Paralegals and legal assistants are integral members of a law firm. They help research legal precedents and investigate the facts of a case for the attorneys they work with. In many firms, paralegals continue to take on more and more duties to help bring down the cost of legal services and allow attorneys to work more efficiently.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects positions for paralegals and legal assistants to increase 15% through 2026, with 11% growth in employment for other legal support workers. An online legal studies degree provides you with the skills necessary to take on these critical roles while also preparing you for further legal specialization, and a high-paying career with a median salary of $50,410 per year.
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Legal Studies Associate Degree Programs
Note: Because numerous types of degrees fall under the umbrella of “associate in legal studies,” the following sections display top-ranked programs from several related ranking articles on our website. To learn more about these different degrees, follow the link at the end of each section to their corresponding ranking article.
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Best Online Associate in Legal Studies Degree Programs
Online Associate in Legal Studies Degree Program Ranking Guidelines: We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
1. Tallahassee Community College
Tallahassee Community College in Florida provides career-focused education in more than 70 degree and certificate programs, including an online legal studies degree. The 64-credit program consists of 46 credits in legal instruction. Courses cover ethics, legal procedures, and office management as well as preparation in areas of business, real estate, family, and probate law. The college’s general education requirements ensure that graduates of the associate of science in paralegal and legal studies program meet transfer requirements for four-year colleges. More than 76% of the school’s graduates continue their education with a bachelor’s degree. The school maintains articulation agreements with multiple schools in Florida.
The online legal studies degree has no on-campus requirements and provides students with flexible course options. Online students can enjoy access to the school’s library, tutoring services, and career center job search assistance. The school also awards credits for work experience, military training, and professional certifications, as well as by exam.
Tallahassee Community College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
2. Saint Louis Community College
Saint Louis, Missouri
St. Louis Community College offers the oldest paralegal degree program in the county and uses a curriculum developed in cooperation with the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis. The associate of applied science in legal studies for the paralegal offers a foundation in legal terminology and procedures along with a study of federal and Missouri case law and statutes.
Students can complete more than half of the 60 required credits online. The degree does have on-campus requirements, with classes meeting at the Meramec or Florissant Valley, Missouri, campuses. Students learn about computer-assisted research, legal writing, and litigation, and may choose electives from a variety of legal specialties. Students also have the option to complete either an on-campus clinical study or off-campus internship to gain real-world experience. Students who already hold a postsecondary degree may select the certificate of proficiency, which includes 33 credits in legal education.
St. Louis Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
3. Herkimer County Community College
Herkimer, New York
Herkimer College in New York offers the convenience and flexibility of a fully online legal studies associate’s degree, which is one of more than 19 online degrees offered. The 62-credit program includes courses in torts, estate administration, and legal research and writing, as well as general education requirements. Students gain experience in drafting legal documents, interviewing clients, and conducting in-depth legal research.
The legal studies capstone requires 90 hours of practical experience in a law firm and completion of a final paper on a legal topic. Students can also benefit from transfer agreements with State University of New York Institute of Technology, Hilbert College, and Franklin University.
All online students can access support services, such as academic advising, technical support, library services, and tutoring. The school utilizes asynchronous course delivery through its internet academy and all faculty complete regular training in online course development.
Herkimer College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs
1. Pamlico Community College
Grantsboro, North Carolina
Among the country’s top-ranked community colleges, North Carolina’s PCC also offers one of the best online criminal justice associate degrees. The associate of arts program at PCC includes a general education component that prepares students to transfer credits toward a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university within the UNC system. Core coursework encompasses math, English, literature, natural sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and humanities and fine arts. Students must complete 60-61 semester credit hours to earn the AA degree.
PCC offers an associate of arts in criminal justice technology, introducing students to fundamental criminal justice operations. Students focus on learning how to use technology to record and examine evidence, such as crime scene photography and fingerprint analysis. Students enjoy a low student-to-teacher ratio of 9:1. The curriculum emphasizes a variety of courses in law enforcement, criminology, expository writing, and constitutional law. Criminal justice students participate in tours of law enforcement facilities and attend courtroom trials to understand practical applications of the skills learned in the degree.
Distance learners complete online coursework through Moodle. As a member of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity, PCC offers online courses to North Carolina residents and students in other states. Students can access the bookstore, career center, tutoring options, and library services at any time of the day or night through the Virtual Student Success Center. Applicants must submit a high school diploma or equivalent for consideration for the criminal justice associate degree.
Pamlico Community College is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
2. Northeast Community College
With four campus locations across the state of Nebraska, Northeast serves more than 6,700 students through a variety of associate, diploma, and certificate programs. Northeast’s online criminal justice associate degree offers concentrations in corrections and law enforcement, and it is designed for transfer to a four-year program. The associate of arts degree requires 60 credit hours in core, general education, and elective coursework.
Core courses in the AA in criminal justice introduce students to criminal justice, corrections, criminology, and the sociology of criminal behavior; communication skills are emphasized. The general education curriculum pulls from a wide variety of academic disciplines, including behavioral and social sciences, fine arts and language, English and literature, history, and oral and written communication. Elective course options include abnormal psychology, unity and diversity, and juvenile justice. Criminal justice majors may also complete an optional criminal justice practicum experience.
Distance learners in Northeast’s online AA program can join the school’s criminal justice association, which provides access to tours of local correctional facilities, guest speaker presentations, and mobile crime lab demonstrations. Past events hosted by the criminal justice association include assisting a missing persons search and a security exercise on campus, as well as providing security for the Cattlemans Ball. Students complete online courses using the Canvas platform. Northeast offers student support services, including virtual tutoring, academic advising, and an online writers' clinic.
Northeast Community College is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
3. Hutchinson Community College
Founded in 1928 in Hutchinson, Kansas, HCC served an initial enrollment of just 187 students in its first year. Today, the school offers over 120 academic majors to a student body of more than 5,600. HCC’s online criminal justice associate degree offers a concentration in criminal justice administration, which is ideal for students seeking eventual transfer to a bachelor’s degree. Students must complete 64 credits to earn the associate of science or associate of applied science in criminal justice administration, which can lead to careers in law enforcement and the correctional system.
HCC’s AS in criminal justice administration best suits students looking for a pathway to a bachelor’s program. Students complete courses in college orientation, public speaking, and English composition before moving on to core requirements in laboratory and social sciences, the humanities, and a choice of psychology or sociology. Graduates prepare to earn a bachelor’s degree to seek employment in law enforcement, probation, or parole. The AAS targets students with existing law enforcement academy certification. Students with this credential may apply 12 hours of academy training toward the 64 credits needed to complete the AAS degree. Coursework in this program emphasizes criminal investigation and procedures, law enforcement operations, criminal law, and ethical decision-making in the field.
Students complete online coursework through Canvas. Distance learners can complete HCC’s criminal justice programs entirely online. Academic services include access to the HCC Library, online proctoring, a student portal, and technical support.
Hutchinson Community College is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
See more of the Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degree Programs.
Best Online Associate in Homeland Security Programs
1. Keiser University–Ft Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Keiser is the third-largest nonprofit university in Florida and enrolls nearly 20,000 students. The university has sites in Nicaragua, China, Taiwan, Korea, and Moldova. Students can earn Keiser's AA in homeland security at its Florida campus, at an international site, or online.
The online associate in homeland security program reviews components, agencies, laws, authorities, and actions of the Department of Homeland Security. The curriculum explores acts of terrorism and homeland security agencies' response and recovery actions. Homeland security students complete 36 general education credit hours and 24 major hours.
A separate admissions team works with military personnel and their families. For military-affiliated students, Keiser offers monthly start dates, asynchronous courses, and unlimited access to Tutor.com. Keiser awards credit for military training and offers merit- and need-based scholarships. Distance learners have access to the online career center, which provides resume-building assistance, interviewing skills coaching, professional development workshops, and job postings.
Keiser University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
2. Campbell University
Buies Creek, North Carolina
Campbell began offering online programs in 1999. Each faculty member is certified in the online learning management system, and all of Campbell's online courses receive Development Evaluation for Course Instructional Design Elements certification. Campbell delivers online courses asynchronously in accelerated, eight-week terms.
The fully online associate of science in homeland security covers topics including emergency management and terrorism. Students complete 40 credit hours of general education core coursework and 24 hours in the homeland security concentration. Students must complete the Campbell seminar course during their first term. Campbell students must maintain a 2.0 GPA, and online tutoring services are available.
Military-affiliated students receive discounted tuition rates, and Campbell awards credit for military training. The university accepts a maximum of 64 transfer hours from two-year institutions and lower-level military credit. Students may transfer more than 64 hours from upper-level military credit, CLEP exams, and four-year institutions.
Campbell University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
3. Barton Community College
Great Bend, Kansas
Barton offers an associate of applied science in emergency management with an emphasis in homeland security. The program is designed for aspiring emergency management professionals and current professionals who want to advance their careers. Barton also offers a one-year, 34-credit emergency management certificate program.
Students earning the homeland security online associate degree complete 64 credits of general and major courses. Transfer students must earn at least 15 credits through Barton. The curriculum covers topics including hazardous materials, emergency planning, and terrorism. Military-affiliated students receive unlimited access to online tutoring services; all other students receive eight free hours of tutoring per semester.
All online students pay the same per-credit tuition rate, regardless of state residency. Barton awards credit for work experience, military training, and civilian education. Barton encourages students to submit transcripts from prior colleges and universities, exam results, and certificates of employer-based training for transfer credit evaluation.
Barton Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
See more of the Best Online Associate in Homeland Security Programs.
Best Online Paralegal Associate Degree Programs
1. Eastern Kentucky University–EKU Online
Eastern Kentucky University, a public university founded in 1906, enrolls over 16,000 students in variety of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. The university provides programs at the main campus in Richmond and at six branch campuses. The university also provides online programs.
Through the EKU Online platform, the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences provides an online Associate in Applied Science in Paralegal Studies degree program, approved by the ABA. Students develop knowledge and skills foundational to the practice, including legal research and writing and litigation. The program provides students with real-world experience through an internship.
The program holds the status of being a charter member of the American Association for Paralegal Education.
The online Paralegal Associate Degree program utilizes a unique combination of online and on-campus coursework. The program requires 64 credit hours total; students must complete 10 of these credit hours during an intensive two-week residency program.
The online Associate degree in Paralegal Studies program includes the following required courses:
- Introduction to Law
- Legal Research and Writing
- Real Estate/Bankruptcy Practice
- Litigation: Evidence to Discovery
- Litigation: Trial to Appeal
- Legal Administration and Computer Applications
In addition to the required and elective courses, students must complete an internship.
All full-time paralegal faculty members hold a JD (Juris Doctor) or PhD degree, and part-time faculty members include practicing attorneys, judges, and elected officials.
Eastern Kentucky University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
2. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College–Woods Online
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana
A private, not-for-profit institution, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College began serving students in 1840 and holds the distinction of being the oldest Catholic institution of higher learning in the state of Indiana. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College enrolls a student population of fewer than 1,000 (95% female) in a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. The small size of the university provides students with a low student-faculty ratio, and plenty of opportunities for a personalized academic experience.
Through the Woods Online platform, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College offers an online Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies, approved by the ABA. Students develop the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed as a paralegal, including organizational and technological skills and methods for researching and writing.
Emphasizing a liberal arts foundation, the online Paralegal Associate degree program encourages students to think about law in larger contexts, including society, history, and morality.
Since 1989, the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College paralegal studies program has been a member of the American Association for Paralegal Education.
The online Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies requires 41 credit hours total; students must complete 10 of these through face-to-face instruction. The program includes the following core courses:
- Computer Basics in Law
- Law, Ethics, and Society
- Legal Research
- Computers in the Law
- Commercial Transactions
- WESTLAW Enrichment
- Advanced Legal Research and Writing
Students in this online paralegal degree program must complete a legal practicum.
Students may continue their studies through an online Bachelor in Paralegal Studies degree program.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
3. University of Providence
Great Falls, Montana
The University of Providence, a private Roman Catholic university founded in 1932, enrolls a little over 1,000 students in undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs. Known as the University of Great Falls until 2017, the University of Providence was originally formed as a women's college, and became coeducational in 1937.
The University of Providence offers an online Associate in Paralegal Studies degree program, approved by the ABA. Balancing legal theory and practice with a liberal arts foundation, the program engages students with coursework in fundamental aspects of paralegal practice.
Students prepare for paralegal careers through developing a thorough understanding of research and writing, litigation, case procedure, and more.
Following ABA guidelines, students must complete 10 credits from legal specialty courses on campus. Students can complete the rest of the required and elective coursework entirely online.
This online Paralegal Associate degree program requires 60 credit hours total, and includes the following required courses:
- Commercial Law I
- Intro to law
- Intro to Legal Analysis
- Legal Research and Writing
- Litigation and Trial Practice
In addition to the required and elective courses, students must complete an internship and capstone project.
The University of Providence also offers a Bachelor of Science in Legal and Paralegal Studies program. In partnership with the US Army and Air Force, the University of Providence offers an ABA-approved online Bachelor of Science in Legal and Paralegal Studies to prepare students for Army and Air Force paralegal careers.
The University of Providence is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
See more of the Best Online Paralegal Associate Degree Programs.
If you’re interested in earning an associate legal studies degree, online schools offer multiple options that can prepare you for the workforce. Also, attending an accredited school ensures you’ll be able to continue your education with a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Additional training may allow you to move into new career fields, such as mediation.
An associate in legal studies degree provides a foundation in legal writing, professional ethics, and general law firm management. A bachelor’s degree offers in-depth study of legal specializations, like family law, real estate, or probate court.
Criminal justice degrees prepare you for work in multiple areas of the legal and law enforcement industry, such as law enforcement or correctional officers. The curriculum builds on the legal foundation learned as an undergraduate in legal studies and branches into psychology and forensic science.
If your career goal includes attending law school and becoming a practicing attorney, a pre-law undergraduate degree will prepare you for law school. Coursework covers history, psychology, communication, and legal studies.
Careers with an Associate in Legal Studies
The research, communication, and legal specialty courses in an online legal studies degree not only prepare you for a career as a paralegal or legal assistant but a few other professions in the legal field as well. Many graduates may find their skills and interests lead them to work in law enforcement, either as a police officer or in a managerial role, or to continue their studies with an academic law degree.
Law firms are the largest employers of paralegals and legal assistants. Paralegals may also work in corporate law offices preparing legal documents for financial disclosures or regulatory compliance. You’ll need top-notch skills in research, including computer-assisted legal research, as well as organizational ability and interpersonal skills to work effectively with clients and supervising attorneys.
- Median Annual Salary: $50,410
Probation officers assist individuals trying to rehabilitate their lives after being found guilty of a crime. They ensure their clients comply with all court-mandated provisions, such as job training or employment and substance abuse counseling. Educational requirements vary, but many jurisdictions seek applicants with a bachelor’s degree in a field related to criminal justice or social work.
- Median Annual Salary: $51,410
Legal secretaries perform a variety of administrative tasks, such as or data entry or setting appointments. They often work under the direction of a paralegal or attorney and provide quality assurance to legal briefs or assist with legal research. They have an understanding of legal terminology and processes and often prepare routine legal documents.
- Median Annual Salary: $37,870
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics