Paralegal Bachelor’s Degree
A paralegal bachelor’s degree offers students the chance to gain in-depth knowledge of the legal system and to learn the skills necessary to work in this demanding and fast-paced field. Paralegals primarily work in law offices but may also find work in government or private organizations. Daily tasks may be comprised of preparing a variety of documents including wills, contracts, research reports, transcripts, and briefings, and working with legal teams and clients. Paralegals are generally not allowed to provide legal advice to the public and instead must work under the supervision of a lawyer to assist with administrative and research processes.
Bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies are usually offered in two formats: either as four-year programs requiring at least 120 credits or as degree completion programs for individuals with prior education, experience, or training. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), over 200 public and private not-for-profit schools offer bachelor’s programs in paralegal or legal studies across the US.1
Table of Contents
- Learning Goals
- Program Options
- Core Concepts
- Select Program Profiles
- Jobs with a Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
- Frequently Asked Questions
Paralegal Bachelor’s Degree Learning Goals
1. Gain extensive knowledge of the legal system.
Students in undergraduate paralegal programs learn about various aspects of the law and legal system. Students may also gain specialized knowledge of a specific area or aspect of the system based on their interests and career plans. This knowledge is critical to successful employment in the legal services field.
2. Develop detailed administrative skills.
Once paralegal students have gained a thorough understanding of the legal system, they learn how to create, organize, and analyze legal documents and legal research required in various legal processes. These processes require strong administrative skills to ensure accuracy and efficiency.
3. Master group communication and interpersonal skills.
Individuals with bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies are professionals in the legal field and must conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner. Undergraduate paralegal programs usually include specific coursework on legal ethics and professional communication skills, such as business writing and teamwork.
Bachelor’s in Paralegal Program Options
While it is possible to work as a paralegal without a degree, according to O*NET OnLine, 34% of paralegals individuals hold a bachelor’s degree.2 The American Bar Association (ABA) offers optional program certification to help prospective students identify programs that meet basic educational requirements. Choosing an ABA-approved program may be beneficial while looking for work, but as this is an optional certification for schools, lack of ABA approval does not necessarily indicate that a program is sub-par. While attending an ABA-approved school is not required for prospective paralegals, it may be preferred by some employers and may give job candidates an advantage when compared to other candidates. Keep in mind that the ABA does not currently approve paralegal programs that are 100% online, but hybrid programs may be approved.
It is also important to understand the format options (on-campus, online, or hybrid) of the paralegal programs being considered in order to ensure that the program chosen will best meet the student’s needs and preferred method of learning.
Online Degree Program Formats
Working students who need flexibility in a paralegal program may choose to look for an online or hybrid bachelor’s degree program. Students who prefer a more traditional classroom format may choose to attend a classic on-campus paralegal bachelor’s degree program.
The admission requirements for a paralegal bachelor’s degree program will depend on whether the program is designed for students with no prior college education or as a degree completion program for those with prior experience. The four-year degree programs typically require a high school diploma or GED with a minimum GPA and sometimes SAT or ACT scores. Degree completion programs may also require a high school diploma or GED as well as transcripts showing prior education in legal studies or a related field as well as a resume showing experience in the legal field. In both instances, personal statements and letters of recommendation may be required as well.
Core Concepts and Coursework
Course requirements for bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies can vary. For example, a four-year degree program is more likely to include foundational coursework in legal systems and paralegalism compared to a degree completion program. In general, coursework in a paralegal program may cover topics such as professional communication, legal ethics, legal systems, and investigations. Some programs may also have specialization options in specific areas of law or procedure. Examples of courses found in a four-year degree program include:
- Advanced Issues in Constitutional Law
- Advanced Topics in Legal Ethics
- Business Writing
- Conducting Legal Research
- Contracts & Torts
- Family Law
- Foundations of Paralegalism
- Interviewing and Presentation Skills
- Practicum or Internship
- Probate and Estate Planning
Select Paralegal Bachelor’s Degree Programs
At Loyola University Chicago, students can enroll in a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Paralegal Studies degree completion program through the Institute of Paralegal Studies. This program enables students who have already completed at least 15 credits in paralegal studies, such as through an associate’s degree program, to work towards a bachelor’s degree with concentrations in litigation practice, corporate practice, or both. Courses include Advanced Topics in American Law, Legal Research & Writing I and II, and Legal Ethics. Each student must complete at least 48 credits in total but the number of transfer credits will vary based on each student’s previous experience. Students can apply to five start dates throughout the year in August, October, January, March, and June. Courses are structured in eight-week blocks and offered online and on-campus during evenings and weekends. The program is designed for working professionals and can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis. Students also have the option to complete a specialized certificate in Civil Litigation by focusing their electives in the program.
The University of Cincinnati’s (UC) College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services has a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Paralegal Studies program that takes four years of full-time study to complete or longer via part-time study. The program includes both paralegal and criminal justice content with required courses such as Legal Research and Writing I and II; Investigative Techniques and Evidence; and Criminal Procedure. An internship is also required in the senior year. New students are admitted for the fall, spring, and summer terms. Paralegal students can benefit from the many on-campus and online special topics seminars held by the School of Criminal Justice throughout the year to earn extra credit and interact with students from other related programs. A minor in Paralegal Studies is also offered in conjunction with other major programs as well as an Associate of Applied Business (AAB) in Paralegal Studies and a Paralegal Certificate program offered at various UC campuses.
The University of New Haven offers an ABA-approved Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Legal Studies with a concentration in Paralegal Studies that can be completed full-time or part-time. The program boasts interdisciplinary and global perspectives on local and global legal issues with a required internship and an optional study abroad experience. At least 124 credits are necessary to graduate including the university’s liberal arts core and the legal studies major. The Paralegal Studies concentration includes courses such as Legal Research and Writing; Legal Ethics and Prof Responsibility; Administrative Law and Regulation; and Legal Investigation. Applicants can request to live in a designated Pre-Law community during the first year of the program if they would like to live with other students interested in various legal careers, including further legal study. Other concentrations available for the BS in Legal Studies are Public Affairs and Dispute Resolution. The university also offers a minor in Legal Studies, an Associate of Science in Legal Studies, and a Paralegal Studies Certificate program.
Online and Hybrid Programs
Hampton University offers a four-year Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Paralegal Studies fully online through the Hampton U Online portal. This university is designated by the US Department of Education as a Historically-Black College or University (HBCU). The program requires the completion of 122 credit hours including the liberal arts core, paralegal requirements, and electives. Paralegal courses include Legal Research; Introduction to Administrative Law; and Litigations and Trial Practice, which are offered online using the Blackboard platform. Students also complete an internship. Hampton University offers extensive support for individuals serving in the military who wish to complete their degrees online, including experiential and work experience credit, flexible course schedules, and tuition assistance programs.
The Department of Social and Behavioral Science at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) is home to the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with a Paralegal Studies major. Students must complete the Woods Core liberal arts requirements as well as 51 credits for the major consisting of 39 required credits and 12 elective credits. The university offers a range of online degree programs through its Woods Online campus, so students in the online paralegal degree program can access many different electives in addition to the required paralegal courses. Required courses include Legal Communication; Interviewing and Investigation; and Theories of Liability. Electives include Mediation/Alternative Dispute Resolution; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; and Women and the Law. Students must also complete at least 150 hours of supervised practicum either during the summer or part-time during the academic year. Prospective applicants can also consider SMWC’s 45-credit Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies program or the 36-credit Post-Baccalaureate Certificate program in Paralegal Studies for those who already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject.
For students with no prior paralegal training, William Woods University offers the chance to enter directly into a four-year degree program and complete a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Paralegal Studies entirely online. The curriculum includes 42 paralegalism credits organized in a set sequence as part of the university’s 122-credit degree requirements. The program aims to help students build a foundation in legal studies before progressing to more advanced coursework. Courses include Law and Paralegalism; Civil Practice; Constitutional Issues; and Tort Law. Students must also complete a practicum and capstone project towards the end of the program. Courses are offered in eight-week blocks, allowing new students to enter the program at various points throughout the year. Applicants must submit an online application with high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores for consideration. The university may accept credit for previous experience, including military service, related workplace training, or volunteer training.
Jobs with a Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies
Paralegals typically work for private legal firms under the supervision of lawyers. Job titles common for paralegal bachelor’s degree graduates include:
- Compliance Officer
- Court Clerk
- Executive Assistant
- Generalist Paralegal
- Law Clerk
- Legal Administrator
- Legal Advocate
- Legal Assistant
- Legal Researcher
- Legal Secretary
- Risk Management Advisor
- Specialist Paralegal
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do most paralegals find employment?
The overwhelming majority of paralegal graduates find employment in the legal services field. According to the BLS in 2019, 254,830 paralegals were employed in the legal services field compared to 38,320 paralegals employed in local, federal, state government combined.3
How much do paralegals make?
In 2019, paralegals and legal assistants employed in the legal services field earned an average salary of $55,020, with those employed in the federal executive branch of government earning the highest average salary of $70,040.3 Those paralegals employed in legal services, who make up the majority, earned an average of $52,910 per year.3
What is the difference between a Bachelor of Arts in Paralegal Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies?
Each university decides the degree titles and requirements for their programs; therefore, prospective applicants should always review the curriculum requirements before applying. For example, a Bachelor of Science degree may have more foundational math, statistics, and science requirements compared to a Bachelor of Arts degree. However, both degrees will require paralegal courses and most employers look equally favorably upon both types of degrees.
Can I get my paralegal bachelor’s degree online?
There are many online paralegal bachelor’s degree programs available for students who may work full time, or have other obligations that prohibit them from attending school on a full-time basis. Below we have listed several programs open to students interested in building a career in this field that can be completed fully online. You can also read more about online paralegal degrees through our guide to top-ranked online paralegal programs.
Where is the best place to find a paralegal job?
In 2019, the states with the highest concentration of paralegal jobs were Washington DC, Florida, and Connecticut; however, the highest number of jobs overall were in California, Florida, and New York.3 At the metropolitan level, the highest concentrations of paralegal jobs in 2019 were found in Columbia, SC, New Bern, NC, and Charleston, WV, while the highest number of paralegal jobs overall were in the metro areas of New York, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.3
How does the job outlook for paralegals and legal assistants compare to other types of jobs?
According to the BLS, the outlook for paralegal and legal assistant jobs is projected to grow by 10% through 2029, which is much faster than the outlook for all jobs combined during the same time period.4
How can I get certified with a paralegal bachelor’s degree?
While state certification is typically voluntary through state bar associations, there are several optional certifications and professional exams for individuals who would like to further highlight their knowledge to potential employers, such as those offered through the National Federation of Paralegal Assistants (NFPA). These national certifications may lead to increased job prospects. A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies will typically qualify paralegals for these types of certifications.
1. National Center for Education Statistics, College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. O*NET OnLine https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/23-2011.00
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm