Different Types Paralegal Programs and Degree Options

Different Types Paralegal Programs and Degree Options


As with many professions within the legal industry, the educational pathway of a paralegal is essential. Throughout the past several years, and according to industry projections, the competition for paralegal jobs is high. Because of this, one of the most effective ways to secure a job as a paralegal is carefully selecting your paralegal program and degree.

Much like other professional careers, there are several options an aspiring paralegal has when it comes to their education. Although to become a paralegal you must hold a high school diploma or GED, the next level of required education varies based upon industry and employer. Often times, the next step is to pursue paralegal certification, and then obtain a position within a law firm to gain experience and build your resume. The following types of paralegal educational programs and degree options are considered industry standard throughout this profession.

Paralegal-StudiesBachelor Degree in Paralegal Studies

Perhaps one of the most common higher-level degree options completed by paralegals is a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. Although this level of education is rarely required for the majority of paralegal and legal assistant positions, a bachelor degree in paralegal studies provides advanced-level knowledge of the United States legal system. Along with providing a wider scope of practice and knowledge, those with this degree generally earn above-average annual salaries. If you’re already a working paralegal, obtaining your bachelor degree in paralegal studies can play an integral role in climbing the legal ladder.

Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies

By far, the majority of paralegals have obtained an associate degree in paralegal studies. While a bachelor degree offers a greater understanding of the United States legal system, a two-year associate degree in paralegal studies provides a solid foundation to succeed within this career. If you’re looking to get your feet wet with an entry-level paralegal career, then an associate degree in paralegal studies is your ideal choice. While those with a bachelor degree in paralegal studies generally make closer to $60,000 per year, those with an associate degree tend to make an average of $45,000 per year. However, if you choose to work in the corporate or insurance fields of practice, the average income for an associate degree paralegal jumps to $50,000 to $55,000 per year*.

Master Degree in Paralegal Studies

Considered the highest-level of education a paralegal may achieve, a master’s degree in paralegal studies sets you apart from the vast majority of your peers. Although this level of education offers more generalized studies, the majority of those with a master’s in paralegal studies have chosen a specialty field of study within this profession. Because of the demand within this industry, those with a master’s degree in paralegal studies are considered the “cream of the crop” when it comes to employment. The average salary for paralegals with a master’s degree is greater than $60,000 per year. As with other levels of employment within this career field, paralegals working in the private sector tend to yield higher annual incomes.

Paralegal Schooling

As with any profession, it is imperative that you carefully select the educational institution where you will be pursuing your degree or training program. Before selecting a paralegal school, consider the recommendations of the industry’s governing bodies, such as the AAPI, NALA and NFPA. Each organization offers a set of guidelines that they recommend to paralegals as they navigate their educational options.

*Source: PayScale.com

The Ethical Responsibilities of a Paralegal

The Ethical Responsibilities of a Paralegal


Perhaps one of the most popular and in-demand careers within the legal industry is that of a paralegal. If you’re interested in becoming a paralegal, or are already employed within this dynamic industry, then there are many professional elements you must be aware of. Out of all of these, the role of ethical responsibilities is among the most important. This is because as a paralegal you’ll be charged with undertaking a wide array of tasks – some of which are sensitive and confidential. Therefore, it’s beyond imperative you fully understand the ethical responsibilities you’ll face throughout your work day.

paralegal-job-descriptionThe Ethical Responsibilities of a Paralegal

Throughout your training as a paralegal, you’ll be required to complete a variety of coursework that revolves around the topic of ethics. The ethical responsibilities of a paralegal is essential to understand as it ensures you carefully and lawfully conduct yourself throughout this career. However, there are certain elements you should be well-versed in.

As a paralegal, there are any direct or subjective regulations when it comes to your professional conduct as outlined by the official legal system. While there aren’t any state or federal regulations, all paralegals must follow the code of ethics outlined by the professional organizations. For example, the AAPI, NALA and NFPA all feature unique and specific codes of ethics its members must follow. Even if you’re not a member with one of these organizations, it’s important that you’re well-aware of its statutes to keep yourself in good standing with your employer.

When it comes to undertaking the ethical responsibilities of a paralegal, much of the guidelines are set forth by your employer. These regulations are established by state and federal low. In the most generalized sense, your employer is ultimately responsible for the work a paralegal conducts. In fact, should a paralegal get in trouble for their ethical behavior, the actual lawyer may come under disciplinary actions, according to the American Bar Association.

It’s the primary responsibility of your employer to development, enforce and implement various policies to ensure the roles and responsibilities of a paralegal doesn’t over-extend its boundaries. Many state bar associations feature a detailed list of guidelines when it comes to what a paralegal is legally allowed to do as well as their overall code of ethics. While this is the responsibility of your lawyer to learn, it’s suggested that all paralegals obtain a copy of these guidelines and thoroughly read them to ensure they remain in good-standing.

Career Options for a Paralegal

Career Options for a Paralegal


Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions when it comes to the paralegal career field is the work environments these professionals operate in. While many believe that the only workplace for a paralegal is within an attorney’s office, there many other options open to these professionals. If you’re interested in a career as a paralegal, it’s important to understand the wide variety of career options that are available to you. The following is a mere snippet of the dynamic paralegal profession.

legal-clerkLaw Clerk

Perhaps one of the most exciting career fields for a paralegal is a position as a law clerk. If you’re fascinated by the legal court system and with to play a direct role in the execution of cases and trials, then a job as a law clerk may interest you. Within this career field, you’ll be charged with the taks of assisting in trial investigations. This generally includes interviewing clients, preparing legal documentation for various cases. As a law clerk, you’ll likely be responsible for overseeing and assisting on multiple cases simultaneously. Therefore, a high attention to detail and excellent organizational and time-management skills are paramount for success.

Insurance-ClaimInsurance Claim Handler

Does the notion of working within the insurance industry excite you? Do you wish to work within the legal field, but not within a courthouse or law office setting? If so, then a career as an insurance claim handler may be the best for you. Those who are employed within this profession are charged with the task of gathering evidence for specific insurance claims. You’re generally responsible for investigating the specifics of a claim and documenting your findings according to state and federal-level insurance law for each claim. You may be responsible for determining if a decision for a specific claim is legally sound based upon your findings.

Legal Staffing Recruiter

Are you interested in working with other legal professionals in a role outside of the courtroom? If you lean toward the human resources and talent management side of the legal industry, then a career as a legal staffing recruiter may be your ideal career choice. As a legal staffing recruiter, you’re charged with the task of interviewing, researching and securing legal professionals for specific projects or employment opportunities. Your education as a paralegal allows you to understand whether or not a candidate has the required skills to excel within the specific job or project.

Library Research Assistant

The heart of many paralegal careers is the act of researching. If you’re an avid researcher, then you may want to turn your passion of uncovering information into a vibrant career as a library research assistant. These professionals may work in a variety of library settings. For example, you may work in public libraries operated by the government or in a higher education learning institution. As a library research assistant, you’ll provide vital assistance to lead librarians when it comes to an array of research tasks based upon the specialty of the library.

The Most Unique Paralegal Jobs

The Most Unique Paralegal Jobs


If you’re a recent graduate of a paralegal training program, with either an online paralegal certificate or a traditional degree, or are simply wanting more information about this dynamic profession, then you likely have many questions. Perhaps the most common question asked by aspiring paralegals is where they can work. Like many other legal professions, paralegals can be found in a wide array of careers and employed by a myriad of employers. The following are some of the job options for those who wish to work as a paralegal.

corporate-paralegals#1 – Corporate Paralegals

Corporations throughout the United States are constantly seeking out accomplished paralegals to assist in a variety of legal tasks. For example, a corporation may hire a corporate paralegal to manage the setup process for a new subsidiary. Positions found in the corporate environment require above-average interpersonal skills as these professionals are required to interact with not only employees within their company but also personnel with third party companies.

Because of the unique requirements within this career choice, the most successful corporate paralegals have spent a significant amount of time studying this sect of the legal system. There are many certificate and diploma programs that specialize in corporate law for the paralegal.

Real-Estate-paralegal#2 – Real Estate Paralegals

Generally speaking, real estate firms typically have their own in-house legal professionals. Much like a traditional law office, paralegals often play a vital role in these teams. In order to work as a paralegal in the real estate field, you must hold a solid understanding when it comes to commercial and residential real estate transactions. A real estate paralegal must also be well-versed in state and government real estate laws and be prepared to handle real estate-specific documentation. To succeed as a real estate paralegal, you should take additional coursework in real estate law and procedures.

Public-Defender-Paralegals#3 – Public Defender Paralegals

If you’re interested in working within the criminal law and have a desire to help individuals who are unable to afford a traditional lawyer, then working as a public defender paralegal may be your ideal choice. These professionals are required to hold an above-average understanding of the criminal law system, procedural law, legal research and penal codes. You’ll work directly with the public defenders office to help complete essential forms, perform necessary research and even handling evidence. In order to truly succeed as a public defender paralegal, you should be able to effectively communicate with a wide array of legal professionals as well as consistently seek out ways to deepen your knowledge regarding criminal law. You should consider taking additional coursework in criminal law to hold a higher chance at securing employment.