Information on Online Paralegal Certificate Programs
Online paralegal certificate programs aim to provide aspiring paralegals with the skills and experience needed to assist lawyers and other legal professionals with research, trial preparation, and document writing. These programs generally consist of around 10 courses with curricula focusing on key legal areas such as the American legal system, legal research, and criminal law. Prospective students do not need to have prior experience as a paralegal in order to be eligible to apply, although some programs may require applicants to have a bachelor's degree.
Georgia schools offer these programs in both fully online and hybrid formats. Graduates may also choose to further their credentials by preparing for the Certified Paralegal Exam, since many of these programs are designed to prepare students for the exam, or they attempt to enter the workforce directly.
Georgia Schools Offering Online Paralegal Certificate Programs
The state of Georgia is home to a few schools that offer online paralegal certificate programs. Several programs only require applicants to have a high school diploma in order to be eligible; however, some schools offer post-baccalaureate programs specifically for those who already have a bachelor's degree.
The University of Georgia
The University of Georgia's Center for Continuing Education offers a 9-credit, 90-hour paralegal certificate program that can be completed entirely online and features bi-monthly start dates to accommodate all types of schedules. The program takes about three months to complete and includes coursework in topics such as legal terminology, ethics, legal document preparation, and legal research skills. Candidates who complete this program (or those with prior paralegal experience who do not need to cover the basics) can move on the UG's Advanced Paralegal Certificate, which is also available online and delves deeper into more complex legal topics.
The paralegal certificate program at Emory University features a blend of online and in-person learning, as students complete six of the seven courses at the school's campus, but they can also use online tools to access resources and complete assignments. The program contains five core courses, all of which must be completed, and 2 elective courses. Prospective students must have a bachelor's degree prior to registering, but no prior work experience is required. Students have up to 18 months to complete the program.
West Georgia Technical College
West Georgia Technical College's paralegal certificate course is available in a completely online format and can be completed in about one year. The program aims to equip students with the skills needed to pursue a career as a paralegal and includes courses in legal analysis, legal documents, and legal research methods. The program also contains a capstone project and portfolio review, which is conducted at the program's conclusion. WGTC partners with the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), and students in this program receive membership and access to NALA's catalog of review courses for the Certified Paralegal Exam.
Career Options for Graduates with an Online Paralegal Certificate
After earning one of these certificates, graduates could be ready to seek a career in the paralegal field. They may find work in a law office, or find positions with the government (such as in a courthouse) or in private businesses or non-profit organizations. While not required by all employers, graduates may also choose to earn paralegal certification too.
The paralegal field remains a reliable source of work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS estimates that job opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants will grow 12% from 2018-28 and with the median salary in 2018 was $50,940. The BLS notes that formally trained paralegals with strong computer skills have a distinct advantage on the job market.
A handful of schools in Georgia offer online paralegal certificate programs, which can be used by aspiring professionals to gain the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in this career. These programs can be completed in 6-18 months and include studies in legal research, ethics, and document preparation.