Working paralegals who want to increase their credentials with a bachelor’s degree have their priorities, but for many, the priority is getting their degree and reaping the benefits fast. That’s why accelerated online paralegal programs and online legal degrees are so valuable. Of course, an accelerated paralegal degree program is shorter than a normal college program. But the ways in which an accelerated program is sped up vary from program to program. Some programs may even use multiple methods to allow students to graduate much more quickly than they would normally – as little as two years or less.
One common characteristic of an accelerated degree program is intensive classes. These classes cram a great deal of content into one course. Such classes may even count for more than the traditional three credits. Another common component of accelerated degrees may be short terms. The standard college term is about 16 weeks long. These shorter terms may be as short as 8 weeks. Other ways that colleges accelerate programs include generous transfer credit policies and offering credit for work experience. Most colleges will only accept a maximum of 90 credits. However, some colleges, especially online schools, may be willing to accept more as part of their accelerated degree programs.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Accelerated Online Paralegal Programs
For our ranking of the fastest online paralegal programs, Bachelor’s Degree Center editors started with the best online legal degrees, focusing on accredited, legitimate institutions of all kinds. But the fastest ranking requires an extra ingredient – the schools considered had to provide some means to speed up the process. Finally, programs are ranked according to five key standards, because speed isn’t everything: Cost, Employment Rate, Graduation Rate, Potential Salary, and Student Reviews. Data comes from Niche, IPEDS, and College Scorecard.
1. Purdue University Global
For students who are pursuing a degree that will accept transfer credit, Purdue University Global’s online BS in Legal Support and Services may be the right program. For students who are pursuing this accelerated paralegal degree, they can transfer up to seventy-five percent of their program in the Bachelor’s program. Because Purdue Global has a reputation for its legal program offerings, students decide to pursue this program. Accepting previous education allows students to thorough pursue their career goals, and makes this program one of the most desirable online legal degrees.
At Purdue University Global, students receive a curriculum that is equipped to give them a thorough understanding of the law and the different legal fields found in the profession. Graduates of this program have gone to excel in the law profession, with many pursuing positions such as paralegals, legal assistants, title examiners, and legal secretaries. Others have taken this degree and continued to graduate school to pursue their career.
Program: BS in Legal Support and Services
2. University of Maryland University College
At the University of Maryland University College, students who want to transfer their Associate degree into a Bachelor’s have the option to do so with UMUC’s online BS in Legal Studies. With the option to transfer up to 90 credits in this 120 credit accelerated paralegal degree, students are only required to complete their last 30 hours with the University of Maryland University College for graduation purposes. Because of this maximum transferability, students are able to afford their Bachelor program, making this one of the most desired online legal degrees in Maryland.
The University of Maryland University College has world-class faculty members available to teach and mentor the students in the BS in Legal Studies program. These faculty members have firsthand experience of the legal profession and have held several positions in their career before moving to Academia. University of Maryland University College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education which is regional accreditation.
Program: BS in Legal Studies
3. Eastern Kentucky University
The online BS in Paralegal Science at Eastern Kentucky University accepts 90 transfer credits to their program, with students completing the remaining 30 hours with Eastern Kentucky University. Ten of those remaining thirty hours are spent on campus. Over 90 percent of graduates in this accelerated paralegal degree program find themselves employed in the legal field within six months after graduation, or find themselves enrolled in graduate school. Because of this high return on investment, this program is one of the leaders in online Paralegal programs.
The staff and faculty at Eastern Kentucky University are committed to the success of their students. Prior to graduation, students are met with the resources to assist them with job placement. All of the faculty in this program holds either a J.D. or a Ph.D. before instructing a course. This BS in Paralegal Science has been ranked as one of the Best Online Programs from the U.S. News and World Report for 2019.
Program: BS in Paralegal Science
4. Peirce College
Many students are taking advantage of Peirce College’s online BS in Paralegal Studies program that allows up to 90 hours to transfer into the program. Because of this, students are able to get a well-established degree from Pierce College at an affordable rate. The affordability and flexibility offered in this accelerated paralegal degree program have this BS in Paralegal Studies as one of the best online Paralegal programs.
Pierce College sets the bar high for academic excellence in their programs, including the BS in Paralegal Studies. This program is approved by the American Bar Association, allowing students to obtain a quality education at a fraction of the cost. Students even have the option to obtain their Paralegal certificate following graduation. Pierce College is also regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
Program: BS in Paralegal Studies
5. Liberty University
One of the most popular online paralegal programs is the online BS in Paralegal Studies through Liberty University. This program allows up to 75 percent transfer credit to the program, allowing students to get finish out the bachelor’s program at an affordable rate compared to peers at other institutions. The curriculum in this accelerated paralegal degree program gives students a foundation they need to immediately enter the legal profession or continue their studies at the graduate level. Because of this affordable and quality curriculum, students are choosing Liberty University as one of the more desired online paralegal programs.
Liberty University is a regionally accredited institution by the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), which is found at institutions across the southeast region. Students have the option to begin this program at any point throughout the school year, and can take as many or as little courses as they need based upon their current responsibilities.
Program: BS in Paralegal Studies
6. Regent University
At Regent University, the online BS in Paralegal Studies is becoming one of the more popular programs, with students able to transfer in up to 90 credit hours of previous institution work to their current program. With the maximum transferred in, students will only need to take the remaining 30 credit hours with Regent University. This allows students to gain a positive return on investment, as they are able to seek out career opportunities such as legal assistant and Paralegals upon graduation, making the accelerated paralegal degree one of the most popular online Paralegal programs.
Regent University has received awards for being one of the Top 20 Most Innovative Law School, Top 16 Trial Advocacy Curriculum in the nation, and one of the Military’s Top Colleges and Universities in the nation.
Program: BS in Paralegal Studies
7. Southern New Hampshire University
At Southern New Hampshire University, students not only enjoy some of the most affordable tuition rates in the nation, but also the ability to transfer in up to 90 credit hours for SNHU’s online BS in Criminal Justice – Legal Studies and Advocacy program, making it an affordably attractive program to students who are looking at program costs. This accelerated paralegal degree program prepares students for careers in the law profession, whether working as a legal assistant or in the field as a police officer. Because of this flexibility and affordability, this is one of the leading online legal degrees in the nation.
Southern New Hampshire University is constantly growing as one of the leading online institutions for online degrees. They have a regional accreditation of the New England Commission of Higher Education which accredits all of their programs. Graduates of Southern New Hampshire University can be found across the globe excelling in a variety of career fields with the use of their education.
Program: BS in Criminal Justice – Legal Studies and Advocacy
8. Post University
The online BS in Legal Studies from Post University has students who are striving to turn their previous education into a bachelor’s degree looking their way. Students have the option to transfer up to 90 credit hours to their accelerated paralegal degree program. With relatable work experience, these students can also transfer 45 credits for work experience out of the 90 transferred. For students with an Associate degree and work experience, this gives them the edge they need to pursue their Bachelor degree in a single year or only 30 additional credits. Accepting valuable work experience as credit hours is one of the reasons working students are considering this program as one of the top options for online legal degrees.
Post University is a regionally accredited institution through the New England Commission on Higher Education, as well as the state of Connecticut, through the Office of Higher Education. Other programs found at Post University have specialized accreditations that validate the academic excellence in the mission of Post University.
Program: BS in Legal Studies
9. Hodges University
The online BS in Legal Studies at Hodges University offers transfer credit from other institutions for this program, as well as a verified military service experience. Active and veteran military students who have spent time working in specialized positions deserve recognition for that experience. Because of their thorough review and acceptance of military experience, many students find them to be one of the leading institutions for the online paralegal programs available.
Hodges University is one of the award-winning institutions found from the various reputable accolades. They have been awarded as one of the top 100 “Best Online Schools” by the Best Schools and listed as 2019 Best Online Bachelor Law Degrees in the state of Florida. Hodges University is accredited by SACSCOC. Students who pursue a program through their institution can expect to receive an education that is affordable and accredited.
Program: BS in Legal Studies
10. Berkeley College
Students who pursue the online BS in Legal Studies at Berkeley College have the option to include transfer work in their program. If they have enough transferable credit, they can bring in a maximum of 75 percent to cover the largest portion of their BS in Legal Studies, requiring them to only pay for 25 percent of their program. This flexibility and affordability make this accelerated paralegal degree one of the more affordable online legal degrees for students looking to pursue their education in this field.
Berkeley College has ranked in the top 20 Best Online Programs for Veterans from 2014 – present by the U.S. News and World Report. They have also gained accolades from the community as they have received the Partnership in Caring Award in 2018, as well as the Excellence in Community Service. This institution strives to enhance not only the academics of their students but also develop their civility within their communities.
Program: BS in Legal Studies
What If I Don’t Want an Accelerated Paralegal Degree?
Many people are interested in legal studies but do not have the time or inclination to do a full bachelor’s degree. Thankfully, many colleges offer legal studies certificate programs online for people in this situation. Whether you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field or simply want to supplement your credentials, a legal studies certificate is a great option.
There are even accredited online paralegal certificate programs available to interested students. These programs, because they are offered by accredited schools, are worth much more than similar online paralegal certificate programs to employers. Employers in the legal field generally do check into their employee’s credentials, so it is vital that legal students enroll in accredited online paralegal certificate programs.
Is a Legal Studies and Paralegal Bachelor’s the Same Thing?
Generally, legal studies degrees are the most common type of credentials among paralegals. This is because many colleges did not offer a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies until recently. In recent years, quite a few institutions, especially online education-focused institutions, have offered paralegal studies programs online at the bachelor degree level.
Comparing legal studies vs paralegal studies programs can be a little tricky. Often, these programs are very similar. The most common difference is that paralegal studies programs are aimed at this specific legal occupation. Paralegal studies bachelor’s degree usually even include paralegal certification, which legal studies bachelor degrees usually don’t. The thing that often jumps out when comparing legal studies vs paralegal studies programs is the more general focus of legal studies programs.
One thing that is important to keep in mind when comparing these two types of programs is the definition of paralegal. Many different legal professionals are colloquially called paralegals. However, only certified professionals are technically paralegals. This definition of paralegal applies to paralegal studies programs, because these programs do incorporate the certification that classifies legal professionals as paralegals.
An ABA-approved paralegal education will typically include coursework in:
- legal research
- criminal law
- legal documents
- family law
- intellectual property
- legal services
- legal system
- legal technology
- legal writing
- civil litigation and civil procedure
- personal injury law
In addition to electives, students may also take internships in law firms, law office, real estate firms, and other businesses. You may study full-time or part-time. If you’re taken care of prerequisites at community college with a paralegal associate of arts or a paralegal studies certificate, you may qualify for a degree completion program. That way, you can finish your bachelor of arts or bachelor of science in just a year to start your paralegal career.
Keep in mind, as a licensed paralegal, you will need to continue your professional development. The paralegal profession changes over time, so to keep your paralegal job, you’ll need to keep up.
What’s the Difference Between Legal Studies and Criminal Justice?
Quite a few colleges and universities offer both criminal justice and legal studies programs. It can be confusing for prospective students who are planning to go into the legal sector and need to compare legal studies vs criminal justice. The legal studies vs criminal justice comparison is further complicated by the fact that some criminal justice programs actually have a specialization in legal studies.
The simplest way to explain the difference between legal studies and criminal justice is that legal studies if for people who want to go into law, and criminal justice is for people who want to go into law enforcement. Many people say that legal studies is for lawyers and criminal justice is for cops, but this is an oversimplification. There are many different professions that these degrees can prepare a graduate for.
It is possible to get a degree in legal studies and become a police officer or another type of law enforcement officer. In fact, many law enforcement officers working for government agencies actually have legal studies degrees. It is more common for regular police officers to have criminal justice degrees, but many police departments do not require a criminal justice degree. A legal studies degree would actually be a good option for a police officer who wants to move into a management position within the police department, which may require responsibilities relevant to a legal studies degree.
Just as a legal studies degree does not bar anyone from becoming a police officer, a criminal justice degree does not keep anyone from going into the legal industry. In fact, a criminal justice degree may be a good choice. Someone who plans on becoming a public prosecutor, for example, may want to think about a criminal justice degree instead of a legal studies degree.