Clarifying Your Paralegal Career Path

Certificate, Associate, or Bachelor’s Degree: Clarifying Your Paralegal Career Path

Considering a career as a paralegal, but not quite sure how to get there? It’s understandable, as paralegals are not licensed at the national level and, apart from a few states, not regulated at the state level either — meaning there’s no single pathway to becoming one. And in the absence of these conventions, employers are left to establish the hiring standards on an individual basis, often requiring a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree for open positions.

With such fluid guidelines, you’re probably wondering what educational path you should pursue. Here, we’ll break down your options to help you devise a logical plan of action so that you can stop worrying about the requirements and start focusing on making a positive impact in your community — because simply put, paralegals are there to help people.

What is a paralegal?

Paralegals assist attorneys in private law firms and the government, functioning in a supportive capacity and performing tasks to better serve their clients. Though the exact duties of a paralegal depend on your place of work, nearly all of these professionals perform behind-the-scenes administrative tasks that include researching cases, filing documents, interviewing clients, talking to witnesses, and preparing reports.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of paralegals is projected to grow 12% from 2020 to 2030, while the median annual wage is $56,230 as of May 2021 — statistics that are above average when compared to all other occupations.

Do you need a degree to become a paralegal?

While some employers hire candidates with no legal experience or education, you’re more likely to be selected for a position and advance your career in the field if you’ve earned your associate or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. However, keep in mind that since only a small number of postsecondary institutions offer paralegal bachelor’s degrees, applicants typically have their bachelor’s in another subject — such as social science, business, or security and protective service — along with a certificate in paralegal studies approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Associate of Applied Business in Law & Paralegal Studies

UC Online’s Associate of Applied Business in Law and Paralegal Studies is the most common educational path leading to a paralegal career for online students. With a fully online curriculum taught by licensed attorneys, you’ll not only gain a solid foundation in litigation, communications, and the U.S. legal system, but you’ll also graduate prepared for a variety of job opportunities in private practice, government, business, and nonprofit organizations. Upon completeion of your Associate of Applied Business in Law & Paralegal Studies, students who wish to continue their education can seamlessly transfer into the Bachelor of Science in Law and Paralegal Studies program.

Bachelor of Science in Law and Paralegal Studies

According to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, employers are placing increasing emphasis on a bachelor’s degree as a requirement or preference when considering applicants. Despite this, colleges and universities with paralegal bachelor’s programs are few and far between — which is why we’re proud to offer our ABA-approved, top-ranked Bachelor of Science in Law and Paralegal Studies. Established more than 15 years ago, our program centers around a comprehensive curriculum that provides hands-on experiences designed to pack your resume and launch your career.

Law & Paralegal Studies Certificates

Intensive, cost-effective, and expeditious, UC Online’s Post-Associate Certificate in Law and Paralegal Studies and Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Law and Paralegal Studies are perfect for those who hold an associate or bachelor’s degree in something other than paralegal studies. Taught by licensed attorneys, our courses cover core areas of law — including legal research and writing, law office technology, civil litigation, and investigative techniques and evidence — to equip you with the skills, knowledge, and confidence you need in just two semesters.

Ready to get started on your new career?

While there are several paths to becoming a paralegal, UC Online provides you with the flexibility and support you need to choose what credential is most suitable for your individual goals, whether it be an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, or a certificate. So, if you’re ready to dive into the behind-the-scenes paralegal work that enables the law and court systems to make positive impacts on their communities, we have you covered from application to graduation.

Explore our online paralegal programs or take the first step in advancing your paralegal career by beginning your application today.

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