The Top 10 Paralegal Certificate Programs of 2021

Paralegals can specialize in different areas of law. They work with lawyers and assist them in many different ways. They arrange files, draft documents, and perform tasks that require legislation and industry knowledge. It is a fulfilling career with many paths to follow.

If you want to pursue a career as a paralegal, you can enroll in one of the best online paralegal certificate programs. The programs are short and most people can complete them in as little as one year.

The Benefits of a Paralegal Career

There are numerous reasons to consider a career as a paralegal. However, most people do it because they are passionate about law and justice. A paralegal background gives you an advantage over others who have no experience in the field.

Paralegals do not only stick to working for law firms. They can work in hospitals, corporations, banks, armed forces, insurance government agencies, and more. They can also teach at paralegal organizations. Paralegals need both soft skills and industry knowledge to succeed.

Also, these experts can opt to specialize in an area of law to become certified. They stand a chance to earn higher salaries and some work on a freelance basis.

What Is a Paralegal Certificate and How Does It Compare With a Degree?

A paralegal certificate focuses on teaching practical and specific skills related to the legal profession. Degrees, on the other hand, provide more general education on crucial subjects. There are paralegal certificates for students who already have a bachelor’s degree or associate degree. These degrees do not need to be related to law or paralegal studies.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Paralegal Certificate?

The length of time it takes to get your certificate depends on the educational path you have chosen. There are job skill training programs and certificate programs that can be completed in 18 months. Sometimes, it can take more or less time.

Students with a degree can do this program and complete it within a shorter time. Some programs last for six to 14 weeks, while others finish in six to 12 months.

Top 10 Online Paralegal Certificate Programs

There are many options to consider before choosing an online paralegal certificate program. Most are affordable but different in terms of what they offer. All programs are accredited regionally. Read below to learn more about the top online paralegal certificate programs.

Cerro Coso Community College

Cost: $2,862

Duration: Three semesters

Students in this online paralegal certificate program gain skills relating to pretrial preparation, investigative functions, and data analysis. The program trains attendees in different aspects of the job like legal research, the court system, communication, client interview, memoranda, legal document preparation, and correspondence.

Graduates are prepared for employment in local court jurisdictions, law firms, government offices, the public sector, and freelance positions.

Clovis Community College

Cost: $1,304

Duration: Two semesters

This community college has an online paralegal program with two options. One is an online paralegal certificate. Many students complete this 30-credit certificate within two semesters.

Some of the main topics covered in this program include legal writing, torts, research, and communication skills. Other topics include litigation, practice and procedure, criminal law, real estate law, wills and estates, and family law.

Graduates can apply their skills as part of private law firms or corporations of different sizes. They can also find work in legal aid services and government agencies.

Eastern Kentucky University

Cost: $409 per credit hour

Duration: 18 months

This online paralegal certificate is a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Paralegal Science. This means it is for students that have a bachelor’s degree in other disciplines. The curriculum combines professional and academic preparation through course topics like litigation, legal writing, legal research, computer applications, and probate practice.

Eastern Kentucky University’s active job placement assistance makes it stand out among others. Around 90 percent of graduates from this program find a job or attend law school within at least six months of completion. You can learn how to ace an interview and get a job in the field.

Holmes Community College

Cost: $1,300

Duration: One to two years

This program helps students build essential skills to become legal assistants and paralegals. They are prepared for entry-level roles in law firms and federal government agencies. The classes involve videos and podcasts. These learning tools help enhance the student’s chance of succeeding.

The college allows students to earn an advanced technical certificate, a technical certificate, or an associate degree. It has both online and traditional classes. You can also opt for hybrid classes where students attend both online and on-campus.

Liberty University

Cost: $282 per credit

Duration: One year

This online paralegal certificate offers foundational skills in legal writing, law proceedings, real estate, and different legal studies with Christian teachings. It also covers other soft skills like communication to help you find suitable roles in the workforce.

Graduates work in different industries like business, non-profit, government, and ministries. The online classes cover topics and trends in society as well as their impact on the laws in the country on different industries.

Students can customize the classes based on the specific topics they want to focus on. It gives them an opportunity to choose their career direction.

Ocean County College

Cost: $175 per credit hour

Duration: One year

This college offers an online Certificate of Proficiency in Paralegal Studies. Students gather basic skills during the program to help them pursue entry-level law office positions.

To graduate, students must take a total of 33 credits in courses like Law Office Management, Business Law, and Introduction to Litigation. It is ideal for students who want to enter the legal field. Law employees can also enroll in this certificate program.

When students complete the program, they can apply the credits towards earning associate degrees in the same field. The school accepts working professionals, high school graduates, and high school students into the program.

Prince George’s Community College

Cost: $107 per credit hour

Duration: One year

This accredited online paralegal certificate program covers all the essential training needed to qualify as a legal assistant. Students learn alternative dispute resolution, research, interviewing witnesses, interrogations, drafting motions, and pleadings.

The program is a 30-credit certificate, and it is fully online. The main courses of the program include legal ethics, legal writing, and contracts. There are elective classes as well. The program can be completed in a year.

The college allows students to apply their credits towards associate degrees in the field. It’s ideal for people who want to get a promotion or upskill. Others who wish to further their education can also enroll.

Tompkins Cortland Community College

Cost: $5,355

Duration: One year

This certificate program prepares students for rewarding careers in corporations, legal services, and court systems. The 32-credit program can be finished in a year. It includes an internship program where students work for public or private organizations. The courses are otherwise delivered asynchronously so you can study at your own pace.

The program accepts college credits, so you can transfer credits to earn an associate degree. However, it must be completed in three semesters if you choose this option.

Umpqua Community College

Cost: $133.50 per credit

Duration: One year

The program is fully online and designed to offer practical skills and basic competencies needed to become a legal assistant. On completion, you can also opt to work towards an associate degree in the field.

This Legal Assistant Certificate can be completed in one year, and students are required to earn at least a C average. Also, they must demonstrate an ability to type accurately and quickly. The program offers writing courses depending on the placement test scores of the student. The training is considered hands-on.

Yavapai College

Cost: $95 per credit hour

Duration: One year

This program is for students who want to take up positions as paralegals or legal assistants. The certificate requires 30 credits to complete, and it includes 24 core credits. It also has six credits for two elective courses that are part of the program.

The electives include real estate law and family law courses. It also includes in-person internships. The program can be completed in two semesters. Graduates can work for public and private organizations.

Should You Pursue a Paralegal Certificate Online?

Should You Pursue a Paralegal Certificate Online?

Yes, you should pursue a paralegal certificate online. Online paralegal certificates come in handy for aspiring paralegals who want to continue working while earning their degrees. It offers flexibility to such career changers to learn at their own pace.

Earning your certificate online also reduces costs that would have been used for transportation, rent, and other miscellaneous expenses. If you have a passion for legal assistance, you should pursue a paralegal certificate online.

Choosing an Online Paralegal Program

Lots of factors can determine your choice of a paralegal program. For instance, if you plan to specialize, you need to enroll in a school that offers that topic. Also, if you want a shorter program that provides only a foundation in legal research, you need to find a school for that purpose.

Accreditation

Before choosing a school, find out if it is accredited by the American Bar Association. If it has any other accreditation, you should also find out. Speak to potential employers about how they view accreditation to know which program to choose.

Study Length

These certificate programs can last for three months to a year. The shorter programs are ideal for people who already have previous degrees from other disciplines. Having some legal experience, like working as a legal secretary, can also reduce the duration of the program.

Flexibility

Online paralegal schools have several options to suit the needs of students. You may be a full-time worker who wants to continue working while schooling. You need a program that offers evening classes or has part-time offerings. If you want to accelerate your studies, you can also choose a full-time option.

Paralegal Certifications

Paralegals are not certified by the American Bar Association. However, they can get some certifications to show that they specialize in different aspects of the law. Read below to learn more about the best professional certifications for paralegals.

The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)

This association offers the Advanced Certified Paralegal certification for any paralegal who wants to get a great job in the field. It will remain valid for five years, but paralegals can easily get recertified. NALA also offers educational courses to help you prepare for the exam.

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)

This association offers two exams for paralegals to gain certifications: Paralegal CORE Competency and Paralegal Advanced Competency. If you become a member of the NFPA, you can take advantage of lower fees. These exams are both ideal for people who want to practice as paralegals.

Paralegal Salary Information

Paralegal Salary Information

Paralegals all play similar roles in the legal system. However, their duties vary in their different work environments. There are many law fields, which means different kinds of paralegals assist in these specialties.

Litigation Paralegal

This expert prepares for trial and interviews witnesses. They also oversee the discovery of witnesses. Like their principals, they spend a lot of time in the courtroom. They also organize and handle documents throughout the legal process.

Entry-Level Salary: $41,336

Mid-Career Salary: $55,157

Corporate Paralegal

These professionals work for organizations rather than small businesses or single clients. Their specialty is researching regulations, reviewing contracts, and searching for business impropriety.

Entry-Level Salary: $51,244

Mid-Career Salary: $67,564

Government Paralegal

These experts perform similar duties to paralegals. The only difference is their employer. They work in local, state, or federal government departments. The role depends on the government branch in most cases.

Entry-Level Salary: $61,435

Mid-Career Salary: $82,196

Paralegal Professional Associations

This non-profit organization focuses on professional development and continuing education of paralegals and legal assistants. It has thousands of members and offers training to support them. This association also offers certifications for legal assistants and paralegals.

The American Bar Association

This organization is not restricted to lawyers. Paralegals can join the ABA as well. This association has over 400,000 members and is one of the most prominent voluntary professional associations today.

Members of ABA who are paralegals can join specialty groups. They can also get updated information on the legal industry and receive career advice.

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)

This association also includes workers in legal offices and big corporations. Its focus is on the education of both new paralegals and experts in the field.

The association allows non-paralegals to join even before they get a certificate to practice. Other students, working paralegals, and others in the paralegal education system can join as well.

Is an Online Paralegal Certificate Program Right for You?

Yes, an online paralegal certificate program is right for you. While working, an online paralegal certificate can give you an opportunity to switch careers. It offers flexibility to learn at your own pace. It is also a lot cheaper than full-time programs.

You can gain the education you need to work as a legal assistant in corporate legal offices, law firms, and even government agencies. If you have a flair for legal assistance, an online paralegal certificate can be the right starting point for you.

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