Those interested in a career in the legal field may want to obtain an Associate of Specialized Business (A.S.B.) degree. These programs are also available under different names, including Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) or Associate of Science (A.S.).
A.S.B. Programs in Paralegal Studies
Students enrolled in an associate degree program can aspire to become paralegals involved in assisting attorneys with various tasks such as investigations, real estate transactions, correspondence and research. While the work that paralegals perform is similar to that done by a lawyer, it does not include advising clients, presenting cases in court or making legal decisions.
Courses in legal studies are typically augmented in a paralegal program by business and liberal arts classes. Vocational schools and community colleges are among those that offer these programs that usually span 15 to 24 months. Those aspiring to become paralegals commonly accomplish the goal by earning associate degrees (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)).
Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma. Prospective students are expected to be proficient in computer use; alternatively they may be expected to attend classes in computer basics. Students may be required to take classes in political science, English composition and the fundamentals of the legal system before commencing the program coursework.
Some programs expect students to gain hands on experience through participation in internships conducted in attorney’s offices. Coursework typically focuses on the training necessary for the performance of various duties paralegals are expected to perform, including:
•Legal office software
•Real estate law
Job and Wage Outlook
A job growth of 28% has been predicted for legal assistants and paralegals during the period from 2008 to 2018 (source: BLS); however, job aspirants for the positions could face stiff competition. In May 2010, paralegals earned an average annual wage of $46,680 (BLS).
Certification and Continuing Education Choices
Associate degree graduates may seek continued education by pursuing bachelor’s or master’s degrees in legal or paralegal studies. A paralegal who aspires to work in a specialized area or academia could benefit by earning a master’s degree.
Volunteering for professional certification offered by a professional organization may make paralegals competitive in the job market. Various organizations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants and the American Alliance of Paralegals Inc. offer professional certifications to paralegals based on the passage of an exam and the level of work experience.