The body of knowledge required to effectively perform legal support services can only come from a formal education in paralegal studies. As attorneys, corporations and government agencies work within an increasingly complex legal framework, the level of responsibility they expect paralegals to be able to take on has also increased. Law offices and other employers in North Dakota have come to rely on paralegals with the kind of expertise that can only come from earning a certificate or degree in paralegal studies.
In 2016, the US Department of Labor reported that there were 410 paralegals employed in Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks and elsewhere in the state. If you’re just getting into the field, whether right out of high school or making a career change, that means 410 people who have more marketable work experience than you… Even if you’ve been working as a paralegal for years, earning a degree or certificate in paralegal studies is one of the best ways you can set yourself apart from the crowd and open up doors that could lead to a promotion.
Need some inspiration? You don’t need to look any further than North Dakota’s own Leslie Oliver, a name you might recognize from her 2013 run for a bench seat on the North Dakota Supreme Court. Today she works as general counsel at the Office of the Governor, but she got her start in this field as a paralegal providing legal assistance to the elderly. It wasn’t until she was in her 30s that Oliver decided to go back to school and further her education, ultimately graduating with a JD. From here she worked her way up as a law clerk for a state supreme court justice, then in private practice with a growing law firm, before finally finding her niche in the public sector.
Your career is in your hands, but we’re here to help with some recommendations on accredited online paralegal programs that can make your career goals a reality.
AAS in Paralegal Studies – Campus and/or online
Certificate in Paralegal Studies (post-associate) – Campus and/or online
- Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
Rasmussen offers two quality programs designed for aspiring paralegals at different stages. Both programs are conveniently offered from Rasmussen’s Fargo campus, and are also available completely online.
The 94-credit AAS program is open to anyone who meets Rasmussen’s basic admission requirements and can be completed in as little as 18 months. The post-associate’s certificate program is open to anyone who already has an associate’s or higher degree in any field. This makes it a logical choice if you’ve already earned a degree and are going back to school to get the qualifications you need to become a paralegal. This 61-credit program can be completed in just one year.
As you near the end of either of these two programs you’ll have the option to complete a five-credit capstone project or internship. The capstone project is delivered as a computer simulation of everyday experiences paralegals encounter on the job. If the simulated experience doesn’t do it for you, the 130-hour internship will give you some real world experience… in the real world, whether at a law firm or in a corporate legal department.
Graduates of either program would be eligible to take the national paralegal certification exam offered through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).