Justice in the U.S. depends on the legal system for enforcement. You can do your part to promote justice with an associate degree in legal studies -- and open the doors to diverse career paths.
Earning associate degrees in legal studies
Associate degrees in legal studies offer a basic introduction to the field. Available online or on campus, these degrees may take 18 to 24 months to complete. The curriculum may cover:
- Alternative dispute resolution
- Civil procedure
- Legal communications
- Legal ethics and professional responsibilities
- Legal investigation
- Legal management and administration
- Legal research and writing
In addition, specializations are available through electives in topics such as environmental law, family law, cyber law, corporate law, real estate law and more. Both online and campus programs often encourage a legal internship to help you apply the concepts you learn in a real-world setting.
Career options, outlook and salary
Associate degrees in legal studies may represent the first step toward a J.D. and a lawyer career, or a direct stepping stone into a legal assistant job.
Lawyers face a higher educational hurdle, but also enjoy greater responsibility and compensation. Associate degree graduates seeking to become lawyers can continue on to the bachelor's degree in legal studies, followed by the three-year J.D. from an accredited law school. After passing the bar exam, you'll be qualified to represent clients in court, develop case strategy and do high-level research and writing. As of 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median salary of $112,760 for lawyers; these professionals can expect 10 percent job growth in the 2010-2020 period, which is less than average.
Legal support jobs are open to those with associate degrees in legal studies. Paralegals and legal assistants typically take care of the administrative work of cases, but may also contribute to the research and writing efforts. The median salary for legal support staff was $46,680 in 2010, with the highest salaries over $74,000. The BLS reports that demand is strong for trained professionals, with 18 percent job growth predicted over the 2010-2020 decade.
Online legal studies degrees let you update your career qualifications without interrupting your current job. Whether you're aiming for a high-demand position in legal support or highly rewarding work as a lawyer, associate degrees in legal studies can start you on your path.