Top 10 Paralegal Programs in California

California is a big state, with an enormous need for legal services – Hollywood alone has enough lawyers for most nations. It’s an ideal location for paralegals, and there is a wealth of ABA-approved paralegal programs in California. All the skills that a paralegal needs to be successful in the profession are found within these programs. The curriculum has been reviewed by the ABA and is deemed to be sufficient to meet the needs of the job, no matter which legal sector the student works in the following graduation when graduating from one of the ABA-approved Paralegal programs in California.

For working adults who don’t have time to commute, online paralegal programs in California are available at numerous universities and colleges across the state. Students can find either Associates programs or Bachelor programs that offer this curriculum and prepare them for Paralegal certification to practice in the state of California. However, students should be aware that the ABA does not officially approve online programs. Fortunately for quality-conscious paralegal students, many ABA-approved programs offer an online counterpart taught by the same instructors with the same material.

How We Ranked the Best Paralegal Programs in California

Our research for Online Paralegal Programs’ ranking of the top paralegal programs in California began with strictly American Bar Association-approved programs in the state. From that initial pool, we ranked programs according to factors important to working adults and career-changing professionals: Cost, Salary Potential, and Student Satisfaction. For our data, we consulted College Scorecard, IPEDS, and Niche.

1. John F Kennedy University

John F Kennedy University offers two of the top paralegal programs in California. The school’s Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Legal Studies which requires 180 credit units to graduate. It is offered as an on-campus or hybrid delivery format. Additionally, John F Kennedy University offers a paralegal certificate in California program. The paralegal certificate program requires the completion of 39 credit units to graduate. The certificate program can be taken as a hybrid course or on-campus.

John F Kennedy University was established in 1964. The school operates with two campuses — the main campus in Pleasantville and another in San Jose. The school’s urban campus is home to more than 1,300 students from the school’s colleges of business, psychology/holistic studies, and the law. John F Kennedy University is a nonprofit university that has become an affiliate school of the National University System, yet remains an independent institution of higher education.

Program: BA in Paralegal Studies, certificate
Format: Campus or Hybrid

2. UCLA

The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) through their extension program offers one of the best paralegal programs in California. UCLA’s Certificate in Paralegal Studies has been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) for the last four decades. Coursework covers the many phases of civil processes including the concepts of discovery and pleadings, among others. Degree candidates must complete 36 credit units to graduate. Students are taught by lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals.

The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) was established in 1919 and holds the distinction of being a land grant public institution of higher learning. The school’s 400+-acre urban campus is home to more than 45,000 students studying from the schools thirteen colleges/professionals schools. In 2016, the University of California at Los Angeles received more than 118,000 applications, for which UCLA now is the record holder.

Program: Paralegal Studies Certificate
Format: Campus

3. University of California, San Diego

The University of California, San Diego’s extension education division offers an American Bar Association (ABA) approved paralegal certificate in California program. Students in UC San Diego’s Paralegal Studies Certificate are prepared with extensive legal theories, with opportunities to apply this knowledge pragmatically. Coursework includes Legal Writing & Research, Procedural Law, Intellectual Property Law, Legal Communications, Dispute Resolution, and Civil Litigation, to name a few. UC San Diego offers ABA-approved paralegal certificates for part-time students or in an accelerated format, on-campus.

The University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) was established in 1960. The school holds the distinction of being a sea-grant, space-grant and research institution of higher learning. UC San Diego’s 2,000+-acre urban campus is home to nearly 39,000 students. The University of California at San Diego is the seventh oldest member school in the University of California system.

Program: Paralegal Studies Certificate
Format: Campus

4. University of California, Santa Barbara

The University of California at Santa Barbara Professional and Continuing Education Extension offers a paralegal certificate in California program that is available on-campus only. Degree candidates must complete 36 credit hours to graduate; this includes a capstone project related to the paralegal field. UC Santa Barbara’s Paralegal Studies Certificate holds the distinction of being the only American Bar Association-approved program in California located along the state’s central coast. Coursework includes case planning interviewing skills and drafting legal documents, among many others.

The University of California at Santa Barbara (UC Santa Barbara) was established in 1891 and is one of the ten-member schools in the University of California system. The school’s suburban campus covers more than 1,000 acres and is home to nearly 26,000 students studying from five schools/colleges. The University of California at Santa Barbara is recognized among the few Public Ivy League schools in the country.

Program: Paralegal Studies Certificate
Format: Campus

5. University of California, Irvine

The University of California at Irvine’s Continuing Education division offers one of the best paralegal programs in California. This American Bar Association (ABA) approved paralegal certificate in California program for forty years and is available on-campus or through a distance learning platform. UC Irvine’s certificate in paralegal program provides the knowledge and practical application of that knowledge to real-world casework. Degree candidates studying for the University of California at Irvine’s paralegal certificate program must complete 30 credit hours within five years of enrolling for the program. Coursework includes Legal Research, Civil Litigation, Contracts, and Legal Writing, among others.

The University of California at Irvine (UC Irvine) was established in 1965 and is a member school of the University of California system. UC Irvine’s campus is home to more than 35,000 students studying from more than 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. President Johnson dedicated the school in 1965; President Obama commemorated the event in 2015 — exactly 50 years later.

Program: Paralegal Certificate
Format: Campus or Online

6. University of California, Riverside

The University of California at Riverside Professional Studies Extension offers a Paralegal Studies Certificate that is available on-campus only. UC Riverside offers one of the top paralegal programs in California that has received approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Degree graduates can complete the paralegal certificate program in less than 1.5 years by completing 31 credit units of coursework. Students must complete a paralegal practicum in a public agency, a law firm, and the general counsel of a corporation, among others.

The University of California at Riverside (UC Riverside) was established in 1954. UC Riverside is a member school of the University of California system. The school operates with two campuses; the main campus is in Riverside, CA, with a branch facility in Palm Desert. UC Riverside is regularly recognized among the top ethnically diverse institutions of higher education.

Program: Paralegal Studies Certificate
Format: Campus

7. National University

National University offers a BS in Paralegal Studies and a Certificate of Paralegal Studies that are available as an on-campus program only. National University, a veteran established school, offers a course format that includes 4-week classes — that allows degree candidates to complete the program at a faster pace. National University’s paralegal studies offer sub-specialties that include a Specialist Certificate in Litigation, Corporations, and Criminal Law.

National University was founded in 1971 and was created to provide college-level degree programs across California, Nevada, and as distance-learning learning classes. National University is organized into six colleges/schools in Education, Professional Studies, Letters & Sciences, Business, Engineering and Health Services. National University is a nontraditional institution of higher learning that caters to the needs of working learners.

Program: BS or Certificate in Paralegal Studies
Format: Campus

8. University of San Diego

The University of San Diego’s Professional and Continuing Education division offers a Paralegal Certificate program that is available on the beautiful USD campus only. USD’s paralegal certificate program was the first program of its kind in San Diego to receive an American Bar Association approval. Degree candidates must complete 24 credit units to graduate. Coursework includes legal concepts, the elements of the court’s structure and ethical dilemmas in the legal profession.

The University of San Diego was established in 1949 as a private women’s institution of higher learning. The University of San Diego is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The school’s urban campus is home to more than 9,000 students studying from more than 75 graduate and undergraduate degree programs. The University of San Diego is situated on top of a hill (i.e. mesa) with beautiful views of SeaWorld and Mission Bay.

Program: Paralegal Certificate
Format: Campus

9. California State University, East Bay

California State University, East Bay offers a Paralegal Certificate in California that has been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) since the early 1980s. This on-campus course prepares graduates to prepare cases with attorneys and to research legal matters relevant to the work at hand. Students have the option to choose class times and locations to increase the needed flexibility of working learners. Coursework includes ten classes and one internship prior to graduation.

California State University, East Bay was founded in 1957. CSU East Bay is a member school of the California State University system. The school’s 200-acre suburban campus is home to nearly 16,000 students from more than 90 different degree programs offered by one of the four schools/colleges. When CSU East Bay first opened, classes, were held in a nearby grade school and then the local high school.

Program: Paralegal Studies Certificate
Format: Campus

10. De Anza College

De Anza College offers two of the top paralegal programs in California. De Anza College’s programs include an Associates of Arts (AA) degree in Paralegal Studies and the Certificate in Paralegal Studies of Advanced Achievement programs. Coursework for the AA paralegal degree program includes Trial Preparation, Family Law, Last Wills & Testaments, Criminal Law, and a required paralegal internship. The AA degree requires the completion of 90 credits. De Anza College’s certificate program is open to those who already hold an associates degree.

De Anza College was established in 1967. De Anza College is a community college that is affiliated with Foothill College. The school’s 100+-acre campus is home to more than 21,000 students and nearly 1,000 academic staff. The school’s unusual name is in honor of the Spanish Explorer Juan Bautista de Anza. De Anza College sponsors a Puente Project, a bridge-like project that facilitates the transfer of underserved students to 4-year institutions of higher education.

Program: AA or Certificate in Paralegal Studies
Format: Campus

Why Should I Look for ABA Approved Paralegal Programs in California?

Having an American Bar Association (ABA) approval is significant to the program’s curriculum and reputation of the program. This recognition ensures that a program meets the qualifications and skills required for an individual are excellent based upon the required curriculum. When choosing one of the ABA-approved Paralegal programs in California, employers are looking at these programs first when reviewing applications and looking to hire legal assistants to their firms.

Having a degree from one of the ABA-approved programs in California on the student’s resume gives them a marketing advantage. Since employers prefer these ABA-approved programs, graduates of this program can use that to their advantage on their resume. Also, students who are looking to apply to pre-law programs in the future will find this to be an advantage when competing with others to gain admission to their desired program.

Can I Get an Online Paralegal Program in California?

Yes, you can find an online Paralegal program in California. Several of these California paralegal programs have ABA approval which is one of the reasons they are chosen. These programs are available both in the online format and also a hybrid, where students will attend the classroom for classes.

With a fully online program, students will complete all of their coursework online through a digital format. Students will interact with each other via the platform, as well as their instructors. This allows students to maintain their current responsibilities of working and family obligations while pursuing their education.

The hybrid courses are similar to some courses carrying the online format. However, there are courses that are available for students that are in the evening or on the weekends for those who need classroom instruction. These programs are designed for working professionals to minimize their classroom commitment and work around their weekly work schedules when taking Paralegal classes in California.

How is the Job Market for Paralegals in California?

California paralegal jobs are in demand, with the need for these legal professionals surpassing those in the field. Over the last several years, the demand has grown substantially and is expected to be short by approximately 16% at the turn of the decade. California paralegal jobs are demanding in all of the various law sectors across the state where the same attorney needs are growing – California has several of the best cities for paralegals. The larger metro areas such as Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego are leading in demand for paralegals. Areas such as Anaheim and San Francisco are expected to require more paralegals in the future thanks to the growth of the local populations.

One of the leading California Paralegal associations is the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations that bands together these legal professionals and provides them with the resources they need to maintain their certification in their profession. This association provides Paralegals with a voice in their career field and advances the profession. There are twelve California Paralegal Associations joined with the CAPA, and in order to receive these benefits and resources, you must be a member of one of those associations.

How Much Do Paralegals in California Make?

The California paralegal salary average is one of the highest salary offerings in the United States. Due to the number of paralegals in Los Angeles and the demand in this area, the salary according to Glassdoor averages $60,271, with San Diego coming in behind at $59,189. Even the smaller metro areas in the state have a salary that is much higher than the average Paralegal salary of $47, 593 according to Payscale. A California paralegal salary is also on the rise by approximately 6 percent over the last five years. Many paralegals find that with experience comes an increase in their California paralegal salary.

As paralegals continue to advance their education and add to their certifications, they can expect to be accommodated for advancement by promotion or another employer offering a fair California paralegal salary that meets their education and experience. As other metro areas continue to grow and develop their need for paralegals, the salary will become more competitive and begin to match the salaries reflected in Los Angeles and San Diego.

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Top 10 Cities for Paralegals
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