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Paralegal Bachelor’s Degrees: What To Know – Forbes Advisor

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Paralegals do not need to attend law school or pass the bar exam to be successful. They only need extensive legal knowledge, which they can gain from a paralegal bachelor’s degree program.

This article discusses the different types of paralegal bachelor’s degrees, along with accreditation for paralegal programs and alternative career choices for paralegals.

What Is a Paralegal Bachelor’s Degree?

Paralegals perform substantive legal tasks for attorneys, law firms, corporations and government agencies.

As such, a paralegal bachelor’s degree offers courses like legal ethics, electronic legal research, torts law, evidence gathering, civil practice, contracts and constitutional issues to develop the skills and knowledge required for legal assistant jobs. Paralegal studies majors learn to conduct legal research, draft legal documentation and understand legal concepts and proceedings.

A paralegal bachelor’s degree qualifies graduates to apply for paralegal certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. Though earning certification is not mandatory to work as a paralegal, some employers may prefer or require this credential.

Earning a paralegal bachelor’s degree typically takes 120 credits and four years of full-time study. Part-time learners, however, may need more time to complete their program. Some schools may require learners to complete an internship at a law firm or local company as part of their paralegal bachelor’s degree.

What Do Paralegals Do?

Although their background is in legal studies, paralegals can work in various industries. Beyond law firms, these professionals also find jobs as legal assistants in tax, finance, manufacturing, immigration, healthcare and real estate companies.

Paralegals can also specialize their knowledge in one area of law to find work in specific subfields. For example, programs may offer concentrations in corporate law, litigation, real estate law, personal injury, criminal law, family law, bankruptcy and intellectual property law.

Typical paralegal duties include:

  • Managing case files
  • Conducting research on specific laws and regulations
  • Gathering evidence and other documents required for court proceedings
  • Drafting legal documents
  • Scheduling interviews and depositions
  • Taking notes and reviewing court transcripts

Types of Bachelor’s Degrees for Paralegals

Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies

A bachelor’s in paralegal studies is a four-year program that imparts an understanding of the paralegal’s role and insights into specific areas of the law. Students also develop strong writing and legal research skills.

Paralegal studies programs are tailor-made for prospective paralegals. However, they can also lead to other law-adjacent careers such as legal staffing recruiter, tax preparer, contracts administrator or legal researcher.

Typical courses for these degrees include legal theory and ethics, torts, litigation, dispute resolution, negotiation fundamentals and constitutional law.

Bachelor’s in Jurisprudence

Jurisprudence bachelor’s degrees emphasize the theory and philosophy of law. Undergraduates in these programs learn to think critically, conduct legal research, analyze legal material and write about complex legal issues. Common courses for this major include ethics, legal theory, government and history.

Aside from working in the legal sector, jurisprudence graduates can also find real estate, law enforcement and insurance jobs. These degrees typically require 120 credits and four years of full-time study.

Bachelor’s in Legal Studies

A bachelor’s in legal studies offers a broad understanding of the law and the legal system. The typical curriculum for this degree includes fundamentals of the U.S. legal system, intellectual property and technology, criminal law and legal theory.

Earning a bachelor’s in legal studies is often a stepping stone to law school. The degree can also qualify learners for work as paralegals, court reporters, law librarians, law enforcement officers, probation officers or social workers. Legal studies degrees typically require 120 credits and four years of full-time study.

Admission Requirements for Paralegal Bachelor’s Degrees

The basic admission requirement into a bachelor’s program is a high school diploma or the equivalent (e.g., a GED® diploma).

Some colleges and universities may also require criteria like:

  • Being in the top 25% of your high school graduating class
  • ACT or SAT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement

Accreditation for Paralegal Bachelor’s Degree

Prospective students should ensure any schools they consider hold institutional accreditation from an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council of Higher Education Accreditation. Institutional accreditation verifies that a college or university meets standards of academic excellence.

Additionally, learners seeking paralegal and paralegal-adjacent degrees can look for schools with membership to the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE). All institutions that belong to AAfPE hold approval from the American Bar Association, which signifies that their paralegal programs meet national educational and industry standards.

What Jobs Can You Get With a Paralegal Bachelor’s Degree?

The salary data below comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Paralegal

Median Annual Salary: $59,200
Minimum Required Education: Associate degree in paralegal studies
Job Overview: Paralegals help attorneys win cases and reach favorable settlements. They handle various duties, including drafting contracts, handling exhibits, reviewing court transcripts, conducting research and writing reports. To learn more, see our guide on how to become a paralegal.

Mediator or Arbitrator

Median Annual Salary: $64,030
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in legal studies
Job Overview: Mediators and arbitrators facilitate out-of-court negotiations between disputing parties. They hold private hearings where they interview claimants, clarify issues and guide the disputants toward a peaceful resolution.

Court Reporter

Median Annual Salary: $63,560
Minimum Required Education: Postsecondary certificate
Job Overview: Court reporters transcribe speech and events from trials, depositions and other legal proceedings. Because their work revolves around writing, these professionals must be detail-oriented and have strong writing skills.

Compliance Officer

Median Annual Salary: $71,690
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in legal studies, business or management
Job Overview: Compliance officers ensure organizations adhere to government regulations. They monitor business processes to identify and mitigate regulatory risks.

Probation Officer

Average Annual Salary: $59,860
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, legal studies or social sciences
Job Overview: Probation officers supervise the conduct of law offenders on probation and help rehabilitate them. They achieve the rehabilitation goal by studying the offenders’ history, interviewing probationers, testing them for evidence of substance abuse, connecting their clients to resources and offering counseling. Learn more with our guide on how to become a probation officer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Bachelor’s Degrees for Paralegals

How do I become a paralegal?

You can become a paralegal by earning a paralegal degree from an accredited college or university. In addition to four-year programs, some schools offer associate degrees and paralegal certificates.

Do paralegals have to be licensed?

No, most states do not require paralegals to hold licensure. However, earning paralegal certification can help you stand out in the job search, and some employers may require these credentials.

How long does it take to be a paralegal?

Becoming a paralegal can take two to five years. A paralegal bachelor’s degree usually takes four years to complete, while earning additional certifications can take up to a year.

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