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Best Accredited Paralegal Certificate Programs Online

Learn more about the best accredited online paralegal programs, including format, length, and common courses. Also, explore the paralegal career in terms of job duties and salary information.

Best Schools for Online Paralegal Certificate Programs

To compile our list of the best online paralegal certificate programs, we took into consideration affordability, flexibility, and the services that are available to online learners.

1. Eastern Kentucky University

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state; 2018-2019) % Receiving Financial Aid
Richmond, KY $9,666 99%

Eastern Kentucky University offers a 100% online post-baccalaureate certificate program that requires 30-31 total credits and is a charter member of the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAFPE). This online ABA-approved program features quick 8-week terms, is designed to be completed in about 18 months, and is comprised of coursework in legal writing, legal research, and legal administration. As an online student, you get access to free career services and online tutoring. This online program requires a residency on-campus that takes place at the end of the program.

2. Community Care College

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state; 2018-2019) % Receiving Financial Aid
Tulsa, OK n/a 89%

Community Care College has an online undergraduate paralegal studies program that requires 36 total credits and leads to a diploma. This online paralegal program can be completed in as little as 11.5 months, and you take coursework in contracts, criminal law, civil ligation, and family law. Community Care College's online program offers a flexible schedule, and you are taught by licensed, experienced attorneys and certified paralegals. Graduates of this program have gone on to work for county district attorney's offices and in private law firms.

3. Downey Adult School

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state; 2018-2019) % Receiving Financial Aid
Downey, CA $3,599 64%

At Downey Adult School, you can earn a paralegal certificate in an online format with classes on legal terminology, tort law, legal research, wills and trusts, and civil litigation. This online paralegal program has a 100% program completion rate and a 100% placement rate. Downey Adult School offers free job placement services as well.

4. Clovis Community College

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state; 2018-2019) % Receiving Financial Aid
Fresno, CA $1,304 63%

Clovis Community College has an online Certificate of Completion in Legal Assistant Studies program that takes 2 semesters to complete with about 30 credits needed. In this online program, you take classes that center on such subjects as legal writing, family law, criminal law and courts, and law office procedures and practice. Clovis Community College offers online, 24/7 tutoring services.

5. Itawamba Community College

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state; 2018-2019) % Receiving Financial Aid
Fulton, MS $3,160 97%

Itawamba CC offers a 2-year Paralegal Technology program earning students an Associate of Applied Science degree or a 1-year 30 credit career certificate option; both of which can be completed 100% online. Courses covered in this program include topics like legal research, wills and estates, civil litigation, legal writing, and more. Upon program completion students are set to acquire voluntary certification through NALA or NFPA.

Rank School Name Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state; 2018-2019) % Receiving Financial Aid
6 Madisonville Community College Madisonville, KY $4,248 98%
7 Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson, KS $3,520 92%
8 Holmes Community College Goodman, MS $3,110 91%
9 Ocean County College Toms River, NJ $5,095 57%
10 Lewis and Clark Community College Godfrey, IL $9,552 80%
11 Purdue University Global Indianapolis, IN $14,343 n/a
12 Hinds Community College Raymond, MS $3,130 91%
13 Western Piedmont Community College Morganton, NC $2,577 80%
14 Rasmussen College-Wisconsin Green Bay, WI $10,935 86%
15Lake Superior College Duluth, MN $5,166 77%

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2017-2018 school year, and school websites

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Accredited Paralegal Certificate Programs

Online paralegal certificate programs quickly prepare you for a career as a paralegal. To apply to a paralegal certificate program, you need to already hold an associate's or a bachelor's degree. The format and length of online paralegal certificate programs varies by university or college with some taking only 14 weeks to complete and others lasting about 1 year, 18 months, or longer. Most certificate programs require about 30 credits.

Paralegal certificate programs consist of online coursework that solely focuses on law topics as well as the researching, writing, and technology skills you need as a paralegal.

How to Choose an Online Accredited Paralegal Certificate Program

When deciding which online paralegal certificate program is right for you, there are several factors, including accreditation and program format, which you should take into consideration.

Accreditation

By attending a program accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), you will be assured that your program's curriculum, student services, and faculty have met a high, independent standard. The ABA requires that accredited programs fully prepare students for a paralegal career through classes that enhance your technology skills and understanding of legal concepts. ABA-accredited programs must provide library resources and support services. Faculty members must also be knowledgeable and responsive to students.

Another reason for choosing an accredited program is that many employers prefer job candidates who have graduated from an ABA-accredited program, and some paralegal certification credentials may require that you have attended an ABA-accredited program as well.

Real-World Requirements

Online paralegal certificate programs that are accredited by the ABA require 10 hours of traditional instruction in a classroom, which means that you may have to complete an on-campus residency at the end of your program that includes coursework and networking opportunities.

However, as of January 1, 2020, the ABA will allow programs to conduct traditional instruction through live videoconferencing or synchronous streaming classes. When deciding on a program, you should make sure that you are able to travel to campus for the required residency or attend any live classes from your home.

Program Length

The length of online paralegal certificate programs varies widely. If you are motivated to quickly move into the paralegal profession, then you should choose a program that can be completed in a year or less. However, be aware that this might mean that you may have to take classes in quick succession. For example, some programs offer accelerated 8-week classes. On the other hand, if you understand that your learning pace is a little slower or you have other work or family commitments, you might consider a program that progresses at a slower pace.

What You'll Learn in an Online Paralegal Certificate Program

There are several common courses in the realm of law and research that make up the curriculum of most online paralegal certificate programs. Below, you can explore some possible classes that you may take within your specific program.

Legal Writing

A class on legal writing introduces you to the different forms of legal documents, including memoranda of law, letters, case briefs, and interoffice memoranda. This course teaches you effective writing strategies as well as how to write legal analysis.

Legal Research

Legal research covers the methods and means for conducting legal research and teaches you how to research cases, statutes, and agency regulations in order to synthesize the information and create a memorandum. Some courses teach you how to research through books as well as conduct online research through WestlawNext.

Criminal Law

This is a foundational course that gives you an understanding of the different aspects of criminal law and the criminal justice system as well as an understanding of the role a paralegal plays within the criminal law system. You may study such topics as criminal proceedings' defense and prosecution, law enforcement practices, and the constitutional framework of the US legal system.

Wills, Trusts, and Probate

This course explores the role that paralegals play in the probate and estate planning process, focusing on document preparation and proceedings. Usually, you study a wide range of legal areas, including

  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Estate planning
  • Durable powers of attorney
  • Charitable transfers
  • Intra-family gifts

Some courses examine ethical issues of paralegal work in terms of health care directives and living wills.

Family Law

This class examines the paralegal practice in all aspects of the family law field, focusing on such topics as separation, divorce, alimony, and property settlement. You also study child custody and adoption issues.

Business Law

Business law explores topics related to businesses and corporations, including

  • Contracts
  • Intellectual property
  • Administrative law
  • Consumer credit and collection procedures
  • Employment law
  • Taxation

You study how to apply law to business and individuals as well as the different kinds of business structures, such as partnerships and limited liability companies. This course serves to prepare you for work as a corporate paralegal.

Civil Litigation

This course examines civil ligation in regards to state and federal courts. You study the entire civil litigation process, including investigations, the discovery process, the production of documents, depositions, preparation for trial, and filing lawsuits.

Information About the Paralegal Profession

Below, you can learn more about the different aspects of the paralegal profession, including the level of education needed, job duties and skills, and salary information.

Educational Requirements

To become a paralegal, you can earn a paralegal studies associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. However, bachelor's degree programs in paralegal studies are hard to find. Many people choose to earn a bachelor's degree in a non-paralegal field and then earn a certificate in paralegal studies.

Certification

Becoming a Certified Paralegal (CP) or a Professional Paralegal (PP) is an optional credential you can earn. The reason you might want to achieve certification is that many employers prefer paralegal applicants who are certified, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Certified Paralegal (CP) credential is administrated through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). To earn this credential, you must have fulfilled one of the following requirements:

  • Graduated from an ABA-accredited paralegal program
  • Earned a bachelor's degree
  • Have a high school diploma with 7 years of paralegal experience

You must also take and pass the Certified Paralegal examination, which includes a multiple-choice knowledge exam and a written skills exam.

You could also earn the Professional Paralegal (PP) credential from NALS - The Association for Legal Professionals.

For this credential, you must have fulfilled one of the following requirements:

  • Earned a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies
  • Earned a bachelor's degree outside of paralegal studies with 1 year of paralegal experience
  • Graduated from an ABA-approved paralegal program
  • Graduated from a non-ABA-approved program that consists of significant coursework in law
  • Have 5 years of paralegal experience

You must also pass the NALS Professional Paralegal (PP) exam.

General Job Duties

Although your specific paralegal job duties depend on the type of environment you work within, paralegals mainly support lawyers by conducting a variety of different duties, including

  • Researching laws, legal cases, and regulations
  • Maintaining documents and filing systems
  • Structuring legal documents and evidence
  • Writing reports, correspondence, and contracts
  • Filing appeals, briefs, and other legal documents
  • Interacting with clients

Skills

As a paralegal, you must have good computer skills and need to be able to use technology, software, databases, and email. You must have good writing and communication skills, as you need to present evidence and documents to lawyers and clients. You must be able to meet deadlines and manage a range of responsibilities at the same time.

Types of Paralegals

The type of paralegal you are depends on the type of law practice or organization you work for.

Corporate Paralegals

A corporate paralegal works for businesses or corporations where, in conjunction with lawyers, they prepare a range of business documents, including contracts, stock plans, shareholder agreements, and even financial reports. You could also be required to stay on top of any government regulations or legal requirements that affect your employer.

Litigation Paralegals

Litigation paralegals primarily work for trial lawyers where they conduct a range of trail-related duties, including organizing evidence, helping prep for trials, conducting legal research, and drafting settlements.

Other Paralegals

As a paralegal, you could work within the realm of criminal law, personal injury law, bankruptcy, intellectual property law, family law, and immigration law among others. In addition, depending on the size of the organization you work for, you could be responsible for handling varied aspects of cases or just specific parts of a case.

Salary and Job Outlook

In 2018, paralegals made a median salary of $50,940 with the lowest 10% earning less than $31,400 and the highest 10% earning more than $82,050. On average, paralegals earn $24.49 per hour.

Paralegals working for the federal government had the highest salary, earning $67,340, and those in finance and insurance earned $62,020. The number of paralegal jobs are expected to increase 12% from 2018-2028.

Salary information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018