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Finding the Right Fit: A Guide to Paralegal Associate Degree Programs in California

Published on: May 3, 2024

California is an excellent place to pursue paralegal education and training. The state has a diverse legal industry, which offers aspiring paralegals a wide range of schools and programs to choose from. 

However, if you are considering a career as a paralegal in California, it is vital to understand the state’s unique paralegal requirements before making any final education decisions, especially since a paralegal certification or degree can play a significant role in advancing your legal career.

An Overview of Paralegal Education in California

Paralegal education in California typically includes a diverse range of classes. However, it is essential to comprehend the distinctions between some of these courses. For example, paralegal studies and legal studies are related to the legal field but have different focuses. Paralegal studies are intended to equip students with specialized knowledge and skills to prepare them for a career as a paralegal. On the other hand, legal studies is a broader term encompassing various paths, including studying to become a lawyer, enrolling in a paralegal program, or pursuing other related legal careers. That is why it is crucial to understand these programs and their differences before enrolling.

Another critical component is that aparalegal certification and degree are different. Certification is evidence of passing a licensing course, such as the Certified Paralegal exam through NALA, The Paralegal Association. In comparison, a paralegal degree is an accredited credential offered through a university or college, such as an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree.

The Requirements Involved With Becoming a Paralegal in California

According to California’s Business and Professions Code, to be a paralegal in California, an individual needs to possess at least one of the following:

  • A certificate indicating the individual completed a paralegal program that was approved by the American Bar Association.

  • A certificate indicating the individual completed a paralegal program or a degree from a post-secondary institute that requires the successful completion of a minimum of 24 semesters in law-related courses or the equivalent. The institution also needs to have been accredited by a regional or national accrediting organization or approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education.

  • A bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree in any subject and at least one year of legal experience under an attorney’s supervision. However, the attorney needs to have been an active member of the State Bar of California for at least the proceeding three years or has practiced in the federal courts in the state for at least the preceding three years. In addition, the attorney needs to provide a written declaration stating that the person is qualified to perform paralegal tasks.

How to Consider Accreditation and Reputation

When looking for a paralegal program, choosing an American Bar Association (ABA) approved school is important. Such schools have highly qualified professors with extensive experience in the field who can provide a comprehensive curriculum that will equip students with the necessary skills to succeed as paralegals. In addition, ABA-approved schools offer career assistance, which can give students a valuable head start in landing desirable positions after graduation. Employers often value graduates of ABA-approved schools because they are competent and knowledgeable in subjects related to specific fields of law.

What to Look for in Curriculum and Specializations

Paralegal programs explore legal terminology, the structure and history of the United States legal system, legal precedents, and litigation strategies. As a result, a typical paralegal program curriculum consists of numerous components, including legal research and writing, as well as specialized courses in immigration law, real estate, family law, and other classes to help students get ahead.

Furthermore, countless paralegals usually dive headfirst into legal specialty classes and advanced paralegal certificate courses to help them develop their careers. This education can transform a good candidate into an incredible one, help them earn an even higher salary, and push them further in their careers.

Determine Hands-On Educational Opportunities

It is no secret that internships, clinics, and hands-on time at legal service organizations or law firms are important for future paralegals. Not only do they let students use what they learn in class in real cases, but they are also a great way to connect with people who can help you make it after school. Because these experiences are essential to building a promising career, they should be one of the first things you check off when looking for programs. Make sure also to consider how the program connects you with legal professionals and if there will be enough hands-on learning time.

Understand Student Support and Career Services Offerings

It is important to realize that even after you have completed a paralegal program and earned your degree or certificate, the hard work does not end. The job market for paralegals and other legal professionals is infamously competitive, so getting a foot in the door can be challenging. Luckily, students with connections through their school’s career development office, an alumni network, or job placement offices will have a leg up. These associations and networks offer professional resources that can help students access opportunities that will build their reputation in the field of law and put them on the path to success.

When exploring different paralegal programs, take time to visit their career counseling office, speak with school counselors or advisors about what is available, and find out if there is an alumni association. All these things will give you an idea of how effective the program’s career services are.

Always Factor the Financial Considerations

To find out about tuition, fees, and financial aid—including scholarships, loans, and grants—you will want to ask the program director or financial aid office at your chosen school. These individuals can also give you more information on financial help for students in general and how much the whole program will cost.

Start Your Research: Recommended On-Campus Paralegal Programs in California

California offers various traditional on-campus paralegal programs. Some of the more popular programs we recommend researching include the following:

Fullerton College provides a wide range of programs, including more than 140 career and technical education options for those looking to excel in their profession or acquire training for new career prospects. With the help of experienced instructors at Fullerton, individuals can learn and participate in the college's state-of-the-art facilities and develop the skills and knowledge to succeed and flourish in today's high-demand fields. In regards to the paralegal field, Fullerton College offers two programs which are approved by the American Bar Association:

Paralegal Studies (Associate in Science Degree)

This program is designed to train students for a paraprofessional role as an assistant to an attorney in a private practice, government agency, or private industry. Under the supervision of a licensed attorney, paralegals may perform a wide range of tasks, including preparing forms and pleadings, interviewing clients, researching and writing legal documents, managing a law office, and preparing word processing forms and documents.

Paralegal Studies (Certificate)

This program helps prepare students for entry-level employment in the legal field, allowing them to assist attorneys in preparing legal documents, investigating facts, and researching other legal issues.  

Admission Requirements

To apply for one of these paralegal programs, prospective students will need to complete the following steps:

  • Apply at fullcoll.edu 

  • Apply for financial aid

  • Take the online orientation

  • Take an assessment exam

  • Meet with a counselor

  • Register for classes

  • Pay fees


Fullerton offers a variety of courses for those looking to complete a paralegal studies program, including the following classes:

  • Introduction to paralegal studies

  • Introduction to legal research and terminology

  • Introduction to Legal Writing

  • Law office technology

  • Civil litigation

  • Tort law

  • Family law

  • Probate, wills, and trusts

  • Bankruptcy law and procedures

  • Computer-assisted legal research

  • Workers’ compensation law

  • Criminal law and procedure

  • Paralegal internship

  • Real property law and procedure

  • Employment law

  • Contract law

  • Electronic discovery and software application

  • Intellectual property

  • Entertainment and sports law

  • Immigration law

  • Alternative dispute resolution

Student Support and Career Outlook

The Paralegal Studies Program at Fullerton College is approved by the American Bar Association. It equips graduates with the necessary education and skills to work as an integral part of a legal support team in all areas of law under the supervision of an attorney.

The program also helps students find employment opportunities in this fast-paced and challenging field. According to Robert Half Legal Recruiters, highly sought-after legal professionals tend to receive multiple job offers, counteroffers, and even signing bonuses. Although the program does not prepare students for law practice, many of its graduates have pursued the law school curriculum, finding it easier to understand.


 Students will pay $46 per unit to attend Fullerton College, with non-resident tuition ranging around $258 per unit plus enrollment fees. However, these costs may vary. As a result, prospective students should visit the following website for more information: http://admissions.fullcoll.edu/fees-refunds/.

The Pasadena City College Paralegal Program (PCC) is designed to help individuals develop the skills needed to have a successful career as a paralegal while also learning about various legal subjects, how to prepare legal documents, and how the relationship between a paralegal and a lawyer works. This program is approved by the American Bar Association, and completing the Paralegal Studies AS degree and certificate will equip individuals with the competence to work in the legal environment and find a job as a paralegal.


To be eligible for admission at Pasadena City College, students will need to meet the following requirements:

  • A high-school graduate

  • Over the age of 18 but not a high school graduate

  • A 12th-grade or below student who meets Dual Enrollment or Concurrent eligibility.

However, to better understand eligibility and the admissions process, it is important to review the admission eligibility policies.


At Pasadena City College, the paralegal courses are offered fully online, synchronously remote, or in-person. Each student must complete at least three classes or nine credits synchronously.

However, to be able to graduate and obtain a Certificate of Achievement in Paralegal Studies, a student must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a graduate of an accredited high school, have a G.E.D, CHSPE, or demonstrate the ability to perform at the college level and

  • Complete a total of 60 units of coursework.

The list of specific courses that must be taken and the recommended course sequence can be found by visiting the following page.

Student Support and Career Outlook

After finishing the PCC paralegal program, students will have the necessary skills to perform paralegal duties and handle tasks such as case management and maintaining client relationships. The program will also cover oral and written communication skills and prepare students to acquire and maintain employment in the legal industry.


The schedule of costs for tuition and fees can be found on theAdmissions & Records Fees and Tuition page. More importantly, theFinancial Aid page provides further details regarding assistance with paying for the program.

The Paralegal Program at Los Angeles City College is approved by the American Bar Association. It is designed to teach students the necessary skills to work in a law office or courthouse.

The objective of the Paralegal Program at Los Angeles City College is to teach students substantive and procedural law so that they can complete any paralegal assignment competently, professionally, and ethically. The program's goal is to prepare paralegal students for a legal career and ensure they can perform their jobs. 


Students interested in pursuing the Paralegal Program at Los Angeles City College should contact the Program Director, Professor Wilhelm Vargas, at (323) 953-4000, Extension 2754, or email vargaswi@lacitycollege.edu.  


Associate in Arts Degree in Paralegal Studies

Los Angeles City College offers an Associate in Arts Degree in Paralegal Studies, which consists of 64 semester units of classes. The courses offered include Library Research Methods, Introduction to Legal Assistant I, Law Office Management, Business Law, and many more. 

Certificate of Achievement in Paralegal Studies

To be eligible for the Certificate of Achievement in Paralegal Studies, an individual needs to currently hold an A.A. or A.S. degree or higher from a regionally accredited university or college. The Certificate of Achievement in Paralegal Studies consists of 46 semester units and includes a variety of courses.


TheTuition and Fees Page provides a breakdown of the costs involved with attending Los Angeles City College. For financial aid information, theFinancial Aid Office is responsible for managing federal, state, and institutional programs aimed at providing financial assistance to students who may not be able to afford post-secondary education. The available financial aid comes in various forms, such as grants, work-study, loans, and scholarships. These programs enable individuals to continue their education beyond high school, even if they and their families cannot meet the total cost of post-secondary education.

At Cerritos College, the Paralegal Program is approved by the American Bar Association. Upon completing the program, individuals can qualify for a Certificate of Achievement or Associate of Arts Degree in Paralegal.


As the Cerritos College campus has visitation restrictions, individuals must contact Bruce A. Greenberg, Esq., the Law Department Chair and Paralegal Program Director, at bgreenberg@cerritos.edu before coming for a tour. However, prospective students can review the Admissions and Records page for further information.

To schedule an appointment with a counselor familiar with the school’s Paralegal Program, visit https://www.cerritos.edu/counseling/default.htm. 


The Paralegal Program at Cerritos College offers two tracks. If a student is beginning the program and already possesses an A.A. degree or higher degree in any subject, that person can seek and graduate with a Paralegal Certificate. If the student does not have an A.A. degree or higher degree, that student needs to pursue and graduate with an A.A. degree in a paralegal-related program.

For further information about the classes and requirements for applying to the Paralegal Program at Cerritos College, see the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Student Support and Career Outlook

Cerritos College has partnered with the American Bar Association and the State Bar of California to bring legal services to the local community. The college's mission is to provide students with access to legal services by training them to be paralegals and work in law-related environments. This will ultimately help lower legal fees and give the community broader access to legal services. 

For school achievement highlights, check out the following success stories.


For California residents, the enrollment fees average around $46 per unit. However, because these fees can change and may include additional expenses, students will need to review the Fees page.  In addition, those wanting further information about financial aid opportunities will need to visit the Financial Aid page.

Start Your Research: Online and Hybrid Paralegal Programs in California

In addition to in-person programs, California also offers various online and hybrid paralegal programs, which provide students with numerous benefits, such as flexibility and better access.

National University offers various programs designed to prepare individuals to become indispensable members of a legal team. The school’s skilled faculty can help students become more proficient in understanding legal issues, identifying legal terminology, applying fundamental legal analysis, and conducting legal research using traditional methods. More importantly, these ABA-approved programs combine a comprehensive curriculum with practical education to prepare individuals for the paralegal role.


Why Choose National University:


  • Military tuition discounts

  • Yellow Ribbon school

  • Veteran-founded nonprofit

  • Adult-focused for 50 years

  • 230K alumni worldwide

  • Locations across California

  • Financial aid opportunities


Earn Your Degree or Certificate Online or On-Site in:



Students will be able to enroll in four-week classes with convenient course schedules. They will also learn from top experts in the field and gain real-world skills and experience.


Admission Requirements


National University has a dedicated admissions team to guide applicants through the admissions process. Because the school accepts and reviews applications year-round, individuals can begin classes almost immediately, depending on their program. To speak with the school’s admissions team, call (855) 355-6288 or start the application today.

Course Outcomes

Students who obtain a degree or a paralegal certificate from National University will be able to:

  • Analyze the fundamental issues of a legal problem

  • Develop paralegal skills in legal research, investigations, and client and witness interviews

  • Comprehend the paralegal’s role in the legal system

  • Identify tasks in substantive areas of the law

  • Develop oral and written communication skills in a legal environment

  • Understand how ethical standards apply to paralegals in the practice of law


For information regarding tuition rates and financial aid opportunities, check out National University’s website.

At Cal State East Bay, students can distinguish themselves by earning a certificate from one of the first American Bar Association-approved programs in the East Bay. Students can also increase their earning potential by getting opportunities at some of the most prestigious law firms in the San Francisco Bay area. Since its start in 1980, the school’s Paralegal Studies Certificate Program has received high marks and helped students prepare for some of the most sought-after positions in the legal practice.

Admission Requirements

New students to the program are admitted twice a year, in the fall or spring semester. To be accepted, individuals must have at least 53 semester units of college credits or 80 quarter units. Of those 53 semester units and 80 quarters, at least 18 semester units and 27 quarter units need to be in at least three different areas of Liberal Arts. However, to learn more about the admission process, students should check out the Admission Page.


Cal State East Bay courses are available year-round with online and remote evening options. Under the ABA requirements, the Paralegal Studies Certificate program offers two types of online courses: asynchronous and synchronous. Students must complete at least nine units in the online synchronous format.  For additional curriculum information, students can review the required courses section.

Course Outcomes

Students who complete the program will gain the knowledge and training to excel as paralegals. They will learn how to investigate and prepare cases for trial, interview clients, draft legal documents, and conduct legal research. They will also receive hands-on instruction and practical assignments from practicing lawyers and legal experts.

Past graduates have worked in legal positions at various organizations, such as the Santa Clara County Public Defender Office, Pixar Animation Studios, Intuit Inc., and Wendel, Rosen, Black, and Dean LLP.


Tuition costs average around $7,810. However, discounts and financial aid are available. For further information about financing and fees, students will want to review the Support Page.

The Paralegal Studies Program at De Anza College was one of the first programs to be approved by the State of California. Since then, the program has received approval from the American Bar Association and consistently provides a high-quality educational course that combines fundamental legal instruction with practical training. This training equips graduates with the necessary skills and knowledge to enter the workforce successfully. Graduates of the program are employed in various settings, including private law offices, public agencies, and other types of legal settings. 

Admission Requirements

For information about applying for a degree or certificate at De Anza College, review the requirements in the Apply for Degree or Certificate section.


De Anza College provides two programs, a certificate and a degree program, for individuals to prepare for paralegal employment. These programs comprise various types of legal courses, including relevant paralegal topics, legal writing and research classes, and civil litigation procedures. Both of these programs meet California's educational requirements.

Course Outcomes

Once students complete the paralegal studies program, they will be able to:

  • Articulate the paralegal's role in the delivery of legal services to the public

  • Demonstrate adequate legal knowledge and practical skills necessary to perform substantive legal work under an attorney’s direction

  • Demonstrate an understanding of ethical responsibilities in the paralegal profession

  • Write clearly and think analytically

  • Read, analyze, and comprehend complex information in an organized and logical manner

  • Demonstrate appropriate paralegal skill development and professionalism through practical experience

  • Use technology necessary to meet employer needs

  • Handle multiple projects


The Fees at a Glance page summarizes the fees involved in enrolling at De Anza College, while the Financial Aid page provides further information about the financial aid available and how to apply for it.

The Paralegal Program at West Los Angeles College is the first ABA-approved paralegal program in the Los Angeles Community College District. The program offers two options:

  • Associate Degree, and

  • Post Associate Degree Certificate of Achievement

Both programs are designed to train future paralegals and legal assistants to perform various jobs and tasks to support legal professionals.

Admission Requirements

For information about the programs taught by judges, lawyers, and experienced paralegals, prospective students should sign up for an Info Session on Zoom.


 West Los Angeles College is known for being one of the most affordable colleges in the country. When determining a student's financial need, the financial aid office considers the student's cost of attendance and expected family contribution. For more information on these costs and the financial aid options available, students can check out the Tuition and Fees page.

Finding the Right Fit for You

If you are considering enrolling in a paralegal program in California, be aware that there are many options, including programs offered entirely online and traditional programs with an in-person requirement. However, before settling on the first program you find, explore each option to decide which place is best for you.

To get the information you need, you should confidently take the next steps to contact the programs, visit campuses, and consider both traditional and online options. Doing so will let you make an informed decision and choose a program that meets your needs.

About the Authors

Written by:

Kasia Nelson, Esq.

Kasia Nelson is a licensed attorney and skilled legal content writer with years of experience. With a background in corporate immigration law, she is well-versed in the intricacies of producing legally accurate and well-researched work. 


  • Michigan State University, B.S.

  • Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Law Licensures

  • Michigan

Kasia Nelson

Kasia Nelson, Esq.

Contributing Author

Education: Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Knowledge: Corporate Immigration Law

Reviewed by:

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Ryan P. Duffy is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina. His practice focuses primarily on Estate Planning, Personal Injury, and Business law. 

Law Licensures

  • New Jersey

  • Pennsylvania (inactive)

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

Ryan Duffy

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Editorial Lead

Education: Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, J.D.

Knowledge: Estate Planning