What is the Benefit of a Degree in Paralegal Studies vs. Legal Studies?

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In this article, we will be covering…

What is Legal Studies?

Legal studies sometimes include paralegal studies. Legal studies are interdisciplinary programs that consist of the general manner of law but also examine how it applies to society. A degree in such a program can lead to law school.

A bachelor’s degree in legal studies prepares you for jobs in law enforcement, law, and criminal justice. The coursework prepares you for these professions by studying law, criminal justice, and political science. You may also have classes in sociology, economics, business, and the judicial system.

What is Paralegal?

Both paralegal and legal studies share the word “legal.” However, the inclusion of the prefix “para” in one of them is what distinguishes them apart. Essentially, ‘para’ means “beside” or “near”. Therefore, a paralegal is someone who works alongside a lawyer.

Your studies to be a paralegal emphasize the practical approach. You learn about the legal profession and the duties of a paralegal. You learn how to conduct legal research and how to prepare correspondence.

Degree Levels

Both disciplines could start with an associate’s degree. Legal studies programs may provide the option of either an Associate of Arts (A.A.) or an Associate of Science (A.S.) degree. The two degrees cover similar material; however, there may be a variance in the concentration of the classes. In the Arts path, students can expect courses in composition, technical writing, English literature, and history. The science degrees typically take a more mathematical and scientific approach with accounting, quantitative analysis, and computer science.

Law firms typically prefer those with at least an associate’s degree in paralegal studies. Applicants for this two-year degree require a GED or high school diploma. Also, there is the convenience of taking your associate degree at a local community college or online. These programs are usually sixty credits. You may have the choice of an Associate of Applied Studies (A.A.S.) or an Associate of Science (A.S.), both in Paralegal Studies. Students will learn the fundamentals of law, its terminology, and the basics of a law practice.

From an employment perspective, the paralegal degree may be favorable for individuals who want to enter the workforce with an associate’s degree. Also, as mentioned, the paralegal education benefits those who intend to work in a law office. However, the legal studies degree can afford more job opportunities. Some of these are:

Lawyer: You can use your four-year degree to apply to law school.

Legislative Assistant: As the name suggests, he/she assists an attorney in various ways. The duties include, depending on the level of expertise, drafting correspondence, organizing files, and meeting with clients. He/she also performs secretarial duties, such as transcribing, typing, and word processing.

Human Resources Specialist: This job requires knowledge in federal and state employment laws, equitable pay, and matters about hiring, interviewing and terminating employees. The profession also requires training and development of new hires. Generally, the larger the company-the larger the human resources department.

Compliance Officer: Compliance officers ensure that the actions and business practices of an organization comply with applicable laws. The officer monitors and assesses these actions to avoid problems created by non-compliance.

Mediator: The purpose of a mediator is to resolve disputes between parties without the time and expense of a trial. The successful mediator must be knowledgeable in the legal process and have exemplary communication skills. He/she is not the decision-maker, however the mediator encourages both parties to consider different aspects of the case, in question.


Does the person with a Bachelor’s degree in legal studies have the potential to make a higher income? Due to the diversity of professions, as outlined above, it is difficult to determine a median income. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does have a category for the occupation. The BLS does report on the group of Paralegals and Legal Assistants. They have a median pay of $50,410 as of May 2017 with a healthy projected growth of 15%. The increase translates to a change in 41,800 jobs over ten years through 2026.

The BLS does not provide data for the jobs mentioned previously for graduates in legal studies. The exception is the occupation of Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators whose median pay is $60,670 with a bachelor’s degree. The projected job growth is less at 10% or the change in only 800 jobs.


This information seems to benefit the paralegal for earnings, ease of transition into a job, job growth, and educational requirements. Paralegals with an associate degree can still opt to continue their education with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Many of the latter are available online or weekends for working professionals.

Additional Resources

What degree do I need to be a Paralegal?

20 Non-Law Firm Jobs with a Law Degree

What is the Difference in Legal Studies and a Law Degree?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Lawyer?

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Mediator?

Top 25 Law Schools