How to Get an Online Associate’s Degree in Paralegal
The paralegal field is high in demand these days. With people getting sued over literally anything, there’s always work for paralegal professionals to do! If you have always had any interest in how law works behind the scenes and want to investigate cases, create legal strategies, organize and manage files, and conduct intense research, this career path may be right for you.
Getting a paralegal associate’s degree is a great way to get your foot in the door. Law is a growing field, and more firms are trying to reduce costs by outsourcing more work to paralegals. This saves their attorneys for the courtroom.
With your associate’s degree, you will be working under a licensed attorney. You will be equipped with knowledge that lawyers have, and be able to essentially do what they do, minus legally practicing law and representing a client. The great benefit to this is that you will be saving a lot of tuition money because you won’t have to go through so many years of school like a lawyer does.
An associate’s degree generally takes around two years to complete. It can be obtained at most accredited community colleges, but if you have other important responsibilities in life and require a flexible schedule for school, a distance learning program from an accredited college is a promising option to consider.
Online learning is a great alternative to traditional classroom learning because it can allow students to complete classes quicker, while taking advantage of many of the same resources as traditional classes, like tutoring or faculty assistance when needed. It does, however, requires potential students to be dedicated independent learners needing little to no hand-holding; after all, the material will be taught entirely online. With that said, you would be expected to keep track of class schedule and complete assignments on your own time. Earning an online degree can be a productive way to balance school with other obligations, such as employment.
Common Associate’s in Paralegal Curriculum
Interested in getting a degree in paralegal studies but wondering what to expect? Basically, you will be exposed to the broad foundation of legal studies and business. The degree is designed to give you an overview of the subject overall, and prepare you for earning a bachelor’s degree if you choose to pursue higher education.
Some courses you can expect to take include but are not limited to:
- Introduction to the law
- Torts and personal injury
- Legal research, writing, and civil litigation
- Professional responsibility and legal ethics
- Criminal law
- Wills, trusts, and estates
- Business law and bankruptcy
- Real property
- Laws of evidence
- Administrative law
- Immigration law
- Employment law
- Patents, trademarks, and copyrights
- Criminal procedure
- Law in cyberspace
- Federal income taxation
- Domestic relations
- Public communications law
- Legal writing
The list goes on, and the courses will vary depending on your school. With so much to learn, you can be assured that you’ll be kept busy and far from bored in your classes!
Upon graduating with a paralegal studies associate’s degree, students will be able to know:
- What attorneys do
- How to be really organized
- Effective time management techniques
- How to solve ethical dilemmas
- How to research in an effective manner
- How to communicate effectively with lawyers, clients, and courtroom personnel
- How to read and understand legal documents
- What all the legal terminology means
- How to prepare legal correspondence
In addition to paralegal-related courses, students will also have general education requirements and electives to complete, which will vary from college to college. These classes are usually not directly paralegal related. They are designed to give students the opportunity to explore other fields while getting a well-rounded foundation of knowledge that will be useful in helping them understand real-life situations and succeed in whatever career they choose to be in. For example, students may have an introductory course in math, science, history, language, and fine arts, to name a few.
Another reason to consider an associate’s degree in paralegal studies is that a lot of the information you learn can be useful in pretty much any industry. This means that even if you decide that this route is not your ideal career choice, you can still use what you’ve learned in whatever you choose to do. Wherever you end up employed, for example, it’s always good to be aware of workers rights, income taxation, legal ethics, and more. If you plan on owning your own business, being familiar with legal writing, law in cyberspace, contracts, and business law will come in really handy.
Associate’s in Paralegal Careers
Paralegals work hard to assist attorneys with their court cases. Contrary to popular belief, they do not take on the roles of secretaries for attorneys — they do not answer phones or schedule meetings for the most part.
While an associate’s degree in paralegal studies is not required for one to become a paralegal, it will be much more appealing to employers if you have one. This is especially the case these days because the job market has become so competitive. The more you know, the better — especially in a field that is so abundant in information and knowledge! Firms will much prefer someone who is already familiar with the field rather than taking someone on who has no experience or knowledge, because then they would have to teach them everything from scratch.
The salary for paralegals differ based on a variety of factors like location and who you work for, for example. The average salary sits around $45,000 a year, but it can go up if you live in a populated area or have more work experience and education.
If law is something that intrigues you, then this can be a rewarding career. You can help to make or break a case, and make the community a better and safer one by sending the bad guys off to jail.