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Paralegal School Information for 2016

Paralegal 411 is a comprehensive site designed to help you learn about paralegal schools and careers. Our resources include information on career paths, career interviews, salaries, certification options, our annual scholarship, and much more for those interested in learning more about the paralegal field.

The paralegal field can be profitable, with the top 10% of paralegals earning an average of $77,830.2 The paralegal profession is also fast growing. Between now and 2024, the field is expected to grow by 8%, which is slightly faster than the average rate of growth for all occupations in the US.2

Paralegal degree programs are available at over 900 colleges and universities across the United States and are designed to train future paralegals to work in law firms, corporations, or government. In addition to traditional on-campus programs, numerous paralegal schools offer online programs at the certificate, associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s levels. Over 260 paralegal programs in the United States are American Bar Association (ABA) approved.

Paralegal School Facts

  • There are 913 colleges or universities that offer a paralegal or legal assistant degree program in the United States.1
  • 268 schools offer ABA-approved programs for paralegals/legal assistants.
  • 341 schools offer certificate programs for paralegals/legal assistants.1
  • 781 schools offer associate’s degree programs for paralegals/legal assistants.1
  • 177 schools offer bachelor’s degree programs for paralegals/legal assistants.1
  • 38 schools offer advanced degree programs for paralegals/legal assistants.1

Paralegal School Information by State

Whether you are looking for a paralegal certificate or a more advanced program culminating in an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s paralegal degree, we offer a comprehensive listing of schools available to you. Many schools offer online options in addition to traditional on-campus programs, with options available for working professionals and those who have already started a career. Click on your state in the list below to learn about paralegal degree programs in your area.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Paralegal Program

Vetting through the selection process takes time. Below we have compiled some questions to consider that should help guide you through the process:

1. Does the school have national or regional accreditation?

It is essential to find out whether the school is accredited by a US Department of Education recognized accreditation body. These accreditation bodies are trusted by the US Department of Education to evaluate whether a school meets minimum quality standards. You can find a school’s accreditation status by searching the US Department of Education’s database. Unaccredited schools may not provide a comparable level of instruction or training. Furthermore, students at unaccredited schools cannot receive federal student aid and their credits may not be transferrable to a different college or university.

2. Is it an American Bar Association (ABA) approved program?

Some employers require that paralegals have graduated from an ABA-approved program. There are approximately 274 paralegal programs that have been found to meet or exceed the ABA’s standards and you can find them on the ABA website.

3. What services are offered to students?

Many programs offer robust coursework in addition to career services and externships. Savvy students know that not all paralegal programs are created equal. Find out if the school has value added services such as career services, financial aid counseling, placement assistance, tutoring, and academic advising. Online paralegal programs should have these services as well.

4. What facilities are available?

The school should have quality classrooms, a legal research library, and computer labs. All of the designated space and hardware should be ADA compliant.

5. What is the nature and scope of the curriculum?

Courses should combine practical job skills and strong legal theory. Coursework should consist of legal research, litigation, legal writing, case management, legal ethics, contracts, and torts. The program should help students to develop their critical thinking skills within the framework of the paralegal profession.

6. What are the goals of the program?

The mission or goals of the program should be congruent with your career and professional goals. Make sure the overarching mission of the program is a good fit.

7. What are the graduation requirements?

You will need to make sure you are able to complete all graduation requirements and that they are in line with your learning and career goals.

8. Background of faculty

A good paralegal program will feature knowledgeable professionals who have vast experience in the legal field.

Recent Paralegal Career Interviews

Read our career interviews with current legal professionals who share their career paths and advice for students who are preparing to graduate. Click on a profile image below to go to the individual’s interview.

Vicky La Celle
President, Orange County Paralegal Association

Chere Estrin
CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute

Kerry Spence
Pioneer and Leader in the Paralegal Field

Laura Kryta
President, Western New York Paralegal Association

See all of the interviews on our paralegal career interviews page. Also see our Advice for Getting Hired as a Paralegal page with job advice from 43 leaders in the paralegal field.

Popular Paralegal Schools

Below we have highlighted some well-known schools that offer a traditional paralegal program. Schools offering certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees are included in the list.

university of cincinnatiUniversity of Cincinnati: Highly regarded as a leader in paralegal education, the University of Cincinnati offers several programs in paralegal studies, including a bachelor’s degree, a minor, and a professional certificate. The paralegal program at the University of Cincinnati prepares students through extensive study within the field and readies its graduates for advanced study or immediate employment. The curriculum is extensive and includes focus area studies with courses such as Employment Law, Administrative Law, and Environmental Law, among others.

memphis universityUniversity of Memphis: Located in Memphis, Tennessee, the University of Memphis offers a four-year Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) with a concentration in legal studies. Legal studies concentration courses include professional paralegal core courses and legal-related electives. Ethics, legal research, and civil procedure are among the required courses in the program. The University of Memphis prides itself on preparing students to embark on successful careers in the legal field.

georgetown universityGeorgetown University: The Georgetown University paralegal program is known for its academic rigor and cutting edge curriculum. The program is approved by the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE), the International Practice Management Association (IPMA), and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). The program is designed to be completed in just one year or three 15-week semesters and is flexible for working professionals with evening and summer courses. Program graduates acquire an understanding of the essential elements of law as well as critical thinking and decision-making skills within the context of the duties of a paralegal.

villanova universityVillanova University: The Villanova University paralegal program confers a certificate in paralegal studies upon completion. Students may pursue the certificate full- or part-time; the part-time evening program can be completed in one year while the full-time day program can be completed in just 16 weeks. Both programs include courses in legal principles, legal research, and ethics. To be eligible for admission, students must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. The paralegal program at Villanova University is approved by the American Bar Association.

leuLouisiana State University: The Louisiana State University paralegal program can be completed in as little as 12 months with full-time study. The program is designed for working adults, with the majority of courses held in the evenings. Prospective students must have at least 45 college credits and a minimum grade point average of 2.3. The LSU paralegal certificate program is the only non-credit paralegal program in the state of Louisiana that holds approval from the American Bar Association.

san diego universityUniversity of San Diego: The University of San Diego paralegal studies program offers flexible delivery options, with classes during the day or evening. The full-time Intensive Day Program can be completed in as little as one term, while the part-time Evening Program can be completed in under one year. The curriculum helps students develop foundational knowledge of the legal system as well as skills in legal research, civil and business litigation, and intellectual property law. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college or be a current USD undergraduate with at least 70 or more semester credits. The paralegal program at the University of San Diego is approved by the American Bar Association.

Popular Online Paralegal Programs

The below paralegal schools offer programs online. These paralegal programs were chosen because they are well-known or well-respected and feature one or more options for paralegal students.

boston-universityBoston University (online): Boston University’s online Certificate in Paralegal Studies provides a flexible and comprehensive program of study to develop the skills needed to excel as a paralegal. The program emphasizes all of the competencies expected by today’s paralegal employers, including the use of specialized law technologies and research databases as well as advanced legal writing. Each of the program’s concentrated, two-week modules include in-depth, real-world case studies and practical learning exercises to help give students a competitive edge in this growing profession. Throughout the program, students also have access to the WestlawNext database to gain direct experience using one of the legal world’s most critical research tools. The program, taught by expert attorneys and leading faculty members at BU and one of the country’s premier institutions of higher learning, offers students a perfect combination of accessibility, affordability, and skills-based curriculum. As students can complete the program in just 14 weeks, the online Certificate in Paralegal Studies presents an excellent opportunity for students to prepare for success as a paralegal and move into a rapidly expanding profession.

Berkley LogoUniversity of California- Berkeley (online): UC Berkeley offers a certificate program in Paralegal Studies via UC Berkeley Extension. Students have the option of two learning formats to complete the certificate program: a fully-online curriculum or a hybrid option that combines classroom and online study. To apply, you need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, computer access, and basic word-processing and internet research skills. The certificate requires two courses and four electives totaling eight semester units. All enrolled students must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 and no grade lower than a C to receive the certificate. Those with a 3.7 GPA or higher will receive a Certificate With Distinction. Coursework must be completed within one year of enrollment, and courses include Paralegal Business Law, Paralegal Criminal Law, and Paralegal Family Law.

UGAUniversity of Georgia (online): The University of Georgia’s (UGA) Center for Continuing Education offers a paralegal certificate program online, offered through a partnership between UGA’s Center for Continuing Education and the Center for Legal Studies. Practice-oriented, students of the online certificate program will be trained in interviewing techniques, investigation, research, preparing legal documents, and case preparation. The course must be completed within 14 weeks, and students can interact directly with the instructor and fellow classmates. Even though the program is completed online, all written and oral assignments must be completed on time, and a final score of 70% or higher must be obtained in order to receive the certificate.

Liberty UniversityLiberty Unviersity (online): Liberty University offers a fully-online Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies degree. The BS requires 120 total credit hours, 30 of which must be taken at Liberty. The coursework has been carefully developed by practicing lawyers, who also teach the courses. Learning will be centered around the foundations of law, contemporary worldviews, rhetoric, and real estate, and much of the assignments are task-based to help you get used to real-world law. Minors are available in subjects such as Ethics, Psychology, and International Studies.

Saint Mary of the WoodsSaint Mary-of-the-Woods College (online): Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has several online paralegal degree offerings. Woods Online offers distance learning with mostly online classes, with a few hours of on-campus visits required. Approved by the ABA, SMWC has a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies, an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies, and a Paralegal Studies Certificate program. While none of the programs are 100% online, they are all distance-learning oriented, with ten credit hours of Legal Specialty courses being taken in a traditional (face-to-face) format (required for ABA-approval). Legal Specialty courses for all three programs include Law, Ethics, and Society, Computers in the Law, Advanced Legal Research and Writing, and Legal Practicum. For the bachelor’s degree, a Litigation Track or a Personal Law Track may be chosen. 120 total credit hours are required for the bachelor’s degree, 63 total hours are required for the associate degree, and 30 credit hours are required for the certificate.

Useful Resources for Students

1. National Center for Education Statistics: http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages May 2014, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm