IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT PARALEGAL EDUCATION
Here’s what you need to know before you begin your studies.
If you think a paralegal education might be right for you but don’t know where to begin, start here.
We answer the questions that people often ask:
What paralegal degree should I pursue? How long will my degree take? What is the cost of paralegal certification? Should I do my paralegal degree online? How do I choose the right paralegal school for me?
How Long Does Paralegal Education Take?
Paralegal education can last for as little as nine months or as long as two years. Certificate programs designed for those without a college degree usually last between six months and a year. However, depending on the job market in your area, a paralegal certificate without at least an associate’s degree may put you at a disadvantage when competing for work.
How Much Does Paralegal Education Cost?
The cost of paralegal programs can vary greatly, and this is one area where it will really pay to do your homework. For people without a college degree, an associate’s degree program at a local community college may be the most economical choice, and generally cost around $23,000.
Paralegal certificate programs are shorter and typically less expensive. Again, it pays to compare. Ask whether a school’s advertised cost includes all expenses or just tuition. If not, ask for an estimated total cost including books and other fees. And don’t forget that qualified students may receive federal financial aid to help them pay for school.
What Degree is Right for Me?
To know what level of paralegal education is appropriate, you’ll need to know a little about the job market you want to work in. In some cities, a paralegal certificate without a college degree is adequate training to enter the field. In others, an associate’s degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree with a paralegal certificate is the standard.
How Do I Choose a School?
- Consider whether the school offers the type of paralegal program employers in your job market look for (certificate or degree).
- Learn whether the school is accredited and whether its paralegal training program is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Only one in four programs is ABA approved, so don’t disqualify a school on that basis alone. Many non-accredited programs are well respected and follow ABA guidelines.
- Take a look at the faculty at paralegal schools you’re considering. Normally, faculty will include some practicing or former attorneys and paralegals. You will want the faculty to hold regular office hours and make themselves available to answer your questions and provide guidance.
- Find out about job placement services, and ask about each school’s job placement rates.
- Ask about a school’s law library and online legal research tools.
Is There Any Prerequisite Education or Skills?
All paralegal education programs require a high school diploma or equivalent. Some certificate programs are designed for people who already have a college degree in another field or previous legal experience. These are the only mandatory requirements for admission into almost all paralegal programs. However, there are a lot of other things that will help you, both during school and in the workplace:
- Computer skills are a must for all paralegal. If you are not already comfortable with computers and the major computer programs, look for a paralegal program that offers computer training.
- Top-notch communication skills, especially writing, are also essential since documents have to be well written in the legal industry.
How About Getting a Paralegal Education Online?
Online paralegal programs provide interactive lessons and online classrooms. Many online programs are now well respected by employers. Evaluate online paralegal training programs just as you would other programs. Give special importance to teacher availability, the courses offered (compared to traditional programs), and whether the program is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council.