Associate of Paralegal: Legal Assistant Degree Overview

A paralegal or legal assistant associate's degree program can teach students the basics of researching cases, preparing legal documents and maintaining client communication. This 2-year program can prepare candidates for entry-level legal positions.

Essential Information

Students in a paralegal associate's program become familiar with legal terminology, various laws, ethical issues and court procedures. The curriculum often includes work-based learning experiences, internships, and/or seminars with legal firms. Programs require a high school diploma or equivalent for admission. Legal assistant and paralegal certification is an option if graduates want to stand out when seeking employment.

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Associate's Degree for Paralegal/Legal Assistant

An associate's degree program can prepare students for entry-level positions in the legal field. Paralegals and legal assistant students learn to draft and file documents, help lawyers prepare for trial and maintain documentation. Some programs incorporate practical experiences, along with traditional classroom teaching. Typical courses might include:

  • Legal terminology
  • Criminal law
  • Civil litigation
  • Bankruptcy procedures
  • Tort law procedures

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the paralegal and legal assistant field was expected to grow at an average rate from 2014-2024, with an expected 8% increase in jobs. As of May 2015, professionals in this field made a median annual salary of $48,810, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Certification, although not required for employment, could be beneficial when seeking employment or advancement. Graduates of paralegal programs can obtain credentials from several organizations by passing an examination or meeting educational and experience requirements. For example, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers Certified Paralegal (CP) and Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) credentials to professionals with formal education in paralegal studies who pass a 5-part examination.

Continuing education options for paralegals are available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels through programs in paralegal or legal studies. Obtaining a bachelor's degree could qualify a legal assistant for additional certification, such as the Registered Paralegal credential available through the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

Paralegal associate's programs include lecture-based coursework in criminal law, the penal system and legal writing, as well as field experiences. Graduates of these programs can find entry-level positions as paralegals or legal assistants. They can also pursue bachelor's degrees or voluntary certification for potential career advancement.

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