What You Should Know About This Degree
A paralegal degree is not the same as a law degree. Lawyers must obtain a bachelor’s degree followed by a graduate-level law degree. Lawyers must also be licensed to practice law by passing the bar exam. To become a paralegal, most employers require job applicants to have at least an associate degree in paralegal studies. Many employers prefer or require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree.
Prospective students should look for undergraduate programs related to paralegal or legal studies that are accredited by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education, as this signifies that a school has met certain quality standards.
Several organizations offer paralegal certification. The National Association of Legal Assistants sponsors a certification examination known as the Certified Paralegal. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations offers the Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination to become a Registered Paralegal. NALS sponsors a voluntary certification program that includes four different options, and the American Alliance of Paralegals offers the American Alliance Certified Paralegal.
The job outlook for those who earn this degree is strong. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs for paralegals will grow at a rate of 10% over the next 10 years, which will create more than 35,300 new job openings for the workforce.
Here are some questions to ask when researching online bachelor’s in paralegal studies programs:
- How long does it take to complete this online degree? The amount of time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree in paralegal or legal studies depends on several factors. However, full-time students typically earn this degree in four years.
- Am I eligible for this program? Most colleges and universities require applicants to have a high school diploma or equivalency to be considered for enrollment in a bachelor’s degree program. Some schools also have minimum GPA requirements and ask candidates to submit standardized test scores. Before applying, check the program’s admissions requirements to confirm that you meet their qualifications.
As you research programs, keep track of application deadlines and determine what materials you need to submit. You can find information about each program’s application process online or by contacting the admissions department.
Financing your education is another important consideration. The cost of college varies widely by school and program. Funding opportunities may include scholarships, loans, and grants. If you’re employed, ask your employer about educational assistance programs.