The requirements for earning a paralegal studies degree may depend on the jurisdiction in which you live. In most cases, however, you will need to earn a high school or equivalency diploma and then seek admission to college. In college, you can pursue an associate’s degree in paralegal studies or opt to earn a bachelor's degree. Besides the choice of degrees, you may also have the opportunity to choose how you will learn. Paralegal studies programs are usually offered through both online and traditional programs.
In order to earn a paralegal studies degree, you will typically have to start with a high-school-level education as a foundation. In high school, you may prepare for college admission by pursuing an academic selection of courses. All of the courses you take may be important, as college admissions officers will typically review your transcript and consider the grades you have earned in all of your classes. Courses such as composition and public speaking, however, may provide particularly helpful preparation for legal studies and eventually a legal career.
After completing high school or its equivalent, you may choose to pursue an associate's level paralegal studies degree. You may earn this degree by studying at a community college or enrolling in a four-year institution that also offers associate’s degrees. In most cases, associate’s degrees can be earned in about two years, but some people may need up to three years. You may take a range of courses as you work toward an associate’s degree in this field, including those that cover legal terminology, communication, ethics, research, and writing. You may also take classes that teach you about civil and criminal litigation as well as family, real estate, and probate law.
You also have the choice of earning a bachelor’s level degree in paralegal studies. To earn this degree, you will typically need to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program at a university and spend about four years earning this credential. This degree may be appropriate for you whether you are planning to become a paralegal or hoping to go on to law school after college.
The courses you will take to earn a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies may depend on the requirements of the school you choose to attend. You will, however, typically take courses that cover such topics as legal research and writing, civil law, criminal law, legal ethics, and legal technology. You may also take classes in tort, probate, family, real estate, and contract law. Additionally, you will likely take classes that cover various types of litigation.
While you can earn a paralegal studies degree through a program at a traditional college, you do not have to. There are also online programs through which you can earn this degree. Whether you choose a traditional or online program may depend on the paralegal studies degree programs that are available in your area as well as your personal preferences and learning style.