Paralegal School Information for 2021
Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, work under the direction of attorneys to complete integral tasks that help the attorneys or law firms serve their clients. Over 650 colleges and universities across the US offer paralegal degree programs, which are designed to train future paralegals to work in law firms, corporations, or government.1 Paralegal programs are offered at all types of schools, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The majority of paralegal and legal assistant programs are certificates and associate degrees, but bachelor’s and master’s programs are also available at a number of schools. In addition to traditional on-campus programs, numerous paralegal schools offer online programs to accommodate working and busy students.
If you would like to learn more about what a paralegal does, visit our paralegal careers page. Or, continue reading this guide to find information on paralegal schools in your state, the best value schools with paralegal programs, how to choose a program, and select profiles of paralegal programs.
Paralegal School Facts
- There are 664 colleges or universities that offer a paralegal or legal assistant degree program in the United States.1
- 360 schools offer certificate programs for paralegals/legal assistants.1
- 455 schools offer associate’s degree programs for paralegals/legal assistants.1
- 179 schools offer bachelor’s degree programs for paralegals/legal assistants.1
- 51 schools offer advanced degree programs for paralegals/legal assistants.1
For not-for-profit colleges and universities with paralegal/legal assistant degree programs
Table of Contents
- Paralegal School Information by State
- Best Value Schools with On-Campus Paralegal Programs
- Factors to Consider When Choosing a Paralegal Program
- Paralegal Career Interviews
- Select Schools with On-Campus Paralegal Programs
- Select Schools with Online and Hybrid Paralegal Programs
- Additional Resources
- Frequently Asked Questions
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 that are ideal for working professionals.
- Select One
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington DC
- West Virginia
Best Value Schools with On-Campus Paralegal Programs
With a variety of paralegal schools to choose from, it can be difficult to know which one is best for you. To assist you in this decision, we have put together the following best values table displaying the top affordable colleges and universities offering paralegal or legal studies degrees at the associate or bachelor’s level in an on-campus format. We have researched the paralegal schools with a high graduation rate (65% and higher) and a low net price (less than $20,000 per year). High graduation rates are typically indicative of a college’s or university’s success, while a low net price is an important factor for most students since a college education can represent such a large investment. We have also included other important information about these schools, including retention rate, transfer-out rate, student loan default rate, percentage of tenured faculty, and US News & World Report rankings. Click on a header to sort the table by any value.
|School||Grad Rate1||Retention Rate*1||Transfer Out Rate**1||Student Loan Default Rate1||% Tenured Faculty2||US News National Rank3||US News Regional Rank4||Net Price1|
|Frontier Community College||70%||71%||9%||9.0%||N.Av.||NR||NR||$670|
|De Anza College||65%||80%||8%||12.7%||N.Av.||NR||NR||$5,905|
|University of Washington-Seattle Campus||84%||94%||N.Av.||2.5%||51%||#59 tie||NR||$9,765|
|University of Central Florida||73%||90%||15%||4.5%||43%||#165 tie||NR||$13,016|
|Arizona State University-Tempe||69%||87%||N.Av.||6.5%||48%||#115 tie||NR||$13,731|
|University of Wisconsin-Madison||87%||95%||N.Av.||1.7%||49%||#49 tie||#43 tie||$14,169|
|University of California-Santa Barbara||82%||93%||N.Av.||2.4%||61%||#30 tie||NR||$16,912|
|Grand Valley State University||66%||83%||16%||3.9%||38%||NR||#29 tie||$17,184|
|University of California-Santa Cruz||74%||91%||5%||3.6%||49%||#70 tie||NR||$17,266|
|University of California-Berkeley||91%||97%||N.Av.||2.4%||51%||#22 tie||#52||$17,862|
|University of Kansas||65%||83%||26%||5.0%||48%||#129 tie||NR||$18,415|
|Illinois State University||69%||81%||N.Av.||3.5%||43%||#171 tie||NR||$19,489|
- *The retention rate is the percentage of first-time, full-time students who continued to a second year of study at the same institution.
- **The transfer-out rate is the percentage of first-time, full-time students who transferred their credits to another institution within 150% of the normal time to complete their degree.
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 regional accreditation?
It is essential to find out whether the school is accredited by one of the US Department of Education recognized accreditation bodies. 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 transferable 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 a few hundred paralegal programs that have been found to meet or exceed the ABA’s standards and you can search for 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 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. What is the background of faculty members?
A good paralegal program will feature knowledgeable professionals who have vast experience in the legal field. Online programs should be taught by the same faculty as the on-campus counterpart.
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.
Vicky La Celle
President, Orange County Paralegal Association
CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute
Pioneer and Leader in the Paralegal Field
President, Western New York Paralegal Association
Select Schools with Traditional Paralegal Programs
Highly regarded as a leader in paralegal education, the University of Cincinnati (UC) offers an online Bachelor of Science (BS) in Law & Paralegal Studies. The BS program is ABA-approved and offered completely online only. It is designed to prepare students for work as legal aid advocates, clerks of court, or administrative assistants in courts. Part-time and full-time schedules are available to meet a variety of student needs. Students take courses such as Estate Planning & Probate; Investigative Techniques and Evidence; Criminal Procedure; and Corporate Law & Business. An internship is also offered for students to gain real-world experience in a business environment prior to graduation. In addition to the BS degree, UC also offers a Minor in Paralegal Studies and an undergraduate Paralegal Certificate.
The University of Memphis (U of M) offers a four-year Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) with a concentration in Legal Studies. The curriculum includes 35 to 41 hours of general education and 54 hours of coordinated study. The coordinated study courses include 30 hours of professional paralegal core courses such as Contracts Commercial Law and Bankruptcy Practices, and law-related electives like Real Estate Practices and Healthcare Liability U of M’s BPS program emphasizes the study of four paralegal disciplines: theory, legal research, technology, and communication. The school also offers a Legal Studies 3+3 Accelerated Bachelor of Arts/Juris Doctor (BA/JD) program for students who would like to earn a bachelor’s degree and a law degree in just six years.
Georgetown University offers two programs for non-lawyers: a Master of Studies in Law (MSL) in Taxation degree and a Master of Law and Technology (MLT), along with several concentration options and specialized certificate options. The 24-credit Executive MSL in Taxation is offered in an online format and is designed for experienced tax professionals (non-attorneys) who wish to study advanced tax courses such as Advanced Individual Tax and Personal Financial Planning; Consolidated Returns; and Federal Limitations on State and Local Taxation. The 24-credit MLT is for non-lawyers who wish to study the changing and complex relationship between law and technology through courses such as Biotechnology and Patent Law Seminar; Assisted Reproductive Technologies and the Law; and Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and the Law: A Comparative Analysis Between the EU and the US. In addition to these programs, Georgetown Law offers a Master of Laws (LLM) in Technology Law and Policy for practicing lawyers and policymakers as well as recent law school graduates who are interested in entering technology-related roles.
Villanova University offers an ABA-approved Paralegal Professional Certificate program that can be pursued full- or part-time; the part-time online evening program is ideal for working students and can be completed in nine months while the full-time day program can be completed in just four months in a condensed format. Both programs include courses in legal principles, legal research, ethics, and types of law such as criminal, contract, real estate, and family. To be eligible for admission, students must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. A grade of “C” or higher must be earned in each class in order to obtain the certificate.
The Louisiana State University (LSU) non-credit, ABA approved Paralegal Studies Certificate program can be completed in as little as one year with full-time study, or up to two and a half years with part-time study. The program is designed for working adults, with the majority of courses held in the evenings, but no weekend classes. Eight courses, a 150-hour internship, and an online legal ethics seminar are required. Prospective students must have at least 45 college credit hours and a minimum GPA of 2.3. At least 18 of the 45 semester hours must be in general education. Up to 10 credit hours can be transferred from another ABA-approved legal studies program. Cohorts begin in the spring and fall semesters.
The University of San Diego (USD) offers a 24-credit, ABA-approved Paralegal Certificate program with 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. The Evening Program is designed for students who work full time and are looking to advance in their careers. The Day Program is ideal for students who are eager to enter the legal profession with a condensed format. Applicants to the Day Program must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. Applicants to the Evening Program must have an associate or bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, though a limited number of students are accepted who have some college credits and/or business or legal experience, with a current resume required.
Select Schools with Online and Hybrid Paralegal Programs
Boston University’s (BU) online non-credit 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 Westlaw Next 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, offers students a skills-based curriculum that can be completed in 14 weeks. Modules will be completed in Legal Research, Legal Writing and Reasoning; Legal Technologies; Real Estate Law; Business Law; Litigation; and Probate and Family Law.
The University of California-Berkeley (UC Berkeley) offers a 100% online certificate program in Paralegal Studies via UC Berkeley Extension. Applicants should 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 that can be completed in six months to one year. All enrolled students must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 and no grade lower than a “C” to receive the certificate. Those with a 4.0 GPA or higher will receive a Certificate of Distinction. Coursework must be completed within one year of enrollment, and courses include Paralegal Business Law, Paralegal Criminal Law, and Paralegal Family Law.
The University of Georgia’s (UGA) offers a paralegal certificate program online through a partnership between its Center for Continuing Education and Center for Legal Studies. Through a practice-oriented curriculum, students of the online certificate program will be trained in interviewing, investigation, and research techniques, as well as preparing legal documents and cases. The course is 90 hours, comprises nine continuing education units (CEUs), and must be completed within 14 weeks. Students can interact directly with the instructor and fellow classmates online. UGA also offers an Advanced Paralegal Certificate online for students who wish to study more specialized topics in the legal field.
Liberty University offers a fully-online Bachelor of Science (BS) in Paralegal Studies degree that can be taken completely online. 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 is centered around the foundations of law, contemporary world views, rhetoric, and real estate, and much of the assignments are task-based to help students get used to real-world law. Minors are available in subjects such as Ethics, Psychology, and International Studies.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) offers an ABA-approved online Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Paralegal Studies. To complete the 120-credit curriculum, students complete 39 credit hours of Required Woods Core classes, 39 credit hours of Required Paralegal Courses, 12 credit hours of Required Paralegal Electives, and 30 credit hours of Open Electives. Required Paralegal courses include Law, Ethics, and Society; Computers in the Law; Advanced Research and Writing; and Legal Practicum. SMWC Woods Online also offers a 60-credit hour Associate of Arts (AA) in Paralegal Studies, a 36-credit hour Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Paralegal Studies, and a Pre-Law minor.
- Directory of ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs: Look up any school or state to find approved programs in your area.
- Legal Talk Network: The Paralegal Voice: A podcast that looks into the latest trends in the paralegal/legal assistant profession.
- National Association for Legal Assistants (NALA): Provides continuing education and networking opportunities to advance the profession of paralegals and other legal professionals.
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA): An association focused on issues and policies affecting the paralegal profession.
- Advice for Getting Hired as a Paralegal: Leaders in the field share helpful advice and tips for recent graduates looking to become paralegals.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do paralegals make?
The paralegal field can be profitable, with the top 10% of paralegals earning $85,160 or more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).5 The median annual salary for legal assistants and paralegals was $52,920 as of May 2020.5 The BLS reports that paralegals working for the federal government (at $69,490) and in finance and insurance (at $66,390) were in the top-paying industries.5
What is the job outlook for graduates of paralegal schools?
The paralegal profession is growing. Between 2019 and 2029, the field is expected to grow by 10%, which is much faster than the average rate of growth for all occupations in the US.5
Should I go to an online paralegal school?
Many programs that prepare graduates to be legal assistants and paralegals are offered online or in hybrid formats. These types of programs can be ideal for students who work during the day and for whom in-person commitments surrounding traditional programs can be challenging. The ABA does not currently approve fully-online paralegal programs, however, so if attending an ABA-approved program is important to you, a 100% online paralegal school is not a good option. The most important thing to look for is a regionally accredited school that aligns with your career goals.
How long is paralegal school?
Students attending school to become paralegals should expect to study for a minimum of a year, depending on the degree level they choose. Some certificate programs can be completed in a year. Most associate degrees take two years to complete, bachelor’s programs take four years, and master’s degrees take one to two years to finish.
1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/
3. US News & World Report National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
4. US News & World Report Regional University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/regional-universities
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm