Becoming a paralegal is a rewarding career path that pays well, offers great benefits, and gives someone the ability to make a tangible difference in the world. The question is, what program is the best? There are many paralegal programs out there, and choosing just one can be difficult. This is a list of the top ten paralegal programs, decided by a specific set of criteria: the program is approved by the American Bar Association, the program takes place in a physical setting (no online schooling), and the program has received positive reviews. This list aims to make selecting a location to obtain a criminal justice degree easier than ever.
1. Auburn University at Montgomery, Alabama
Auburn University is known for more than just its football team. An approved member of the ABA for almost 20 years, Auburn University offers an excellent educational opportunity for students looking to become involved in the criminal justice world. With three options for earning a Paralegal Certificate, Auburn University has a choice for everyone, spanning even graduate and undergraduate levels. With the BS degree taking roughly 4 years, or 120 semester hours, it is the longest option, but also the most thorough for an interested student.
2. New York City College of Technology
New York City College of Technology, or CUNY, has many connections for potential graduates that make finding a job after graduation an easy task. Found in one of the busiest cities in the world, both economically and legally, there are numerous opportunities for anyone interested in criminal justice. With a student club that offers educational trips to law related venues, students receive first hand training in the areas they will practice long before entering the workforce. This gives them time to both prepare for what they will face, and experience they can leverage in order to find jobs.
3. Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan
A member of the ABA since 1984, Madonna University is no diva – with a Legal Assistant Program aimed at combining a liberal arts education with real world experience, the university supplies students with everything they will need to enter the workforce as a productive member in the criminal justice world. Students often find work in Detroit and other major cities within Michigan, and the university’s central location makes it easy to get to and from the school throughout the day. With programs for undergraduates and graduates, Madonna University is a great choice for the student that needs flexibility.
4. Manor College in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania
Manor College is a private, two year institution tutoring to fast, intense studies of specific subject matter, criminal justice being one of them. It has specialized in training paralegals since 1988, offering a high quality education and a firm dose of reality to students in order to better prepare them for the situations they might face. This reality also gives the students the chance to back out if they realize the world of criminal justice might not be for them, after all. Not only does it handle paralegal work, but it trains students to step into any legal role they are qualified for and take over in the event of emergencies.
5. Mount San Antonia College in Walnut, California
With a focus on the practical side of paralegal work, Mount San Antonio College helps students by teaching them not just legal theory, but basic job skills. Graduates will qualify for basic, entry-level work that will help them move up in the criminal justice world to more prestigious jobs as their level of experience improves. There are also elective internships available to help students gain work experience before graduation, bettering their chances of a job.
6. Amarillo College in Amarillo, Texas
The paralegal program at Amarillo College has been in effect since 1999, with ABA approval since 2006. The two year program requires the student obtain roughly 72 semester hours, and graduates will receive an Associate of Applied Science Degree. Internships are available, but not mandatory – however, with a two year degree, it is recommended that students seek out as much work experience as possible in order to fully prepare themselves. While half the length of most schools, Amarillo College offers an intense program that will give a thorough education to anyone interested in the criminal justice world.
7. Everest University Online in Tampa, Florida
Obtaining an degree through Everest University’s online program will prepare students to work under the guidance of a lawyer, as well as provide training in practical litigation. Everest has well qualified instructors with years of experience in the paralegal field. This program teaches skills that can’t be learned from a textbook. Graduates of Everest’s paralegal program have an eighty percent job placement rate.
8. Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia
Clayton State University is a public, four year institution that offers a Bachelor of Science degree in legal studies, in addition to two other programs, one of which is graduate level. The school is ABA approved, and awards a certificate in Paralegal Studies upon graduation. The minimum length of time required is 61 hours, but with optional internships, a more thorough education is available for those who seek it. Clayton State University focuses largely on how technology is making a difference in the legal world and how paralegals should be prepared to deal with ever-changing circumstances.
9. Bay Path College in Longmeadow, Massachusetts
Both a two- and four-year institution, Bay Path College offers a very flexible schedule to a small group of students. The best choice for students who are currently working and seeking to further their careers or education, Bay Path College is strictly a women’s college; different than most in the list, but notable for its wide range of courses for those interested in paralegal studies. With mandatory internships for those interested in a four year degree, it is recommended that those obtaining a certificate also seek out an internship.
10. Loyola University Chicago in Chicago, Illinois
Loyola University is a private institution offering three extremely comprehensive degrees, and two combined bachelor’s degree/paralegal certificate options. No matter what path is chosen, students will take courses in the basics of the legal profession, including legal research and writing, and ethics. Internships are elective but recommended, and the head of the university has over 30 years experience as a paralegal himself. With easy access to all the attractions of downtown Chicago, this university caters to flexibility and quality.
These ten universities are some of the best choices in obtaining a criminal justice degree or paralegal studies. No matter what specific field of legal matters one wants to go into, finding a criminal justice job will be much easier with a proper degree or certification. Before choosing a university, do some research and make sure the programs offered are approved by the American Bar Association; those with approval usually denote quality, and any student can rest assured they are receiving a fantastic education.
Check out our Top Online Criminal Justice Degree Programs for 2015