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Overview of an Associate in Law

An Associate of Applied Science in Legal Studies or Law is a two-year academic course of study; it’s an introduction to law and legal studies and practice. The associate in law is a popular offering at junior colleges and community colleges; these institutions offer associate degrees in law in several forms including paralegal studies, legal studies, and law technology, with which graduates can act as legal support specialists. The field of criminal justice is a similar choice, for which a higher number of community colleges offer instruction and criminal justice associate degree programs, some of which are available through online formats. The scope of a criminal justice associate degree is narrower than an associate degree in law and legal studies. Criminal justice involves corrections, crime, and criminal law and prosecutions, and also juvenile justice; and it is a wider, career-focused sector of legal education. Both law and criminal justice can provide entry into law practice.

If you are looking for a degree program that provides access to law in some form or another, you might look into degrees for any of the following:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Legal Support
  • Homeland Security
  • Law and Legal Studies
  • Ethics
  • Paralegals and Legal Assistants
  • Professional Peace Officer Education
  • Law Enforcement Training

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    A college degree can make a lifelong difference in lifestyle, occupation, and income. Graduates of associate degree programs earn more than those with high school educations. The average wage for associate degree holders is more than $200 per week higher than high school graduates. An associate degree is also faster to earn than a bachelor’s degree, taking just two years to complete, and students may even be able to complete it within an 18-24 month period. Associate degree holders can enter the job market a full two years earlier than four-year degree students. Online accelerated courses are often available, but can likely not speed earning an associate degree much.

    Cost savings are another advantage of an associate degree in law. The costs of a four-year education are much higher than that of a two-year offering. Students can also achieve substantial savings on a four-year degree by taking the first half at a community college, where most associate degrees are offered. Further, many four-year students take full-time summer courses at junior or community colleges to speed up their graduation. Some online programs are less expensive than those offered in a traditional format as well, though students should verify the compared cost of an online legal studies degree before assuming it is the less expensive option.


    The negatives of selecting an associate degree are that it does not offer the same level of pay, opportunity, or career opportunities as a bachelor’s degree. Associate degree holders can get into the workforce faster than students at four-year schools, but they will likely earn substantially less than bachelor’s degree holders. The bachelor’s degree in law is the entry-level educational requirement for many law positions, so associate degrees can limit the initial job options to assistant and legal support roles, such as paralegals and legal assistants. You'll need a bachelor's or higher to move into many careers in juvenile justice, civil litigation, positions with law firms, some law enforcement training, and more.

Certificate vs. Associates

Certificates are an even shorter pathway to entry-level jobs than an Associate of Applied Science in Legal Studies degree, a criminal justice associate degree, or a related award. A certificate program typically lasts for one year or less and are about as commonly accessible through online programs as associate degrees are. Schools offer certificate courses in undergraduate and graduate levels. The undergraduate certificates typically require a high school diploma or GED while graduate-level certificates require a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. Certificates can stand alone but can mean more when paired with an associate degree or higher level of education. Some states offer law enforcement training or professional peace officer education as a certificate-type program.

What Law Associate Degrees are Available Online?

  • Associate of Arts (AA)
    Associate of Arts programs resemble the first two years of a four-year college program. AA curriculum usually includes general education courses and a wide range of legal subjects, such as a criminal justice program, legal research, or homeland security courses, and closely-related offerings. Many community colleges offer AA degrees and establish agreements with four-year schools to ensure credit for their courses transfers to a four-year college.
  • Associate of Applied Business (AAB)
    Associate of Applied Business is a degree that consists of vocational and occupational coursework with some level of general education. The AAB prepares graduates to go to work in many types of business environments. Many applied business degrees do not have transferable credits towards a bachelor’s degree, but each institution differs on this count and students will need to investigate for themselves. The AAB degree is an ideal choice for those that do not intend to seek a bachelor’s or higher degrees. The applied business degree can be a law preparation degree. They can offer coursework and concentrations for legal administration, legal secretarial work, and paralegals and legal assistants.
  • Associate of Applied Arts (AAA)
    Associate of Applied Arts degrees prepare students to enter the workforce. The courses have a heavy mixture of hands-on education and training and real-world settings. The goal is to enable the student to enter the workforce ready to perform their duties. In associate of law degrees, the AAA would offer coursework to equip graduates to assume specific roles or perform designated types of work such as a law office clerk, paralegal, or legal assistant.
  • Associate of Science (AS)
    The AS degree resembles the associate of arts by including a high degree of general education courses. The AS curriculum is a preparation for a bachelor’s degree. The associate of science differs from the associate of arts in an important way; the AS curriculum has an emphasis on science, math, and technical coursework.
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
    An Associate of Applied Science in Legal Studies degree is a career or vocational preparation curriculum. This course of study equips graduates for entry into the workforce and may or may not provide credits for a bachelor’s degree. Online students must check to determine if credits will transfer to a four-year school. An AAS works well for online students that do not plan on going further and getting a bachelor’s degree as it emphasizes entering a job or occupation after graduation.

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Admission Requirements

An online associate degree in law requires a high school diploma, GED, or an equivalent document to evidence completion of a high school education, such as homeschooling. High school classes or other education that cover government, politics, and the legal framework of our government can be helpful. Courses or readings on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are essential to an understanding of law and legal practice in the United States. Students that study history and read broadly will have advantages as the law encompasses a wide variety of settings. Many schools offer online, on-campus, and hybrid (online and in-person) courses aimed at increasing job skills for law and law enforcement workers and there are also online associate degree options for those who wish to start their degree while at home.

How long does it take to earn an Online Law Associates Degree?

Each institution that offers an online associate degree in this field may set the credit hours, course content, and type of studies. The online associate degree in law may take several forms including paralegal studies program, legal technician, and legal studies. Under any name, the standard academic requirements are 60-70 semester hours. Students can complete the requirements on-campus, online, or in a hybrid program in around 24 months. Students may reduce the overall time required to complete the degree by adding online coursework and summer sessions. Many online schools also offer credits for other coursework, personal achievements, and life experiences. By using all means available, students can reduce the time required to 18 months or possibly less.

Potential Careers in Law with an Associates

  • Paralegal
    A paralegal is a trained professional that can manage legal research tasks. They can perform critical roles such as organizing materials, labeling exhibits, assembling evidence, and preparing routine documents.
    The average salary for this occupation is $48,800.
  • Legal Assistant
    A legal assistant can work closely with attorneys and paralegals to carry out tasks that support litigation and other legal processes.
    The average salary for this occupation is $44,300.
  • Law Clerk
    Law clerks can manage case files, office data, and support legal research.
    The average salary for this occupation is $48,800.
  • Secretary
    Secretaries perform routine and special duties to assist lawyers and other professionals. This role is critical to smooth and efficient functioning of a law office.
    The average salary for this occupation is $33,500.
  • Legal Administrative Assistant
    Legal administrative assistants work closely with lawyers and other law office or legal department personnel. These important professionals handle paperwork and records that support legal proceedings.
    The average salary for this occupation is $51,500.

Options to Advance

An online associate degree in legal studies can be a stepping stone to further academic and professional experience. An online degree at this level can transfer to an online or traditional four-year bachelor’s program in legal studies or a closely related major. Many students can use this level of education as a step toward a professional law degree that many law firms require. The options to advance include training in related fields such as arbitration, mediation, and contracts.

Best Online Associate of Science in Law Programs

On-campus associate degree programs, also known as traditional programs, rely upon classroom attendance, live interaction with teachers, and synchronous learning in student groups or classes. Many colleges today offer alternative methods to reach a greater audience of students including distance and online learning programs, but here are some traditional options.

  • Rio Salada College( Maricopa County Community College System)
    Rio Salada, AZ

    This paralegal education program covers criminal and civil law, corporate law practice, and litigation subjects as well as paralegal skills.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Paralegal
  • Spokane Community College
    Spokane, Washington

    This program combines general education with legal office preparation to create a job-ready graduate that can also proceed to a bachelor’s degree.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate in Applied Science- Legal Administrative Assistant
  • Drury University
    Springfield, MO

    The school offers an evening program on its Springfield campus in paralegal studies. This program includes a substantial amount of coursework in legal studies including legal writing, legal reasoning, litigation, tort law, and family law.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies
  • Post University Online
    Waterbury, Connecticut

    Post University is an NECHE-accredited institution that offers career-focused educational programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels. The school features on-campus classes at the Waterbury campus location with small classes and a supportive atmosphere.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Legal Studies
    • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Davenport University
    Grand Rapids, Michigan

    Offered online, on-campus, or in a hybrid program, the Davenport University has an accredited associate degree program in legal studies. The program introduces students to the domestic and international practice of law and prepares them to work with lawyers in support roles.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Legal Studies

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Traditional Schools Offering an AS in Law

  • Post University Online
    Waterbury, Connecticut

    Post University is an accredited institution that offers career-focused educational programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Legal Studies
    • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bryan University Online
    Tempe, Arizona

    Bryan focuses education on preparation for professional life. The courses emphasize workforce success. The curriculum design includes many innovative steps designed to provide unique and supportive learning environments.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies and Litigation Technologies
  • Purdue Global University
    Indianapolis, Indiana

    Purdue Global offers law and law-related degrees at the associate, bachelor, and Master’s levels. They have faculty resources that can contribute to a strong foundation in the law for associate degree candidates.

    Degrees Offered:

    • AAS in Legal Support and Legal Services
  • Ohio University
    Athens, Ohio

    The University of Ohio offers an Online course of study that individual students can arrange to meet their goals. Students may be able to develop a legal studies program and obtain a degree in the selected program as an individualized associate degree.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Individualized Studies
  • Davenport University
    Grand Rapids, Michigan

    Offered online, on-campus, or in a hybrid program, Davenport University has an accredited associate degree program in legal studies. The legal studies program is an ABA-approved program which introduces students to the practice of law. Graduates work in support roles as legal assistants and paralegals.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Legal Studies

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get into law school with just an associate degree?

The answer might surprise you, and it depends on where you plan to practice law. There are states in which you can move directly from an associate degree into a J.D. program. However, the rules are decided by the state in which you will be acting as a lawyer, because each state decided the rules for those who wish to pass the bar and practice law. In Ohio, you need to have a bachelor’s degree. But in Michigan, you only need to have completed two years of college. You can see what all the rules are for each state under the question “Is there a specific prelegal education requirement?” here.

What is the best associate degree to combine with law?

There is a wide range of degrees that students earn before going on to gain their JD. However, if you are only going to earn an associate degree, you may want to be a little more thoughtful about which degree you earn before going into a law program. Some of the options that have the best track record include English, History, and Philosophy. These give you a solid background in logical thinking, expressing yourself and your thoughts, and understanding the importance of where things came from. Once you start your law degree, this can help you understand legal precedent and traditions, how to express your legal beliefs, and how to win in an argument. These are all useful skills that will serve you well throughout your next degree program. However, if you are able to find an associate degree that is focused specifically on law, then it might be worth it to complete that program as it should give you a good mix of all of these skills specifically in preparation for a JD.

What does earning an associate degree in law and the legal system entail?

Earning an associate degree in law and the legal system is a great way to begin a career in the legal field. Students who pursue this degree will gain a comprehensive understanding of the American legal system, including its processes, structures, and procedures. By obtaining an associate degree in law and the legal system, students can prepare themselves for higher-level degrees such as Bachelor's or Master's programs.

The coursework of this program includes core basics of civil rights and Constitutional laws as well as criminal justice issues that may come up in court systems throughout the country. Additionally, students learn how to apply these theories with practical experience through mock trials and arbitration exercises designed to mimic real-life court proceedings. Furthermore, courses like tort law teach about personal injury cases and legal support services while classes such as contract law instruct on business transactions across many industries.

What are some legal specialty courses I can take when earning my online associate degree in law and will I learn how to write legal documents?

Having a degree in law can open up many doors for you, especially with the growth of online associate degrees. One thing that is important to consider when choosing an online program is what are some of the legal specialty courses available?

These courses can include topics such as family law, contract law, criminal law and civil litigation. Other options may involve learning about tax laws or immigration laws. All of these classes aim to give students a better understanding of how to approach different legal issues they might face while working in their chosen field. Additionally, many programs will also offer classes on how to write legal documents such as pleadings and briefs as well as how to use research tools like LexisNexis and Westlaw.

What is the American bar Association?

The American Bar Association (ABA) is a professional organization for lawyers in the United States. Established in 1878, it sets ethical standards for the legal profession and accredits nearly all law schools in the country. The ABA also provides educational resources to help lawyers stay abreast of changes in the law, as well as continuing education courses to help them maintain their legal expertise.

In addition to its role as a regulatory body and educational resource, the ABA is involved with policy making decisions that affect the entire nation’s legal system. It often takes positions on public issues such as access to justice and judicial independence, defending or advocating for certain policies while opposing others. By engaging with legislators and other key stakeholders, it helps shape legislation that affects everyone who deals with or interacts with America's judicial system.

How do I get federal financial aid for school?

For many students, attending college is a dream that can quickly become an intimidating reality when the inevitable question of how to pay for it comes up. With the cost of tuition continuing to rise, many are unaware of the available avenues for federal financial aid. Whether you’re a high school student looking ahead or already in college and needing help paying your bills, there are resources that can provide assistance with college costs.

The first step in getting started on your path to securing federal financial aid is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA will determine whether or not you qualify for federal grants and loans along with other forms of aid such as work-study programs and scholarships. After submitting your application, you can monitor its status online and receive information about any awards you may be eligible for.

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