Employment law is most often covered within a professional law program, and the American Bar Association presently does not accredit distance learning Juris Doctor (J.D.) programs. Students who want to earn an online degree relevant to employment law can pursue a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies instead. These programs are mostly a blend of online and on-campus work, the amount of which depends on the school. Some programs also include an internship.
Students who are looking for a fully online program related to this field may consider bachelor's degree programs in political science and government or business. While neither prepares students to become paralegals or lawyers, both provide the basic education needed to apply to law school, where students can focus their studies on employment law within J.D. programs.
BS in Paralegal Studies
The Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies program typically lasts four years, although it may be a little shorter or longer depending on how many courses a student takes. Paralegal classes cover a wide variety of legal knowledge, and the employment law specialization focuses on all aspects and policies relating to the employer-employee relationship, ranging from interviews to terminations and promotions. The distinction between employees and independent contractors is also covered.
Throughout their course of study, students learn about field-specific laws pertaining to issues such as minimum wage and employment discrimination. Some sample courses a student may take in employment law and paralegal studies include:
- Legal terminology
- Advanced legal analysis and legal writing
- Legal ethics
- Legal document preparation
- Law office management
- Legal research
- Drafting contracts
- Interviewing and investigation
Most general education classes can be taken via distance learning and may be offered in asynchronous or synchronous formats. Some institutions also offer paralegal studies and employment law courses through distance education, although most colleges require undergraduates to attend campus classes. Distance learners may also be given the opportunity to complete an internship.
Online courses may require students to participate in class discussions through virtual forums, and students may communicate with instructors and peers as well as submit assignments through a distance learning platform such as Blackboard. To aid in the learning process, online students often have access to tech support and online tutoring programs.
Government agencies, law firms, businesses and financial institutions are just a few of the potential employers of students obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies. These careers involve assisting lawyers with their work, in addition to helping clients. Career opportunities include:
- Legal secretary
- Legal assistant
- Judicial assistant
- Law clerk
- Claims adjuster
- Legal investigator
Certifications are not required for most of these positions, but they are available for learners looking to demonstrate their proficiency level to employers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, between 2014 and 2024, paralegals and legal assistants should see average growth of 8%. Paralegals are useful to businesses, especially those trained in employment law, because they can perform a large range of duties.
To summarize, students who are interested in employment law may consider bachelor's degree programs in paralegal studies, which provide the education needed to work as a paralegal. These programs can prepare them to enter a J.D. program where they could focus on employment law.