Online Paralegal Certificate Overview
Paralegals typically hold either an associate's degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor's (in any field) with a paralegal certificate. Accordingly, earning a paralegal certificate can help those who have only a high school diploma, as some paralegal certificate programs allow students to use the certificate coursework towards an associate's degree in paralegal studies. It is also necessary for those who hold a bachelor's in another field, so that they can learn the skills necessary to become a paralegal. Those who complete the certificate and have either a bachelor's degree or seven years of work experience may choose to sit for the Certified Paralegal (CP) exam.
Online certificate programs normally take anywhere from a few months to one year to complete. Coursework typically consists of required courses, electives and sometimes a capstone. Electives allow students to tailor the coursework towards their specific interests and/or career goals. Admissions requirements for paralegal certificates are minimal and candidates normally need only a high school diploma. Aspiring paralegals should expect to pay several thousand dollars total for the certificate program.
Online Certificate Programs in New Jersey
New Jersey has a handful of schools offering such programs. These offerings, which can be completed in a fully online format, introduce students to fundamental and advanced topics in paralegal studies as they prepare students to sit for the CP exam and find work after graduation.
The Center for Continuing Professional Development at Rutgers provides paralegal training through a Certified Paralegal certificate program. Students have 12 months to complete the program, which is offered exclusively online and is entirely self-paced. The program consists of 22 credits and includes 225 hours of instruction in topics such as law office administration, legal writing, and advanced legal research. Students who satisfy all program requirements will gain access to self-study courses to further help them prepare to sit for the CP exam.
Berkeley's fully online paralegal certificate program focuses on the development of practical skills and teaches students how to navigate legal databases and use other technology that is essential in the day-to-day job duties of a paralegal. The program begins with a series of core courses that focus on contract law, professional responsibility, and other important foundational topics. Students then have the option to choose from several electives in more specialized concepts, such as law firm technology, constitutional law, and alternative dispute resolution.
Ocean County College
Ocean County College features a Certificate of Proficiency in Paralegal Studies that is available completely online. The program can be taken as a standalone offering, and students who wish to continue their education can apply all credits earned toward OCC's Associate in Applied Science degree in business - paralegal studies program. The certificate program includes a mix of core and elective courses, with required courses focusing on essential topics like business law, integrated office software, and law office management. Electives focus on more specialized topics and allow candidates to explore areas like real estate law, New Jersey family law, and management principles.
Job Opportunities for Graduates of an Online Paralegal Certificate Program
Nearly all paralegals work with attorneys and other paralegals, but their day-to-day responsibilities will depend on which line of work or area of law they choose. For example, corporate paralegals help with business matters, such as employee contracts, stock-options plans, and shareholder agreements, while litigation paralegals focus on court cases, conducting research, organizing documents, and retrieving evidence prior to the start of a trial.
The paralegal profession is in a healthy condition and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that this is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future. The BLS reported that there were 325,700 paralegals working in the US in 2018, and that figure is expected to grow by 12% (39,000 new jobs) by 2028. The BLS notes that the increased demand is a result of many firms having paralegals take on hybrid roles, where they perform traditional paralegal tasks as well as those performed by secretaries and assistants.
Online paralegal certificate programs can be found in a handful schools around New Jersey. These programs provide a comprehensive education that covers all aspects of the profession and prepares graduates to thrive in the paralegal field.