Paralegal Associate Program Guide

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August 20, 2021

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The legal field is known for diversity and healthy earning potential, but it also has a reputation for being challenging. While legal cases often require all hands on deck, lawyers are able to count on the aid of skilled paralegals to help get the work done.

Paralegals assist law firms with legal research, fact-checking, drafting pleadings, filing legal documents, and coordinating the client calendar. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 10% job growth for paralegals and legal assistants between 2019 and 2029, a rate much faster than the projected growth rate for all occupations during that time frame.

While there are no formal requirements for paralegals, law firms and businesses often seek candidates with some form of higher education. By earning an associate degree in paralegal studies, you can stand out from the competition.

Should I Get a Paralegal Associate Degree?

Earning an associate degree in paralegal studies can be an excellent way to secure entry-level legal work. Between 2019 and 2029, the BLS projects that jobs for paralegals and legal assistants could grow by 10%, a rate much faster than average. Additionally, professionals in this field make a median annual salary of $52,920.

Earning an associate degree in paralegal studies can be an excellent way to secure entry-level legal work.

Because these programs take only two years of full-time study, enrolling in an associate program offers a fast track to the professional legal world. These programs can be appealing for students who can't spend four years earning a bachelor's degree but still want a challenging and lucrative career with room to grow.

With the need for paralegals expanding beyond law offices and into the corporate world, graduates often have promising job prospects upon program competition.

Additionally, students can use their degree as a stepping stone to a four-year degree and beyond. Paralegals with a couple of years of work experience often go on to earn a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as legal studies or criminal justice. Upon earning a bachelor's degree, paralegals can also apply to law school.

Find the best online paralegal associate programs.

What Will I Learn in a Paralegal Associate Program?

Students pursuing an associate degree in paralegal studies typically take courses in subjects like advanced legal research, legal writing, organizational law, estate law, legal ethics, and business communication. These courses help students develop a foundation of knowledge in the philosophies and theories related to law practice. Students learn how to prepare legal documents, write depositions, and conduct investigative interviews.

Paralegals play a crucial role within legal teams. Paralegal associate programs equip graduates with the skills they rely on in the professional world, including writing, research, and an understanding of the legal and criminal justice systems.

Colleges that offer associate paralegal programs typically offer either an associate of applied science (AAS) or an associate of science (AS) degree. Both AAS and AS programs prepare students for entry-level paralegal work.

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What Can I Do With a Paralegal Associate Degree?

Earning an associate degree in paralegal studies can be the first step toward a rewarding and lucrative legal career. Graduates of these programs can pursue careers beyond the role of paralegal. Degree-holders can also work as legal assistants, legal researchers, administrative assistants, transcriptionists, legal secretaries, and law clerks.

Although a majority of paralegal students pursue entry-level roles in law firms, organizations like private businesses, corporations, and nonprofits also need paralegals. Paralegal skills, such as communication and research, can also prove valuable in fields like psychology, criminal justice, fire science, and legal studies.

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How Much Money Can I Make With a Paralegal Associate Degree?

According to the BLS, paralegals and legal assistants make a median annual salary of $52,920. The top 10% of earners in the field earn more than $85,160 per year. Paralegals working for the federal government earn a median annual wage of $69,490, while those working in legal services make $50,600 per year.

Frequently Asked Questions About Paralegal Associate Programs

What is a paralegal? true

Paralegals are legal science professionals who provide assistance within legal firms and departments. Paralegals fact-check legal documents, conduct research, summarize records, interview clients, maintain files, and perform other daily office tasks.

How much does it cost to get a paralegal associate degree? true

While in-person paralegal associate programs can cost upwards of $15,000 depending on location and school, online degrees can cut costs. Online paralegal programs often cost approximately $3,000-$10,000.

How long does it take to get a paralegal associate degree? true

Most paralegal students can graduate in two years of full-time study. Online students may be able to graduate ahead of schedule, while part-time learners should plan to spend additional time in school.

Are paralegals in high demand?

Yes. As legal firms continue to grow, the need for skilled paralegals and legal assistants could rise. In fact, the BLS projects 10% job growth for paralegals between 2019 and 2029.

Is a paralegal associate degree worth it?

An associate degree in paralegal studies program can be extremely valuable for students who want to enter the legal field but don't have the time or means for a four-year degree. While no degree is required to pursue paralegal positions, job-seekers with an associate degree may stand out in a competitive field.

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