Best Online Associate in Paralegal Programs | BestColleges

Best Online Associate in Paralegal Programs

Learn where an associate program in paralegal can take you. In this guide, we discuss what the degree entails, the possible careers, and earning potential.

An associate in paralegal studies can help aspiring legal professionals launch their education and career. Many community colleges, as well as private colleges and universities, offer paralegal programs. Typically, this program takes two years to complete, unless a student chooses an online accelerated option.

This degree often allows graduates to enter the workforce immediately and create a meaningful difference in legal proceedings. Many people also choose to further their education and become lawyers or judges. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median income for legal professionals was $84,910 per year in May 2020. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

Thanks to its relatively low cost and convenience, an online associate paralegal program is a popular option for many learners. Some in-person and top online schools charge less for online programs. Higher education is least expensive for students at public, in-state universities and in-state community colleges.

In this guide, we discuss the average cost of this online degree, graduates’ earning potential, and common courses in the program.

What Can I Expect From an Online Paralegal Program?

Associate programs in paralegal studies can teach students the best practices for research, witness interviews, and evidence evaluation. Many programs require learners to complete an internship. This allows students to build their resumes during their studies.

Most associate programs require learners to complete 60 credits. Students who choose an accelerated program can complete the degree in a matter of months. Many colleges place a limit on how many years a student can spend working toward the degree before credits start to expire.

Most paralegal courses focus on one aspect of the profession. Classes often feature multiple choice exams, essays, and group projects. Students also engage in discussions on ethics and outcomes of case studies.

Some paralegal programs allow students to select a concentration. Common concentrations include family law, copyright law, and criminal law. Aside from learning about laws and regulations for legal proceedings, learners also hone their organization and interpersonal communication skills.

In the following section, we highlight five courses paralegal students are commonly required to take. Keep in mind that not every school offers these specific courses. Rather, the list represents a sample curriculum.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

Popular Online Associate in Paralegal Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Associate in Paralegal Program?

Overview of the American Legal System

In this class, students learn about the American legal system in depth. The curriculum covers formal court proceedings, and learners discuss landmark cases that impacted the law. Students learn the vital roles judges, attorneys, and juries play in the justice system.


This course covers contract basics. Students learn how to interpret and write basic contracts. Learners are taught how to identify common red flags and loopholes in contracts. They also learn about remedies and breaches. Students often leave the course with example contracts to show in their portfolios.

Legal Research

In this important class, students hone their research skills. Unlike other research courses, this class focuses on gathering information through a legal lens. Students learn how to identify reputable sources and cite them when performing research.

Ethics in the Paralegal Profession

This ethics course introduces students to dilemmas that may arise while on the job. Students learn best practices for protecting vital case information and working through ethical problems. Learners also memorize the ethical standards set by the American Bar Association.

Special Topics

This course outlines the various niche topics within the legal profession. Students learn the differences between family law, employment law, and wills and trusts. Students often leave the course with a better understanding of their desired specialization.

What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Associate in Paralegal Program?

Most associate in paralegal programs require prospective students to fill out an online application. They also usually require applicants to submit recommendation letters and ACT or SAT test scores. Schools also commonly require application essays and official transcripts from all previously attended institutions.

Some community colleges have open enrollment policies. This means they accept students regardless of GPA or college entrance exam scores.

Many schools also require learners to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Individual institutions and the government use the data on this form to determine financial aid awards.

Although these are some of the most common application requirements, keep in mind that applications and their components vary by school.

What Can I Do With an Online Associate in Paralegal Degree?

Career Outlook

The BLS projects that positions for paralegals and legal assistants will grow 12% between 2020 and 2030, faster than the average growth rate across all occupations. In May 2020, these professionals made a median annual salary of $52,920.

However, job availability and salary varies by region. For example, the mean wage for paralegals and legal assistants in Florida was $52,100 during the same period. The same professionals earned an average annual salary of $83,330 in Washington, D.C.

To gain perspective on job availability and salary by region, learners can view current job postings for paralegals. Across the country, average salaries vary to reflect the cost of living. As a general rule, employers on the coasts in large cities pay more than employers in rural communities in the Midwest.

In the following section, we highlight the earning potential and salaries for five specific careers in this field.

See where an online associate in paralegal can take you. Learn more about legal studies careers.

Career Paths

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

These professionals assist legal teams with research and gathering witness testimonials. They research related past cases and help lawyers build strong cases. They also take notes during courtroom sessions. A large portion of this job requires administrative work. Sometimes, paralegals must work overtime to meet deadlines.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $52,920

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

These professionals work in offices, and sometimes for lawyers. They typically answer client inquiries, manage appointment calendars, and process payments. These professionals also coordinate staff meetings and oversee filing systems and database management. Organized people with an eye for detail often thrive in this role.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $40,990

Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners

These professionals provide transcription services for legal proceedings and trials. They must type fast and with accuracy. Captioners provide a valuable service to the deaf community at live events as well. The BLS projects the need for these professionals to grow by 3% between 2020 and 2030.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $61,660

Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

People working in this role keep close records of a company’s expenses and income. They communicate with clients to ensure they pay invoices on time. They also administer payroll to company employees. Unfortunately, the BLS projects the need for this position to decrease by 3% between 2020 and 2030.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $42,410


Receptionists greet customers and clients in an office. They also field phone calls and answer online customer inquiries. These professionals work in nearly every industry. The BLS projects the need for receptionists to increase by 4% between 2020 and 2030.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $31,110

Paralegal Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

Paralegals can further their learning inside and outside of the classroom. People who do not want to pursue additional higher education have options. For example, they can join professional organizations.

These groups host networking events and informative conferences. They also offer certifications and publish informative newsletters and publications. In fact, most states require paralegals to pass a certification exam offered by a professional organization. One example of a widely accepted paralegal exam is the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam.

Other students may wish to advance in the legal profession to become an attorney or lawyer. This requires both a master’s degree and a doctorate. Aspiring lawyers must also take the Bar Exam before practicing law. The majority of states accept the Multistate Bar Exam.

How Do I Choose an Online Associate in Paralegal Program?


Learners should factor in the true cost of attendance when selecting a program. Fortunately, many colleges charge less for online programs. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicates students at in-state, public four-year colleges spent an average of about $9,350 on tuition and required fees in 2019-2020.

Comparatively, students attending public two-year colleges in their state paid about $3,380, and those enrolled in private colleges spent more than $32,770 during the same period. Use this information as a reference point when comparing college costs.

Program Format

Aspiring college students should also consider their working habits and time capacity when selecting a program. For example, students who learn on a set schedule might prefer a synchronous program with specific class meeting times. Individuals who prefer flexibility often thrive in asynchronous formats. Students who must work during their studies should consider a part-time program. Learners who want to finish the degree as fast as possible should consider a full-time accelerated program.


Location still matters when it comes to choosing an online associate in paralegal. For starters, choosing a program based in the state the learner wishes to practice in comes with benefits. Most programs tailor the curriculum to meet paralegal certification requirements for a specific state. Additionally, even programs that advertise themselves as entirely online may require a few on-campus visits.


College applicants should pay attention to the school’s accreditation status. When a school earns accreditation, it means the institution meets certain standards set by a third-party agency selected by the Department of Education. Programs can also earn accreditation. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission grants accreditation to online programs, for example.

Student Support

Before enrolling in a program, research the school’s advising and mentorship opportunities. Some paralegal programs even connect learners with internship opportunities. Also, check to see whether the school offers free tutoring services or online technical support. Schools with more student services tend to feature high graduate success rates.

Best Accredited Online Associate in Paralegal Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Associate in Paralegal Programs

Is an associate degree in paralegal worth it?

Many people find earning an associate degree worth the effort and cost. Thanks to convenient online learning options, students can pursue their career goals in the legal field without relocating. According to the BLS, paralegals need at least an associate degree to practice.

When it comes to this degree, most people see a return on their investment. The BLS reports paralegals and legal assistants earned an average annual salary of $52,920 in May 2020. Additionally, learners can use an associate as a stepping stone toward furthering their education to become a lawyer.

How fast can I get an associate in paralegal degree online?

It takes most full-time learners two years to earn an online associate in paralegal studies. Part-time learners spend around four years finishing their degrees. Students who want to finish their degrees early should consider an accelerated program. Most accelerated programs only take 12-16 months to finish.

Choosing a self-paced asynchronous program can also help learners finish their degrees faster. Asynchronous programs feature prerecorded lectures. Students can write on discussion boards within a set deadline at their own convenience. Some asynchronous courses provide all the coursework up front, which means students can finish it at their own pace.

Is an online associate degree in paralegal credible?

Employers and graduate programs view online paralegal degrees from accredited schools as credible. Schools can earn regional or national accreditation. Typically, regionally accredited programs are considered more prestigious. Usually, community colleges earn national accreditation.

Prospective students can also evaluate a program’s credibility by connecting with recent graduates. Learners may want to ask a college or university for college graduate statistics. Consider asking how many graduates earn a job in the field within six months of graduation and what percentage of students who enroll in the program graduate.

How much money can I make with an associate in paralegal?

The earning potential varies for paralegal graduates. Years of experience and location greatly impact pay. According to Payscale, paralegals made an average annual salary of $49,720 in December 2021. However, the average varied based on years of experience. Paralegals with less than one year of experience earned an average income of $40,000 per year. At the same time, paralegals with more than 20 years of experience earned an average annual salary of $56,000.

Learners who pursue a master’s degree can secure more advanced roles in the field. For example, Payscale data from December 2021 shows attorneys earned an average income of $87,100 per year.

Is an associate degree in paralegal in demand?

The BLS projects the need for paralegals and legal assistants to increase by 12% between 2020 and 2030. During the same time, the BLS projects the need for all legal professionals to grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030.

According to the agency, California and Florida were the two largest employers of paralegals and legal assistants in May 2020. Texas, New York, and Illinois also made the list of the top states employing these professionals.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Feature Image: MangoStar_Studio / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images