The legal industry has been recently evolving, and paralegals have been more in demand. If you want to enter the legal industry, becoming a paralegal might be your best decision.
Paralegals work in a supportive capacity in close proximity to the attornies. Their duties usually include tasks such as documentation, taking client interviews, preparing arguments, etc.
If you’re interested in becoming a paralegal, you might have wondered: Is a Paralegal degree necessary?
Let us find out.
The steps involved in becoming a paralegal usually involve first completing your high school diploma or a GED.
Once you do that, your next step would be to complete a paralegal training program. This will help you fulfill the educational requirements in order to get licensed as a paralegal, in addition to building your base in everything legal.
There are three main ways to complete your paralegal training program.
Let us take a look at them in detail-
The most reliable and safest way to complete your paralegal training is to get an Associate’s Degree from a technical university. An associate’s degree is more convenient when compared to a bachelor’s degree in terms of affordability, and duration, among other related factors.
There are many technical universities that offer Associate’s Degrees in Paralegal or Legal studies, and the classes usually include skills and education related to writing, research, etc.
You can choose from Paralegal schools that have been accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Bachelor’s degree is another safe option to complete your Paralegal education. People who enroll for a bachelor’s degree after completing their associate’s degree often get great opportunities and better salary packages. The biggest disadvantage in following this route is that it takes a lot of time, around 6 years, to complete your education. (Read More: Paralegal Salary)
Some colleges and universities offer a four-year program in Paralegal studies. People willing to pursue a bachelor’s degree can opt for related study and then complete their additional certificate program.
There are cases where law firms hire professionals with bachelor’s degrees and then train them using paralegal responsibilities. Most of the Paralegals also complete their bachelor’s degree in relative studies such as English, history, sociology, business, etc.
Online Certificate Program (Most Recommended)
Both online certificate programs and online paralegal degree programs can provide you with quality education and the necessary skills to work as a paralegal. However, it’s important to carefully consider your goals and circumstances when deciding between the two.
If you’re looking for a more flexible option that can be completed in a shorter period of time and at a lower cost, an online certificate program may be a good choice.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more comprehensive education and are interested in pursuing higher-level positions in the legal field, an online paralegal degree program may be a better fit.
A degree program typically covers a broader range of topics and may offer more advanced coursework than a certificate program, which can provide you with a more in-depth understanding of the legal system.
A paralegal certificate program typically takes less time to complete than a paralegal degree program. Certificate programs can be completed in as little as a few months to a year, while a degree program may take two to four years. Certificate programs also tend to be less expensive than degree programs.
On the other hand, a paralegal degree program typically provides a more comprehensive education and can be beneficial if you plan to pursue a higher level of education or advancement in your career. A degree program may also be preferred by some employers.
If you are looking to enter the workforce quickly and are comfortable with a shorter program, a certificate program may be a good option. However, if you are looking for a more in-depth education and potential for advancement, a degree program may be more beneficial.
Next Steps After Completing Your Paralegal Training
After completing your paralegal training, there are some steps you can take to launch your career as a paralegal, such as:
- Obtain certification:
While certification is not always required to work as a paralegal, it can help demonstrate your competence and expertise to potential employers. Consider obtaining paralegal certification through a professional organization such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).
- Gain work experience:
Look for opportunities to gain practical work experience, such as externships or entry-level positions at law firms or other legal organizations. This can help you build your skills and knowledge, as well as establish professional connections in the field.
- Consider further education:
If you’re interested in advancing your career, consider pursuing additional education, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in legal studies or a related field. This can help you qualify for higher-level positions and increase your earning potential.
- Keep up with continuing education:
As a paralegal, it’s important to stay current with changes in the law and legal procedures. Consider taking continuing education courses or attending conferences to stay up-to-date with industry developments.
By taking these steps, you can position yourself for a successful career as a paralegal.
Read More: Paralegal Qualifications
What degree do you need to be a paralegal?
There is no single degree required to become a paralegal, but most employers prefer candidates with at least an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, legal assisting, or a related field.
Some employers may also consider candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a non-legal field, provided they have completed a paralegal certificate program or have relevant work experience.
Can you be a paralegal without a degree?
Yes, it is possible to work as a paralegal without a degree. In some cases, employers may hire paralegals who have relevant work experience or who have completed a paralegal certificate program, even if they do not have a formal degree in paralegal studies or a related field.
However, it’s important to note that paralegals who do not have a degree may face more competition for jobs and may have limited opportunities for advancement within the field. Additionally, some employers may require a degree for certain paralegal positions or for advancement within the organization.
How to become a paralegal without a degree?
If you want to know how to become a paralegal without a degree, you can consider the following options:
- Complete a paralegal certificate program: Many community colleges, universities, and vocational schools offer certificate programs in paralegal studies. These programs can be completed in a shorter amount of time than a degree program and provide training in legal research, drafting legal documents, and other key skills needed to work as a paralegal.
- Gain relevant work experience: Consider starting in an entry-level position at a law firm or other legal organization, such as a legal assistant or administrative assistant. This can help you gain experience working in a legal environment and demonstrate your skills to potential employers.
- Obtain professional certification: Consider obtaining professional certification through organizations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). Certification can demonstrate your competence and expertise to potential employers.
It’s important to note that while a degree is not always required to work as a paralegal, having a degree can make you a more competitive job candidate and may provide more opportunities for advancement within the field.
Additionally, the specific educational and experience requirements for paralegal positions may vary by state and organization, so be sure to research the requirements for the jobs you are interested in pursuing.
What can you do with a paralegal degree?
A paralegal degree can prepare you for a variety of roles within the legal field. Here are some of the most common careers for individuals with a paralegal degree:
- Paralegal: The most common career for individuals with a paralegal degree is working as a paralegal. Paralegals assist attorneys with tasks such as legal research, drafting documents, and preparing for trials.
- Legal Assistant: Legal assistants work closely with attorneys and paralegals to assist with administrative tasks such as maintaining files and calendars, scheduling appointments, and preparing documents. (Read More: Paralegal vs Legal Assistant)
- Legal Secretary: Legal secretaries are responsible for managing administrative tasks within a law firm or legal department, such as answering phones, managing correspondence, and scheduling appointments.
- Contract Administrator: Contract administrators work with legal teams to draft, review, and manage contracts for businesses and organizations.
- Court Clerk: Court clerks are responsible for maintaining court records, scheduling hearings, and assisting judges and attorneys with administrative tasks.
- Mediator: Mediators help resolve legal disputes by working with parties to reach a mutually acceptable resolution outside of court. These are just a few examples of the many careers available to individuals with a paralegal degree.
Read More: What is a Paralegal?
Paralegal Vs Lawyer
How long does it take to get a paralegal degree?
The length of time it takes to earn a paralegal degree varies depending on the type of degree.
- Associate’s Degree: An associate’s degree in paralegal studies typically takes two years to complete if attending full-time.
- Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies typically takes four years to complete if attending full-time.
- Certificate Program: A paralegal certificate program can typically be completed in as little as six months if attending online paralegal programs.
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