Paralegal Degrees and Certificates

There are several choices for those wanting to further their paralegal education.

The most common types of post-secondary educational programs available are as follows:

1.    Certificate in Paralegal Studies
2.    Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
3.    Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
4.    Master’s Degree in Paralegal Studies

Certificate in Paralegal Studies
There are many schools across the United States that offer paralegal certificate programs. Some schools offer on-campus programs, some schools offer online programs, and some offer both. Depending on the chosen program, a certificate can be earned in as little as a few months. It is possible to find certificate programs that don’t require a previously earned associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. However, many programs require that applicants have at least some type of prior post-secondary education. Certificate programs generally provide students with courses related to legal research, legal process, and other courses relevant to the fundamentals of the legal industry.

Popular schools that offer Certificates in Paralegal Studies:
National Paralegal College
The Center for Legal Studies

Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
There are many paralegal associate’s degree programs offered by colleges and universities that have both on-campus or online programs. Usually, associate’s degree programs require that students complete specific paralegal-related courses as well as general education courses. The typical number of credit hours needed to graduate with an associate’s degree in paralegal studies is between 60 and 70, depending on the school.

Popular schools that offer Associate’s Degrees in Paralegal Studies:
Anthem College
Westwood College
Sanford-Brown

Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
Bachelor’s degrees normally take four years to complete, but degrees can be earned in fewer or a greater number of years depending on how many courses are taken at once. Those interested in paralegal studies usually choose to “major” or “minor” in either “paralegal studies” or “legal studies.” Bachelor’s degrees in the field of paralegal studies are available at various schools, some of which offer a choice of on-campus instruction or online classes. The requirements for a bachelor’s degree usually include several general education classes, many electives, and specific core courses with a paralegal focus.

Popular schools that offer Bachelor’s Degrees in Paralegal Studies:
Virginia College
Strayer University

Master’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
Some schools offer master’s degrees that focus on paralegal studies, but these programs are not as prevalent as associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs. The schools that offer this degree often give students a choice of earning the degree on a campus or via an online program. A master’s degree in paralegal studies may be formally considered a “master of arts in legal administration” or a “master of arts in legal studies.” However, the degree is designed to be the highest level of paralegal training possible, and usually requires a previously earned bachelor’s degree and a minimum of two years of professional work.

Popular schools that offer Master’s Degrees in Paralegal Studies:
The George Washington University
Kaplan University

Choosing the Right Program
There are quite a few choices when it comes to determining the best educational program to pursue. Many of the factors to consider depend on previous education, how much on-the-job experience has already been achieved, specific interests, scholarships and/or financial aid available, and how much time can be dedicated to schooling. In the case of advanced degrees, employers often pay for a portion or all of the tuition costs. Before choosing a school or program it is important to complete a significant amount of research to determine the school or program that will work best.

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