Best Online Colleges for Paralegal Certificates

By the OnlineU team | Updated 1/14/2022
Quick Facts
Accreditation: Institutional
Average Tuition: $22,463
Alumni Salary: $35,060

Paralegals perform a range of tasks to help lawyers, and the profession is growing at a faster-than-average pace. Prospective students can pursue online paralegal programs at many colleges, including those ranked below on our list of the most affordable online paralegal certificates. Certificate programs provide a foundation in public records research, investigations, legal ethics, and document preparation. Graduates can pursue entry-level positions or combine a certificate in paralegal studies with an associate or bachelor's degree to seek advanced opportunities in the field.

Continue reading for information about an online paralegal certificate program's accreditation, costs, and career paths.

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2020 Most Affordable Online Paralegal Certificates

2020 Most Affordable Online Colleges Offering Certificate in Paralegal Badge

These 25 schools offer the most affordable online paralegal certificates with tuitions under $12,000 per year. View our methodology for more details.

Eligibility for Paralegal Certification Exams:

  • NALA Certified Paralegal Exam: you are eligible if you have an undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies and a bachelor's degree in another field.
  • NFPA Paralegal Core Competency Exam: you are eligible if you have an undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies and an associate or bachelor's degree in another field.
  • If you have an associate or bachelor's degree in paralegal studies, you are eligible for both the NALA and the NFPA exams
RankSchool Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 California State University-Bakersfield $3,190
# 2 #2 Wilson Community College $4,288
# 3 #3 Rio Salado College $4,392
# 4 #4 Mohave Community College $4,420
# 5 #5 Hutchinson Community College $5,220
# 6 #6 The University of Texas at San Antonio $5,250
# 7 #7 Lake Superior College $6,000
# 8 #8 Massachusetts Bay Community College $6,210
# 9 #9 The University of Texas at Austin $6,495
# 10 (tie) #10 (tie) American Public University System $6,840
# 10 (tie) #10 (tie) University of Massachusetts-Lowell $6,840
# 12 (tie) #12 (tie) Duke University $6,995
# 12 (tie) #12 (tie) University of California-Davis $6,995
# 14 #14 Liberty University $7,020
# 15 #15 Hampton University $7,200
# 16 #16 University of California - Berkeley $7,970
# 17 #17 Rasmussen University Online $8,580
# 18 #18 Cerro Coso Community College $8,800
# 19 #19 Prince George's Community College $9,120
# 20 #20 Charter Oak State College $10,056
# 21 #21 Tompkins Cortland Community College $10,500
# 22 #22 Roger Williams University $10,825
# 23 #23 Yavapai College $10,980
# 24 #24 Webster University $11,700
# 25 #25 Franklin Pierce University $12,000

2020 Online Colleges Offering Paralegal Certificates - Ranking Details

#1 California State University-Bakersfield

  • Annual Tuition: $3,190
  • Locations: Bakersfield (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The online certificate in paralegal studies offered at California State University is designed to suit both experienced legal professionals and novices in the field. The 360-hour curriculum includes nine continuing education units of online coursework in various legal areas, including family law, estate planning, criminal procedures, bankruptcy law, and criminal law. Students learn how to to assist trial attorneys, research the law, investigate facts, and interview witnesses.

Students complete assignments, readings, and quizzes through the Center for Legal Studies portal. Distance learners are afforded several resources to support their online education, including full access to the college library's catalog and technology support available days, evenings, and weekends. Upon completion of the online paralegal certificate, graduates are prepared to start a career as a full-time or part-time paralegal.

To enter the program, students must have a high school diploma or GED and be fluent in English. The college admits new students every seven weeks, which is also the duration of each online course.

#2 Wilson Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $4,288
  • Locations: Wilson (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Wilson Community College offers students the opportunity to complete a fully online certificate in paralegal. The curriculum consists of 18 credit hours of coursework in civil litigation, law office management and technology, real property, and ethics and professionalism. The certificate is certified by the North Carolina State Bar and the Board of Paralegal Certification, allowing graduates to take the examination to become a state certified paralegal.

The program provides students with the knowledge and abilities to find and research public records, draft and file legal documents, and manage a law office. Graduates may also apply the certificate toward the associate degree or bachelor’s degree in paralegal technology at Wilson Community College. Online students have access to virtual tutoring, academic advising, and 24/7 technical support.

Students may begin the program in the fall or spring, and applicants must submit high school transcripts to be considered.

#3 Rio Salado College

  • Annual Tuition: $4,392
  • Locations: Tempe (AZ)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Rio Salado College offers an online Certificate of Completion in Paralegal program, which can be applied directly to the college's Associate in Applied Science in Paralegal. The 36- to 39-credit hour program can be completed in five terms if enrolled part-time or three terms full-time. The curriculum includes coursework in paralegal litigation, paralegal business law, paralegal writing, paralegal research, and law office technology for paralegals. Qualified students have the opportunity to complete an internship during their studies.

Students completing the paralegal certificate online gain knowledge in tort law, business law, and the fundamentals of litigation. The program prepares students for a career as a paralegal through effective oral and written communication, computer proficiency, critical thinking skills, and legal research techniques.

Many online courses are offered in an accelerated, eight-week delivery format. Distance learners have access to online tutoring, advising, library services, and help desk support.

#4 Mohave Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $4,420
  • Locations: Kingman (AZ)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Mohave Community College offers an online paralegal certificate. The 30-credit hour curriculum includes coursework in civil law and litigation, tort law, criminal law and procedures, and contract law. Students gain knowledge in legal writing, interpreting legal documents, understanding and interpreting case law, and understanding procedural problems, as well as skills in professional, interpersonal communication, computer proficiency, and critical thinking. Graduates have the experience and knowledge needed to complete the Arizona Legal Document Preparer Examination, qualifying them for a range of legal work under the supervision of a lawyer.

Online coursework is facilitated both synchronously and asynchronously. Students are responsible for completing course assignments, readings, discussions, or exams at specific times. Online students are offered several virtual resources, including advising, tutoring, workshop learning, and help desk support. Students can also access their coursework on any smart device through the online learning portal app.

Graduates of the online paralegal program are prepared for work in a law office, government agency, or private corporation in various roles, such as paralegal, trust clerk, title examiner, and legal investigator.

#5 Hutchinson Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $5,220
  • Locations: Hutchinson (KS) (and 2 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Hutchinson Community College offers an online paralegal certificate. Students in the 36-credit hour program have the opportunity to gain skills in organizing and maintaining records and files, scheduling meetings, operating and managing online databases, doing research, conducting client and witness interviews, and preparing legal documents. The curriculum includes coursework in family law, wills, estates, trusts, legal research and writing, business law, and legal ethics. Graduates of the online paralegal program are qualified for careers in private or public law offices, government agencies, courts, insurance companies, or corporate legal departments.

Students have access to a wealth of resources, including online services and support, and access to the library’s online catalog. The college library offers students access to thousands of online resources, including professional academic and legal databases and journals.

Applicants must have an associate degree to be admitted into the college and submit an online application and official transcripts.

#6 The University of Texas at San Antonio

  • Annual Tuition: $5,250
  • Locations: San Antonio (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The online paralegal certificate program at the University of Texas at San Antonio is intended for adult learners who wish to become legal assistants. The program is designed and facilitated by practicing attorneys. Students have the option to complete a project in a local courthouse, complete a library research experience, and attend professional communication workshops.

The coursework is facilitated asynchronously through online lectures and discussion boards. The program is divided into three stages; each stage is about 13 weeks, and the program can be completed in three semesters or 11 months.

Students can receive a tuition discount if they enroll after attending an information session. Students cannot earn college credit from this program and are not eligible to sit for the paralegal certification exam after graduation.

#7 Lake Superior College

  • Annual Tuition: $6,000
  • Locations: Duluth (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Individuals looking to become legal assistants can earn their certificate of paralegal studies online at Lake Superior College. The 30-credit curriculum covers legal terminology, rules, procedures, and principles used in the American legal system. Students take classes in interview and investigation methods, business law, legal writing, civil litigation, and legal research. A capstone course is required to complete the certificate program.

The certificate program can be completed in one year. Graduates can apply this certificate program to the 60-credit associate degree program in paralegal studies at Lake Superior College. Online coursework is asynchronous and delivered through the D2L Brightspace learning platform. Students have access to campus services like advising, tutoring, library resources, and more.

Applicants must submit an online application form (with fee) and transcripts from high school and other post-secondary educational institutions. Prospective students must be proficient in English.

#8 Massachusetts Bay Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $6,210
  • Locations: Wellesley Hills (MA)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The online certificate in paralegal studies program at Massachusetts Bay Community College is offered through the Division of Business and Professional studies. Graduates are prepared to work as legal assistants preparing documents, managing legal issues, and participating in investigations and client interviews. In this program, students will gain skills in legal research and writing. In addition to a core curriculum, students can take electives in real estate, business law, family law, and trusts and wills. This 27-credit program can be completed in two semesters.

Online courses are asynchronous and students must meet assignment deadlines and participate in discussion boards, online presentations and quizzes, and interactive simulations.

Prospective students must complete an online application and high school transcripts. No application fee is required. Financial aid may be available for eligible students.

#9 The University of Texas at Austin

  • Annual Tuition: $6,495
  • Locations: Austin (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The online paralegal certificate offered by the University of Texas at Austin is a self-paced program that students can complete within 12 months. The curriculum provides a broad foundation in the ethics and legal principles of law. Students have the opportunity to choose elective courses like contracts law, tort law, criminal law, family law, and business law.

The curriculum is offered through Paralegal Space, an online learning platform. The program uses real-world case studies to teach students the techniques and skills they will need in the legal field. Graduates can pursue entry-level opportunities as paralegals and legal assistants in a variety of legal settings, from law offices to government agencies.

To enroll in the program, students must show proof of GED or a high school diploma and proficiency in word processing.

#10 (tie) American Public University System

  • Annual Tuition: $6,840
  • Locations: Charles Town (WV)
  • Accreditation: HLC

American Public University offers a 24-credit undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies. Up to nine credits can be transferred into the program. The curriculum covers litigation, real estate law, criminal law, research and writing, legal ethics, and law and policy. This program is suited for individuals who wish to become legal assistants at law firms, legal departments, or government agencies. Students will learn skills in research and writing and gain knowledge in legal terminology theories and concepts.

Online courses follow an asynchronous format. The program lasts eight weeks, and there are new session starts every month. Student services include academic advising, career services, disability accommodations, and more. Active-duty military personnel, National Guard members, and reservists have the technology fee waived.

Applicants to the program must show proof of a high school diploma or GED. There is no fee to apply, but prospective students must submit an online application.

#10 (tie) University of Massachusetts-Lowell

  • Annual Tuition: $6,840
  • Locations: Lowell (MA)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell is available fully online. This 18-credit program includes six courses covering various legal topics in real estate law, research methods, and litigation. Students can choose two electives from family law, corporate and property law, and women in the law. Students usually take one to two courses per semester, and there are three semesters each year in the fall, spring, and summer.

Online coursework is synchronous. Students have access to technical support and academic advisors. Graduates may directly seek employment, or they may apply the credits toward the Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice: Paralegal Option or the Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts with a Legal Studies concentration.

To apply, students must submit an online application and proof of high school degree or GED.

#12 (tie) Duke University

  • Annual Tuition: $6,995
  • Locations: Durham (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Duke University Continuing Studies offers an entirely self-paced online paralegal studies certificate, designed by experienced paralegals and taught by practicing attorneys. Students have one year to complete 300 hours of coursework. The program is divided into two parts: essential skills and substantives. The essential skills component provides students with knowledge in legal fundamentals, legal terminology and technology, research, writing, motion practice, and the legal environment. Students select two courses in the substantives portion: contract law, tort law, criminal law, business organizations, and family law.

Students receive training in Lexis Advance and Westlaw Next for research assignments. Graduates of the program can access online tutorials, resources, and templates for a year after receiving their certificate.

Application prerequisites for this paralegal certificate online program include age and English language requirements, access to a computer, and either a bachelor’s or associate degree.

#12 (tie) University of California-Davis

  • Annual Tuition: $6,995
  • Locations: Davis (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The University of California-Davis paralegal studies certificate program is offered through the Continuing and Professional Education department. The self-paced program is completely online and approved by the UC-Davis School of Law. Students can become a certified paralegal in six months. Students will learn essential legal skills, contract law, tort law, and an understanding of California-specific procedures for paralegals over 100 contact hours of study. For those interested in additional certificates, UC-Davis offers 22 different programs that certified paralegals can choose from to add other areas of legal expertise to their resumes.

Students in the program have access to a wealth of resources, including networking opportunities with instructors who have years of legal experience, a comprehensive library of resource materials including workbooks and an interactive study support site, and training in both the LexisNexis and Westlaw research databases.

Prospective students can register for the program at any time. Individuals considering this paralegal certificate online program should sign up for an information session to learn more about the requirements to attend.

#14 Liberty University

  • Annual Tuition: $7,020
  • Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Liberty University offers an undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies. Courses cover paralegal studies, legal writing, research, civil practice, and the foundations of law. Students can also choose an elective in a specialized area of law: real estate transactions and property, tort law, criminal practices and procedures, or wills, trusts, and estates.

Online classes are eight weeks long and follow an asynchronous format. Coursework is delivered on the Blackboard platform. Students can finish in two semesters; however, the average time to complete the certificate is one year. Students have access to free electronic textbooks.

Applicants to this paralegal certificate online program must submit a fee, their official college transcripts (with a minimum of 1.5 cumulative GPA), proof of English proficiency, and complete a high school self-certification form.

#15 Hampton University

  • Annual Tuition: $7,200
  • Locations: Hampton (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Hampton University’s online certificate in paralegal studies program teaches students skills in a variety of judicial environments. The 24-credit curriculum emphasizes legal research and writing. Courses cover law concepts and law specialties in torts and personal injury, criminal law, real estate, domestic relations, litigation, and trial practice.

Online classes run for eight weeks. Students enrolling in two courses per term can finish the paralegal certificate in one academic year. Online students have access to the Career Counseling and Planning Center while earning their certificate and as alumni.

To apply, prospective students must complete an online application (with a fee), provide official transcripts from all schools previously attended (minimum GPA of 2.0), standardized test scores, a letter of recommendation, and an essay.

#16 University of California - Berkeley

  • Annual Tuition: $7,970
  • Locations: Berkeley (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

UC Berkeley Extension offers an online certificate in paralegal studies. The certification program was designed by educators who are also paralegals. Students must take three core requirements and three electives totaling 360 hours of study. The program can be completed in a year or less.

Core topics in this program include the legal system, research and writing, and the discovery process. Elective courses cover specialized areas in law, including criminal, family, intellectual property, tort, and business law.

Students in the program have access to various resources, including practice exercise questions, information from lectures, mock exams, and labs to enhance research and writing skills. Additionally, online learners have access to a toll-free support number, workbooks, LexisNexis, and six months of Westlaw.

#17 Rasmussen University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $8,580
  • Locations: Multiple Locations
  • Accreditation: HLC

The online paralegal certificate program at Rasmussen University Online is suited for individuals who have already earned an associate or bachelor’s degree. By completing this 33-credit program, students will gain skills in legal analysis, research, writing, communication, and teamwork. The online curriculum covers current legal issues in intellectual property, blockchain, and cryptocurrency. Students must complete a paralegal capstone class that features an online simulation and a required research and writing project.

Online classwork is asynchronous, and the program can be completed in eight months. Graduates will be prepared for work as legal assistants in court, law firms, and government agencies. Online students at Rasmussen have access to campus resources such as advising and career development.

The application and enrollment process is completed online. Applicants are not required to submit test scores, but they must show proof of a high school diploma or GED and submit transcripts for previous colleges/universities attended.

#18 Cerro Coso Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $8,800
  • Locations: Ridgecrest (CA) (and 1 other)
  • Accreditation: WASC ACCJC

The certificate in paralegal studies program at Cerro Coso Community College is a 32-credit online program. The curriculum covers a foundation of the legal system and court system, including research, interviewing, legal briefs, and court procedures. Students complete core classes in business law, legal research, writing, and litigation and procedure.

Students take courses elective courses in specialized areas such as office management, bankruptcy law, criminal law, family law, tort litigation, and personal injury. Graduates can become legal assistants, legal secretaries, and title examiners and work with private law firms, local courts, corporate law offices, and more.

Online classes are offered in an asynchronous format for flexible study. The program can be completed within four semesters. Enrolled students have access to campus services such as library resources, a learning assistance center, counseling, military and veterans assistance, and career development.

#19 Prince George's Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $9,120
  • Locations: Largo (MD)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The certificate in paralegal/legal studies at Prince George's Community College (PGCC) is a 30-credit program that can be completed entirely online. Graduates can apply for employment in the legal field, or they may apply the credits toward the Associate of Applied Science in Legal Assistant at PGCC. Students in the program will learn investigative techniques, legal research, and critical thinking skills, as well as how to draft legal documents. The curriculum includes classes in legal writing and research, tort law, criminal law, legal ethics, and more.

Online coursework is asynchronous to allow for flexibility for students balancing work and personal responsibilities. Students will have access to a career coach, library resources, and other support services.

Prospective students may submit an online application and show proof of high school completion or GED to apply.

#20 Charter Oak State College

  • Annual Tuition: $10,056
  • Locations: New Britain (CT)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The certificate in paralegal studies at Charter Oak State College is a 24-credit program comprising of core courses and elective courses. The core classes cover legal procedures, civil procedures, legal ethics, legal research and writing, and technology in law. Students can choose four electives in various areas of specialization, such as bankruptcy law, criminal law, elder law, environmental law, health care law, insurance law, intellectual property, juvenile law, real estate law, and wills, probate, and administration. Credits from this paralegal certificate online program can be applied toward either an associate or a bachelor's degree at Charter Oak State College.

This accelerated program features eight-week courses taught in an asynchronous format through the Blackboard learning platform. Students have access to various campus services, including military support and the Women in Transition program, which helps single mothers complete their education.

Twelve credits can be transferred into the program, except for a class on legal research and writing. Students can submit an online application and their high school transcripts (or equivalent) to apply.

#21 Tompkins Cortland Community College

  • Annual Tuition: $10,500
  • Locations: Dryden (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The 32-credit certificate in paralegal studies program at Tompkins Cortland Community College can be completed fully online. This paralegal certificate online program can be completed in two semesters. In addition to learning legal principles, students can take electives in criminal law, evidence, bankruptcy, and constitutional law. Curriculum topics include legal research, and drafting, litigation, real estate law, family law, and wills and estate planning. An internship in a law office is required to complete the certificate program.

Online courses are offered in an asynchronous format. Students can receive academic support through tutoring. Graduates of the program can pursue jobs as paralegals or legal assistants in various law offices and government agencies.

To apply, students must complete an online application (with fee) and proof of high school graduation (or equivalent).

#22 Roger Williams University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,825
  • Locations: Bristol (RI)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Roger Williams University offers three post-baccalaureate paralegal certificate programs in Healthcare, Nurse Paralegal, and Paralegal Studies. These online programs are suited for students who have experience in another industry and wish to make the switch to the legal field. The healthcare and nurse paralegal certificates are available for students with 60 credit hours or who have already earned an associate or baccalaureate degree. They must also have at least 4,000 hours of experience as a nurse. The paralegal studies certificate is intended to complement a degree program in another field.

This program is facilitated in an asynchronous format, and students have access to an academic advisor who can support them throughout the program. These online paralegal certificate programs are taught by practicing attorneys, sitting judges, and other legal professionals who work in a variety of law specialties and government agencies.

To apply, students must complete an online application (with fee) and show proof of high school graduation (or equivalent).

#23 Yavapai College

  • Annual Tuition: $10,980
  • Locations: Prescott (AZ) (and 4 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The certificate in paralegal studies at Yavapai College is a 30-credit program that provides students with the skills and practical experience they will need to become paralegals and legal assistants. The coursework covers contracts, ethics and the law, legal research and writing, and civil litigation. Students in the program will improve their written and oral communication skills and increase their technology and computer literacy.

A legal office clerk online certificate is also available. This 18-credit program consists of six courses in legal studies, office management, ethics and the law, and computer applications. The online certificate programs are offered in an asynchronous format.

Students can enroll online by submitting an application form and proof of high school graduation or the GED. Scholarships and financial aid may be available to eligible students.

#24 Webster University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • Locations: St. Louis (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The graduate certificate in paralegal studies at Webster University is a 24-credit program that is available completely online. This program is a stand-alone certificate, or it may be a suitable complement to a Master of Arts degree. The certificate program covers legal research and writing, ethics for law and civil actions. Students will study torts, contracts, probate, business law, juvenile law, product liability, consumer law, environmental law, insurance law, bankruptcy law, property law, intellectual property, family law, and real estate.

Online coursework is hosted on the Canvas learning management system and follows an asynchronous format. There is no set log in time, but students must meet assignment deadlines. Online learners have access to campus resources, including academic advising, library resources, and counseling services.

Prospective students should fill out an application online and must submit official transcripts with a minimum of 2.5 GPA. Applicants must have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.

#25 Franklin Pierce University

  • Annual Tuition: $12,000
  • Locations: Rindge (NH)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The undergraduate certificate in paralegal studies offered at Franklin Pierce University is a 30-credit online program. Students in the program will increase their verbal and written communication. Graduates are prepared to sit for the national paralegal certification exam. Students in the program will improve their skills in verbal and written communication, perform legal analysis, and explore specialized areas in law.

This program is offered in an asynchronous format so that working students can achieve a balance between their school and professional responsibilities. Online students have access to campus services, including academic advising, library research databases, career services, and more.

To apply, students must fill out an online application and submit school transcripts, standardized test scores, a letter of recommendation, and an essay.


Overview of Online Paralegal Studies

Paralegal studies programs teach students the essential functions of a paralegal's role, which include taking notes, preparing case exhibits, interviewing witnesses, and summarizing reports. Professors also stress the profession's limits because paralegals must serve a support role and not offer legal advice.



Paralegal studies programs teach students the essential functions of a paralegal's role, which include taking notes, preparing case exhibits, interviewing witnesses, and summarizing reports.

Applicants can find a range of online programs at all degree levels, including full-time, part-time, fully online, and a hybrid of online and in-person delivery. A certificate in paralegal studies is an educational option that offers a specialized one-year credential in the field. The next level is a two-year associate degree, which provides the most common educational pathway to becoming a paralegal. Bachelor's programs last four years and contain more advanced courses. Finally, master's degrees offer experienced paralegals an additional credential to potentially improve their marketability.

What to Expect From an Online Paralegal Certificate Program

Paralegal certificates are designed to provide an intensive education in this discipline. They usually require 24-30 credit hours to complete and last 9-12 months for full-time students. Because online paralegal studies certificates are so concentrated, most have a similar curriculum. Classwork typically begins with an introductory course on law and related terminology, followed by classes on civil and criminal litigation, legal research and writing, and ethics. Although paralegal degree programs often include an internship, this practice is uncommon in certificate programs.

Many students entering a certificate program already hold a degree in another major and want to pivot careers. Although some participants only hold a high school diploma or GED, it's difficult to work as a paralegal with only a certificate and no other higher education. Instead, employers typically hire paralegals with one of the qualifications below:

  • An associate or bachelor's degree in paralegal studies
  • An associate or bachelor's degree in any major plus a certificate in paralegal studies

Are you unsure about pursuing a paralegal certificate? Explore our list of accredited online certificate programs to learn more about options in other fields.

Certification Requirements for Paralegals

Graduates of a paralegal certificate program are considered "certificated," a unique term that means the individual is qualified to work as a paralegal. But they can also choose to pursue a certification in order to add an extra credential to their resume. Certification isn't necessary, but it may make a candidate more appealing to some employers.



Graduates of a paralegal certificate program are considered "certificated," a unique term that means the individual is qualified to work as a paralegal.

At least three organizations grant professional certifications to paralegals who pass an exam after completing their paralegal education. Graduates of certificate programs are eligible for any of the following certifications:

Accredited Paralegal Programs

Schools can earn either national or regional accreditation by passing an independent review of their curricula, faculty, and services. Both types of accreditation allow students to receive federal financial aid and indicate that a college provides high-quality education. However, regional accreditation helps a student transfer their credits to another college with the same type of accreditation.

Paralegal studies certificates can also earn recognition from two specialized organizations: the American Bar Association (ABA) and the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE). The ABA has a long history certifying the quality of law degrees and lawyers and creating guidelines for paralegal education programs. The AAfPE has also outlined specific eligibility criteria for paralegal programs. The ABA refers to program recognition as approval, and the AAfPE calls qualified programs members of its group. Some employers prefer to hire graduates from schools recognized by one of these agencies, so choosing an unrecognized program may impact your future employment opportunities.

How Much Does a Paralegal Certificate Program Cost?

The price of a certificate program varies by school. The median annual tuition rate is $6,995 among our list of the most affordable online paralegal certificates. These rates were calculated using out-of-state tuition rates unless in-state tuition is offered to all online students. To understand the total cost of a certificate program, It's important to research each program's costs — including books and supplies — and apply to all available financial aid.

Paralegal Careers

An online paralegal certificate qualifies alumni for just one job. But there's potential for variety within the paralegal field, and graduates of the same program can choose divergent career paths. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals earn a median annual salary of $52,920 and can expect a 12% increase between 2020 and 2030.



According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals earn a median annual salary of $52,920 and can expect a 12% increase between 2020 and 2030.

Nearly three-quarters of paralegals work for private law firms and 12% work for government agencies. Within these work environments, they cover the entire range of legal issues. Paralegals require exacting attention to detail, clear writing skills, and empathy because they're often dealing with emotionally vulnerable clients. We've listed the top five legal practice areas for paralegals below, providing data on these specialty areas from NALA's 2020 workforce survey.

Civil litigation

Paralegals in this domain help litigators prepare for noncriminal trials. They interview witnesses, prepare and document exhibits, and review the opposing side's evidence during discovery.

Personal injury

These paralegals work for attorneys who specialize in seeking damages for clients. They also help lawyers prepare for trial, depose witnesses, and visit the scenes of accidents to document surroundings.

Family law

Attorneys in this field help clients with divorce proceedings and custody disputes. Family paralegals write summaries of depositions, prepare exhibits for trials in family court, keep meticulous notes of proceedings, and write official letters for lawyers to sign.

Criminal law

Paralegals can work on either side of the criminal justice system in the offices of prosecutors or defense attorneys, including public defenders. Either type might coordinate witness testimonies, take statements from investigators, and help lawyers perform mock trials.

Insurance

These employees may work directly for an insurance company or for a law firm contracted by an insurer. They collect patient medical information, document evidence gathered by fraud investigators, and summarize company policies for attorney review.

Is a Paralegal Certificate Worth It?

Higher education can be costly in terms of money and time. Even a year-long certificate program comes with trade-offs that differ for every individual. However, many graduates of paralegal programs have secured rewarding careers, so it's worth weighing the pros and cons with personal circumstances in mind.

Potential Benefits

Paralegals make higher-than-median wages and enjoy faster-than-average job growth. The BLS attributes the field's expansion to the public's appetite for cheaper legal services, which has led to lawyers hiring more paralegals and allowing them more responsibilities.

A paralegal's knowledge and skills are transferable to new positions across employers and types of law. Because they share common tasks, no matter their specialty area, professionals often have a wealth of relevant experiences to share with potential employers in other domains.

Studying online can offer a wider choice of programs and more flexibility to balance responsibilities than enrolling in a campus-based program. This may appeal to certificate students who already work full-time.

Potential Drawbacks

CareerExplorer's research reveals a very low level of job satisfaction among paralegals. In fact, they rate themselves in the bottom 11% of all U.S. jobs in terms of career happiness.

Although a program often takes only a year to complete, paralegals may need a degree in addition to a certificate in order to land a job. This can mean additional time and expense added to their college costs.

It may be difficult to network during an intensive online paralegal program because students may never meet their classmates or professors in person. Paralegal students can volunteer for a legal aid organization to partially offset this, but only if there's one in their area.

FAQs About Paralegal Programs

Can I Be an Online Paralegal?

Paralegals typically follow the work arrangements of their employers, which might include flexible schedules with some days working from home but rarely results in fully remote work. Employees of litigators are typically needed in court to help with exhibits and offer in-person support. Any hybrid work arrangements will be subject to these requirements.

How Do I Become a Certified Paralegal?

Alumni of ABA-approved or AAfPE member programs can take a certification exam offered by NALA, NFPA, or NALSP. Certified paralegals need to keep their certifications up-to-date by documenting continuing education. They may also need to take refresher exams periodically.

Can I Be a Paralegal Without a Degree?

Legal employers generally only hire paralegals who have at least an associate degree in any major plus a paralegal certificate. The applicant can also secure work with a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies and may be hired with an associate degree or certificate in the subject.

Do Paralegals Make Good Money?

The median annual wage of paralegals is about $11,000 higher than the median for all U.S. jobs. The highest earning positions are in the federal government, followed by the finance and insurance industries. The least lucrative positions are in state government.

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