Criminal Justice Online Degree Programs in Legal and Paralegal

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By Sarah Stevenson

Not every criminal justice job requires a Juris Doctor (JD); a paralegal, for instance, can find rewarding work after completing a 2-year associate's degree program. Even better news, a variety of education programs are now available online. Legal and paralegal professionals come in many flavors, so if your career aspirations fall on the courtroom side of criminal justice, an online degree in the right specialization can be essential to your long-term success and can bring that TV-inspired dream a little closer to reality.

Online Degree Holders in the Law Office and Courtroom

A criminal justice online degree can prepare you to work in a variety of capacities in a law office, legal firm, or in the courtroom. Attorneys need assistance with clerical, administrative, paralegal and other aspects of their jobs, and clerks, secretaries, paralegals and other legal specialists are trained to address those needs. Judges and lawyers also need skilled professional support in the courtroom. The charts below gives an overview of six careers in the legal field that are attainable with a criminal justice online degree.

Paralegal Job Description

  • Help lawyers prepare for closings, hearings, trials and corporate meetings
  • Draft reports and legal documents; maintain files and records
  • May also be called a legal assistant
  • Specialties include litigation paralegal, corporate paralegal, estate planning and probate paralegal, employment or labor law paralegal, government paralegal, real estate paralegal

    Getting There

  • Associate's degree in paralegal studies, paralegal certificate program, or criminal justice online degree in paralegal studies
  • Some bachelor's and master's degree programs are also available
  • Professional certification is voluntary

Legal Assistant/Legal Secretary Job Description

  • Perform administrative tasks in a private law firm, including word processing, recordkeeping and billing
  • Help lawyers prepare for closings, hearings, trials and corporate meetings
  • Prepare legal documents such as summonses and subpoenas under the supervision of an attorney or paralegal

    Getting There

  • High school diploma or GED is required
  • Specialized training in legal secretary skills is recommended, such as a 2-year degree or certificate program
  • Accredited Legal Secretary or Professional Legal Secretary certification is voluntary

Law Office Manager Job Description

  • Perform administrative tasks in a private law firm, including word processing, recordkeeping and billing
  • Help lawyers prepare for closings, hearings, trials and corporate meetings
  • Prepare legal documents such as summonses and subpoenas under the supervision of an attorney or paralegal

    Getting There

  • High school diploma or GED is required
  • Specialized training in legal secretary skills is recommended, such as a 2-year degree or certificate program
  • Accredited Legal Secretary or Professional Legal Secretary certification is voluntary

Law Clerk Job Description

  • Research and prepare legal documents to assist lawyers and judges
  • May meet with clients or assist lawyers in the courtroom
  • A legal file clerk may work specifically with processing and maintaining case files and evidence files

    Getting There

  • High school diploma or GED is required for entry-level clerk positions
  • More skilled clerk positions may require a 2-year paralegal degree or a bachelor's degree

Mediator/Arbitrator Job Description

  • Use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to help settle legal disputes outside of the courtroom
  • Meet with both parties to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome without resorting to costly litigation

    Getting There

  • Many mediators and arbitrators are lawyers or former judges, but those without a Juris Doctor can also become mediators
  • A master's program in dispute resolution or conflict management is usually required
  • Certification is highly recommended

Court Reporter Job Description

  • Provide verbatim transcriptions of critical verbal interactions such as meetings and judicial proceedings
  • Provide closed-captioning and translating services for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Use specific transcription technologies such as stenography, voice writing or electronic reporting

    Getting There

  • A criminal justice online degree at the associate's or bachelor's degree level is desirable, including training in specific court reporting techniques and technologies
  • Degree programs should be approved by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA)