AAS programs in paralegal studies prepare students to work under the supervision of lawyers or courts as paralegals or legal assistants. Students learn about the legal system, legal research and how to draft legal documents. Additionally, students may complete internships at legal firms, working under the supervision of licensed attorneys to obtain hands-on training.
These two year programs are typically offered at community colleges and technical schools. In order to apply, you must hold a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies
An AAS program in paralegal studies trains enrolled individuals in fundamental concepts across the field of law, from criminal law to financial legalities. Schools often offer paralegal programs with day, evening or weekend class options. Courses may include:
- Criminal law and procedures
- Financial accounting
- Civil and criminal evidence
- Civil litigation procedures
Popular Career Choices
Graduates of paralegal associate degree programs may find entry-level employment or seek transfer to 4-year colleges to continue their education. Individuals who choose to work immediately may seek occupations such as:
- Title clerk
- Legal assistant
- Contract clerk
- Legal investigator
Job Outlook and Salary
In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated a median annual salary of $48,810 for paralegals and legal assistants. The BLS predicts that job opportunities for legal assistants and paralegals will increase by 8% from 2014-2024. Title clerks earned a median wage of $31,801 per year in January 2016, according to PayScale.com, with the top-paid 10% in the field making $46,370 or more annually.
Continuing Education Information
Certification as a paralegal is not required, but may be obtained through industry associations. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers the Certified Paralegal (CP) and the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) to qualified applicants who pass a 2-day certification examination. Paralegals must complete 50 hours of continuing education to maintain this certification, which is good for five years. The NALA also offers an advanced paralegal certification program online to paralegals that are already certified.
Paralegals who meet educational requirements and have a minimum of five years of experience can earn the American Alliance Certified Paralegal certification through the Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. This 2-year certification can be maintained by completion of 18 hours of continuing education.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offers the Registered Paralegal (RP) certification exam to individuals with a bachelor's degree and two years of paralegal experience. This 2-year certification requires 12 hours of continuing education for renewal. Paralegals may also earn the Professional Paralegal (PP) certification through the National Association of Legal Secretaries.
After you earn an AAS in paralegal studies, you have the basic legal education you need to work as a paralegal and to apply for certain certifications in the field. You may also enroll in a bachelor's degree in a related field.