Best Online Associate in Paralegal Programs

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.

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by Tessa Cooper

Published on January 21, 2022 · Updated on April 29, 2022

Edited by Rebecca Long
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An associate in paralegal studies can help aspiring legal professionals launch their education and career. Many community colleges, as well as private colleges and universities, offer this degree. Typically, this program takes two years to complete, unless a student chooses an online accelerated option.

This degree often allows graduates to enter the workforce immediately and create a meaningful difference in legal proceedings. Many people also choose to further their education and become lawyers or judges. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median income for legal professionals was $84,910 per year in May 2020.

Thanks to its relatively low cost and convenience, an online associate paralegal program is a popular option for many learners. Some in-person and top online schools charge less for online programs. Higher education is least expensive for students at public, in-state universities and in-state community colleges.

In this guide, we discuss the average cost of this online degree, graduates' earning potential, and common courses in the program.

What Can I Expect From an Online Associate in Paralegal Program?

Associate programs in paralegal studies can teach students the best practices for research, witness interviews, and evidence evaluation. Many programs require learners to complete an internship. This allows students to build their resumes during their studies.

Most associate programs require learners to complete 60 credits. Students who choose an accelerated program can complete the degree in a matter of months. Many colleges place a limit on how many years a student can spend working toward the degree before credits start to expire.

Most paralegal courses focus on one aspect of the profession. Classes often feature multiple choice exams, essays, and group projects. Students also engage in discussions on ethics and outcomes of case studies.

Some paralegal programs allow students to select a concentration. Common concentrations include family law, copyright law, and criminal law. Aside from learning about laws and regulations for legal proceedings, learners also hone their organization and interpersonal communication skills.

In the following section, we highlight five courses paralegal students are commonly required to take. Keep in mind that not every school offers these specific courses. Rather, the list represents a sample curriculum.

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Popular Online Associate in Paralegal Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Associate in Paralegal Program?

Overview of the American Legal System

In this class, students learn about the American legal system in depth. The curriculum covers formal court proceedings, and learners discuss landmark cases that impacted the law. Students learn the vital roles judges, attorneys, and juries play in the justice system.

Contracts

This course covers contract basics. Students learn how to interpret and write basic contracts. Learners are taught how to identify common red flags and loopholes in contracts. They also learn about remedies and breaches. Students often leave the course with example contracts to show in their portfolios.

Legal Research

In this important class, students hone their research skills. Unlike other research courses, this class focuses on gathering information through a legal lens. Students learn how to identify reputable sources and cite them when performing research.

Ethics in the Paralegal Profession

This ethics course introduces students to dilemmas that may arise while on the job. Students learn best practices for protecting vital case information and working through ethical problems. Learners also memorize the ethical standards set by the American Bar Association.

Special Topics

This course outlines the various niche topics within the legal profession. Students learn the differences between family law, employment law, and wills and trusts. Students often leave the course with a better understanding of their desired specialization.

What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Associate in Paralegal Program?

Most associate in paralegal programs require prospective students to fill out an online application. They also usually require applicants to submit recommendation letters and ACT or SAT test scores. Schools also commonly require application essays and official transcripts from all previously attended institutions.

Some community colleges have open enrollment policies. This means they accept students regardless of GPA or college entrance exam scores.

Many schools also require learners to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Individual institutions and the government use the data on this form to determine financial aid awards.

Although these are some of the most common application requirements, keep in mind that applications and their components vary by school.

What Can I Do With an Online Associate in Paralegal Degree?

Career Outlook

The BLS projects that positions for paralegals and legal assistants will grow 12% between 2020 and 2030, faster than the average growth rate across all occupations. In May 2020, these professionals made a median annual salary of $52,920.

However, job availability and salary varies by region. For example, the mean wage for paralegals and legal assistants in Florida was $52,100 during the same period. The same professionals earned an average annual salary of $83,330 in Washington, D.C.

To gain perspective on job availability and salary by region, learners can view current job postings for paralegals. Across the country, average salaries vary to reflect the cost of living. As a general rule, employers on the coasts in large cities pay more than employers in rural communities in the Midwest.

In the following section, we highlight the earning potential and salaries for five specific careers in this field.

See where an online associate in paralegal can take you. Learn more about legal studies careers.

Career Paths

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

These professionals assist legal teams with research and gathering witness testimonials. They research related past cases and help lawyers build strong cases. They also take notes during courtroom sessions. A large portion of this job requires administrative work. Sometimes, paralegals must work overtime to meet deadlines.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $52,920

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

These professionals work in offices, and sometimes for lawyers. They typically answer client inquiries, manage appointment calendars, and process payments. These professionals also coordinate staff meetings and oversee filing systems and database management. Organized people with an eye for detail often thrive in this role.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $40,990

Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners

These professionals provide transcription services for legal proceedings and trials. They must type fast and with accuracy. Captioners provide a valuable service to the deaf community at live events as well. The BLS projects the need for these professionals to grow by 3% between 2020 and 2030.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $61,660

Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

People working in this role keep close records of a company's expenses and income. They communicate with clients to ensure they pay invoices on time. They also administer payroll to company employees. Unfortunately, the BLS projects the need for this position to decrease by 3% between 2020 and 2030.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $42,410

Receptionists

Receptionists greet customers and clients in an office. They also field phone calls and answer online customer inquiries. These professionals work in nearly every industry. The BLS projects the need for receptionists to increase by 4% between 2020 and 2030.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $31,110

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Continuing Education

Paralegals can further their learning inside and outside of the classroom. People who do not want to pursue additional higher education have options. For example, they can join professional organizations.

These groups host networking events and informative conferences. They also offer certifications and publish informative newsletters and publications. In fact, most states require paralegals to pass a certification exam offered by a professional organization. One example of a widely accepted paralegal exam is the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam.

Other students may wish to advance in the legal profession to become an attorney or lawyer. This requires both a master's degree and a doctorate. Aspiring lawyers must also take the Bar Exam before practicing law. The majority of states accept the Multistate Bar Exam.

How Do I Choose an Online Associate in Paralegal Program?

Cost

Learners should factor in the true cost of attendance when selecting a program. Fortunately, many colleges charge less for online programs. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicates students at in-state, public four-year colleges spent an average of about $9,350 on tuition and required fees in 2019-2020.

Comparatively, students attending public two-year colleges in their state paid about $3,380, and those enrolled in private colleges spent more than $32,770 during the same period. Use this information as a reference point when comparing college costs.

Program Format

Aspiring college students should also consider their working habits and time capacity when selecting a program. For example, students who learn on a set schedule might prefer a synchronous program with specific class meeting times. Individuals who prefer flexibility often thrive in asynchronous formats. Students who must work during their studies should consider a part-time program. Learners who want to finish the degree as fast as possible should consider a full-time accelerated program.

Location

Location still matters when it comes to choosing an online associate in paralegal. For starters, choosing a program based in the state the learner wishes to practice in comes with benefits. Most programs tailor the curriculum to meet paralegal certification requirements for a specific state. Additionally, even programs that advertise themselves as entirely online may require a few on-campus visits.

Accreditation

College applicants should pay attention to the school's accreditation status. When a school earns accreditation, it means the institution meets certain standards set by a third-party agency selected by the Department of Education. Programs can also earn accreditation. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission grants accreditation to online programs, for example.

Student Support

Before enrolling in a program, research the school's advising and mentorship opportunities. Some paralegal programs even connect learners with internship opportunities. Also, check to see whether the school offers free tutoring services or online technical support. Schools with more student services tend to feature high graduate success rates.

Best Accredited Online Associate in Paralegal Programs

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Best Online Associate in Paralegal Programs

  1. Clovis Community College
    Location

    Clovis, NM

    Tuition

    $5996

    Clovis Community College — based New Mexico — offers a completely online associate of applied science in legal assistant studies. Students must complete 66 credits to earn their degree.

    Coursework allows students to gain a broad understanding of various aspects of law, encouraging them to explore the field prior to selecting a specialization. Curriculum highlights include legal writing, litigation, criminal law, and wills and estates. Full-time students can expect to complete required coursework in five semesters.

    Clovis Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Associate of Applied Science in Legal Assistant Studies
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $44 per credit (in-state); $111 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 66 credits
    Program Length: 5 semesters
    Format: Online
    Instruction Style: Asynchronous

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum specified
    Standardized Tests: ACCUPLACER, ACT, or SAT may be required for placement

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  2. Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale
    Location

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Keiser University offers a completely online associate of arts in paralegal studies that requires 60 credits for completion. Students complete coursework designed to prepare them to support attorneys in transactional and litigation fields. Twenty-four of the 60 required credits are dedicated to the paralegal major, including courses on legal research and writing, civil litigation, family law, and real property.

    Degree objectives include developing students' analytical and technical skills, honing verbal and written communication skills, providing a broad understanding of legal proceedings in the United States, and preparing students to work as paralegals for lawyers.

    Keiser University — based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida — is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies
    School Status: Private
    Tuition: $660 per credit
    Credit Requirements: 60 credits
    Program Length: 2 years
    Format: Online
    Instruction Style: Asynchronous

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum required
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  3. Iowa Lakes Community College
    Location

    Estherville, IA

    Tuition

    $10101

    Iowa Lakes Community College provides an entirely online associate of applied science in paralegal and legal studies program that requires 70 credits for completion. Students can graduate in five terms, concluding their program with a two-credit paralegal practicum where they gain practical experience in writing wills and drafting lawsuits at a real law office.

    Curriculum highlights include classes in legal ethics; criminal law and procedure; wills, trust, and estates administration; and principles of real estate. Students also learn to analyze case law and statutes, execute a research plan, communicate effectively during client interviews, and ethically perform the duties of a paralegal.

    Iowa Lakes Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal/Legal Studies
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $195 per credit
    Credit Requirements: 70 credits
    Program Length: 5 terms
    Format: Online
    Instruction Style: Asynchronous

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum specified
    Standardized Tests: ACCUPLACER, ACT, or SAT required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  4. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Liberty University's associate of arts in paralegal studies degree requires 60 credits and can be completed entirely online. Students can transfer up to 45 credits into the program but must complete 15 credits through Liberty's School of Law for graduation eligibility. Liberty provides electronic textbooks to online students in an attempt to cut down costs associated with educational materials.

    Required coursework includes general education and foundational skills requirements, as well as 21 credits of major core courses covering topics like legal research, legal writing, foundations of law, and civil practice. Full-time students can complete the curriculum in 1.5 years.

    Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies
    School Status: Private
    Tuition: $390 per credit (full-time); $455 per credit (part-time)
    Credit Requirements: 60 credits
    Program Length: 1.5-2 years
    Format: Online
    Instruction Style: Asynchronous

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: 2.0 minimum required
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  5. Minnesota State Community and Technical College
    Location

    Fergus Falls, MN

    Tuition

    $10235

    Minnesota State Community and Technical College's completely online paralegal associate of applied science degree features 60 credits and can be completed in two years by full-time students. The curriculum includes 42 credits of required courses and 18 credits of guided electives.

    Students prepare to complete paralegal work under the supervision of an attorney. Coursework emphasizes critical thinking and complex legal reasoning, substantive and procedural law, legal writing skills, and ethical and social responsibility. Although not required, students can complete a paralegal internship.

    Minnesota State Community and Technical College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Associate of Applied Science - Paralegal
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $199 per credit
    Credit Requirements: 60 credits
    Program Length: 4 terms
    Format: Online
    Instruction Style: Asynchronous

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum specified
    Standardized Tests: ACCUPLACER, ACT, Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, or SAT required for placement

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  6. Hinds Community College
    Location

    Raymond, MS

    Tuition

    $4089

    Hinds Community College — based in Raymond, Mississippi — offers an associate of applied science in paralegal technology degree that can be completed mostly online. The curriculum features an academic core, a career-technical core, and concentration classes. Students must take 60-62 credits, and full-time learners can complete their degree in two years.

    The majority of classes are available online. However, the legal research and legal writing courses require in-person attendance, although these classes can be completed in the evening. Online course highlights include family law, wills and estates, civil litigation, and real property.

    Hinds Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Technology
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $125 per credit (in-state); $250 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 60-62 credits
    Program Length: 2 years
    Format: Hybrid
    Instruction Style: Asynchronous

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum specified
    Standardized Tests: ACCUPLACER or ACT required for placement

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  7. Hutchinson Community College
    Location

    Hutchinson, KS

    Tuition

    $7698

    Hutchinson Community College's online associate of applied science for aspiring paralegals features 64 credits of coursework. Full-time students who follow the institution's suggested learning pathway can graduate in four semesters. The curriculum prepares students to sit for the National Association of Legal Assistants examination to become a certified paralegal.

    Coursework highlights include classes like law and legal assistant, personal injury and civil wrongs, introduction to legal research and writing, and business mathematics. Students start degree coursework by completing basic professional classes covering topics including word processing, business English grammar, and microcomputer applications.

    Hutchinson Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Associate of Applied Science - Paralegal
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $116 per credit (in-state); $147 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 64 credits
    Program Length: 4 semesters
    Format: Online
    Instruction Style: Asynchronous

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum specified
    Standardized Tests: ACT or HutchCC assessment required for placement

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  8. Herkimer County Community College
    Location

    Herkimer, NY

    Tuition

    $7648

    Herkimer's Internet Academy provides a completely online associate of applied science in legal studies. Students must complete 62 credits, and full-time learners can typically graduate in four semesters. Herkimer holds established transfer programs with schools like Bellevue University, Berkeley College, and Charter Oak State College, making it easier for graduates to go on and pursue a four-year degree.

    Students begin their studies by completing core collegiate coursework, including a first-year college seminar, as well as college writing, keyboarding, and mathematics classes. Legal studies coursework covers topics like conducting independent and directed legal research and fact gathering activities, standard filing and recording procedures, and summarizing documents in case files. Resources available to online students include tutoring and academic advising.

    Herkimer County Community College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Associate of Applied Science in Legal Studies
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $179 per credit (in-state); $325 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 62 credits
    Program Length: 4 semesters
    Format: Online
    Instruction Style: Asynchronous

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum specified
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  9. Lake Superior College
    Location

    Duluth, MN

    Tuition

    $12339

    Lake Superior College's online associate of applied science in paralegal studies features 60 credits and takes two years to complete. Primary program outcomes include the ability to prepare, draft, and format legal documents; understand state and local legal proceedings; and effectively use oral and written communication skills in interactions with clients, attorneys, and court personnel.

    Potential career opportunities for graduates include judicial assistant, probate paralegal, legal assistant, and real estate paralegal. Prospective students must demonstrate English reading and writing proficiency prior to enrolling through one of the following methods: minimum high school GPA, standardized test scores, or a guided self-placement.

    Lake Superior College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $214 per credit
    Credit Requirements: 60 credits
    Program Length: 2 years
    Format: Online
    Instruction Style: Asynchronous

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum specified
    Standardized Tests: ACCUPLACER, ACT, Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, or SAT may be required for placement

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

  10. Umpqua Community College
    Location

    Roseburg, OR

    Tuition

    $8235

    Umpqua Community College's completely online associate of applied science in paralegal studies program requires participants to complete 90 quarter credits, which full-time students can typically do in two years. Learners prepare for a career as a paralegal by developing a theoretical understanding of the world of law and the practical skills necessary to succeed.

    The first year of the program focuses on basic competencies and practical skills. In the second year, students broaden their legal education to develop a theoretical understanding of the world of law and the practical skills necessary to succeed as a paralegal.

    Umpqua Community College is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

    Program Snapshot

    Program Name: Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies
    School Status: Public
    Tuition: $104 per credit (in-state); $121 per credit (out-of-state)
    Credit Requirements: 90 quarter credits
    Program Length: 2 years
    Format: Online
    Instruction Style: Asynchronous

    Admission Requirements

    GPA: No minimum specified
    Standardized Tests: Not required

    Contact the School

    Request more information about this program.

Frequently Asked Questions About Associate in Paralegal Programs

Is an associate degree in paralegal worth it? true

Many people find earning an associate degree worth the effort and cost. Thanks to convenient online learning options, students can pursue their career goals in the legal field without relocating. According to the BLS, paralegals need at least an associate degree to practice.

When it comes to this degree, most people see a return on their investment. The BLS reports paralegals and legal assistants earned an average annual salary of $52,920 in May 2020. Additionally, learners can use an associate as a stepping stone toward furthering their education to become a lawyer.

How fast can I get an associate in paralegal degree online? true

It takes most full-time learners two years to earn an online associate in paralegal studies. Part-time learners spend around four years finishing their degrees. Students who want to finish their degrees early should consider an accelerated program. Most accelerated programs only take 12-16 months to finish.

Choosing a self-paced asynchronous program can also help learners finish their degrees faster. Asynchronous programs feature prerecorded lectures. Students can write on discussion boards within a set deadline at their own convenience. Some asynchronous courses provide all the coursework up front, which means students can finish it at their own pace.

Is an online associate degree in paralegal credible? true

Employers and graduate programs view online paralegal degrees from accredited schools as credible. Schools can earn regional or national accreditation. Typically, regionally accredited programs are considered more prestigious. Usually, community colleges earn national accreditation.

Prospective students can also evaluate a program's credibility by connecting with recent graduates. Learners may want to ask a college or university for college graduate statistics. Consider asking how many graduates earn a job in the field within six months of graduation and what percentage of students who enroll in the program graduate.

How much money can I make with an associate in paralegal?

The earning potential varies for paralegal graduates. Years of experience and location greatly impact pay. According to Payscale, paralegals made an average annual salary of $49,720 in December 2021. However, the average varied based on years of experience. Paralegals with less than one year of experience earned an average income of $40,000 per year. At the same time, paralegals with more than 20 years of experience earned an average annual salary of $56,000.

Learners who pursue a master's degree can secure more advanced roles in the field. For example, Payscale data from December 2021 shows attorneys earned an average income of $87,100 per year.

Is an associate degree in paralegal in demand?

The BLS projects the need for paralegals and legal assistants to increase by 12% between 2020 and 2030. During the same time, the BLS projects the need for all legal professionals to grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030.

According to the agency, California and Florida were the two largest employers of paralegals and legal assistants in May 2020. Texas, New York, and Illinois also made the list of the top states employing these professionals.

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