Paralegal Studies

Associate Degree

Program Outline

This outline covers all four semesters of your at-home degree program. You will receive credit for previous college coursework if you meet Penn Foster standards. If you wish to receive credit for previous coursework, contact the college you attended and ask that your transcripts be forwarded to Penn Foster for evaluation. All previous college work must have been completed with a grade of "C" or better, and as much as 75% of the required credits may be transferred. We will also credit your tuition for all the courses that are acceptable.

The first course, Basic Skills Assessment, is available online only, which allows you to start studying right away. You will not receive hardcopy program materials for these lessons. You can access your first course as soon as your tuition payment has been received. Other courses will follow as you complete your exams.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, and an email account to participate in and complete your program. Access to Microsoft® Office 365 is a requirement for this program.

Online Library and Librarian
Students at Penn Foster College have access to an online library during their college studies. Students can use the library to do the required course research or for general reference and links to valuable resources. The library contains helpful research assistance, articles, databases, books, and Web links. A librarian is available to answer questions on general research-related topics via email and will assist students in research activities.

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal
The Paralegal Associate's Degree program is designed to prepare students for entry-level positions as paralegals or legal assistants by providing a broad college-level curriculum. The program also serves to meet requirements for promotions and additional careers, while providing a strong foundation for further training.

Program Outcomes
Upon completion of the program, students will be able to...

  • Demonstrate effective written and interpersonal communication skills
  • Demonstrate a high level of inquiry, analytical, and problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrate effective quantitative skills
  • Demonstrate computer and information literacy
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the liberal arts, natural sciences, and social sciences
  • Discuss the legal system in the United States, including the origins and history of the law and the development of common law, statutory law, and constitutional law
  • Understand when communications with clients and others are privileged and how to avoid conflicts of interest
  • Recognize and use legal terminology appropriately
  • Recognize ethical violations and understand ethical rules that regulate conduct of lawyers and paralegals
  • Identify the paralegal's role in the interview process and discuss proper investigation techniques, including interviewing clients and witnesses and understanding types of testamentary evidence
  • Discuss torts and defenses to tort actions and understand negligence, liability, and workers' compensation
  • Describe different forms of business organization, the elements of contracts and rules pertaining to contracts, ownership of property, creditors and bankruptcy, and the law of agency
  • Write an effective legal memorandum; state and characterize facts and legal arguments to best advance a legal position
  • Research primary and secondary sources to determine relevant case law, find statutes and other information from appropriate sources using and other Internet sources, and correctly cite sources Understand jurisdiction, venue, and evidence law; describe some important hearsay exceptions
  • Understand how to prepare, file, and serve complaints and motions
  • Explain criminal law and procedure, the elements of crimes, criminal defense, and the role of the Constitution
  • Discuss the fundamental principles of law dealing with marriage, divorce, and parenthood
  • Understand the paralegal's role in real estate transactions, including contracts, title abstraction, deeds, mortgages, closing documents, and leases; prepare preliminary drafts of commonly used documents
  • Discuss the responsibilities of practicing paralegals in the field of wills, trusts, and estate administration, including preparing preliminary drafts of wills and trusts


Semester 1

Basic Skills Assessment
All degree applicants are required to complete two Basic Skills Assessments, one in reading and one in math, to determine the level of readiness for beginning their selected program. Additional studies may be required.

Introduction to Paralegal Studies (1 credit)
Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program, and learn the fundamentals of the paralegal field.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
  • Describe typical duties carried out by paralegals and how to work with attorneys.
  • Understand the laws and regulations governing paralegals.
  • Know the education and licensing required.
  • Obtain practical information concerning your career goals.
  • Locate potential employers in your area.

Information Literacy (1 credit)
Get better at finding and using information!


  • Search the Internet more effectively.
  • Get tips about search engines and reliable websites.
  • Learn how to search libraries and other information centers for important, useful information.
  • Legal Terminology and Critical Thinking (2 credits)
  • Familiarity with common legal words and phrases is required when creating and interpreting legal documents. This lesson will introduce you to a broad range of basic legal terminology and documents.
  • Strong critical thinking skills improve your own arguments and your ability to evaluate the arguments of others.

Legal Terminology


  • Define and understand common Latin legal terms and terms associated with litigation.
  • Compare the various types of jurisdiction and kinds of documents used in litigation.
  • Understand criminal procedure and common criminal defenses.
  • Recognize the elements commonly included in contracts.
  • Describe the ways in which contracts may be terminated.
  • Explain the various legal actions associated with family law.
  • Understand the terminology used in recording ownership of real property.

Additional Course Materials:
Downloadable audio files: Legal Terminology 1
Downloadable audio files: Legal Terminology 2

Critical Thinking


  • Assess strength of logic, reasoning, and conclusions.
  • Recognize the elements of propaganda and emotional manipulation.

English Composition (3 credits)
This course teaches the skills and techniques of effectively developing, drafting, and revising college-level essays toward a specific purpose and audience: active reading, prewriting strategies, sentence and paragraph structure, thesis statements, varied patterns of development (e.g., illustration, comparison and contrast, classification), critical reading toward revision of structure and organization, editing for standard written conventions, use and documentation of outside sources. Students submit two prewriting assignments, and three essays (process analysis, classification and division, argumentation).


  • Use writing skills to construct well-written sentences and active reading skills to understand and analyze text
  • Develop paragraphs using topic sentences, adequate detail, supporting evidence, and transitions
  • Describe the revision, editing, and proofreading steps of the writing process
  • Distinguish between different patterns of development
  • Use prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing to write a formal, college-level essay
  • Recognize how to determine the reliability of secondary sources and to give proper credit to sources referenced in an essay
  • Use prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing to write a formal, college-level essay
  • Use techniques of drafting, evaluating, and creating a sound written argument

Ethics (2 credits)
Paralegals are responsible for maintaining confidentiality and competence; handling fees and funds; avoiding potential malpractice of law; and preventing conflicts of interest.


  • Understand the guidelines that regulate lawyers’ and paralegals’ conduct.
  • Identify rules concerning confidentiality and attorney-client privilege.
  • Conduct financial billings.
  • Recognize potential malpractice and conflict of interest issues.

Law and the Legal System (2 credits)
Learn how history has shaped the organization of contemporary courts as well as the legal system of case law, codes, and administrative regulations.


  • Outline the structure, functions and obligations of state and federal courts.
  • Describe the differences between litigation in the state and federal courts.
  • Understand the sources of law and the legal theory from which a particular law originates.
  • Explain how the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights apply to modern laws, procedures, court decisions, and theories.
  • Describe how a case moves through the federal court system.
  • Compare the differences between civil and criminal trials.
  • Understand the steps involved in litigating a civil trial.
  • Examine the legal profession’s working environment, kind of work they do, and special obligations.

Computer Applications (3 credits)
This course will allow you to build your computer skills through a combination of reading and hands-on practice. You will navigate popular software tools such as Windows® and Microsoft® Office.


  • Create, edit, and illustrate Microsoft® Word™ documents.
  • Apply formulas and functions to large data sets in Microsoft® Excel.®
  • Incorporate useful charts and graphs to summarize data.
  • Add, delete, sort, and lay out table data.
  • Create presentations in Microsoft® PowerPoint® using advanced tools, tables, and charts.

Additional Semester Materials
Learning Aids

  • Legal Specialties lists some of the typical duties of a paralegal in various fields. It also contains two self-assessment quizzes to help you determine in what field of law you might like to work when you finish your program.
  • Legal terminology audio files to help you learn the language of the law—including pronunciation! Download mp3 files from your online student account.
  • Barron’s Dictionary of Legal Terms contains nearly 3,000 legal terms translated into simple English. This reference book will help you throughout your career.
  • Custom edition of the Little, Brown Essential Handbook customized for Penn Foster students.

Textbook: Successful College Writing

Proctored Examination
You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


Semester 2

Interpersonal Communication (1 credit)
This course is designed to help you develop professional relationships in the workplace.


  • Understand and explain the components of communication, both verbal and nonverbal.
  • Develop effective listening and observation skills.
  • Recognize prejudice in interpersonal relations.
  • Describe personal traits essential for successful interpersonal relations.

Investigations and Interviews (2 credits)
Many paralegals spend a great deal of time talking with clients and/or witnesses. This course will teach you how to effectively interview people and conduct legal investigations.


  • Understand the ethical considerations and responsibilities of the paralegal and the attorney in interviewing.
  • Prepare for and conduct an interview and investigation.
  • Use different types of questions to elicit responses from a variety of people.
  • Summarize the information discovered during the interview and investigation process.

Torts (3 credits)
A tort is essentially any action that causes harm to a person or property. A good deal of law involves torts, so as a paralegal, you’ll be constantly exposed to tort actions. Your textbook provides many interesting real-life examples of cases involving injured parties. Discover how these cases travel through the legal system, beginning with filing a complaint and ending with settlement, arbitration, or trial.


  • Understand the fundamentals of legal analysis and how to prepare a legal memorandum.
  • Outline an investigative strategy for a personal injury case.
  • Draft a complaint.
  • Understand the tests that establish causation.
  • Characterize strict liability in tort and the defenses to liability in tort.

Business Law 1 (3 credits)
This course is an introduction to the legal environment of business. Topics covered include American court practice and procedure, alternative dispute resolutions, employment law, business organization and regulation, contract law, and agency relationships.


  • Understand the judicial process and alternative dispute resolution.
  • Describe different forms of business organization and their characteristics.
  • Identify elements of contracts and rules pertaining to contracts.
  • Understand law of agency and laws concerning employment.

Business Law 2 (3 credits)
Continue to explore the legal aspects of business today.


  • Handle legal matters dealing with wills, trusts, and estates.
  • Understand laws pertaining to ownership, leasing, and transfer of property.
  • Write sales and lease contracts.
  • Identify the rights of secured and unsecured creditors and the consequences of bankruptcy.
  • Describe the principles of torts and criminal law as they relate to business.
  • Explain laws pertaining to ownership and transfer of property Describe the general principles involved in wills, trusts, and estates
  • Discuss the formation of sales and lease contracts and the legal issues arising from those types of contracts
  • Explain the purpose and types of negotiable instruments and the role they play in business
  • Explain the rights of secured and unsecured creditors and the consequences of bankruptcy
  • Define risk management and discuss the purpose of different types of insurance, including life, property, automobile, and health
  • Discuss the principles of torts, the different types of torts, and criminal law as it relates to business

Intermediate Algebra (3 credits)
This course introduces basic algebraic concepts that you’ll need to be successful in your career.


  • Understand the systems of equations, polynomials, and radicals.
  • Factor polynomial expressions.
  • Simplify rational expressions.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Intermediate Algebra

Additional Semester Materials
Learning Aids: Voice and Diction audio files will help you learn to speak clearly and effectively. Download mp3 files from your online student account.


  • Torts Personal Injury Litigation, Fourth Edition, by William P. Statsky
  • Business Law with UCC Applications, Twelfth Edition, by Gordon W. Brown and Paul A. Sukys
  • Practical Business Math Procedures, Ninth Edition, by Jeffrey Slater

Proctored Examination
You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


Semester 3

Economics 1 (3 credits)
Analyze economy-wide phenomena through the study of macroeconomics, including inflation, unemployment, and trade deficits.


  • Identify the basic function of economics in our society
  • Examine various economic tradeoffs that people face
  • Explain the laws of supply and demand
  • Use the concept of elasticity to explain changes in a market
  • Discuss the pros and cons of trade restrictions
  • Calculate and interpret the unemployment rate and the labor-force participation rate
  • Describe the notion of deadweight loss and its relevance to taxes
  • Draw and interpret short-run and long-run Phillips curves
  • Explain why economists focus on GDP, inflation, and unemployment when assessing economic health
  • Describe how comparative advantage and specialization affect international trade
  • Describe how differences between world prices and domestic prices prompt exports and imports
  • Describe how changes in income affect consumption and saving

Legal Research and Writing (4 credits)
This course will introduce you legal writing and to the great number of tools that can be used in legal research. You will practice these skills through three writing and research projects.

  • Objectives:
  • Explain the importance of preci­sion, purpose, and audience in legal writing, and the need to be aware of ambiguity in language
  • Identify the kinds of writing you’ll do in the law office
  • Explain the interrelationship between clear writing and clear thinking
  • Describe the basic process of legal reasoning by applying rules to facts to arrive at a logical answer to a question posed
  • Explain the importance of following form, format, and custom in legal writing
  • Construct an effective legal memo­randum that formally answers questions of law and supports a motion
  • Explain how local rules of court affect the documents you file with that court
  • Describe the sources of law and the concept of jurisdiction
  • Describe how to use basic proce­dures for citations
  • Explain how to look up cases and statutes using the appropriate sources
  • Explain how to read and brief a case
  • Describe how to research statutes using appropriate sources
  • Describe how to approach a research problem from different access points
  • Describe hierarchy within law
  • Describe the research process
  • Explain how to use Lexis Advance to formulate search requests, and verify accuracy of legal sources
  • Describe how to perform factual, business, and legal research on the Internet

General Education Elective (3 credits)
(Choose one) ...

SSC125 - Introduction to Sociology
This course is designed to introduce you to social structure and social interaction through groups, networks, and organizations. Study politics, the economy, population, social movements, technology, and social change.


  • Describe deviance, crime, and social control.
  • Discuss the effects of stratification, racial and ethnic inequality, sex, gender, and sexuality.
  • Examine the role of health, family, education, and religion in human behavior.

SSC130 - Essentials of Psychology
This course will introduce you to the relationship between biology and behavior. You will learn about human development throughout the life span.


  • Identify major psychological theories.
  • Discuss consciousness, memory, thought, and language.
  • Define intelligence, personality, and stress.
  • Analyze the role of gender in psychology.
  • Explain how community influences behavior.

SSC105 - World Civilizations
This course will allow you to understand the importance of studying history as it relates to the individual and society as a whole.


  • Discuss the major events of the sixteenth through twentieth centuries.
  • Explain the consequences of events and the trends that they cause.

Civil Litigation (3 credits)
Litigation involves the use of the court system to resolve disputes. Increasingly, paralegals are involved in litigation support.


  • Explain the purpose of litigation and the differences between civil and criminal litigation.
  • Know the role of court system personnel in litigation.
  • Prepare and file a complaint.
  • Define evidence law and the requirements to make evidence admissible.
  • Describe hearsay and some important hearsay exceptions.

General Education Elective (3 credits)
(Choose one) ...

HUM102 - Art Appreciation
In this course, you will gain an understanding of artistic media, historical periods and artistic movements, the roles of the artist and the viewer, and the principles of art criticism.


  • Define the language, visual elements, and principles of design of art
  • Identify two-dimensional media
  • Identify three-dimensional media
  • Explain the evolution of art from ancient Mediterranean cultures through eighteenth century Europe
  • Identify features and popular examples of art throughout the history of African, Asian, Pacific, and American cultures
  • Compare the genres of the Modern and Postmodern eras of art from around the world

Textbook: Living with Art, 11th Edition

HUM104 - Music Appreciation
In this course, you'll understand how to appreciate music by learning about the roles of the composer and the listener, the principles of music theory and instrumentation, musically significant historical periods, and varying styles of music.


  • Identify the building blocks of music a composer can use to create a piece, such as rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, form, and timbre
  • Explain the evolution of Western music through history, from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century
  • Differentiate between the music of the baroque era and the musical styles of previous time periods
  • Recognize the major characteristics of classical music, including form, melody, and instrumentation
  • Discuss the musical trends and innovations that occurred during the romantic era
  • Trace the evolution of American popular music in the twentieth century
  • Recognize the influence of world music on modern Western composition

Textbook: Experience Music, Fourth Edition

ENG115 - Introduction to Literature
This course will allow you to develop your critical thinking skills and broaden your knowledge of literature.


  • Identify themes and forms of literature.
  • Define the main genres of literature - poetry, fiction, and drama.

Additional Semester Materials:

Textbook: Macroeconomics by Campbell R. McConnell, Stanley L. Brue, and Sean M. Flynn

Learning Aid: Online Resource: Access to,® one of the premier providers of online legal research

Supplement: Selected Federal Civil Rules

Proctored Examination
You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


Semester 4

Criminal Litigation (3 credits)
This course provides you with an introduction to the practice and theory of criminal law.


  • Define the role played by the paralegal in various criminal justice agencies.
  • Identify the origins, evolution, and sources of the criminal law.
  • Explain the conduct (actus reus) and the state of mind (mens rea) components involved in criminal offenses.
  • Analyze the important constitutional and statutory defenses that pertain to criminal conduct.
  • Outline the process of criminal case intake and the drafting of formal criminal charges.
  • Track the progression of a criminal case from the pretrial, trial, and post-trial stages, with emphasis on the rights of the accused at each stage of the proceedings.

Business and Technical Writing (3 credits)
This course provides an introduction to the various methods of organizing material for a professional setting. Students will compose business documents using the ABC method. These include memos, emails, outlines, reports and proposals, descriptions, and organizing materials. Students also work on honing their grammar skills.


  • Describe the basics of the writing process and the ABC method of organizing material for a document
  • Identify the parts of speech in a sentence
  • Demonstrate correct pronoun use
  • Choose proper and effective words for writing documents
  • Identify the elements of a well-written sentence
  • Demonstrate how to use length, directness, emphasis, and variety to craft impactful sentences
  • Explain how to construct a coherent paragraph
  • Describe how to write an effective cover letter and resume
  • Format and write an interoffice memorandum, a routine business letter, and an effective email
  • Identify the different ways to write for blogs, the Internet, and social media
  • Describe how to create an organized formal outline
  • Identify the types of research and methods of documentation used in business and technical writing
  • Explain how to create visual interest and clarity in reports with illustrations, tables, graphs, charts, and overall design
  • Explain the purpose and importance of various types of informal reports
  • Describe the nature of formal reports and identify their components
  • Differentiate among external, internal, informal, and formal proposals
  • Describe an object or a process and prepare a set of instructions
  • Describe the preparation and submission of professional and technical articles and manuals

Family Law (3 credits)
This course will provide you with a solid foundation in the basic legal principles that apply to family law.


  • Explain the elements of family law practice and of marriage
  • Define the fundamental principles of law with annulment and the divorce process
  • Identify the role of a paralegal with cases involving parenthood, child custody, child support, and adoption
  • Identify the proper forum and procedural requirements for spousal support, property division, separation agreements, and family violence

Real Estate Law (3 credits)
The real estate industry - real estate development, construction, sales, leases, and financing-generates a great deal of work for law firms. Paralegals often work with real estate law, and this course is designed to teach you the basics. Real estate law varies some from state to state, but most of the principles are the same in all states.


  • Understand the types, content, and preparation of deeds.
  • Understand how real estate is described in deeds.
  • Define and give examples of encumbrances, easements, and licenses.
  • Describe some of the ways government regulates the use of real estate.
  • Describe the components of a real estate purchase contract and the real estate closing process.
  • Explain the role of lawyers and paralegals in the process of real estate financing.
  • List the provisions of a standard lease and explain their purpose.

Wills, Trusts, and Estate Administration (3 credits)
Paralegals often handle matters dealing with wills, trusts, and/or estate administration.


  • Understand statutes and statutory language.
  • Draft a preliminary will for the supervising attorney’s review.
  • Prepare preliminary drafts of the various kinds of trusts.
  • Prepare legal forms to create an estate plan.
  • Apply the procedures and prepare the legal forms used in probate and estate administration.
  • Prepare the tax returns of a decedent’s estate.

General Education Elective (3 credits)
(Choose one) ...

This course will allow you to develop a healthier lifestyle by making smarter nutritional decisions.


  • Explain the various components of nutrition as a science.
  • Describe nutrition from a global viewpoint.
  • Understand the importance of water and exercise.
  • Identify the basics of human growth and aging.
  • Discuss food safety procedures.

Textbook: Personal Nutrition

SCI120-Introduction to Biology
This course will allow you to explore the origin of life and the relationships among all living things.


  • Explain how organisms are structured and how they work.
  • Discuss the various forms of life and their processes.

Textbook: Essentials of Biology

SCI110 - Earth Science
This course will allow you to learn about planet Earth and the various aspects of the environment.


  • Describe specific characteristics of Earth.
  • Describe different types of rocks and minerals.

Proctored Examination
You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


A High School Diploma or GED is required to enroll in the Paralegal Studies program. Although this outline covers all four semesters of the Paralegal Studies Degree Program, you receive lesson materials for each semester as you enroll.

* As a degree candidate, you will take a proctored examination at the end of each semester on selected courses within that semester. We make it easy because you pick the location and the person you want to supervise the exam, as long as Penn Foster College's established policy and qualifications are met. Complete information packets with procedures will be provided well in advance, before completion of final semester coursework.

NOTE: Advanced standing student shipments may vary from the above schedule

Requirements for employment as a paralegal may vary from state to state. You should contact your state bar association for information on the educational requirements for paralegals in your state.

We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.

Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc. registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.