The best degree to become a paralegal is usually a paralegal degree. Both community colleges and four-year colleges offer these programs on campus and online, which gives you the option of taking classes on campus or at home. Most longer programs require that students take some simple general education courses in humanities, math, science and other topics, but you might find that you also need to take those courses in a shorter program. The program that you enter teaches you the fundamentals of the job and helps you work with lawyers practicing in different fields of law. Before enrolling, make sure that you know what paralegals do and what type of degree is best.
What Does a Paralegal Do?
Paralegals are sometimes called legal assistants, because they provide assistance to practicing attorneys. They often do a large amount of research behind the scenes to find out more about the clients coming through the doors and similar cases. They might look at how other attorneys defended or prosecuted cases in the past to determine which actions came with the best outcomes. Paralegals also meet with clients and answer questions that they might have before those clients meet with a lawyer. Other tasks associated with the job include filing paperwork, drafting documents and attending meetings and courtroom sessions.
Paralegal Salary and Job Outlook
When looking at the best degree to become a paralegal, you might want to know how much you can expect to make later. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a paralegal is $46,990 a year, which equates to more than $22 an hour. The BLS also found that the job market in this field will increase at a faster than average rate. Paralegals can expect to see more than 17,000 new jobs become available in the legal field by 2022.
Types of Paralegal Degrees
There are multiple types of legal degrees that will help you seek employment as a paralegal, but the best degree to become a paralegal often depends on how much time and money you have available. Many community colleges offer certificate programs, which you can complete in less than two years. Associate’s degrees are longer programs that require more credit hours, and you’ll also find bachelor degree programs available from some four-year colleges. Those looking to earn more might even consider enrolling in a master’s program after completing a bachelor’s degree. Many of these programs are available both online and on local campuses.
Do You Need a College Degree?
The minimum degree required for working as a paralegal or a legal assistant is an associate’s degree, but some employers will hire those with a certificate. Other law offices, especially those with a strong reputation in the community, require that paralegals possess a higher level of education. Depending on where you want to work, you may find a position after completing a degree in criminal justice, legal studies or a related field. Lawyers want to know that you have a familiarity with legal terminology and an understanding of the legal field.
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Paralegals work closely with attorneys every day of the week. They research cases, meet with clients and perform a number of other tasks around the office. The minimum level of education required for the job is an associate’s degree or a certificate, but the best degree to become a paralegal depends on how much time and money you have available.