Online Paralegal Certificate Program Overview
Online paralegal certificate programs are designed for students who wish to enhance their knowledge of paralegal studies and eventually find work in the paralegal field. Though most employers require at least an associate's degree when hiring paralegals, a certificate can be a great first step for someone without a degree or a final step for someone who has a bachelor's degree in a non-related field. Upon completion of these programs, graduates can either move on to a degree program in paralegal or legal studies, sit for the Certified Paralegal (CP) exam, or enter the workforce directly if they already have a bachelor's degree.
Students applying to online paralegal certificate programs usually do not need to satisfy many admissions requirements. A high school diploma is required in order to enroll, but candidates do not need to have a prior degree or any legal work experience. Programs normally take less than a year to complete.
Maryland Online Paralegal Certificate Programs
The state of Maryland is home to multiple schools with online paralegal certificate programs. They focus on both basic and advanced topics in paralegal studies and students have the option to study either in person or completely online.
Prince George's Community College
The Paralegal/Legal Assistant Certificate program at Prince George's Community College teaches a wide array of skills, including legal research methods and expository writing. Other courses help round out students' understanding of the paralegal field as they cover topics such as legal ethics, criminal law, torts, and basic mediation. The program is available completely online, and students who wish to continue their education can apply the 30 credits earned in the certificate program towards PGCC's 60-credit Paralegal/Legal Assistant Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree program.
Howard Community College
The Paralegal Certificate program at Howard Community is a non-credit offering that is available in a completely online format. Students will cover essential topics such as contract law, legal terminology, legal analysis, and legal briefs. Sessions last a little longer than a month and start at six different times throughout the calendar year, giving busy students the opportunity to register at a time that is most convenient for them.
Anne Arundel Community College
Anne Arundel Community College has three paralegal certificate programs that feature on-campus and online course options. The first certificate focuses on litigation and includes coursework in civil rights law, alternative dispute resolution, and real estate law, while the second focuses on business practices with specialized courses in business law and tort law. AACC also offers a general practice certificate that provides a well-rounded education in a wide range of paralegal topics; the general certificate is available in regular and accelerated formats.
Job Outlook For Paralegals
Candidates who complete an online paralegal certificate program normally go on to find work as paralegals once they have also earned a degree. While associate's degrees are a common entry requirement for this field, some employers look for candidates with a bachelor's degree. The skills taught in programs are the same ones needed for this job: conducting legal research, obtaining and organizing evidence, and assisting attorneys as they prepare for trial.
Moving forward, professionals in this industry are in for a bright future. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual wage of $50,940 in 2018 for all paralegals and legal assistants. The BLS further reported a predicted 12% job growth from 2018-28, which should lead to the creation of 39,000 new positions. This spike was attributed to two factors: an increased need for efficiency and the desire to save money by having paralegals take on tasks that lawyers normally completed in the past.
Online paralegal certificate programs provide effective and efficient training for individuals looking to move into the field. They are available entirely online and graduates who also have a degree can move on to a job with promising career prospects and earning potential.