You don’t have to go to law school to pursue a rewarding career in the legal field. Students of paralegal studies will gain a broad foundation in law while training for an occupation that commands a good salary. Attorneys entrust paralegals with the important responsibilities that are crucial for running a firm and serving clients. The opportunity to perform meaningful work that really makes a firm run is just one of reasons why so many students pursue a paralegal degree.
About the Paralegal Profession
Paralegals are trained professionals who play a supportive role to licensed attorneys. Attorneys rely on the work of paralegals to provide legal assistance to clients and prepare for court. Duties that a paralegal performs include:
- Conducting legal research
- Drafting legal documents
- Investigating laws, regulations, and legal articles relevant to a case
Paralegals may be employed by a lawyer, law office, corporation, government agency, or any organization that staffs a legal department. While paralegals are commonly employed by law firms, a growing number of corporations with in-house legal departments hire paralegals to assist the attorneys on staff.
While there are no required credentials to enter the paralegal field, an associate degree is quickly becoming a standard qualification for new paralegals. However, an associate degree in paralegal studies can be obtained in two years or less. Students who already possess a bachelor’s degree may opt to complete an accelerated paralegal certification program.
Paralegal Courses of Study
Paralegal courses provide students with the legal and technical knowledge that they need to work with attorneys. These courses are typically included in a paralegal studies program:
- Criminal Law
- Legal Research and Writing
- Probate and Estate
Students not only learn about broad legal topics, but they also learn and practice the technical skills that they will use on the job.
Many paralegal programs require students to complete an internship in addition to their studies. Schools with internship programs will pre-arrange the internships with partner law firms. Internships allow students to gain confidence in their skills and may serve as a launching point for employment after graduation.
Benefits of Online Paralegal Courses
Flexibility is the main benefit of earning a paralegal degree online. Working students will appreciate the ability to complete their assignments on their own schedule. Because a standard paralegal degree program takes no more than two years to complete, students find it easier to maintain the focus it takes to complete a degree online.
Studying online can even reduce the amount of time that students spend training for their career. Many universities offer accelerated programs so that online students can attain their paralegal degree in a shorter period of time.
Career Outlook and Salaries
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegal positions are expected to grow by 18 percent in the upcoming years. However, as more students are realizing the benefits of a paralegal career, competition in this field is also expected to grow. Formal training through a paralegal degree program can greatly improve your job prospects.
The paralegal profession can also be financially rewarding. Median pay for paralegals is $46K, and the top 10 percent earn over $74K. For the cost of enrolling in a two-year program, a paralegal degree offers a high return on investment.
Because an increasing number of organizations require full-time legal assistance, demand for well-trained paralegals is on the rise. Obtaining a paralegal degree is your first step to an exciting and rewarding paralegal career.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational Outlook Handbook – Paralegal and Legal Assistance.