Online Paralegal Degree

To meet demand, many online colleges offer paralegal degrees. Paralegals do the behind the scenes tasks for law firms and businesses. If curious about civil rights and in need of a flexible format, an online paralegal degree may be ideal.  

An online paralegal degree studies legal theory, US laws and legal actions. Some classes are practical and show you how to research and write about the law. While others are admin in nature, showing how to assist lawyers in trials and hearings. One may find online paralegal programs at all levels. Bachelor’s, master’s and PhDs. At each level, one may learn about laws and process. 

A bachelor’s in paralegal studies is basic. You tend to learn about legal terms, federal and state laws. At the same time, you may grow clerical and management skills. Once you graduate, you might seek an entry level paralegal job. Master’s in legal studies are professional programs. They tend to be for people who work with corporate rules and legal teams. Grads may leave with practical legal expertise. Plus, informed decision skills that may lend professional credibility. PhD in Law programs are for lawyers who want research the law and policy. While a student, the task is to come up with an original theory and publishable paper. Grads may leave ready to pursue a career in the judiciary, academia, business and gov’t.  

Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies

An online bachelor’s in paralegal studies is an entry level degree. Most schools award a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS). Of them, the BA may focus on legal research, civil litigation and writing. While a BS tends to bring more law classes into the core program. Both a BS and BA cover about 120 credits which include Gen. Ed. Unless you have transfer credits, expect it to take about four years to get through them.  

Class topics vary yet tend to focus on three main areas. Legal research (resources, case law); litigation (trials) and legal tech (databases, software). To ‘get in’, you must send in transcripts and need a high school diploma or its equal. Some online schools also look at GPA, SAT or ACT scores. Since each school is different, another variable is cost. On average, expect to pay $14,600 per year if you attend a public college. Tuition is higher at private nonprofit schools ($41,100) and profit schools ($22,700). 

Master’s Degree in Legal Studies

An online master’s in legal studies is a grad degree. It may appeal to paralegals who want to mold the next stage in their career. Most schools award a Master of Science (MS) in Legal Studies. Since it is a ‘law program’, schools house it within their Law School. A goal of an MLS degree is to deepen a non lawyer’s understanding of the law. Not to be able to practice law, rather to solve work related legal issues.

Usual course plans start with an overview of the U.S. legal system. How laws come to be, legal concepts, resources, methods and jurisdiction. Two common core classes are regulations and compliance. Through them, you learn about legal risk and ways to manage it. Along with these, one may take legal writing and research classes. These set up the ways to draft legal memos, speak to execs, and design compliant programs. 

Many schools cover these themes in 24 to 30 credits. Finishing them may take from one to two years, depending on your course load. To enroll, you need a bachelor’s degree and must send in all transcripts. Some online schools look at your undergrad major and GPA too. In some cases, you might send in GRE or LSAT scores. But not every online college asks. What you may need are references, resume, and an application essay. Tuition, like admission protocols, varies. If you choose a public college, the average cost is $11,617 per year.  

PhD in Law

An online PhD in Law is a research doctorate. It is the highest degree for those who have an LLM degree in law. The LLM is a Master of Laws. It serves as a secondary degree for lawyers who’ve achieved their JD and passed the bar exam. Some people go for their PhD to gain expertise in one aspect of the law. Most programs thus mix legal theory and scholarship. 

Apart from research methods, you may study policy as well as jurisprudence. Then other material that supports your own research topic. There may also be a teaching component in some programs. So, while core classes may be available online, it is likely there will be some on campus presence. These moving parts plus your own dissertation prep may entail 60 to 90 credits. For many students, that takes at least three years.  

To apply into a PhD in Law program, you must send in transcripts and tend to need an LLM degree.  Applicants may also send in a resume, references and writing sample. Schools may want to see if you are a fit with faculty research projects too. Many thus ask for a detailed proposal about your research goals to see if they line up. Now, if you want to practice the law, you need a Juris Doctor. And, you must earn a JD at a Law School with American Bar Association (ABA) approval.  

What can I do with an Online Paralegal Degree?

This degree may ready you for a range of today and tomorrow’s job fields as well as further studies. Laws change and this may create prospects in business, finance, health care and human resources. As legal careers continue to evolve, there may be jobs for all levels of education. In many of these areas, one needs a bachelor’s for entry roles. Apart from having a bachelor’s degree, to practice the law, you need a Juris Doctor (JD degree). Those who research for a certain kind of lawyer (E.g. criminal) may also need education in that niche.  

1. Paralegal and Legal Assistant

Paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers out. They also do legal research on laws to help lawyers prep for trials, meetings and hearings. And, know how to draft documents and file them in the right place.  

2. Corporate Paralegal

Corporate paralegals work with lawyers who focus in business and finance law. So, they tend to watch and review gov’t rules to keep a company prepped. Some of their tasks center on drafting docs. Like worker contracts, stock option plans and end of year financial reports.  

3. Judicial Law Clerk

A law clerk helps judges both in court and through research. Part of their prep work involves looking into laws, court decisions, opinions and briefs. They also do some of the drafting of docs as well as proofread and review filed petitions, motions and pleadings. A large number also hold a professional degree (29%) or PhD (56%).  

4. Mediators and Conciliators

Mediators work to ensure that disputing parties can resolve their issues outside the courts. To do this, they try to make it easier to dialogue. But the decisions reached are not binding contracts.  

5. Arbitraror

Arbitrators tend to be lawyers, business pros and retired judges with expertise. They are impartial to outcomes and listen to both sides of a conflict. In some cases, they may also reach decisions about process for litigation. For this kind of role, a law degree, MBA or PhD may be more suitable. 

6. Insurance Appraiser

Insurance appraisers look into claims. They check to see if the claim is valid, not fraudulent. And, often decide if an insurance company should settle claims or dispute them.  

7. Civil Rights Investigator

Civil rights investigators work in the area of compliance. Specifically, equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws and policies. If someone files a claim, these pros check that an employer did not use prejudice. While a bachelor’s degree may suffice, about 12% of EEO Officers hold a master’s degree.  

8. Lawyer and Attorney

Lawyers advise and rep people, businesses and gov’t agencies. Their day to day may involve meeting with clients. Then, doing the legwork to research and assess clients’ legal problems. While many practice in one area (E.g. criminal, environmental or tax law), they need a J.D. degree. And, it must be from an ABA accredited law school. 

Is an Online Degree in Paralegal Studies worth it?

Paralegal studies may yield flexible skills, prospects and above average earning potential. Law firms are trying to cut costs which results in a hybrid role for paralegals. More than before, they are taking on tasks held by legal secretaries. Add to that, many now tackle tasks previously done by entry level lawyers. As a result, it is one legal field that is growing much faster than average. In fact, the BLS predicts 12% more paralegal and legal assistant jobs by 2028. 

If you have a law degree, it may open up some avenues too. The demand for lawyers is steady, and should see a 6% growth, says the BLS. Those who work in civil rights and EEO also face a 6% shift in outlook. It’s somewhat higher (8%) forecast for arbitrators, mediators and conciliators. Salaries for all these occupations vary. But the median average wage for legal jobs was $81,820 in May 2019. And paralegals in the highest 10% of workers in their fields earned more than $82,500. 

Online Paralegal Degree Jobs & Salary

Occupation Average Salary Jobs
Paralegal $51,740 39,000
Mediatorr $63,930 600
Insurance Appraiser $66,540 800
Civil Rights Investigator $69,050 30,700

Top States for Jobs as a Paralegal

State Jobs Annual Mean Wage
CA 35,040 $61,810
FL 30,850 $51,130
NY 29,310 /td> $58,070
TX 27,040 $54,430
IL 13,980 $59,960

What classes will I take with an Online Paralegal Degree?

Most online paralegal degrees help you gain the skills and knowledge to help a lawyer in court. To do this, you tend to study 5 key themes. 

  1. Legal tech – fees and billing, time track projects, software  
  2. Laws – legal system, civil and common law 
  3. Legal research – resources, tactics, online and print media 
  4. Litigation I, II – terms, jurisdiction, interview models, discovery 
  5. Legal writing – draft motions, briefs, pleadings and other docs

These areas set a context for other courses. You may learn how to conduct yourself in a professional way. And, about various types of the law. Criminal, Family, Common, Civil and Property Law to name a few. You may study even more topics when you go for a paralegal degree online. That said, each level is likely to do this in a distinct way. Below are some of the classes you may find at the bachelor’s, master’s and PhD levels.  

Bachelor’s Degree Courses

BA in paralegal studies classes take you through the basics. You tend to study law office functions while learning about the legal system. These classes explain legal vocabulary. And, may shed light on how to interview clients and investigate facts. You also learn how to track down first and second sources in digital and print media. Once you locate them, you study the correct ways to draft motions, letters and other legal documents.

In other classes, you are likely to learn about legal theory and principles. Justice, natural law, civil rights, and the social contract between a citizen and the gov’t. On the practical side, most course plans cover admin tasks. Things like time keeping, billing, and case management. The following classes may also be part of your program: 

Intro to the Legal System

An overview that looks at the US legal system, including civil and common law. You may also study the skills needed to interview and draft legal docs. Other topics may help you master law terms, law office admin and ethical conduct.

Legal Research

Study the tactics of legal research. For e.g., how to track down key primary and secondary legal sources in digital and print media. Then also, to apply this info to fact scenarios using logic and argument.  

Litigation

This type of class looks at the process of taking an issue to trial in state and federal courts. It is likely to go over key terms and help you understand jurisdiction. Plus, explains pleadings, motions, memoranda and key docs. 

Legal Writing

A class that builds on research and analysis skills. Expect written assignments and practical tasks. You may learn to draft motions, pleadings, letters, and other legal docs.  

Graduate Degree Courses

In a general MLS program, the goal is to nurture key legal skills. Ones that help you read and make sense of the law. And, enable you to communicate findings with execs, legal teams and board members. To do this, you are likely to take classes in Torts, Contracts, Legislation and Regulation. In studying these areas, you may gain a deeper grasp of legal risk and how to manage it.  Managing risk also relates to compliance. This is another central class and may explain how to design and put into place compliant programs. 

Some programs go deeper into this area by studying the US legal system. So, you may find classes in Constitutional Law, Civil Rights and Regulatory Agencies. For those who want more focus, online schools offer concentration tracks. Areas to look for are compliance for cyber security, anti corruption, health care, finance and business. The following classes may also be part of your program: 

Intro to the Courts and Law

This course is about how to interact with the legal system. It may cover select areas of law, vocabulary and main ideas. Side topics are constitutional law, civil process and federal court powers.  

Regulation and Compliance

An overview of regulation, regulated industries and compliance. The class studies the goals of regulation as well as the role of regulators. As a side topic, it also looks at the role of corporate governance. 

Drafting for Compliance

Students may learn to draft policies, procedures, codes of conduct. Plus, guidelines related to various industries. Studying these areas, one also learns how to read contracts, spot risks and write memos to legal teams. 

Negotiation and Communication

About the theories and principles of negotiation. And, how to use them in a work setting. This kind of class may make use of readings, exercises, role plays and discussion. 

How long does it take to get a Paralegal Degree online?

The time it takes to earn a paralegal degree online varies. A few things that impact length are format (full or part time), level and transfer credits. To earn a bachelor’s in paralegal studies often takes four years. From there, you may need an extra 1 to 2 years to earn a master’s in legal studies. For those who go after a PhD in Law, it tends to take at least 3 years. 

University Level of Degree # of Credits Required Starts Per Year Minimum Months to Complete
Purdue University Global Bachelor’s 180 QC 4 24
Tulane University Bachelor’s 120 3 48
Southern New Hampshire University Bachelor’s 120 6 24
American University Master’s 30 3 12
Washington University St. Louis Master’s 24 3 12
Pepperdine University Master’s 30 3 16
University of Washington PhD 90 1 26
Liberty University PhD 60 6 36
Walden University PhD 42 6 24

15 Schools with Online Paralegals Degrees

Many online schools offer paralegal degrees. Here are 15 schools with online degrees in paralegal studies at all levels. 

  1. Purdue University Global
  2. Tulane University  
  3. Southern New Hampshire University  
  4. Regent University  
  5. Saint Mary of the Woods College 
  6. American University  
  7. Washington University St Louis 
  8. Pepperdine University 
  9. Florida State University   
  10. Arizona State University  
  11. University of Washington  
  12. Liberty University  
  13. Walden University  
  14. University of California Berkeley 
  15. Syracuse University

FIND AN ONLINE PARALEGAL DEGREE

 Let’s take a closer look at the online paralegal degrees that these 15 schools have to offer. 

1

Purdue University Global

Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies and Support Services

Fully Online


This program entails 180 quarter credits. It covers major ideas in justice, natural law, and civil rights. While covering theory, the program offers practical and tech skills. As such, you may learn how to do legal research, prep legal docs and use trade software. Sample courses might include: 

  • Legal Research & Writing  
  • Business Law 
  • Legal Philosophy

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $14,358
Grad $9,768 
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$5,289 

Average Net Price:
N/A 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission 

2

Tulane University

Bachelor of Arts in General Legal Studies

Campus / Online Combo


This ABA approved program entails 120 credits. There are a few prerequisite classes, after which you take a practicum course. It has two parts. A 100 hour law office internship and class in legal conduct and job search skills. Sample courses might include: 

  • Intro to the Legal System 
  • Legal Writing 
  • Litigation

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $56,800
Grad $54,918
Special rates available for military students 

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$30,904 

Average Net Price:
$40,783 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program & dedicated point of contact.

Accredited:
American Bar Association, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges 

3

Southern New Hampshire University

Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies – Law & Legal Process

Fully Online


This program entails 120 credits. It aims to build well rounded skills in criminal justice. As a result, you study the law and learn about criminal process and corrections. There is also a legal reasoning class. In it you may learn to write brief, yet formal summaries of U.S. Supreme Court opinions. Sample courses might include: 

  • Business Law 
  • Forensic Law 
  • Juvenile Justice System

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $31,136  
Grad $18,810 
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,913 

Average Net Price:
$39,743 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
New England Commission of Higher Education 

4

Regent University

Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies

Fully Online


This program entails 120 credits. It starts with an intro to paralegal studies, taught from a Christian worldview. There are also classes in legal research and writing. Add to these a wide range of law classes where you also study litigation, ethics and process. Sample courses might include: 

  • Contract Law 
  • Real Estate Law 
  • Law Office Workplace 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $18,620 
Grad $15,552  
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$7,801 

Average Net Price:
$15,062 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges 

5

Saint Mary of the Woods College

Bachelor of Arts in Paralegal Studies

Fully Online


This program entails 120 credits. Of them, core topics frame the paralegal profession and skills needed in it. How to research, use legal databases and make sense of laws and statutes. You also study civil litigation and how to assist a lawyer during a trial. Learners take part in a 150 hour practicum to cap things off. Sample courses might include: 

  • Law Ethics and Society 
  • Interviewing and Investigation 
  • Liability

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $18,620 
Grad $15,552 
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$7,801 

Average Net Price:
$15,062 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges 

6

American University

Master of Legal Studies

Fully Online


This program entails 30 credits. The basic program introduces the courts, law and compliance. You also study how to negotiate and communicate in clear terms. Apart from the core topics, you may select a focal area. Business, health care compliance, tech or cyber security. Sample courses might include: 

  • Intro to Courts and Law 
  • Drafting for Compliance Pros 
  • Intro to Regulation

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $49,889 
Grad $30,351 

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$27,386 

Average Net Price:
$40,469 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
American Bar Association, Middle States Commission on Higher Education 

7

Washington University St Louis

Master of Legal Studies

Fully Online


This program entails 24 credits. It focuses on skill building. Students learn how to draft legal docs, conduct legal research and analyze the law. The program also makes use of the Socratic method. That means it nurtures debate and discussion as you explore key themes. Civil process, constitutional law, trial advocacy, torts and more. Sample courses might include: 

  • US Law and Methods 
  • Contracts 
  • Torts 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $55,292
Grad $54,250
Special rates available for military students 

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$42,706 

Average Net Price:
$27,108 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, dedicated point of contact & recognized student vet organization.

Accredited:
American Bar Association, Higher Learning Commission  

8

Pepperdine University 

Master of Legal Studies

Online / Residency


This program entails 30 credits. The classes focus on helping you grow legal skills and a deeper grasp of legal concepts. Studying the law, you use legal analysis to make sense of cases, statutes and rules. You are also able to take up to 12 electives. These span Intellectual Property, Business Org’s, Health or Education Law. Sample courses might include: 

  • Constitutional Law 
  • Criminal Law 
  • Civil Procedure and Litigation 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $55,892
Grad $34,900
Special rates available for military students 

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$29,508 

Average Net Price:
$42,135 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, dedicated point of contact & recognized student vet organization.

Accredited:
American Bar Association, WASC Senior College and University Commission  

9

Florida State University

Juris Master

Fully Online


This program entails 30 credits. It features a study planned intended to grow a deeper grasp of compliance and legal risk. Learners may build key legal skills. Such as being able to read and interpret statutes, regulations and case law. A choice of three focal areas tailors your studies. These are Financial Compliance, Health Care and Legal Risk / HR Compliance. Sample courses might include: 

  • Civil Procedure 
  • Legal Writing and Research 
  • Constitutional Law

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $18,786
Grad $24,116
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$7,685 

Average Net Price:
$12,568 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
American Bar Association, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges 

10

Arizona State University

Master of Legal Studies

Fully Online


This program entails 30 credits. It is for those whose work deals with regulations, negotiations, lawyers or legal issues. All MLS students take one semester of core classes in the same subjects studied by JD students during their entire first year. There are six focal areas or a self design option. Compliance, Criminal Law, Health Law, Family /Juvenile Law, Employment Law or Human Rights. Sample courses might include: 

  • American Common Law 
  • Legal Analysis, Writing, Research 
  • Procedure

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $29,428
Grad $26,160
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$10,651 

Average Net Price:
$13,764 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission  

11

University of Washington

PhD in Law

Campus Based


This program entails 90 credits. It is for those who have an LLM degree and want to conduct in depth research. The main body of classes study the issues and methods used in social science research. Along the way, you may learn how to write a grant proposal and prospectus. Sample courses might include: 

  • Jurisprudence 
  • Research Methods 
  • Advanced Law

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $38,166
Grad $32,439 
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$13,400 

Average Net Price:
$10,692 

Military Programs:
Credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
American Bar Association, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities 

12

Liberty University

PhD in Education Law

Fully Online


This program entails 60 credits. It features four main parts. The first is an education core with classes that focus on learning theory and tech. Second are educational law classes that include policy analysis. Following are research and dissertation classes. Sample courses might include: 

  • Policy Analysis 
  • Contracts Law 
  • Advanced Education Law  

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $22,747 
Grad $7,980
Special rates available for military students 

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$7,550 

Average Net Price:
$28,181 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges 

13

Walden University

PhD in Criminal Justice – Law and Public Policy

Online / Residency 


This program entails about 83 quarter credits. It looks at how past and present legal decisions influence public policy. To do this, the courses cover legal concepts and landmark cases and issues in the courts. Some of the themes are property rights, foreign policy and immigration law. Sample classes might include: 

  • Law and Public Policy 
  • Legal Research for Public Policy 
  • Policy and Analysis in Criminal Justice 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $12,039 
Grad $3,631
Special rates available for military students  

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,900 

Average Net Price:
N/A 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission 

14

University of California Berkeley

PhD in Jurisprudence and Social Policy (JSP)

Online Hybrid


This program entails 3 years. The main focus is on policy analysis and applied research on law related issues. Some of these are criminal justice, poverty, human rights and environment. As such, the classes draw from other areas including political science. There are many research classes to prep you for dissertation work too.  Sample classes might include: 

  • Analysis of Law 
  • American Legal Theory 
  • Poverty and Discrimination

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $44,007 
Grad $26,544

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$19,369 

Average Net Price:
$18,522 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
American Bar Association, Middle States Commission on Higher Education  

15

Syracuse University

Juris Doctor

Online / Hybrid


This program entails 61 core credits. It is available through JDInteractive, an ABA approved online law school program. Students learn through live online as well as self paced online classes, residential courses and an externship. Many students need three years and three months to finish them. Sample classes might include: 

  • Civil Procedure 
  • Torts 
  • Contracts  

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $53,849
Grad $38,880
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$27,767 

Average Net Price:
$43,111 

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC

*Unemployment Earnings.  Sources for school stats and data include the NCES and IPEDS.