On this page

Back to top

Online & On-Campus Paralegal Certification: California Programs for 2024

Explore your options for obtaining paralegal certification in California through this guide to the best degree and certificate programs in the state for 2024.

Author: Michael Hoffman
Editor: STEPS Staff

Find your school in just 60 seconds

Find Your School in 60 Seconds

  1. Take our quiz
  2. Match with schools
  3. Connect with favorites
  1. Take our quiz
  2. Match w/schools
I want my
in
Focusing on
A solid blue silhouette of the state of California on a white background, highlighting the state's distinct and recognizable shape with a jagged western coastline and relatively straight eastern border.

The paralegal profession is proof that you don’t have to become an attorney for a challenging and lucrative career in law. Paralegals are professionals who play an invaluable role in the legal system by assisting lawyers in carrying out activities like research, client communication, trial preparation, and much more. With a median annual income of over $75,000, paralegals in California are well-paid professionals, too. Job security is another big plus with a projected 15.3% growth rate in paralegal jobs in the state through 2030.

Paralegal certification in California requires formal education and training, the kind provided by many quality, accredited paralegal programs in California. This guide introduces you to some of the best paralegal certificate programs California has to offer with both online and campus-based options. You’ll also learn about program costs, financial aid options, earnings expectations, and much more. If a career in law without four stressful years and the major cost of law school sounds good to you, keep reading to find out how to become a paralegal in California through one of the top paralegal programs in the state for 2024.

Best Colleges to Earn a Paralegal Degree in California – Campus-Based Programs

Top paralegal programs in California are highlighted below to help start your search. Programs were chosen based on the features – accreditation, affordability, quality academics, study convenience, access to quality support services, and more – most sought by students. Three campus-based paralegal programs in California are followed by spotlights of three online programs to give you a good idea of how to become a paralegal in California and what you should expect from a program. These profiles also preview the full rankings of the paralegal certificate programs California has to offer coming later this year, so be sure to check back.

City College of San Francisco

Program options and study flexibility are major features of the Paralegal Studies program at City College of San Francisco (CCFF). CCFF offers two paralegal program options. Students with college degrees or 30 credits of general education coursework can opt for the Certificate of Achievement in Paralegal/Legal Studies. This certificate program consists of 30 credits of paralegal and other law-related coursework completed over four semesters of part-time study.

Students without a college degree or 30 credits of general education coursework must enroll in the Associate of Science in Paralegal/Legal Studies, which requires 60 credits taken over five full-time semesters. Both programs are available in entirely campus-based, fully online, and partially online formats.

CCFF’s paralegal program is quite affordable with California residents paying just $46/credit. Residents of both California and San Francisco may be eligible to have tuition costs covered through the Free City program. Non-California residents pay $406/credit.

Delivery:
  • Fully Online
  • Partially Online
  • On Campus
  • Part-time (Certificate)
  • Full-time (Associate Degree)
Undergraduate Programs:
  • Associate of Science in Paralegal/Legal Studies
  • Certificate in Paralegal/Legal Studies.
Graduate Programs:
  • None
Specialization Options:
  • None

De Anza College

Located in Cupertino, De Anza College is another quality community college offering both associate degree and advanced certificate of achievement options in its Paralegal Studies Program. The Associate of Arts (AA) in Paralegal Studies provides a well-rounded education with coursework in a range of paralegal-focused topics such as litigation, corporate law, personal injury, and wills and trusts in addition to the general education courses typically required for an associate degree. The 90-unit curriculum takes two years of full-time study.

Students who already have AA or Associate of Science degrees are eligible for the Certificate of Achievement-Advanced program, available with specializations in corporate law, litigation, and intellectual property as well as with a general paralegal studies focus. Certificate programs require 48 units taken over two, part-time semesters. All De Anza paralegal programs are campus-based.

De Anza offers exceptionally affordable tuition to California residents at just $31 per course unit. Out-of-state residents pay $270 per course unit.

Delivery:
  • On Campus
  • Part-time (Certificates)
  • Full-time (Associate Degree)
Undergraduate Programs:
  • Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies
  • Certificate of Achievement-Advanced in Paralegal Studies
Graduate Programs:
  • None
Specialization Options:
  • Corporate Law, Intellectual Property, Litigation, and General Studies (Certificate only)

University of La Verne

The University of La Verne, a private university, offers both paralegal bachelor’s degree and certificate options through its Legal Studies program on its La Verne campus in southeast Los Angeles County. The Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies program is a degree completion program with 46 semester hours of core and elective legal-focused coursework culminating in a senior project. Students must also complete a paralegal internship. The degree requires 128 semester hours with the balance of credits either transferred in or earned through La Verne.

Students with bachelor’s degrees or at least 60 semester credits (including a minimum of 18 credits of general education coursework) from a regionally accredited college are eligible for the Certificate in Paralegal Studies program. This program consists of 32 semester hours of legal studies coursework and includes a paralegal internship.

Per semester unit tuition for La Verne’s Legal Studies BS and Certificate programs is $665 ($250 for active military).

Delivery:
  • On Campus
  • Part-time
  • Full-time
Undergraduate Programs:
  • Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies
  • Certificate in Paralegal Studies.
Graduate Programs:
  • None
Specialization Options:
  • None

Top Online Paralegal Degree Programs in California

Online paralegal programs in California are popular and plentiful, much more so than traditional campus-based programs, because online programs provide the most convenient means for academically preparing for or advancing a paralegal career. Online paralegal programs in California are offered in a variety of degree and certificate types and delivery modes (fully online, hybrid, blended, etc.), so it’s important to have a solid grasp on the specifics of any program before signing up.

Spotlighted below are three of the top online programs providing students with the education required to work as a paralegal in California and other jurisdictions. Be sure to check back for a full ranking of online paralegal programs in California.

Cerro Coso Community College

Located in the Indian Wells Valley city of Ridgecrest, Cerro Coso Community College offers a paralegal studies associate degree and a certificate program, both of which are entirely online. The Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies prepares students for paralegal practice, to earn a bachelor’s degree in legal studies, political science, or any number of other law-related majors, or even to pursue a Juris Doctor degree to become an attorney. The 60-credit program takes four, full-time semesters. The cost of the AS program (including tuition, fees, books, supplies, etc.) is $6,360 for California residents and $26,880 for non-residents.

Cerro Coso’s Paralegal Studies Certificate of Achievement includes 27 credits of law-related core and elective courses completed part-time over three semesters. Students can concentrate on specific legal fields (e.g., criminal law, family law, bankruptcy law, etc.) through their electives. The total cost for the certificate program is $2,862 for California residents and $12,096 for non-residents.

Undergraduate Programs:
  • Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies
  • Paralegal Studies Certificate of Achievement
Graduate Programs:
  • None
Program Options:
  • Part-time (Certificate)
  • Full-time (Associate Degree)
  • Fully Online

Humphreys University

The Legal Studies program at Humphreys University is chocked full of options. Humphreys offers its paralegal associate and bachelor’s degree programs in both virtual (live-streamed classes at scheduled times) and online (asynchronous classes accessible anytime) formats as well as entirely on campus. The Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies program requires 181 quarter units of coursework typically over four years of full-time study. However, students can transfer a generous number of credits to shorten the program length. Additionally, BA students at Humphreys can save a full year in earning both this BA in Legal Studies and a law degree at the university’s Drivon School of Law through the Legal Studies to Law School Transfer Program.

AA in Legal Studies students complete 96 quarter units typically over two years of full-time study. Both the Legal Studies AA and BA programs prepare graduates to take the NALA Certified Paralegal exam. Humphreys operates on a four-quarters-per-year calendar, and Legal Studies students can in any quarter.

Tuition for undergraduate students is $410/credit.

Undergraduate Programs:
  • Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies
  • Associate in Arts in Legal Studies
Graduate Programs:
  • None
Program Options:
  • Part-time
  • Full-time
  • Fully Online

University of California Davis Extension

The University of California Davis Extension offers a highly convenient and affordable Paralegal Studies Certificate Program. This stand-alone program has open admissions and requires a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. In other words, a college degree is not required. The 21-credit program includes instruction in core topics such as legal terminology, legal research and writing, preparation of pleadings, client correspondence, trial preparation, and more. Advanced topics include contract law, tort law, and litigation procedures in California state courts.

The program is entirely online in a self-paced format and designed to be completed in as little as six months. Students can start their studies at any time. Program cost is $6,995.

Undergraduate Programs:
  • Paralegal Studies Certificate
Graduate Programs:
  • None
Program Options:
  • Self-paced
  • Fully Online

Types of Paralegal Degrees You Can Earn in California

There are three types of paralegal programs in California to prepare you for employment as a paralegal: certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. All three types are available in both online and campus-based formats from schools in the state. To help you decide which program type is best for you, see the brief descriptions and current program examples below for each.

Undergraduate Paralegal Degrees in California

Paralegal Associate Degrees

A common offering by California community colleges, the paralegal associate degree is a logical choice for students looking to combine an affordable path to starting a paralegal career with additional general education and other law-related coursework. For those thinking about earning a bachelor’s degree later, the credits obtained in a paralegal associate degree program transfer into most paralegal and other law-focused bachelor’s programs. Associate paralegal programs in California typically require a two-year, full-time commitment and may be campus-based or fully or partially online.

Accredited California Colleges with an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies

Paralegal Bachelor’s Degrees

The paralegal bachelor’s degree is a good option for anyone seeking to launch or advance a career as a paralegal, but it’s a particularly great choice for those intending to continue their academic pursuits and earn a law-related master’s or Juris Doctor degree. Less common than either associate degree or certificate programs, bachelor’s paralegal programs in California are nevertheless available from a small number of public and private schools throughout the state, including those in the spotlights above and links below. Paralegal bachelor’s programs are most often fully or partially campus-based, but a few are online. You can complete most in four years of full-time study unless you already have an associate degree, other bachelor’s degree, or transferable college credits.

Accredited California Colleges with a Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies

Certificate Programs

A paralegal certificate program is the fastest and most affordable option to launch a new career as a paralegal. There are two types of paralegal certificate programs. The first is a stand-alone program typically open to applicants with high school diplomas or GEDs. The second requires an associate or bachelor’s degree for admission. Paralegal certificate programs in California can be campus-based, but most are at least partially online. Fully online, stand-alone programs are also quite common. Programs are usually self-paced or part-time with lengths that vary from around six months (sometimes less) to one year.

Accredited California Colleges with Paralegal Certificate Programs

Paying for Your Paralegal Degree in California


Most paralegal programs in California are surprisingly affordable, particularly those offered by public colleges and universities. Nevertheless, many students still require assistance in funding their paralegal studies. Fortunately, there are plenty of financial resources available to qualifying students. Those include scholarships, grants, VA benefits, employer tuition reimbursement, and the ever-popular student loan.

For most students interested in paralegal programs in California, the best place to start a funding search is at the financial aid offices of the schools they’re considering. Often overlooked sources of funding are scholarships sponsored by paralegal associations (national and local) and paralegal program schools themselves.
Examples include:

For more on finding help paying for your paralegal studies, check out STEPS scholarships and financial aid guides specifically for those earning public service degrees.

Salary & Growth for Paralegal Grads in California

Paralegals in California are well-paid and in strong demand. According to May 2022 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for paralegals in California is $76,080. That’s over $13,000 more than BLS estimates for paralegal salaries across the nation. Your actual earnings as a California paralegal, of course, depend on important factors like your specific employer, job duties, and level of professional work experience. As the numbers from the BLS for annual paralegal salaries for four California metro areas below indicate, geographic location is another factor in how much paralegals make.

  • Bakersfield: $56,030
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Anaheim: $75,850
  • San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward: $88,270
  • Santa Rosa: $62,450

Geographic location also substantially impacts job growth for paralegals in California, as indicated by the long-term growth percentages from California’s Employment Development Department below.

  • Fresno: 8.3%
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Glendale: 15.8%
  • San Francisco/Redwood City/South San Francisco: 11.5%
  • Santa Cruz/Watsonville: -14.3%

California Paralegal Professional and Student Resources

  • California Alliance of Paralegal Associations (CAPA)
    As the name indicates, CAPA is an alliance of paralegal associations located throughout the state, the mission of which is to advocate for “promoting education, voluntary examination, and advancement of the paralegal profession.” CAPA’s website offers lots of helpful information on the practice of paralegals in California.
  • CalJOBS: Paralegals and Legal Assistants
    This official State of California website offers comprehensive information on jobs, occupations, industries, educational institutions, and more for every job type imaginable. You can access information on paralegals and legal assistants in the state by using the “Career Opportunities” tab and typing in “paralegals” on the home page’s search engine.
  • Lambda Epsilon Chi (LEX)
    Lambda Epsilon Chi is the national honor society of paralegal students. Membership eligibility requires demonstrated superior academic performance evidenced by an overall GPA of 3.25 or higher and 3.5 or higher in paralegal classes at a school that is an institutional member of the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE).
  • National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
    NALA is a non-profit organization representing over 15,000 paralegal professionals throughout the U.S. Visitors to NALA’s site can access a wealth of education, certification, and paralegal practice resources. Membership benefits include access to the NALA Career Center and Commons Online Community Platform, SimpleLaw case management software platform, CLE courses, and more.
  • 6450 & You
    Published by CAPA, 6450 & You is a valuable resource providing the entire text of California Business & Professions Code Sections 6450-6456, including appendixes, that covers the professional practice of paralegals in the state.