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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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.
The Best Online Associate in Legal Studies Programs
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 (SACS).
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.
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.
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.
- Legal Studies: 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: 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.
- Pre-Law: 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.
Online Associate in Legal Studies Careers
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.
Paralegal: 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 Officer: 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
Administrative Assistant: 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