Paralegal Certificate and Training Programs

Discover the types of certificate and degree programs available to prospective paralegals, and learn about the coursework associated with these programs. Get information about paralegal job duties, as well as the job outlook and salary for this occupation. Schools offering Paralegal degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Types of Paralegal Programs Are Available?

If you would like to work as a paralegal, then you could pursue an associate's degree in paralegal studies. An associate's degree typically takes two years to complete and will prepare you for entry-level careers in the field. Another option is to complete a certificate program in paralegal studies, which would take less than one year to complete. Four-year bachelor's degree programs in paralegal studies are also available, but these are less common than associate's and certificate programs. You can typically find paralegal programs in both online and on-campus formats.

Degree LevelsCertificate, associate's degree, bachelor's degree
Common CoursesCivil litigation, medical malpractice, criminal law, family law, research fundamentals
Job DutiesManaging case files, performing advanced legal research, writing reports, finding legal precedents, organizing documents for corporate hearings
Job Outlook8% growth projected between 2014 and 2024 (for paralegals and legal assistants)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Courses Will I Take?

Coursework in associate's degree programs in paralegal studies will likely require you to take general education courses in the sciences and humanities while you learn the fundamentals of being a paralegal. You will learn how to perform advanced legal research, compose legal documents and communicate professionally. You will also learn about different branches of law, including criminal, corporate and family law. The following are examples of courses in which you could enroll:

  • Research fundamentals
  • Writing practices for legal environments
  • Medical malpractice
  • Environmental law
  • Real estate transactions
  • Commercial contracting
  • Civil litigation

Certificate programs often don't require you to take general education courses, giving you fast entry into the paralegal profession. If you choose a bachelor's degree program, you can gain a deeper understanding of the law and take specialized courses.

What Is a Paralegal?

A paralegal may also be called a legal assistant or legal secretary. As a paralegal, you would assist lawyers by performing advanced legal research, managing case files, writing reports and helping lawyers prepare for court. Other possible job duties include organizing documents for corporate hearings, finding legal precedents and drafting basic legal contracts, such as mortgages or separation agreements. While paralegals are mostly employed by law firms, they can also be beneficial to corporate legal departments and government agencies.

What Is the Job Outlook and Pay?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals and legal assistants earned an average annual salary of $51,840 as of May 2014. The BLS also reports an expected employment growth rate of 8% between 2014 and 2024 for these professions, which is about the same rate as that for all other occupations. Because this career attracts many applicants, competition for jobs is expected to be strong.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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