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When you are looking into legal studies jobs or jobs as a paralegal, you want to identify the options that fit your situation. Most paralegals begin their career with just an associate’s degree, since that is usually the standard for a paralegal certification in most states. However, motivated traditional students have good reason to consider a traditional, on-campus legal studies bachelor degree program. In addition to a higher level of expertise, an on-campus bachelor degree in legal studies provides mentorship and networking opportunities with the law firms and corporations in the area – the ones that do the hiring. A bachelor’s degree simply offers more opportunity.

Although a bachelor’s degree is not necessary to obtain an internship or an entry-level role as a paralegal, you should be aware that it is necessary for positions in a government agency, corporate legal departments, and some law firms. A law firm may offer an internship if you have an associate’s degree, but may require a bachelor’s degree for more advanced roles or to move into a permanent position within the firm. Keep in mind that standards for private companies and law firms may vary widely based on the needs and standards of the firm.

Methodology: Ranking the Best Legal Studies Degree Programs

To rank the best traditional legal studies degree program, Bachelor’s Degree Center went to the source – the American Bar Association. For our initial pool, we selected only accredited, ABA-approved paralegal and legal studies bachelor’s degrees. (To be clear, the ABA only approves on-campus degree programs – not online.). In the final ranking, programs are judged by five criteria:

  • Cost
  • Graduation Rate
  • Job Placement Rate
  • Salary Potential
  • Student Reviews

Data is drawn from IPEDS, College Scorecard, and Niche. With these five factors, students can trust they are getting a solid return on investment.

1. Auburn University

Auburn University’s BA in Legal Studies degree program comes from the Montgomery Criminal Justice Department. Auburn’s legal studies degree has received approval from the American Bar Association (ABA) for the past two decades. Those students who have completed the program receive an ABA certificate of completion. Auburn University’s bachelor degree in Legal Studies prepares students for many legal-related careers by ensuring each student graduates with a functional understanding of the law.

Auburn University was established in 1856 and is one of two universities in the state of Alabama considered a flagship school. Auburn University is also a land grant institution of higher education. The school’s 1,800+acre college town campus is home to more than 30,000 students.

What We Like: Auburn University has been recognized among the best regional universities in the southern region by several academic oversight agencies.

Program: BA in Criminal Justice – Legal Studies

2. Quinnipiac University

Quinnipiac University offers a BA in Law in Society degree program which prepares graduates with a liberal education with the skills required to succeed in the areas of analytic writing and critical thinking. Quinnipiac University’s humanities-based legal studies bachelor degree has been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Degree graduates complete an internship seminar to practically apply the knowledge they have gained. Graduates are prepared with the legal skills that can be applied to a courthouse setting, a law firm, or as part of a governmental law agency.

Quinnipiac University was established in 1929. The school’s suburban campus is home to more than 10,000 students studying from Quinnipiac’s nine schools/colleges. Quinnipiac University is recognized among the top northern regional universities.

What We Like: Quinnipiac University’s campus is home to the renowned Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which began as a marketing class in the late 1980s.

Program: BA in Law in Society

3. Montclair State University

Montclair State University offers a BA in Justice Studies with a concentration in Paralegal Studies degree program that has been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Coursework for this legal studies degree includes areas family law, probate, corporate law, real estate, and criminal law, among others. Degree candidates are required to complete 120 credit units with a minimum Grade Point Average of 2.75; however, some specific specialties may require additional credit hours.

Montclair State University was established in 1908 as the New Jersey State Normal School at Montclair. The school’s suburban campus covers 500 acres in northern New Jersey and is home to more than 21,000 students; this makes Montclair State University the 2nd largest in the Garden State. The school operates with eleven colleges/schools that offer more than 275 majors/minor/concentrations.

What We Like: MSU’s campus includes the New Jersey School of Conservation in Stokes State Forest.

Program: BS in Justice Studies: Paralegal

4. Grand Valley State University

The School of Criminal Justice offers Grand Valley State University’s BA or BS in Legal Studies degree, both American Bar Association-approved programs. GVSU’s prepares students for a rewarding career within the legal profession working as a paralegal or as the first academic leg to becoming a Juris Doctor. The BS degree requires the completion of research and statistical methodology. The BA degree does not require the above noted but does require students to become proficient in a foreign language during their second year of schooling.

Grand Valley State University was established in 1960; with its first freshman class entering in 1963. Grand Valley State University’s 1,300+-acre campus is home to nearly 25,000 students and is situated about ten miles west of its downtown Grand Rapids campus. Grand Valley State University offers more than 3,900 study abroad opportunities for its students.

What We Like: Grand Valley State University operates additional campuses in Holland, Muskegon, Traverse City and Detroit, MI, so students all over the state can benefit from the on-campus experience.

Program: BA or BS in Legal Studies

5. Winona State University

Winona State University offers a four-year BS in Legal Studies degree program that prepares degree graduates for careers working for banks, the government, insurance agencies, and law firms. The American Bar Association (ABA) approved bachelor degree in legal studies program requires the completion of 120 credit hours, which culminates in a semester-long internship prior to graduation.

Winona State University was established as a public institution of higher education in 1858. The school’s small city campus is home to nearly 10,000 students studying from nearly 80 different undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

What We Like: Winona State University was founded as a normal school and holds the distinction of being the oldest member school within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System and the first school west of the Mississippi River to operate from tax funding.

Program: BS in Legal Studies

6. Ball State University

Ball State University offers either a BA or a BS in Legal Studies degree program that is American Bar Association-approved. Degree graduates are prepared for rewarding careers in dispute resolution, constitutional law, criminal/civil law, and business law, among others. Ball State University’s legal studies bachelor degree offers two academic pathways to degree candidates — The Public Law pathway or the Business pathway.

Ball State University was established in 1918. Ball State University operates with the main campus in Muncie and two additional facilities in Indianapolis and Fishers, IN. The school’s 1,100+-acre campus is home to more than 22,000 students studying from 330-degree programs offered at the baccalaureate, masters and doctoral level.

What We Like: Ball State University’s Owsley Art Museum is home to more than 10,000 works of art with an estimated value that exceeds $38 million dollars.

Program: BA or BS in Legal Studies

7. Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago’s Institute for Paralegal Studies offers a BA in Paralegal Studies degree program that has received approval by the American Bar Association (ABA). These legal studies degree programs require are a great segue towards a Juris Doctor degree. The program offers a Litigation and Corporate Track that prepares graduates to assist attorney’s to prepare for a case trial. Degree candidates are required to complete a minimum of 120 credit hours offers through eight-week segments.

Loyola University Chicago was established in 1870. The school is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The school’s urban campus is home to more than 16,000 students studying from among more than 225 undergraduate and graduate degrees offers by the university’s 11 schools/colleges. US News and World Report recognize Loyola University Chicago as a best-value school.

What We Like: Loyola University Chicago holds the distinction of being one of the largest Catholic institutions of higher learning in the nation.

Program: BA in Paralegal Studies

8. University of La Verne

The University of La Verne offers a Bachelor Degree in Legal Studies major degree program that has received approval from the American Bar Association (ABA). The University of La Verne’s legal studies degree program allows for transfer credits that meet its criteria. Degree graduates must complete 128 credit hours to graduate. Courses are offered in the evenings and each class meets once per week.

Members of the German Christian Church established the University of La Verne as Lordsburg College in 1891. The University of La Verne is a private institution of higher learning that operates with four schools covering Business/Public Management, Education Law and Arts & Sciences. More than 8,000 students study on the main campus, online, or among the seven locations and two military satellite facilities.

What We Like: Legal studies students must complete a 90-hour internship prior to graduating.

Program: Legal Studies Major

9. Lewis University

Lewis University’s Justice Law and Public Safety Studies (JLPSS) offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Legal Studies degree program that has been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Lewis University also offers a legal studies bachelor degree accelerated option that provides the flexibility and convenience working learners need to complete their studies. Baccalaureate level degree programs at Lewis University require the completion of 128 credit hours and a practicum/capstone project.

Lewis University was established in 1932 and is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Lasallians Church and founded by Chicago’s Archdiocese. The school’s suburban campus is home to more than 4,600 students studying from more than 100 graduate and undergraduate degrees. Lewis University operates with five schools/colleges in the areas of business, education, health professions, professional and arts & sciences.

What We Like: Professionals working for the state of Illinois can receive a 100% tuition discount if they are approved for the Upward Mobility Program.

Program: BA in Legal Studies

10. St John’s University

The College of Professional Studies offers St John’s University’s ABA-approved BS in Legal Studies degree program, which requires the completion of 120 credit units to graduate. Graduates enter the workforce prepared for rewarding positions in the state and federal governments, court systems or private law firms of any size. St John’s University also offers a three-year Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies degree program. St John’s University offers the traditional legal studies program on their Queens or Staten Island campus.

St John’s University is a private institution of higher learning that was established in 1870. St John’s University is affiliated with the Vincentian Catholic Church. St John’s University’s main urban campus in Queens is home to more than to a large portion of the school’s total enrollment of more than 21,000.

What We Like: St John’s University operates international locations in Rome Italy, Limerick, Ireland and Paris, France.

Program: BS in Legal Studies

11. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis’s BA in Legal Studies degree program has received approval from the American Bar Association (ABA). Degree candidates must complete a total of 120 credit units to graduate; with 33 credits dedicated to the paralegal realm. Coursework covers the many facets of law and includes Litigations for Paralegals, Legal Research, Tort and Contract Law, and the Philosophy of Law, to name just a few.

Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis was established in 1969. IUPUI is a member campus of Indiana University but also has the ability to offer Purdue’s degrees. IUPUI offers more than 220-degree programs through its 18 schools/colleges. The school’s 500+-acre campus is situated on a peninsula that abuts the city of Indianapolis and is home to more than 30,000 students.

What We Like: Additionally, the IUPUI legal studies bachelor degree program is also a part of the AAfPE — the American Association for Paralegal Education.

Program: BA in Paralegal Studies

12. Ursuline College

Ursuline College offers a BA in Legal Studies degree program that has been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) — the only program in the greater Cleveland metropolitan area to receive ABA approval. Students graduate prepared to solve legal dilemmas with exceptional research skills and critical thinking; under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney. Degree graduates are required to complete a first-year seminar and a culminating capstone seminar.

Ursuline College was established in 1871 and is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Its founders were the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland. Cleveland is located about ten miles to the west of Ursuline’s campus. The school’s student enrollment exceeds 1,100. These students study from more than 35 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

What We Like: Ursuline College was the first Catholic college in Ohio strictly devoted to women, and remains committed to launching women into professional leadership in all fields.

Program: BA in Legal Studies

13. University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi’s BA in Paralegal Studies degree program comes from the School of Social Science & Global Studies and is approved by the American Bar Association — the oldest paralegal program in the state of Mississippi to receive ABA approval. Degree candidates studying for USM’s bachelor degree in legal studies must complete 124 credit hours; of which thirty-nine credits can be applied towards a relevant internship.

The University of Southern Mississippi was established as a public institution of higher education in 1910 as a teacher’s training ‘normal’ school. The schools’ urban campus is home to nearly 15,000 students studying from the more than 185-degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral academic levels. The school operates with four colleges/schools in the areas of business, health professions, education and arts & sciences.

What We Like: The University of Southern Mississippi’s is approximately equidistant between Gulfport, MS and New Orleans for a variety of career opportunities.

Program: BA in Paralegal

14. National University

The BS in Paralegal Studies offered by National University in La Jolla CA gives students who want a legal studies degree the option to pursue one of the most popular programs in the field. This program is approved by the American Bar Association and gives students the skills and tools they need to become a successful Paralegal upon completion of the program. Students will gain the skills to investigate and identify prominent legal issues within their field and conduct research as a part of their legal studies Bachelor degree that they are pursuing.

At National University, students have the option to pursue either the online format or in-class option. National University holds accreditation through the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

What We Like: With its founding having military roots, it is one of the most military-friendly institutions across the nation and is a Yellow-Ribbon school that accepts the GI Bill for military students.

Program: BS in Paralegal Studies

15. Texas A&M University-Commerce

For students residing in Texas and seeking to enter the legal field professionally, the BA or BS in Paralegal Studies at Texas A&M University-Commerce reigns supreme. When working underneath an attorney or in a law firm of any field, there are certain skills that these individuals must have in order to be successful. TAMUC’s standard curriculum has this program listed as one of the leading bachelor degree in legal studies.

A university that has been in existence for over a century, Texas A&M University-Commerce has been providing academic excellence to its students since the beginning. Because of its ongoing success, this institution has continued on to have numerous locations throughout the state of Texas, as well as offer online programs for students outside of these areas.

What We Like: TAMUC’s program is approved by the American Bar Association and gives graduates the option to gain their Paralegal certification.

Program: BA or BS in Paralegal Studies

16. Madonna University

Offering a BS in Paralegal Studies, Madonna University offers a program that can be accelerated and completed to fit the needs of the students. This approved program holds recognition by the American Bar Association and is taught by faculty that is experienced in the field. Because of this requirement of excellence, many students are seeking this program out as a contender for a legal studies degree.

At Madonna University, students receive an accredited education, as the Higher Learning Commission has verified the academic programs. This institution is also a Christian-based institution, which is essential for many students to consider when pursuing their education. Among the mission of Madonna University is the mission that requires students to have respect for each other and embrace the academic truths to serve.

What We Like: Law firms in the Midwest embrace Madonna’s program due to previous graduates who have gone to become successful in their career field.

Program: BS in Paralegal Studies

17. Daemen College

Students seeking to pursue a career in law should consider the BS in Paralegal Studies Daemen College. When reviewing the benefits of the program, students find that it is approved by the American Bar Association, which means that the curriculum and academic standards exceed other institutions. Because of this service to the students, many find this program to be one of the most beneficial legal studies bachelor degree options.

Located in Amherst NY, Daemen College was founded in 1947 as an all-women institution. Since its origin, the college has moved to be a co-educational institution. Daemon College has become a real staple in the local community, partnering with local organizations and districts to give back and have their students a part of local service.

What We Like: Daemen’s faculty are also always working to mentor their students, assisting them with finding internships in their field for the experience upon graduation.

Program: BS in Paralegal Studies

18. Widener University

At Widener University, the Delaware Law School offers a Bachelors in Legal Studies that ranks high among its competitive programs. This program holds recognition by the American Bar Association and prepares students who want to continue their education in the legal field for graduate school. Students can take their program a step further with the following concentrations; health law, litigation, corporate law, estate administration law, criminal law, and intellectual property law. Because of these excellent standards, many students are pursuing this popular bachelor degree in Legal Studies.

At Widener University, the Delaware Law School holds recognition for all of its programs with the American Bar Association. They also hold prestigious membership with the Association of American Law Schools and also the International Association of Law Schools, providing the program with international reputation and recognition.

What We Like: Students who graduate from Widener’s program have the option to receive their Paralegal certification.

Program: Bachelor’s in Legal Studies

19. Stevenson University

A popular program that is growing on the East Coast is the BS in Legal Studies offered at Stevenson University. This program was cultivated to provide students the necessary skills and tools they need to be successful, while maintaining their status as working adults. This program is flexible to the needs of students who are enrolled in their program, and also holds an approval from the American Bar Association. Because of its flexibility for its students, this is one of the most sought after legal studies degree.

Stevenson University online is based out of Owings Mills MD. Their accreditation includes the American Bar Association, and the Commission on Higher Education, Middle States Association of Colleges and Universities.

What We Like: As one of the leading online universities in Maryland, Stevenson University has been actively growing since 2012, and has a diversified student body to reflect the inclusive nature of their program.

Program: BS in Legal Studies

20. Bay Path University

Pursuing a BA or BS in Legal Studies from Bay Path University is essential for students who want to achieve a program that will provide tools from research and investigation to communication and legal writing as just a few of what is to be gained from this program. Once a student has graduated from this program, they will have the skills to enter the workforce at that time or continue their education on to graduate school. Because of this academic richness, students in the New England area are looking at this program as one of the better options for legal studies bachelor degree.

Bay Path University, located in Longmeadow MA, holds an accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education, as well as the American Bar Association. Other programs in Bay Path University also hold a variety of specialized accreditations based upon their curriculum and academic standards.

What We Like: Bay Path has a long history as a women’s college, and remains committed to educational excellence and career opportunity for women in professional roles.

Program: BA or BS in Legal Studies

21. Mount St Joseph University

At Mount St Joseph University, students can major in Legal Studies and receive an American Bar Association-approved Bachelor degree in Legal Studies. The curriculum of this program prepares students for the Paralegal exam, making this certification an option, as well. Students are able to take one of three paths to pursue their education, making it flexible and a friendly program to all of the students enrolled. Because of this flexibility and diversity of the program, many students are choosing Mount St Joseph University more often.

The faculty at Mount St Joseph University is more involved than faculty at most institutions, mentoring and advising their students. In its founding, Mount St Joseph University began as an all-women institution, but over time, adapted to the needs of the community and became a coeducational university. Diversity is now at the core of the mission, academics, and programs implemented across campus.

What We Like: Mount St. Joseph’s graduates can also take part in the dual JD degree partnership with the University of Dayton, finishing their bachelor’s and law degree in as little as 5 years.

Program: Legal Studies Major

22. Minnesota State University Moorhead

Minnesota students who want to get ahead in the legal field are pursuing the BS in Paralegal offered at Minnesota State University Moorhead. This program is recognized by the American Bar Association and is growing in massive popularity among students in the west and Midwestern states. Students have the option for two separate emphasis directions in their program; transactions emphasis and litigation emphasis. Because of these specializations, many students are choosing this program as their top choice for a Bachelor degree in legal studies.

The Minnesota State University Moorhead accreditation includes the Higher Learning Commission and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Excelling academics at this institution has been instrumental in building its reputation over the years and gaining respect from the various specialized accreditations that programs beyond legal studies have received.

What We Like: Two emphasis options allow MSUM students to gain a specialty, making them more marketable when pursuing employment.

Program: BS in Paralegal

23. Hilbert College

A program that focuses its legal studies in a traditional curriculum is the BS in Legal Studies from Hilbert College. For several years, this program has been recognized by the American Bar Association, and students have been able to find gainful employment following graduation. With nearly 90 percent of graduates either enrolled in graduate school or employed, the return on investment for this degree is positive, allowing it to gain ground as one of the most appreciated legal studies degree.

At Hilbert College, the mission and values were founded as a private and Catholic institution in 1957. Since that time, the campus has continued to grow in conjunction with the student body and program diversity. This institution does hold regional accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

What We Like: Nearly 90% of graduates from Hilbert’s Legal Studies program are employed or enrolled in graduate school at the time of graduation.

Program: BS in Legal Studies

24. University of New Haven

Pursuing a BS in Legal Studies at the University of New Haven has never been more affordable or flexible. With this program, students are able to pursue a degree they desire at an affordable tuition rate. Financial aid and scholarship options are also available. During their studies, students will take courses that include legal research and writing, legal investigation, administrative law and regulation, and legal ethics among other skills and core areas.

The University of New Haven is a nationally recognized institution for its academics. Holding one of the highest recognition, the University of New Haven is listed by the Princeton Review as one of the top institutions in the country, quoting their commitment to their students’ success and their servant attitude by the administration.

What We Like: UNH’s program is not only one of the most affordable legal studies degree, but it is also thoroughly in-depth academically.

Program: BS in Legal Studies

25. University of Toledo

For students looking to gain an education as a Paralegal, the BS in Paralegal Studies from the University of Toledo gives their students the necessary skills they need to graduate and gain solid employment as a Paralegal or legal assistant after graduation. This program is approved by the American Bar Association, allowing students to move forward with their Paralegal certification after program completion.

Since its founding in 1872, the University of Toledo has gone through several changes, with one of them being that they joined the Ohio state system in 1967. They do hold national accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission, and also specialized accreditations for several of their programs that are offered. With 13 colleges offering degree programs, several of these programs are nationally ranked.

What We Like: For students who want to pursue graduate school, the University of Toledo offers a pre-law track that gives students additional skills necessary for law school.

Program: BS in Paralegal Studies

What Can I Do with a Paralegal or Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree?

Legal studies degree jobs for undergraduates with a bachelor’s degree differ based on your areas of interest. When it comes to a list of careers in legal studies, the obvious option is working as a legal assistant. If you obtain a bachelor’s degree in legal studies or paralegal studies, you can work under a lawyer as a paralegal or in a legal setting. You work as the lawyer’s assistant by finding relevant information, working on paperwork, and providing assistance as needed based on your legal training.

The jobs in legal studies field or industry also focus on roles in a corporate setting. You can work as a consultant for a corporate business to address legal concerns or to identify potential problems. You may also work with a human resources department to ensure proper compliance to state and local laws that may apply to the business.

Legal professions and studies at the undergraduate level also offer opportunities to work in law enforcement. You can work with a local police department, state police, or the FBI with an undergraduate degree. Since you have training in the legal field, you have an understanding of the laws that may apply to law enforcement officers.

After obtaining your bachelor’s degree in paralegal or legal studies, you can also pursue a higher level of education and go into law school. The decision to pursue a law degree allows you to take on a role as a lawyer when you finish your degree and pass the Bar exam for your state. Keep in mind that you can also work under a lawyer as a paralegal or a legal assistant while you obtain your law degree if you want to gain experience or work on your career while finishing up your education.

Do I Need a Bachelor’s Degree to Become a Paralegal?

Becoming a paralegal does not mean you need a high level of education to start in your career. When you look up how to become a paralegal, you may be surprised to find that you do not need a bachelor’s degree for an entry-level position. A bachelor’s degree offers more opportunities for your career, but it is not necessary to start working as a legal assistant.

In general, you need an associate’s degree in paralegal studies or higher to become a paralegal. You may need to take on an internship position to gain experience before you are hired into a law firm.

A bachelor’s degree allows you to obtain better jobs as a paralegal. It is not necessary to begin a career, but it helps when you want to advance in your career or you plan to take on a government position. The key is clarifying your goals before you finalize your decision to pursue a certain education level.

What is the Standard for Legal Studies and Paralegal Programs?

When you are looking for the best paralegal programs for your undergraduate degree, you want to find a program that meets or exceeds a certain standard of education. The ideal standard to consider for legal studies or paralegal programs in a college or university is approval from the American Bar Association, or ABA.

ABA approved paralegal degrees meet the high standards set by the American Bar Association in relation to your education. It means that the school is accredited and offers the level of education you need to assist a lawyer or work in a law firm. By looking into ABA approval of paralegal programs, you can feel confident that your school is appropriate for your studies.

A key reason to consider the accreditation of a paralegal program is the opportunities for getting into law school. If you want to study law, then you need to have an approved program that qualifies for law school. The easiest way to qualify for a law school program is to attend an undergraduate program that is ABA approved and gives you a strong foundation in legal studies. After ensuring that your school is accredited, you can then look into the details of the program and clarify if the school offers specialized studies or gives students a broad education in legal studies. Look for a school that helps you reach your goals for your career and meets the ABA standards for accreditation.

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