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Degree Overview: Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree in Paralegal: Legal Assistant

Majors Overview December 20, 2013

Those interested in legal and law systems may want to look into a career as a paralegal. An Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree can qualify individuals for a legal assistant or paralegal job at the courthouse, a private corporation, or law firm.

A.A. Programs in Paralegal: Legal Assistant

Students enrolled in a paralegal associate’s degree program are imparted fundamental knowledge on how to research cases, prepare legal documents and maintain communications with clients. Those who graduate from this two-year program are trained to seek entry-level jobs in the legal field. Legal assistant and paralegal students are taught about drafting and filing documents, helping lawyers prepare for trial and maintaining documentation. After they complete an associate degree program, students can expect to gain familiarity with court procedures, ethical issues, various laws and legal terminology. Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma.


Completion of program coursework is augmented through hands-on training on how to prepare legal documents. Students may also be expected to participate in seminars, internships or work-based learning experiences with local legal firms. Coursework may typically include topic areas such as:

•Criminal law
•Tort law procedures
•Legal terminology
•Bankruptcy procedures
•Civil litigation

Job and Wage Outlook

A faster-than-average job growth rate of 28% has been predicted for the paralegal field during the decade from 2008 to 2018 (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). In 2010, these professionals earned an average annual wage of $46,680 (BLS).

Certification and Continuing Education Choices

Although it is not insisted on by hirers, certification could prove beneficial to paralegals when they seek jobs or promotions. Those whom complete paralegal programs can acquire certifications from various organizations; to qualify for certification, they would have to pass an exam and satisfy experience and education norms. For instance, the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) and Certified Paralegal (CP) credentials are offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) to professionals who have formal education in paralegal studies and who pass a five-part exam.

Paralegals can also continue to seek education options at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels by enrolling into programs in legal or paralegal studies. By earning a bachelor’s degree, a legal assistant could obtain additional certification, including the Registered Paralegal credential offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

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