Overview of Online Paralegal Certificate Programs
Online paralegal certificate programs provide training in key knowledge areas related to the paralegal field, such as legal terminology, legal research methods, and legal analysis. Students can complete these programs entirely online. These programs also serve to prepare graduates for the Certified Paralegal Exam, a license that can further improve their chances of finding a job.
Admissions requirements to these certificate programs are minimal; applicants usually only need a high school diploma (though select few programs require a bachelor's degree), and prior work experience in the legal field is not required. Program length can vary due to the self-paced nature of online classes, but students usually complete programs in six months to a year.
Online Paralegal Certificates in Florida
In Florida, paralegal certificates are available both on campus and entirely online. Their course schedules focus on important legal concepts, such as the U.S. legal system, criminal law, and civil litigation.
University of North Florida
UNF's Division of Continuing Education offers a paralegal certificate program that is completely online. Course topics include the U..S legal system, legal research methods, and legal analysis, and students have one year to complete the program at their own pace. UNF partners with the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) to prepare students for the Certified Paralegal Exam, and students who successfully complete the program earn a voucher to sit for the exam. Students in this program also receive access to Westlaw, an online legal research tool that affords access to legal news and records.
Florida International University
The paralegal certificate program at FIU is entirely online, and the curriculum is divided into three trimesters. Students begin by taking courses in legal writing and research before moving on to family law, torts, estates and trusts, and criminal law in the second section. The third trimester focuses on contracts, business organizations, constitutional law, and real estate. The program also features instruction in the Westlaw and LexisNexis research platforms and offers start dates in the spring, fall, and winter, making it an extremely flexible program for students with full-time jobs.
University of South Florida
USF's paralegal certificate takes 13 weeks to complete when taken on campus, but the 100% online option gives students up to six months to finish. The comprehensive curriculum examines legal concepts such as document preparation, file maintenance, court structure, and civil procedure. The online format stresses unique and interactive learning tools, including customized texts, lecture notes, mock exams, and writing labs.
Nova Southeastern University
The paralegal studies certificate program at NSU is a post-baccalaureate program that is available through the Shepard Broad College of Law. The curriculum covers fundamental topics in legal studies along with more specialized concepts such as computer applications for the legal field and civil litigation. The fully online program consists of 30 credits, nine of which need to be taken in a synchronous format.
Job Prospects for Online Paralegal Certificate Programs
Upon completing an online paralegal certificate program in Florida, graduates usually find work as paralegals. Day-to-day responsibilities in this role include conducting legal research, preparing summaries for lawyers, and using e-filing to organize legal documents.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a promising future for this line of work. According to the BLS, paralegals and legal assistants had a median salary of $50,940 in 2018 and job opportunities were estimated to rise 12% from 2018-28. Among other reasons, the BLS credits this growth to a growing trend in which large corporations continue to enhance their in-house legal teams, thus increasing the need (and salary) for paralegals.
Online certificate programs in paralegal studies are available at several schools across Florida. These programs provide in-depth training in the subject areas that are necessary for paralegal work and are a great way to improve one's prospects of finding a job as a paralegal or legal assistant.