Top 10 Traditional Paralegal Degree Programs
Online degrees are convenient, and they do provide students with the same rigorous and high-quality education that they can receive in person, often with the same faculty. However, maybe you’re someone that would prefer to attend a campus because you want to experience a new city, have more interaction with your classmates, or that’s just the best way for you to learn. If that’s you, then this ranking is for you.
Paralegals are instrumental in keeping our legal system functioning properly and providing essential support to attorneys. Sometimes, those who fill this role are also known as legal assistants. Programs leading to this career are usually undergraduate or bachelor’s-level programs. In this ranking, we are presenting you with the ten best traditional or on-campus paralegal programs in the country. Some of these are full-length programs, and some of them are degree completion programs, but we’re confident that one of them is going to be an excellent fit for you.
The degree programs we ranked are going to equip you with the skills and knowledge that you need to fulfill your role as a paralegal. Many of these programs prepare graduates for the proper licensure or certification that they need; however, those certification requirements differ between states, so you will need to look at the requirements where you live and work with an advisor at your school to make sure that you meet them.
Ranking the 10 Best Traditional Paralegal Degree Programs
Each institution on this list is based in the United States and offers a degree program that prepares you in legal studies, paralegal studies, or legal assisting. We ranked all of these programs based on the academic quality of the institutions that offer them using these factors:
- Freshman Retention Rate: To demonstrate the value of the education each school provides, we considered how many first-time, first-year students continued their education after their freshman year.
- Graduation Rate: To determine student satisfaction, we considered how many students finished their degree programs in the traditional amount of time allotted by each school for completion.
The schools are primarily ranked based on these factors, but we also looked at program quality, accreditation, and any accolades the schools have received.
1. Loyola University Chicago
Loyola University Chicago is a private Catholic research university. As the name suggests, the school is located in Chicago, Illinois. It was founded in 1870. U.S. News & World Report ranked Loyola among the top 100 best universities in the nation in their most recent list. They have also ranked the university as a “Best Value” college. Many alumni of the university have gone on to become congresspeople, judges, athletes, entertainers, and more. Former Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan and the current holder of the position, Lisa Madigan, are both graduates of the university. In 2017, Loyola won both the Thomas Tang Moot Court Competition at both the regional and national level.
The Bachelor of Arts in Paralegal Studies is a 48-credit program designed for those who have already earned an associate degree in the field or have completed at least 15 paralegal semester credits. You can transfer in up to 24 credits, though. Topics that are covered in the curriculum include legal research, analysis, writing, legal ethics, and law office technology. The Institute for Paralegal Studies at Loyola has a strong reputation, and you will benefit from that when you enter the professional world. There are five sessions throughout the year, and you can start at any time. Most of the classes are eight weeks in length and offered in the evening, letting this program fit easily into the lifestyle of a working professional. As part of this degree program, you can earn a specialized Litigation and Corporate Practice Certificate.
Loyola University Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and has held this accreditation since the year 1921. The American Bar Association, Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar also accredits the professional schools at the university. This is an ABA Approved Paralegal Education Program.
2. Mississippi College
Mississippi College is a Christian university that has a Baptist affiliation. It is located just outside of the capital in Mississippi, in a city called Clinton. It was founded in 1826, making it one of the oldest Baptist-affiliated institutions of higher learning in the country. There are nearly 100 different programs of study offered at the college, which offers bachelor’s, master’s, and even doctorate programs. There are over 5,000 students in total and close to a tenth of those students are enrolled at the Mississippi College School of Law. The former Attorney General of the state, Joseph Turner Patterson, graduated from the college as well as J. Andrew Gipson, an attorney, and member of the Mississippi House of Representatives.
Mississippi College offers a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies. Graduates of their program have gone on to work in a variety of different organizations including private firms, government agencies, and other corporations. It is a 130-credit program with ten different minor options to choose from. Some potential minors include Administration of Justice, Political Science, and more. Courses you’ll take as part of the paralegal studies major will cover topics like litigation, family law, property law, legal research, legal writing, and law office management. These classes include practical assignments that reflect work you’ll be doing in your day to day life once you enter the professional world. There is also a post-baccalaureate certificate offered in Paralegal Studies for those who want to study more in-depth.
Since 1922, Mississippi College has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. In addition to that, the American Bar Association, Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar awarded its accreditation to the professional programs at MC in 1980.
3. Bay Path University
Bay Path University is a private university in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. All of the programs at the undergraduate level are only offered to women; however, graduate programs are coeducational. The university also operates the American Women’s College, which was the first distance-education college created solely for women. Bay Path was founded in 1897 as the Bay Path Institute. After a history of expanding and a list of several different names, it became Bay Path University in 2014 when it was granted its status as a university. The Chronicle of Higher Education distinguished the school as one of the fastest growing private baccalaureate schools in the country in 2014; Bay Path came in eighth place.
Bay Path University offers both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies. Through either of these programs, you will learn about litigation, legal research and writing, legal ethics, and complete an internship. In the BS program, there are additional courses in evidence, constitutional law, business law, criminal procedure, and more in-depth courses that cover legal research. As a student of the program, you will create a digital portfolio that includes all of your work and any awards and recognition you receive during your study, which serves as a great way to boost your resume when seeking employment. Another way that Bay Path’s program can help increase your professional opportunities is that graduates of the Legal Studies programs will also receive a Certificate of Advanced Paralegal Studies.
Bay Path University has been accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education since 1965. This is an ABA Approved Paralegal Education Program.
4. Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University is a public university with its main campus located in Richmond, Kentucky. There are also four branch campuses throughout the state. It was founded in 1906 as a teacher training school. The university is organized into six different colleges. All of the legal studies programs are provided through the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences. U.S. News & World Report ranked the university among the top 30 public schools in the south, and among the top 100 overall in the south. The university has received a list of other recognitions and awards as well, including being distinguished as one of the top 20 best colleges for veterans in 2017 by Military Times.
EKU has paralegal studies programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and certificate levels. The programs offered are delivered in a partially-online format, but we’ve chosen to rank them here based on their quality. The paralegal program at EKU is a charter member of the American Association for Paralegal Education, and all of the instructors hold doctoral level degrees in their fields. Regardless of your selection, you will complete the program in eight-week terms and will benefit from job placement assistance upon graduation. The programs consist of 64 credits at the associate level or 120 credits at the bachelor’s level. Each program blends academic and professional preparation so you will have strong background knowledge and the hands-on skills you need to have a successful career.
Eastern Kentucky University offers several different programs in the field, and they are all ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs. The university was first accredited in 1928 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.
5. Texas A&M University-Commerce
Texas A&M University-Commerce is a public research university. It is the third-largest school in the Texas A&M University System, which consists of eleven total institutions. TAMUC is also one of the oldest universities in the state; it was founded in 1889. Commerce, Texas is where the university is located, and its campus spans more than 2,000 acres. There are satellites in three other cities and courses are offered in four different cities thanks to partnerships with other schools. TAMUC is one of the most affordable universities in Texas; it also has a special program for incoming freshman that allows them to lock in their tuition rate for their entire undergraduate study, even if prices increase.
If you’d like to attend Texas A&M University-Commerce, you have the choice of a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies. This is a career-focused program that features a broad liberal arts curriculum in combination with a very tailored curriculum for aspiring paralegals. You will learn the fundamental components of civil procedure, and law office management as well as explore family, real estate, personal injury, and constitutional law. The program will teach you how to conduct legal research and includes both a paralegal internship and simulated settings to provide you with practical experience. In addition to the major requirements, there are great electives to choose from to increase your knowledge in specific areas. Options cover bankruptcy, criminal law, and more.
In 1925, Texas A&M University-Commerce received its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. This is an ABA Approved Paralegal Education Program.
6. Clayton State University
Clayton State University is a public university in Morrow, Georgia in the metro Atlanta area. The university also offers instruction at locations in Peachtree City, Jonesboro, and McDonough. The main campus is in a wooded area and features several lakes. It was founded in 1969 as a junior college and became a four-year college in 1986. It has operated as a university since 1996 and is now part of the University System of Georgia. There are just shy of 50 programs of study available at the university and degrees are conferred at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Clayton State University has been recognized for its economic impact and diversity, by UGA and U.S. News & World Report respectively.
All of the full-time instructors of the Legal Studies and Paralegal Programs are attorneys. This program has been designed to provide students with both the theoretical background and practical skills that they need to excel in their careers. Programs include a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies, a Paralegal Certificate, and an Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. The AAS covers the same curriculum as the certificate but includes additional general education courses, perfect students who do not yet hold a degree. Degree holding students can opt for the certificate. These programs emphasize critical and analytical thinking along with thorough legal research and writing. You will also encounter several substantive law courses, legal terminology, and critical paralegal skills.
Clayton State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges and has held this accreditation since 1971. This is also an ABA Approved Paralegal Education Program.
7. Auburn University at Montgomery
Auburn University at Montgomery is a public university that is in Montgomery, Alabama. It was founded in 1967 and classes began in 1969. The first enrollment was a mere 600 students, but the university has grown now to serve a student body of close to 5,000. Richard Marcinko, who was the founder and first commanding officer of Seal Team Six, graduated from AUM. The university offers degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate levels and currently provides close to 100 programs of study altogether, through five different colleges. The most popular programs at the university are in the field of business, and they are highly-regarded. AUM’s College of Business ranks in the top 5% among business schools worldwide.
AUM’s program that we’ve recognized them for here is a Bachelor of Science in Justice & Public Safety with a concentration in Legal Studies. The major consists of 39 credit hours. You will take courses in legal research and writing, litigation, judicial administration, law office management, and more. Some unique classes are part of the program as well; these are Computer Applications in Law, Statistics for Social Science, and Alternative Dispute Resolution. You have elective options in several areas not offered at other schools as well. If interested, you can participate in an internship or conduct some directed research with your electives, or you can explore juvenile justice, civil rights, or another area important to you. Upon graduation, in addition to your degree, you will hold a Paralegal Certificate.
Auburn University at Montgomery’s program is an ABA Approved Paralegal Education Program. The university as a whole is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges; it was first awarded in 1968.
8. New York City College of Technology
The New York City College of Technology is the college of technology for the City University of New York. Its campus is in the Brooklyn area of New York City. The college is often referred to as City Tech, and it was founded in 1946. When it was established, it was to help educate those coming from fighting in World War II. It has operated as a four-year college since the 80’s and has grown to serve almost 18,000 students every year. There are roughly 70 programs of study to choose from at this school, which offers certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. The School of Professional Studies houses all of the law and paralegal programs, as well as programs in 12 other fields.
The Bachelor of Science in Legal Assistant Studies at the New York City College of Technology was the first-ever baccalaureate program in the field offered in New York. The program consists of 120 to 132 credits to graduate. The college also offers an Associate of Applied Science in Legal Assistant Studies. Although this is an on-campus program, it was still designed to be supremely flexible. Classes are offered days, evenings, weekends, and some even in the summer. The curriculum explores substantive and procedural law while equipping you with necessary skills in research, writing, accounting, and document preparation. You will also have the opportunity to gain experience through internships. There is one internship in the AAS track or the chance for more in the BS track.
The CUNY New York City College of Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. It has held this accreditation since 1957. This program is ABA approved.
9. Utah Valley University
Utah Valley University is a public university based in Orem, Utah with several satellite campuses. These are in Heber City, Spanish Fork, North Orem, Provo, and Lehi. UVU has operated as a university since 2008. It was founded as a vocational school in 1941 and gradually expanded to become the academic institution it is today. Students of the university have succeeded in several competitions including SkillsUSA and several business-oriented competitions. However, the university previously chose not to be ranked by U.S. News & World Report so there isn’t much solid ranking data; for the 2019 year, the university ranked among the top 100 regional universities in the western United States.
We have ranked Utah Valley University for the Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies; however, the university offers an Associate of Applied Arts, an Associate of Science, and a Certificate of Proficiency in Legal Studies as well. The bachelor’s program consists of at least 120 credits, with only 35 of them representing general education requirements. UVU’s program has more major-specific courses than many other programs and has 30 credits worth of electives for you to choose from as well. The curriculum includes many of the usual classes that introduce you to different areas of law and equip you with job-specific technical skills. You will also take additional courses in business that focus on communication. This program features an internship as well, enabling you to get real-world experience.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities first accredited this university in 1969. Utah Valley’s programs are ABA Approved.
10. East Central University
East Central University is a public university. The flagship campus of the school is located in Ada, Oklahoma. There are classes offered at a few branch locations in the cities of McAlester, Shawnee, Ardmore, and Durant. ECU first opened in 1909 as East Central State Normal School, for the purpose of training future teachers. It expanded beyond just education in 1939 and changed its name the first time. In 1974, ECU first became a university and changed its name again, but it didn’t take on its current name until 1985. There have been several notable people that graduated from the university, going on to work for corporations like Microsoft and Sam’s Club, and hold high positions in our military.
East Central University offers a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies that consists of a minimum of 124 semester hours. As many as 94 of the required credits can be transferred in toward the degree. This program includes an internship, and the majority of the program centers on lectures and specific projects. This is a very technical program designed to prepare you for immediate entry into the workplace once you’ve graduated. The liberal arts components of the curriculum are designed to provide students with analytical and communication skills that are universally applicable. The remaining classes prepare students to make appropriate ethical decisions and expose students to theoretical, practical, and procedural aspects of different types of law. ECU’s Legal Studies minor is not adequate preparation for employment, only the major.
East Central University’s programs are ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs. As a whole, the university has been consistently accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1947.