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Online Paralegal Certificate Programs

Do you love rules and regulations, or have a natural ability to understand complex processes or procedures? Do you have a strong attention to detail and a good memory? You

might want to consider investigating Online Paralegal Certificate Programs, a course of study in which these skills might be used often! [i] 

Similar to a lawyer, paralegals usually work in law offices and other legal environments. Common tasks associated with the role might be document preparation, filing, and assisting lawyers with research. Unlike for lawyers, though, a specialized graduate degree is not required in order to become a paralegal. In fact, 44% of paralegals polled by O*Net had a Bachelor’s Degree, 30% had an Associate’s Degree, and 12% had completed some college without earning a degree [ii].  

The typical entry level education for a paralegal is an associate’s degree.   Some form of training is generally needed before pursuing a career in the field [iii].  A Paralegal Certificate might be an option for this training, so read on!

What Is a Paralegal Certificate?

So, if it’s not a degree, you’re probably wondering what exactly a Paralegal Certificate is. Generally, this type of certificate is awarded to a student after completing a course of study intended to help prepare him or her to pursue a career in the paralegal profession. Like in a degree program, certificate programs may be taken at the undergraduate  or graduate  level. Generally, though, earning a Paralegal Certificate demands fewer credits and less time than it would take to earn a degree. Because each program is different, please check with the school in which you are interested for information on credits and time it might take to earn a degree.

Are Online Paralegal Certificate Programs Worth It?

Depending on your situation, an Online Paralegal Certificate Program may or may not be a good choice for you. For one, since these programs are highly targeted toward a specific career, it’s not wise to enroll unless you’re certain you want to pursue a future as a paralegal.

If you’re set on this path, though, pursuing Online Paralegal Certificate Programs could be perfect for you. According to O*Net, most paralegal positions require some form of training, whether it’s from a certificate program, on-the-job training, or a degree.  If you don’t have access to on-the-job training, and don’t want to commit the time a degree program would require, earning a certificate could be an option to consider.

Keep in mind that 74% of paralegals have earned either a Bachelor’s or Associate’s Degree [vii].  If you have yet to earn a degree, and know you want to be a paralegal, you may consider looking into Paralegal Degree Programs. If you’ve already earned a degree in a paralegal-related field, you may not need to add a certificate to your résumé. If you have a degree in an unrelated field, though, it might be wise to look into Online Paralegal Certificate Programs as a way to possibly enhance your career prospects. 

Another factor to keep in mind is that some online Paralegal Certificate Programs offer credits that could be applied toward a degree program later on. This is a flexible option if you know you want further education in the field, but can’t commit immediately to a degree program. Because program requirements vary, please check with the school in which you are interested to finding out if this is something that might be available to you.

You’ll also want to check out career outlook for paralegals to make sure they’re within your expectations. According to O*Net, paralegals earned a median salary of $48,810 in 2015, and the predicted growth in the field is average, between 5% and 8%.  Paralegals may work for law firms, corporate legal departments, banks, insurance companies, or government agencies, among other options.  If these potential prospects hold your interest, pursuing an Online Paralegal Certificate may be a perfect option for you.

How to Earn a Paralegal Certificate Online

To enroll in Online Paralegal Certificate Programs, you’ll likely need to meet certain requirements put forth by the school and program. Some schools may demand that you’ve earned a Bachelor’s Degree to qualify,  though others require only a high school diploma or GED. Please check with the school in which you are interested for its particular requirements.
Once enrolled, you’ll need to complete a set curriculum of coursework designed to help prepare you to pursue a career as a paralegal. Here are some examples of coursework you might take in an Online Paralegal Certificate Program: 
•    Civil Litigation
•    Law Office Management
•    Legal Ethics
•    Real Estate Law
•    Family Law

Do You Need to Earn a Certificate to be a Paralegal? 

While there is not generally a standard certification required to pursue a career as a paralegal, employers may set a hiring standard according to their own criteria. A certificate from an accredited institution may be part of these standards,  possibly when paired with work experience.   Other ways to meet these standards might include earning a certification from a professional organization, on-the-job training in a legal environment, or a combination of professional training and coursework.

ABA Accredited Paralegal Certificate

One way to qualify for employment as a paralegal may be to earn  an American Bar Association (ABA) Accredited Paralegal Certificate.  This is an earned Paralegal Certificate from a course of study that has been approved by the ABA as appropriate preparation to pursue such a career.  To find out if a program you’re interested in is accredited by the ABA, you can contact the school for details.

Getting Started

No matter how talented a paralegal is, her education is never quite finished in this field. Like doctors and teachers, paralegals are lifelong learners. There's always room to gain more specialized knowledge or get acquainted with changing regulations in a given sector. While most paralegal candidates usually have a minimum of an associate degree in paralegal studies, it may be advantageous to seek a higher degree or undergraduate certificate in the fast-evolving paralegal field. In some cases, paralegals who already have a bachelor degree may choose to supplement their education with a paralegal certificate online.

Depending on the program you choose, you might study topics like paralegal research, legal theory, legal software tools, and law-specific subject areas (like divorce, real estate, bankruptcy and tort law). Additionally, students may gain insights from practicing attorneys and program mentors. Graduates may go on to pursue law school or advance in their paralegal careers.

To begin looking for the Online Paralegal Certificate Program that may be perfect for you, check out the listings here on eLearners.com. You can also request information from the schools to learn more about their programs. Good luck!

* The preceding information was obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) online resource, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition," available at: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Legal/Paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm

[1]bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm [i]onetonline.org/link/details/23-2011.00 [ii]onetonline.org/link/details/23-2011.00 [iii]onetonline.org/link/details/23-2011.00 [iv]umassonline.net/degrees/online-certificate-paralegal-studies [v]kaplanuniversity.edu/legal-studies/pathway-to-paralegal-certificate.aspx [vi]onetonline.org/link/details/23-2011.00 [vii]onetonline.org/link/details/23-2011.00 [viii]kaplanuniversity.edu/legal-studies/pathway-to-paralegal-certificate.aspx [ix]onetonline.org/link/details/23-2011.00 [x]kaplanuniversity.edu/legal-studies/pathway-to-paralegal-certificate.aspx [xi]kaplanuniversity.edu/legal-studies/pathway-to-paralegal-certificate.aspx [xii]umassonline.net/degrees/online-certificate-paralegal-studies [xiii]kaplanuniversity.edu/legal-studies/pathway-to-paralegal-certificate.aspx [xiv]nala.org/about-paralegals/professional-standards [xv]bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm#tab-4 [xvi]americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/paralegals/ls_prlgs_2013_paralegal_guidelines.authcheckdam.pdf [xvii]apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/paralegals/directory/home.html