Students with an interest in the legal profession are likely considering an online paralegal program, and the time for a paralegal degree to be completed online is a top concern during this process. The good news is that many online paralegal programs actually allow students to combine self-paced classes with a traditional semester structure. This means paralegal programs can take anywhere from one to two years, based largely on how much time the student has available and how much motivation they’ve got to finish the program quickly. When considering the rapidly increasing number of online programs, keep in mind that timing will depend on a few factors.
Self-Paced vs. Traditionally Paced Paralegal Degrees
Most online degree programs require courses to run for a specific number of weeks, ranging from as few as 5 weeks to as many as 9 or 10 weeks. Many paralegal programs also operate within this traditional format, but a growing number are adopting a self-paced structure that allows the student to complete the program only as quickly or as slowly as their free time allows. In this type of program, students typically don’t register for classes in the traditional sense. Instead, they pick from a list of classes for which they qualify, and then work on all kinds of reading and writing assignments within that class. The required assignments are all available at one time, and a professor will review them as they’re submitted.
With no hard deadlines or waiting periods, paralegal students often find that they can complete a single course in as few as two or three weeks. Conversely, more difficult courses can be taken more slowly so that students can properly learn its core objectives. Most schools brag that this self-paced format allows students to complete the paralegal degree in as few as 12 months. The maximum time for completion of these programs is typically three or four years.
Hybrid Programs and Heavier Course Loads
Another great option for students is the hybrid degree program available at many ABA-accredited paralegal schools. These schools tend to reduce the amount of required in-class attendance, often cutting it down to one day per week. Many students will have to attend classes for as little as one hour per week, with self-paced study time at home for the rest of the week.
While this approach is not as convenient as fully online programs, it could allow students to take a heavier course load during each semester and cut the completion time for their degree down to 18 months from two years. This is a significant savings in terms of both time and money, and it’s a great way to gain the benefits of in-class learning, self-paced studying, and ABA accreditation, all at once.
Many Paralegal Programs Offer Flexibility in Pacing and Completion
Today’s paralegal programs have skyrocketed in both size and popularity, thanks to this profession’s growth and its appeal to those students with an interest in law. Perhaps even better than the content taught as part of such a program, many online degree options allow students to study at their own pace, completing coursework as quickly or as slowly as they wish. This dramatically cuts down how long it takes to earn the degree, often removing an entire year from the program. For this reason, students should be aware that the time for a paralegal degree to be completed largely depends on the school and their scheduling style.