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Minnesota State University Moorhead**
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Minnesota State Community and Technical College
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Two-year associate degree programs are offered by comprehensive community colleges and some four-year degree-granting institutions. Although a substantial majority of community and junior colleges have an open-door admissions policy, many of the paralegal education programs offered have adopted more selective admission criteria for entry into paralegal studies. Paralegal programs require a considerable amount of study and outside class assignments, and are necessarily taught at a sophisticated level. Additional screening methods which may be utilized include test scores on college-level entrance examinations, special verbal aptitude tests, writing samples, letters of recommendation and personal interviews. The curriculum in an associate degree program consists of a combination of general education, electives and legal specialty courses. The legal specialty courses are selected by educational administrators and faculty members in consultation with members of the legal community. Trends, needs, and changes in the local legal community therefore affect course requirements in legal specialty areas. Ordinarily, an associate degree program provides students with the requisite skills to perform in the legal environment as generalists. Students receive instruction in several different legal specialty areas. Legal specialty courses commonly offered in such programs are legal research and writing, introduction to paralegalism and law, torts and insurance, business law, estate planning and probate, corporate law, litigation, criminal law, family law, and real estate. Paralegal programs in community colleges may lead to an Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, or Associate in Applied Science Degree. A growing number of community colleges offer a certificate option for four-year college graduates.
A number of colleges and universities have developed four-year baccalaureate degree programs with a major or minor in paralegal studies. Curriculum requirements include general education, electives, and legal specialty courses. The four-year program normally encompasses both generalist and specialist courses. The generalist courses are similar to the offerings in an associate degree program. Usually the courses taken during the last two years of the program are more in-depth and advanced and allow a student to concentrate in one or more areas of legal specialization, thereby developing special expertise in those selected areas. Some of the four-year programs offer or require courses on the management and administration of a law office. In general, a four-year program provides students with a sound liberal arts education and legal specialty training in several areas, thereby enabling them to choose from a wide number of employment opportunities in various legal settings as well as private law firms. Paralegal programs in four-year colleges may lead to a B.S. or B.A. degree. They are found in many different disciplines, including Political Science, Criminal Justice, Human Services and Business and are sometimes in separate Paralegal or Legal Studies Departments.
Non-degree certificate programs are offered by universities, colleges, business and proprietary schools. Some certificate programs are offered for academic college credit and some are not. Many are operated through the Continuing Education or Extension Division of a college. A certificate program usually offers only legal specialty training. If the general education component is not offered as a part of the program, such programs require applicants for admission to have completed one and one-half years of college or more. Some certificate programs are restricted to only college graduates whose academic record displays a high level of achievement. Classes may be offered full-time during the day or on a part-time evening basis. The length of the program may range from four or five months to two years. Some programs offer legal specialty training and some have a general practice curriculum that includes specialty training. Legal specialty concentrations most often offered are litigation, estate planning and administration, real estate, and corporations.