What is a Paralegal Degree?

If you are looking for a career in a fast-paced, high-energy field, and would like flexibility in how to obtain your education, consider a paralegal degree. You can opt for a traditional Bachelor degree, a two-year Associate degree, or a Certificate program that you can complete in less than two years. It is also possible to get all your requirements through on-line courses.

Paralegals perform legal work supervised by an attorney. Anywhere lawyers work, they need support from knowledgeable assistants to accomplish all tasks associated with providing sound legal services. Specialized training for those assistants frees the attorney from the time needed to do all the training on the job.  Most paralegal degree programs include courses in legal writing and research, contracts, litigation, torts, family law, ethics, the court system, and business organizations, along with internships or other experiential learning components.

A Four-Year Degree

A Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies may become the standard for being hired as a paralegal in most future markets, according to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). A four-year program in paralegal studies would include 30 to 60 credits in paralegal and related legal courses, as well as another 60 to 100 required and elective credits in a variety of subjects. A few universities have started offering Master’s Degrees in Paralegal Studies, and other law-related areas, such as Legal Studies or Legal Administration.

The Associate Degree

Associate Degrees are offered at community or junior colleges, some business schools, and a few four-year institutions. Paralegal programs generally require completion of 60 to 70 credits, with around half of those in the paralegal concentration.

The Certificate Option

Some schools offer certificates in paralegal studies, particularly for students who already have degrees. All the courses would relate to the paralegal field, and could enhance hiring potential for someone with general office skills and experience, or with an Associate or Bachelor Degree in accounting or business.

On-line Courses

For well motivated students living at a distance from a school offering a paralegal degree, all, or most of the courses can be found through distance education programs. Although self-paced, these programs generally follow the semester time-line of the parent institution. Much self-discipline is needed keep up with the large volume of reading, writing, and research required.

Choosing the School

Along with deciding how you want to pursue your education, you need to find the right school. The American Bar Association has a directory of approved programs. You can also check with the American Association for Paralegal Education for more information on quality standards for paralegal training programs.

With Degree in Hand

After graduating with a paralegal degree or certificate, and getting that first job, it’s time to start planning for the next step. Obtaining professional credentials enhances your earning potential, and is a requirement for some types of paralegal work in many states. Requirements vary for who is eligible to take the credentialing exams. Depending on the type of education, a certain amount of experience is necessary – more years for the certificate program, fewer for a Bachelor’s Degree.  If a Paralegal Degree sounds like a good fit for your educational plans and career objectives, visit the websites linked above for more specific information and answers to any other questions you may have.

For more information, check out “TOP 10 ONLINE PARALEGAL DEGREE PROGRAMS OF 2013“.