Online paralegal degrees may be an ideal way to prepare for a career in law for those who are interested in the field but don’t want the lengthy educational preparation attorneys much have, the cost of law school, or the requirement to pass the bar exam. Paralegals are legal assistants who work for attorneys who delegate a number of tasks relating to legal research and the preparation of legal documents. While they cannot accept responsibility for trying cases or providing legal advice, they do work closely on legal matters in helping lawyers prepare for trails, hearing, closings, and commercial meetings and drafting legal documents like briefs, contracts, motions, and affidavits.
Employment Outlook in Paralegal Degree
Job opportunities for paralegals are expected to grow an amazing 28% by 2018, which is significantly higher than the national average of 12%. Many corporate employers are choosing to cut costs by hiring more paralegals to do some jobs that only lawyers previously did. The expected growth in the areas like elder law, health care law, and intellectual property law will require more paralegals to assist attorneys in those fields. Although the job outlook is quite favorable, a high degree of competition will likely accompany those openings as more and more people find a career as a paralegal to be a viable option for them.
The median salary for paralegals in May of 2008 was just over $46,000 with the top earners making close to $73,500 and the lowest earners brining in just under $30,000. Paralegals who work for legal aid or employment services are the ones at the lower end of the pay range while paralegals who work for the executive branch of federal government make the most. Because paralegals, like the lawyers they work alongside, often work long hours, they can also earn bonuses to compensate for this.
Educational Requirements in Paralegal Degree
There are several different online paralegal degrees that can lead to becoming a paralegal. One way is to earn an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from a community college. For those who already have a college degree, a certificate program is also available. Although not as commonly found, some universities do have bachelor’s degree programs in paralegal studies. Even though it’s possible to become a paralegal without a degree or certificate with on-the-job training, candidates for paralegal positions who have certificates or degrees have a significant competitive advantage over those that don’t in the hiring process.
Students who earn online bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies and take 3 courses at a time can finish their program in under 3 years, which makes it an attractive alternative for those interested in law but not willing to complete 7 years of undergraduate work plus law school.
However, students can work at a slower pace
Taking just 1 course at a time will put a student on track to complete an online degree in under 7 years. This option, though it takes much longer, is a path that some students choose who still need to keep their full-time jobs while in school.
An online bachelor’s program will expose students to the general areas of legal studies, business, and economics as well as develop their research, writing, and analytical skills. This foundation is then supplemented by course work in many different areas of the law so that paralegals are prepared for any legal environment in which they find themselves. These areas include criminal law, tort and personal injury, wills and trusts, patents and copyrights, employment, taxes, environment, and many more. Because of their broad array of knowledge and skills in so many legal areas, people who earn online paralegal degrees will be in high demand over the next decade.