What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Paralegal?
Formal training is not required to land a job as a paralegal, but applicants can enhance their employability through a training or certificate program. Learn more about education options, required skills and career info below.
Career & Education Information
Paralegals, otherwise known as legal assistants, help attorneys and lawyers by performing duties that might include legal research, interviewing witnesses, organizing the evidence and drafting documents. They might maintain information databases, prepare briefs for court or even help during a trial. Other tasks vary depending on the law firm and its speciality, which might be an area such as business law, civil or criminal litigation, or family law.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), reports that formal training is not required to enter this career; however, most entrants into the paralegal field have an associate's degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor's degree combined with a certificate. The most common training leading to an associate's degree is through a community college program. Applicants who already hold a college degree need only earn a certificate in paralegal studies.
Important Facts About Paralegals
|Online Availability||Full programs are available online|
|Continuing Education||Renewal required every five years to maintain a certificate|
|Common Courses||Law and litigation, criminology, corporate law, international law|
|Similar Occupations||Lawyer, administrative assistant, claims adjuster|
Earning a voluntary certification from a professional society enhances an applicant's opportunities in the labour market. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) established certain standards for certification. A student who meets its standards is eligible to take a 2-day examination. Passing this examination allows the student to use the credentials of a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP). The American Alliance of Paralegals offers a voluntary certification program that leads to the credential of American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP). Five years of paralegal experience is required to take the examination.
Skills that can serve a paralegal well include attention to detail, persistence and organization, especially because they do a great deal of work with examining and creating documentation. They must also be able to communicate well, both in person and in writing. Finally, computer skills are also helpful in this field.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual salary in 2018 for paralegals and legal assistants was $50,940. The BLS expects that paralegals and legal assistants will see an increase of 15% in job opportunities between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than average compared to all careers nationwide (www.bls.gov).