Associate’s Degree

An associate’s degree in paralegal studies is a common educational path taken by paralegal professionals. According to the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) approximately 36% of paralegals hold an associate’s degree. This degree is designed to quickly and efficiently prepare students for their career. An associate’s degree can also be a stepping-stone for furthering education at a later time.

An associate’s degree in paralegal studies is a two-year plan for full-time students. Part-time students can take as long as necessary to complete the curriculum. Associate’s programs can be found in many community colleges, as well as traditional colleges and universities. Associate’s degree courses in paralegal studies are actually more common and easier to find than a bachelor’s program in the same subject.

As associate’s degree programs are at the college level, there are some prerequisites that must be met to be accepted to the program. Each school will vary but some of the most common are: 1) Students entering an associate’s program directly from high school are admitted based on GPA from high school and scores from the ACT or SAT standardized tests. 2) Adults returning to school or entering a higher education program for the first time are admitted based on adult assessment exams or placement tests, personal statements, and letters of recommendation. 3) Some schools will also do a criminal background check and a credit check, if applying for financial aid.

Associate’s degree programs provide general subject studies, as well as paralegal studies in the curriculum. Approximately one-third to one-half of the curriculum is based on liberal education requirements or general studies, including math, English and science. The rest of the coursework will focus on basic legal concepts and ideals. These programs are meant to provide the same meaningful information in a shorter amount of time than traditional bachelor’s degree programs. Individuals who already have completed any college level courses in general studies are often able to transfer these credit hours to an associate’s program, saving time and money.

An associate’s degree can jump start an individual into a career as a paralegal. In some parts of the country, this degree alone may be enough to find employment as a paralegal in one of the many fields. If the school is recognized and accredited by the American Bar Association, the chances are even greater. Credit from an associate’s degree can also be taken into consideration when sitting for a certification exam or be helpful for any continuing education.

Of course, there are some disadvantages to having only an associate’s degree in paralegal studies. When there is a large amount of competition, this degree alone may not be enough to obtain employment. Many employers look for prospects that have either a certificate or are a certified paralegal. Having additional qualifications shows employers you are serious about a job. Similarly, prior experience in the legal field is frequently a factor that will make an applicant stand out.

Attaining an associate’s degree in paralegal studies is by no means ill-advised. In fact, this type of degree can be beneficial for both starting and boosting a career. Associate’s degrees in paralegal studies are especially advantageous to those who would like to obtain a degree in as quickly as two years.

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