Overview of Online Paralegal Certificate Programs
Certificate programs in paralegal studies are a great tool for professionals looking to begin a career in the legal field. Though most paralegal jobs require candidates to have a degree, a certificate can be an effective first step for candidates without a degree and a proven means of improving job prospects for those who already have postsecondary education. Earning a certificate online provides students with a flexible and convenient alternative to in-person instruction.
Admissions requirements vary from one program to the next, with some programs having no entry requirements and others requiring a college degree. Candidates who complete these programs can pursue a degree, seek optional paralegal certification, or enter the workforce directly.
Connecticut Online Paralegal Certificate Programs
Connecticut is home to several schools offering paralegal certificate programs that can be completed entirely online. These programs feature a comprehensive study of fundamental and advanced legal topics and can be completed in a year or less, depending on the program.
Sacred Heart University
Sacred Heart's Paralegal Certificate program provides comprehensive training in paralegal studies in a fully online format that can be finished in just a few months. The program consists of two sections, each of which lasts seven weeks, and course topics include legal research methods, witness interviewing techniques, jury selection, and document drafting skills. During the program, students will gain practical experience as they learn how to use modern legal software such as WESTLAW.
Middlesex Community College
The Paralegal Studies certificate program at Middlesex Community College is a 27-credit program designed for candidates who already have an associate's or bachelor's degree. Students begin by completing five required courses in essential legal topics such as litigation, legal writing, and computer applications for paralegals. Students can then move on to elective courses and choose areas of study like contract law, business organizations, law office management, and even a paralegal internship.
Post University's Certificate in Paralegal studies allows students to choose between traditional in-person learning or online courses. The program normally takes one year to complete and features a wide scope with courses in deposition summaries, legal document preparation, real estate closings, and more. The diverse curriculum aims to prepare graduates for traditional paralegal work in law firms and corporate legal departments, along with other roles in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.
Job Opportunities for Graduates with an Online Paralegal Certificate
Online paralegal certificate programs can provide the specialized training needed to work in the field. However, the majority of paralegal positions require an associate's degree in paralegal studies at the very least, with many employers looking for candidates who have a bachelor's degree in any field, so candidates who do not yet have a degree may want to consider further education before looking for work. Candidates can also boost their credentials by sitting for the Certified Paralegal (CP) Exam, which is entirely voluntary and not required in order to find work.
Once becoming a paralegal, professionals should expect to find their services to be very much in-demand. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that paralegal and legal assistant job opportunities will increase at a rate that is much faster than the national average. The BLS estimates a 12% jump in employment opportunities from 2018-28, an increase that would create 39,000 new openings. The BLS cites several factors for this potential growth; among them a desire from law firms to employ paralegals instead of lawyers and recent efforts by private companies to enhance the size of their in-house legal teams.
Online paralegal certificate programs help students learn the most important theory and techniques needed to move on to a career as a paralegal. These programs are available at a number of schools in Connecticut and can be completed entirely online.