Legal Studies vs Paralegal: Career ROI

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Updated: February 26, 2024, Reading time: 5 minutes

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Studying law and Paralegal Studies are two paths that could lead to the legal profession; however, these two programs are different in terms of coverage and purpose. Legal Studies generally consist of a wider understanding of legal principles, theories, and laws and often result in advanced-level degrees such as a Bachelor of Arts or a Juris Doctor

Legal Studies vs Paralegal - fact

Paralegal programs are more specialized in focusing on specific skills and knowledge that are required to assist lawyers in legal proceedings, as opposed to in-depth theoretical considerations, which would be considered in Legal Studies programs.

Regardless and because of these differences, Legal Studies and Paralegal programs produce professionals who play key roles in the legal environment.

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Exploring Legal Studies - Image

Legal Studies programs delve deeply into the ethical and philosophical roots of jurisprudence, providing students with an in-depth understanding of how the legal system works in cultural settings. These programs involve taking legal research and writing, ethics, and critical analysis courses, thereby ensuring entry into different career paths either in law, academia, government, or advocacy.

Legal Studies programs at the master’s level focus on principles of law, historical cases, and philosophy. In its interdisciplinary orientation, it shares the social sciences principles of Sociology, Political Science, Economics, and Ethics.

Graduates are taught to communicate complex legal concepts, interpret case law, and present cogent arguments skillfully. As a result, graduates pursue law practice, policy analysis, research, activism, and public service careers.

Specializations in Legal Studies

Students are exposed to the different branches of Law and may specialize in the following:

Want a Career in Legal Studies?

Legal Studies Is For You If:

Legal Studies Is Not A Great Fit if:

Exploring Paralegal Studies

Exploring Paralegal Studies - Image

A Paralegal program prepares students for the legal profession with the intent of complementing the practical skills needed in the course of serving in the field of law. Courses include legal research, writing and case management. Students develop the skills that help practitioners in legal prosecutions. 

Paralegal students also participate in real work with experienced lawyers in law firms, corporate legal departments, governmental agencies, and non-profit organizations. The internships in the field help students obtain relevant experience and refine their skills in client management, case dissection, and courtroom procedure.

Paralegal Studies programs provide paths to certifications, including the Certified Paralegal (CP) certification, as a credential proving that a graduate is qualified for the job. They offer a cost-effective journey for individuals aspiring to practice in the field of Law without requiring long-term time and monetary commitments associated with conventional Law school.

Job Responsibilities of a Paralegal 

Want a Career as a Paralegal?

Paralegal Studies Is For You If:

Paralegal Studies Is Not A Great Fit if:

Which is More Difficult_ Legal Studies or Paralegal - Image

It is debatable if Legal Studies is more academically challenging than Paralegal programs or if Paralegal occupations demand more than Legal Studies jobs. 

While skilled in the many facets of Law, paralegals may not be as knowledgeable in legal theory and analysis as Law students. Legal Studies students, on the other hand, have a deep understanding of legal principles, case laws, and theoretical concepts but pursue non-attorney career paths.

Ultimately, the answer lies in your interests, strengths, career aspirations, and personal influences!

Still confused about which degree or career route to take? Here’s a summary of what you must know about the Legal Studies and Paralegal programs:

FeaturesLegal StudiesParalegal Studies
Starting SalariesVaries widely by region and firm size. Generally higher than paralegals.Typically lower than lawyers, but varies based on experience and location.
Average SalariesIt can range from moderate to high six figures, depending on specialization and location, around $55,419 a year.Around $58,441 annually
Job ResponsibilitiesResearching, creating legal documents, advocacy and counsel for clients, out-of-court settlements, case management.Researching for attorneys, drafting legal documents, managing case files while keeping them organized and, interviewing clients, maintaining calendars.
Educational RequirementsLaw school, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) with passing the bar examination in the state where practicing law.Associate’s degree or certificate in Paralegal Studies; some employers prefer candidates with bachelor’s degrees.
Work EnvironmentLaw firms, government organizations, corporate legal departments and non-profit groups, as well as private practice.Law firms, corporate legal departments, government agencies, non-profit organizations and insurance companies.
Licensing and Regulation* American Bar Association (ABA) Approval
* State Bar Associations
* State Supreme Court or State Bar Examiners
* State Department of Education
* Accrediting Agencies
* National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
* State Bar Associations
* State Department of Education
* Accrediting Agencies
* State-Specific Regulation
* Professional Organizations

Additional Information: