Are you interested in a career in law, but don’t want to commit to the years of schooling – and the associated costs - required to become an attorney?
If so, you might want to consider earning your associate’s degree in paralegal studies.
Law offices could not function without paralegals. They perform much of the day-to-day work associated with legal proceedings. Paralegals assist lawyers in litigation by checking facts and performing research to determine which cases, laws, and legal articles the lawyer should use to support his case.
According to the Bureau of Labors Statistics (BLS), until 2018 there is expected to be a faster-than-average job growth for paralegals, or legal assistants. Despite this, competition is expected to be high.
Some employers do not require higher education and will hire applicants with only a high school diploma. However, applicants who have completed a formal education, combined with experience, will have the best job prospects.
Admissions to Associate’s Degree Programs in Paralegal Studies
Students entering paralegal studies should have an interest in the law and have a passion for research.
Most paralegal programs are taught at community colleges or paralegal schools. If you choose to enroll at a community college, you can enjoy the benefit of open enrollment, meaning the only requirement for enrollment is a high school diploma. Paralegal schools, on the other hand, may have stricter admissions requirements.
Paralegal Associate’s Degree Curriculum
Paralegal associate’s degree programs prepare students for entry-level employment as a paralegal or legal assistant, or prepare for transfer to a four-year university to complete a bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies. Most paralegal programs consist of:
General Education Courses - Language Arts, World History
Specialty Courses - Immigration Law, Environmental Law
Core Program Courses - Criminal Law, Real Property, Constitutional Law, Civil Procedure, Legal Research
As the law increases in complexity, paralegal students are encouraged to choose a specialty, such as bankruptcy or real estate law, to ensure marketability.
When looking for a paralegal program, try and find one that is certified by the American Bar Association (ABA). Although this is not required, it can greatly increase the chances of landing a job after graduation.
Finding a paralegal program with a built-in internship program is also valuable to prospective students because employers are more apt to higher someone with real-world professional experience over someone who has only earned their degree.
After completing your studies, you will have earned analytical and research skills, be computer savvy, and have legal written and oral communication skills.
Paralegal Courses Online
There are many paralegal associate’s degree programs offered online. These courses are a great option for students who would otherwise not have the time to commit to a degree program.
Online programs provide the same information as campus-based courses, but the coursework is delivered through an interactive and multimedia experience. Some programs combine online and in-class teaching methods.
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