • Work Experience: None
  • Contact Information
  • Phone: (317) 955-6271
  • Email: map@marian.edu
  • Social Media: Twitter; Facebook
26 Lewis University $29,950 1 59% 63% 100% Yes Yes Yes
27 Hutchinson Community College $2,688 4 - 33% 66% Yes Yes Yes
28 Northern Michigan University $9,330 1 76% 52% 82% Yes Yes Yes
29 Ferris State University $11,144 1 78% 51% 69% Yes Yes Yes
30 University of Toledo $8,052 3 94% 47% 92% Yes Yes Yes
31 University of Mississippi $7,644 1 78% 64% 65% No Yes Yes
32 Daemen College $26,400 2 53% 50% 100% Yes Yes Yes
33 Florida Gulf Coast University $4,191 2 56% 52% 24% No Yes Yes
34 Eastern Kentucky University $8,568 6 86% 45% 51% No Yes Yes
35 Bay Path University $32,739 3 60% 59% 100% Yes Yes Yes
36 Mount Saint Joseph University $27,300 3 88% 54% 100% Yes Yes Yes
37 Gannon University $30,185 3 78% 67% 92% No Yes Yes
38 Ursuline College $29,640 2 90% 50% 98% Yes Yes Yes
39 Loyola University Chicago $40,052 1 73% 74% 95% Yes Yes Yes
40 National University $13,016 3 - 50% 4% Yes Yes Yes
41 Southwest Virginia Community College $4,133 2 - 37% 61% Yes Yes Yes
42 Assumption College $35,510 1 78% 71% 98% No Yes Yes
43 Samford University $28,552 2 91% 67% 95% No Yes Yes
44 Stevenson University $30,884 1 61% 61% 98% Yes Yes Yes
45 Missouri Southern State University $5,311 1 94% 39% 69% Yes Yes Yes
46 Lakeshore Technical College $3,910 1 - 58% 6% Yes Yes Yes
47 McNeese State University $5,147 2 64% 45% 34% Yes Yes Yes
48 University of La Verne $38,266 2 48% 61% 98% Yes Yes Yes
49 Davenport University $15,936 2 78% 41% 93% Yes Yes Yes
50 University of Montana $4,603 1 92% 53% 52% Yes Yes Yes

Paralegal Schools and Programs

The role of the paralegal has continued to expand during the past thirty years and, in that role, paralegals function similarly to lawyers. Except for responsibilities barred by the scope of legal statutes, such as representing clients in court, providing legal advice, or setting legal fees, paralegals work in a variety of capacities under the supervision of a practicing attorney. Responsibilities vary by area of practice (e.g., corporate law, intellectual property, real estate), experience and business needs. For example, paralegals may do the following:

  • Coordinate case management
  • Draft court pleadings and discoveries
  • Assist in case planning
  • Conduct legal research
  • Interview clients
  • Draft correspondence
  • Analyze legal documents

A rapidly growing occupation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 17 percent career growth nationwide between 2012 and 2022. Meeting that demand is the purview of paralegal schools and universities, which provide several educational paths to becoming a paralegal professional. Below is an overview of the different educational institutions that offer paralegal training and degree options.

Vocational Schools

Vocational schools, also known as career colleges, trade schools, or technical institutes, provide an array of career training programs designed to prepare graduates for entry-level employment opportunities. Many vocational schools offer diploma and certificate programs in paralegal studies, with some also offering associate degree educational tracks as well. Vocational schools typically offer instruction in paralegal certification. Certification can be completed in as little as six months, but could take up to 18 months to complete. Vocational paralegal certificate programs are designed to provide students with all necessary knowledge and skills to work as a paralegal in as little time as possible. Curriculum typically covers foundational subjects, such as criminal law, legal research, contracts, legal writing, ethics, contracts and administrative law. Some vocational schools may provide transferable credits that can be put toward an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies.

Community Colleges

Community colleges, also known as junior colleges, offer both career-focused training and academic degree programs in a greater variety of professional fields than vocational schools. Students may choose from shorter certificate and diploma and two-year associate degree programs in paralegal studies at community colleges. According to graduation data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), community college programs graduated more than 9,600 students with degrees, diplomas or certificates in paralegal studies in 2013.

Community colleges offer Associate of Arts and Associate of Science in paralegal degree options for paralegal students. These programs are designed to be completed in a 24-month time frame, although study can take longer for some degree plans. Both the A.A. and A.S. of paralegal studies require accumulation of 60 credit hours before graduation. Many community colleges divide curriculum between general education courses, such as science, English, and math, and core courses specific to the paralegal field.

Graduates with paralegal associate degrees are typically eligible to take the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) certification examinations. According to graduation data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), community college programs graduated more than 9,600 students with degrees, diplomas or certificates in paralegal studies in 2013.

Four-year schools

Four-year institutions, including public and private universities, offer the most comprehensive selection of academic programs for prospective students. In the field of paralegal studies, these higher education institutions may provide a full slate of options, including certificate, diploma, associate, bachelor’s, and post-bachelor’s certificate programs. Curriculum is split between general education courses-such as English, math, and science, and specialized paralegal studies. Upon graduation, students should be equipped with industry-specific knowledge that will help them in the paralegal field. Students with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies are eligible to sit for certification examinations given by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).

In 2013, four-year universities and colleges conferred slightly more than 7,300 degrees in paralegal studies, according to NCES.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants-Is there a difference?

The terms “paralegal” and “legal assistant” may cause some confusion, as they are often used interchangeably. According to the National Association of Legal Assistants and the American Bar Association, there is no difference between the two terms. Both terms refer to the same occupation, professional responsibilities, and required level of education. The preference of using one term or the other usually falls to geographic location.

Paralegal Schools Must-Have List

The central role of any paralegal studies program is to prepare its graduates for entry into careers in legal services. The important question for individuals interested in paralegal studies is how to select the right program. Legal organizations including the American Bar Association, National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Association of Legal Administrators, and American Association for Paralegal Education have developed recommendations for evaluating the overall quality and elements of paralegal educational programs. Below is a list of six factors students should consider prior to making a decision about their future paralegal studies:

1. Objectives and Program Philosophy.

The main philosophy and objectives of the program should be clearly stated by the institution and department. For example, does the program take a holistic approach to communication, legal research and writing, critical thinking and decision-making skills? Or, does the program put greater emphasis on certain learning outcomes?

2. Approval from the American Bar Association.

Paralegal organizations recommend students seek out institutions that have American Bar Association approval for their paralegal programs. Approval is voluntary and demonstrates the institution’s commitment to industry-specific educational preparation and outcomes.

3. Membership in the American Association for Paralegal Education.

Membership in the AAFPE, like ABA approval, is a reflection of a program’s commitment to providing an education that is in alignment with current legal trends and developments.

4. Program Reputation.

Students should learn how a program is received by current students, graduates, and the legal industry at-large. Is the program ranked by publications such as U.S. News & World Review? Do graduates speak highly of the instruction they received? Is the school routinely mentioned among the best in the country?

5. Faculty Experience and Background.

The faculty drives the success of any post-secondary educational program. Students should review the individual bios of each faculty member to get an understanding of the faculty’s experience and strengths in the paralegal field.

6. Specialization Options.

What are the areas of specialization available at each paralegal school? Not every program offers a diverse selection of legal concentrations. Students should review the available specializations, the curriculum for each specialization, and the post-graduation opportunities in that space.

7. Student Services.

An often-overlooked factor, student services is an important item to consider prior to selecting a degree program. Does the program enjoy relationships with local legal firms, lawyers and legal organizations? Are career services available to connect aspiring paralegals to internships or job prospects after college?

Paralegal Degrees and Certificates

According to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), approximately 85 percent of paralegals in the United States complete some form of paralegal education. Prospective students have a wide selection of training opportunities at every level of post-secondary institutions, including vocational schools, community colleges, and private and public four-year universities.

The associate degree in paralegal studies is considered an industry-respected minimum educational requirement, but the NFPA has stated that paralegal education at the bachelor’s level is becoming the educational standard in many job markets. The NFPA recommends that future paralegals complete a four-year program of study, as well as at least 24 semester hours of instruction in their desired area of practice.

The NFPA has also noted that distance education programs offer complementary options to traditional, campus-based programs. The NFPA endorses online and distance education programs. Each degree path (certificate, associate, bachelor’s) is designed to provide students with a foundational understanding of and practical skills in paralegal studies.

Degree-Level Program Length Credit Hours
Certificate 3 to 18 months 24 – 30
Associate 24 months 60
Bachelor’s 48 months 124 – 128

Paralegal School Associate Degrees

Associate degrees in paralegal studies are available in two different types: The Associate of Arts in paralegal studies and the Associate of Science in paralegal studies. Both degrees should provide students with an opportunity to develop competencies in the core areas of legal practice, with the AA putting greater emphasis on liberal arts foundational coursework and the AS concentrating on practical, skill-based instruction.

Students receive an education in the fundamental principles of paralegal practice and the foundations of law, covering subjects such as legal terminology, legal writing, business law, ethics, contract law, criminal procedures and legal research. Graduates of associate programs in paralegal studies develop proficiencies in legal research, legal analysis and investigation, ethical issues and concepts, and critical thinking and reasoning when all coursework is completed.

Contract Law

Students receive an introduction to contract law, including contract creation and termination, oral contracts, illusory contracts, breach of contract and more. Students also review and study the Uniform Commercial Code that governs the sale of goods in the U.S.

Civil Litigation

This course provides students with insight into civil litigation from multiple perspectives, introducing students to the U.S. legal system, the process for initiating a law suit, lawsuit jurisdiction, briefs and pleadings, pre-trial activities, appeals process and the judicial process.

Introduction to U.S. Legal System

This course is designed to provide students with an overview of American law and the U.S. legal system. Student study foundational concepts of legal practice, ranging from regulatory issues to paralegal career trends.

Legal Research & Writing

In this class, students familiarize themselves with the fundamentals of legal research, including the process of finding and analyzing case law. Additionally, students learn about legal reference sources and available research tools (e.g., WESTLAW or LEXIS).

Legal Ethics

Through this course, students focus their studies on the ethical issues of the practice of law, especially those that impact the paralegal profession. Subjects of study may include client confidentiality, conflicts of interest, and paralegal ethical codes.

Paralegal School Bachelor’s Degrees

The Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies (BS) is designed to expand and build upon education provided at the associate degree level. Bachelor’s degrees are divided between academic curriculum, and industry-specific practical education coursework. Students usually take core classes in multiple disciplines; such as mathematics, humanities, social sciences, and English before transitioning to major course requirements in paralegal studies.

As a preparatory degree path, the bachelor’s paralegal degree usually covers the fundamental principles of the legal system, central areas of practice (e.g., criminal law, family law, real estate law, bankruptcy law), and legal research and writing. A bachelor’s in paralegal can offer students the opportunity to further concentrate their studies in a specialized area of practice. Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs in paralegal studies are offered a complex skill set and knowledge base that prepares them to work in a variety of legal setting and roles.

Administrative Law

In this course, students study the fundamental principles–administrative, legal, and constitutional–at both the local and federal levels. The class investigates the role of the paralegal and covers topics such as judicial review, hearing processes, appeals, and adjudication.

Environmental Law

This course introduces students to the basics of environmental law, with special emphasis on the paralegal’s role within the field. Topics of instruction may include major legislation such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, and ethical issues and trends.

Wills, Trusts, & Estates

Through this course, students develop an understanding of the laws that govern law estate planning, including the federal estate tax system, charitable trusts, property transfers and more. Students also learn about drafting will and trust documents, the role of probate courts and estate administration.

Advanced Civil Litigation

This advanced course of study prepares students to deal with the various aspects of a civil litigation case. A practical program of study, students learn about each step of the trial process, ranging from client interviews to filing a complaint, the discovery process to the appeals process.

Legal Document Preparation

A practice-specific course of study, this class provides students with an understanding of the preparation of various legal documents. Through a hands-on training approach, students learn about documents in regard to different practice areas, such as wills, trusts, real property and civil litigation.

Paralegal School Certificates

The certificate in paralegal studies is designed for two types of students:

1) An individual with a high school diploma or the equivalent seeking short-term, entry-level career training.
2) A student with an associate or bachelor’s in another field pursuing career training to become a paralegal.

The shortest of all paralegal training programs, the certificate can be completed in as little as 3 months of study, but typically requires between 7 and 18 months to complete. Typically, curriculum is divided between core coursework and a series of electives. Example core class topics include fundamentals of law, legal research and writing, contract and tort law, and legal ethics. Specialty elective subjects can include subjects like family law, environmental law, elder law and insurance law.

Fundamentals of the Paralegal Profession

This course examines the foundational principles of the paralegal occupation. Students study how the role is defined, the scope of responsibilities, technology and specialty areas of practice.

Legal Writing

In this class, students gain an understanding of legal writing, research and analysis. Subjects to be studied include writing strategies, legal analysis, legal correspondence, grammar and punctuation, and legal citation.

Employment Law

Through this class, students are introduced to employment law and major concepts in the field, ranging from the employer-employee relationship to employment law principles, employment discrimination and the responsibilities of each party.

Paralegal Ethics

In this course, students discuss the ethical issues of the paralegal profession, examining the role of the paralegal, appropriate tasks for the paralegal, conflicts of interest, timekeeping, and scope of practice.

Business Law & Bankruptcy

In this class, students gain a basic understanding of business law, focusing on a variety of topics including publicly held companies, limited liability partnerships and limited liability corporations, and laws that guide business entities.

Paralegal School Master’s Degrees

Graduate education in paralegal studies is an emerging area of training in the industry. According to the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), only a handful of universities currently offer advanced degrees in paralegal studies. Instruction is typically focused in related areas of study, such as legal administration.

One example program is the Master of Paralegal Studies offered by George Washington University. In collaboration with the university’s school of law, the master’s degree also includes a certificate in healthcare corporate compliance.

Paralegal Toolbox/Checklist

  • Skills.

    Employment data from O*NET reveals paralegals should develop skills In ten areas, including reading comprehension, active listening, speaking, writing, critical thinking, time management, active learning, coordination, judgment and decision making, and monitoring.

  • Certifications.

    For career advancement, paralegals may also choose to pursue professional certification from the National Federation for Paralegal Associations or the National Association of Legal Assistants. Additionally, some states offer their own examinations for paralegal certifications as well. The National Federation for Paralegal Associations offers two certifications, the Paralegal Competency Examination (PACE) and Paralegal CORE Competency Examination (PCCE), and the National Association for Legal Assistants offers the Certified Paralegal (CP) and Advanced Certified Paralegal certifications and designations. Certification with the PACE program allows paralegals the ability to use the Registered Paralegal (RP) designation.

  • NALA Credentials.

    The National Association for Legal Assistants offers advanced paralegal credential programs. Paralegals can choose to become certified with the NALA with two separate credential options:

    Certified Paralegal/Legal Assistant: The CP and CLA programs are considered national professional standards for paralegals by the NALA.

    Advanced Certified Paralegal. The ACP certification offers 20 hour certification programs in 17 industry-specific subjects, including Family Law, Land Use, Contracts Management, and E-Discovery.

  • Continuing Education.

    Knowledge of current trends in legal services and professional development are two important components for practicing paralegals. The National Association for Legal Assistants provides continuing education opportunities to legal assistants and paralegals. As part of that effort, NALA offers Web-based and campus-based seminars training sessions, annual conventions and various publications such as the CP Study Guide and NALA Manual for Paralegals.

  • Job Titles.

    Graduates of paralegal schools and programs may also encounter a range of other similar job titles including legal clerk, law clerk, law associate, paralegal specialist or legal analyst.

  • Paralegal associations.

    Paralegals may benefit from joining paralegal associations or organizations. Paralegal associations can help paralegals keep up with the latest news and developments in the legal field and help paralegals connect with other legal professionals across the country. Some of the most popular and well-known professional associations for paralegals include:

Paralegal Specializations

The primary function of the paralegal is to provide support to lawyers, with individual responsibilities varying by area of practice and legal setting. However, paralegals do share common tasks, including filing legal documents, conducting legal research, and summarizing case law to reviewing legal precedents. While the occupation itself is broad, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations notes that many paralegals choose to specialize in specific areas of law. These specializations are varied and include areas of law such as public law, criminal law, family law, litigation, real estate law, bankruptcy, criminal defense and estate planning. Below is a description of example responsibilities for five common paralegal specializations:

Public Law

Working in administrative law, paralegals may review case law and prepare evidence in advance of a judicial hearing, locate and interview expert witnesses, analyze legislation or develop trial calendars.

Litigation

Paralegals working in litigation may schedule arbitration meetings, conduct pre-claim investigations, draft pleadings and summons, manage discovery processes, draft research memos or organize courtroom evidence.

Criminal Law

In criminal law, paralegals may conduct legal research, secure information from law enforcement agencies, prepare legal complaints and subpoenas, organize trial evidence, assist in trial proceedings, maintain case calendars or communicate with legal counsel for discovery.

Family Law

Paralegals in family law may speak to prospective clients, schedule attorney consultations, manage hearing calendars, prepare pleadings and court documentation, handle client communication or conduct legal case research.

Real Estate Law

Paralegals working in real estate law may prepare real estate purchase documentation, review purchase agreements, analyze title documents, conduct legal research, review real estate codes or file leases.

Interview with Andrea Holley, Senior Litigation Paralegal, Baker Donelson

Andrea Holley is a senior litigation paralegal with Baker Donelson, a law firm in Memphis, Tennessee. Specializing in medical malpractice and long-term care defense, Ms. Holley graduated with a degree in legal assistant technology from State Technical Institute at Memphis in 1992.

Andrea Holley
Could you describe your career path to-date?

After graduating from State Technical Institute, I did my internship at a law firm here in Memphis where I concentrated on family law and insurance defense. I then went on to work at a general law firm that represented plaintiffs in personal injury, workers’ compensation, bankruptcy, probate/estate, family law and criminal law matters. I was there for seven-and-a-half years and learned so much. From there, worked at a private law firm in Memphis that worked primarily in the area of insurance defense litigation. My focus was on personal injury and workers’ compensation litigation. I then went to work in-house for a large insurance company, where we focused primary on personal injury and workers’ compensation defense. After three-and-a-half years in-house, I moved on to my current position with Baker Donelson, focusing on medical malpractice and long-term care defense. I am active in the Greater Memphis Paralegal Alliance, having served as secretary in 2013 and president in 2014, and am proud to be president of the organization again in 2015.

Where did you get your degree and why did you choose that program?

I graduated from State Technical Institute at Memphis (now Southwest Tennessee Community College) in 1992. I chose that program because at the time in was the only program in Memphis that was ABA approved. I was once upon a time an accounting major and just knew I was doing the wrong thing. My dad always used to say that I would make a good lawyer because I would argue with anyone about anything, but I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Now, I get to make the lawyer look good.

How did your education in your paralegal degree program translate to your real-world occupation?

My education taught me every step in the litigation process, which gave me a heads-up when I went out to look for my first job. I was really prepared to enter my field running. It also taught me the responsibility of being pro-active with your work, which is essential to being a good paralegal. I enjoyed my paralegal education and still use things that I learned back then in my work today. I have been able to speak to a few paralegal students in their classes in the past few years to discuss my education and my work experiences and it makes me very proud that I am able to give back in that capacity.

After Paralegal School: What’s Next?

After completing a paralegal degree, graduates can pursue an assortment of professional opportunities in legal services. Paralegals are employed across a spectrum of industries, from healthcare to real estate, insurance to government. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the best job opportunities are expected to be in healthcare, insurance, financial services and construction. The table below outlines some of the fastest growing industries for paralegals between 2012 and 2022:

Industry Projected Job Growth
Ambulatory Healthcare Services 37%
Individual and Family Services 36%
Social Assistance 32%
Health Practitioner Offices 30%
Construction 30%
Employment Services 27%
Insurance and Employee Benefit Funds 26%
Higher Education 25%
Civil Engineering Construction 22%

Nearly 75 percent of paralegals are employed in the legal services industry, comprised of law firms and legal organizations throughout the country. The other major employers include local government (15,790), the Federal government (13,310), and state government (9,750). Within each of those industries, paralegals may be referred to by different titles such as law clerk, law associate, paralegal specialist, legal clerk, certified paralegal, or legal analyst. Day-to-day responsibilities of paralegals are similar, regardless of area of practice or industry. Some of those shared tasks include the following:

  • File case pleading with the court
  • Prepare legal correspondence
  • Monitor timekeeping and legal billing
  • Conduct legal research
  • Manage law office activity
  • Assist with trial case management

Featured Careers tool

  • Legal Secretaries

    Legal secretaries perform a hybrid of responsibilities—part paralegal and part secretary/administrative. They work with attorneys and clients to help with research, prepare and file court documents, and manage projects and any other information that relates to a court case. They also fulfill the administrative role of secretary in an office, making sure that all office procedures and communications run smoothly.

    Median Salary: $42,170

    Median Hourly: $20.27

    Est. Growth: -3.1%

    No. Employed: 216,730

    Minimum Education: High School Diploma

  • Paralegals/Legal Assistants

    Paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys prepare for hearings, trials and meetings by performing a variety of tasks. For example, they might draft legal documents and correspondence to clients, judges and other attorneys as well as gather documents from the court. They also schedule depositions, organize and file paperwork and briefs, investigate cases, and write legal reports. Those who work for smaller firms tend to perform a wider variety of tasks.

    Median Salary: $46,990

    Median Hourly: $22.59

    Est. Growth: 16.7%

    No. Employed: 267,030

    Minimum Education: Associate’s

Advice from a paralegal

Be sure that you want a career that you have the time to put into
it and the drive to want to succeed. I would also tell them that they need to want to be a part of a team. The attorney that I work with and I make a great team. It is about give and take and listening to other people.

Andrea Holley, Senior Litigation Paralegal, Baker Donelson