Guide to Getting Your Paralegal Associate Degree Online

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Updated December 16, 2021 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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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:

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:

Common Courses

While course titles and content vary by program, the list below outlines typical classes students take in an accredited online associate paralegal degree program.

Introduction to Law

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.

Legal Research and Writing

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
Civil Litigation

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.

Legal Practicum or Capstone

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.

Core Skills

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:

Critical Thinking and Analysis

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.

Communication Skills

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.

Time Management and Prioritization

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

Read on for a summary of opportunities, along with a listing of specific positions, typical duties, and average entry-level 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:

  • Researching
  • 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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