Thinking About Earning an Online Paralegal Certification?
written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 12/10/2011
Legal secretaries have been supplanted by legal assistants and paralegals. Entering a career in this ever growing, but highly competitive, field requires a top notch education. With an online paralegal certification, you are well on your way to a lucrative career.
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College Grads Look to Online Paralegal Certification
If you already hold a bachelor degree, earning a paralegal certificate in addition to your four-year coursework puts you on par with the majority of newly minted paralegals. This fact is revealed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics(1) (BLS), which also points out that the paralegal field is highly competitive. Only those candidates with a solid and specialized education may hope for lucrative employment at law firms, corporate legal departments, governmental agencies, consumer advocacy groups or within the court system.
After obtaining an online paralegal certification, candidates are well trained to assist attorneys with all kinds of client interactions, except for offering legal advice or actually representing a client in court. On the flip side, a paralegal works with clients to prepare them for a court experience, solicits material and information from them, contracts with ancillary personnel – such as process servers and private investigators – as directed by the attorney, and prepares legal briefs and correspondence. Depending on the practice of law in which a paralegal chooses to operate, there are a number of specialized tasks that await the highly skilled candidate.
Salaries vary, depending not only on the level of education a paralegal possesses, but also on the employer and the level of specialized additional training s/he has received. Generally speaking, the BLS estimates the median annual salary of a paralegal to be right around $43,040, with those employed by the federal government being at the top of the pay scale.
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The Nuts and Bolts of Training Online for a Paralegal Certification
Online paralegal certificate programs are offered to students who want to enter a paraprofessional legal career. Experience and a college background are usually not required, although employers will look more favorably on degreed applicants than on those who only present themselves with a paralegal certificate. One example of an online paralegal certification is the program offered by the U.S. Career Institute.
In as little as four months, students are trained in basic civil and criminal law tenets, case investigation, personal injury and tort law, and are given a solid understanding of the American court system. The school is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).
Going a step further from offering an online paralegal certification, the Penn Foster Career School offers a paralegal diploma. In addition to the basic paralegal certificate coursework already outlined, this school also introduces the student to legal writing and computer assisted legal research. Since this program is also accredited by the DETC and other governing bodies, students who are not in the market for a diploma may still opt for a paralegal certificate in real estate or estate law.
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Beyond an Online Paralegal Certification
Due to the competitive nature of the legal field, paralegal certificate holders sooner or later find themselves back in the classroom for a specialized education. For example, a basic paralegal certificate holder may look to a school such a Penn Foster to focus on a particular area of law. Students who do not yet hold a college degree may consider earning an associate degree, building on their online paralegal certification.Bright Hub’s own Willa outlined such a degree option in her article entitled Hodges University: Earn Your Paralegal Online Associate Degree.