College level paralegal degree programs require that students demonstrate competency in basic English, math, computer, and social sciences courses. These prerequisites are designed to not only prepare the student for his degree specific coursework, but give him the necessary skills to succeed in the field. Some universities allow students to substitute advanced placement test scores to satisfy introductory English composition courses. Placement tests may be given to assess the number of prerequisite math classes that a student must take before enrolling in paralegal courses.
Before taking any paralegal courses, students must fulfill some prerequisites related to English composition. These courses focus on a student's written communication skills. As a paralegal, these skills are vital to interpreting written legal correspondence. The vocation also involves drafting a high amount of legal correspondence as well. English composition course work helps students learn proper business communication techniques, sentence structure, grammar, and spelling. In addition, these courses help students develop the ability to put their ideas and thoughts on paper in a way that is understandable and convincing.
Another set of prerequisite courses for paralegal studies involves mathematical skills. The primary focus is on algebra. Placement tests may exempt some students from one or more of these course requirements. They are designed to help those students who may be lacking in math skills to catch-up. Pre-algebra, elementary and immediate algebra courses may need to be taken before a college level algebra course. Most major universities will have students take some sort of diagnostic test that determines whether they need the additional skills development in this area.
Business and Social Science
Some college level paralegal programs require their students to take a certain number of prerequisites in business and social sciences. These courses are usually credited towards the students' general education electives, but specific courses that deal with the American government, speech, ethics, and humanities may be required. In addition to exposing students to fundamental concepts that they will use in a paralegal career, these courses might also encourage further skill development in written communications. Business prerequisites such as business law and accounting are designed to provide a foundation to the more advanced knowledge presented in paralegal studies.
Since the use of computers is a mainstay in the business and legal environments, a prerequisite in computer applications or business computing may be required. These courses familiarize students with major software applications and operating systems. Business computing prerequisites focus on completing certain tasks that will be required in the workforce, such as creating word processing documents, spreadsheet calculations, and slide presentations. Typing and keyboarding skills are also developed in these courses, along with Internet and email fluency.