There are a wide variety of online bachelor's degree programs available in paralegal studies. Although the courses are all given online, some programs include an internship, which requires working in a law office or other legal setting. The programs are designed to prepare graduates to take the National Association of Legal Assistants' Certified Legal Assistant certification exam, as well as the National Federation of Paralegal Associations' Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam. Specific software and a webcam may be required.
Bachelor's Degree in Paralegal Studies
Students study all types of law, including family, real estate, criminal, contract, torts, administrative, cyber, corporate and bankruptcy. Legal writing and research, litigation, legal terminology and office management are also studied. General education requirements focus on social sciences, humanities, communications and natural sciences.
Program Information and Requirements
Online paralegal bachelor's degree programs generally take 4 years to complete, the same amount of time as a traditional program. Programs generally allow students to complete their studies, tests and lectures online on their own schedule.
Students must have access to a personal computer and Internet service to complete coursework. Some schools also require specific software, headphones or a Webcam. Students should be proficient in using a Web browser and email. A commitment of between 10-15 hours on average per week is necessary for each online course, as well as time for virtual discussions, research, reading and writing materials.
List of Common Courses
Online courses cover all specialties to qualify graduates for employment in all types of legal settings. A minimum number of credits are also required in English, humanities, math, social sciences and other general education courses.
Legal Research and Writing
This course familiarizes students with the components of the law library and allows them to develop research and analytical skills while using legal tools, online databases and publications. Correct citation format in primary and secondary law are also covered, along with legal briefs, pleadings and correspondence presentation skills.
This course covers contract formation and the principles of offer, consideration and acceptance. Students learn about resolution, breach, defenses and the Uniform Commercial Code in the sale of goods. Students also draft contracts and complete projects using the law library.
The torts course deals with civil harm to people or property, such as personal injury. Social policies, defenses, potential liabilities and elements of torts are parts of the curriculum. Business torts, workers compensation, international torts and the law of products liability are typical concentrations in the class.
The law of domestic relations is covered in relation to child support and custody, marriage, separation, annulment, divorce and alimony. Students learn to gather information and prepare agreements, property settlements and custody proceedings; they also explore ways to enforce agreements.
Career Information for Graduates
Salaries for paralegals vary depending on the size of the company or law office, job location, education, training and experience, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). In May of 2018, paralegals and legal assistants earned $50,940 in median wages, with the bottom 10% earning less than $31,400 and the top 10% earning more than $82,050. Many paralegals also earn bonuses due to the long hours they work, and benefits, such as paid time off, sick leave, insurance, savings plans and education reimbursement, are typical.
Although it is not required, certifications are available through several associations. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers the Certified Paralegal designation (CP) to those who pass a 2-day examination. Continuing education is required after five years for re-certification. An online advanced paralegal certification program is also available through NALA. Additional certifications requiring experience in the field are available through the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).
Online bachelor's degree programs in paralegal studies may require an in-person internship, and students learn about various types of law and contracts, as well as how to produce legal documents. Certification is available in this field, and in some cases can be completed online.