When considering a paralegal studies program, students have three degree options: Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS). The path you choose will depend on your future career or academic goals. The AAS is designed for those who want to join the workforce in an entry-level position directly after school. For students interested in pursuing a bachelor’s, or those who want to become lawyers, the AA or AS programs are usually transferable to four-year schools.
An online associate degree in paralegal studies covers the fundamentals of law, legal processes and the special duties required to assist an attorney. The degree, which can often be completed within one or two years, qualifies individuals to begin their paralegal careers upon graduating. With employment opportunities for paralegals expected to grow 17% between 2012 and 2022, now is a great time to pursue this degree.
By earning a paralegal studies associate degree online, students are afforded additional computer and writing skills, while enjoying flexible class schedules and the convenience of taking their courses pretty much anywhere. Additionally, students save money on commuting, parking and class materials, since most of what you need is available online.
Any one of the online associate in paralegal studies programs on the list below will instill you with the computer, organizational and critical thinking skills you need to succeed in the paralegal field.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||Keiser University||Fort Lauderdale||$$$$$||1500 NW 49th St|
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
In addition to 19 campuses located throughout the state of Florida, Keiser University has a virtual eCampus offered through its Fort Lauderdale location. Distance learners seeking an associate degree through an online paralegal program may be interested in enrolling at Keiser. This program is considered to be a terminal degree and is only offered online. It includes eight courses that are focused exclusively on paralegal studies, including family law and civil litigation. These classes provide the foundational knowledge needed to succeed in paralegal roles and other legal settings. There are no prerequisites for any of the core courses, providing students with increased flexibility when it comes to planning their class schedules. Kaiser provides distance learners with a variety of services, including career coaching, resume review, writing services, and mentoring.
|2||Liberty University||Lynchburg||$$$$$||1971 University Blvd|
Lynchburg, VA 24515
Liberty University is based in Virginia and is the largest private college provider of online learning; more than 95,000 students are enrolled at Liberty as distance learners. The online paralegal program consists of 60 total credit hours, but students who have already begun their studies elsewhere can easily transfer up to 45 credits. Full-time students can complete this program in two years, but the school also welcomes part-time learners. Upon graduation, students can expect to find employment as paralegals, legal assistants, law clerks, and title examiners. Distance learners at Liberty benefit from many services and resources, including online libraries, writing centers, writing aids, study aids, and preparation courses. Liberty University helps students learn, develop, and grow so that they can impact their communities as champions for Christ.
|3||Holmes Community College||Goodman||$$$$$||#1 Hill St|
Goodman, MS 39079
Located just outside the capital of Mississippi, Holmes Community College is a two-year school offering students the opportunity to complete a paralegal degree online. The full program requires four semesters of study, although students are eligible to apply for a technical certificate after completing 30 hours of coursework. This paralegal technology degree emphasizes advanced technologies that paralegals will need to master in order to be successful. HCC’s online offerings are overseen by the Mississippi Virtual Community College, and the Canvas LMS is used to deliver coursework to distance learners. The curriculum is based on standards developed by the National Association of Legal Assistants’ Descriptions of Certified Paralegal Exams. Online paralegal degree students also have the option to join the Holmes Association of Legal Students, which allows them to network with their peers, alumni, speakers, and current professionals in the field.
|4||Rio Salado College||Tempe||$$$$$||2323 W 14th St|
Tempe, AZ 85281
Operating as part of the Maricopa Community Colleges system, Arizona’s Rio Salado College has numerous campuses throughout the state. Its Tempe campus provides an associate of applied science in paralegal studies. This online paralegal degree covers both foundational and advanced topics in the field, ranging from estate and corporate law to legal investigations and bankruptcy. Aside from this degree, the school also provides a certificate of completion in paralegal studies. RSC gives students in this program the opportunity to complete a paralegal internship while enrolled. Students can further customize their degree by choosing from a range of electives including classes that discuss immigration law and environmental law. Additionally, online classes begin every Monday; students don't have to wait until the beginning of a semester to get started in their program.
|5||Hutchinson Community College||Hutchinson||$$$$$||1300 N Plum St|
Hutchinson, MN 67501
Since 1928, Hutchinson Community College has provided students with a quality foundational education. More recently, the university expanded its reach and now offers online courses through its Hutchinson, Kansas campus. HCC created its associate of applied science in paralegal studies degree specifically for students who aspire to work as either paralegals or legal assistants. This degree can be completed entirely online, although some courses may require that students find a proctor to complete exams. In addition to general education requirements, students pursuing a paralegal degree online receive a comprehensive overview of foundational topics, including litigation, personal injury, legal ethics, and estate planning. Students can also specialize their degree by choosing from a range of electives including legal and ethical issues in healthcare and intellectual property.
|6||Hodges University||Naples||$$$$$||2655 Northbrooke Dr|
Naples, FL 34119
Provided through its school of professional studies, the associate in science in paralegal studies at Hodges University can be completed on campus or completely online. Students who take three courses per term are able to obtain their degrees in four semesters. This program is broken into two main components: a legal component consisting of 10 classes and a liberal arts component consisting of five classes. The average class size in the paralegal studies program is just 14 pupils, allowing students to interact directly with their professors. Online courses are provided through the Blackboard LMS. Upon graduation, students are prepared to take the National Association of Legal Assistants’ Certified Legal Assistant exam to boost their job prospects. Additionally, for students who want to further their education, all credits earned from this associate program can be applied toward Hodges’ BS in legal studies program.
|7||Indiana Wesleyan University||Marion||$$$$$||4201 S Washington St|
Marion, IN 46953-4974
Students seeking an online paralegal degree taught from an evangelical Christian perspective may be interested in attending Marion-based Indiana Wesleyan University. The university’s total enrollment, which includes on-campus and distance learners, currently exceeds 15,000 students. For nearly 100 years, IWU has provided two- and four-year degrees, including its associate of science in paralegal studies. This program was launched in 2014 and can be completed entirely online. The average course in this program is only six weeks long, which lets students finish their course of study in a shorter amount of time compared to other paralegal programs. Transfer credits are also accepted if students started their education at a different academic institution. For nontraditional students, the school provides a range of adult education offerings and support services, including tutoring and career advice.
|8||Southwestern Community College||Sylva||$$$$$||447 College Dr|
Sylva, NC 28779
Located in the hills of Sylva, North Carolina, Southwestern Community College offers a range of on-campus and online classes. The school’s associate of applied science in paralegal technology is a two-year program that can be completed online. Distance learners enrolled in this program are eligible for financial aid. Upon graduation, students planning to work within the state of North Carolina can take the North Carolina State Bar’s Paralegal Certification exam. Throughout their course of study, students are taught the skills needed to work in a range of settings, including banks, insurance agencies, government agencies, and law firms. Students can also elect to take summer classes, allowing them to finish the online paralegal program more quickly. SCC’s online courses are offered through the Blackboard LMS.
|9||Tyler Junior College||Tyler||$$$$$||1400 East Fifth Street|
Tyler, TX 75701
East Texas’ Tyler Junior College is one of the largest community colleges in the state and has provided quality educations for nearly a century. More than 11,000 students are currently enrolled at this school. Courses in the associate of applied science in paralegal studies program are offered through the Canvas learning platform. Students seeking to obtain a paralegal degree online from Tyler Junior College must complete seven general education classes and 13 classes related to their major. In their second year, distance learners are provided with a career coach who helps them focus on their future goals and find internships and jobs opportunities. Additional online services include library access, technological assistance, and writing tutoring. The paralegal studies degree is also offered through a hybrid program, where students can complete most of their degree online while attending some classes in person.
|10||Madisonville Community College||Madisonville||$$$$$||2000 College Drive|
Madisonville, KY 42431
Located in western Kentucky, Madisonville Community College is one of 16 junior colleges in the state that belong to the Kentucky Community and Technical College system. This group of schools provides resources and support to a large number of campus-based and online students. All of MCC’s online programs focus on providing coursework that is easily transferrable to four-year colleges. This online paralegal degree is offered as an associate in applied science. Full-time students can complete this program in two years. The school also offers a paralegal certificate that is comprised of 39 credit hours. MCC uses the Blackboard LMS to deliver lectures and coursework to distance learners. Online students also have access to a technical helpdesk 24/7 and career services, which offer free assistance in locating regional and local employment opportunities
|11||Itawamba Community College||Fulton||$$$$$||602 W Hill Street|
Fulton, MS 38843-1099
Located in Fulton, Mississippi, Itawamba Community College has a comprehensive distance education program. The school offers a one-year certificate of completion and a two-year associate of applied science degree in paralegal technology. Both of these programs allow students to apply for national certification through the NALA or NFPA. Students planning to obtain a full associate degree need to complete 64 credit hours, which generally takes two years of full-time study. ICC also helps distance learners enrolled in this program find paralegal internships near their homes. Students can obtain free online tutoring through NetTutor as well as assistance in scheduling proctored examinations. Distance learners who need technical support are able to work directly with the school’s director of eLearning initiatives. Online courses are offered through the Canvas learning management system.
|12||Georgia Military College||Milledgeville||$$$$$|
Georgia Military College is a liberal arts junior college that has provided academic degrees since 1879. Today, its student body contains more than 13,000 people and is comprised of learners from 39 states and 12 nations; GMC also has a 57% minority enrollment. Unlike the majority of paralegal programs, which require two years of full-time study, GMC’s associate of science in paralegal studies can be completed in just 1.5 years. The college also offers an associate of arts in paralegal studies. Students earning a paralegal degree online focus on critical thinking, communication, research, and computer and organizational skills. Online courses are made available through the Moodle LMS. Distance learners pay the same rate as in-state students. Military service is not required to attend GMC; more than 80% of its students have no military affiliation.
|13||Tallahassee Community College||Tallahassee||$$$$$||444 Appleyard Dr|
Tallahassee, FL 32304-2895
Since being established 50 years ago, Florida’s Tallahassee Community College has become recognized as a leader among junior colleges throughout the nation. More than 37,000 students are enrolled at this school each year, but the student-to-faculty ratio remains low at 24:1. TCC may be especially appealing for students who intend to obtain a bachelor’s degree; more than 75% of its alumni successfully transfer to a four-year institution. Unlike many other online paralegal degrees, which divide general education and core courses evenly, 46 of the 64 credit hours needed to complete an associate in paralegal studies are devoted to classes specific to the major. Upon graduation, learners are prepared for roles as paralegals or legal assistants in both public and private law firms. In addition to academic advising, distance learners have access to technical assistance, writing tutoring, online libraries, and career services.
|14||Eastern Kentucky University||Richmond||$$$$$||521 Lancaster Ave|
Richmond, KY 40475-3102
With a main campus in Richmond, Eastern Kentucky University is a large regional institution with six branch locations across the state. EKU also has a thriving distance education program. Students enrolled in online courses can select from six different start dates each year and enjoy some of the lowest tuition rates in the state. EKU’s online courses are the same price, regardless of a student’s state of residency. Although EKU’s associate in applied science in paralegal studies requires a two-week residency at the school, the remainder of the program can be completed entirely online. Online courses can be accessed through the Blackboard LMS. Students who have obtained a paralegal degree online can also decide to continue their education at EKU and pursue a bachelor’s of arts in paralegal science.
|15||Community Care College||Tulsa||$$$$$||4242 South Sheridan|
Tulsa, OK 74145
Tulsa’s Community Care College was founded in 1995. Although this vocation-focused school started by offering only dental courses, it has since expanded and currently has 11 different programs, including a paralegal studies program. This is the only fully-online paralegal program available in the state of Oklahoma. Its curriculum is developed and taught by an Oklahoma-licensed attorney and graduate of Harvard Law School. Students can expect to graduate with their diploma in less than a year. This paralegal certificate can also be applied to earn an associate of occupational science degree in business and industry management, which takes less than a year of additional study. Distance learners have the ability to communicate with their professors through phone, email, text, chat, Skype, and in person. Coursework for online classes is made available through the Moodle LMS. Members of the U.S. military and their spouses are eligible for reduced tuition and scholarships.
|16||Western Piedmont Community College||Morganton||$$$$$||1001 Burkemont Ave|
Morganton, NC 28655-4511
Western Piedmont Community College is one of the largest junior colleges in the state of North Carolina and enrolls 13,000 local and distance learners each year. WPCC’s online paralegal program has zero on-campus commitments. Most courses are asynchronous, but a few do meet synchronously; for these, students will need to log in at specific times for face-to-face classes with their peers and professors. The associate of applied science in paralegal technology requires 67 credits, and full-time students can expect to complete their studies within two years. Distance learners have access to tech support 24/7, online libraries, writing assistance, career services, and student clubs. The paralegal technology department also provides its students with access to Lexis-Advance, the Cornell Law School’s legal research site, and the North Carolina General Statutes.
|17||Atlanta Technical College||Atlanta||$$$$$||1560 Metropolitan Pkwy SW|
Atlanta, GA 30310-4446
In addition to educating many students who reside in Georgia’s capital city, Atlanta Technical College teaches students around the world through its eCampus. The college uses Blackboard to deliver lessons and coursework to online learners. ATC’s asynchronous online paralegal program students with increased flexibility, while multiple enrollment dates throughout the year make it convenient to start taking classes. ATC has offered its paralegal studies program for nearly two decades. Today the program takes about six semesters to complete and mandates that students participate in two internships to satisfy graduation requirements. Students can further customize their degrees by picking from electives such as bankruptcy/debtor-creditor relations and legal and policy issues in health care. Distance learners have access to a virtual career center 24 hours a day, which helps them find and apply for jobs.
|18||Alexandria Technical & Community College||Alexandria||$$$$$||1601 Jefferson Streeet|
Alexandria, MN 56308
Operating as a member of the Minnesota State University system, students at Alexandria Technical & Community College can easily transfer credits to a four-year MSU institution upon graduation from ATCC. ATCC is partnered with Distance Minnesota, which is a consortium of colleges that work together to provide online programs. ATCC’s online paralegal program has no prerequisites, but scholastic experience in American government, business, computer applications, English writing, and public speaking is helpful. The associate in applied science in paralegal studies can typically be completed in two years; students undertake an internship during their final summer semester to complete the program. School administrators are on hand to help distance learners find suitable internship locations near their homes. Upon graduation, students have the option to complete the Certified Paralegal Examination offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants.
|19||Macomb Community College||Warren||$$$$$||14500 E Twelve Mile Rd|
Warren, MI 48088-3896
Michigan’s Macomb Community College is ranked nationally and is in the top 2% of institutions in the number of associate degrees that they award annually. The school enrolls nearly 50,000 students each year. Its online paralegal program is offered as an associate of applied science in legal assistant program. Although students are not required to complete an internship to earn their degree, administrators are available to help distance learners find appropriate internship opportunities near their homes. Because many of its students plan to obtain four-year educations, the curriculum at MCC is designed to be easily transferred to a bachelor’s program. In addition to coursework related to different types of law, classes emphasize common technologies that are used in the field as well as computerized litigation software.
|20||Drury University||Springfield||$$$$$||900 N.Benton|
Springfield, MO 65802-3791
Missouri’s Drury University has provided liberal arts educations since 1873. In 1999, the university established its online learning program. DU’s associate of science in paralegal studies degree is offered through its continuing professional studies college. This program takes a three-pronged approach to learning: students gain conceptual knowledge of the essential principles and rules within law, refine their focus on different types of law, and then participate in a legal practicum, which allows students to showcase their newfound skills in a real-world setting. This program provides a focused study on American court systems, constitutional law, criminal law, civil law, legal research, legal writing, discovery, and interviewing and investigating. Online courses are delivered in a flexible, asynchronous format and distance learners access their coursework through the Moodle LMS.
|21||Minnesota State Community and Technical College||Fergus Falls||$$$$$||1414 College Way|
Fergus Falls, MN 56537-1000
With four campuses spread across the state, Minnesota State Community and Technical College serves nearly 10,000 local and online students. Among its 25 online degrees is an online paralegal program, which offers an associate of applied science degree. While prerequisites are not required for this program, students must take an Accuplacer assessment to determine whether they need to enroll in developmental courses in reading, writing, and/or math. MSCTC does not require students to complete a legal practicum, but administrators can help students arrange an internship prior to graduation if they would like to gain hands-on training. Students can customize their degrees by choosing electives such as principles of bookkeeping and state and local government. This degree can be completed entirely online and does not require any on-campus participation.
|22||Ivy Tech Community College||Indianapolis||$$$$$||50 W. Fall Creek Parkway N. Drive|
Indianapolis, IN 46208-5752
Ivy Tech Community College started out as a vocational and technical school in 1963. The college has since expanded its offerings to include more than 150 academic programs, which are taught at 32 different campuses around Indiana. It serves more than 170,000 students each year, many of whom take classes online. A popular option is its online paralegal program, which is available entirely online in an asynchronous format. The program can typically be completed in four semesters, allowing students to earn a degree in less than two academic years if they are able to enroll in summer classes. The program concludes with a paralegal studies capstone course, which helps students prepare to sit for the national certification examination offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants.
|23||Albany State University||Albany||$$$$$||504 College Drive|
Albany, GA 31705
Albany State has provided online learning opportunities for more than a decade. Its associate of applied science in legal assistant/paralegal studies program takes four semesters to complete. Students can specialize their degrees by choosing from electives such as criminal law and procedure, principles of microeconomics, and contract law. Online classes and coursework are hosted by the D2L learning management system. Students who are enrolled in this paralegal program can contact an online specialist from the department with any questions. Distance learners also have access to IT help, writing tutoring, career coaching, disability services, and library resources. For students who may not be ready to commit to a full associate degree, the school also offers a legal assistant/paralegal certificate.
|24||Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College||Perkinston||$$$$$||51 Main Street|
Perkinston, MS 39573
With four campuses and centers located along the state’s southern coast, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College currently provides an education to over 10,000 students. It is the only school in the Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana tri-state area to be one of the top-100 associate degree producers in the country. MGCCC is partnered with the Mississippi Virtual Community College consortium, which offers nearly 3,000 courses online. Among these is an online paralegal program, which awards a certificate, diploma, and associate of applied science degree in paralegal technology, allowing students to choose the level of education that is best-suited for their career plan. The associate degree prepares students to become legal assistants in courts, corporations, private law firms, trust departments of banks, and government agencies. MGCCC uses the Canvas LMS to host all of its online courses.
|25||Mountain Empire Community College||Big Stone Gap||$$$$$||3441 Mountain Empire Road|
Big Stone Gap, VA 24219
Mountain Empire Community College is a two-year college serving residents of southwest Virginia. MECC is one of 23 colleges in the Virginia Community College system. The school offers a variety of programs, both at its Big Stone Gap campus and online. Students seeking to enroll in MECC’s online paralegal program must take English and mathematics placement tests; developmental classes in these areas may be required. Although courses are offered online, some classes may require students to arrange for a proctored environment for exams if they are unable to take tests on campus. Additionally, although classroom attendance is not mandatory, professors may require synchronous weekly sessions, which are conducted through Blackboard Collaborate. Most online students take more than two full years of study to complete their associate degree.
What can you do with the degree?
Career opportunities for those who earn an online associate degree in paralegal studies may seem limited, but graduates can often find entry-level employment with law firms, governmental agencies and insurance adjusters. While they are not licensed to provide legal advice to clients, they have a broad knowledge of several kinds of law, including areas like family, business, criminal and property. Paralegals holding associate degrees are equipped with the research and organizational skills necessary for trial preparation.
The mean annual wage for paralegals working for legal services in 2014 was $49,680, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Considering how quickly an online paralegal associate degree can be earned, and the affordability of many online programs, you could earn the money you spend on your education within your first year of work as a paralegal professional.
Keys to Success
One of the best things you can do to ensure you succeed as a paralegal is to keep abreast of changes to the legal system, including the addition of new laws and changes to old ones. Understanding the standards your potential employers adhere to will guide how you conduct research, present information and approach cases that have the potential to be ethically insensitive.
The online paralegal programs listed above offer their students opportunities to connect with instructors and classmates, but you have to take the initiative and make those connections. Reach out to your professors when you need help. Seek out a working paralegal at a law firm in your community and talk to them about what it’s like to work in the field. Start or join virtual study groups to discuss the legal theories you learn in your course materials.
Upon earning your degree, you will either be eligible to transfer your credits to a four-year program or start work as an entry-level paraprofessional. If you’re on the career path, you might want to consider certification. While becoming certified is not necessary, it does show potential employers that you are serious about being a paralegal. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) offers paraprofessionals the opportunity to earn the Certified Paralegal Credential. This credential is approved and recognized by the American Bar Association as a level of standards for paralegals.