This is one of the most frequent questions that students or working individuals that want to get into the paralegal field will ask. Unfortunately, the answer is not one that can be set in stone. Each state and employer may have different requirements for their paralegal position. So, in one instance, an employer may accept candidates that have completed one of the professional paralegal certificate programs online, in another one may require a certificate from an accredited program as well as certification by the NALS or NALA, while another may require a bachelor’s degree along with certificate and certification. To make things even more confusing, some paralegal positions require no former experience or training, as employers train on the job.
How to Know What You Will Need
Finding out if a paralegal certificate program from an online institution will be enough to help you get a job can take a bit of research. You should follow these steps to help you determine what type of education and certification you will need to work as a paralegal:
- Look up online, or contact, your state’s Bar Association to see if there are specific paralegal requirements.
- If there are no minimal requirements set by the state, the next thing you can do is to contact potential firms, companies, or agencies and ask what they require for paralegals. Explain that you are interested in getting into the field and are trying to find out what you will need in regards to education and training.
- An alternative to calling around is going online and looking up legal forums for your area. Using searches such as “paralegal requirements for my area (your state)” will most often yield several helpful guides about becoming a paralegal.
It Never Hurts To Be Educated
While completing an online program and becoming certified can increase your odds of being hired, it is also worthwhile to consider adding to your education credentials. According to the American Alliance of Paralegals, you should aim to complete four years of schooling in paralegal or complimentary studies, in addition to having a certificate and being certified. With the increasing popularity of employers requiring a bachelor’s degree, there has also been an increase in the number of professionals turning to a mix of online and traditional education resources. Some employers are also willing to be flexible and assist paralegals in furthering their education if they have completed some of the required schooling already.