Study Law: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in law? Find out degree requirements, online options and info on courses and legal degrees.
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Legal Associate's and Bachelor's: Degrees at a Glance

A program in legal studies teaches the fundamentals of the United States legal system. An understanding of U.S. law is useful in a variety of career fields, from paralegal to lobbying to social work. In addition to meeting the requirement for a number of such careers upon graduation, a degree in legal studies can prepare the way for a number of graduate degrees.

Job growth within legal careers is steady (the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects growth for both paralegals and probation officers to grow by 18% from 2010 to 2012).

It should be noted, however, that a degree in legal studies does not allow graduates to seek a career as a lawyer. Further, while a bachelor's in can be used as a springboard for the doctoral degree necessary to become a lawyer, it is not required. Other bachelor's degrees can serve the same purpose.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Those interested in a range of legal-related options, but aren't certain they wish to pursue a career in law Those interested in legal research or careers more heavily related to law
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) Paralegal ($47,000)*
Legal records clerk ($32,000)**
Probation Officer ($47,000)*
Paralegal Manager ($85,000)**
Time to Completion 2 years (full time) 4 years (full time)
Common Graduation Requirements No special requirements beyond those of a typical associate's degree No special requirements beyond those of a typical bachelor's degree
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics **Salary.com


Associate's in Law

An associate's program in law teaches the foundation of the U.S. legal system. You'll be taking courses in a myriad of legal topics. Instructors are likely to have professional experience in the legal field, as well as an education in law. Programs are designed to give a strong ability with critical thinking, communication, legal research, and understanding of the ethics involved with the law.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Versatile degree offering a variety of career options
  • Learn the basics of American law without committing to a four-year degree
  • An understanding of the legal system can help in careers such as social work, politics, and law enforcement

Cons

  • Majority of paralegals hired have bachelor's degrees
  • Heavy competition for paralegal careers
  • Degree does not allow you to practice law

Courses and Requirements

The core courses in an associate's degree in law are basic English, math, science, and liberal arts or humanities. Courses in the major will cover individual areas of American law, such as tort law, business law, and real estate law. In addition, you will likely learn about ethics as they apply to law, as well as basic legal research.

Online

Online versions of the program are available. Requirements are similar to on-campus programs. As there is little to no hands-on aspect to legal studies, programs may be wholly online, allowing distance learning.

Stand Out with This Degree

Because the paralegal job market is so competitive, potential employers will often be able to choose those with experience within the field. An internship as a paralegal or legal assistant improves your job prospects and gives you valuable experience in the field.

Voluntary certification from a paralegal program may also increase job prospects. Organizations may offer certification through passing an exam or through accumulation of a certain amount of education and experience.


Bachelor's in Law

A bachelor's program teaches a greater breadth of topics of American law, as well as more in-depth instruction on legal research, and a greater study of the philosophy and history of law.

You may have the chance to focus on either general legal studies or on training to be a paralegal or legal assistant. If you intend to seek further education, or are interested in finding a career other than paralegal or legal assistant, the general legal studies is likely the better option.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • More likely to acquire a paralegal career with a bachelor's degree than with an associate's
  • Prepare yourself for a graduate degree in a number of fields
  • Variety of jobs available in both competitive and non-competitive fields

Cons

  • Does not allow you to offer legal services
  • You may be applying for the same careers as those with a 2-year degree
  • Some careers, such as probation officer, may have relatively low salary and high stress and long hours

Courses and Requirements

In addition to the courses required for an associate's degree, the bachelor's program will have a greater number of courses on legal research and writing, and on a wider variety of topics in American law. In addition, you will likely find courses on the history of law, both American and international, and on the philosophy of law.

It isn't likely that an internship will be required for this degree, though many schools will offer it as an option.

Online

There are online programs for this degree, both in the form of hybrid programs and wholly online, and such programs are relatively widespread. Coursework is largely the same for each.

Stand Out with This Degree

As with the associate's degree, voluntary certification and internships can both improve the chances of acquiring a career as a paralegal.

If you are intending to continue your education after acquiring this degree, you may wish to focus your electives on topics that will aid in your future degree. For example, if you wish to continue your education in social work, electives in the humanities, and legal electives in areas like juvenile law and civil rights.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. Criminal Justice
      • A.S. General Studies - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
      • Associate of Arts - Paralegal
  • Rock Springs, WY

    Western Wyoming Community College

  • Snyder, TX

    Western Texas College

  • Blue Ash, OH

    University of Cincinnati

  • Scottsbluff, NE

    Western Nebraska Community College

  • Online Programs Available
    9. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AS in Science in Criminal Justice

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • AAS in Legal Support and Services
  • Associate: Criminal Justice

Which subject are you interested in?

American InterContinental University

  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. Criminal Justice
  • A.S. General Studies - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Paralegal

What is your highest level of education?

Western Wyoming Community College

Western Texas College

Western Nebraska Community College