How to Become a Paralegal

Complete Guide to Paralegal Schools and Degrees

Guide to Paralegal Schools & Programs

Welcome to HowtoBecomeaParalegal.com. Our site includes information on paralegal education and training as well as key facts about salaries, job prospects, and more. Education and training requirements vary by region and employer, but usually involve at least two years of post-secondary study. The first step in becoming a paralegal is to find an accredited paralegal studies program. Before researching schools, however, it’s important to know what educational requirements are needed to qualify for employment. Click on the links below to jump to a detailed overview to learn more about becoming a paralegal:

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Kaplan University — Kaplan University offers online degrees, AAS in Paralegal Studies and BS in Paralegal Studies. The courses in this program are comprehensive and the faculty members are practicing professionals in their fields. Additionally, the legal studies program helps students to prepare for law school and provides students with knowledge to use in business or government positions.
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Liberty University — Liberty University offers online programs for an AA and BS in Paralegal Studies. This program offers a unique mix of legal theory and practical skills. Courses include: Real Estate Law, Legal Research Methods, Litigation, Corporate and Property Law, International Law, Environment Law, Women and the Law, and The Paralegal Practicum.
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Rasmussen College — Rasmussen College offers online programs for an AS in Paralegal Studies and Paralegal Studies Certificate. These programs prepare students for a career utilizing knowledge of legal office procedures, delivery of legal services, and legal research and writing. Courses include: The American Legal System, Legal Research and Writing, Administrative Law, and Civil Litigation.
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South University — South University offers an online AS in Paralegal Studies. This Associate of Science degree prepares students to support attorneys in transactional and litigation fields through legal research, document drafting, case management, evidence gathering and the litigation procedure. Courses include: Legal Research and Writing, Criminal Law, Contracts and Civil Litigation.
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How to Get Started as a Paralegal

A paralegal is an individual that is not qualified as a lawyer, attorney or other similar legal official but performs substantial legal work in the office of an attorney, law office, governmental agency, corporation or other similar place of work. This can include duties such as handling legal documents, compiling reports, applying the law to various events, liaising with legal officials and so on. Paralegals as well as legal assistants help lawyers prepare for court and meetings. The specific duties vary depending on the size of the firm and the area of law in which the paralegal works. There are several different types of law firms where a paralegal could work, including labor law, immigration, personal injury, and criminal law. It is important to note, however, that paralegals are not allowed to actively practice law.

Most paralegals have an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. A certificate program is a series of courses providing in-depth study, so you can get the most up-to-date skills to excel on the job. In some cases, employers may hire college graduates with a bachelor’s degree with no legal experience or specialized education and train them on the job. If you choose to enroll in an associate’s degree program, you might have the opportunity to intern for several months in a private law firm, the office of a public defender or attorney general, a corporate legal department, or a government agency. Internship experience can set you apart from other applicants as well as offer you the important benefit of career exploration. If you unsure if working as a paralegal is right for you, an internship will offer insight into the inner workings of this job field.

Overview of Paralegal Programs and Degree Options

A paralegal education is a valuable asset in today’s competitive job market. It is expected that all individuals looking to pursue a career in this field have a high school diploma or a GED at the very least but many are now looking to obtain a paralegal education and certification to enhance their job prospects. Experience in the legal or business field is also preferred.

Whether you’re a high school student, a member of the military, or a working professional considering a career change, below you’ll find a wide selection of schools and paralegal programs tailored to help you attain your goals:

Earning voluntary certification may help applicants get a paralegal job. Many paralegal organizations offer voluntary paralegal certifications to students able to pass an exam. Not all employers require certification, but a credential can boost your career prospects. Designations include Certified Legal Assistant and Certified Paralegal. To get certified, paralegals usually need a year or more of experience and must pass a test. You can find out more by visiting The National Association of Legal Assistants-Paralegals.

Types of Careers and Job Prospects for Paralegals

A paralegal education provides the training and courses necessary to pursue a number of different jobs in the legal assisting field. Below are just a few of the many options available to students:

  • Legal Secretary: The most common paralegal profession, a legal secretary prepares drafts, prepares motions, liaises with other legal processionals and is generally office based.
  • Law Clerk: A law clerk is a paralegal that may assist in investigations, interview clients and prepare legal documentation for court or various cases that lawyers and attorneys have at any given time.
  • Insurance Claim Handler: This job role requires the individual to be able to gather information and investigate claims made on various forms of insurance, applying the law as and when necessary to ensure that the right decision is rendered on individual claims.
  • Prosecution Caseworker: Prosecution caseworkers are essentially paralegals that research individual cases to ensure that all evidence is gathered and accounted for. They also liaise with clients and other legal professionals.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 17 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS also reports an annual wage of $51,840 in May 2014. States with the highest employment level in this occupation include California, Florida New York, Texas, and Illinois. The top paying states include District of Columbia, Alaska, California, New Jersey, and Washington. The map below offers an excellent overview of our country’s annual wage of paralegals and legal assistants in May 2014:

It’s a great time to earn a paralegal education. With employment in this field on the rise, enrolling in a program will certainly help your job prospects and give you the edge you need in today’s job market. Paralegals are needed to keep a law firm running smoothly and attorneys look for applicants with the right training to work under the supervision and direction of a lawyer. Some paralegals go on to pursue a law degree, depending on their career goals. A paralegal background will certainly help when it comes to your future career prospects as an attorney, if you choose to continue your studies.

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