In this ranking, we explore the top 10 online associate’s degrees in paralegal studies. To compile this ranking, our editors used data from College Navigator as well as from each program’s website. Note that in cases of a tie, the more affordable school was awarded the higher ranking.
Rating and Ranking Methodology
• Under $15,000—1 point
• Under $12,500—2 points
• Under $10,000—3 points
• Under $7,500—4 points
• Under $5,000—5 points
• Under $2,500—6 points
• Content Customizations (e.g. Minors, Concentrations, Specializations, etc.)—1 Point Per Customization Option
• Format Customizations (e.g. Hybrid/Online, Full-time/Part-Time, etc.)—1 Point Per Customization Option
• 1 point awarded for each unique feature or program that “wowed” us
#1 – Rio Salado College
Online Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies
Rio Salado College offers a 64-credit hour, comprehensive online associate’s degree in paralegal studies. The curriculum for this applied science offering is vocational in nature and prepares students for employment as a paralegal immediately following graduation. Although the core curriculum for the program is prescribed, students can select up to nine restricted electives, meaning there is some room for content customization. Sample course titles include Introduction to Tort Law, Paralegal Fundamentals of Litigation, Ethics for Paralegals, Paralegal Writing and Paralegal Business Law. Graduates of this online associate’s paralegal degree program will receive both a certificate in paralegal studies and an associate’s degree.
#2 – Madisonville Community College
Online Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Technology
Madisonville Community College’s online associate’s degree in paralegal studies option is a unique Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Paralegal Technology. The 66-credit hour program is designed to be completed within two years and is comprised of courses such as Real Property, Civil Litigation, Law Office Management, and Family Law. A paralegal certificate is also available for students enrolled in the program. Online associate’s paralegal degree students graduate prepared for entry-level paralegal roles in law firms, government agencies, courts, and corporations. The college provides job placement assistance as well.
#3 – Edmonds Community College
Online Paralegal Associate of Technical Arts Degree
The robust online associate’s degree paralegal studies offering from Edmonds Community College is a 90-credit hour Paralegal Associate of Technical Arts degree approved by the American Bar Association. In addition to general education courses, enrolled students will fulfill legal program requirements through classes like Introduction to Law and the Legal Process, Contracts, Legal Research and Writing, Civil Procedure, and Law Office Technology. Students will also have the opportunity to take elective courses like Intellectual Property, Torts & Personal Injury, Medical Paralegal Law, and Dispute Resolution. It is important to note that there may be some on-campus requirements for this online associate’s degree in paralegal studies program.
#4 – Massachusetts Bay Community College
Online Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies
Massachusetts Bay Community College offers an online associate’s degree paralegal studies program from its Division of Social Sciences and Professional Studies. Required classes for the degree include Introduction to Paralegal Studies, Litigation for Paralegals, Legal Research & Writing, and Principles of Management. Students will also have the opportunity to take elective courses such as Fundamentals of Cyber Security, Criminal Law and Procedures, Real Estate for Paralegals, and Family Law for Paralegals. An internship is also recommended in order to provide online associate degree in paralegal studies students hands-on experience in a law environment.
#5 – American Military University
Online Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies
The online associate’s degree in paralegal studies from American Military University is offered entirely online and designed for working adults. The curriculum for the program is broad and covers topics such as real estate law, legal research, paralegal procedures, civil practice, ethics, and criminal law. The program also emphasizes soft skills necessary for success in a law office such as effective written and verbal communication skills, reasoning skills, organizational management, and critical thinking. Online associate’s paralegal degree students at AMU learn from active practitioners in the field of paralegal studies.
#6 – Eastern Kentucky University
Online Paralegal Studies Associate’s Degree
Eastern Kentucky University’s 64-credit hour online associate’s degree paralegal studies offering is a partially online program. All coursework for the program can be completed online, but there is an on-campus residency requirement. Roughly half of the program’s curriculum is comprised of core courses such as Real Estate/Bankruptcy Practice, Legal Administration and Computer Applications, Legal Research and Writing, and Litigation: Evidence to Discovery. In addition to these core requirements, students will choose from electives like Probate Practice and Procedure, Estate Planning and Procedure, Paralegal Evidence and Trial Skills, and Corporations and Business Organization Practice.
#7 – Purdue University Global
Online Associate of Applied Science in Legal Support and Services Degree
Purdue University Global’s online associate’s paralegal degree offering is an Associate of Applied Science in Legal Support and Services. This wide-reaching program prepares students for work not only as a paralegal, but as a law clerk, legal analyst, legal investigator, court clerk, and more. It also prepares graduates for further study in the field, including Purdue’s own bachelor’s of legal support and services program, which features a paralegal concentration. Sample course titles comprising the curriculum include Introduction to American Jurisprudence, Family Law, Civil Litigation, and Introduction to Torts.
#8 – Hodges University
Online Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies
Hodges University offers an online associate’s degree in paralegal studies through its Nichols School of Professional Studies. The curriculum for the program features a liberal arts component, including classes in English Composition, Computer Applications, and Behavioral or Social Science. Students will also fulfill a legal component with classes like Introduction to Law, Criminal Law and Procedure, Legal Ethics, and Civil Procedure. Unlike most other paralegal program, Hodges’ online associates paralegal degree program also trains students in the cutting-edge methods of eDiscovery and eLitigation. Graduates will be prepared to sit for the Certified Legal Assistant exam given by the National Association of Legal Assistants.
#9 – Bryant & Stratton College
Online Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies
The 60-credit hour online associate’s paralegal degree program from Bryant & Stratton College leads to an Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. The curriculum for the program includes key courses such as Introduction to Legal Studies, Torts & Remedies, Civil Litigation, and Law Office Management & Technology. Graduates of the program are encouraged to sit for the CLA/CPA exam. In addition to opportunities as a paralegal, Bryant & Stratton’s online associate degree in paralegal studies will prepare students for further study in a bachelor’s program and for careers as legal support workers and title examiner abstractors and searchers.
#10 – Florida National University
Online Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies
The online associate’s degree paralegal studies program from Florida National University is a 60-credit hour Associate of Arts program. After fulfilling certain general education requirements, students will take core courses in paralegal studies, including Legal Research and Writing, Professional Ethics and Liability, and Introduction to Civil Procedure. Suggested elective classes include Contracts and Business Entities, Business Law, Criminal Law and Procedure, and Introduction to Torts. Upon graduation from this online associate’s in paralegal studies program, students will be prepared for entry-level work as paralegals or for further study in a baccalaureate program.
Education Requirements for Legal Assistants and Paralegals
If you’re reading this article, then you’re at least considering paralegal training in an online associate’s paralegal degree program. But you may also be wondering if you really need an associate’s degree to get a job as a paralegal. The short answer is—it helps, a lot! While there may be a slim chance that you could get hired on your charisma and go-getter attitude alone, it may not be advisable to bank on this idea, especially if the job field in your local geographic area is particularly competitive. Most law agencies these days are going to be looking for the most qualified applicants to add to their team, so keep this in mind. An associate’s degree in paralegal studies could set you apart from those with no training as well as those who have completed a certificate program in paralegal studies.
Types of Online Paralegal Associate Degree Programs
As you can see from the ranking above, not all online paralegal associate degree programs are the same. In addition to comparing these programs by cost and curriculum, you’ll want to look at the format of the particular program as well as any special features it offers prior to making your decision. For instance, while some of the online associate’s paralegal degree offerings in this ranking are offered entirely online, others are delivered via a hybrid or blended format. These particular programs combine traditional, on-campus classes with online components. While this feature adds a degree of interactivity to the program, it also requires a commute and a significant time commitment, so it may not be the right fit for those students drawn to distance education for the convenience and flexibility most of these programs offer.
Prerequisites for an Online Associate’s Paralegal Degree
Applying to an online associate’s paralegal studies degree program is often the first step for those interested in a career as a paralegal or legal assistant. Although this is an entry-level degree, there are still some prerequisites one must meet prior to being accepted into an accredited program. For example, most programs require that applicants hold a high school diploma, though some will also accept a GED as the equivalent. Some schools may have additional criteria applicants must meet, so be sure to check with your school of choice before beginning the application process.
In addition to program prerequisites, there are certain skills and traits that are desirable in would-be paralegals and assistants. Though most of these attributes can be developed with time, it’s good to have at least some of the following characteristics in order to establish the proper foundation for study in this field:
- Technology Proficiency
- Written/Verbal Communication Skills
- Teamwork/Interpersonal Skills
- Organizational/Administrative Skills
- Basic Research Skills
- Interest in Law and the Justice System
Curriculum for Online Associate’s Degree Paralegal Studies
The curriculum for online associate’s in paralegal studies programs is typically prescribed. This means that students must follow a relatively strict sequence of courses, and they don’t have much freedom to choose which courses to take. Even so, most programs allow students to choose a certain number of elective courses. These courses can be selected from a pool of approved electives related to the paralegal curriculum. Some of the core courses students can expect to take when enrolled in an online associate’s degree paralegal studies can be found below:
- Foundations of Law
- Real Estate Transactions & Property
- Legal Terminology
- Legal Research & Writing
- Criminal Law for the Paralegal
- Law Office Management
- Office Technology for the Paralegal
- Paralegal Business Law
- Introduction to Torts
Some of the elective courses that online associate’s degree in paralegal studies students can choose from include:
- Administrative Agency Practice
- Dispute Resolution
- American Government
- Medical Paralegal Law
- U.S. Constitution
- Fundamentals of Cyber Security
- Estate Planning and Procedure
In addition to core and elective paralegal studies courses, students can also expect to take some general education classes. These courses give students a basic foundation of knowledge to draw from as they continue their coursework in paralegal studies. Some sample general education courses one may encounter in an online associate’s in paralegal studies degree program are listed below.
- General Psychology
- Introduction to Communication
- Public Speaking
- Business Mathematics
- Cultural Anthropology
- Introduction to Global Studies
- Race and Ethnic Relations
- Interpersonal Communication
- Sociology of the Family
Career Possibilities for Graduates of Online Paralegal Associate Degree Programs
Job prospects for graduates of online paralegal associate degree programs are good. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants are expected to grow by 15% between the years 2016 and 2026. That’s twice as fast as average for all occupations. This expected growth can be attributed to the increasing need for law offices to become more efficient while reducing costs. One way in which legal firms are reducing costs is by assigning tasks to paralegals that were once given to beginning lawyers, who would charge much more for these services. Most graduates of online associate’s paralegal degree programs do go on to work as paralegals, but some may take on other roles as well. These positions may include law clerk, law analyst, court clerk, and legal investigator, for instance.
Salary Information for Online Associate’s Degree Paralegal Studies Graduates
The field of legal services is one of the most lucrative fields of employment one can enter with an associate’s degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2016, the median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $49,500. This is equivalent to almost $24 per hour for a full-time employee. Of course, there’s even more earning potential for those with advanced degrees and/or extensive work experience as well as those who work in certain sectors of the field. For example, the top 10% of earners in the field of legal services earned over $80,000 in 2016, and the biggest earners worked for the federal government and for finance and insurance companies.
Job Duties for Online Associates in Paralegal Studies Graduates
As is the case for any field of employment, job duties for paralegals and legal assistants will vary depending on a number of factors, including the sector or industry and the specific employer, for instance. Graduates of online paralegal associate degree programs should expect to perform some of the following general duties, however:
- collecting information and verifying facts and details for a legal case
- conducting legal research to locate laws and case histories relevant to the case at hand
- drafting, summarizing, and/or reviewing legal reports
- assisting lawyers in basic trial preparation
- making phone calls to clients, opposing counsel, and witnesses to schedule interviews and meetings
- assisting lawyers during the actual trial (e.g., handling exhibits, pointing out evidence, reviewing transcripts, etc.)
Education Opportunities After Graduation from Online Paralegal Associate’s Degree Programs
Many graduates of online associate’s degree paralegal studies programs enter the workplace as a paralegal or legal assistant immediately following graduation. For others, though, an associate’s degree is but a stepping stone to more advanced study in the field of law. You’ll need to consider whether study in a bachelor’s degree program or even graduate school is in your future prior to selecting an online associate’s paralegal degree program. Why? Because some of these programs are vocational in nature, meaning they focus on preparing you for a job as a paralegal right away. Others, however, have the long-game in mind, prepping you for study in a bachelor’s level program by giving you a strong liberal arts background.
Frequently Asked Questions About Online Paralegal Associate Degree Programs
Q: Can I complete my entire online associate’s degree paralegal studies program online?
A: Maybe. While it is possible to find an online associate’s paralegal degree program that is offered entirely online, some programs require residencies and/or campus visits.
Q: How long does it take to complete an online paralegal associate degree program?
A: Two years of full-time study. Like traditional associate’s in paralegal studies programs, online programs often take two years to complete. There are exceptions, though. Some online programs have accelerated formats that will allow you to finish your paralegal studies in less time. Part-time students will take longer to fulfill the requirements for an online associate’s paralegal studies.
Q: What are the prerequisites for an online associate’s in paralegal studies?
A: Typically, prospective students must hold a high school diploma or GED in order to be accepted into a paralegal studies program at the associate’s level.
Q: Do I need an associate’s degree in paralegal studies to get a job as a paralegal?
A: Not necessarily, but such a degree is likely to help. Some law firms may hire individuals interested in law and train them on the job, but others prefer a minimum of an associate’s-level education in paralegal studies.
Q: Can I transfer to a bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies after graduation?
A: Maybe. It depends on the program. In most cases, you’ll have the opportunity to either enter the work force or pursue advanced study in the field after graduation from an online associate’s degree paralegal studies program. Still, many such programs are either vocation-centered or designed for students who eventually plan to continue their studies in a bachelor’s-level program in paralegal studies, so check with your chosen school prior to applying, and make sure the curriculum is a good match for your future plans.
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