Associate of Arts (AA): Paralegal Studies Degree Overview

Associate's degree programs in paralegal studies train students in law research and legal procedures. Students develop skills in legal writing and become familiar with standard terminology in the field.

Essential Information

Students in a Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies program studies learn to assist lawyers in readying for trials by organizing forms, briefing clients and planning meetings. These programs often require 60-70 units of study and can be completed in about 2 years. Graduates can work under the supervision of an attorney in government agencies, law offices or corporate legal units, but paralegals cannot practice law and must work in accordance with the legalities of their state. Voluntary certification is available to those in the paralegal field.

Entry into a paralegal Associate of Arts program requires students to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

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Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies

These programs teach students how to meet deadlines, analyze laws, draft legal documents and manage legal offices. Students explore various types of law, including real estate law, family law, tort law, estate law and tax law. Along with general education requirements, course topics could include:

  • Law research and analysis
  • Criminal justice
  • Legal office management
  • Tort law
  • Real estate law
  • Legal procedures

Popular Career Options

Graduates can seek entry-level employment as a paralegal with law offices or corporate legal divisions. They may also find opportunities in government, including working within the justice system or the U.S. treasury department. Job titles include:

  • Probate legal assistant
  • Real estate paralegal
  • Litigation paralegal

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual salary of $48,810 for paralegals in May 2015. The same year, paralegals employed in the District of Columbia, Alaska, California, New York and Washington earned the highest wages, with the average for each state being higher than $57,000 a year. The BLS projects that job opportunities in the paralegal field will rise by 8% between the years of 2014 and 2024, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Continuing Education and Certification Info

Upon completion of paralegal studies degree programs, graduates are typically prepared to take the voluntary certification exam offered by NALA, the National Association of Legal Assistants. NALA's exam leads to the Certified Paralegal or Certified Legal Assistant designation ( Paralegals can keep up with changes in laws and judicial procedures throughout their careers through continuing education courses. Those interested in advanced opportunities can pursue bachelor's degrees in paralegal studies, criminal justice or pre-law.

Aspiring paralegals can earn an Associate of Arts degree in approximately two years and begin a legal career working in a law office or court setting. These degree programs exposes paralegals to different types of law as well cover legal procedures and research methods.

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