Best Online Paralegal Associate Degree Programs

Learn about convenient online paralegal studies associate degree programs that can train you quickly for an in-demand legal career.

Last Updated: 09/16/2021

While lawyers often get the spotlight (and credit) in court and other legal matters, they wouldn’t get far without the background support provided by their paralegal team. Paralegals are an integral part of the legal profession, and they need specialized training and skills to understand the legal process and be successful in their careers. Fortunately, this training doesn’t require four years of college and can now be earned remotely through online paralegal associate degree programs.

This page has everything you need to need to get started on your paralegal education and career path, including a list of this year’s best online paralegal associate degree programs, key details on what you’ll learn, and a look at what your salary could be after you graduate. Continue reading to find out about this quick and convenient way to enter the legal field where demand and earnings potential are strong.

College Spotlights: Best ABA-Approved Online Paralegal Associate Degree Programs for 2021


Paralegals play a significant role in the legal field, and it’s important they get the training needed for proficiency in their positions. To help you find the best schools, we compiled a best-in-class list that looks at online paralegal associate degree programs based on affordability, accreditation, convenience, and flexibility. Three of the top-rated schools, all approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), are spotlighted below to show you what a standout program looks like and to preview our full rankings list coming soon. 

1

Eastern Kentucky University

Eastern Kentucky University’s paralegal associate degree program, a charter member of the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE), prepares students for entry-level paralegal positions while also providing the foundation needed to further their education through bachelor’s or graduate-level degrees. The curriculum, taught by legal experts with either a DCJ or PhD, covers both legal theory and practical skills through courses in legal writing and research, litigation, family law, probate practice, and legal administration. Courses are offered 100 percent online and in eight-week sessions. Most courses can be completed in timeframes that work best for students’ schedules; however, nine credits of required legal specialty classes must be taken in a synchronous format, meaning students are required to attend lectures at a set time each week. 

EKU offers assistance throughout the program to help students succeed. Those who need extra help can also take advantage of tutoring services. After graduation, EKU offers career assistance for landing that first paralegal job and starting your career on the right foot.

2

American National University

From legal terminology and document drafting to research and procedure, American National University‘s paralegal associate’s degree program builds a strong foundation for a successful legal career. The curriculum, created with the help of veteran professionals in the field, includes coursework covering trial preparation, medical records analysis, torts, family law, and contracts. Graduates of ANU’s paralegal program are employed at law firms, insurance companies, healthcare facilities, corporate legal departments, and nonprofit organizations.  

Classroom learning is augmented with a paralegal externship to promote the transfer of principles taught in the classroom to real-world legal environments. To further prepare students for success in their jobs, ANU offers career services that teach skills like cover letter and resume writing to attract prospective employers’ attention. Students can also learn interviewing skills to help them make a great impression. After graduation, you can take advantage of ANU’s refresher classes and alumni career assistance. 

3

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati offers an associate degree in applied business in law and paralegal studies that is one of the first online paralegal studies programs to be approved by the ABA. Students can complete this program entirely online and choose full-time or part-time scheduling to participate in ways that best support their lifestyles and obligations. Classes include estate planning and probate, administrative litigation, family law, investigative techniques and evidence, and quantitative reasoning.

Prospective students must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Also, individuals who have completed some paralegal education can be admitted as transfer students if they attended an ABA-approved program and earned at least a C average in their courses.

What You’ll Learn in an Online Paralegal Associate Degree Program

The courses found in accredited online paralegal associate’s degree programs prepare students for entry-level positions by familiarizing them with basic concepts related to criminal and civil litigation, paralegal ethics, legal investigations, and court procedure. Students become adept in several paralegal abilities that employers expect, including legal document preparation, critical thinking, written communication, technology, and research skills. Common coursework taken in an online paralegal associate program is highlighted below to give you a deeper look into some of the more common classes in these programs.

Common Courses in Paralegal Studies Programs at the Associate Degree Level

Legal Terminology

The legal field has its own unique words and phrases that professionals are required to be familiar with, so this course teaches students legal terminology and how it is used in legal proceedings and documents. Terms studied include those related to contracts, criminal defenses, real property, and civil litigation.

Legal Research and Writing

This class covers the research tools paralegals use to find information that bolsters arguments made in civil and criminal cases. Students learn to use legal databases like LexisNexis and Westlaw for this research. Students also gain skills needed to draft legal documents, properly cite cases, and edit a legal memorandum.  

Introduction to Paralegalism

This course introduces students to the paralegal profession and the daily expectations employers have of paralegals. Topics covered include legal interviewing, wills and estates, contracts, legal research and writing, and paralegal ethics. In addition, students learn about paralegal work in different areas of the law, including business, criminal, civil, family, tort, and procedural law. 

Law Office Technology

Students in law office technology classes learn the different computer systems that paralegals use daily. The class provides hands-on experience with technologies used to conduct legal research, control dockets, manage cases, and produce legal documents. 

Paralegal Ethics

Paralegal ethics courses teach students how they are expected to behave as a member of the profession. Topics covered include attorney-client privilege, proper handling of fees and funds, conducting financial billings, and avoiding issues that can lead to a conflict of interest and malpractice.

Accreditation for Associate Degrees in Paralegal Studies Online

To ensure they are receiving the education that prepares them for the rigors of legal work, students should only enroll in programs approved by the American Bar Association. ABA approval means that schools have been evaluated for the quality of the curriculum and the ability of the program to best provide the theoretical knowledge and skills employers require. The ABA’s search tool makes it easy to find programs that have received the association’s seal of approval.

FAQs About Online Paralegal Associate Degree Programs

How long does it take to earn a paralegal associate degree online?

As a full-time student in an online paralegal associate degree program, you can generally graduate within a year and a half to two years. Students in online programs may be able to complete their degrees faster than those taking in-person paralegal programs because they can often take courses that can be finished within weeks rather than months. Generally, the curriculum for paralegal programs includes coursework amounting to about 90 credit hours.

How much do online paralegal studies associate degrees cost?

Students enrolling in online paralegal associate degree programs usually pay tuition costs comparable to those for traditional programs. In some cases, students pay less if their school charges by the credit hour rather than the semester. However, even if the tuition costs are the same as in-person programs, online students save money on transportation costs. You can find information more about funding your education in our financial aid guide. In addition, the table below highlights three online paralegal programs to give you a better idea of what you can expect to pay.

School NameNo. of CreditsCost/CreditTotal Tuition Cost
Eastern Kentucky University64$409/Credit$26,176
National American University90.5$333/Credit$30,137
Rasmussen College90$260/Credit$23,400

What are the admissions requirements for online paralegal associate degrees?

Admission requirements for online paralegal associate degree programs generally include the same basic requirements for admittance into most entry-level college programs. Those requirements include a high school diploma or GED and SAT or ACT scores. Every college is unique, though, so check with individual schools for specific admission requirements to make sure you follow their required admissions process.

Can I earn my paralegal associate degree 100% online?

Paralegal associate degree programs can be earned entirely online since they do not have courses with a lab component. However, some schools do require completion of hands-on experience through an internship in a legal setting.

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What’s After Your Online Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies? 

Before enrolling in a paralegal studies associate’s degree program, understand what schools have to offer but also what to expect after you complete your degree. This section discusses the career landscape for paralegals, including how much money they can make and the current job outlook.

How much can you make with a paralegal studies associate degree?

As of May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for paralegals and legal assistants is $52,920 with the highest 10 percent of earners making $85,160 and the lowest 10 percent making $32,900. The top industries and median incomes for paralegals are the federal government ($69,490), finance and insurance ($66,390), local governments ($52,660), legal services ($50,600), and state governments ($48,070). For paralegals with associate degrees, PayScale indicates an average salary of $43,171 and a range of $26,000 to $83,000 per year.

Are paralegals in high demand?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals and legal assistants are expected to see a 10 percent increase in jobs between 2019 and 2029. That amounts to an additional 35,300 jobs added to the profession. This growth is being driven by law firms looking for ways to make the cost of their services more competitive by hiring paralegals to perform tasks previously assigned to entry-level attorneys. Similarly, corporations are bringing more of their legal work in-house and hiring paralegals as part of internal legal departments.

Do I need certification or licensure to work as a paralegal?

Although paralegals aren’t required to earn a certification, getting a credential from organizations like NALS and the National Association of Legal Assistants can help you distinguish yourself in the competitive job market. In addition, employers are increasingly giving preference to candidates with certifications, so earning one can help you land a job.

While certifications are not mandatory, some states have specific rules that must be followed to work as a paralegal. For example, according to the American Bar Association, California, Washington, and Utah, require paralegals to earn a degree and also complete continuing education requirements. 

If I want to continue my studies, which advanced degrees can an online paralegal associate degree prepare me for?

If you want to continue your education, an online paralegal associate degree lays a strong foundation to help you move on to other programs. Graduates can go on to earn a bachelor’s in paralegal studies, online bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, and online master’s degrees in criminal justice. Some even move on to the doctoral level and earn PhDs or DCJs. 

Additional Resources for Paralegal Students and Professionals

Paralegal students and professionals can continue their learning through numerous industry resources. The following are ten of these helpful resources.

American Alliance of Paralegals

The American Alliance of Paralegals provides continuing education courses, legal news, and certification.

Association of Legal Administrators

Paralegals wanting to pursue management roles in firms, government agencies, and corporate legal departments can get support from this organization.

American Association for Paralegal Education

This association is dedicated to promoting quality paralegal education.

CLE & Continuing Education for Paralegals

The Institute for Paralegal Education offers a variety of continuing education classes to help paralegals brush up on their knowledge and skills.

Educational Information for Paralegals

This page on the ABA’s website provides information on paralegal education programs.

NALS

This association for legal professionals provides the Accredited Legal Professional (ALP), Professional Legal Secretary (PLS), Certified Legal Professional (CLP), and Professional Paralegal (PP) certifications. It also gives related news and provides a job board.

National Association of Legal Assistants

The Paralegal Association, orNALA, provides educational opportunities, publications, and career assistance for legal assistants.

National Federation of Paralegal Associations

The NFPA provides professional development opportunities, certifications, publications, and networking and education events.

Paralegal – Lawyer Monthly

This page on the legal news website Lawyer Monthly is dedicated to issues related to paralegal work.

Paralegal Voice

This podcast discusses trends in the paralegal field and provides tips on how to perform paralegal work.