Paralegal Studies: Online Associate's Degree
If you're interested in a career in the legal field but aren't sure about attending law school, you might want to look into becoming a paralegal. Though prohibited from presenting a case in court, setting fees or giving legal advice, paralegals are trained to perform legal research and write case briefs. Read on to learn how an online associate's degree in paralegal studies can get you started in this field. Schools offering Paralegal degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
How Do I Find an Online Paralegal Studies Associate's Degree Program?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that most paralegals, or legal assistants as they are sometimes known, enter the field by way of an associate's degree (www.bls.gov). In order to accommodate your personal or professional schedule, you may be able to complete your degree requirements entirely online.
Hybrid programs are also available. These are usually American Bar Association (ABA)-approved programs that require you to complete some of your coursework on campus. While a degree from an ABA-approved program is not required for employment, the BLS states that it may improve your employment possibilities.
There are at least two sources you can use to help you locate an appropriate program. The ABA maintains a list of approved paralegal education programs (www.americanbar.org). The American Association for Paralegal Education also offers an online directory of schools (www.aafpe.org).
What Are the Technical Requirements for an Online Program?
Schools may deliver course content via video streaming, e-mails and discussion forums. Interaction with your peers and instructors may also be facilitated by a course management system such as WebCT Vista. You may need multi-media plug-ins like Adobe Acrobat Reader to access these materials.
What Can I Expect from a Program?
An online program in paralegal studies generally consists of 60-64 credits. Depending on the school, you can earn an Associate of Science, Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Arts. You may also be allowed to transfer credits towards a bachelor's degree program.
Typical coursework can include introductory courses in law and the paralegal profession, legal research and writing, legal office technology and document preparation. Schools may also offer electives, which can allow you to specialize in one area of law, such as environmental law, contract law or intellectual property.
You may have the opportunity to complete an internship in a school-affiliated law office or government agency. However, you must complete these programs in-person rather than online.
What Can I Do After Graduating?
While certification is not required to work as a paralegal, the BLS states that it may enhance your employment and advancement possibilities. If you graduate from an ABA-accredited associate's degree program, you can sit for the National Association of Legal Secretaries' (NALS) Accredited Legal Secretary examination or the National Association of Legal Assistants' (NALA) Certified Paralegal examination.
Once you graduate from a 2-year program, you could work for a law firm, government agency, insurance company, bank or corporate legal department. The BLS projected a 28% increase in employment opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants from 2008-2018. These professionals earned a mean annual wage of $49,640 as of May 2010.
To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below: