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.
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
Projected Growth Rate: 15%
- 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
Projected Growth Rate: 15%
- 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
Projected Growth Rate: 4%
- 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
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
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.
- Minimum GPA: 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.
- Application: 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 was created by paralegals, for paralegals. The society website offers connections and resources for paralegal professionals, including mentorships, educational information, and career guidance.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.