There are few better places to be a paralegal than Virginia, especially in the Washington DC area. And because of the high demand, there are a wealth of excellent paralegal programs in the commonwealth. In fact, it’s sometimes challenging to figure out how to choose a paralegal program in Virginia due to the fact there are quite a few to choose from. Finding a paralegal program in Virginia becomes easier when you narrow your focus on what you’re looking to get out of a career as a paralegal.
The first question to ask yourself is “do I want to become a paralegal and make it a career?” If the answer is a definite yes, you should look into schools that have ABA-approved paralegal programs in Virginia for the best possible education. If your answer is an uncertain yes, you want to look into paralegal certificate programs in Virginia in order to get an insight into the role and if you want to pursue it further.
How We Ranked the Best Paralegal Programs in Virginia
Online Paralegal Programs editors want prospective students to find the best program for their needs, so our rankings feature accredited trusted institutions. Programs are ranked according to a number of factors, including cost, reputation, and variety of offerings.
1. Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Commonwealth University offers quality paralegal programs in Virginia with its certificate in paralegal studies. This online paralegal program from Virginia Commonwealth University offers discounts for veterans, reservists, and active military members, and their significant others. Students enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University’s paralegal program can finish this noncredit program in only six months. Coursework for this certificate program includes civil litigation, legal research, business and contract law, torts & personal injury, and intro to law, among others.
Virginia Commonwealth University (Virginia Commonwealth) began as a medical department of a local college in 1838. The university’s urban campus in Richmond serves more than 29,900 students and covers more than 140 acres. Several buildings on Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus are listed among the nation’s historic places.
2. George Mason University
George Mason University’s Center for Legal Studies offers paralegal programs in Virginia that can be completed entirely online. Students enrolled in Mason’s paralegal certificate program complete 84 classroom hours of instruction. Students graduate from George Mason University’s paralegal certificate program to find rewarding work assisting trial attorneys, legal research, preparing cases, or investigating complex scenarios to obtain facts. Classes include legal terminology, evidentiary predicate, intro to legal research, legal writing, and identifying relevant authority, to name a few.
George Mason University (Mason) is a public higher learning institution that was established in 1949 as an academic center for another university. The university’s multiple campuses across the Commonwealth of Virginia serve more than 38,100 students. George Mason University’s name honors one of the school’s and state’s founding fathers, George Mason.
Program: Paralegal Studies Certificate
3. James Madison University
James Madison University offers paralegal programs in Virginia that are available to be completed 100% online through the school’s distance learning platform. This paralegal certificate program is designed to accommodate working learners. Classes for the paralegal certificate from JMU include contract law, legal research, introduction to law, and civil litigation. James Madison University’s noncredit certificate is designed to help jumpstart one’s career in support of legal professionals. Certificate candidates can complete JMU’s paralegal program in only five months.
James Madison University (JMU) is a research higher learning institution that was established in 1908 as a normal school for women by the state legislature. The school’s campus in Harrisonburg is located in the Shenandoah Valley and serves more than 22,200 students. The university is named to honor the fourth president of the U.S., James Madison.
4. Christopher Newport University
Christopher Newport University’s Law School offers paralegal programs in Virginia through its prelaw program. Christopher Newport University’s prelaw program provides the requisite coursework to gain acceptance to a preferred law school. CNU, in collaboration with George Mason University, offers a 3 + 3 program that allows students to complete this prelaw degree and a law degree at Mason’s law school in only six- years, shaving one year typically required to finish both degrees. Students enrolled in CNU’s prelaw program are offered mentorships, workshops, networking events, and internships to round out the student’s education.
Christopher Newport University (CNU) is a liberal arts higher learning institution that was established in 1960. More than 4,600 students attend classes offers by Christopher Newport University. The school is named for one of the captains of the largest of three ships that brought Virginia settlers in the early 1600s, which became the first of the North American permanent settlements.
5. Hampton University
Hampton University’s University College (HU) offers two paralegal programs in Virginia with their Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Paralegal Studies or Certificate in Paralegal Studies. The BA degree in paralegal requires the completion of 120 semester hours over four years, whereas the certificate program requires 24-semester credits that can be completed in a little more than six months. Core classes include law in society, legal research and writing criminal law, domestic relations, litigation & trial practice, and torts & personal injury, among others.
Hampton University (HU) is an HBCU higher learning institution that was established in 1868. The university’s campus in suburban Hampton serves more than 4,500 students and covers more than 300 acres. Hampton University’s most famous alumni is Booker T Washington, who started school at 16. Hampton University began after the Civil War as a higher learning institution dedicated to educating all freedmen for freedwomen.
6. Regent University
Regent University offers a BS in Paralegal Studies that requires students to finish a minimum of 120 semester credits, depending on the exact study track. Classes for these paralegal programs in Virginia include legal research, investigation in litigation, family law, contract law, wills, trust & probate law, real estate law, law and ethics, and personal injury law, to name a few. Students must also complete the school’s general Christian liberal arts curriculum for 33 to 34 semester credits.
Regent University (RU) was established as the Christian Broadcasting University in 1977. The school operates as an interdenominational evangelical higher learning institution that serves more than 8,000 students. The school offers more than 50 courses of study at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctorate levels.
7. Liberty University
Liberty University offers an Associate of Arts in paralegal studies that are considered among the best paralegal programs in Virginia. Students enrolled in Liberty University are required to complete 60 semester credits, which takes, on average, two years to complete, with some finishing in only 18 months. Classes included in Liberty’s associate degree in paralegal include criminal practice & procedures, legal research, civil practice, and legal writing, among others. Students enrolled at Liberty can apply their credits earned through the AA degree towards a Bachelor of Science degree in paralegals.
Liberty University was founded in 1971. The school is an evangelical higher learning institution with a student body that exceeds 100,000, with about 90% of its students attending classes offered through the school’s distance learning platform. Liberty University requires students to complete three bible studies classes through its Christian conservative orientation process.
8. J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College offers an Associate of Arts in paralegal studies that requires degree candidates to complete 66 semester credits to meet program requirements. J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College’s paralegal programs in Virginia include classes in real estate abstracting, bankruptcy, real estate law, estate planning, legal writing, the legal aspect of business, and fundamentals of reasoning, plus a relevant paralegal internship, to name a few. A student enrolled in JSRCC’s paralegal degree can opt to specialize in litigation. Students graduate from JSRCC’s paralegal associate’s degree to find rewarding work as a title examiner, legal researcher, or victim’s advocate, to name a few.
J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College (JSRCC) was founded in 1972. The college’s Richmond campuses serve more than 17,500 students. J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College is a member school of the state’s community college system. The school was named for one of the Commonwealth’s lieutenant governors.
9. Northern Virginia Community College
Northern Virginia Community College offers an Associate of Arts in paralegal studies that requires degree candidates to complete 63 semester units to meet the program’s requirements. Northern Virginia Community College’s paralegal programs in Virginia offers classes in estate planning, legal transactions, trial practice, the law of evidence, criminal law, family law, legal research, torts, and quantitative reasoning, to name a few. Degree candidates typically complete this paralegal degree from Northern Virginia Community College in about 24 months.
Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) is a public school with several campuses and academic centers in Virginia. Established in 1964, NVCC holds the distinction of being the second largest of all community college systems with multiple campuses. Northern Virginia Community College’s student enrollment exceeds 77,000 students, where students can enroll as young as 16.
10. Tidewater Community College
Tidewater Community College offers an Associate of Applied Arts in paralegal studies that requires degree candidates to complete 67 semester units to meet the program’s requirements. Among the other paralegal programs in Virginia offered by Tidewater Community College, there is a certificate in legal assistant and two career studies certificates as a general practitioner or a litigation specialist. The American Bar Association approves TCC’s AAS in paralegal studies program. Classes include trial preparation, legal writing, discovery practice, fundamentals of reasoning, ethics for paralegals, and family law, to name a few.
Tidewater Community College (TCC) is a public higher learning institution that was established in 1968. The school operates multiple campuses across Virginia that serve more than 33,400 students. The school was established when Frederick College closed, and the land was donated to the Commonwealth.
How Do I Choose a Paralegal Program in Virginia?
The difference between a paralegal certificate and an associate’s degree in paralegal studies comes down to the amount of time spent on learning the skills a paralegal is expected to have upon being hired. A paralegal certificate program in Virginia will provide a student with enough education to get employed at the entry-level of paralegal jobs. Taking the time to earn an associate’s degree prepares a student to enter the paralegal workforce at a more advanced level of employment. Another advantage of earning an associate’s degree in paralegal studies is the fact it prepares a student to further their education and eventually earn a Juris doctorate to become a lawyer if they so desire.
How is the Job Market for Paralegals in Virginia?
The job market for paralegal jobs in Virginia is strong and is poised to grow over the next 10 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the job outlook for paralegals is 10% from 2019 to 2029, making this a good time for a student to enter school for paralegal studies in Virginia. Even though the BLS predictions are national, they are still relevant to local markets. Someone who lives in the Richmond area will find that there are many paralegal jobs in Richmond, Virginia, at any given time. However, someone who lives in a less-populated area of Virginia will find it takes longer to gain employment as a paralegal. Someone who lives in the north of the state close to Washington, D.C., will have little trouble finding paralegal jobs in northern Virginia. It’s worth noting that entry level paralegal jobs in Virginia are more easily found in larger population centers than smaller ones. However, paralegal students should also consider employment in other job sectors that want paralegals for their skill sets.
Many businesses hire paralegals to save money on legal costs and retain lawyers for the work that paralegals can’t perform. Paralegals are qualified to review contracts, perform legal research, work on tax issues, negotiate agreements, and more. A paralegal typically has to work under the supervision of a lawyer, but there’s no law that states the ratio has to be one lawyer to one paralegal. One lawyer can supervise multiple paralegals at a time, provide direction for their work, and review the production of a paralegal. Outside of that, the paralegal can work independently and do quite a lot of the same duties as a lawyer. What this means for students is the fact that they’re not limited to working strictly within the legal industry for the length of their career. Instead, they can go to work in a law firm for the purpose of gaining experience in a specific area of law, then find employment in areas other than the law.
How Much Can I Make as a Paralegal in Virginia?
The average paralegal salary in Virginia is $52,520 and represents an increase of 2.7% from 2019. When breaking down how much do paralegals make in Virginia in terms of an hourly wage, it comes out to $25.25 an hour. It’s worth noting that an average salary is a median number. Salaries for paralegals in Virginia can be lower than or higher than the average salary. Experience affects the average paralegal salary as does geographical location. A paralegal working in an area of the state that has a lower population will also have a lower cost of living and their salary will reflect that fact. Paralegals who work in metro areas are likely to earn a higher salary due to the higher cost of living.
A paralegal who has just graduated with an associate’s degree in paralegal studies in Virginia is going to earn less than the average salary, but more than someone who has earned their paralegal certificate. Experience plays a large role in how much a paralegal earns which means recent graduates of either a paralegal certificate or associate’s degree program are going to earn less than their more experienced counterparts. However, someone who has decided that they want to work as a paralegal can find themselves climbing the ladder of earnings and responsibility the longer they work and eventually earn more than the average paralegal salary in Virginia.