Becoming a paralegal is an excellent career choice for anyone looking for an exciting, yet stable, career. Paralegals are legal professionals who help lawyers draft documents, work on cases, and interview clients. This career is growing quickly and there are many opportunities available. Even better yet, you can train to become a paralegal quickly.
There are several ways you can become a paralegal, depending usually on your level of education. Law firms, government bodies, and companies are demanding that the paralegals they hire meet minimum educational requirements.
Types of Paralegal Programs
Certificate - Typically, a certificate in paralegal studies is not enough to start working. Certificates are recommended to people who already have an associate or bachelor’s degree. These programs are perfect for people looking to change careers.
Associate Degree - An associate degree in paralegal studies is the most popular option for anyone opting to enter the field. These programs are perfect for people who have never gone to college or pursued higher education before.
Bachelor’s Degree - This option is the least commonly pursued, particularly because few institutions offer it. Some agencies favor applicants with higher education, however, making a bachelor’s degree a good opportunity for those who receive it.
Online vs. In-Person Classes
Many schools offer exclusively online learning programs. Online programs offer the ultimate flexibility because you can complete coursework on your own schedule. You do not attend set lectures at a physical location. Instead, you work from wherever you choose. Many students prefer online learning because they can work on coursework in their spare time while working a job.
In-person classes mirror traditional lectures in most college and higher education courses. In-person classes require you to attend lectures at a set time. Some people prefer in-person classes because they can develop relationships with the professors and their peers. In-person classes also give more structure, which some students may appreciate.
What You Can Expect from Your Paralegal Classes
If you decide to pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree, you will need to first take general education classes. If you are only pursuing a certificate, you will generally not need to take these classes.
In your major classes, you can expect to cover legal basics like your state's legal code, constitutional law, legal ethics, legal research, discovery, and more. You can also expect to cover special topics in law such as real estate law, elder law, bankruptcy law, criminal law, and even niche topics like sports law.
These classes teach you the basics of the legal code, both your state and federal law. They prepare you to assist attorneys and navigate your state and county’s court system.
Length and Cost of Classes
The length of your program will depend on which one you have chosen. Certificate programs are the shortest, consisting of about 30 credit hours. That’s about one academic year of schooling.
Associate degree programs are longer at about 2 years of classes when taken full time.
Bachelor’s programs are longer still, lasting usually 4 full years of full-time schooling.
Cost of the classes also varies depending on where you decide to enroll and the program you choose. The longer you are in school, the more your education will cost. However, the more education you have, typically the more opportunities for advancement you will have later in your career.
Schools with Paralegal Programs
Here is a selection of schools with paralegal programs online and in-person:
- South University - Online and in-person
- Gwinnett College - In-person
- Keiser University - In-person
- Institute of Medical and Business Careers - Online and in-person
- Remington College - In-person
In summary, there are many different ways you can become a paralegal, each one slightly different. Regardless if you choose online or in-person schooling, a paralegal program will prepare you to work alongside lawyers in many different law offices.
Find a paralegal program that fits your lifestyle now.