Paralegal Online Degrees - Which One?


Paralegal online degrees are confusing. There are lots of programs out there. Unfortunately it may not be clear which one works for you.

To select the right paralegal program depends on....

  • your current education level,
  • work experience,
  • area of interests, or
  • part-time training or paralegal training online.

Available programs include...

  • Paralegal Certificate Programs
  • Online Paralegal Programs
  • Associate's Degree Programs in Paralegal Studies
  • Bachelor's Programs in Paralegal Studies
  • Advanced Paralegal Degree Programs

Paralegal Certificate Programs ("PCP")

This program is the most common training. You'll find PCPs offered by vocational schools, junior colleges and private colleges.

The program I attended, for example, was offered through the college's extended education program. At the time of my attendance, online coursework was not available, but that may have changed.

Program lengths vary. Some are short, only three months and others are up to 24 months. Your research should determine if your program of interest requires that you have some college education. Some programs expect that you have either an associate's or bachelor's degree.

Many paralegal programs only require a high school diploma. If you've worked as a legal secretary, for example, you may be eligible to enroll.

Short programs typically offer paralegal courses in law, legal research and other fundamentals. Longer programs tend to integrate general education and paralegal courses much like an associate's degree programs.

Find out whether employers in your market consider paralegal certificate training programs. Ask if this type of training is adequate preparation for work in the field?

Paralegal Online Degrees

Online paralegal education offers great flexibility. It's intended for those who can't physically attend classes due to work, family or other obligations.

Some online programs don't offer the same quality of education found through traditional means, but there are programs that are well respected by employers.

Online coursework is challenging. And, employers may view you as driven, organized and self-disciplined. These are attractive personal qualities to potential employers.

A diploma or certificate is awarded upon completion of the curriculum. Work at your pace, but follow the time frame for completion. Paralegal online degrees require your commitment and focus. It's critical to reaching your goal.

Keep the following tips in mind when comparing paralegal programs:

  • ask how available the faculty will be to answer questions
  • ask for the course curriculum and compare it to traditional programs in your location.
  • paralegal online degrees should be accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (an organization that accredits online programs). Ask your school's guidance counselor about this.

Associate's Degree Programs in Paralegal Studies

Complete an Associate's degrees in paralegal studies in two years of full-time study. Vocational schools, junior colleges and 4-year colleges offer these programs.

Coursework is split between classes with legal content and general education courses. This program is designed to offer paralegal training with a foundation in liberal arts and sciences.

The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), in 2008, stated that 36% of paralegals have an associate's degree. This is sufficient paralegal training for recent high school graduates. It's also acceptable for those without secondary degrees to enter the field.

This might be good for you since credits may transfer to a 4–year college for a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's Programs in Paralegal Studies

Bachelor's degree programs in paralegal studies are not as available. Colleges and universities may offer a minor in paralegal studies, or as concentration within another major, such as criminal justice.

According to a NALA survey, 42% of paralegals have a bachelor's degree, making this the most common degree among paralegals.

Bachelor's degrees in paralegal studies provide in-depth paralegal training for those who want to find positions in law firms and increase promotion possibilities.

Advanced Paralegal Degree Programs

If you've got time and money get a master's degree in paralegal studies. You'll definitely set yourself apart from paralegals seeking employment or advancement.

Master's degree programs are offered by 4-year colleges and graduate schools. You'll receive a master of arts, or science degrees in law, legal studies or legal administration. Expect to spend a minimum of two years to complete these studies.

If your law firm offers continuing education benefits, take advantage of it. If you work as a paralegal and want a master's degree in the field, talk with your employer as they may help with the costs.

Check out First Online Degree for information on how to get your online accredited degree faster, at a lower cost, and on your own schedule.

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