Paralegals, or legal assistants, provide support to attorneys by performing background work, such as conducting research or preparing documents. As the name implies, post-baccalaureate certificates in paralegal studies are intended for those who have earned a bachelor's degree with at least a 2.5 GPA. These short-term programs may be offered partially or fully online. The American Bar Association and the American Association for Paralegal Education approve all paralegal training programs. Graduates can pursue certification through a number of professional organizations.
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Paralegal Studies
Because this type of program is designed for students who hold a bachelor's degree, it often focuses on graduate-level coursework in legal studies. Most post-baccalaureate programs also require an internship. Common course topics include:
- Paralegal studies
- Legal research
- Computer work for paralegals
- Litigation basics for paralegals
- Business law foundations
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts an 12% increase in paralegal and legal assistant jobs between 2018 and 2028, which is about as fast as the average rate. The agency says competition in this field will be strong. The median annual salary for paralegals and legal assistants was $50,940 as of May 2018, according to the BLS.
Certification is voluntary, but may help improve a person's chance of getting hired as a paralegal. There are many agencies that have paralegal credentialing programs, and they all require a certain amount of continuing education to maintain certification. Eligibility criteria vary, but mostly emphasize legal work experience.
For example, the American Alliance of Paralegals Inc., which issues the American Alliance Certified Paralegal credential, requires any applicant to have at least five years of experience working in a paralegal capacity. As for training, applicants can have a bachelor's degree, associate degree or certificate to qualify, as long as the program was approved by the American Bar Association.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations requires those wanting to be certified to take their PACE exam, leading to the PACE Registered Paralegal (RP) designation. In order to qualify, applicants must have completed an approved education program and have legal work experience. The National Association of Legal Assistants has a Certified Paralegal and Certified Legal Assistant program. It requires those who meet the minimum education requirement to complete a rigorous two-day exam.
A post-baccalaureate certificate in paralegal studies can be beneficial for those who have already earned a bachelor's degree and are interested in becoming a paralegal or legal assistant. Additionally, becoming certified by a paralegal association can help further one's career.