Associate of Applied Science (AAS): Paralegal Degree Overview
Learn about the curriculum and requirements of an associate's degree program in paralegal studies. Find out about the employment outlook, salary trends, certification options and continuing education possibilities for graduates.
Students in this program can learn skills to work in law office settings as paralegals, who are legal assistants trained to provide support services to attorneys and clients. Paralegal studies associate's degree programs include coursework that prepares students to assist lawyers with tasks like writing briefs, conducting background research, interviewing witnesses and filing motions. Paralegals often find work in law firms, court systems, insurance companies and government agencies. A high school diploma or equivalent is required for admission to this program.
The curriculum combines traditional lectures and coursework with internships where students obtain hands-on training in real-life cases. Topics of study can include:
- Criminal law procedures
- Financial accounting
- Legal writing
- Computer-assisted legal research
- Civil litigation procedures
- Administrative laws
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of paralegals and legal assistants will increase by 17% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). In May 2012, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for these professionals was $46,990.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Paralegals and legal assistants can become certified to improve employment opportunities and demonstrate their knowledge. Qualified applicants who pass a 2-day certification examination can earn the credential of Certified Paralegal (CP) or Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Certification is also available through other organizations, such as the Alliance of Paralegals, Inc., which offers the American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential. Certification, which is typically good for two years, can be maintained by completing continuing education.
Bachelor's and master's degree programs are also available in paralegal and legal studies. A paralegal with a bachelor's degree and a minimum of two years experience can take the Registered Paralegal (RP) certification exam through the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). This 2-year certification requires 12 hours of continuing education for renewal. Paralegals may also earn the Professional Paralegal (PP) certification through the National Association of Legal Secretaries.
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