When figuring out how to become a paralegal, the usual course of action is to obtain an...
associate's degree in paralegal studies,
a bachelor's in another field, or
certification in paralegal studies.
Sometimes, employers train paralegals while on the job, or through internships.
People become paralegals typically by attending a community college or online program in paralegal training. Usually, this is via an associate's degree.
If you have a college degree, often, certification is the next step towards a paralegal career. There are a number of colleges that provide paralegal or legal studies degrees up to a Master's.
Certificate programs may vary depending on your location. Some may take only a few months to complete, while others are longer and more in depth.
Most of these certificate programs train potential paralegals extensively. And, generally, those who already hold degrees benefit most from this type of program.
There are over 1,000 universities and colleges nationwide providing formal paralegal training. Of these, there are roughly 260 programs approved by the American Bar Association, and though this is not a requirement for all employers, it does expand employment options.
When understanding how to become a paralegal, consider the admissions process for your school of interest. Depending on the college, admission requirements are different. Some schools may require prospective students already have a bachelors, some may not.
There are a number of schools requiring certain standardized tests or personal interviews. You may even need to do an essay as to why you've chosen this field. This helps determine writing skills and commitment to the program. It's good to do lots of research about the schools you're considering.
A good piece of advice if you are looking into becoming a paralegal is to look at the experiences of those who have recently graduated from the programs you're researching.
Many paralegal training programs offer job placement services. Determine what recent graduates have undergone? Get their opinions and possible guidance.
Several programs also provide courses in the legal applications of computers, as well as legal research. This is an important facet of a paralegal career, as technology continues to change the landscape of this field.
Prospective students may also wish to consider those programs offering internships, both for the real world application of knowledge they apply as well as networking opportunities.
A number of employers will train paralegals through an on-the-job-training program. They tend to hire college graduates that don't have a wealth of legal experience, but do favor those experienced legal secretaries.
Technologically savvy prospective students may be seen as more favorable since many firms rely on various software programs for their specialties.
In personal injury firms, those with a background in nursing or health administration are seen as useful. Medical records and medical terminology will be easier to understand if you have a medical background.
Most employers don't require certification but obtaining it does improve employment prospects immensely. This is a very competitive labor market and certification, as well as other related degrees are useful. Most of the national or local paralegal organizations do offer voluntary certifications and this can be done via coursework or passing an exam.
Finally, when you're thinking about how to become a paralegal consider that the more education you have, the better. Prospective students may choose to enroll in online degree programs even once they have obtained certification in order to expand their options for advancement.