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If you're exploring career choices and find yourself fascinated by law, becoming a paralegal may be a great choice for you. This option offers the potential for an exciting, challenging and satisfying legal career. These professionals work in multiple areas of law, including contracts, civil lawsuits and real estate and can be responsible for duties that include assisting attorneys during trials by organizing case notes, doing legal research, preparing trial notes and legal briefs, and, in some cases, interviewing clients and/or witnesses. Here, we'll go over the details of how to get a paralegal certificate.
Clearing the air: The difference between getting your paralegal certificate and earning certifications
People who are looking into how to get a paralegal certificate often run into a lot of information about paralegal certification, which can create confusion about the process of becoming a paralegal. As similar as those two terms may be, the credentials they convey are distinctly different.
A paralegal certificate sets you on a path to a career as a paralegal - providing the educational foundation to earn the necessary credentials to work as a paralegal with a law office or in other professional settings. Educational programs like the certificate of completion here at Bryant & Stratton College, help to provide the framework for those seeking employment in the field. Paralegal certifications, on the other hand, are credentials that are earned by individuals who are already practicing paralegals. They are granted by professional associations , states or agencies, and are earned by passing a qualification exam and meeting educational and other requirements set forth by the issuing organization.
In short, the paralegal certificate is the credential that can help launch your career, while certifications are credentials you can choose to earn after you become a paralegal to enhance your knowledge base, skillset and career potential. The paralegal certificate from Bryant & Stratton College establishes the framework in legal research, drafting pleadings, handling legal documents and more. However, it is not the equivalent of a degree in paralegal studies or the type of professional certification one would earn after working professionally as a paralegal. It's important to research what education and professional requirements are expected from state-to-state and employer-to-employer when it comes to pursuing a career as a paralegal.
Paralegal certificate programs: The Academic path to your paralegal certificate
Getting your paralegal certificate of completion means earning it through an academic program. These are offered by various institutions, including colleges, universities, trade schools and specialty schools. Depending upon the program you choose, you may complete your studies in a traditional classroom environment or online, via distance learning options. Some programs use a combination of both methods.
Some paralegal certificate programs are post-baccalaureate programs, requiring a bachelor's degree to be eligible, although some programs allow enrollment with an associate's degree. Your degree need not be in paralegal studies – a degree in virtually any discipline is acceptable. Other certificate programs are geared towards students with no prior collegiate experience.
Many schools offer a variety of paralegal certificate programs , ranging from basic paralegal programs to programs for individuals who wish to specialize in a certain area of law, such as business, civil or criminal litigation, for instance. For those who may want to emphasize several areas of practice, some institutions offer customized certificate programs.
You can expect your certificate program to cover basic legal topics and skills that include:
Beyond these basics, you can also expect to be given a choice of courses in specialty areas of the law.
How long does it take to get a paralegal certificate?
The answer to that question depends on the specifics of the paralegal certificate program you choose and whether you will be studying on a full-time schedule or part-time. That said, many certificate programs can be completed in less than a year, although most schools will accommodate students who need more time due to work schedules or other obligations.
A paralegal certificate can open the door to a new career in the legal field or adding to a strong set of professional skills. Each of Bryant & Stratton College's Continuing Education paralegal programs can lead students down the path to career success with law firms that focus on a number of specialties.