If you choose to become a paralegal, it will provide you with a number of job opportunities in nearly any town or city. It provides a number of specialties to suit the interests of anyone, and it only requires certification.
Whether you are looking for a career change or you are considering a career for the first time, being a paralegal may be just the right career path for you.
Becoming a Paralegal – a Career Overview
The following section reviews the basic aspects of becoming a paralegal, and what you can expect if you decide to pursue a career in this popular field.
A paralegal is a job for people with exceptional organizational skills, people who are detail orientated and people who work well under pressure. If you were to become a paralegal, some of your responsibilities might include:
- Conducting important legal research
- Preparing drafts of legal documents
- Maintaining and organizing files for various attorneys
These jobs are often highly demanding in fast-paced and stressful work environments. Some paralegals often perform some of the same tasks as lawyers.
Certifications to Become a Paralegal
To become a paralegal you do not require a degree. It is possible to complete a degree program, however most paralegal jobs only require certification.
Today, it is easier than ever as you can complete a certificate program online in your spare time so that you do not have to quit your job or spend time away from your family. You can choose from a traditional bricks and mortar university or an online university. Both typically offer online paralegal certificate programs.
Individuals who already possess a four-year degree in another field of study have numerous options in certificate programs. Individuals who have not completed a degree have a more limited selection, however a selection nonetheless.
You will be able to choose from a general certificate program or you can choose a specialization. Many people choose specialties to improve their employment opportunities upon completion.
If you are thinking of a specialty, many people suggest choosing an area of the law in which you have a genuine interest. Your options are quite extensive as the law is quite broad.
- You might consider becoming a criminal defense paralegal to provide assistance to lawyers who are preparing for trials.
- You might consider a specialization in banking and finance and work with more financial work such as bonds, contracts and deeds.
Other areas include family law, estate planning, real estate law, healthcare and many more.
Time to Complete
The time to complete paralegal certification will vary greatly depending on the type of certificate program for which you qualify. If you have a bachelor’s degree, you will have more options.
Generally, most programs can be completed within one year. This time frame is relevant for both individuals who choose to attend a program full time and those who choose a part-time program. In actuality, you can complete the certification in any period of time to fit your schedule and available finances.
Programs might require anywhere from roughly 20 credit hours to 45, however you can take as long as you like to finish.
Job opportunities and the career outlook for paralegals are strong for the next decade or so.
Employers are often interested in different types of paralegals. Some like paralegals with relevant experience and others prefer to hire people who have little to no experience and train them in the way most conducive to their work culture.
One aspect most employers seek in any paralegal is that you have top computer skills and database management abilities.
As a paralegal, you could work for a law firm, a government agency, a corporate legal department, a hospital or even for an NGO.
Individuals who have already completed a four-year degree in addition to a paralegal certificate are likely to earn more money than someone who has only completed high school.
The range in pay will vary greatly based on the city or town of residence, type of employer and experience.
The average annual salary in 2012 was roughly $46,990, however some paralegals in the bottom of earnings made less than $30,000. Those in the top earned closer to $77,000. It is possible to make quite a comfortable living if you become a paralegal.
It is not overly complicated to become a paralegal. You simply need to select the type of school you wish to attend, select a school and take classes online while your daily routine is not interrupted. Within a year, you can be working as a paralegal and changing the direction of your life.