Prepare for a Career in the Legal System

Become a Legal Assistant in private practice, government service, or legal aid.

The Paralegal Studies program is designed for the student seeking a career as a legal assistant, working under the direction and supervision of an attorney in private practice, government service, or legal aid. The knowledge and skills acquired in the Paralegal Studies Program are also beneficial to students majoring in areas such as law enforcement, pre-law, business law, and political science. Students who with to learn more about the legal system and how to develop their own skills in legal research for personal enrichment are also encouraged to enroll.

The Paralegal Studies program at MSSU is specifically geared toward students who will be working in the state of Missouri, with some material applicapable to neighboring states such as Kansas and Arkansas. Any Paralegal Studies program that claims to prepare people for a career as a paralegal but is not geared toward the laws in a particular state is incomplete at best: Criminal laws, civil laws, family laws, labor laws, and estate lawsall vary considerably from state to state. Any program that claims to prepare students to work as a paralegal but does not focus on the laws of one particular state is not truly preparing students to work as a paralegal.

Earn a Certificate or a Minor

A student enrolled in the Paralegal Studies program may obtain a stand-alone Paralegal Studies Certificate or complete the same classes to earn the Paralegal Studies Minor along with any Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree at MSSU. Students who seek the certificate by itself may do so by successfully completing 24-30 hours of coursework. No degree is required. The certificate by itself qualifies students for employment as a paralegal in the state of Missouri and some neighboring states. The required classes are the same for the certificate and the minor, and are listed under the requirements for the minor. Classes for a Paralegal Studies certificate and minor are all offered online via the internet. Some classes are also offered on campus.

Students seeking the minor or the certificate must have a Paralegal Studies adivsor in the Department of Social Sciences.

How long does it take to get a Paralegal Studies Certificate at MSSU?

In the past only two Paralegal Studies classes were offered per semester at MSSU. The program was originally set up for students who worked full time and/or had full-time family responsibilities and wanted to take night classes. However, the number of Paralegal classes offered is increasing and all classes are now offered via the internet. Taking two classes per semester meant it took at least six semesters (three years) to complete the Paralegal Certificate Program but students who can attend full-time (at least four classes per semester) can complete the Paralegal Studies Certificate program in 2-3 semesters (one year to 15 months) Under ideal circumstances a student can complete the certificate in one year at the current rate of class offerings.

Our is not a short-term program that makes big promises, takes your money, and leaves you with no real qualifications. The Paralegal Studies Certificate Program at MSSU is a real course of study at the university level. Our program has existed for over 40 years and has an outstanding track record of employment in the Southwest Missouri region. Paralegal Studies classes are all offered online via the internet, and some classes are also offered on campus.

How much does it cost to get a Paralegal Studies Certificate at MSSU?

Tuition and fees at MSSU change on a yearly basis, but if you multiply the tuition rate at MSSU by 30 hours and the Distance Learning fees for each internet class by 10 classes, the total cost as of May 2011 is roughly $6,500 for in-state students. Out-of-state tuition is higher.

FINANCIAL AID is available for qualified students. For any questions about financial aid please contact the MSSU Financial Aid office at 417-625-9325 or click on the words "FINANCIAL AID"

What are the requirements for the Paralegal Studies Certificate or Minor at MSSU?

Completing the certificate or minor in Paralegal Studies requires at least 24 semester credit hours (8 classes) at MSSU. Students must also have credit for or complete an English Composition class (Eng 101 or equivalent) and either take a Computer Literacy class (CIS 105 or equivalent) OR demonstrate competency using word processing and spreadsheet programs. Students who can verify their computer literacy do not have to take CIS 105.

English Composition I (Eng 101) and Introduction to Microcomputer Use (CIS 105) are offered every semester and most summers at MSSU, on campus and via the internet. The Paralegal Studies classes are generally offered at least two per semester online, often three or more. Additional classes may be offered on campus as well.

Paralegal Certificate Requirements

Required classes:

ENG 101         College Composition [OR equivalent from any accredited college or university]

CIS 105           Introduction to Microcomputers [OR demonstrated computer literacy]

PLS 201          Introduction to Legal Assistance

PLS 210          Law Office Management

PLS 304          Legal Research

Choose three classes from the following list:

PLS 298          Topics in Paralegal Studies

PLS 313          Property

PLS 314          Civil Litigation

PLS 324          Family Law

PLS 401          Wills, Trusts, and Probate

PLS 491          Internship**

PLS 498          Senior Seminar**

PLS 499          Independent Study**

Choose two additional classes from the list above and/or from the following list:

GB 301           Legal Environment of Business I

GB 302           Legal Environment of Business II

PSC 310         Law, Society, & Judicial Process

PSC 322         International Law

PSC 431         Constitutional Law I

PSC 432         Constitutional Law II

COMM 310     Communications Law

LE 250            Criminal Law

MM 411           Labor and Employment Law

**See Prerequisites

Does the Paralegal Certificate qualify me for employment as a paralegal?

YES. Many of our certificate holders are employed as paralegals in law offices all over the Southwest Missouri region. And if you already have an associate's or bachelor's degree from another institution, the MSSU Paralegal Certificate may be completed as an addition to that degree.

Learn more about other Social Science programs at MSSU.

Paralegal Studies

Dr.JoAnna Derfelt
Office: Webster Hall 227
Phone: 417.625.3131