Are Online Paralegal Programs for You?
Here are some things to consider when choosing an online paralegal program:
Professional paralegals do not require any specific certification for hire. However, a particular level of education is often demanded by employers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics[i].
There are typically three routes to becoming a paralegal. Some specifically pursue paralegal studies, receiving an associate's, bachelor's or even master's degree before seeking employment. Others pursue a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field and may pursue a certificate in paralegal studies. Finally, some pursue a job with no educational experience, choosing to receive on-the-job training instead.
There are some local and national organizations that offer paralegal certifications for individuals that pass an exam or meet particular educational or experiential criteria.
Before signing up for online courses, make sure the work you do prepares you for particular exams and consider contacting possible future employers to inquire about the value of an online degree in regards to the professionals they hire.
Paralegal Career Paths and Potential Salaries
While you may assume the natural progression for a paralegal is a future in law school and becoming a lawyer - and while this may not be far from the truth - there are other career paths that may be available after taking online courses to pursue a career as a paralegal. Consider these options with statistics compiled by the BLS.
These professionals are charged with helping lawyers in whatever way necessary for upcoming court cases. While they cannot practice law themselves, they compile research, draft documents, organize files, gather and arrange evidence and do whatever else is necessary to assist other legal professionals.
2012 median annual salary: $46,990
Job growth through 2022: 17 percent (faster than average)
Entry-level education: Associate's degree
Secretaries and Administrative Assistants[ii]
Secretaries and administrative assistants perform many similar tasks. However, there normally is not an emphasis on the law. Instead, they organize schedules, files, draft messages and perform other duties to assist the professionals they work for. Duties typically vary by employer.
2012 median annual salary: $35,330
Job growth through 2022: 12 percent (as fast as average)
Entry-level education: High school diploma or equivalent