Overview of Paralegal College Programs

Paralegal programs generally roll up to Business or Law departments at accredited colleges and universities.  Major focus areas in the programs are paralegal studies foundational skills and paralegal studies authority, research and writing.

What Paralegals Do

Some paralegal programs are taught by experienced attorneys, the very types of professionals you will support in and out of courtrooms after you complete paralegal programs.  Work paralegals perform is similar to functions fulfilled by legal assistants.  For example, paralegals research and investigate data attorneys use during court cases.  Paralegals also help attorneys prepare their legal arguments, get affidavits, create client contracts and maintain budgets and administrative files for attorneys and other employees who work at law firms.

Curriculum Foundation in Paralegal College and University Programs

To succeed as a paralegal you need to understand criminal, civil and employment law.  You also need to have a firm grasp of courtroom proceedings, historic court cases and finance.  Postsecondary paralegal programs will help you to gain these and other necessary skills.  Certificate, diploma, associate degrees, bachelor degrees and master degrees are available.   Basic areas covered in each of the academic programs are:

  • Legal research
  • Criminal law
  • Property
  • Litigation and trial practice
  • Legal analysis and writing
  • Contracts
  • Torts
  • Trial preparation
  • Family Law
  • Uniform commercial code
  • Philosophy and reasoning
  • Wills and trusts
  • Business organizations
  • Constitutional law
  • Corporate law

Some accredited colleges and universities require you to take one to two prerequisites like Introduction to Paralegalism if you do not have legal experience.  If you earn high grades while you attend undergraduate paralegal programs you can get accepted into graduate level paralegal programs at top accredited postsecondary schools.  Doing so can equip you to command top wages after you graduate and start your job search. 

Skills Gained from Paralegal Postsecondary Programs

In addition to gaining the training to assist attorneys and defend clients, when you complete paralegal programs you:

  • Strengthen your interpersonal communication skills
  • Gain a better understanding of human psychology
  • Familiarize yourself with key laws and court cases that can impact the country’s future and/or the futures of the people in your community or culture
  • Academic training that allows you to transfer into a law degree program so you can start practicing as an attorney
  • Understand corporate, real estate and other property contracts
  • Develop relationships with influential people like judges, attorney generals and senior attorneys, networking contacts that can help you land more senior positions
Job Prospects and Salaries for Paralegals

If you’re wondering about the job prospects for paralegals, you’ll be happy to know that jobs for paralegals are expected to grow much faster than jobs in other career fields from 2008 through 2018.  In fact, the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics expects paralegal jobs to grow by 28 percent. This growth is even greater than job growth expected for nurses, another fast growing career field.  The Bureau expects jobs for nurses to grow by 22 percent over the same time period.

As of May 2008, the middle 50 percent of paralegals and legal assistants earned annual salaries that went from $36,080 up to $59,310.  However, the top 10 percent of paralegals earned more than $73,450 a year.  Nearly 71 percent of paralegals work for law firms.  If you gain ample academic training and work experience you can start your own company and provide services to several attorneys, thereby raising your annual wage.

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