Paralegal Master’s Degree
Once you graduate with any degree in legal or paralegal studies, you will increase your likelihood of being hired for a position, especially in a specialized area of law.
The higher your degree, the more likely you are to increase your salary as well.
If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree, or are looking to be a qualified entrant into the field, a paralegal master’s degree may be for you.
Ideal Paralegal Candidates
Top candidates for a master’s degree in paralegal studies can have a variety of backgrounds. Many will already have experience working in the legal field, which is preferred for the master’s degree, but now wish to pursue a higher degree in order to take their careers to the next level. Others might have a bachelor’s degree in the arts and sciences, but now wish to move into a new industry. They will all need to have certain skills or aptitudes including being good communicators, researchers and organizers.
Paralegals need to be able to communicate effectively with attorneys as well as with clients and others who are not in the profession. As a paralegal, you will often need to interview clients and witnesses as a way to gather evidence and background for a case, but then that information will need to be translated into legal jargon for the attorney and the judge.
Paralegals not only rely on strong interpersonal communication skills, but they must also be effective writers. Paralegal programs offer courses that will help writers structure their thoughts into the expected formats of the legal world. There is specific language and terminology that the profession demands, and a master’s degree will ensure expertise in legal writing.
Legal research is a skill that is also taught in a master’s degree program. When you can search court cases for applicable precedents, your attorneys will be thrilled that you are on the team. Of course, you will need a higher understanding of case law to find a potential precedent to cite in big cases.
A paralegal must be well-organized in order to quickly access and compile research and notes. Though this is not a skill taught in a legal studies master’s degree program, you will probably learn it as you go. After all, you must be well-organized to keep track of the work required in a master’s program.
Here is a brief list of skills vital to the paralegal profession:
- Research, including knowledge of legal databases
- High-level reading comprehension
- Interpersonal communication
- Legal writing
- Critical thinking
- Technical aptitude, including presentation software
Changing Careers with a Master’s Degree in Legal Studies
A master’s degree in legal studies is a great option for someone looking for a career change, especially if they already have a bachelor’s degree. Many who have degrees in humanities find that focusing their interests and talents into the legal field is a great fit. By fulfilling the required courses for a Master’s in Legal Studies, a bachelor’s degree holder can make the career transition to being a paralegal.
In addition to education, work experience in the field or a related field is preferred for master’s degree candidates. Any job that requires work with legal documents, such as contracts, will be helpful, as will jobs that involve investigation, research or writing. Those criteria cover real estate agents, journalists, many executive assistants and even human resources professionals.
Curriculum in a Master’s Degree Paralegal Studies Program
When you consider a master’s degree program first make sure that you’ve completed all required courses for each respective master’s program you apply to, especially if your bachelor’s in not in the legal studies field. Once enrolled in a Master’s in Paralegal Studies, some core courses of study may include the following:
- American Jurisprudence
- Legal Research and Writing
- Government Contracts Law
- Intellectual Property Law
- International Law
Through these courses and your chosen electives, you’ll learn to elevate your research and writing skills in the context of analytical thinking. You’ll enhance your knowledge of theory, philosophy and history in order to become a better communicator. If you choose an online program, you are at the advantage of continuing to work while going to school. This way, you can apply what your learn right away if you are already working in the legal field.
Unlike attorneys, who must pass the bar exam in order to practice law in their state, there is no required certification test for paralegals. Rather, there are professional certifying organization that offer tests to paralegals to become nationally certified, given that they have the education or work experience to qualify. A master’s degree in paralegal or legal studies will make these tests all the easier. Some national paralegal certifying associations include:
National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
NALS- The Association for Legal Professionals
American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI)
The future looks bright for those in the paralegal field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 15 percent growth rate in the profession through 2026. They state that the median annual income for paralegals was $49,500, but they also show that the typical educational level for new entrants to the profession is an associate’s degree. The BLS also notes that as law firms looks to stay within budget or cut down on costs, they are likely to hire more paralegals and legal assistants to perform legal duties, as they are less costly than entry-level lawyers.
Median Salary for Paralegals
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