Earn Paralegal Degree

Paralegals gain insight into the legal world with less demands & requirements than lawyers. Read a helpful guide on how to earn your paralegal degree now.



A career as a paralegal gets you into the legal profession without requiring the same amount of required of lawyers. Quality educated paralegals are always needed. Therefore the profession offers job security and competitive salaries. What training is required to become a paralegal in 2021? What are the best schools and courses for earning a paralegal degree fast?

Paralegals gain valuable insight into legal proceedings and various demands pursuant to becoming a lawyer. While a paralegal degree does not necessary fast track you toward becoming an attorney, it does expose you to the lifestyle and requirements of lawyers and legal firms in general. What are some other benefits of having a paralegal degree? What are the costs associated with pursuing a paralegal certificate program or degree program in 2021? Read on for a helpful guide about how to earn your paralegal degree today.

 

Paralegal - Job Description

What types of jobs and tasks does a paralegal perform? Paralegals work on administrative and organizational tasks for attorneys and law firms. Law firms with paralegals on staff are private or corporate, as well as small or large. Paralegal job tasks include communicating with clients, insurance companies, government agencies and other legal firms. Paralegal job tasks also include filing papers, organizing notes, handling schedules and processing/printing a wide assortment of contract and document types. 

Most paralegals perform case-related research tasks for their employers as well. This involves the preparation of court documents and occasionally interviewing witnesses and documenting/transcribing their statements. Hand-on tasks performing integral legal duties are not common at the paralegal level. While this might be somewhat common for paralegals that work for for smaller firms, those employed by larger firms are unlikely to be called upon to perform advanced-level duties. This is not necessarily a reflection of a paralegal’s skill sets, but rather a matter of administrative task volume prioritization common to larger firms processing heavy case amounts of cases simultaneously. 

Required Training & Courses

Paralegal training/education is not as comprehensive as the amount needed to become a lawyer. Certain courses and programs are required to enter the field, however. Essentially, the more training and education you possess the more likely are you to get hired and earn a better salary. Paralegal certificate programs are available. Associate, bachelor and masters degrees in paralegal studies are also available in 2021. 

The American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE) suggests all paralegals complete a minimum of eighteen semester credit hours of paralegal classes and sixty post-secondary semester credit hours through programs approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Suggested/required paralegal courses include:

  • Ethics.

  • Legal research/writing.

  • Substantive/procedural law.

  • Interviewing/investigating (legal-based).

  • Computer skills (legal-based),

  • Office management.

  • Legal services delivery procedures.

  • American legal system studies.

  • Paralegal professional services 101. 

While there is no official mandatory paralegal certification examination in any U.S. state, some states do impost specific regulations related to the paralegal vocation. For example, California requires its paralegals to maintain specific education and experience-based qualification standards at all times. The Washington State Supreme Court has similar paralegal regulatory requirements, as do several rules and laws in Utah as set forth by the Utah State Bar. 

Top U.S. Paralegal Schools

When choosing a school for your paralegal studies it is important to choose one approved by the American Bar Association. While certificate and various degree programs are offered, the most commonly obtained level of paralegal-based education is an associate degree in paralegal studies. A list of top U.S. paralegal schools in 2021 includes:

Salaries & Career Outlooks

Paralegal salary ranges are impacted by experience level, state, region (w/in your state) and size of the hiring law firm. For example, the median annual salary for a paralegal in Washington State is approximately $57,793 per year, whereas a paralegal in the District of Columbia earns approximately $21,000 more each year ($78,350/year average). Paralegals earn approximately $11,000 more per year than workers in other U.S. professions. The average job growth rate for paralegals is predicted to increase by ten percent through 2029, which is also better than the average growth rate for overall U.S. careers.

Costs & Financial Aid

Expenses pursuant to paralegal studies & training vary widely around the nation. Are you pursuing a paralegal certificate program? The average costs to complete paralegal certificate programs range between approximately $3,000 and $8,000 per program. That said, paralegal associate (two-year) degree programs are known to range drastically from as little as $500 per school year to $23,000 per school year and more. The same types of variations apply to bachelor (four-year) paralegal degree programs. What causes such a variation in tuition prices? In state, private, vocational, community and military-sponsored schools all have different tuition policies. For information on possible options for financial aid please fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Federal Pell Grants and various scholarship programs might be available to help pay for some (or all) of your paralegal education and training.

Online & Specialty Programs

Online paralegal schools offer similar or the same level of education and training as on-campus programs in 2021. Scholarships and other financial aid for online classes also exist to help mitigate expenses and get your degree faster. Due to COVID-19 some institutions still only offer virtual education programs in 2021. Purdue, Roger Williams and Bay Path universities are some of the top online paralegal course providers available today. Paralegal411.org is an excellent resource to help find other online paralegal programs. Specialized areas of paralegal law & course studies (online or on-campus) include:

  • Corporate.

  • Immigration.

  • Family.

  • Intellectual property.

  • Bankruptcy/debt.

  • Probate/estate planning.

  • Real estate.

  • Freelance.

  • Litigation.