Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies Program Guide

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Published on August 13, 2021 · Updated on January 21, 2022

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Aside from teaching the critical-thinking, communication, and writing skills necessary for a legal career, a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies helps students study legal history and case law in anticipation of law school. If you are interested in legal processes in the U.S., a paralegal bachelor's degree prepares you to gather, assess, and synthesize legal documentation, data, and evidence.

A paralegal bachelor's is ideal for future paralegals and legal assistants, individuals who play fundamental roles in law firms and courts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 15% growth for paralegals and legal assistants between 2016 and 2026. A bachelor's degree in paralegal studies also offers the flexibility to work in other fields, such as government or the insurance industry.

What are the best Paralegal programs?

Should I Get a Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies?

A paralegal bachelor's can be earned online or on campus. Working professionals may find the flexibility of an online program more attractive, while high school graduates may be drawn to on-campus programs.

Analytical thinking and research methods form the core of a bachelor's in legal studies. Students learn about legal proceedings, criminal processes, and document preparation while also participating in case studies and fieldwork. The comprehensive curriculum also prepares students to pass paralegal certification examinations.

Bachelor's in paralegal studies programs offer specialized classes such as family law, real estate, and wills and estates. Many programs emphasize victim advocacy, community resources, and legal technology as well.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies?

Paralegals, legal assistants, and law clerks work closely with lawyers and other legal professionals. Legal assistants and clerks often work independently, conducting research and synthesizing information. A bachelor's in paralegal studies emphasizes communication, organization, and interpersonal skills applicable to detail-oriented, policy-based professions. For example, paralegal bachelor's students can thrive in the insurance industry with their understanding of risk management, research, documentation, and policy compliance.

Corporate Paralegal

Corporate paralegals work closely with corporate lawyers and collect and organize data for corporate meetings and legal processes. They also prepare contracts, write financial reports, and keep track of stockholder information.

Median Annual Salary: $50,410*

Litigation Paralegal

Litigation paralegals work with lawyers and clients in anticipation of legal hearings and trials. They keep deposition records, contact witnesses, and research legal precedents. They may draft settlements and provide support for lawyers during a trial.

Median Annual Salary: $50,410*

Title Examiners

Title examiners review legal documentation, including liens, mortgages, and contracts. They find title and property restrictions and prepare reports, summarizing contents and verifying accuracy. They can also search private and public records for law firms, corporations, and insurance professionals.

Median Annual Salary: $46,850*

Judicial Law Clerk

Judicial law clerks assist judges in the courtroom. They provide answers to legal questions, prepare documentation, and issue orders. They research and prepare legal documents, review complaints and pleadings, and draft judicial rulings. Judicial law clerks confer with other courtroom staff during court proceedings to clarify matters and keep judicial proceedings on track.

Median Annual Salary: $51,330*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Best States for Paralegals

Paralegals provide the backbone to corporate legal offices, litigation firms, government agencies, and other judicial settings. They investigate legal cases and research case law in anticipation of hearings, trials, and meetings. Paralegals gather evidence and compile information into reports, legal documents, and correspondence. They may sit alongside attorneys at trial to take notes, handle evidence, and assist with exhibits.

In addition to working with clients, witnesses, and other legal professionals, paralegals may specialize in a specific area of law, including bankruptcy, personal injury, immigration, real estate, and criminal action. Paralegals may also perform duties carried out by legal assistants such as scheduling, filing, copying, and general office administration.

With their diverse skills and extensive knowledge of the legal system, paralegals can take advantage of professional opportunities around the country. States with the highest number of paralegals provide job security for paralegal professionals. High-paying paralegal jobs and the potential for growth in the field also offer paralegals incentives for living in specific regions, states, and cities across the United States. States with the highest number of paralegal jobs help paralegals expand their competencies and skills by offering continued opportunities in new and niche areas of law and government work.

Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies Program Information

  1. District of Columbia
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    Paralegals in the District of Columbia earn far above the national annual median wage -- with their salaries above $78,000 and the median across the country just above $50,000. The District of Columbia offers paralegals the highest salaries in the country thanks to the number of jobs in federal government. Paralegals working for the federal government earn far more than their counterparts in the private sector. The highest paid paralegals in the District of Columbia and surrounding areas earn more than $100,000 annually.

    Long-term projections for growth in the paralegal profession indicate that the District of Columbia will continue to provide career options for paralegals, experiencing a 10.6% increase in paralegal and legal assistant positions between 2016-2026. While this falls below the projected 15% increase predicted for paralegals across the country, the combined high salaries and faster-than-average growth make the District of Columbia an ideal area for paralegals.

  2. New York
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    The New York City metropolitan area employs the highest number of paralegals and legal assistants in the country at almost 18,000. The southwestern areas of New York offer similarly large numbers of paralegal jobs and hold the fourth-highest nonmetropolitan employment figures in the country. The state of New York employs the third-largest number of paralegals in the country, boasting more than 23,000 employed paralegals in 2017. The state will experience a projected 16% increase between 2016-2026, opening up approximately 3,000 new jobs.

    Paralegals in the state of New York earn a median annual salary of $53,000, while those in New York City earn more than $55,000 annually. The highest paid paralegals reside in the capital area of the northern part of the state and in the New York City area.

  3. New Jersey
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    New Jersey and New York combine to make one of the largest metropolitan employers of paralegals in the U.S. with 17,700 in total, and cities in New Jersey such as Newark and Trenton offer paralegals some of the highest annual median salaries in the country. Paralegals in Newark make annual mean wages of $66,500, while Trenton paralegals earn just over $66,000.

    On the whole, paralegals in New Jersey earn almost $60,000 annually, much higher than the annual median around the country of just over $50,000. New Jersey will see an estimated 16% increase in paralegal job growth between 2016-2026 and add more than 1,000 positions. These numbers combined land New Jersey in the third spot on this ranking.

  4. California
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    California claims seven of the top-ten highest-paying metropolitan areas for paralegals in the United States. Paralegals in Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, and Ventura earn the highest mean wages at more than $83,000 annually, and those in the San Francisco, San Jose, and Napa areas all earn mean wages above $70,000 -- roughly $20,000 more than the annual mean wage across the country. California boasts a projected 18% increase in paralegal job growth between 2016-2026, which potentially adds almost 5,000 paralegal jobs to the 30,000 paralegal professionals who currently live in the state.

    High salaries and industry growth makes California a good choice for paralegal professionals. Paralegals working throughout the state can join one of 12 professional associations, all of which cooperate and collaborate through the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations.

  5. Florida
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    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 27,460 paralegals in Florida in 2017, and the state will see an estimated 21% increase in paralegal jobs between 2016-2026, adding more than 3,000 positions. Florida comes in behind only California for the highest employment levels of paralegals and legal assistants by state and behind only the District of Columbia for the highest concentration of these jobs.

    Tallahassee and the West Palm Beach are among the top-ten areas with the highest concentrations of paralegals in the United States. The annual median wage for paralegals in Florida is just under $47,000, but paralegals in metropolitan areas like Port St. Lucie and Fort Myers earn salaries between $52,000-$55,000.

  6. Texas
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    Texas is the fourth-largest employer of paralegals in the U.S. with 23,000 total, and Houston and Dallas employ the sixth- and eighth-highest numbers of paralegals and legal professionals for metropolitan areas in the United States. Paralegals in Houston earn annual salaries of more than $61,000, while those in the Dallas area can earn more than $64,000. The projected 22% increase in available paralegal positions in Texas will add almost 5,000 new paralegal positions to the state.

    As the first bar association to establish a separate division for paralegals, the Texas State Bar Association offers numerous resources for paralegals, and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization certifies paralegals in six specialty areas.

  7. Nevada
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    Nevada will see a projected 30% increase in paralegal and legal assistant employment from 2016-2026, resulting in more than 600 new paralegal positions. This offers significant career opportunities for incoming paralegals looking to start their careers. Paralegals in major cities in Nevada enjoy salaries above the national figure, as those working in Las Vegas, Carson City, and Reno earn annual salaries between $54,000-$56,000 -- more than $4,000 above the national figure.

    Paralegals can also work as document preparers in Nevada, which can open up additional career options. The Nevada State Bar Association offers pro bono opportunities, newsletters, and other resources for paralegals through its paralegal division. Paralegals in the southern part of Nevada can also join the Las Vegas Paralegal Association, affiliated with the National Association of Legal Assistants.

  8. Connecticut
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    Connecticut offers the fifth-highest annual mean wages for paralegals and legal assistants in the United States. Paralegals here earn more than $60,000 annually. As the metropolitan area with the ninth-highest concentration of paralegals, Hartford's legal professionals earn an annual mean wage of over $61,000. Paralegals in nonmetropolitan areas also earn high salaries compared to the national figure, with annual mean wages over $57,000.

    The paralegal and legal assistant profession will experience a projected 13% increase between 2016-2026, making approximately 600 new paralegal positions available. This number of positions in a relatively small state means strong employment potential for paralegals and legal assistants.

    With numerous resources and organizational supports, paralegals in Connecticut remain poised to thrive in the field. The Connecticut Bar Association boasts a paralegal division, and groups like the Central Connecticut Paralegal Association foster relationships among paralegals and other legal professionals.

  9. Utah
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    The annual median salary for paralegals in Utah falls just short of $43,000, with those in Salt Lake City earning approximately $45,000. However, cost of living in cities like Salt Lake City is 6% lower than the national average, so the smaller paycheck stretches much further. The big opportunity for paralegals in Utah involves the estimated 30% increase in paralegal and legal assistant employment from 2016-2026 -- and the resulting 800 new available positions.

    Utah introduced new legislation in 2018 to allow paralegal professionals the option to practice law. As the second state in the country to license paralegals to conduct legal proceedings in aspects of family law, debt collection, and matters of forcible entry, paralegals in Utah exercise autonomy unknown to most of their counterparts around the United States. This legislation goes into effect in 2019.

  10. Colorado
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    Expected to experience a 23% increase in paralegal and legal assistant positions, Colorado will serve as home to as many as 630 new paralegals by 2026. This increase in available positions makes the state a good option, especially with earning potential above the national median figures. Paralegals in Colorado earn annual median wages of almost $56,000, far above the national median salary of $50,410. In cities such as Boulder and Denver, paralegals can earn roughly $60,000 each year.

    Paralegals in Colorado must complete a degree or program approved by the American Bar Association, but the Colorado State Bar Association requires no additional paralegal certification. The Colorado State Bar Association regulates the use of paralegals by lawyers, offering protections in the field. Paralegals in Colorado can earn voluntary certifications to boost career opportunities.

How to Choose a Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies Program

Completing a bachelor's in paralegal studies normally requires between 120 and 130 credits. Full-time students can finish the degree in four years, while part-time students take anywhere between four to eight years. Most programs allow students to transfer credits, and associate degree holders can complete a bachelor's program in two years.

Most schools offer a bachelor's in paralegal studies as either a bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of science (BS). A BS in paralegal studies may emphasize technology and data-driven aspects of the legal field, while a BA program may focus more on legal theory and social justice. Both degrees normally offer specializations and often include fieldwork and internship requirements.

An online bachelor's degree in paralegal studies can provide a flexible option for working professionals. Online degrees offer more asynchronous classes for part-time students, while on-campus programs often include synchronous coursework. Many online institutions offer students flat-rate tuition. Students enrolled in on-campus bachelor's in paralegal programs may pay different rates depending on whether they qualify for in-state tuition.

Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies Programs

Colleges that offer bachelor's degrees in paralegal studies may have regional or national accreditation, and a school's legal program may receive accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA accredits legal programs at all degree levels. A degree from an accredited program increases your job prospects and allows you to transfer credits easily from one institution to another.

ABA accreditation assures degree quality, and paralegal programs voluntarily submit their curricula for rigorous assessment. The ABA has a standing committee that reviews enrollment, retention, graduation rates, course syllabi, and other program documentation.

There are 260 ABA-accredited paralegal and legal assistant programs in the U.S. offered through regionally or nationally accredited colleges. None of the ABA-accredited programs are available entirely online. ABA accreditation is expensive and many programs without ABA accreditation still follow the association's guidelines. Paralegal bachelor's programs endorsed by state and local bar associations provide alternatives to ABA-accredited degrees.

Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies Program Admissions

It is important to research college specific requirements when applying to a bachelor's in paralegal studies program. Application deadlines vary by school, with many online programs admitting students multiple times a year.

You should apply to several programs and identify the programs that best meet your needs. Location, coursework, transfer credit opportunities, and accreditation should factor into your choice. Once you identify potential schools, check that you meet all application requirements. Some services, like the Common App, allow you to fill out one application and submit it to several schools.

In addition to admission requirements, you may need to consider program-specific admission criteria, including prerequisite coursework, previous work experience, and subject-matter familiarity.

Prerequisites

Most bachelor's in paralegal studies require a minimum 2.0 GPA. Students that do not meet the minimum GPA can obtain provisional or probationary admission.

Admission Materials

Applications and application criteria can be found on a school's department website.
  • Transcripts: Colleges require high school and college transcripts, if applicable, for admission. You can request transcripts through a registrar's office. There is usually a fee attached.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Many schools require letters of recommendation. You may need to submit two or three letters from teachers or mentors who can attest to your academic work ethic. You should give recommenders at least a month's notice.
  • Test Scores: Many colleges require the ACT or SAT for admission. When you take the ACT or SAT, you can have your scores sent directly to potential schools or request them for additional schools later, if needed.
  • Application Fee: Application fees range from $20 to $100, but many schools have reduced fees or waivers available for students with financial need.

    What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies Program?

    Coursework for a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies will require general classes in legal studies, criminal justice, research methods, and professional writing before covering more advanced topics. Students develop legal writing and reading skills as they study case law, law practice management, and legal technology.

    Courses in a Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies Program

    Coursework for a paralegal bachelor's degree may differ depending on the school, but core classes focus on legal writing, research, and working within the legal community. Courses train students to write, read, and think like a legal professional.

    Legal Writing

    Students learn how to communicate with technical legal language in briefs, motions, contracts, and pleadings. Students train through assignments that require dictation, revision, and analysis. Courses on legal writing stress legal correspondence with non-legal and legal audiences. This course works in conjunction with legal research offerings.

    Legal Research

    Legal research coursework introduces students to electronic databases, like Westlaw. Coursework trains students to search efficiently and develop research strategies. Students also learn to cite case law and judicial findings, document legal publications, and compile a legal bibliography.

    Law Practice Management

    Law practice management classes introduce students to law firm policies, record-keeping, hiring practices, and overall organization. Students learn the best practices to store and retrieve legal information, technological tools for legal offices, and how to work with lawyers and non-legal personnel.

    Civil Litigation

    Classes in civil litigation provide students with information about federal and state rules of civil procedures and processes. Students develop expertise in civil litigation terminology and learn strategies for pre-trial, interviewing, motion submission, and appeals related to civil lawsuits.

    Legal Technology

    Classes in legal technology provide students with computer software training specific to the legal field. Technology coursework may include elements of legal software design and advanced training in legal database use.

    How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies?

    Paralegal bachelor's degrees typically take four years to complete and range from 120 to 130 credit hours. Full-time students can finish a bachelor's in paralegal studies in as few as three years; however, part-time students may need as many as eight years. Students with transfer credits or an associate degree in legal studies can shorten degree length.

    Students who enroll in a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies will need to complete general education coursework in English, science, the humanities, and social sciences. In addition to core university classes, programs encourage elective courses that supplement paralegal studies or allow for additional minors. Legal studies and paralegal programs usually include 35 to 60 credit hours of program-specific classes in topics ranging from introductory legal studies to advanced criminal and civil law.

    How Much Is a Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies?

    Paralegal bachelor's programs range from $6,000 to $50,000 depending on school, location, and student status. Many online schools charge students flat-rate tuition on a per credit basis, giving part-time students an opportunity to pay as they go. Part-time students can expect to pay between $450 and $500 per credit. Credit-hour tuition for full-time students can be as low as $380.

    Many online programs do not assess tuition based on in-state or out-of-state status. Students enrolled in on-campus degrees should consider the cost of tuition and living expenses, such as housing, transportation, meal plans, and university fees.

    When you apply to a paralegal bachelor's degree program and require financial aid, submit the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible. The FAFSA automatically assesses federal, state, and university financial aid options based on personal information. You can find loans, scholarships, and grants through the FAFSA, but you can also check with the financial aid department of potential schools to see if program-specific financial aid exists as well.

    Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies Prepares For

    Certified Paralegal (CP)

    Paralegals with a bachelor's degree, a requisite number of credit hours, or seven years of experience can receive certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). The ABA and the National Commission on Certifying Agencies both recognize the high professional standards of NALA's CP program. Candidates must pass the NALA paralegal skills and knowledge test.

    Professional Paralegal (PP)

    The National Association for Legal Professionals certifies paralegals that meet degree and experience requirements through comprehensive training courses and a one-day, four-part exam.

    Paralegal Certification

    Paralegals can obtain one of two paralegal certifications through the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) by completing the CORE competency exam or the advanced competency exam. Exam eligibility depends on degree and experience. The NFPA provides exam preparation materials, review courses, and sample tests.

    American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP)

    To receive AACP certification, you must join the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc., formally apply, provide a letter of support from a practicing attorney, and meet guidelines set by the American Alliance Certification Commission. Recertification requires proof of continued education and professional development activities.

    Resources for Paralegal Studies Students

    The Paralegal Society

    The Paralegal Society was created by paralegals, for paralegals. The society website offers connections and resources for paralegal professionals, including mentorships, educational information, and career guidance.

    ABA Journal

    The ABA Journal offers the latest legal news, updates, and information in print and by email, podcast, and blogs. Topics include digital law, corrections, and defending justice, with essay and cartoon contests offered regularly.

    Paralegal Today

    Paralegal Today was founded in 1983 and provides career resources and news in the paralegal field. The magazine publishes independent, informative, and practical articles for paralegal professionals.

    FindLaw

    In addition to job information, practice management resources, and news on the latest legal technology, FindLaw brings together databases for legal cases and codes for students and legal practitioners.

    Legal Talk Network

    The Legal Talk Network features legal experts, practitioners, and scholars on over 20 podcasts. Podcasts include information on legal news and developments and specialize in legal technology, law school, and the future of law.

    Professional Organizations in Paralegal Studies

    Professional organizations for paralegals give members access to job resources, networking opportunities, and relevant publications. New and experienced paralegals can network at annual conferences and through online discussion boards. Paralegals also participate in continuing education programs. Members gain access to certification and credential programs that will help with career development.

    American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc.

    To become a member of the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc., paralegal professionals must meet degree and work experience requirements. Membership includes access to the alliances resources and certification programs, a quarterly newsletter, webinars, and advocacy initiatives.

    National Association of Legal Assistants

    NALA is the largest association of legal assistants and paralegals in the country, providing certifications, continuing education, and networking opportunities to its members. Membership includes discounts on NALA programs and conferences, and access to extensive database information on law, legal cases, and legislative activities.

    National Federation of Paralegal Associations

    NFPA was the first professional paralegal association in the U.S. and now includes over 50 affiliate and member groups. NFPA members receive discounts on events and programs, a subscription to National Paralegal Reporter magazine, and opportunities to work with NFPA on advocacy initiatives.

    American Bar Association

    The ABA is the world's largest organization of lawyers and legal professionals. Lawyers, associates, and students can join the ABA to gain access to continuing education programs, insurance discounts, association periodicals, and webinars.

    National Association of Legal Professionals

    NALS brings together legal professionals. Individuals can join NALS as an individual, associate, student, or retired legal professional to stay updated with news in the field. Members also have access to networking opportunities, educational programs, and association publications.

  • Our ranking of the top paralegal schools in the country will help you find the program that best suits your academic interests and professional goals. Learn where an associate program in paralegal can take you. In this guide, we discuss what the degree entails, the possible careers, and earning potential. We answer your questions about earning a bachelor's in writing degree -- career outlook, admissions, cost, and program information.

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