The paralegal profession is no different from others, as it involves competing against a gaggle of qualified candidates and hoping that your education and skills come out on top. One of the best ways you can set yourself apart from other qualified candidates is through the completion of a formal paralegal education program. But a paralegal degree may look decidedly different depending on the type of program you choose.
What you undoubtedly already know is that a quality paralegal education is imperative, and that the last thing you want to do is spend your time, money and effort on a program that doesn’t produce quality results. Because standardization among educational programs for paralegals does not exist, likely because there are no state licensing requirements for paralegals, the program you choose is up to you and your sound judgment.
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There is now an estimated 600-plus paralegal programs in the United States, so it is best to choose a program after much, careful thought.
Where are paralegal programs offered?
Paralegal education programs may be found at dedicated paralegal schools, public and private four-year colleges and universities, business colleges, and community colleges. This means that, when exploring paralegal programs, you must broaden your search to include a number of higher education institutions.
What types of paralegal programs are available?
Just like many different types of institutions offer paralegal programs, these programs are found in a number of lengths and formats, including:
Associate degrees: Most often offered through two-year community colleges and business schools, associate degree programs usually consist of between 60 and 70 semester units and take about 2 years to complete.
Bachelor degrees: Due to increasing competition in the profession and increasingly complex litigation, four-year bachelor degrees are now a standard for paralegals. Bachelor programs usually consist of between 120 and 130 semester units and take about 4 years to complete. Paralegal studies may also be in the form of a major or minor.
Certificate/Diploma Programs: A number of institutions offer professional certificate or diploma programs, which can range anywhere from 18 to 60 semester units in length. A certificate or diploma program is often chosen by individuals who already possess an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a similar field.