Earning a paralegal certificate online is a great way to begin a new career in the exciting field of law. By seeking out this option, you can gain all the credentials you’ll need to pursue most paralegal positions without having to give up your current job, or tend to responsibilities you may have at home. If you are eager to fast-track your career, a paralegal certificate online is an option that deserves your consideration.
Requirements to Become a Paralegal
Most employers will not hire a paralegal without any training or education.
Unlike most other legal professions, many states do not set formal requirements for beginning work as a paralegal. That means you could get hired and begin working for a law firm, non-profit, government agency, or large corporation without having to pick up any particular credentials. It is important to realize, however, that working as a paralegal is not simple or straightforward work. Plus, the work that paralegals do is an essential component of the legal system, and a lot depends on competent, careful planning and implementation. Most employers will not hire a paralegal without any training or education. Pursuing a paralegal certificate online is a way to learn the necessary skills and gain familiarity with the required work so that employers feel confident extending you a job offer.
Job Outlook for Paralegals
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the demand for paralegals is steady and growing. In 2016 there were estimated to be 285,000 paralegals working in the U.S. By 2026 an estimated 41,800 new paralegals are expected to join the ranks, representing a growth rate of 15 percent. After completing a paralegal certificate online, aspiring paralegals can expect to find opportunities available in a wide variety of legal settings. The duties and roles placed on paralegals depend largely on where they work, giving them a lot of freedom to pursue the responsibilities and work environment that is most appealing to them.
Paralegal Certificate Programs
Programs offering a paralegal certificate online have become popular in recent years because they eliminate many of the barriers and burdens that a traditional degree program creates. Students do not have to re-locate or even attend a physical class in order to pursue their education since online classrooms are accessible from anywhere. They also have more flexibility in their class schedules since much of the coursework can be completed at a student’s convenience rather than a required time.
Finally, the cost of earning a paralegal certificate online is less than any other option, making a certificate accessible to students without creating a significant financial burden. Here are some things to consider if you’re wondering if a paralegal certificate online is the right option for you:
- Availability – There are a wide variety of online paralegal certificate programs available, allowing students to pick the provider and program that best matches their needs. Some will follow a traditional academic schedule while others will be available to start whenever it is convenient for the student. And since these programs do not require any face-to-face interaction, students will not need to up-end their lives in order to gain the education they need for a new career.
- Duration – Most online paralegal certificate programs take less than a year to complete. Depending on the program, students may be able to complete it in significantly less time, or follow a more leisurely pace if they are trying to juggle the demands of work, family and study at the same time. It is important to compare your priorities with the details on any specific online paralegal certificate program when deciding where to enroll.
- Cost – The cost of earning a paralegal certificate online will vary depending on where you enroll, but in all cases this option will cost less than an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree program. Financial aid is available in many cases, and some employers may be willing to offer tuition assistance.
- Coursework – Since a paralegal certificate online is designed to condense all the necessary training into the shortest window of time possible, the coursework tends to focus on the most practical skills of the profession. Students will get an introduction to legal studies and then dive into the specific skills necessary to succeed as a paralegal. Courses will combine instruction, discussion and evaluation, and most are taught by experienced paralegal professionals. Even though the classes are conducted over a swift schedule, the unique nature of online classrooms gives students the freedom to access any additional information or extra instruction they feel they need. Some of your topics will include legal research, legal document preparation, interviewing client skills, and the basics of depositions, summaries and testimony.
- Graduation – After meeting all program requirements, students will earn a paralegal certificate and be fully qualified to pursue work in many legal settings. They can choose to supplement their certificate with a two or four-year degree, or prioritize professional development and on-the-job training. Earning a paralegal certificate online is the gateway to an interesting, lucrative, diverse and in-demand new career.
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