In the state of Illinois, paralegals are able to create a myriad of opportunities for themselves from their very first day on the job. Earning a Bachelors’s or Masters’s degree in Paralegal studies provides much-needed information and tools to assist paralegals and other legal professionals in performing their duties. Students can enroll in online classes or choose to attend traditional classrooms. Either way, the education they receive will be as concise and informative as possible.
Whether on-campus or online, paralegal programs in Illinois are capable of producing graduates with exceptional legal skills. Illinois paralegal programs are well-known throughout the Midwest and beyond for the quality of education they provide to each student. Students from almost anywhere in the world can choose to enroll in an online paralegal program in Illinois.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Paralegal Programs in Illinois
Online Paralegal Programs editors seek out accredited, trustworthy institutions offering paralegal programs in Illinois. From our initial pool, we rank programs according to their value for working adults: cost, student satisfaction, and potential salary, with data from IPEDS and Niche.
1. Southern Illinois University
Southern Illinois University offers a BS in Paralegal Studies that has received approval from the ABA. Among the best paralegal programs in Illinois SIU provides students a general paralegal degree or a pre-law specialization. Both paralegal undergraduate degree options require the completion of 120 credit units to meet program requirements. Students enrolled in Southern Illinois University can earn up to 12 semester credits, but only three can be applied towards the degree requirements.
Southern Illinois University was established in 1869. The university serves the southern portion of Illinois with two campuses in Edwardsville and Carbondale. In addition, Southern Illinois University operates satellite facilities in Springfield and West Frankfort. Southern Illinois University holds the distinction of being the 3rd oldest of the universities in the state of Illinois.
2. Loyola University Chicago
Loyola University Chicago’s Institute for Paralegals offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree program or a Certificate in Paralegal Studies that are recognized among the best paralegal programs in Illinois. Both paralegal degree programs are approved by the American Bar Association and are both available entirely online. Curriculum for this 120 semester credit BA paralegal program includes Legal Research, Advanced Topics in American law, Business Organizations, Bankruptcy, Contract, Administration, Civil Litigation, and Legal Ethics, to name a few. Additionally, paralegal degree candidates must complete a culminating capstone project.
Loyola University of Chicago was established as a Roman Catholic higher learning institution in 1870. The university’s campus in Chicago serves more than 16,900 students vying for degrees offered by the eleven colleges/schools. Loyola University Chicago was initially called St. Ignatius College.
Programs: BA, Certificate
3. William Rainey Harper College
William Rainey Harper College offers two of the best paralegal programs in Illinois with its Certificate and Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree program in paralegal studies. These paralegal programs from Harper College are approved by the American Bar Association. Coursework includes Paralegal Studies Intro, Sociology, Psychology, Legal Research, and Litigation, to name a few. The AAS degree in paralegal studies requires degree candidates to complete 60 semester credits. Students graduate from Harper College’s paralegal programs and enter the workforce in records management, legal research, and investigations, among other careers.
William Rainey Harper College (WRHC) was established as a community college in 1965 by a state referendum. The school’s 175 urban acre campus in Palatine is home to more than 15,200 students and about 20 miles from Chicago. The college is named for a higher education pioneer and UChicago president, William Harper.
Programs: AAS, Certificate
4. Elgin Community College
Elgin Community College offers two paralegal programs that are considered two of the best paralegal programs in Illinois. Elgin Community College offers an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree program in paralegal studies, plus a certificate option in paralegal studies. Elgin Community College offers a Basic Vocational Specialist Certificate in paralegal for students who already have an associate or bachelor’s degree. Coursework for the associate paralegal degree program includes civil litigation, business law, American Government, Legal Writing & Research, and an internship.
Elgin Community College was chartered as a community college in 1949. The first classes offered by Elgin Community College were held in a local high school classroom. More than 8,900 students attend classes offered by ECC. The school operates several academic facilities across its district. Elgin Community College has locations in Streamwood, Burlington, Hanover Park, and Elgin, Illinois.
Programs: AAS, Certificate
5. Kankakee Community College
Kankakee Community College offers a certificate and an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Paralegal Studies that are both considered among the best paralegal programs in Illinois. Degree candidates graduate to find rewarding careers in legal firms, a title insurance company, hospital legal departments, or state agencies, among others. This ABA-approved paralegal studies degree program’s curriculum includes real estate law, family law, the law of evidence, legal research, civil litigation, and criminal litigation, to name a few. An internship is also available to allow students to apply the legal skills and knowledge to real-world applications.
Kankakee Community College (KCC) was chartered in 1966 with a campus that sits alongside the Kankakee River. The community college’s campus covers more than 175 acres, with academic service to more than 150,000 Illinois residents. Kankakee Community College serves the counties of Will, Livingston, Kankakee, Grundy, Ford, and Iroquois.
Programs: AAS, Certificate
6. Lewis University
Lewis University offers one of the best paralegal programs in Illinois that has received approval from the American Bar Association. The Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree program in Paralegal Studies requires degree candidates to complete 128 semester credits, although the school offers an accelerated degree format. Students attending Lewis University can also opt for a paralegal minor, which requires the completion of 21 semester credits to meet program requirements. Coursework includes torts and personal injury, real estate law, family law, intellectual property, taxation, contract law, plus a paralegal practicum.
Lewis University was chartered in 1932 by the Chicago Archdiocese and remains affiliated with the Lasallian Church. Lewis University’s campus in Romeoville is home to more than 6,500 students vying for more than twenty degrees offered by the university, The campus of Lewis University was used as a navy pilot training facility during World War II, as classes were temporarily suspended.
Programs: BA, Minor
7. Illinois Central College, North Campus
Illinois Central College offers a Paralegal Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree and Certificate program in paralegal studies that is ranked among the best paralegal programs in Illinois. The paralegal certificate program requires students to complete 38 credit units, whereas the AAS degree program requires the completion of 60 credits units. The core curriculum includes classes in legal research, family law, civil litigation, business organizations, plus a paralegal internship, to name a few.
Illinois Central College was established in 1967. This community college serves parts of eleven Illinois counties. More than 8,000 students attend classes offered by Illinois Central College on-campus and online. Illinois Central College maintains three campuses in East Peoria, Pekin, and North University. Illinois Central College is well known for its prestigious women’s basketball program with a coach that had nearly 900 wins in more than three decades as a coaching professional.
Programs: AAS, Certificate
8. MacCormac College
MacCormac College offers a Paralegal Studies Associate of Science (AS) degree program that is considered among the best paralegal programs in Illinois. MacCormac College’s AS degree prepares students for work in legal firms, real estate offices, nonprofit businesses, title companies, or government agencies, among others. Degree candidates can complete MacCormac College’s paralegal program in less than on and one-half years. In addition, students can opt to participate in a supervised internship program in the downtown Chicago area that allows them to network and apply theoretical knowledge to real-world applications.
MacCormac College was chartered in 1904. This two-year school’s urban campus in Chicago offers programs that are approved by the national court Reporters Association and the ABA. MacCormac College holds the distinction of being the institution of higher education that created the nation’s first court reporting program.
9. South Suburban College
South Suburban College offers two of the best paralegal programs in Illinois with its Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree and Certificate programs in paralegal studies. SSC’s paralegal programs are the only American Bar Association-approved programs located in the south suburban district of Chicago. Degree candidates are required to complete a legal practicum with a minimum of 210 hours. Coursework for SSC’s paralegal programs includes law office technology, legal research, business law, evidence and investigation, real estate law, elder law, estate planning, family relations law, and cyber law, among others.
South Suburban College was established as a junior college in 1927. South Suburban College operates dual campuses in South Holland and Oak Forest, Illinois. The community college’s urban campuses serve more than 4,000 students. South Suburban College is proud of its more than five major league baseball players as alumni.
Programs: AAS, Certificate
10. Oakton Community College
Oakton Community College offers two of the best paralegal programs in Illinois. Oakton Community College offers a certificate and an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree program in paralegal studies that are both ABA approved. AAS degree candidates must complete 60 semester credits in classes that include legal research, litigation, law office management, paralegal studies, plus a paralegal internship, among others. This paralegal certificate program from Oakton Community College requires the completion of 24 semester credits to graduate.
Oakton Community College was established in 1959. This public institution of higher education offers two-year degrees in northeast Cook County. Oakton Community College has partnered with Shimer College and now offers dual enrollments. More than 45,000 students attend credit and noncredit classes offered by Oakton Community College. Oakton Community College operates two campuses in the Chicago area in Skokie and Des Plaines, Illinois.
Programs: AAS, Certificate
Why Should I Become a Paralegal in Illinois?
Paralegals who choose to work in the state of Illinois do not have to be certified by the state. The Illinois State Bar Association, however, encourages all professional paralegals to join a nationally recognized organization of legal professionals and become certified. This additional set of credentials will make it much easier to move upwards into a managerial position if they choose to take that path. ABA-approved paralegal programs in Illinois are capable of providing graduates with the ability to hire into a position and work their way up the ladder. This gives them ample opportunity to earn valuable experience along the way. With a top-quality, online degree program and the ability to gain the experience they need, paralegals who choose to work in Ilinois can look forward to very long, lucrative careers.
How Is the Job Market for Paralegals in Illinois?
Today’s job market for almost any profession in the state of Illinois has its ups and downs. Paralegals, on the other hand, can expect job security for many years to come. Lawyers and attorneys are constantly being overwhelmed with new cases and rely on their paralegals for a wide variety of tasks. While paralegals work on different projects, attorneys can focus on taking care of their clients’ needs. This is why having a Bachelors or Masters degree in Paralegal Studies is so important. Receiving a certification from a legal organization that has been recognized nationally as a leader in terms of ethics and standards is also extremely beneficial.
Even entry-level paralegal jobs in Illinois can be easily found if you know where to look and have the education you need to get your foot in the door. Starting at an entry-level position allows the new paralegal to learn about the legal field from the ground up. This gives them the hands-on experience to solve problems quickly and efficiently and take responsibility for tasks that the attorney may need assistance with. From entry-level jobs to upper management, paralegals at any stage of their career can find the job they want in an environment they like. Earning experience in the type of law firm you are interested in is the best way to get established in the field. Criminal law, family law, marital law, business/corporate law, and estate law are just a few of the different types of legal classifications you can choose from.
How Much Can a Paralegal Make in Illinois?
Depending on where you live in the state of Illinois, as a paralegal, you can expect to make between $35,000 and $76,000 per year. There are several factors that come into consideration. Living in one of the larger cities like Chicago, Springfield, or Rockford, will without a doubt offer you an opportunity to earn more money. Smaller towns may not pay as well, but you have the opportunity to work in a more relaxed environment and don’t have to worry about a long commute every day. If you have the opportunity to be able to work from home, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Another factor that will play a large role in the amount of money you are offered when you start a paralegal position is your education. Having the skills and abilities to perform highly complex legal tasks is a valuable resource for many attorneys. They will gladly offer higher wages to applicants who excelled in their classes, either online or in a traditional format. Going the extra step and becoming certified is also another factor that will offer long-term benefits, especially when it comes to the wages you earn.
While education and location rank high on the list of considerations, your experience is very valuable as well. Whether you earn experience as a legal clerk, a secretary, or an entry-level paralegal, your opportunity for advancement will continue to grow with every year of experience you get under your belt. Even as a paralegal, you can continue to learn new tasks and further your skills and abilities. This increases your overall value and will continue to open doors for you in the future.