Paralegal studies is ideal for someone who enjoys researching ethics and the law and can provide crucial support to a lawyer or legal team. Completing a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies shows a heightened level of education in this subject, involving a two- to four-year program that explores more advanced topics than those covered at the associate degree level. A bachelor’s degree program offers foundation courses in business, economics, English, and social science, in addition to more advanced topics in legal studies and enhanced organizational and administrative skills. As in all levels of education in paralegal studies, bachelor’s degree candidates are encouraged to seek out professional experience in addition to their education, and some may also choose to obtain paralegal certification, though neither is necessarily required by employers. Graduates of a bachelor’s degree program in this subject are not only eligible for advanced career positioning in paralegal studies, but may also use their bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite to law school.
Why a Bachelor’s Degree?
While an associate degree is typically the minimum degree required to be hired as an entry-level paralegal, the advanced education and experience that comes with a bachelor’s degree may mean you’re eligible for a higher position in your career. Bachelor’s degree holders also sometimes have the added benefit of learning on-the-job, which means some employers will consider hiring a candidate with a bachelor’s degree but no professional experience and provide work experience and training in-house, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). An online bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies provides the same in-depth study as a traditional degree but offers the added conveniences of cost-effective online courses and bachelor’s degrees that can be completed at the student’s leisure or in as little as two years.
Getting Into a Bachelor’s Degree Program
Although paralegal studies programs vary depending on the granting institution, bachelor’s degree programs are typically few and far between, and have minimal admissions requirements:
- associate degree, or high school diploma or GED (or equivalent)
- minimum required score on basic academic placement testing (if applicable)
- Application including statement of intent and/or application fees (as applicable, according to school)
- Transferred college-level course credits from previous education, if applicable
Inside a Bachelor’s Degree Program
Although the traditional bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies was designed as a four-year program, some online degrees in this subject can be completed in two to three years . Students entering this bachelor’s program following completion of their associate degree or with prior education in paralegal studies may be expected to take placement tests to determine their skill-level and potentially avoid repeating unnecessary basic courses in their major. At the bachelor’s level, students are encouraged to take electives in a specialization area of their choice, in addition to advanced courses in paralegal studies including legal research and writing, English composition, civil practice and procedure, and negotiation and problem-solving. They may also pursue work experience and/or official certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), though neither is typically a job requirement.
Online bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies are a smart option for students hoping to fast-track their education and start a career in paralegal studies. In an online program, everything from application to final exams is conducted via an Internet portal, developed just for e-learners. Students are able to digitally access documents, video files, and legal resources, and can also regularly participate in video chats, webinars, and live-chat conferences with professors and colleagues. Online institutions offering bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies often provide accommodating career counselors and extensive online law libraries to research issues specific to this program.
What’s Next for Paralegal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Holders?
All kinds of practicing lawyers, law firms, legal departments, and even government agencies are in need of highly qualified paralegals. With an advantage over entry-level degree holders in this field, a graduate of a bachelor’s degree program in paralegal studies with work experience under their belt is poised to pursue a more advanced position as a supervisor or team-lead in their career. Employers are especially impressed with paralegal candidates who show extensive experience in a particular concentration of the law. Paralegals in specialty areas may find increased career opportunities providing legal services in non-traditional settings, such as finance and insurance companies, or even the health care industry, according to the BLS.
Students with a bachelor’s degree may also choose to extend their education and pursue a master’s degree in this subject. While master’s programs in paralegal studies are uncommon, some do exist. Many students pursuing a career in paralegal studies will obtain a master’s degree in order to demonstrate a mastery of the subject and potentially secure the highest possible paralegal position within a specific government agency or law firm. Other graduates may choose to apply to law school upon completion of their bachelor’s degree, since this is a reasonable time in a burgeoning paralegal career to further define your goals and aspirations.