Overview of California Online Paralegal Certificates
Aspiring paralegals do not need to possess any special certifications in order to find work, but they can improve their job prospects by earning a paralegal certificate. Along with on-campus offerings, several schools offer online training for individuals with busier schedules. These programs generally do not have any educational prerequisites, and students can usually finish programs in about six months, although many schools offer the option to finish in a shorter amount of time.
Online certificate programs are usually divided into sections that take about seven weeks to complete. Early sections feature an introduction to fundamental concepts and lay groundwork for later sections that delve into more complex concepts. Coursework in these programs is self-paced and can be completed entirely online, with no on-campus requirements.
California Online Paralegal Certificate Offerings
Online paralegal certificate programs are common options in California, and they can be found at many schools across the state. These online programs are open to professionals from all fields of study and do not require prior legal experience.
University of the Pacific
University of the Pacific offers two programs that provide students with paralegal training: the Paralegal Certificate Course and the Advanced Paralegal Certificate Course. The standard course provides an introduction to essential concepts, such as the American legal system, legal research, and legal ethics, while the advanced option allows students to specialize in areas such as estate law, intellectual property, and criminal procedure. University of the Pacific teaches courses in seven-week sections. The Paralegal Certificate Course has two sections (Paralegal I and Paralegal II), while the Advanced course requires students to complete at least six sections.
California State University Long Beach
CSU Long Beach partners with the Center for Legal Studies to offer an online paralegal training course. The course consists of two sections, Paralegal I and Paralegal II, and takes 14 weeks to complete. The program stresses an interactive approach, and the curriculum covers concepts such as legal document review, jury selection process, and legal research strategies. The course is offered exclusively online.
University of California, Berkeley
The Berkeley campus of the University of California network has an online paralegal certificate program that gives students the option to finish in as little as six months. Students with busier schedules can take up to a year, as courses are self-paced (though the program does have personalized due dates to help candidates meet completion goals). The program consists of three required courses and three electives, all of which adds up to 360 hours of instruction across eight semester units. Despite being fully online, students still have access to a dynamic support network that includes phone support, workbooks, and online study tools.
University of California, Davis
UC Davis also has an online paralegal studies certificate program for candidates looking to gain education on a flexible and convenient basis. The self-paced courses take as little as six months to complete while still providing students with a thorough education. In addition to paralegal essentials, the program covers tort law and contract law and devotes attention specifically to the rules and policies that impact paralegals working in California.
Career Options for Students with an Online Paralegal Certificate
After earning a paralegal certificate, moving on to a career as a paralegal is the logical next step, and some of these programs are designed to help aspiring paralegals without sufficient undergraduate coursework meet California's code requirements for paralegal education.
California is an excellent place for aspiring paralegals to seek employment. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), California employs the highest number of paralegals in the country (3,000 more than the next highest ranked state) and boasts the third-highest annual mean wage, at $61,240 for this profession, as of May 2018. This wage is significantly higher than the national average for all paralegals, which the BLS lists as $54,500 per year.
The overall outlook for paralegals is a positive one. Across the country, the BLS predicts that the profession could experience a 12% growth from 2018 to 2028. The BLS notes that many law offices are making a push to improve efficiency and bring costs down, and the main strategy involves hiring more and more paralegals.
California employs many paralegals, and legal firms in the state pay above the national average. Aspiring paralegals can improve their odds of finding work by completing online paralegal certificate programs, which are available at several schools in the state.