Paralegal degrees come in different forms, and there are a few paths you can take to getting your degree. Most paths involve going to either a career college or a specialized academy — and as with any occupation, the more paralegal education you receive, the stronger your chances of being hired or advancing.
The most popular paralegal degrees are:
A certificate in paralegal studies: This is a shorter (a year or less) program that usually accompanies a degree in some other field, such as a bachelor’s in accounting or an associate’s in English.
An associate’s degree in paralegal studies: These programs can range from several months to two years, and cover the basic skills necessary to hold an entry-level paralegal position. They can usually be found at junior colleges, career schools or specialized academies.
A bachelor’s or master’s degree in paralegal studies: This fuller education will not only prepare you for entry-level employment, but will also provide a solid background you can expand upon if you wish to advance further into the field, or expand your education to pursue a law degree.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has approved approximately 260 paralegal programs nationwide, which are the most credible programs to employers. Many paralegal programs are taught by practicing or former attorneys and paralegals. (Click to see a list of recommended paralegal programs.)
Online Paralegal Degrees
Some paralegal schools offer online degrees for students who work or have family or military commitments. Online paralegal programs provide the same basic training as traditional programs, but are simply offered online to accommodate students’ individual schedules. This, of course, means they require an extra degree of self-discipline and motivation, since they are usually completed at home where distractions can be present.
Online paralegal programs utilize technologies such as video lectures, chat rooms, discussion boards, email collaboration and online exercises that can be completed on the student’s own time, so they are also a popular option for more tech-savvy students. (Click to see a list of recommended online-only programs.)
Explore the links below for more in-depth information on paralegal degree programs, or see what programs are available near you.