Online Paralegal Degree and Certificate Programs 2021

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Paralegals perform a variety of functions depending on their organization’s size and legal arena. Generally, their duties include preparing affidavits and other legal documents, researching legal precedents, conducting client interviews, and maintaining official correspondence with various stakeholders.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals and legal assistants earn a median annual salary of $52,920. This figure exceeds the median annual salary of $41,950 for all occupations. The BLS projects jobs for paralegals to grow 10% between 2019 and 2029.

Read on to learn about paralegal degree and certificate schools, including common courses and scholarship opportunities.

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  • How many years does it take to become a paralegal?

    An associate degree in paralegal studies typically takes 18-24 months to complete. Most bachelor’s degrees take four years. Learners can usually complete a paralegal certificate in one year.

  • What qualifications do you need to become a paralegal?

    Paralegal degree and certificate schools maintain different admission requirements. Detail-oriented professionals with strong writing skills and well-developed research abilities can succeed in this career.

  • Are paralegals in high demand?

    Yes. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 10% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average projected growth rate of 4% for jobs in other sectors.

  • How do you get a paralegal certificate?

    Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in a non-paralegal field can enroll in a certificate program, which can take one year to complete.

Why Get a Paralegal Degree And Certificate?

Paralegal degree and certificate schools provide the training and instruction needed for a career in this specific professional arena. Paralegals often work in law firms, but an increasing segment of practitioners work for banks, insurance agencies, and healthcare organizations.

Employers often prefer paralegals with at least an associate degree from an accredited institution. Certification in a specific area or an advanced credential can boost employment options and lead to professional advancement. For practitioners who plan to pursue further education, a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies meets the educational requirement for a master’s in the field, law school, or a postgraduate program in a related arena.

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How Much Does a Paralegal Degree And Certificate Cost?

The cost of a paralegal degree or certificate varies by school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in-state enrollees at four-year public institutions spent an average of $21,035 during the 2019-20 academic year. In-state enrollees at two-year colleges paid an average of $11,070. Students who enrolled in a private college or university spent an average of $48,960 for a four-year program and $28,420 for a two-year program. All amounts include tuition, required fees, and room and board.

Online enrollees often spend less than on-campus students since they do not incur expenses for commuting or living on campus.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

Prospective students can use the calculation tool below to compare attendance costs between colleges and universities. Most schools include the required information on their website. Online enrollees should determine whether a prospective institution charges technology fees for off-campus students. This amount can impact attendance costs.

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How Much Do Paralegal Degree And Certificate Majors Make?

Salary for paralegals depends on their professional arena and where they live. According to the BLS, the highest-paying employers for paralegals include merchant wholesalers ($134,210), land subdivision companies ($90,360), and semiconductor and electronic component manufacturers ($85,440). Law firms hire the most paralegals ($256,840) and pay an average annual salary of $54,200.

Paralegals and legal assistants working in the nation’s capital earn the highest salary of $83,330, followed by professionals in California ($66,250), Washington ($63,050), Colorado ($62,950), and New York ($62,530).

Paralegals can boost their career and salary prospects by pursuing postgraduate certification. For example, practitioners with the certified paralegal credential earn an $4,880 more per year than their non-certified colleagues.

Courses in Paralegal Degree And Certificate Programs

Onsite and online paralegal degree and certificate schools offer classes that align with their educational goals for students. A typical curriculum covers topics such as legal terminology, civil litigation, and law practice management. Most paralegals develop strong research skills, especially those who work for law firms and the court system. Because of this, most paralegal programs familiarize enrollees with the latest computer-assisted research tools and techniques.

See below for some common courses in on-campus and online paralegal degree and certificate schools.

Students examine a variety of topics related to criminal procedures, including the pretrial process, interrogation, sentencing, and the appeal process. This course also introduces enrollees to the different elements of crime and varying aspects of criminal defenses.

This course familiarizes enrollees with primary and secondary sources, a variety of computer-assisted research tools, legal analysis, and interviewing techniques. Learners complete different types of legal writing assignments, including regular client correspondence and legal memos. They also receive training in using law libraries and other resources.

Enrollees explore the different aspects of tort law, including personal and product liability, defamation, and intentional torts. This course also covers the civil litigation process. Students become familiar with jury selection, the regulations relevant to civil procedures, handling of evidence, and pre-trial work requirements.

Certifications and Licensure for Paralegal Degree And Certificate Students

States do not require licensure for paralegals. However, several professional organizations offer nationally recognized paralegal certifications. A certification from a reputable organization presents the holder as a trained and skilled practitioner.

American Alliance Certified Paralegal

The American Alliance of Paralegals offers this credential to paralegals with at least five years of experience. Applicants must meet at least one of the following: a bachelor’s degree or higher in any field, an associate degree approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), or an ABA-approved paralegal certificate.

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Certified Paralegal

The National Association of Legal Assistants welcomes applications from paralegal students who meet one of the following criteria: a bachelor’s degree from an ABA-approved paralegal program, at least seven years of experience in the legal arena, or a non-paralegal bachelor’s degree with one year of work experience in the field.

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CORE Registered Paralegal

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) administers this credential. Paralegals with varying educational and professional backgrounds may apply. CORE stands for competent, organized, responsible, and ethical — the qualities the organization promotes among paralegals.

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Scholarships for Paralegal Degree And Certificate Students

Aspiring paralegals can apply for scholarships to help fund their education. Professional organizations, state and federal agencies, law firms, and private nonprofit groups with ties to the legal arena offer scholarships. See below for three opportunities open to paralegal students.

  • Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. Paralegal Scholarship Program

    Who Can Apply: Applicants must show completion of at least one semester of a paralegal program and submit an essay (500-750 words) describing their educational and career objectives.

    Amount: $1,000

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  • NFPA Student Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: NFPA offers these scholarships to paralegal students in the United States who demonstrate financial need. Applicants must submit an essay on the topic chosen for the scholarship period for which they are applying.

    Amount: Varies

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  • Love Your Career Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: awards this scholarship twice annually to learners studying any subject at a U.S. college or university, including students pursuing an online paralegal degree. Applicants must submit proof of enrollment and an essay containing 1,000-3,000 words outlining how they plan to pursue a career they love.

    Amount: $1,000

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Online Paralegal Degree and Certificate Programs 2021

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  1. Hampton University

    Hampton, VA

    Hampton University is a private university that offers entirely online degrees, including a Bachelor of Arts in Paralegal Studies. This 4-year program is designed for both existing paralegals and those who are interested in entering the field. While many graduates go on to begin a career as a paralegal, some graduates choose to continue their education with law school. The curriculum for the bachelor's degree doesn't allow students to specialize, although there are plenty of elective options to give students more exposure to areas of the law that they're interested in. In total, students will need to complete 122 credit hours with a minimum of a 2.5 GPA in major courses and a 2.0 GPA in all other courses. Transfer students need to have a minimum GPA of 2.5 for all credits they want to bring in. Because the program is designed for new paralegals or current paralegals, Hampton accepts work experience for school credit. Because Hampton is a private school, students are charged the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of their location. Military students are charged an even lower tuition rate. While earning their degree, students have access to career development services, and Hampton also offers a variety of undergraduate certificates that can be combined with the BA in Paralegal Studies for students who are interested in more niche fields. Students are assigned an academic adviser that helps them craft the best curriculum for the fields they are interested in entering.

  2. William Woods University

    Fulton, MO

    William Woods University offers 2 options for completing the Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies: and entirely online 4-year program or the online transfer degree completion program. Both of these lead to the same degree, although the time it takes to complete the program and the prerequisites differs. The paralegal studies program requires a minimum of 42 credits, all of which are offered online. Transfer students may be able to satisfy some of these credits through transferring, but the majority needs to be completed through William Woods University. Internships aren't required for the program, but students will still gain paralegal experience through the coursework. Courses are offered in accelerated 8-week periods, allowing the full program to be completed in less than the expected 4 years. Start dates occur at 6 points throughout the year. The time it takes transfer students to complete the program depends on how many credits they bring in, and a minimum of 25 transferrable credits or an associate degree is required to be accepted into the transfer program. To apply, high school students need a 2.5 GPA or better on their high school transcripts or GED. Also, a minimum ACT score of 19 or SAT score of 900 is required. Both programs are members of the American Association for Paralegal Education, and while examination isn't required to complete the degree, students will be prepared to take paralegal exams.

  3. Liberty University

    Lynchburg, VA

    At Liberty University, online learners can complete a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies entirely online with no on-campus obligations. This 120-credit degree takes most full-time students approximately 3.5 years to complete. In this program, you will develop strong professional skills and a foundation in law, politics and government. The curriculum includes an exploration of case studies and experimental learning assignments. You will also learn how to be part of a professional team and work closely with supporting attorneys at law. Liberty faculty members are previous private practice partners, lawyers and certified public accountants. They provide online learners with a comprehensive, experience-based education that will help you take on paralegal duties in virtually any legal or administrative setting. Applicants must have a 2.0 GPA or higher for admission in good standing. Prospective students with lower GPAs may be considered for probationary admission. Your ACT or SAT scores are required for admission if you are under 22 years old. Prospective bachelor's degree students also must submit a high school self-certification form, a personal essay and mail in official transcripts. Students with lower than average test scores or GPA may submit supplemental letters of recommendation. Incoming students may transfer up to 90 credits toward this bachelor's degree. Online students with military training or service experience may be eligible for a significant tuition discount, provided they submit all corresponding documentation. Liberty also offers the Heroes Fund Scholarship. Wounded veterans and spouses of veterans killed in action may apply. Liberty has rolling admissions, so there is no hard deadline for applications. They do have a "priority deadline" of January 31 for the fall semester, and November 1 for the spring. Apply by those dates to increase your chances of being admitted.

  4. Florida Gulf Coast University

    Fort Myers, FL

    Founded in 1991, Florida Gulf Coast University has grown a significant amount in a short period of time. One reason for this is because the tuition rate has remained the same for the past 4 years and there are no plans to increase it. Another reason is because of its distance education programs. The Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies is FGCU's entirely online option for students interested in paralegal studies. Upon completing this degree, students will be eligible to take the Certified Legal Assistant's Exam, which is required to gain licensure in some states. To graduate, students need to have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher and need to complete 120 credits, 48 of which need to be upper division classes. Only 39 credits are required for the Legal Studies degree, roughly half of which are elective courses. While there are no specific concentrations available for the program, students can take these elective courses to add a focus to their degree. Also, while all of the courses for this program can be completed online, students are required to attend an orientation session after being accepted into the program. This may mean that students will need to visit campus for a short period to complete orientation.

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