Paralegal Degree: Becoming the Legal Backbone

Paralegal Degree

Paralegal schools train students to perform legal support tasks in order to assist lawyers with organizing their files and conducting research. Legal specialties that paralegals can focus on include intellectual property law, government law, real estate law, and international law, among others. Read on to discover whether earning a paralegal degree and entering the legal profession is the right choice for you.

Types of Paralegal Programs

Paralegal programs are offered at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s level. Most paralegals and legal assistants have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree in another field along with a graduate certificate in paralegal studies. Some employers may hire college graduates and then train them on the job.

Considering a Master’s Degree

While a master’s degree in paralegal studies is offered by some schools, it is not required for most jobs. However, ambitious students may prefer to obtain a master’s degree in order to stand out from the competition.

Undergraduate Degree Prerequisites

The admissions requirements for associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in paralegal studies are typically a high school diploma or GED, a minimum required GPA, and minimum required SAT/ACT scores. An associate’s degree can be completed in two years, and a bachelor’s degree can be completed in four.

Graduate Certificate and Master’s Degree Prerequisites

The admissions requirements for a graduate certificate or master’s degree program are usually a bachelor’s degree, a minimum required GPA, letters of recommendation, and minimum required GRE scores. A graduate certificate may only take a few months to complete, whereas a master’s degree typically takes two years.

Curriculum at Paralegal Schools

Paralegal programs prepare students for entry-level positions in a law firm by training them to competently assist attorneys as part of their support staff. Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies are also typically required to complete a series of general education requirements, such as courses in the fine arts, social sciences, foreign languages, and basic sciences.

Your Paralegal Classes May Discuss

  • Business law & regulation
  • Legal research & writing
  • Civil litigation
  • Family law
  • Tort law
  • Contract law
  • Criminal law
  • Constitutional law
  • Introduction to paralegal studies
  • Ethics for paralegals

Internships and Certification

Many programs allow students to complete their studies online, and a number of programs will have an internship component to allow students to gain practical experience in the field. Although it is not required, earning a voluntary paralegal certification offered by a local or national organization may enhance your job prospects after graduation.

Career Opportunities for Paralegals

Duties and Characteristics

The typical duties of a paralegal include investigating the facts of a case, conducting research regarding relevant laws, writing reports to help lawyers prepare for trials, and drafting correspondence and legal documents. Good paralegals are those who are organized, have an eye for detail, and collaborate well with others.

Employment Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of paralegals is projected to grow at a faster than average rate of 17% from 2012 to 2022. Law firms most commonly employ paralegals, but a growing number of organizations are expanding their in-house legal departments and hiring paralegals, as well. Having in-house legal departments is more cost-effective for companies than seeking external counsel, because of the high cost of lawyers and their support staff. This will lead to a growing demand for paralegals in a variety of settings, including hospitals, corporations, public agencies, finance firms, and insurance firms.

Salary & Advancement

In 2012, the median annual salary of paralegals was $46,990. The bottom 10% earned $29,420, and the top 10% earned more than $75,410. Experienced paralegals may advance to supervisory positions in charge of the rest of the support staff.

Searching for a Program

A degree in paralegal studies equips you with the analytical skills, critical reasoning skills, and legal knowledge to succeed as a paralegal. Whether you are an established paralegal who wants to advance your career or you are just getting started in the field, pursue a paralegal degree to reach your objectives by exploring the schools featured throughout our site.