Best Online Paralegal Studies Programs

Search Colleges

Close

Paralegals and legal assistants are supportive personnel who work at law firms and legal offices. They perform a wide range of services in order to help lawyers prepare for trials and hearings; day-to-day duties include obtaining affidavits and evidence to be used in court, researching case law, filing exhibits and reading trial transcripts. They are also responsible for various tasks related to client recordkeeping, legal documentation and other administrative needs. Paralegals and legal assistants may also contact clients, witnesses and attorneys in order to schedule meetings and legal depositions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 280,000 paralegals and legal assistants are currently employed in the United States.

A large number of paralegals begin their career with an associate degree program in paralegal studies or another law-related field. Most paralegal studies associate degree options include internships, where students receive supervised training from experienced lawyers and law office personnel. Many of today’s students are choosing to earn their paralegal studies associate degree online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of postdegree job opportunities. The asynchronous (or self-paced) structure of most online paralegal studies programs is also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare responsibilities and other commitments that may interfere with campus-based learning.

Learn more about what you can do with an online associate degree in paralegal studies program and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

WILL AN ONLINE PARALEGAL STUDIES ASSOCIATE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

Online paralegal studies associate programs cover all essential areas of the profession, including legal research and writing, client recordkeeping and fundamentals of trial, corporate and international law. Internships also allow students to supplement their coursework with off site training and apply the skills and knowledge they have gained to real-world situations. Many of today’s employers will only hire paralegal candidates that have earned professional certification; the best online paralegal studies associate programs prepare students for exams and other certification requirements, as well.

WILL AN ONLINE PARALEGAL STUDIES ASSOCIATE PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Online associate degree in paralegal studies programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional, classroom-based education. Students are able to access course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with fellow students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors from their home computer. Current technology also allows them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable devices with Wi-Fi capabilities. For added convenience, online students can usually coordinate internships and other practicum courses at legal offices and other sites located within a reasonable distance of their current residence.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY PARALEGAL STUDIES ASSOCIATE DEGREE?

U.S. News & World Report notes that the paralegal/legal assistant profession does not carry strict educational requirements. Many paralegals and legal assistants enter the workforce with a high school diploma or equivalent, so candidates with an associate in paralegal studies will be well-positioned to compete in the job market. Other career pathways for paralegal studies degree recipients include roles like court reporters, information clerks, legal secretaries and administrative assistants.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE PARALEGAL STUDIES ASSOCIATE PROGRAMS?

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online paralegal studies associate degree programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online paralegal studies associate program, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific associate degree requirements and offerings.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1

Florida National University

 3/556.84%Hialeah, FL

campus_florida_national_university

The paralegal studies associate at FNU is available 100% online. Requiring a minimum of 60 credits for graduation, the program includes courses in the American legal system, as well as behavioral science, communication, humanities, mathematics and the natural sciences. FNU's online options are particularly known for their military-friendly approach, making it easy and appealing for military personnel to earn an associate or baccalaureate degree entirely online.

Testimonial

"Being able to take all of my classes via distance learning was a great thing since I was literally on the opposite corner of the United States from the University. If I ever had questions about my class the professor was a message board or email away…. Distance learning worked for me due to my busy life of being a single parent of two and a United States Sailor." - Beth Sullivan, graduate of an online program at FNU

Quick Facts

  • Courses are structured in eight-week long terms, with new courses beginning every two months.
  • FNU delivers its virtual classes using the Blackboard Learning Management System, and online students have full access to university services.
  • Distance learning courses follow the same timelines as traditional courses, but are asynchronous, allowing students to log in and participate in their classes, use forums and reach out to their instructors with ease.
  • The AA program fulfills the core courses of a four-year bachelor’s degree, making it convenient for students interested in continuing education.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
2

Drury University

 4/562.6%Springfield, MO

campus_drury_university

Available entirely online, Drury’s Associate of Science degree in Paralegal Studies requires students to complete 27 hours of paralegal coursework and 21 hours of general education requirements. The program provides a solid foundation in business law, civil litigation, estates, family law, law of wills, real estate law, torts and trusts.

Quick Facts

  • Online courses are offered on a rotational schedule, alternating between an 8-week term, 16-week term, 12-week term and another 8-week term.
  • Drury uses the Blackboard platform for its online courses, including Blackboard Mobile, which provides access to Blackboard on mobile devices with Wifi capability.
  • Free online tutoring in a handful of subjects is offered via SMARTHINKING.com.
  • Virtual classes at Drury have also been known to use Second Life, a tool that allows students to learn by participating in role playing and online simulations.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
3

Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale

 3/554.95%Fort Lauderdale, FL

campus_keiser_university_fort_lauderdale

paralegal studies associate at Keiser University is a 60 credit hour program that teaches students the skills they need to succeed as a professional paralegal, such as legal research, document and motion drafting, case management and evidence gathering. Keiser is known for its industry-experienced faculty, as well as an extensive history of delivering quality education through its eCampus.

Testimonial

"The skills I acquired through Keiser University’s paralegal program afforded me the opportunity to gain employment within the legal profession even before I graduated." - Syreeta McMillan, paralegal studies graduate

Quick Facts

  • Keiser's online program uses a "one class at a time" approach; new classes start every month so that students busy balancing school and outside responsibilities have flexibility in organizing their schedule.
  • The eCampus uses Blackboard to deliver online courses, with an online support center for students available 24/7.
  • Online courses host assigned readings, class notes, exams and quizzes, slides, audio and video downloads and threaded discussions.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
4

Alexandria Technical & Community College

 2/558.27%Alexandria, MN

campus_alexandria_technical_community_college

Alexandria College Online is known for the quality of its faculty, the convenience and variety of its courses and the extended hours of support it offers students. Their online paralegal program covers the law's role in areas like bankruptcy, business incorporation, civil litigation, criminal procedures, estates, probates, intellectual property and real estate. ATCC has established a partnership with Distance Minnesota, an alliance of colleges providing online programs and courses.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
5

Liberty University

 4/550.41%Lynchburg, VA

campus_Liberty_University

Liberty is known for offering Christ-centered degrees to students from various backgrounds around the world. Their online faculty are industry leaders and practicing lawyers with the firsthand experience needed to create a curriculum grounded in a Christian worldview. The Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies is available entirely online at Liberty.

Testimonial

"I was on active duty when I started my education, and due to my deployments schedule, online was the only way I could get my degree. My degree helped me tremendously in getting my present job. I have been blessed to be a part of Liberty and highly recommend Liberty Online to others." -David Phillips, Liberty graduate

Quick Facts

  • #18 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Criminal Justice Programs.
  • #79 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
6

Eastern Kentucky University

 2/541.86%Richmond, KY

EKU Online features an ABA-approved, 64 credit hour partially online paralegal program. To fulfill the in-person requirements of the program, students must complete a minimum of 10 credit hours via two weeks of instruction on-site in Richmond, Kentucky. This portion can be completed concurrently or in two separate summer terms.The rest of the program can be completed online.

Quick Facts

  • Students who do not reside in Kentucky should refer to this map of authorized states before enrolling.
  • EKU uses the Blackboard Learning System to provide a chassis for instructors to post course material and interact with students through discussion boards, chat rooms, online assignments, PowerPoint presentations, reading assignments, mini-lectures and instructional videos.
  • The online paralegal program at EKU also provides students the opportunity to join their traditional counterparts for a unique summer study abroad experience in England; Crime & Punishment: Murder, Mayhem & Dungeons.
  • EKU was recently ranked among the 2014 Best Online Education Programs by the US News & World Report.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
7

Eastern Florida State College

 1/547.36%Cocoa, FL

EFSC’s associate in science in paralegal studies program is offered through traditional on-campus courses, evening courses and online courses. Class sizes are small, allowing instructors to give more direct feedback. The two-year, 64 credit program also includes an internship to give students genuine, practical experience before entering the workforce. With five terms per year, the schedule for eLearning is very flexible, allowing busy students to better manage their time.

Quick Facts

  • Non-Florida residents who wish to enroll in eLearning courses must contact the school in order to begin the approval process.
  • Non-resident students should also note that federal regulations require all eLearning courses to have at least one proctored exam, meaning students must travel to a proctoring location within the state unless they are able to use the online proctoring service ProctorU.
  • EFSC is currently transitioning its Learning Management Systems from an ANGEL interface to Canvas. Online students use electronic group discussions, etherpad, Google Docs, webcams and others tools to collaborate with classmates and communicate with instructors.
  • Online tutoring is available to EFSC students via SMARTHINKING.
  • Graduates of the program will be eligible to become certified by passing the National Association of Legal Assistant's certification exam.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
8

Madisonville Community College

 1/528.57%Madisonville, KY

Madisonville CC runs a fully online paralegal technology program that either awards students an associate degree or a certificate. The school asserts that both degrees awarded will prepare students for entry-level positions "in courts, corporations, law firms, and government agencies." Typical courses covered include Civil Litigation, Legal Writing and Wills & Estates. All coursework is run on the Blackboard platform, and the school maintains a 24/7 technical help desk for any issues online students may encounter.

Quick Facts

  • The associate program is 66 credit hours in total and the certificate is 39 credit hours.
  • The school estimates that the associate program will take students approximately two years to complete.
  • Madisonville's job placement services are available to students in either program.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
9

Southwestern Community College

 1/529.41%Sylva, NC

The associate of applied science in paralegal technology at SCC can be completed entirely online. The 71 credit program takes just two years to prepare students in subjects such as legal research and writing, case analysis and reasoning, civil litigation, administrative law and ethics. General topics covered include critical thinking, technology and society, general psychology and quantitative literacy.

Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
10

Tallahassee Community College

 1/531.86%Tallahassee, FL

TCC's Paralegal and Legal Studies Program provides an opportunity for distance students to pursue their associate degree fully online. With courses in legal research, ethics, business law and family law, to only name a few, the program is intended to prepare students for their bachelor's and eventual JD or for a low-level paralegal or legal assistant position in the field.

Quick Facts

  • All told the program amounts to 64 credit hours, with courses divided across general education, program requirements, program electives and even 6 credits of any History course offered at Tallahasssee.
  • The school's Distance Learning Center lays out all support services and particulars of the online education process.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
11

Minnesota State Community and Technical College

 2/533.08%Fergus Falls, MN

Minnesota State awards students a Paralegal Associate in Applied Science and runs the program through its Detroit Lakes campus and its eCampus, a fully online service for distance learning students. The program mission, in part, is to teach students about the American legal system, to hone legal writing skills and to further a student's understanding of how ethics are represented and defended via law.

Quick Facts

  • The paralegal program is 60 credits in total, split across required courses and a restricted list of electives students can choose from, primarily focused on government organization and accounting.
  • Required courses cover topics like Civil Law, Real Property and Criminal Law.
  • Minnesota State has put together a video for prospective students that explains the merits of their paralegal program.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
12

Calumet College of Saint Joseph

 3/523.94%Whiting, IN

The online associate degree in paralegal and pre-law studies offered by Calumet College provides students with a great deal of flexibility as they complete their degree. The 59 credit hour program is available for students who either already have a college degree or for pre-law and paralegal majors who are still in the midst of earning their bachelor's.

Quick Facts

  • 35 hours of general education courses are included, along with 24 hours of major courses that cover law office technology, legal research and writing.
  • A portfolio program/internship is also in place that exposes students to a real working legal environment.
  • Calumet uses the Blackboard Learning Management System and SMART classrooms to enable classes to "meet" online. Students will initially connect with their instructors via email, where discussion forums, posted assignments or chat dates are scheduled. Coursework is typically turned in via email or over an assigned online drop box.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
13

Mohave Community College

 1/511.54%Kingman, AZ

Mohave conducts two online paralegal programs: an associate degree and a certificate program. The associate is intended to "fully prepare students for entry into the paralegal profession [...]." With an emphasis on legal research, composition and ethics. Meanwhile, the certificate program, while covering much of the same material, is intended for students interested in fast tracking into an entry-level career as a legal clerk, a legal investigator or a trust officer, to name a few ― though the school acknowledges that the certificate may only be the first step in the education needed to pursue such careers.

MCC Online makes the distinction between online and online synchronous courses, with both options available for paralegal programs. Strictly online means students work through courses as see fit, whereas synchronous courses require students to attend live courses remotely.

Quick Facts

  • MCC has put together a helpful booklet that details their approach to paralegal education.
  • The associate program is 62 to 63 credit hours in total and the certificate is 30 credits total.
  • Courses covered in both programs include Tort Law, Contract Law and Civil Law and Litigation.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
14

Yavapai College

 1/518.95%Prescott, AZ

Yavapai's 64-credit Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies can be earned entirely online. Yavapai states that a major emphasis of the program is developing student's oral and communication skills, as well as their computer literacy skills. The program is explicitly intended for people immediately seeking employment after completion. Upon graduation, students will be proficient in interviewing witnesses and clients, managing cases, drafting legal documents, conducting research and using legal technology.

Quick Facts

  • Admissions are streamlined at YC, students must simply complete an application online at YC Quickstart.
  • Students uninitiated to online learning can view a free orientation.
  • Students unsure if online learning is right for them may take a free online assessment.
  • Financial aid is available for those who qualify.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
15

Hutchinson Community College

 1/527.16%Hutchinson, KS

Hutchinson Community College prides itself on it's extensive online offerings, and it A.A.S. Paralegal/Legal Assistant degree is no exception. The program stresses the development of of computer, communication and organizational skills, alongside the development of solid ethical character. The program offers elective courses, for those who know they would like to specialize in a specific concentration, and internships are available for students eager enough to pursue them. Upon graduation, students should be prepared to immediately enter the workforce.

Quick Facts

  • Admissions are handled through a simple online form.
  • Scholarships and financial aid are available for those who qualify.
  • A sample class is available for applicants to get a feel of the online learning environment.
  • The college predicts that graduates of its program will have an earning potential between $15 and $22 per hour in Kansas.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
16

Northwest Mississippi Community College

 1/519.37%Senatobia, MS

Northwest Mississippi hosts a Paralegal Technology Associate in Applied Science Degree designed as part of University of Mississippi's 2 + 2 option. Graduates of this program will be prepared to either directly enter the workforce or transfer to U of M for a baccalaureate degree, or perhaps do both. Whatever the post-degree pursuit, students will leave the program in possession a strong skillset of research, drafting, and interpersonal skills that will serve them well in a large variety of professional and scholarly areas.

Quick Facts

  • To be admitted, students must furnish a completed application, official copies of SAT or ACT scores and High School or GED transcripts.
  • The school offers a host of online services, including: a library catalog, subject guides, access to numerous archives, a writing center and tutoring services.
  • Canvas is the LMS of choice for NMCC and applicants the school offers an overview of the system for interested applicants.
  • Financial aid and scholarships are available for qualifying students.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
17

Western Piedmont Community College

 1/5N/ANC

The Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Technology at Western Piedmont Community College prepares graduates to work under the supervision of attorneys in any number of legal fields, including: family law, real estate law, estate law, torts and trusts. Upon completion of the program, graduates will possess a skillset that will allow them to excel in an entry-level position with a law-firm, corporate or government organization. The North Carolina State Bar Paralegal Certification Board has recognized the program as being a Qualified Paralegal Studies Program.

Quick Facts

  • Admissions require a high school diploma or High School Equivalency completion.
  • The school uses a combination of Blackboard and Moodle to host its virtual classroom, and students are provided with a full orientation.
  • WPCC follows a Quality Enhancement Plan that encourages active learning through participation in both its on-campus and online programs.
  • Financial aid is available to qualifying students.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
18

Lake Superior College

 2/527.47%Duluth, MN

Lake Superior College offers three fully online options for individuals interested in pursuing a career as a paralegal. The 60-credit Associate in Science is designed for students looking to transfer to a four-year institution after graduating. The 60-credit Associate in Applied Science is targeted towards students who would like to immediately enter the job market upon graduation, working in environments such as corporate office, law firms or government agencies. Lake Superior’s 30-Credit certificate program is designed for applicants with prior experience in the legal field who are ready to enter the job market as quickly as possible.

Quick Facts

  • To apply, students must submit a completed application + a $20 fee and high school/GED transcripts.
  • The virtual classroom is powered the popular platform Desire2Learn.
  • LSC has the second lowest tuition rate of the 32 MnSCU colleges.
  • Lake Superior estimates that graduates of their paralegal program can expect to earn between $23 and $25 per hour in Minnesota.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
19

Holmes Community College

 1/523.19%Goodman, MS

This wholly online Associate of Applied Science degree in Paralegal Technology is designed around the academic standards established by the National Association of Legal Assistants’ Descriptions of Certified Paralegal (CP) Exam and targeted towards individuals seeking entry-level employment in the field. Students will be prepared for a career working in a large variety of settings, including: corporate offices, law firms and government agencies. Holmes also sponsors the Holmes Association of Legal Students (HALS), which encourages networking, skills workshops and peer support for all students studying the law.

Quick Facts

  • Applicants must submit a high school/GED transcript, a completed application and ACT or SAT scores.
  • My Doghouse is the student name for the online portal based on the Canvas LMS.
  • Holmes offers an online class preview, for those applicants new to the virtual learning environment.
  • Financial Aid is available for qualifying students.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
20

Georgia Military College

 1/5N/AMilledgeville, GA

Georgia Military College has wholly embraced the online learning experience by developing a fully virtual campus where they offer all of their Associate degrees 100% online. There are two degrees from which students interested in paralegal studies may choose, an Associate of Arts and Associate of Science, both designed to prepare students for careers in the public or private sectors. In their courses, students will learn how to philosophically debate justice-related topics, evaluate a variety of laws, research case studies and draft/read legal documents.

Quick Facts

  • To apply, students must submit an application +$35 fee, high school or GED transcripts and ACT/SAT test scores.
  • Most first-time students will also be required to take a placement exam.
  • The GMC online learning platform is based on Moodle and they have produced a brief guide to introduce students to the breadth of their technological offerings.
  • As part of its online campus, GMC also host a virtual bookstore where students can buy and sell their textbooks.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
21

Tompkins Cortland Community College

 2/523.38%Dryden, NY

At Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) there are two options for students wishing to pursue paralegal studies, an A.A.S. Degree and a Certificate program. The degree prepares students for all aspects of employment in a law office, including drafting and studying legal documents, preparing research, and understanding legal ethics. The 32-credit certificate program is intended for individuals already in possession of a bachelor’s degree who would like to bolster their legal credentials. Though the degree program is not specifically designed for students wishing to transfer to a four-year program, the college does have a history of students being accepted to prestigious universities.

Quick Facts

  • The programs at TC3 are designed for individuals from both academic and non-academic backgrounds; interested applicants should refer to their admissions page for the requirements.
  • A demo course is offered for unsure students to test-drive the virtual learning experience.
  • Coursework is asynchronous, allowing students to work around a busy or frantic schedule to attend classes.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
22

Marshalltown Community College

 1/518.16%Marshalltown, IA

Two options are available for students interested in pursuing paralegal studies at Marshalltown Community College, a Liberal Arts Associate of Arts/Transfer Degree and an Associate in Applied Science. The former degree is targeted towards the intending to complete a bachelor’s degree at a for year university, the latter is for people looking to enter the job force immediately upon graduation. Both programs will prepare students with the full skillset needed to excel in an entry-level paralegal position with a corporate office, law firm or government agency.

Quick Facts

  • Admissions require the submission of a completed application, high school or GED transcripts and ACT, COMPASS or ASSET scores.
  • Financial aid is available for qualifying students.
  • The ANGEL platform supports the virtual classroom at MCC and students will receive a full orientation upon enrollment.
  • Tutoring is available both online and on-campus for students wanting extra assistance.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
23

Darton State College

 1/513.83%Albany, GA

Darton State College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies entirely online. Focusing on a providing a holistic education, this program has a Physical Education requirement to help students learn healthy habits and avoid some of the pitfalls of stress that may accompany employment in this field. Graduates of the program will demonstrate all the necessary skills required to fully perform the entry-level duties of a paralegal, including: interpreting legal documents, performing case research, drafting legal documents and understand the structure of the American legal system. Courses will make use of the full range of virtual learning tools, such as discussion threads, blogs, wikis and video conferencing.

Quick Facts

  • Programs at DSC are targeted towards both traditional and non-traditional students, and applicants should visit the admissions page to view the requirements.
  • Desire2Learn is the learning management system at Darton, and a helpful video introduction is provided to help uninitiated distance learners get a feel for the virtual classroom.
  • Each program has a dedicated online advisor, responsible for assisting students with any concern that may arise and providing academic planning guidance.
  • Darton provides a host of resources, including library services, tutoring and a writing center.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
24

Cerro Coso Community College

 1/519.34%Ridgecrest, CA

With a two year Paralegal Studies AS Degree for Cerro Coso, students will be prepared to take on the full responsibilities of an entry-level paralegal, legal assistant or legal document preparer position. The college teaches students how to perform independent research, analyze legal sources, gather testimony and draft legal documents. It should be noted that this degree is not specifically designed for students hoping to transfer to a four-year institution, and if this is a student’s goal, then special attention will need to be given to ensuring proper prerequisite courses are taken.

Quick Facts

  • To be eligible for admission, individuals must meet one of the following criteria: be a high school graduate, have successfully completed the California High School Proficiency Exam or the General Education Development Exam, or be 18 years of age or older and stand to benefit from the college’s programs.
  • With a referral from an instructor or counselor, students can receive free online tutoring.
  • Proctored exams are required for some courses, and students will need to travel to campus or an approved testing center.
  • The virtual campus at CCCC is referred to as CC Online and is powered by Moodle. The school offers an Online Readiness Assessment to see if interested individuals are prepared for online learning.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
25

Clovis Community College

 1/523.84%Clovis, NM

Clovis Community College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Legal Assistant Studies for individuals looking to begin an entry-level career in the legal field. Understanding that the delivery of legal services is a complex process, CCC readies it students to work as a member of a legal team. The college prides itself on the personal approach that instructors take with their students, and guarantee that students will have ample opportunity to explore the field before discovering an area in which they would like to focus. Studies will cover all areas of the law, including: legal writing, torts, litigation, criminal law, estate law, family law and real estate law.

Quick Facts

  • CCC has an open admissions policy. If you are a degree-seeking candidate, you will need to submit high school or GED transcripts.
  • Canvas is the LMS that hosts the virtual classroom at CCC and interested students are able to preview the system.
  • Financial aid is available to qualifying students.
  • The college hosts a variety of student services, including a tutoring and a writing center.
Tweet thisShare thisSchool Profile
   
Timeline
18 months to 2 years
Program Costs
$6,000 to $20,000 in annual tuition
Related Areas of Study
Legal Studies, Legal Assistant, Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement, Office Management/Administration, Administrative Assistant and Secretarial Science
Accreditation
American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Paralegals

Job Placement

According to the most recent data from U.S. News, paralegals face an unemployment rate of 4.5%; by comparison, the national unemployment rate for all occupations currently sits at 4.9%. The following table compares unemployment rates for paralegals and other law-oriented professionals working in the social service sector.

Occupation Unemployment Rate (2016)
Paralegal 4.5%
Lawyer 1.2%
Patrol Officer 1.2%
Child and Family Social Worker 3.4%
Clinical Social Worker 3.4%

Source: U.S. News & World Report

Many law firms are expected to hire paralegals as a strategy for lowering the overall cost of their legal services and attracting a broader client base. Additionally, corporations and nonprofit organizations hire paralegals and legal assistants in order to bolster their in-house legal departments. As a result, the BLS predicts steady job placement for paralegals and legal assistants in the years to come. Between 2014 and 2024, the industry is expected to grow by 8%, resulting in roughly 21,200 new jobs.

Earning a Living

According to the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report, individuals with an associate degree in paralegal studies earn median annual salaries of $32,300 during their first five years on the job and $47,600 after a decade in the workforce. Similarly, U.S. News lists $48,350 as the median annual salary for paralegals in the United States. However, it’s important to note that earning potential for these individuals largely depends on factors like certification level, employer size and city/state of employment. A detailed salary breakdown for paralegals and legal assistants is found in the table below.

Percentile Median Annual Salary
90th Percentile $77,830
75th Percentile $62,000
Median $48,350
25th Percentile $37,550
10th Percentile $30,280

Source: U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News also notes that the highest paying metro areas for paralegals are Washington, D.C.; San Jose, Calif.; and Anchorage, Alaska. In addition, two other variables can greatly influence salary expectations for paralegals and legal assistants: specific job title and level of work experience. The next table looks at career salary growth for paralegals, legal assistants and other careers associated with legal support and administration.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Paralegal $39,335 $48,206 $51,581 $55,661
Litigation Paralegal $44,085 $55,317 $59,230 $61,858
Legal Assistant $35,495 $41,345 $47,976 $51,622
Legal Secretary $37,441 $45,366 $51,707 $60,348
Law Clerk $40,272 $41,636 $49,434 $57,000

Source: PayScale

Of the five careers listed, legal secretaries experience the highest rate of career salary growth: a 61.2% increase in earnings between the entry-level and late-career stages. Legal assistants see the second-highest growth rate, with a 45.4% salary increase after 20 years in the workforce. Career salary growth for the remaining three occupations ranges from 40% to 42%.

Career and Further Education Opportunities

Students who graduate from an online associate in paralegal studies degree program will be qualified for dozens of entry-level jobs, as well as select leadership roles normally reserved for candidates with a postsecondary education background. Four of the most common career pathways for paralegal studies associate degree recipients are highlighted below.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants: Although many paralegals and legal assistants are hired to perform various legal and administrative tasks, some specialize in niche areas of the field. For example, corporate paralegals primarily handle casework related to business law and regulations, while litigation paralegals mostly support trial lawyers. According to BLS data, there is one paralegal for every 2.87 lawyers in the United States.

Court Reporters: Court reporters creating written transcriptions for legal proceedings, such as trials and hearings. They are responsible for reproducing all dialogue word-for-word, and are expected to describe the court events in an objective tone. Court reporters who work in legal settings must obtain a professional license in several states, although licensing requirements vary nationwide.

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants: Secretaries and administrative assistants handle the clerical and administrative duties at offices. Day-to-day tasks often include filing, document preparation, scheduling and personnel support. Secretaries and administrative assistants who work in law offices and firms generally have a background in paralegal studies, as well.

Information Clerks: Information clerks collect, manage and retrieve data records for customers and/or colleagues. Clerks can be found in virtually every professional industry; legal occupations for these individuals include file clerks who work for large law offices and firms, or court clerks directly employed by local or federal courts.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $48,810 8% (+21,200 jobs)
Court Reporters $49,500 2% (+300 jobs)
Secretaries and Administrative Assistants $36,500 3% (+118,100 jobs)
Information Clerks $32,050 2% (+25,800 jobs)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to paralegal studies are crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for professional paralegals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.

  • National Federation of Paralegal Associations: Founded in 1974 following a merger of eight paralegal associations, this nonprofit currently represents 55 associations nationwide and more than 9,000 members. The NFPA strives to implement state-by-state standards for paralegal professionals and monitor activities to ensure legal and ethical practices.
  • National Association for Legal Assistants: With more than 18,000 members nationwide, the NALA is the leading professional organization for paralegals and legal assistants in the United States. Certification programs are offered to members; the website also features an online career center, continuing ed webinars and back issues of the Facts & Findings peer-reviewed journal.
  • American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc.: The American Alliance was founded in 2003 to “advance the paralegal profession by focusing on the individual paralegal”. The organization offers the American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential; members also receive a complimentary subscription of the Alliance Echo magazine.

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.