Online Paralegal Degree
The Paralegal Studies program prepares students to support attorneys in transactional and litigation fields through legal research, document drafting, case management, evidence gathering and the litigation procedure. Paralegals are often involved in trial assistance and other dispute resolution processes, as well as with preparation of real estate documents, wills, trusts, contracts, corporate matters and law office investigations. Who knows, you might even find yourself assisting with the investigation of and preparation for some very high profile legal cases!
In essence, becoming a paralegal or legal assistant can be a good way to become involved in the legal system, work and learn alongside lawyers, and be involved in a legal team, participating in a variety of interesting and captivating duties and work roles. It can certainly be a great way to get your foot into the legal field door. You might even think of it as a way to partake in many of the benefits of the legal profession, while avoiding the strenuous education and work that often goes along with becoming and working as an actual lawyer. In some cases, in order to work as a paralegal or get a paralegal degree or certificate, the timeframe is no longer than two years, and it may even be a bit less depending on the type of education for which you are searching and your previous employment history. And with online options for completing a degree or certificate program in the field now quite prevalent, you could find that obtaining an education that opens doors within the paralegal field is much less uncomplicated or problematic than it once was.
Online or Campus Based? Which Paralegal Education is Right for You?
As online educations and educational programs become more commonly accepted among employers and society as a whole, it might be worth weighing the positives of such an education versus those of a campus based program. While a brick and mortar classroom environment is certainly a viable option, it might not be the most convenient method of achieving a background within the paralegal field. The great thing about a paralegal educational program is that much of the coursework can be undertaken by way of the internet without affecting the quality or quantity of the information being presented. Undertaking such a program online could then allow you to better balance other possible obligations such as a current job or career, family responsibilities, and location restraints. If nothing else, an online education could be better molded to your educational needs and timeframe, as well as be balanced with a living location, as you could choose from programs that better meet your educational or financial requirements but that could be located hundreds or even thousands of miles from your current living location.
Paralegal Educational Options
While undertaking a bachelor’s or master’s degree in paralegal studies may be an option, it might not be a necessity to begin working within the field. As with many jobs, much of the actual job-related education will occur once you’re out in the working world, plying your trade. However, it’s getting your foot in the door and actually landing that first job that can be the most difficult part of the entry-level job process, so understanding the education that will benefit you most in doing that can be important.
In the paralegal realm, there are a number of ways to go about beginning your education. For those with a history in the industry or previous educational background, say a 4-year degree in criminal justice for example, a few refresher courses taken either online or in the classroom might suffice to get you back in the game. For those without a degree or with a limited educational background, a two-year associate’s degree or certification program might be necessary to fully prepare for the paralegal environment. These types of programs can often be fulfilled at community colleges or through an online program.
Selecting a Paralegal Studies Program
With over 500 accredited schools, degrees and certificate programs available on our site, you’ll be able to search programs based upon the options in which you are most interested. You can determine whether these programs offer the specialties you’re looking for in your educational advancement, better determine costs and available financial aid, or you can even contact the school directly to get your personal, program or degree-specific questions answered. You may decide to customize your paralegal program to fit particular needs within the industry or personal interests. It could be that you’d like to focus on immigration or contract law, or maybe you’d prefer to specialize in property law or elder care. With many certificate or degree programs, you can get a general educational foundation of the paralegal field upon which to base future job and career decisions, and then supplement this education with a program focus or certain elective coursework.
For more information pertaining to paralegal studies, feel free to take a few moments to review our Paralegal Resource Guide.
Putting Your Education to Use – Job and Career Paths
There’s not necessarily just one set path to becoming a paralegal or advancing your position within the field. You may or may not have a four-year degree. You may or may not have any experience in the field of law or criminal justice before you begin. It might be that you enter the field before you have finished or even started a degree. While doing so might limit the number of duties you’re able to perform or the extent to which you are involved in certain roles, it can provide a background in the field, and you can use this experience to determine whether this type of work is indeed worthy of a continued education in the field down the road.
It might even be that you decide not to put your education in the field toward being a paralegal per se, but rather toward moving into a related role or career. You may decide to utilize your experience within the field to become a claims adjustor, appraiser, an occupational health and safety specialist, investigator, or enter into similar work. If however, you find yourself more interested in paralegal work, there are any number of duties that you could find yourself undertaking, some of which can be determined by your level of experience and educational background. From simply helping out the lawyers and legal team with various clerical and filing duties, to researching and investigating various facets of a case, helping lawyers prepare for trials, interviewing witnesses, reviewing legal documents, and getting affidavits, a variety of similar and related duties could be part of a job within the paralegal field. The scope and variety of the duties involved in a paralegal role can be affected by the size of the organization for which you work, the needs of the legal team, the focus or type of cases and work undertaken by the firm, as well as the level and extent of your educational background and experience.
Job Outlook for Paralegal Graduates
With lower entry-level education standards, and limited previous experience in related occupations or on-the-job training requirements necessary for moving into a paralegal role as compared to certain other roles within the legal field, the pay is actually pretty decent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for paralegals and legal assistants in 2010 was $46,680 and the job growth outlook for 2010-20 was competitive with other occupations at an 18 percent rate, which is actually about 4 percent higher than the growth rate for all occupations. And since paralegals may be conducting many – though not all – of the duties and responsibilities of higher priced lawyers at a fraction of the cost, they are often an attractive hiring option among many legal entities and organizations.