Overview of Texas's Online Paralegal Certificate Programs
Individuals looking to pursue careers as paralegals can use certificate programs to enhance their knowledge and improve their job prospects. A number of schools in Texas offer programs that allow individuals to earn their certificates through the convenience and flexibility of online learning. These certificates can be earned in less than a year, with some programs being as short as eight months. Prerequisites for these programs are usually minimal, as students typically need only a high school diploma in order to register (though select programs require a bachelor's degree). Programs do not require prior professional experience as a paralegal.
Coursework in these programs can be divided into three components, commonly referred to as Paralegal I, Paralegal II, and Paralegal III. Many paralegal certificates are classified as continuing education and do not award credits that can be used towards another degree, though credit-granting programs are available. For certain schools, students with an interest in working as legal assistants can use a combination of their paralegal certificate and related education or work experience to become eligible for NALA's Certified Legal Assistant exam.
List of Online Paralegal Certificate Programs in Texas
A handful of public and private, nonprofit schools in Texas offer online paralegal certificate programs. These programs introduce students to essential concepts in paralegal studies and provide graduates with a well-rounded set of skills as they hit the job market.
The University of Texas at Austin
UT Austin's online paralegal certificate program teaches fundamental concepts like document preparation, legal research, and legal writing. It also allows students to explore more complex topics through elective offerings in subjects such as tort law, business organizations, and family law. The program is fully online, and students have 12 months to complete the program as they learn at their own pace.
The University of Texas at San Antonio
The San Antonio campus of the UT education network offers a mostly online program wherein students complete all coursework online and are required to take occasional field trips to courthouses and local law libraries. The curriculum covers introductory and advanced topics, such as family law, e-filing, legal research, civil litigation, and more. It can be completed in three semesters.
Texas Christian University
Offered via a partnership with the Center for Legal Studies, TCU's paralegal certificate program is fully online and consists of two sections: Paralegal I and Paralegal II. Students have 14 weeks to complete the program (seven weeks for each section) and can use e-mail and discussion boards to stay in contact with professors and fellow students. Topics of instruction can include the history of the American legal system, rules of civil procedure, legal interview techniques, and legal writing style.
Collin actually offers two online options for paralegal education: a post-baccalaureate certificate meant for students who already have four-year degrees and an Associate of Applied Science degree. The certificate consists of three semesters and 36 credit hours. It includes instruction in legal research, personal injury law, and legal conventions.
Career Prospects for Graduates with an Online Paralegal Certificate
The most natural choice for candidates who finish these programs is to move on to careers as paralegals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that as of May of 2018, paralegals and legal assistants earned a median salary of $50,940, and the profession could expect an employment growth of 12% from 2018-2028, a rate that is much faster than the national average. The BLS cites law firms' increasing need for efficiency and lower billing rates as the primary reasons for this aggressive job growth.
Graduates looking for other lines of work can look into careers as legal assistants and secretaries. Students can also opt for work as arbitrators or attorneys, although further education beyond the certificate will be required.
Paralegals are in high demand, and job hunters looking to land these roles can pursue an online certificate to bolster their prospects. Several of these programs are available throughout the state of Texas.