While working as a paralegal does not require a master’s degree, earning a Master of Paralegal Studies is an excellent way for legal professionals to develop their skills and move toward advanced roles in the legal field. As a graduate with a master’s in paralegal studies, you can develop a strong understanding of the law and how legal matters affect societal institutions, while demonstrating your commitment to your chosen career path.
In the past, the requirements to work as a paralegal were less stringent, but those days are long gone. The scope of a paralegal’s role has evolved. The changing landscape of the paralegal profession now requires candidates to seek additional training and advanced education to ensure they meet the exacting standards and expectations of the modern workplace and continue to be marketable. While a master’s degree is not a requirement for working as a paralegal, it can help you demonstrate your potential and value. 
Only a small handful of universities offer master’s degrees in paralegal studies. Of those, even fewer are ABA-approved.  Students holding an ABA-approved master’s in paralegal studies have an advantage due to the scarcity of ABA-approved master’s degrees. Holding this degree demonstrates that you have the dedication and commitment to excel in the field, as well as the level of organizational and academic skills needed to study law at postgraduate level.
Employers looking to build top-notch legal teams seek paralegals with professional legal acumen and a passion for the law. Pursuing a master’s demonstrates your ambition and passion for your chosen field of study.
Law firms are constantly seeking ways to increase efficiency and lower expenses. Paralegals are a vital resource and play a key role in the legal workforce. As a result of the expanding need for paralegals, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants will grow by 8% between 2014 and 2024. 
The result is a great many new opportunities for candidates with the legal acumen and dedication to meet the increasing demands of such roles. A master’s in paralegal studies can demonstrate you are a credible asset to a business, capable of positively impacting the bottom line by bringing more skills and experience to the role than other candidates can offer.  
Working as a paralegal means spending your days assisting attorneys, conducting research that supports their legal proceedings, and aiding them in formulating strategies and initiating legal actions. This is vital work, conducted by highly experienced and exceptionally well-educated law professionals. Holding a master’s degree in paralegal studies can earn you a heightened sense of respect in the law office, allowing you to feel confident of your position and satisfied with your performance. A master’s in paralegal studies helps ensure you have the educational background to deliver the highest quality work. 
While there is a great deal of satisfaction in paralegal roles, there is also a limit to its scope. You will not be able to offer legal advice, appear in court as a counsel of record, or sign any court documents in a capacity beyond that of a paralegal (i.e. representative capacity). Law school opens up doors to furthering your career, taking that next step, and becoming a lawyer. A master’s in paralegal studies is an excellent way to not only ensure your experience as a paralegal is top-notch but also lay the foundations for your career at law school. 
There are few degree programs that can prepare you for the challenge of law school quite like a master’s in paralegal studies. This could be a great opportunity to judge whether law school is right for you before you fully commit to the program. Holding a master’s in paralegal studies may also give you an advantage during the application process,  as it demonstrates that you have the academic capability required to handle the law at a high level.
Admission for a master’s in paralegal studies is generally open to any student holding a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. As a result, this is a popular degree choice for career changers.
If you have a passion for the law but know that law school is not an option for you, pursuing a master’s in paralegal studies and a career as a paralegal can be a rewarding way to work in your field of choice without the need to go to law school or become a qualified lawyer. Paralegals are integral parts of any law firm’s legal team, and it’s a rapidly growing field with increasing responsibilities and opportunities for advancement. 
Obtaining a degree in paralegal studies has many benefits and can prove invaluable to your career. Employment growth and job security for paralegals are steadily rising — in fact, paralegal roles are projected to grow by 8% from 2014 to 2024.  The median salary for a paralegal is $49,500, while the top 10% earn approximately $80,260.   
A master’s degree in paralegal studies can open up many career advancement opportunities. Your studies can be tailored to fit the specific needs of a particular career or job role, such as business, litigation, estate management, health care, intellectual property, administration, technology, immigration, criminal law, and many other areas. While your program will cover current and trending legal theories and practices, a master’s degree is further designed to provide a targeted approach to learning new computer software and technology, as well as business-based administrative skills you will need to work in a modern law office. 
As a paralegal studies graduate there are several different career paths you can take, depending on your goals. A strong educational background can be extremely helpful in securing coveted roles with better long-term prospects and higher salaries. 
The core courses for a master’s degree in paralegal studies vary depending on the institution and tracks available. However, they all aim to impart the practical skills required to work in the field. This includes a solid grounding in the legal theories that accompany these skills. Core elements you can expect to find in a master’s in paralegal studies include:
Besides your core courses, there are often a broad range of classes available to make up the remainder of your degree. These are known as electives, and you can choose a certain number of classes to tailor your education to your goals.
If a master’s program does not offer a specialization, you can use electives to customize the curriculum, which can help you make the most of your degree.
Choosing a degree specialization can be an excellent career move. If there is a particular area you are interested in, such as family law, immigration, or litigation, specializing can give you an advantage when you seek employment, possibly enabling you to earn a higher salary and putting you in high demand.
Concentrations focus on specific areas of the law, such as health law, real estate, criminal law, or intellectual property. They enable you to tailor your education to a particular legal area. It’s vital that you consider your options carefully before specializing or selecting concentrations, ensuring you align them with your career goals, salary expectations, and even the geographical area you wish to work in.
Experiential learning including internships and practicum may be part of the master’s program, in accordance with American Association for Paralegal Education guidelines.  Your master’s program may include time spent working as an intern with a law firm or other relevant organization, as well as trips to observe court cases and other legal proceedings.
Most paralegal master’s programs do not have any specific prerequisite course requirements. A bachelor’s degree is required and can usually be in any subject.
As the law experts working in the wings, helping lawyers and attorneys build legal cases, paralegals are required to have a professional and comprehensive grasp of legal terminology and theory. They must be capable of applying this knowledge in practice, building compelling arguments informed by evidence, and researching and writing to a high standard. 
When considering a program’s curriculum, you should look at how well-rounded it is, and whether it will give you a solid base in legal knowledge. You should expect to learn about state procedures and legal reasoning, along with real estate law, corporate law, and additional areas such as family law and litigation. It’s also a good idea to consider the available specializations and concentrations, and how you might tailor the curriculum to your areas of interest. Whether the curriculum is available on campus or online is also an important element.
The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.
Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.
You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.
While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.
In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.
For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.
Unlike the master’s degree in paralegal studies, this is a more specialized degree intended for those pursuing a career in criminal justice. If you’re looking to specialize as a paralegal in criminal justice, or to go on to law school and pursue a career as a criminal justice lawyer, a master of criminal justice is a good option. If you’re not interested in specializing in criminal justice, you may find this program too restrictive.
A master’s in legal studies is best suited for those looking to go on to law school and pursue a career as a lawyer. A master’s in paralegal studies deals with the areas a paralegal is required to understand and deal with, in addition to serving as preparation for law school. A master’s in legal studies covers all aspects of law more broadly instead of focusing on paralegal skills.
A master of laws focuses on preparing students for careers as lawyers, rather than paralegals. While this is an excellent qualification for a paralegal to have, it covers a lot that paralegals are not currently able to do, and as such may focus too much on areas you will never be able to put into practice if you do not intend to go on to law school.
Certificate programs in paralegal studies offer a great way to get formal training and certification in paralegal studies without the extended time and financial commitments of a full degree. There are many advantages to having a certificate in paralegal studies; however, compared to a full degree, and in particular, a master’s-level program, the depth of knowledge gained through a certificate is considerably less.
Limited License Legal Technicians, or LLLTs, are licensed practitioners with current training who are able to offer assistance and advice to individuals dealing with child custody cases, divorce, and a range of other matters related to family law. Becoming a qualified LLLT will enable you to offer advice and give consultations, as well as aid in court scheduling and supporting clients as they navigate the increasingly confusing legal system. Currently you can only become a LLLT in Washington state, but many states are considering installing similar programs. 
There are many organizations and associations that can offer support and guidance throughout your career:
Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.
Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.
You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.
Some Master’s in Paralegal Studies programs may be approved by the American Bar Association. Endorsement by the American Bar Association, or ABA, is a mark of distinction in the legal field. There are currently only 206 ABA-approved law schools in the U.S. and even fewer paralegal programs approved by the ABA.  
A master’s degree is not required to become a Certified Paralegal, but an education in paralegal studies is. The extent to which you study is up to you, and your choice will determine the depth of your knowledge and the course of your career. Certification is a voluntary aspect of paralegal work and not a requirement to work in the paralegal profession. 
A paralegal certificate is not the same as paralegal licensure. Paralegal licensure indicates that an individual has a good paralegal education as well as the credentials required for the profession.  Paralegal certification is voluntary across the majority of states.
There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.
For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.
Paralegals provide legal research support and investigate facts to prepare for legal cases . A paralegal degree can help you manage the information that is provided for legal cases and ensure you are providing the best support for lawyers who are preparing for hearings, trials, and corporate meetings.
A master’s in paralegal studies provides you with the skills and knowledge you need to be successful in the legal field. You will learn and practice skills that are in-demand by employers such as written and oral communication skills, presenting in multiple formats using technology, and deepening your knowledge of core legal concepts.
A graduate degree in Paralegal Studies is suited for individuals seeking a career in the legal field. The degree can help you gain the legal theory and deepen your knowledge in negotiation, evidence, advocacy, contract law, insurance law, and professional responsibility and ethics.
A Paralegal Studies degree can help you become more competitive in the legal field and more valuable to your employer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the paralegal professional is expected to grow by 8 percent annually from 2014 to 2024 . This degree can help you gain the professional expertise that will allow you to become a strategic asset to your company and a vital member of legal teams.
The primary focus of the Paralegal Studies degree is to boost your earning credentials by deepening your knowledge in the American legal field. You will be learning the theory and practical skills to support this knowledge growth through courses in legal research and writing, litigation, contracts, business entities, administrative and government contracts law, intellectual property and international law, and more.
The key attributes to look for in a graduate in paralegal studies are an industry recognized accreditations such as the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). In addition, you will want to look for a robust curriculum that will provide you with a deep legal foundation in legal research and writing, litigation, and multiple areas of law such as administrative, government contracts, intellectual property, and international.
Graduate degrees in Paralegal Studies will vary. There is typically an application fee that ranges in price from $50 to $100. In addition, you may pay course tuition ranging from $700 to $1,200 per credit hour. The credit hour may include costs such as registration fees, technology fees, and matriculation fees. Books and supplies may be extra.
There are several differences between the paralegal studies master’s degree and Certificate. The key differences are length of time and tuition. The graduate degree typically takes 16 to 24 months to complete, and costs around $30,000 to $40,000 USD, depending on the institution. The graduate certificate is typically shorter at 8 to 12 months and costs range from $10,000 to $20,000 USD, depending on the academic institution.
GPA requirements will vary by institution and program type. Most paralegal studies master’s degrees and certificates require a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher learning with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
Whether you will need to complete the GRE/GMAT prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE/GMAT. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.
Most programs require that students have completed a bachelor’s degree as part of the admission requirements. A background in Paralegal Studies or Legal Studies are not typically required. Subject restrictions from the undergraduate degree typically do not apply. The master’s degree can help prepare students for a successful career in the legal field with a focus on legal research and writing, civil procedure, contracts, and other subjects.
Prior work experience for this degree varies by institution and program. Most paralegal studies or legal studies master’s degrees do not specify years of work experience for admission requirements. However, some institutions may require applicants to have a professional resume showcasing their work experience, and also require professional letters of recommendations.
Most master’s degrees in paralegal studies and/or legal studies do not require a specific undergraduate / bachelor’s degree in order to qualify for the program. However, most institutions require applicants to have completed an undergraduate degree with a minimum grade point average (GPA).
There are typically no prerequisite courses required to qualify for a master’s degree in paralegal studies and/or legal studies. However, an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA may be required to meet the admission requirements of most graduate degree programs.
The typical core courses will prepare you to gain a deeper understanding of the legal field. You will take courses on legal research, legal writing, litigation and contracts, and business entities. Some programs will also provide you with in-depth knowledge of various types of law such as administrative law, government contracts law, intellectual property law, international law, and more.
A: When reviewing the various Paralegal Studies and Legal Studies programs, prospective students should review the program curriculum by asking their program advisors if the program offers:
A rigorous and practical curriculum
A scholarly approach to legal research and writing
An in-depth understanding of various areas of the legal field such as government contracts and intellectual property
The program length to complete the Paralegal Studies and/or Legal Studies program varies by degree type and institutions. Most certificates take 8 to 12 months to complete, while most master’s degrees take 16 to 24 months to complete.
Some Paralegal Studies and/or Legal Studies programs may require fieldwork or a practicum. The fieldwork and/or practicum would be specified in the program curriculum. Some programs will require students to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills in a professional setting. The fieldwork and/or practicum may require students to practice their presentation and communication skills, create professional development plans, and develop professional networks to help align with their long-term career goals and outcomes.
Yes, some institutions provide students with the option to complete their Paralegal Studies and/or Legal Studies master’s degrees and certificates online. This flexible delivery mode provides working professionals at various stages of their career to complete a graduate degree while continuing to work full-time.
Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.
Yes, typically schools follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus-based programs.
Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe.  This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees. The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and class itself. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.
Most Paralegal Studies and/or Legal Studies programs do not offer specializations and concentrations. Most programs will provide a core set of courses that focus on providing foundational knowledge in legal research and writing to ensure that you can succeed in modern legal teams. In addition, courses focus on providing in-depth knowledge in legal principles, ethics, leadership, legal history, jurisprudence, and additional substantive areas of law.
While a master’s degree in paralegal studies and/or legal studies is not required to practice in the legal field, having an in-depth understanding of the law can help you develop the skills that employers demand and make you more marketable in your industry. The graduate degree can help you acquire written and oral communication skills, time management, legal research and writing, and specific types of law.
In addition, some paralegals and legal assistants may choose to pursue additional certifications with the leading paralegal association called National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).  NALA offers the Certified Paralegal (CP) certification program to ensure that paralegals and legal assistants can become well versed in areas such as communications, ethics, legal research, judgement and analytical ability, and substantive law such as civil litigation, contracts, and business organizations. 
Individuals with a Paralegal Studies and/or a Legal Studies degree typically pursue careers as paralegals or legal assistants. These rewarding legal professions focus on drafting motions, summarizing reports for legal precedents, and require a high level of autonomy to contribute to a successful legal teams.  These careers can also be further specialized to suit an individual’s preference by focusing on a specific type of law such as immigration, corporate, criminal and more. 
Master’s degree graduates can expect to have rewarding careers as paralegals and/or legal assistants. On average, entry level paralegals earned a median salary of $39,718, while experienced paralegals earned a median salary of $52,166.   The 2015 median pay for paralegals and legal assistants, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics was $48,810 annually or $23.47 hourly. 
Paralegal studies and legal studies are a rewarding career field because the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that this career field to grow faster than average at 8 percent annually between 2014 to 2024 . Paralegals and legal assistants who are detail-oriented, collaborative, inquisitive and have a strong work ethic will find this career will allow them to deepen their knowledge of the law, contribute to legal cases, and customize their own experience by specializing in specific types of law. 
Master’s degree graduates of paralegal studies and/or legal studies work in a variety of job settings such as law offices, directly with lawyers, in corporations, government agencies or other organizations to provide administrative and clerical support to the legal team . Their work within the organization can be specialized based on the practice area of the firm such as trial practice, real estate, corporate, estate planning and more.
The industry growth for paralegals and legal assistants is expected to grow at 8 percent per year from 2014 to 2024.  Law firms are facing higher levels of competition and are constantly seeking ways to increase efficiencies and lower costs in their operations. Talented paralegals and legal assistants can help take on legal services at lower costs and reduce billing rates for clients. 
With the expected annual growth in the industry, a master’s degree in Paralegal Studies and/or Legal Studies can help add value to your career as a paralegal or legal assistant. Employers are typically looking for individuals with strong computer and database management skills, along with experience working and contributing to legal fields. Paralegals and legal assistants who have graduated from ABA approved programs have the law experience and knowledge that ensure they can be successful in their role and also signal to employers that they have the highest standard of academic training available. 
No — attaining management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.
A highly valued accreditation for the Paralegal Studies and/or Legal Studies degree is an approved program by the American Bar Association (ABA) . The ABA accreditation ensures that it meets the highest standards by meeting specific guidelines for its tenured faculty, curriculum, legal speciality course offerings, number of students enrolled, and more.
Apart from the ABA accreditation, you should research your top Paralegal Studies and/or Legal Studies degree choices to ensure that the university is regionally accredited. Accreditation ensures that universities and their programs meet the highest standards for quality education and continuous improvement.
Once a university is accredited, it must undergo rigorous quality reviews every few years to maintain its accreditation. The regional accrediting bodies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education  and include:
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
New England Association of Schools and Colleges
The Higher Learning Commission—North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Accredited programs ensure that you receive the highest quality education possible from your chosen university and program. These programs will help you as you move ahead in your career because they are typically eligible for federal financial aid, transfer credits from other programs, and can help ensure you obtain professional licensure in your field (upon meeting all individual requirements) . These programs are also more widely recognized by employers to ensure that paralegals and legal assistants have the training required to be successful on the job.
Employers in the legal field value accreditations such as regional accreditations for universities and ABA accreditation for paralegal studies and/or legal studies programs because it ensures that employees have received the highest quality education possible and it ensures a standard of practice for paralegals and legal assistants.
More than 80% of paralegals that belong to the leading U.S. paralegal association called National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) reported that they hold the NALA Certified Paralegal (CP) or Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) credential and 9% report having completed a master’s degree . A graduate degree and certification can help impact your marketability, make you more in-demand with your current and future employers, and also increase your salary.
The standards for American Bar Association (ABA) are rigorous requirements that universities must meet to ensure that their program meets the highest quality standards. The ABA is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, a national government agency that oversees program accreditation . Students who attend ABA-approved schools will receive a quality legal education. The standards focus on the program, curriculum and courses, faculty, library and information resources, facilities, technology, and more.
You can conduct research for your preferred universities and programs to see if they are accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) and maintain regional accreditation. At their website, you can find information such as:
A list of ABA accredited schools 
A list of regionally accredited schools 
SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.
Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. 
Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department will be able to answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if it is a SARA institution) to confirm compliance.