Education Options for Paralegals
Take a look at the difference between associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs for paralegals, including common coursework. We also discuss the typical job duties of a paralegal.
For those who want to start their legal careers as soon as possible, an associate's degree is the best option. These degree programs are shorter than bachelor's degree programs and cover the necessary basics in law. Anyone who is considering further studies, and perhaps even law school, will want to pursue higher educational levels, starting with a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degree programs go more in depth into the field of law to prepare students for supervisory roles. A four-year degree is also required to apply to a graduate program.
Paralegal Studies Associate's
The typical degree for someone interested in a career as a paralegal is an associate's degree. Associate's degree programs can take two years and are typically offered at community colleges and other institutions. Upon completion of this degree, students are prepared to become paralegals at law firms, attorneys' offices and other law-related businesses and institutions.
Over the course of the program, students take classes relating directly to paralegal work, as well as some core general education classes. Paralegal coursework may include legal research, civil litigation, family law, property law, bankruptcy, and administrative law.
Paralegal Studies Bachelor's
A bachelor's degree in paralegal studies prepares students for entry-level positions as paralegals, as well as the option to advance into managerial positions. Those with four-year degrees may also consider advancing their careers by attending law school and earning an advanced degree, such as a Juris Doctor or Master of Laws.
Paralegal schooling at the bachelor's degree level involves courses similar to those in an associate's degree program, although classes at this level are more advanced and complex. An internship may also be required by the program, and some students find post-graduation employment opportunities through the industry contacts they make during their internships. Coursework may include criminal law and procedures, litigation, cyber laws, supervisory management, torts, legal writing, and ethics for the law office.
Career Overview for Paralegals
Paralegals help lawyers with their everyday office tasks, which can include preparing research materials and collecting relevant information for trials. Typically, paralegals need to be familiar with the type of law their firm handles in order to determine how to best aid a lawyer.
In addition to trial preparation work, paralegals often draft contracts and agreements between involved parties, clients, or other law firms. Paralegals may also help coordinate the activities of other law firm employees through the use of computer software and organizational skills. Many paralegals pursue this career in order to gain experience in law, which will one day aid them in pursuing a law degree and passing the bar exam.
Associate's degree programs for paralegals are two years in length and prepare students to work right away, while bachelor's degree programs take four years to complete and prepare students for supervisory roles and graduate education. Paralegals assist lawyers through research, information gathering, and more.