Online Paralegal Certificate Program Overview
Although aspiring paralegals are not required to have a certificate in paralegal studies, completing such a program can be a boost when on the job market. These programs cover important topics such as legal analysis, legal research methods, and legal documents. Fully online programs can be completed in as little as 14 weeks and rarely last longer than one year.
Students will need to check with respective schools for specific admissions requirements. Some programs have no prerequisites and allow candidates to enroll immediately, while some programs require a bachelor's degree and other admissions materials.
Online Certificate Programs in Paralegal Studies in Illinois
Illinois hosts several schools with online programs in paralegal studies. Programs are available for both beginners and those with prior legal experience, with classes being available in-person, fully online, and in a blended format that includes both on-campus and distance learning.
Lincoln Land Community College
Lincoln Land offers a pair of paralegal certificates, both of which can be completed entirely online. The Paralegal Certificate Course is designed for both beginning and advanced legal professionals and features a practice-oriented curriculum that focuses on legal research, courtroom litigation, and witness interview techniques. The Advanced Paralegal Certificate Course builds on many of the topics covered in the first program and offers a more intensive course of study that can include lessons on such topics as alternative dispute resolution, education law, victim advocacy, and intellectual property law. A Certificate of Completion is awarded to students who complete the Paralegal Certificate Course or at least six topic areas in the Advanced Paralegal Certificate Course.
Northeastern Illinois University
Northeastern Illinois's certificate program in paralegal studies contains two sections, each of which contains seven lessons and takes seven weeks to complete. The first section, entitled Paralegal I, focuses on introductory topics, such as civil procedure, legal terminology, and the history of the American legal system. Paralegal II examines more complicated subjects like discovery documents, ethics, torts, and contracts. The program has no prerequisites and is available completely online, making it extremely accessible for beginners looking to enter the paralegal sector.
Loyola University Chicago
Loyola University Chicago offers an entire suite of paralegal studies programs through its Institute of Paralegal Studies, including a trio of certificate options that can be taken in-person, online, or in a blended format. Students can choose from options in litigation practice, corporate practice, and a third selection that teaches both litigation and corporate practice. Students also have the ability to design a custom curriculum with the help of an advisor that will focus on ethics, technology skills, and research methods. Loyola features a more rigorous application process; in addition to a bachelor's degree, other admissions requirements include 1-2 letters of recommendation and a personal statement.
Online Paralegal Certificate Program Career Outcomes
After finishing an online certificate program, graduates have several options. They can continue their education by pursuing an associate's or bachelor's degree in paralegal studies, sit for a national paralegal certification exam (provided they satisfy all eligibility requirements), or begin looking for jobs immediately. Aspiring paralegals in Illinois could enter a promising job market that offers earning potential above the national average.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois employs the fifth-most paralegals in the country (13,540 individuals in total) as of May 2018 and paid an annual mean wage of $57,180, which is higher than the national average of $54,500. The BLS also indicated that paralegal jobs nationwide should increase 12% from 2018-2028 as law offices look for employees who can take on multiple roles and private corporations increase the size of their in-house legal teams.
Online paralegal certificate programs can be found at several schools in Illinois and teach students the techniques and skills needed to pursue a career in this field. Graduates from these programs could find a favorable job market, as the state employs a higher number of professionals and pays above the national average.