If you’re interested in becoming a paralegal but aren’t ready for a four-year program, you can earn an associate’s degree in legal studies. An associate’s degree often takes two years to complete. While it largely depends on the paralegal program you choose, you will likely be able to take some, if not all, of your classes online.
Classes you’ll likely take include:
- Legal research
- Civil litigation
- Torts and personal injury
- Criminal law
- Wills, trusts, and estate planning
Research and information gathering are crucial components to successful legal practice. Legal assistants and paralegals often use several popular software applications to help them execute their jobs more efficiently. Students seeking a legal studies-centric associate of science, associate of applied science, or associate of arts degree, common career opportunities exist within legal settings such as government agencies or professional law firms.
An associate’s degree will make you eligible for entry-level positions the legal field. You’ll learn how to prepare for litigation, provide administrative support during courtroom proceedings, and research legal issues. Typically, graduates pursue a career in a legal environment such as a private law firm, corporation, or government agency.
While most common at the bachelors and masters degree level, some associate degree programs allow you to choose an area of specialization. Some of the more popular areas are:
- ABA Paralegal
- Family Law
- Freelance Paralegal
- Nurse Paralegal
- Paralegal Specialist
- Real Estate
Jobs & Salaries
Graduates of legal studies associate’s programs will be primed for opportunities as legal assistants or paralegals (paraprofessionals). Students may find relief in knowing that this particular field is expected to growing at a rate just above the national average over the next decade. Median annual salaries range between $45,000 and $63,000. Paralegal salaries trend higher in semiconducting and electronic manufacturing, software publishers, and pharmaceutical industry, or with the federal government (BLS.gov).
Upon entry onto this degree path, students will be immersed in the study of law from various angles, including civil litigation, wills and estate law, bankruptcy law, environmental law, property law, intellectual property law, family and tort law, legal research, legal writing and business law. Many legal studies associate’s degree programs run between 20 and 24 months, and allow a relatively seamless transition for students to carry coursework into a related bachelor’s degree program.
Associate’s Degrees in Legal Studies
- Grantham University — AA in Criminal Justice
- Indiana Wesleyan University — AA in Criminal Justice
- Kaplan University — AAS in Criminal Justice
- Saint Leo University — AA in Criminal Justice
How to Get Started as a Paralegal
The first step in becoming a paralegal is to find an accredited paralegal studies program. Most paralegals have an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies, while some earn a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree in paralegal studies. The following programs fulfill these criteria and might make excellent options:
Miller-Motte Technical College
Southern Technical College