Schools for Aspiring Legal Assistants: How to Choose

Dec 10, 2019

Aspiring legal assistants may seek programs at the certificate, associate degree and bachelor's degree levels. Students may find degree programs at 4-year universities and 2-year colleges.

Legal assistants, also known as paralegals, assist lawyers in preparation, investigation and research for trials, but they are not permitted to practice law or advise clients. Aspiring legal assistants who already hold a bachelor's degree may enter into certificate programs for legal assistants, while students without prior academic experience may enroll in associate or bachelor's degree programs.

Schools with Paralegal or Legal Assistant Programs

The following are among the most popular schools offering degree programs for potential legal assistants or paralegals.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)*
Augusta Technical College Augusta, GA 2-year, Public Associate's $2,794 (in-state)
$4,930 (out-of-state)
Washburn University Topeka, KS 4-year, Public Associate's, Bachelor's Undergraduate certificate $8,312 (in-state)
$18,560 (out-of-state)
Union County College Cranford, NJ 2-year, Public <1-year certificate, Associate's $5,140 (in-district)
$10,280 (in-state)
$10,280 (out-of-state)
Clayton State University Morrow, GA 4-year, 4-year, Public Associate's, Bachelor's, Undergraduate certificate $5,419 (in-state)
$15,880 (out-of-state)
Kent State University Kent, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Undergraduate certificate $10,312 (in-state)
$19,014 (out-of-state)
John F. Kennedy University Pleasant Hill, CA 4-year, Private, not-for-profit Bachelor's, Undergraduate certificate $8,500
Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny, IA 2-year, Public <1-year certificate, Associate's $4,680 (in-state)
$9,360 (out-of-state)
Minnesota State University - Moorhead Moorhead, MN 4-year, Public Bachelor's $8,496 (in-state)
$15,906 (out-of-state)

Source: *NCES College Navigator

School Selection Criteria

Prospective students may want to consider the following when choosing a school.

  • Though certification is not generally required, certifications can be found through organizations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants; completion of an American Bar Association-approved program may serve a similar purpose.
  • Bachelor's degree programs commonly offer internships and could lead to higher-level positions in legal offices or court administration.
  • Online programs are available for aspiring legal assistants in need of flexible academic scheduling, as well as reduced-curriculum programs, which spread courses out over an extended number of years.
  • Investigate if the school offers a graduate certificate program for those who already hold a bachelor's degree

Associate Degree for Legal Assistants

Associate degree programs include general education courses in English, math and speech. Full-time associate degree programs take 18 months to two years to complete.

Bachelor's Degree for Legal Assistants

Bachelor's degree programs in legal assistant studies are available through select 4-year institutions and allow individuals who complete such programs the opportunity to advance in the paralegal profession. An internship, as well as a senior project, may be required prior to completion of the program. Bachelor's degree programs commonly offer students a wide variety of courses.

Graduate Certificate for Legal Assistants

Certificate programs for aspiring legal assistants are available for individuals already holding a bachelor's degree from an accredited college. An internship may be required for program completion.

Students may find degree programs at 4-year and 2-year schools, while certificate programs may be found at private paralegal training colleges or through a school's extension program. The National Center for Education Statistics notes that there are over 500 schools throughout the country that offer legal assistant or paralegal programs.

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