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Become a Paralegal in Iowa

Law firms, legal departments in corporations, government entities and nonprofits are all looking to lower costs, and yet quality legal services are a necessity in every industry. More and more, the solution executives and leaders turn to is to hire paralegals.

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*Whether you’re looking to earn an undergraduate degree in preparation for the Certified Paralegal Exam, or ready to advance your career with a master's degree in legal studies, accredited online programs make it easier than ever to get the education you need:

In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 2,430 paralegals were employed in Iowa. These professionals earned an hourly mean wage of $20.78 and $43,210 annually. Paralegals working part time made as much as $28,320 during the year, while the highest-earning paralegals earned as much as $58,000 for the year.

Career Builder, Simply Hired and other human resource firms show not only open paralegal positions in Iowa’s law firms, but also that paralegal skills are specified as desirable or necessary in a wide range of positions. Banks, immigration law firms and a wide range of businesses are actively seeking individuals who have been proactive and attained paralegal skills through degree and certificate programs.

Paralegal Certification

There is currently no mandatory licensing or certification required for paralegals in Iowa. In 2003, the Iowa Supreme Court recommended certification for legal assistants.

Where to Earn Your Paralegal Certificate or Degree in Iowa

Paralegal Certificates

  • Kaplan University

    Kaplan University offers a Pathway to Paralegal Post-Baccalaureate Certificate for individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree and are looking to enter the legal field. Students gain practical skills while learning the nuances of relevant legal arguments, as well as developing critical thinking and analytical skills and the ability to apply ethics in the work environment.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $14,673 for on-campus program; $13,356 for online program (based on 2013 full-program tuition; discounts are offered for active-duty military, their spouses and veterans)
    • Requirements: Bachelor’s degree
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: On campus or online

    Sample required courses:

    • The Paralegal Professional
    • Introduction to Legal Research
    • Introduction to Legal Analysis
    • Law Office Management

Paralegal Associate Degrees

  • Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC)

    Students at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) benefit from small class sizes, free personalized tutoring and low tuition. In fact, the cost of a semester at DMACC can be just over half the cost of a semester at a state college and a quarter of the cost of private institutions. This school’s paralegal Associate in Science provides instruction in effective oral and written communication, critical thinking and analytical skills while giving students an in-depth understanding of substantive law, legal procedure and legal theory. All students complete an internship.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $8,704 for state residents; $17,408 for out-of-state students (based on 2013-2014 per-credit tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
    • ABA Approved: Yes
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Business & Corporate Law I & II
    • Torts & Litigation I & II
    • Introduction to Law
    • Administrative Practice
    • Evidence: Theory and Practice
  • Iowa Lakes Community College

    Iowa Lakes Community College strives to maintain small class sizes while providing affordable educational programs. It offers an paralegal/legal studies Associate in Science degree at its Estherville campus, as well as a pre-law Associate in Arts. Students have access to the college law library, as well as to both Westlaw and Lexis, enabling them to practice their legal research skills. In addition, students can gain practical experience through internships and working on real cases via the Innocence Project of Iowa.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $10,430 for state residents; $11,200 for out-of-state students (based on 2013-2014 per-credit tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; exceptions may be made
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: On campus; a few select courses are offered online

    Sample required courses:

    • Intro to Law & Paralegal
    • Legal Ethics
    • Criminal Law & Procedure
    • Law Office Software
    • Legal Research
  • Iowa Western Community College (IWCC)

    Iowa Western Community College (IWCC) offers an Associate of Arts degree in Paralegal Studies that emphasizes ethics, legal research and writing while preparing students for entry-level positions. Students have the convenience of an online program, will enhance their computer skills and may take courses in the order they wish.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $9,728 (based on 2013-2014 per-credit tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma, GED or more than 30 semester hours at a regionally accredited college or university
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: Online

    Sample required courses:

    • American National Government
    • Legal Ethics
    • Public Speaking
    • Legal Research & Writing
  • Marshalltown Community College (MCC)

    Marshalltown Community College offers a paralegal Associate in Applied Science, as well as an Associate in Arts emphasis for paralegals. Students learn practical paralegal skills that prepare them to work under the supervision of attorneys in law firms, as well as in government and corporations.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $9,324 for state residents; $9,954 for out-of-state students (based on 2013-2014 per-credit tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; ACT, COMPASS or ASSET scores
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: Online
  • Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC)

    Northwest Iowa Community College (NICC) offers an Associate in Arts in legal assistant/paralegal on its Peosta campus. This program is designed to prepare students to continue their education at a four-year institution or enter the workforce; it also prepares students to take national certification exams.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $11,850 (based on 2013-2014 per-credit tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school transcript; ACT score; ACCUPLACER if necessary
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Intro to Computer Business Apps
    • Legal Environment of Business
    • Intro to Criminal Justice
    • Intro to Paralegal Studies
  • Western Iowa Technical Community College (WITCC)

    Western Iowa Technical Community College (WITCC) offers a paralegal Associate in Applied Science degree at its Sioux City campus. This two-year program emphasizes practical application of legal knowledge using realistic projects and case studies. Students gain both legal knowledge and administrative skills and apply their knowledge through internships.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $8,840 for Iowa residents; $9,044 for out-of-state students (based on 2013 per-credit tuition)
    • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Business Law I & II
    • Human and Work Relations
    • Interpersonal Communication
    • Legal Office Procedures
    • Torts and Litigation

Paralegal Bachelor’s Degrees

  • Grand View University

    Grand View University in Des Moines offers a Bachelor of Arts in paralegal studies. This degree provides a well-rounded liberal arts education along with core classes providing specialized knowledge in paralegal studies. Its 2 + 2 format requires that students first earn an associate degree in paralegal studies before continuing to earn a bachelor’s degree. Students can choose from one of three concentrations: business and human resource management, public administration or criminology. This course of study is offered via day classes as well as through evening and weekend courses in an accelerated format.

    • Estimated Program Cost: $91,944 (based on 2014-2015 full-time tuition for both parts of the 2 + 2 program)
    • Prerequisites: Associate of Arts, Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science in paralegal or legal assistant, or completion of all course work for one of these programs
    • ABA Approved: No
    • Format: On campus

    Sample required courses:

    • Entrepreneurship and Business Fundamentals
    • Writing for Business
    • Introduction to Public Administration

Additional Paralegal Educational Programs

Professional Organizations

  • The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) is a nationwide alliance of paralegal associations, and was the first national paralegal association. The NFPA includes over 50 paralegal associations and over 9,000 members. It monitors changes in the paralegal profession and the law, and its strong strategic alliances make being a member an asset when needing continuing legal education, up-to-date information on regulations and contacts with other paralegals in many specialties. The NFPA offers the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam® (PACE®) and the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam™ (PCCE™).
  • The Iowa Association of Legal Assistants/Paralegals (IALA.P) is affiliated with the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). It was established to serve the educational needs of Iowa paralegals. IALA.P provides its members with information on the profession through its newsletter, and provides opportunities to network at regional meetings, attend continuing education seminars and take advantage of employment listings. It also provides scholarships and study assistance for national certification exams. Student memberships are available.
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