Many students and recent graduates wonder what kind of employment with a paralegal certificate they can get. The truth is that employment opportunities for paralegals are great across the board. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the paralegal profession to grow 17 percent by 2022. This is compared to only 10 percent for lawyers. Some may look down upon a certification program as less than full degree in paralegal studies, but most employers are just as willing to hire a certified paralegal as they are to hire one with a full degree.
Being hired as a legal secretary requires no formal training at all. There is no legal requirement to have training or a license of any kind as there is with a full lawyer. Some paralegals are hired with no background training at all. This situation has become remarkably less likely as the job market becomes more competitive. This problem is compounded by the fact that many fully credentialed lawyers are struggling for work and may be competing for paralegal jobs. The current situation basically requires anyone wanting to get work as a paralegal to have some kind of formal training, according to U.S. News.
There are many certification programs throughout the United States. They are offered by community colleges, universities, law schools and independent training institutions. There are both online and regular class options.
There are only three rules to remember when looking at a certification program:
- Ensure that the provider is accredited with the ABA. This qualification ensures the both the quality of the education provided and is looked upon with respect in the legal community.
- Ensure that the program has a decent placement rate for recent graduates. Most programs happily publish their placement results. If it does not, then it is probably not a confident program.
- Ensure that the program meets your needs. Many certificate programs are online or evening options. Ensure that whatever program you choose meets your needs as far as class availability and program completion date.
Do You Need a Degree?
A certification is not a degree primarily because it does not fulfill the credit requirements. Most paralegal programs are between 20 and 25 credit hours of material. This allows them to be completed quickly, usually within six months, but they do not give a full liberal arts education. Many paralegal certificate programs recommend that candidates already have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in some subject. This is not, however, a requirement of most programs. Always keep in mind that the more education you have on your resume the more marketable you will be in this competitive job market.
Jobs Available to Paralegals
Paralegals can work anywhere that full lawyers can work. Many are employed as assistants in small or large private law firms. Even very small firms usually hire at least one, and often more than one, paralegal for each full attorney at the firm.
A paralegal can also find employment at government or corporate legal offices. Many offices are looking for paralegals that have experience or are otherwise specialized in a certain field of law.
Those with a certification have a distinct advantage over other candidates. These focused programs are also great preparation for law school or other professions related to the law. Employment with a paralegal certificate has never been more accessible or more in demand than it is today.