Paralegals can receive training in many ways, but most of them take one of three routes. They 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 sklills necessary to hold an entry-level paralegal position. They can usually be found at junior colleges, career schools or specialized academies.
A bachelor’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.
Most paralegal programs cover such subjects as:
- Legal research
- The legal applications of computers
- Legal writing
- Legal terminology
- Litigation assistantship
- Law office administration
Many paralegal training programs also offer internships, where students gain experience working in a law firm, corporate legal department, government agency or other organization. Some programs also have specialized courses to prepare students for certification exams, and some schools offer job placement services.
Online Paralegal Schools
Like other online programs, online paralegal programs provide the same basic training as traditional programs, offered online to accommodate students’ individual schedules. Online paralegal programs can include video lectures, chat rooms, discussion boards, email collaboration and online exercises that can be completed on the student’s own time.
Paralegal Career Preparation
Most employers prefer candidates who have at least an associate’s degree, and many also prefer certified candidates. Many paralegal programs are taught by practicing or former attorneys and paralegals.
It is important to note that paralegals are expected to participate in continuing education. They must keep up with changes in the law, just like lawyers. Additionally, certain paralegal certifications require a number of hours of continuing education for re-certification.