What is an Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies? A Comprehensive Degree Guide

Have you ever considered a rewarding career in the legal field, but were unsure of the educational path to follow? An associates degree in paralegal studies might be the perfect fit for you. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the world of paralegal studies, the roles and responsibilities of paralegals, and the various options available for pursuing this exciting career. Get ready to dive into the fascinating world of paralegal studies and what it takes to obtain an associate’s degree.

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • Paralegals are essential members of the legal team providing support through research, document drafting and other procedural tasks.

  • Paralegal associate degree programs provide students with skills such as conducting legal research & analysis, drafting documents and assisting with legal procedures.

  • Certification options for paralegals include Certified Paralegal (CP), Advanced Paralegal Certification (APC) etc., while continuing education provides opportunities to deepen knowledge and expand expertise leading to professional growth.

What is a Paralegal Professional? Roles and Responsibilities

A paralegal is a vital member of the legal team, providing assistance to attorneys in a range of legal tasks, such as research, document drafting, and procedural support. Paralegal associate degree programs, such as the Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies at National University, equip students with the skills and knowledge to effectively collaborate with a professional team and apply their legal knowledge within various legal contexts.

As a paralegal, you can contribute to the delivery of legal services in both private and public sectors, working alongside attorneys in law offices, corporate legal departments, and other legal settings.

One of the core skills paralegal students acquire is legal research and analysis. This involves:

  • Locating, retrieving, and analyzing information and laws

  • Determining their applicability to a particular case or legal problem

  • Providing a basis for legal decision-making.

Mastering legal research and analysis enables paralegals to play a critical role in case preparation. They ensure attorneys have accurate and timely information to represent their clients effectively.

Drafting legal documents is another essential skill developed in paralegal associate degree programs. Students learn to write various legal documents, such as:

  • contracts

  • agreements

  • wills

  • deeds

  • pleadings

in a clear and precise manner that adheres to the law. This skill is pivotal for paralegals since the quality and preciseness of legal documents can notably influence a case’s outcome.

Paralegal students also learn how to assist attorneys with legal procedures, such as trial preparation, client interviews, and case management. By providing support and assistance in tasks related to legal proceedings, paralegals play a vital role in ensuring that cases progress smoothly and efficiently.

This hands-on experience helps paralegals develop a comprehensive understanding of the legal system, legal ethics, and the various procedures involved in different types of cases.

Paralegal Associate Degree Programs: Options and Considerations

While researching paralegal associate degree programs, considering various factors that might influence your education and career path is important. These include American Bar Association (ABA) approval, online vs. on-campus formats, and program curriculum and coursework.

This section will touch upon different options and factors to consider when selecting the most suitable paralegal associate degree program for you.

Why Earn a Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies

Earning a paralegal studies degree, such as an associate degree in paralegal studies, provides you with the foundational knowledge and skills necessary for a successful career in the legal field. An associate degree typically requires two years of full-time study, during which you will develop various skills, including:

  • legal writing skills

  • research skills

  • critical thinking skills

  • communication skills

Furthermore, associate degree programs often offer internship or work placement opportunities, allowing you to gain hands-on experience and enhance your employability.

The education received in an associate degree program equips you with the knowledge and skills necessary to work as a paralegal and can also serve as a stepping stone towards earning a bachelor’s degree in the field.

American Bar Association Approval

Although ABA approval is not mandatory to become a paralegal, many aspiring paralegals opt for ABA-approved associate degree programs to ensure they acquire the necessary training and to better their job prospects. ABA approval signifies that a paralegal program or school has met the rigorous standards set by the American Bar Association in terms of paralegal education programs and law schools.

Opting for an ABA-approved program ensures that you receive a quality legal education, paving the way for a successful career in the paralegal profession.

Online vs. On-campus Programs

Paralegal associate degree programs, including online paralegal degree options, are available in both online and on-campus formats, offering flexibility to accommodate your individual needs and preferences. Online programs provide the opportunity to study remotely and at your own pace, making them ideal for working professionals and those with other commitments. On-campus programs, on the other hand, offer direct interaction with instructors and peers, which some students may find beneficial for their learning experience.

When choosing a program format to prepare students, consider factors such as your scheduling requirements, preferred learning style, and personal circumstances.

Program Curriculum and Coursework

The curriculum for a paralegal associate degree program typically covers a range of legal topics, including general education courses and specialized paralegal courses. General education courses may include topics such as political and economic ideas, government institutions, and free-market processes.

Specialized paralegal courses equip you with the fundamental legal and writing skills essential for entry-level paralegal positions and certification. When evaluating program curricula, consider the range of legal specialty courses offered and how they align with your career goals and interests.

Gaining Practical Experience: Internships and Hands-on Learning

Practical experience through internships and hands-on learning is crucial for paralegal students to gain real-world skills and enhance their employability. Internships offer an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained through the paralegal studies program to real legal scenarios. It deepens the understanding of law while honing practical skills.

This section will guide you on how to locate internship opportunities and delve into the benefits of hands-on learning in a legal setting.

Finding Internship Opportunities

Finding internship opportunities in the paralegal field can be accomplished through various means, such as your school’s career services, networking, and online job boards. Actively pursuing internships and applying for positions that match your interests and career goals can provide valuable practical experience in the legal field and enrich your resume.

Don’t underestimate the power of networking; connecting with professionals in the paralegal field can provide you with insights into potential internship opportunities and help you establish valuable relationships for future job prospects.

Benefits of Hands-on Learning

Hands-on learning in a legal environment allows paralegal students to:

  • Apply their knowledge and skills, making them more attractive to potential employers

  • Refine their problem-solving skills, critical thinking abilities, and decision-making capabilities

  • Gain insight into the industry, work environment, and challenges professionals face

  • Make informed career choices and expand their professional network

By engaging in practical tasks and working alongside experienced attorneys, hands-on learning provides valuable experience and benefits for paralegal students.

Embrace the opportunities for hands-on learning during your paralegal studies, and watch your career prospects soar.

Admission Requirements and Transfer Credits

Admission requirements for paralegal associate degree programs typically include a high school diploma or recognized equivalent, a minimum GPA, and transfer credit policies. This section will cover the usual admission prerequisites for paralegal programs and explain how transfer credits might affect your educational journey.

High School Diploma and GPA

A high school diploma is a must to get admission into a paralegal associate degree program. The GPA should also be above minimum for successful admission. To apply, you may need to submit official high school transcripts and any other relevant documentation that demonstrates your academic achievements. Meeting these requirements is essential for demonstrating your aptitude for success in a paralegal program and ensuring that you are prepared to tackle the rigors of higher education.

Transfer Credit Policies

Transfer credit policies vary among institutions, with some schools accepting credits from other accredited paralegal programs or general education courses. If you have previously completed coursework at another institution, it’s essential to consult with a program advisor to determine if your credits can be applied towards your paralegal associate degree.

Understanding transfer credit policies can help you make the most of your previous educational experiences and potentially reduce the time and cost of completing your paralegal studies.

Career Opportunities with a Paralegal Associate Degree

With a paralegal associate degree in hand, a wide range of career opportunities awaits you in both private and public sectors. Paralegals play a vital role in the legal field, working alongside attorneys in various settings, such as law offices, corporate legal departments, and government agencies.

This section will explore the variety of career paths open to paralegal associate degree holders.

Private Sector Employment

In the private sector, paralegals can find employment in law firms, corporations, and non-profit organizations. Here, paralegals assist attorneys in a wide range of tasks, such as legal research, document drafting, and procedural support. Private sector employers often provide competitive salaries, more flexible hours, and opportunities for career progression, making this an attractive option for many paralegal professionals.

Public Sector Employment

Public sector employment opportunities for paralegals include working in government agencies, courts, and public interest organizations. In these roles, paralegals help ensure the smooth functioning of the legal system by supporting attorneys and other legal professionals in their work.

Public sector employers typically offer job stability, competitive wages, and comprehensive benefits packages, making this an appealing choice for paralegals seeking long-term career growth.

Comparing Paralegal Degrees: Associate vs. Bachelor’s

When considering a paralegal degree, you may wonder whether an associate or bachelor’s degree is the right choice for you. While both degrees provide education and training in paralegal skills, there are some differences to consider, such as program duration, depth of study, and career prospects.

This section will juxtapose the perks of obtaining an associate degree versus a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies.

Program Duration and Depth of Study

Paralegal associate degree programs typically take two years to complete, while bachelor’s degree programs take four years and offer a more comprehensive education. An associate degree provides a basic overview of the legal system and the role of a paralegal, while a bachelor’s degree program delves deeper into more advanced topics and provides opportunities for specialization within the field of paralegal studies. Depending on your career goals and the amount of time you wish to invest in your education, one of these degree options may be more suitable for you.

Career Prospects and Earning Potential

Career prospects and earning potential may be higher for those with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies compared to an associate degree. A bachelor’s degree allows for greater specialization and potential for career advancement, leading to more specialized and higher-paying roles within both the private and public sectors. However, an associate degree can still lead to entry-level paralegal positions and provide a solid basis for further career development through experience and additional certifications.

Ultimately, the choice between an associate and a bachelor’s degree will depend on your personal career goals and preferences.

Paralegal Certification and Continuing Education

In addition to obtaining a paralegal degree, pursuing paralegal certification and continuing education can significantly enhance your career prospects and professional development. Paralegal certification options vary by state and may be offered through state bar associations or national organizations like the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).

This section will shed light on the benefits of paralegal certification and ongoing education for your career development.

Certification Options

Paralegal certification options include:

  • Certified Paralegal (CP)

  • Advanced Paralegal Certification (APC)

  • Professional Paralegal (PP) certification

  • CORE Registered Paralegal (CRP)

  • PACE Registered Paralegal

  • Certified Legal Assistant (CLA)

  • Accredited Legal Professional (ALP)

Obtaining certification can give you a competitive advantage in the job market, demonstrate your commitment to the paralegal profession, and potentially lead to higher salaries.

It’s essential to research the certification options available in your state and choose the one that best aligns with your career goals and interests.

Benefits of Continuing Education

Continuing education for paralegals can help you stay current with legal developments, expand your skillset, and advance your career. By participating in seminars, workshops, and other educational opportunities, you can deepen your knowledge of the law, cultivate new competencies, and broaden your expertise in specific areas of law.

Ultimately, continuing education can contribute to your professional growth and long-term success in the paralegal field.


In conclusion, pursuing a paralegal associate degree can open up a world of opportunities in the legal field. With a solid foundation in legal research, document drafting, and procedural support, you can make a significant impact in both private and public sector settings. By carefully considering your educational options, obtaining certification, and engaging in continuing education, you can set yourself up for a rewarding and fulfilling career in the paralegal profession. Your journey towards success starts here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best degree for a paralegal?

For career advancement and higher pay, a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies is the best option for aspiring paralegals. If you have the organizational and motivational skills required for this fast-paced environment, this could be the right degree path for you.

Paralegal studies is a specific field within the legal industry, whereas legal studies is a broad umbrella term encompassing many paths such as studying to become a lawyer or paralegal.

How do I get a paralegal certificate in Michigan?

To obtain a paralegal certificate in Michigan, one should look into enrolling at Lansing Community College for their post-baccalaureate certificate in paralegal studies. Additionally, the National Association of Legal Assistants offers a Certified Paralegal (CP) designation that requires passing an exam.

How do I become a paralegal in Arizona?

To become a paralegal in Arizona, you should either graduate from an accredited paralegal studies program, complete six months of in-house paralegal training with such a program or complete a bachelor’s degree plus six months of in-house paralegal training.

What is the main role of a paralegal?

The main role of a paralegal is to provide assistance to attorneys with legal tasks, such as research, document drafting, and procedural support.

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