In the last few years, the job market for lawyers has been cooling down, with law schools turning out far more lawyers than are necessary. What hasn’t cooled down, though, is the demand for paralegals and legal assistants – the professionals who do the real behind-the-scenes work of a law firm, like taking depositions, preparing documents, researching precedent, and more. Those people are still in high demand. That’s why many working adults are choosing a career change with an online paralegal degree. At the same time, many working paralegals who started their career with an associate’s degree are choosing to move forward with a bachelor’s in legal studies to earn higher pay and more advancement opportunity.
For both of these prospective students, a Bachelor’s in Legal Studies online program is the way to go. Online programs allow busy working professionals the chance to improve their credentials and learn new skills while continuing their current jobs. With advances in technology, online programs can be as immersive, collaborative, and enriching as traditional on-campus programs – students just need to know where to look for the best choices.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Online Paralegal Programs
The Bachelor’s Degree Center ranking of the best online paralegal programs and legal studies degrees started with thorough research into accredited, trustworthy programs offering fully online and hybrid degree programs in paralegal studies. With our initial list, BDC editors ranked programs according to factors that are particularly important to career-focused adults who want a return on their investment: Tuition Rate, Student Satisfaction, Salary Potential, Graduation Rate, and Employment Rate. We use data from College Scorecard, IPEDS, and Niche.
1. Tulane University
At Tulane University, students pursuing a career in legal studies have an option to pursue Tulane’s online BA in General Legal Studies. This online paralegal degree program is flexible in its online format, allowing students the ability to continue their daily lives and work schedule while earning their degree. Both this program and the Paralegal Certificate that is offered by Tulane University are approved by the American Bar Association. Because of this flexibility and reputation, the BA in General Legal Studies at Tulane University is one of the leading Bachelors in Legal Studies online programs.
At Tulane University, accreditation among their programs is essential, as they strive to ensure that students across campus are receiving the highest quality education in their discipline. This institution has been the recipient of the Military Friendly School Silver Award, due to their focus and commitment to active and former military students and their families.
What We Like: Many of Tulane’s students are military veterans and personnnel who are able to complete their active duty missions and still earn an education.
Program: BA in General Legal Studies
2. University of Central Florida
The BA or BS in Legal Studies offered online at the University of Central Florida is gaining immense popularity among students who are pursuing a career in the legal field. This online paralegal degree program at the University of Central Florida is designed to give graduates of this program a solid foundation in the legal field. The entire faculty members of this program are American Bar Association approved, ensuring that the curriculum is adequate.
At the University of Central Florida, their mission is to award the best programs available to their students at the lowest rate possible. Because of this mission, This program, the BA or BS in Legal Studies has been awarded U.S. News Best Online Program in both the Bachelor’s category and the Veterans’ category for 2019.
What We Like: Because of their financial aid offerings and lower tuition costs than other institutions, UCF is one of the more affordable Bachelors in Legal Studies online.
Program: BA or BS in Legal Studies
3. University of Massachusetts Lowell
At UMass Lowell, the online BS in Criminal Justice – Paralegal option allows students to conveniently gain their Paralegal certification while studying online. Students are not only introduced to the world of legal writing, but they also gain a thorough foundation of the legal process and gain the skills required to be successful. Because of this online paralegal degree option for students, many are listing this program as one of the best online Paralegal programs for students in the Northeast.
UMass Lowell also offers these same courses on-campus for students who need that classroom setting, making this a diverse and flexible option. This pairs in with the mission at UMass Lowell, to provide each student with the tools and resources they need for success.
What We Like: UMass Lowell’s online BS in Criminal Justice – Paralegal option has been listed in the top ten rankings for best online Bachelor’s program by U.S. News and World for 2019.
Program: BS in Criminal Justice – Paralegal
4. University of Arizona
One of the more popular online programs at the University of Arizona is the online BA in Law. This program prepares students who are looking to further their career into the legal field for law school or move into a Paralegal setting. While this curriculum seems challenging, students who have graduated from this program have found themselves prepared for and successful in graduate school. Because of the preparation of this program for its students, those seeking to advance their education find this program to be one of the best Bachelors in Legal Studies online.
This BA in Law from the University of Arizona emerges out of the James E. Rogers College of Law. This college is approved by the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. All faculty members of this program are ABA-approved.
What We Like: Because UA’s program is writing intensive, students are required to master basic writing skills before moving forward in the program.
Program: BA in Law
5. Bellevue University
Bellevue University students can pursue an online BS in Legal Studies, in an effort to advance their career in the legal field. Designed for those who are looking to advance their career into law, and includes Pre-law at its foundation. Students who graduate with this online paralegal degree find themselves either employed shortly after graduation in their field of study or moving on to graduate school to further their education. Because of the advanced curriculum, many students are pursuing this degree as one of the top Bachelors in Legal Studies online.
Bellevue University has been awarded for its programs and gained accreditations that support the curriculum that is taught both online and in the classroom. They are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
What We Like: Bellevue has also been awarded as being one of the top ten Universities in the entire United States for Adult Learners by Washington Monthly, receiving the award for three consecutive years.
Program: BS in Legal Studies
6. Dominican University
The BPS in Legal Studies from Dominican University gives students the tools and skills needed to pursue their career in professional law. The format of this online paralegal degree program is completely online for students, allowing those who are geographically challenged, working full-time, or serving in the military an option to continue pursuing their career goals and education without ever having to pause their life. Because of this flexibility and structured curriculum, many students are finding this program to be leading as one of the Bachelors in Legal Studies online.
The academic reputation found at Dominican University is well-known and respected across the country. This institution is accredited regionally through the Higher Learning Commission. Dominican University offers students engagement resources and advising for their students that are both on and off campus, giving them equal opportunities and investing in their success.
What We Like: Dominican prides itself on diversity and inclusion for students, staff, and faculty for a well-rounded learning environment.
Program: Bachelor of Professional Studies in Legal Studies
7. Loyola University Chicago
With Loyola University Chicago’s BA in Paralegal Studies, those seeking a career as a Paralegal can gain their education. With a curriculum grounded in the foundation of law and the processes that Paralegals work with daily, these students are well equipped when graduating from the program. For those who have already earned an associate’s, they find this program to put them on the fast track to advance their career. Most graduates in this program find employment as a Paralegal or in the law profession following graduation, making this one of the best online Paralegal programs.
Gaining ABA certification for legal studies programs is not something that is easily done, but at Loyola University Chicago, they have achieved this goal and accreditation. The BA in Paralegal Studies has been an approved and accredited program for over twenty years, making it one of the oldest and most respected programs today in the law profession.
What We Like: Chicago provides one of the best job markets for paralegals, making Loyola Chicago’s program a great entry into a satisfying career.
Program: BA in Paralegal Studies
8. Florida Gulf Coast University
The BS in Legal Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University is a program that includes insight and foundation into various sects of laws. With this curriculum, students are introduced to family law, real estate law, criminal law, and other sects that are found within the law profession. Because of the student involvement of the program and the well-rounded curriculum, this is one of the most sought-after Bachelors in Legal Studies online programs.
At Florida Gulf Coast University, students can expect to receive an education that will assist them in all of their professional studies, whether they pursue a career in the field or law or not. This institution is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
What We Like: FGCU’s program also encourages internships for students so that they obtain firsthand experience in their field, and begin pursuing career opportunities.
Program: BS in Legal Studies
9. Herzing University
The online BS in Legal Studies at Herzing University awards students the ability to pursue a career as a Paralegal. This curriculum is equipped with building skills such as legal writing and research, but also investigating and communication that are a part of a Paralegal’s job. Students who have graduated with this program have moved into Paralegal careers and found a positive return on their investment by gaining employment with a substantial salary. Because of this positive ROI, this is one of the best online Paralegal programs for students across the nation.
Herzing University is an institution that is focused on careers for their students and striving to give them all of the tools necessary to move forward with their dreams. With a vast amount of programs, Herzing University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
What We Like: Graduates of Herzing’s legal studies program are eligible to take the Paralegal exam through the Association of Legal Assistants.
Program: BS in Legal Studies
10. Mississippi College
The online BS in Paralegal Studies at Mississippi College is designed to give students seeking a career as a legal assistant an affordable and flexible option to obtain their education. Because this program is one of the more affordable options online for students living in Mississippi and other Southeastern states, it is quickly growing as one of the best online Paralegal programs.
Mississippi College has received a number of awards over the last two decades. Some of the most recent awards include number one in “Best Online Christian College” by Best Schools and number seven in “Affordable Online Master’s Degree” by Great Value Colleges. Students pursuing a degree with this institution will be provided quality education at an affordable rate.
What We Like: Legal research and writing are a part of Mississippi College’s curriculum, as well as civil litigation and an introduction to developing the skills necessary in the legal profession.
Program: BS in Paralegal Studies
11. Stevenson University
At Stevenson University, students pursuing a BS in Legal Studies seek to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to move forward in the law profession, whether they decide to work as legal assistants or move into pre-law and gain a career as a lawyer. The faculty for this program is ABA-approved, and provides firsthand experience of working in the legal field. The curriculum includes all of the essential skills needed for those who desire to be a successful legal assistant and is one of the best Bachelors in Legal Studies online.
Stevenson University began its life as a women’s school teaching secretarial skills, and remains dedicated to providing professional opportunities for women (who make up more than two-thirds of the student body). Students have a low student-teacher ratio and can expect to have in-depth interaction in their classrooms despite their online format.
What We Like: Stevenson University is home to the only four-year program BS in Legal Studies, that is approved by the American Bar Association in the state of Maryland,
Program: BS in Legal Studies
12. Purdue University Global
The BS in Legal Support and Services at Purdue University Global is one of the more affordable options for online programs and students seeking a career in legal studies. This program is eligible for a tuition cap, where students are able to pay a fixed tuition rate for their education for the life of their program. Because of this unique process, students are finding this program to be more affordable than other options, making it one of the highest demand Bachelors in Legal Studies online.
At Purdue University Global, students are able to fix their start date for their program to fit their personal needs, taking as many or as little courses as they can to fit their schedule. Purdue University Global is an institution that is striving to offer the maximum resources for their students that will assist them with their career goals and help them obtain their education in their current lives.
What We Like: Purdue University has become a worldwide leader in online education since acquiring Kaplan University, offering online programs in nearly every field imaginable with Purdue’s educational quality.
Program: BS in Legal Support and Services
13. University of Maryland University College
The BS in Legal Studies program at the University of Maryland University College is designed for working students who want a background in Pre-Law and plan to pursue a graduate program. Students who want to attend law school need a solid background and foundation that will prepare them for the intense reading, writing, and research that comes with law school. The curriculum of this program has a high return on investment of those who have continued on to graduate school and been successful. Because of this, it is one of the leading Bachelors in Legal Studies online.
The faculty employed at the University of Maryland University College understand what is needed for students to be successful as they move forward with their graduate studies. The University of Maryland University College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
What We Like: UMUC was built for adult students, and its online programs are some of the best in the world for working professionals who want to build their career.
Program: BS in Legal Studies
14. American Public University
An online BS in Legal Studies from American Public University is a degree that many students pursue who are active military, veterans, or working globally. Many of the enrolled students and those who have graduated were active military while obtaining their education. This program is 100% online and is one of the most affordable Bachelors in Legal Studies online for students wanting to begin a professional career in law.
The American Public University is well-known and one of the more popular institutions for online learning due to its affordable rates and its diverse program options to fit the needs for students across the nation. Students with former credit can transfer in these credits to save on their overall cost and have the option for federal student aid. The American Public University is accredited nationally through the Higher Learning Commission and sets the bar for academic standards.
What We Like: American Public University’s connections to the military, the government, and the private security industry provide a wide network of connections for paralegal graduates on the job market.
Program: BS in Legal Studies
15. Kent State University
The BA in Paralegal Studies offered online at Kent State University is a program that is approved by the American Bar Association, allowing students the option to take the exam and gain certification for their Paralegal status. They also offer accelerated versions of this program with several community colleges that allow students who have an Associate degree in the field to take the necessary major classes and accelerate their Bachelor degree. Because of this acceleration and accreditation, many students are considering this program to be one of the best online paralegal programs.
Kent State University is an institution known for its faculty to provide only excellence in the classroom and offer above standard curriculum for their programs. Kent State University is ranked in the top 100 institutions for graduate education across the United States.
What We Like: In 2018, Kent State was ranked nationally as a Top Tier institution by U.S. News and World Report.
Program: BA in Paralegal Studies
Can You Get a Paralegal Degree Online?
The legal sector is rapidly growing and highly-paid, so many people are looking to get their foot in the door by becoming paralegals. Many prospective paralegals are moving into the legal field from other professions, looking for a higher-paying job with more career potential. However, these people are usually already working full-time, so it is difficult for them to attend a traditional program.
Thankfully there are many high-quality paralegal degree programs available online. There are also many paralegal programs available in a hybrid format. This means that some classes are online and some classes are face-to-face. And thanks to this flexibility, an online program may allow a working professional to complete their degree more quickly. Depending on which school students choose they may even be able to save money on tuition as compared to a traditional college. It is now easier to get a paralegal degree online from a high-quality university than it has ever been in the past. The answer to the question can you get a paralegal degree online is a resounding yes.
Will Employers Trust an Online Paralegal Bachelor’s Degree?
In years gone by, employers tended to look down on degrees from online colleges. However, this is no longer the case. In the early years of online education, most of the schools that offer online degrees or unaccredited and set up only for online students. Today, there are quite a few accredited online universities. Even most traditional universities, including small but prestigious institutions, offer programs available completely online. This phenomenon has raised the prestige of an online degree considerably.
Of course, employers would not even necessarily know that you obtained your degree online. Schools that offer online degrees usually issue diplomas that don’t say anything about the online format – they will look exactly the same as the diploma of students who attended classes in a traditional format.
Even If an employer doesn’t know that you’ve completed your degree online, they will not look down that as long as is it is accredited. There are two main types of accreditation for paralegal programs. The first is the regional accreditation for the institution. Regional accreditation is for the institution as a whole and includes all of the school’s programs. A degree in any field is worth much more if it is from a regionally accredited institution. In fact, if it is not from regionally accredited institution many employers will not even accept it.
Secondly, there is accreditation specifically for the program. The American Bar Association offers an official approval for paralegal programs, though not an accreditation. However, the ABA does not officially approve any online programs. Even if they don’t, that does not mean that employers will not accept the degree. It simply means that the degree is not quite as prestigious.
Does the American Bar Association Approve Online Paralegal Programs?
As previously mentioned, the main accreditation offer to programs is from the American Bar Association. The best-known legal organization, the ABA only offers accreditation to law schools. Law schools refer to schools that offer the JD degree that enables graduate’s to take the bar exam and become licensed attorneys. Its paralegal program is technically not part of the law school. Therefore, it cannot be accredited. However, schools that have ABA-accredited law schools are generally held in high regard by employers in the legal field. This is true even though the paralegal programs are not specifically accredited by the APA.
A paralegal program at a school with an accredited law school generally can benefit from a higher quality of professors and perhaps even a higher quality of curriculum. However, it is not one hundred percent necessary to get a paralegal degree from a school that also has an ABA-accredited law school. Many successful paralegals received their degrees from institutions that do not have an accredited law school. It simply helps the prestige of a paralegal degree a little bit if it is from an institution that does have a well-respected and accredited law school.