Pursuing a Career as a ParalegalAccording to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 22 percent through 2016.* These increases are estimated to create positions in a number of industries and offer career opportunities that include count clerks and administrators, legislative assistants, and committee staff members in a legislative setting and nonprofit roles, such as contract evaluators. For those looking to jump-start a new career, the paralegal track could be a great option, given that an associate’s degree can be completed in under two years, and a bachelor’s degree can be completed in under four.

At Kaplan University, the undergraduate legal studies program is one of the largest offered.† Many students enrolled in the paralegal program are already in professional positions and do not have the time or alternative to commute to a ground campus. The invaluable flexibility of Kaplan University’s online programs allows these students to pursue a degree while balancing current commitments. Furthermore, as technology becomes more embedded in the legal industry, an online paralegal program could provide an increased comfort level with technology that can transition directly into a student’s work environment.

Paralegals or legal assistants are generally responsible for a variety of tasks that include assisting clients, performing investigative functions, preparing legal documents, and assisting with litigation preparation. Some additional day-to-day tasks may include preparing briefs, pleadings, or wills; preparing real estate closing statements; researching and gathering data such as statutes and legal articles; handling escrow accounts and billing; or helping to arbitrate disputes between parties.

Kaplan University offers three programs for those interested in the paralegal track: an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies; a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies; and a Pathway to Paralegal Postbaccalaureate Certificate. Both the associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs are designed to provide students with practical knowledge and technical skills that can immediately be applied in their careers.‡ The bachelor’s degree program provides a broad foundation of core subjects plus higher level courses in areas such as torts, legal writing, and technology. Students in the bachelor’s program also complete a number of courses that provide instruction in specific topics such as dispute resolution, social security, health law, divorce mediation, and law office management.

The Pathway to Postbaccalaureate Certificate program is intended for students that have obtained a bachelor’s degree and are seeking a career as a paralegal. The program is designed to provide the foundational paralegal skills and knowledge needed so graduates can communicate in a legal environment, conduct legal research, and evaluate sources, as well as understand the court system, law office management, and litigation.

Success in the online paralegal program at Kaplan University is built on a strong foundational knowledge, the beginning of which is acquired at the high school level. Taking high school classes that develop writing skills, technical aptitude and knowledge of the law, government, and math would be beneficial to students considering a paralegal degree program.

In addition to the paralegal programs, Kaplan University offers degrees in legal studies, public administration and policy, or environmental policy and management. Those students that already have an associate’s degree from a regionally or nationally accredited college may qualify for the advanced start option, offering the ability to obtain a bachelor’s degree in as little as two years.§ Graduates with a bachelor’s degree could then choose to pursue their master’s degree in legal studies or attend law school.#

There are many career colleges that offer paralegal courses. To see these and others, visit the paralegal colleges directory today.

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos114.htm. These employment projections are provided for informational purposes only. Long-term projections are not intended to predict short-term changes in employment demand due to the current economy. Graduates are not authorized to practice law and will not be eligible to sit for any state’s bar examination.

† Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), 2006-2007 Bachelor’s Degrees Conferred, Law and Legal Studies, on the Internet at http://nces.ed.gov/IPEDS.

‡Kaplan University’s programs are designed to prepare graduates to pursue employment in their field of study, or in related fields. However, the University does not guarantee that graduates will be placed in any particular job or employed at all.

§Speak to an Admissions Advisor or refer to our University Catalog for our Transfer of Credit policy.

#While many of Kaplan University’s degree programs are designed to prepare graduates to pursue continued graduate- or doctorate-level education, the University cannot guarantee that students will be granted admission to any graduate or doctoral programs.