5 Ways a Bachelor’s Degree Helps Paralegal Careers
- More Career Options
- Better Pay
- Independent Paralegals
- Become a Certified Paralegal
- Broader Knowledge Base
It’s possible to become a paralegal with a certificate or associate degree in the field, but those options are limiting. Students should carefully consider the pros and cons of earning their B.S. in paralegal science before deciding where to enroll.
See our ranking of the Top 10 Best Value Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Paralegal Studies.
1. More Career Options
Some attorneys, especially at smaller firms, might not care how much education their paralegals have. Large firms, government agencies, and non-profit organizations have more rigorous hiring standards. This is especially true in urban areas, where universities can produce dozens of graduates with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal sciences. In that environment, why would a hiring manager choose a paralegal without a bachelor’s degree? For the best chance at career flexibility and mobility, a B.S. is needed.
2. Better Pay
Many large institutions use strict formulas to determine pay. Increased education means an increased base salary. For organizations that use these systems, there’s no way for a paralegal with just an associate degree to negotiate their starting salary. Plus, promotions between two qualified candidates will often go to the person with more education. At the end of the day, the investment in a bachelor’s degree can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra earnings over the course of a career.
3. Independent Paralegals
Most paralegals work under the supervision of attorneys. However, not every litigant requires advanced legal advice. Some paralegals work as independent paralegals or legal document assistants to provide affordable expertise to clients. In this role, paralegals are hired by people who need help navigating the local court system or understanding where to find information about state laws. While paralegals cannot provide legal advice or represent clients in court, sometimes a nudge in the right direction is all that’s needed. Because independent paralegals attract their own clients, a bachelor’s degree in paralegal science can make it easier to find work.
4. Become a Certified Paralegal
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) provides a certification process for experienced paralegals. Applicants must demonstrate sufficient education and experience then pass a two-part test. It’s possible to take this exam with only a certification or associate degree in paralegal studies. However, a B.S. in paralegal studies can make it easier to pass the exam on the first attempt because these degrees give a more in-depth understanding of the legal field.
5. Broader Knowledge Base
Associate degree and certification programs are so short they can only teach the essential skills for becoming a paralegal. A four-year bachelor’s degree offers time for general education courses and paralegal specialty classes. This means graduates have more well-rounded skills in key areas like writing and computer skills – both of which are essential for success as a paralegal. A B.S. also leaves room in the course schedule for a semester in real estate law, estate planning or accounting, which can make the difference between getting a job offer or being left behind.
With so many online programs offering flexible class schedules, it’s easier than ever to choose a four-year degree. That’s one of the many reasons paralegals should strongly consider earning their bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies.