Behind every successful law firm stands a team of hardworking paralegals. Paralegals and legal assistants operate behind the scenes in law offices, where they prepare paperwork, organize files, conduct research, and assist in other legal tasks. Although paralegals do not argue before the court, their tasks often overlap with those of a lawyer. If you are interested in law, want to become a lawyer, or have a passion for fighting for justice, you may be a prime candidate for online paralegal programs.
Career options for paralegals are growing. Between 2014 and 2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects an 8% increase in the number of paralegal jobs in the nation. The median income for a paralegal is about $50,000 annually, according to the BLS. Some career options only require an associate degree to become a paralegal, while many earn a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies online and work as a paralegal on their way to law school.
What are the best paralegal studies programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||Florida Gulf Coast University||Fort Myers, FL|
|2||Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College||Saint Mary of the Woods, IN|
|3||William Woods University||Fulton, MO|
|4||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|5||Mississippi College||Clinton, MS|
|6||Stevenson University||Stevenson, MD|
|7||Regent University||Virginia Beach, VA|
|8||University of Providence||Great Falls, MT|
|9||Roger Williams University||Bristol, RI|
|10||SUNY College of Technology at Canton||Canton, NY|
2020 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies Programs
Florida Gulf Coast University
|Fort Myers, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
Florida Gulf Coast University -- located in Fort Myers -- provides more than 100 academic programs, including a partially online bachelor of science in legal studies. This comprehensive program prepares graduates for law school or work as paralegals and legal assistants. Learners access online coursework through the Canvas platform, and they can complete all upper-division course requirements from a distance.
The 120-credit curriculum contains required coursework like torts, contracts, and legal research and writing. Candidates personalize their studies by choosing from electives like courtroom techniques and alternative dispute resolution. They may also develop office administration skills and learn how to oversee real estate transactions.
Like many bachelor's in paralegal studies programs, FGCU requires applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores. Distance learners can apply for a variety of financial aid, including scholarships for Florida residents and tuition waivers for out-of-state students.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
|Saint Mary of the Woods, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Founded in 1841 as a women's institute, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College now offers coeducational programs to about 1,000 students each year. Degree options include a fully online bachelor of arts in paralegal studies that prepares candidates to assist lawyers with research, interviews, drafting of briefs, and other case preparation tasks. SMWC maintains institutional membership with the American Association for Paralegal Education.
Major coursework covers topics like theories of liability; contracts and commercial transactions; and law, ethics, and society. Students also learn about civil litigation processes in state and federal courts, developing the skills needed to conduct preliminary investigations and client interviews. Participants fill out remaining credit requirements with electives, choosing from options like environmental law and intellectual property.
To pursue this online bachelor's degree in paralegal studies, applicants must submit a free application. Individuals also have the option to submit ACT or SAT scores.
William Woods University
|Fulton, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
William Woods University offers more than 20 online undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a bachelor of arts in paralegal studies. Asynchronous classes run an accelerated eight weeks, allowing candidates to graduate in under four years.
Courses include electronic legal research, evidence and fact gathering, and probate and estate planning. Students develop office administration skills with an emphasis on professional ethics. They also gain hands-on experience through a virtual practicum.
To qualify for admission, first-year students need to graduate in the top 50% of their high school class and have a minimum 2.5 GPA. They must also score at least 19 on the ACT or 900 on the SAT. This online bachelor's in paralegal studies program is an institutional member of the American Association for Paralegal Education.
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University has offered distance education since 1985. Today, the institution delivers over 400 online certificates and degrees, including a bachelor of science in paralegal studies. Courses span eight weeks and students can fulfill up to 75% of their degree requirements with transfer credits. Participants typically graduate within 3.5 years.
Courses include American government, foundations of law, and criminal practice and procedure. Students also explore specialized topics like real estate transactions and corporate and organizational law. Graduates can go on to work as law clerks, legal assistants, and claims adjusters.
This online bachelor's in paralegal studies program requires applicants to possess a minimum 2.0 GPA. Liberty offers merit scholarships and in-state grants.
|Clinton, MS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
Mississippi College maintains a flagship campus in Clinton, serving about 5,000 students each year. The school offers over 80 undergraduate degrees, including an online bachelor of science in paralegal studies. Participants gain the research and communication skills necessary to work for government agencies, corporate legal departments, and private law firms.
The curriculum of this bachelor's in paralegal studies program contains major coursework in civil litigation, family law, and wills and estates. Students also learn to conduct legal research as part of the case preparation process. They can access networking and professional development opportunities by engaging with Pi Gamma Mu -- the national social studies honor society.
Application materials include official academic transcripts and ACT, SAT, or CLT scores. MC funds a variety of scholarships, including those that target transfer students.
|Stevenson, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 56%||
Stevenson University champions accessible distance education by emphasizing small class sizes and one-on-one advising. Online students can enroll in a career-focused bachelor of science in legal studies program to prepare for work as law librarians, compliance officers, and paralegals. Courses span an accelerated eight weeks, with students engaging in mostly remote learning. However, some classes do use a hybrid delivery format with some in-person requirements.
Like other bachelor's in paralegal studies programs, this degree track covers core topics like torts, estates/trusts, and civil litigation and pleading. Students also take a business law class to explore the relationship between organizations and government legal systems. For candidates who already possess an undergraduate degree, the university offers a second bachelor's program.
Applicants must possess at least 15 transferable college credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Stevenson's bachelor's in legal studies program is the only four-year program approved by the State of Maryland American Bar Association.
|Virginia Beach, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Regent University offers remote academic programs through Blackboard. Its undergraduate catalog covers 10 broad fields of study and includes a fully online bachelor of science in paralegal studies program. Through a flexible curriculum, students gain the technology and organizational management skills needed to work as administrators, research assistants, and community advocates.
The 39-credit major curriculum includes classes such as introduction to the judicial system and investigation in litigation. This online bachelor's in paralegal studies program also provides an overview of common practice areas, including family, criminal, personal injury, real estate, and immigration law. Asynchronous classes span eight weeks.
Regent does not require GPA minimums or ACT/SAT scores. In addition to government funding and endowed institutional awards, students can apply for scholarships through the School of Law.
University of Providence
|Great Falls, MT||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 46%||
The University of Providence -- in Great Falls, Montana -- enrolls about 1,000 students in 60 academic programs annually. The school's catalog includes 10 online degrees, including a bachelor of science in legal and paralegal studies. Approved by the American Bar Association, this 120-credit program prepares candidates to occupy administrative roles in corporate compliance departments, legal aid organizations, and financial institutions.
Bachelor's in paralegal studies candidates develop skills related to legal analysis, research, and writing. They can use electives to specialize in a practice area, like constitutional or debtor-creditor law. This program requires students to complete an internship, in which they gain practical experience in a judge's office or law firm.
UP maintains fall and spring entry dates. First-year applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores. The university powers distance education with Moodle.
Roger Williams University
|Bristol, RI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 70%||
Roger Williams University is based in Bristol, Rhode Island, and delivers affordable remote programs in 28 areas of study. Degree options include an online bachelor of science in paralegal studies that enable candidates to pursue careers in government, corporate, and nonprofit organizations. To maintain approval from the American Bar Association, RWC requires distance learners to take at least 10 credits of legal specialty courses in a traditional classroom setting.
Required coursework consists of professional research and writing, law in contemporary society, and the litigation process. Bachelor's in paralegal studies candidates also take a class in emerging technologies in the legal environment, learning to use software and internet packages to conduct investigations and perform litigation support.
RWU welcomes all learners and does not require an application fee, a personal essay, or standardized test scores. Online students access 10-week courses through the Desire2Learn platform.
SUNY College of Technology at Canton
|Canton, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 40%||
SUNY Canton supports more than 3,000 students every year, many of whom obtain their credentials remotely through Blackboard. Distance learners can enroll in a bachelor of science in legal studies program. Participants may complete a fully online curriculum or create a hybrid experience by taking certain classes on campus.
Classes cover topics like foundations of financial accounting, business law, and advanced legal writing. The curriculum also contains a civil litigation course, which teaches candidates the jurisdiction and standing criteria litigants must meet to enter the legal system. The program culminates with a semester-long internship.
Students who want to extend their education can pursue a dual-degree option; this accelerated track enables candidates to obtain an online bachelor's degree in paralegal studies at SUNY Canton and a law degree from the University of Buffalo in six years.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies Degree?
Long hours, complex research, and painstaking legal document preparation may be constant throughout life as a paralegal but paralegals choose from a variety of career paths and industries, resulting in significant diversity in the field. If you are passionate about the law, online paralegal programs can help you earn the knowledge, skills and credentials to thrive in a paralegal career. Here are four of the most popular job options that online paralegal degree holders pursue:
Paralegal/Legal Assistant: Paralegals or legal assistants work in private law firms, public law offices, government departments, corporate law divisions, and nonprofit law establishments. Although they cannot argue in court or offer legal advice, many of their tasks overlap with those of lawyers. Professionals in this field prepare legal documents, file records, and perform administrative work.
Claims Adjuster: Often working with claims appraisers, examiners, or investigators, claims adjusters research and investigate insurance claims. An adjuster is tasked with investigating a specific claim and resolving claim payment responsibility. From medical to automotive, claims adjustors usually work for private insurers, and a legal background is useful for understanding risk and uncovering fault.
Law Clerk: A judicial law clerk works for a federal, state, or municipal court or judge. Clerks are tasked with research and legal document preparation for the court in the same way a paralegal is for a law office. Other administrative clerk jobs in government or private offices may be attractive to paralegal degree holders. These jobs may include record keeping, research, and data collection.
Title Examiner: Title examiners work with legal records. Benefiting from both public and private career opportunities, title examiners compile lists of contracts, real estate transactions, insurance paperwork, or automobile sales. Title examiners may be required to authenticate a record or prepare legal summaries for lawyers. Title examiners work for law offices, government agencies, insurance companies, and real estate firms.
|Position||Projected Growth Rate|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
What Will I Learn in My Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies Program?
Although paralegal programs online may consist of a range of curricula, most include the same core class options. Topics students can expect to encounter when enrolled in the best online paralegal programs include legal investigation and communication, legal ethics, civil law, criminal law, real estate law, and insurance law.
- Legal Research and Communication: Courses in investigation, research, communication, or compositions may appear under various names at different institutions, but these courses make up the core of any online paralegal degree program. To prepare for a successful career as a paralegal, students must learn the terminology, methods, and style of drafting legal briefs and motions.
- Legal Ethics: A paralegal may not have all of the abilities a lawyer has, but he or she has the same ethical responsibilities. From securely managing documents and data to maintaining client privacy, paralegals learn the do's and don'ts of legal ethics early on in their classload.
- Civil and Criminal Law: Split into two classes on legal studies or more, paralegals learn about the two largest divisions of America's criminal justice system. Whether you end up working for the DA or a private small claims lawyer, either criminal or civil law may become more important to your career, but both are important foundations for any online paralegal degree program.
- Real Estate Law: Outside of law offices, courts and government departments, real estate business and insurers are the businesses most in need of paralegal degree holders. As a student of real estate law, you can learn about the requirements of home owners, real estate firms, and intricacies of contract law and trusts.
- Insurance or Business Law: Similar to real estate law, paralegal students learn about other industries known for litigiousness including business and insurance. Corporate law and insurance claims adjusters are popular landing spots for paralegal graduates. It's worth paying attention to these in-depth legal studies courses.
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies Program
The prospect of paying for your paralegal degree online can be daunting, but there are many tools and opportunities designed to help you navigate this process. Fill out your FAFSA and contact your program's financial aid office to discover what scholarships, grants, loans, and need-based aid are available to you. Some students may be eligible for work-study or other need-based opportunities, and schools often offer merit-based awards as well. Private grants or scholarships specifically for paralegal studies students may also be available.
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