Guide to Getting Your Paralegal Associate Degree Online
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An online associate degree in paralegal studies prepares students for paralegal jobs, earning an average of $56,610 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Online paralegal associate degree programs are a great option for a couple of reasons:
- Students with full-time jobs and other responsibilities can earn their degrees from home
- They offer students with time constraints an accelerated curriculum
- They offer a much cheaper pathway to a bachelor's degree
Read on to learn what to expect from an online associate paralegal degree program and the careers and further education options available.
What Will You Learn in a Paralegal Associate Degree Online Program?
A typical online associate degree program includes foundational legal principles and general education subjects. Students can also choose from electives in their areas of interest, such as:
- Criminal law
- Employment law
- Family law
- Tax law
While course titles and content vary by program, the list below outlines typical classes students take in an accredited online associate paralegal degree program.
This class teaches students about the American legal system and introduces legal language. Students gain big-picture knowledge of the legal field and learn the terminology used in law offices. They also become familiar with the skills they need on the job, such as interviewing clients and reading cases.
Students learn daily skills paralegals use, including:
- Researching statutes and case law
- Analyzing and summarizing court decisions
- Employing correct citation style
- Drafting documents using the requisite format, terms, and language
In this course, students learn about federal and state court systems, along with the rules that govern them. Students review evidence and draft court documents, such as pleadings, discovery requests and responses, pre-trial motions, and appeals.
Practicums allow students to apply the knowledge they gained during the program through field experience (under the supervision of a practicing attorney). Weekly classroom seminars often supplement the onsite work. Capstones consist of an academic paper or project that integrates what students have learned.
An online associate degree in paralegal studies provides students with skills and competencies needed to succeed either on the job or within a bachelor's or master's degree program:
Paralegals must often complete their work quickly and accurately. Learning to apply the correct law to the facts presented enables paralegals to assist attorneys in a timely manner.
Part of the paralegal job includes interviewing clients and synthesizing results. Paralegals must employ active listening and accurate notetaking skills, along with the ability to communicate orally and in writing.
Paralegals often work for several attorneys and/or on multiple projects with competing deadlines and must hone the skills to manage and prioritize their workload under pressure.
What Can You Do With a Paralegal Associate Degree Online?
While many employers may require bachelor's degrees, jobs do exist for entry-level paralegals and other support staff. Law firms and legal departments may also hire associate degree-holders working toward a higher degree so they can gain experience and take on more responsibilities over time.
Potential Careers and Salaries
These professionals assist attorneys in law offices by:
- Performing legal research
- Filing court documents
- Interviewing clients
- Drafting, reviewing, and editing memoranda, pleadings, briefs, and other documents
- Coordinating trial logistics
Average Annual Salary: $42,450
In corporate legal departments, these professionals help attorneys prepare for corporate meetings by:
- Drafting contracts
- Reviewing government regulations
- Assisting with annual reports, shareholder agreements, and stock-option plans
Average Annual Salary: $51,240
As their title implies, legal assistants help lawyers with caseloads by:
- Organizing evidence
- Drafting memoranda
- Scheduling interviews
- Taking meeting notes
- Preparing summaries and reports
- Screening calls
Average Annual Salary: $38,230
Entry-level legal secretaries perform a number of secretarial and legal support duties:
- Filing court documents
- Scheduling meetings
- Screening clients
- Typing and editing documents
- Accompanying attorneys to court
- Assisting at hearings and trials
Average Annual Salary: $38,590
Legal administrative assistants support lawyers and paralegals by:
- Conducting research
- Ordering office supplies
- Making travel arrangements
- Managing calendars
- Maintaining filing systems
Average Annual Salary: $39,320
Getting Your Bachelor's After a Paralegal Associate Degree Online
Students may decide to use their associate degree in paralegal studies as a stepping stone to a bachelor's degree.
A bachelor's degree in paralegal studies may open doors to positions with more responsibility and pay. For example, a bachelor's degree in legal studies can serve as a stepping stone to law school, and a degree in political science can lead to jobs in policy, legislation, and consulting.
Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies
This degree builds on skills and knowledge one acquired in an associate degree. Courses include advanced research and writing, and students may usually specialize in a particular area of law.
Bachelor's in Legal Studies
A legal studies degree can lead to higher-paying legal assistant or paralegal jobs, or it can lead to careers in arbitration and mediation. Many legal studies students earn this degree to prepare for law school.
Bachelor's in Political Science
These bachelor's degree graduates work in political campaigns, policy analysis, and government agencies. They also may run for public office or apply to law school.
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