Online Certificate Program Overview
Individuals looking to become paralegals can start their journey by earning an online paralegal certificate, which provides training and instruction in the field of paralegal studies. These programs, several of which can be found in Indiana, offer an introductory education in subjects such as legal terminology, criminal law, and legal ethics. Though these programs are often not enough to find work as a paralegal (candidates normally need a college degree), they can be a great starting point for candidates with no legal experience or prior post-secondary education who would like to go on to earn an associate's degree. They also work well for aspiring paralegals who have a bachelor's degree in another field, as the combination of a bachelor's and certificate is another way to enter the field.
Admissions requirements are dependent on the individual program. Certain schools require only a high school diploma, while others require that prospective students have a bachelor's degree. Prior work experience is not required in order to enroll in any paralegal certificate program.
Paralegal Certificate Programs in Indiana
Several schools in Indiana offer paralegal certificate programs in on-campus and online formats. Some programs are exclusively online, while others feature a blend of in-person and distance learning.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Saint Mary offers a series of paralegal studies programs that includes a bachelor's degree, associate's degree, and a certificate program for students who already possess a bachelor's degree. This post-baccalaureate program consists of 36 credits and requires applicants to have at least one English writing course on their undergraduate transcripts. The curriculum includes core courses in computer basics, legal research, and civil litigation and elective courses in topics like legal communication, environmental law, and intellectual property.
Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis
This campus, part of the Indiana University network, offers a Paralegal Studies certificate that consists of nine courses in total, a few of which can be taken online. Students are required to take a selection of courses in litigation, legal research, and professional responsibility. After completing these offerings, students move on to elective courses and have the ability to choose from classes in subjects such as property law, contract law, business associations, and advanced legal writing.
Indiana University - South Bend
The South Bend campus also offers an entirely online paralegal training program that focuses on the development of hard skills (such as legal research and legal investigation) as well as the soft skills that enable paralegals to perform their duties in an effective manner. Course topics include law office administration, property law, paralegal ethics, and basic computer software skills. The program concludes with a capstone and portfolio review, a pair of exercises that serve as a confirmation that students have grasped the course content.
Online Paralegal Certificate Program Career Opportunities
Most employers look for candidates with either an associate's degree in paralegal studies or one who holds both a bachelor's degree and a paralegal certificate. Graduates from an online paralegal certificate program should strongly consider earning a degree if they do not already have one. Candidates can gain further accreditation by sitting for the Certified Paralegal (CP) Exam, although this exam comes with additional eligibility requirements.
Once they have found work as paralegals, graduates from online certificate programs will be rewarded with an encouraging job situation. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for paralegals will grow 12% from 2018-28, a rate that is much faster than the national average. The BLS indicated that in addition to traditional employment at legal firms, paralegals are now able to find work with private corporations as well.
Indiana is home to a handful of schools with paralegal certificate programs that can be completed entirely or partially online. These programs cover key concepts in paralegal studies and help graduates prepare for work in the paralegal field.