Associate in Applied Science (AAS) programs in paralegal studies provide basic training in family law, court procedures and legal writing. Most programs allow students to complete internships at approved legal firms or similar organizations to gain practical experience doing legal research, studying case laws, and analyzing legal issues. They are available through many community colleges and may be offered either on-campus or online. Graduates of these two-year programs can pursue voluntary certifications from different professional organizations to enhance their employment prospects.
In order to apply, students must have a high school diploma or GED. Some schools require the completion of prerequisite composition and computer skills courses prior to admission.
Associate in Applied Science in Paralegal Studies
In addition to general education topics, students study:
- Domestic relations
- Commercial law
- Legal research & writing
- Tort law
- Constitutional law
- Civil procedures
Popular Career Choices
Graduates of paralegal associate's degree programs have several career options, whether they wish to seek work immediately upon graduation or transfer to 4-year colleges and earn a higher degree before pursuing employment. Popular career choices include:
- Legal assistant
- Law clerk
- Litigation assistant
- Docket clerk
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Average employment growth of 12% is expected for paralegals and legal assistants over the 2018-2018 decade, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). These professionals earned mean annual wage of $54,500 as of May 2018, with most earning salaries from $31,400 to $82,050 at that time.
Continuing Education Information
Certification, although voluntary, enhances employment opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants and can be obtained through a few different organizations. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers the credential of Certified Paralegal (CP) or Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) for qualified applicants who pass a 2-day certification examination. To maintain certification, 50 hours of continuing education are required during the 5-year certification period. The NALA also offers an online Advanced Paralegal Certification for paralegals who are already certified.
Paralegals who meet educational requirements and have a minimum of five years of paralegal experience can earn the American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential through the Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. Certification is good for two years and is renewable by completing 18 hours of continuing education.
A paralegal with a bachelor's degree and a minimum of two years of experience can take the Registered Paralegal (RP) certification exam through the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). This 2-year certification requires 12 hours of continuing education for renewal. Paralegals can also earn the Professional Paralegal (PP) certification through the National Association of Legal Secretaries.
Aspiring paralegals and legal assistants gain the skills they need through AAS programs in paralegal studies. Once they finish, they may choose to pursue voluntary certification to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in the field.