What You Should Know About This Degree
Paralegals need to be detail-oriented and organized, and they must have strong writing, communication, and research skills. A training program will help you develop those skills while teaching you the necessary legal terminology and practices, but it’s important to assess if you possess the right qualities before pursuing education to become a paralegal.
Individuals can prepare for a paralegal career by earning a post-secondary certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. For individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree, a post-secondary certificate in paralegal studies is typically the fastest way to get the training required for most paralegal jobs.
If you do not currently hold any degree, you can research associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs. An associate’s degree is enough to qualify you for most paralegal jobs and will provide a solid foundation if you choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree. The number of programs offering a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies is limited; therefore, most people will pursue a bachelor’s degree in another field, followed by a paralegal certificate.
Once students complete their studies, they can apply for the Certified Paralegal (CP) credential through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). This optional credential confirms to potential employers that you have the necessary training and expertise to be a professional paralegal. You must pass an examination in order to receive the CP credential.
Here are some questions to ask when researching Online Paralegal Certificate programs:
- Do I need financial aid? Generally, students enrolled in non-degree programs are ineligible for federal financial aid like loans and grants. If you need this type of funding to subsidize your tuition, you may want to consider an associate’s or bachelor’s degree instead of a certificate.
- Does the program offer options for specialization? Most paralegal certificate programs cover a broad range of skills and knowledge applicable to all types of law. However, some programs offer electives that allow students to get in-depth knowledge in a particular area of law. If you have a specific interest, find out if the program you are considering offers an elective in that area.
Check on the enrollment process for the program you are considering. Certificate programs typically have more flexible registration processes than degree-granting programs. They may have a specific start date, or you may be able to enroll at any time. Even if you are not eligible for financial aid, find out if any programs offer scholarships. If you are currently employed, your employer may offer tuition assistance benefits to help you cover the cost of the program.