Overview of Online Paralegal Certificate Programs
Paralegals in Michigan do not need to obtain certification, but doing so can help improve job prospects, especially for those who are new to the legal field and do not have prior work experience. Paralegal training can be found through certificate programs, which are available on-campus and online. These programs offer in-depth training in a condensed timeframe and can usually be completed in a year or less.
Admissions requirements for online paralegal certificate programs are dependent on the individual program. Some programs require only a high school diploma, while others are postbaccalaureate offerings that list a bachelor's degree as a prerequisite. Aspiring paralegals should be aware that many employers prefer candidates who have a college degree. Individuals who do not have a degree should consider further education in addition to the certificate prior to entering the workforce.
Michigan Online Paralegal Certificate Programs
Some of these online training certificate programs can be found in schools across Michigan. These programs are available in fully online and hybrid (a combination of on-campus and distance learning) formats.
Lansing Community College
Lansing Community College offers a Paralegal Post-Bachelor certificate program that is specifically designed to provide an introduction to the legal field for candidates who already have postsecondary education. The 34-credit program includes courses in both basic and advanced topics in paralegal studies such as legal research, paralegal ethics, commercial transactions, and basic principles of business law. Candidates can also choose to take part in the optional internship component of the program, where they can gain practical hands-on experience.
North Central Michigan College
NCMC offers an entry-level certification prep course that does not require a college degree and can be taken by anyone with a high school diploma. The curriculum covers all the essentials of paralegal studies and offers coursework that focuses on the legal system, legal interviewing, law office administration, and more. The program partners with the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), and students who earn the certificate are given NALA membership and access to review courses that help them prepare for the Certified Paralegal (CP) Exam.
Career Paths for Graduates of an Online Paralegal Certificate Program
After completing an online certificate program in paralegal studies, graduates looking to become paralegals have three options: enter the workforce directly, earn a college degree (if they do not already have one), or obtain certification through the CP exam. Day-to-day responsibilities for paralegals include organizing legal documents, conducting interviews with witnesses, and helping attorneys prepare for trials. The majority of paralegals fall into two categories: litigation and corporate. Litigation paralegals usually work in law firms and focus their time on preparing for trials, while corporate paralegals work for the in-house teams of corporations and help with documents such as employee contracts, shareholder agreements, and stock-option plans.
The demand for paralegals is high and should remain so for the immediate future. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of paralegals and legal assistants should increase by 12% from 2018-28, a rate that is much higher than the national average for all occupations. The BLS attributes this increase to two primary factors: a desire on the part of law firms to keep costs down without sacrificing efficiency, and a desire from companies to enhance the size of their in-house legal team. Paralegals can also expect solid earning potential, as the BLS listed the median salary as $50,940 in 2018.
Paralegal training certificate programs are offered in fully online formats at a couple of schools in Michigan. These programs provide comprehensive training and prepare graduates for work with law firms and private businesses.