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Overview of Paralegal Studies Degree Programs

Majors Overview December 14, 2013

An Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree helps students prepare for a career in the law field. Those interested in a career involving court procedures may want to look into a program in paralegal studies.

A.A.S. Programs in Paralegal Studies

Students enrolled in an Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies are imparted basic knowledge about the inner-workings of the legal system. Schools may offer this program in an online format that students can augment with internships completed in approved legal firms. Those who complete the paralegal AAS degree program may seek entry-level jobs or opt for continued education in the legal field.

Education Requirements

Though paralegal studies don’t usually insist on the completion by students of education prerequisites, some programs may expect students to complete computer usage and composition classes. Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma.


Candidates have to augment coursework with participation in internships wherein they can apply knowledge imbibed during the course in the performance of legal research, wherein they are required to study case laws and analyze legal issues. Analytical and problem-solving skills are obtained by students along with written and oral communication skills. Students augment derived familiarity with basic law principles by studying topic areas such as:

•Legal research & writing
•Civil procedure
•Commercial law
•Computer applications
•Paralegal litigation
•Domestic relations
•Constitutional law
•Tort law

Career Choices

Those who successfully complete a paralegal associate’s degree program can choose from various career options; they may choose to enter the workforce immediately or opt for continued education by transferring to a four-year college. Their career options may include:

•Legal assistant
•Docket clerk
•Litigation assistant
•Law clerk

Continuing Education Choices

Though legal assistants and paralegals are not expected to obtain certification, they can boost their career prospects by volunteering for credentials such as Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP) offered by organizations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA); passage of a two-day certification exam will help an eligible candidate to obtain such certification. They would have to maintain such certification through 50 hours of continuing education during the five-year validity of the original certification.

To maintain certification, 50 hours of continuing education are required during the 5-year certification period. Paralegals that are already certified can also avail the Advanced Paralegal Certification offered by the NALA in an online format.

Paralegals who have five years’ work experience and satisfy educational requirements can obtain the American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential offered via the Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. They can renew the certification, which is originally valid for two years through completion of 18 hours of continuing education.

A bachelor’s degree and at least two years experience will make a candidate eligible to take the Registered Paralegal (RP) certification exam offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). They can renew this 2-year certification with 12 hours of continuing education. The National Association of Legal Secretaries also offers the Professional Paralegal (PP) certification for paralegals.

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