Learn Why Paralegal Certificates are a Fast Track to a Solid Career

Learn about the benefits of earning a paralegal certificate, including online options.

smiling career-changing male paralegal

Many people going into the paralegal field are career changers—people who want to try something different. If you have a bachelor's degree and experience in another field (teacher, nurse, business, etc.) and are considering becoming a paralegal, a paralegal certificate is the fastest way to get the paralegal training you need to find an entry-level job in this exciting field. If you're thinking about changing careers, keep reading to learn about the advantages of a paralegal certificate.

Paralegal Certificate Courses

Paralegal certificate programs assume that you already have a bachelor's degree and have already taken all of your required undergraduate courses.

To get your paralegal certificate, you must complete 35 credits of legal classes (depending on the program). Generally, about half must be taken on campus, but you can take many of your paralegal classes online.

There are typically four mandatory courses for all paralegal students:

  • Introduction to Law and the Legal System
  • Civil Procedure
  • Legal Research and Writing
  • Contract Law

Every paralegal needs to excel in these core courses to be a well-rounded paralegal with the skills to succeed in a law office. See our overview of paralegal degrees for more options.

Paralegal Electives

In addition to your four core courses, you'll also choose from a number of electives while earning your paralegal certificate. If you think you'd like intellectual property law, take an elective class on IP. If you'd prefer to work in Tort law (civil law for people who have suffered harm from the wrongful acts of others), take Torts and Personal Injuries. Your choice of electives is truly your way of making your paralegal certificate your own.

Below is a sampling of just some of the legal classes you'll choose from to complete your paralegal certificate:

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Commercial Transactions
  • Employment Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Family Law
  • Law Office Technology
  • Probate Practice & Procedures
  • Real Estate & Property Law

Similarities Between Certificates and Degrees

Beyond your paralegal classes, you should evaluate each paralegal certificate program the same way you would any other paralegal degree program:

  • Contact schools to find out about their student financial aid
  • Ask your school about their job placement services
  • Learn about your school's student advising and student success rates
  • If you've already taken any legal classes, find out if your paralegal certificate program will accept any of your transfer credits

If you already have a bachelor's degree, you can complete a paralegal certificate and enter the legal field in as little as nine months. In addition, if you're currently working and need a flexible schedule, many paralegal programs are very flexible, with online options and offering evening and weekend classes to accommodate working adults.

Finally, as many paralegals advise, make sure your paralegal certificate program is approved by the American Bar Association. While not always required, this may give you an advantage over other job candidates when you start looking for your first paralegal job.

Source: http://legal.edcc.edu/